Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Picking an airgun caliber

by B.B. Pelletier

There are a lot of ways to approach this topic. I'll try one I haven't done before. I'm talking about the four common smallbore calibers - .177, .20, .22 and .25.

What is .177 caliber good for?
For starters, .177 caliber is the official caliber for world-cup and Olympic target competition. No other caliber is legal. I also explained why .177 is the only competitive caliber for field target, though any caliber can be used. Seventeen-caliber pellets are the least expensive, so if you plan to do a lot of general shooting and plinking, this is the caliber to get. Some airguns don't give you a choice. The Umarex action pistols (Walther, Beretta,
Colt, Desert Eagle and S&W, for example, come only in .177. Crosman's 1077 rifle, a 12-shot repeater, is also a .177 exclusive.

Is a BB the same as a .177?
No. Even though some manufacturers label their BB guns as .177 caliber (or 4.5mm), that is incorrect. A steel BB is 0.171" to 0.173" in diameter, so it is smaller than a .177 pellet. There are some guns designed to shoot both BBs and .177 pellets, but they are not very accurate with either one because of the compromise. Usually, the lead pellets are more accurate in these guns.

What is .20 caliber good for?
Twenty caliber, or five milimeter, as it is also known, is considered a compromise caliber between .177 and .22. It is really closer to .22 in performance, but the smaller size of the .20 offers no other advantage. In some airguns, because the .20 caliber pellets are lighter, they go faster; but .177 pellets go even faster in the same guns, so this is not an advantage. The Crosman Premier pellet, which weighs the same in either .20 or .22, is more efficient in .20 caliber by a small but measurable amount because it is longer and narrower than the same pellet in .22. Crosman pulled the plug on this pellet some time back. Rhough it is supposed to be in production again, they are very difficult to find.

What is .22 caliber good for?
Twenty-two is the best hunting caliber. Not only are the pellets heavier, they are also fatter, and that combination gives them better knockdown power. Powerful rifles like the Condor and the new AR6 give great performance in the field. The Condor also has a power adjustment wheel, so it can be instantly changed into a quiet plinking rifle.

What is .25 caliber good for?
Twenty-five caliber has never enjoyed the success of .22, though it sells because some shooters want the biggest they can get. The big .22s have the same power as the big .25s, plus the .25 caliber pellets are more expensive, so you really have to want this caliber to get it.

That's my look at picking a caliber. Let me hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shooting positions: Part 2 sitting and kneeling

by B.B. Pelletier

Start with sitting
The sitting position is one of the most stable of all, coming in just behind prone. But it can be a difficult position for many shooters to assume. The classic position is sitting with the feet planted flat and splayed apart in front of the shooter. This works okay for a very fit person; but, if your midriff is thicker, it pushes you back until you cannot maintain the position. That's too bad because this is the No. 1 position of choice for field target shooting.


The classic sitting position has the legs splayed out with the heels dug in.


The classic sitting position with the legs splayed apart with the heels dug into the ground separately depends on finding just the right piece of ground upon which to sit. If you can't find what you need, there is a better way to sit.

Truss me - I know what I'm doing!
The sitting position is SO popular that a harness has been developed to strap the legs in place and keep the shooter upright. You'll notice that the shooter in the picture isn't heavy, he's just an older man. As we age, the muscles in our backs get shorter and tighter, and this can do the same thing as a big belly, so the harness is most helpful for older shooters.


This field target shooter wears a harness that allows him to cross his ankles.


Tip 3. Cross your legs!
Instead of planting your heels apart, if you cross your legs at the ankles when you sit like the shooter in the picture, most of the pressure will come off your back. This relaxes you while sitting, but it also removes the knee as a shooting platform. The shooter in the picture has his legs held up by the harness, and he's using his knee to rest the rifle. But notice that he has a pad on his knee that elevates the rifle so his eye is in the correct position for sighting. The same thing can be done when the legs are crossed without a harness, if you make a rifle brace to stretch from your crossed leg up to where you want the rifle to rest. This rest will be about four times longer than the pad in the picture, or about 10 inches long. Experiment to find the right length for you. All it takes is a board with a Y on either end.

Tip 4. The ankle roll
The kneeling position is easier to assume than sitting for most people, but it has one serious drawback. Your butt sits back on the off leg, putting a lot of pressure on the ankle. It's no problem for anyone but a three-position target shooter because a roll of padding can be inserted under the ankle for support. In the target shooting world, they frown on additional supports and, depending on what level of competition you shoot at, the rules about ankle rolls can be daunting.


The kneeling shooter sits back on the off leg, putting great pressure on the ankle. A roll of padding between the ankle and the ground relieves the pressure to a large extent.


Next time I'll address the question we received about controlling muzzle flip in a pistol.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hunting Master Evanix AR6: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Setup
The rifle was scoped with a Bug Buster 2 6X scope. The scope base of the AR6 is long enough to permit the installation of very large scopes, but I find I can get the Bug Buster sighted-in in half the time, so I tend to use it a lot more.

Shooting
I filled the rifle to 3,000 psi and shot it for velocity, first. I shot 28-grain Eun Jin pellets, which were made for powerful .22 air rifles like this. There were 22 good shots ranging from a low of 930 to a high of 977 f.p.s. A median velocity of 954 f.p.s. delivers 56.6 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That's less energy than either the Career 707 or the Condor, but nearly equal to a .22 short and well beyond anything a Swedish or British PCP delivers.


A pressure gauge is built into the bottom of the forearm.


After the first 22 shots, the velocity dropped pretty fast. All shots were with the hammer cocked, which gives the highest power. If you just pull the trigger, the power will be much lower, giving more shots per fill. This would be one good way to shoot lighter pellets such as the JSBs.

Accuracy
The Beeman Kodiak was the most accurate pellet, because I waited to shoot them until after firing the first three cylinders of Eun Jins. That way, their velocity was in the 900s, instead of supersonic. They grouped under one inch at 40 yards on a day with blustery winds ranging from 5 to 15 mph. A more powerful scope and a calmer day would probably stretch the distance for one-inch groups to at least 50 yards. Eun Jin pellets were nearly as accurate as Kodiaks, and so were JSBs (shot after the pressure dropped).

Loading
To load the rifle, first pop the cylinder (the gun comes with two) out of the right side of the receiver. It's held in by spring-loaded ball bearings front and rear, so direct pressure from the side pops it out. Once out, each chamber must be loaded from the front, not the back. A shelf inside the back of each chamber makes this necessary. The pellets are pushed in until their base presses against this shelf. This loading method means no out-of-round pellets can be loaded, because their deformed skirts will not enter the chamber. All Korean revolving rifles have this feature, so I was ready for it.


The 6-shot cylinder loads from the front. This is a Eun Jin ready to be pushed down. A seated pellet is seen just below it.


Firing behavior
I was pleasantly surprised by a lack of harsh muzzle report from this new AR6. It's a loud airgun, of course, but nothing like the Career 707 or the Condor. If I were a hunter, I'd like the gentle behavior of the new rifle, which is why I made the comment earlier that the power and accuracy appear to be refined.

Hunters now have another good rifle they can choose. Disregard the low price and concentrate on the power, accuracy and nice features. This new AR6 is a real contender.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hunting Master Evanix AR6: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


The Hunting Master AR6 is a much-refined version of the rifle that started the influx of Korean PCP rifles in this country in the 1990s.


One sharp-eyed reader spotted this new Hunting Master AR6 on the Pyramyd website, and I had a chance to test one, so I thought I'd give you an advanced look at a fine new hunting rifle today.

The AR6 has been around a long time
This was the first Korean PCP imported into the U.S. Back in the early 1990s, a much rougher looking AR6 surprised Americans with unheard-of power and accuracy. At a time when British single-shot PCPs developed 20 foot-pounds and Sweden was still years in the future, the AR6 popped on the scene. It offered 50+ foot-pounds and 1" groups at 50 yards. Overnight, American airgunsmiths began modifying this bag of raw potential.

The early rifles were very raw!
Early AR6s had the traditional Korean two-piece forearm and buttstock with the low comb that made scopes hard to use. The action was as rough as a goat-gnawed can, and the double-action trigger had a pull weight of 40 lbs.! So, the only practical way to shoot the early guns was to cock the hammer for each of the 6 shots.

Still, the early rifles were very accurate, and they had the power to stabilize heavier pellets than American hunters had ever used, plus they were the first PCP repeaters anyone had seen. The AR6 changed the face of airgun hunting in this country. When the Career 707 came along in 1995, it was smoother, even more powerful and had a lever action that could be slicked-up easier than the revolving mechanism of the AR6.

A lack of support killed the AR6
The AR6 was dropped by the larger airgun dealers, leaving sales to the smaller "hobby" dealers (people who are not serious dealers - they come and go overnight). Support for the guns vanished and so did sales, as rifles like the Career and Sam Yang made their grand entrances. By 1996, a few American airgunsmiths had slicked up the AR6 to fire double-action with just 18 lbs. of effort, but by then the days of the Hunting Master were over. I still see these older rifles changing hands for very little money.

The NEW AR6
This rifle is an entirely new, third-generation rifle. The manufacturer listened carefully to what Pyramyd Air told them American hunters want in an air rifle. It has a walnut stock that's been correctly profiled for scope use. A large single-tube reservoir holds enough air for 20 full-power shots with heavy Korean pellets. The double-action trigger-pull is down around 12-14 lbs., which is actually usable for the first time. The single-stage, single-action pull is a crisp 3 lbs. And the power and accuracy seem refined, making the new AR6 an affordable option to the more expensive British and Swedish repeaters.

On Monday, I'll tell you some things I learned while shooting this new AR6. If you're in the market for a hunting air rifle, put this one on your list.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Walther LP53: The James Bond airgun!

by B.B. Pelletier


A deluxe LP53 is cased but does not have the optional barrel weights. Two spare sight inserts (both front and rear) compliment those already on the gun. This late model does not have the wooden cocking knob.


Fred mentioned he owned a Walther LP53, and I was reminded what a wonderful air pistol it is, so today I thought I'd share my observations.

History
The LP53 (LP stands for luft pistole - German for air pistol) was an early (1953-1983) attempt at making a .177 target pistol. It copied the lines of Walther's famous .22 LR Olympia target pistol, and it used a spring piston to compress the air. When you look at the pistol, you wonder where the spring and piston could be, but they are tucked away inside the pistol grip.

Hard to cock
The gun is a breakbarrel, and the triggerguard serves as a long cocking link. The mechanical advantage of the cocking mechanism is not very good, so the pistol is somewhat difficult to cock for the relatively low power it generates. Walther recognized this and provided a wooden cocking knob that fits over the front sight to give you as much leverage as possible. It's a funky way of cocking an air pistol, and many owners love it for that, alone.

Recoil simulator?
The piston springs almost straight upward inside the grip when the gun is fired. Walther touted this as a "recoil simulator," making the air pistol feel like a .22 rimfire, but the truth is that it just feels funny in your shooting hand. It's more like a jolt than a recoil.

James Bond
The LP53 is all metal with beautifully formed plastic grip panels. The early pistols had a beavertail extension that curved down over the web of the hand; later guns also had an extension, but it was straight. The trigger blade is thin and elegant - looking exactly like a firearm trigger. In fact, there's nothing about the LP53 that doesn't look right, which is why the movie posters for early James Bond films show him holding an air pistol instead of his service PPK.

Targets, only!
For all its racy looks, the LP53 is a pussycat, generating barely more than 300 f.p.s. with lightweight .177 pellets. The piston stroke is very short and the bore is small enough to fit inside the grip, so there isn't much air to compress. At 10 meters, however, the low power is all that's needed to punch bullseyes. Walther included three front sight posts and three rear sight notch inserts with the gun, so shooters could fine-tune the sight picture. While it will never keep up with a real 10-meter target pistol, an LP53 will shoot nickel-sized groups at 33 feet when the shooter does his best.

For those who wanted the best, a deluxe version of the gun came in a blue satin-lined hard case with barrel weights - very similar to the Olympia pistol it copied. The case was small, but it housed a real treasure! Most guns have a fixed trigger, but there is a rare adjustable version that's known. There is also a very rare LP52 that was made for ony one year.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Shooting positions: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This one was requested by the CF-X guy, but it applies to all of us. I could draw fancy diagrams and discuss pressure points and fulcrums ad infinitum, but there are already many books on the subject that do it better. Besides - it doesn't work! What I'm saying is that there is no "standard" shooting position that is worth the time to listen to, if you intend to "learn" the position. There are a great number of good tips, however.

Tip 1: In the offhand position, placement of the feet is important!
I learned this when I was a baseball pitcher. It's called control. If you have a practiced pitch motion with good follow-through, how you place your feet determines where the ball goes. I could keep the ball within 12 inches side-to-side at the plate just by how and where I placed my feet. Unfortunately, my 70 mph fastball meant that I was supposed to be a teacher.

Foot placement also works for rifles, shotguns and handguns. It doesn't matter if you hold your pistol with two hands or rest the forearm of your rifle stock on your knuckles. What you do is get into your firing stance with your eyes closed, take aim and open your eyes. The orientation of your sights tells you how you have to move your feet. Keep adjusting until you are on target - then stop moving your feet!

Tip 1.a: Fine-tuning your feet
You can move just one foot at a time by rotating it left or right a few inches, with the heel remaining in place (or the ball of the foot). This makes small adjustments in your orientation, and it tensions or relaxes your legs at the same time. I shoot competitive 10-meter air pistol, and I like to have both legs under some tension. After I find my position, I fine-tune my feet this way.

Tip 2: Prone position
When I shot competitive 3-position rifle in college, I learned something about the prone position. The first thing is that the placement of your legs determines where you aim (the legs, again!). I had an anal coach who insisted that a shooter's feet had to lie flat on their sides in the prone position. That didn't work for me (he actually stood on my foot and couldn't force it to flatten!), but he did teach me something else that was important. You know how young people sometimes jiggle their legs nervously? Well, I learned that the same movement gets transmitted to the muzzle of the gun, and you'll never hit anything with your feet flopping around. So, get those legs into a position where the feet can't flop.

The other tip in prone is to get the forearm of your supporting hand directly under the rifle, so you feel no weight from the rifle. Your forearm acts like a monopod. This relieves all the stress in your supporting arm muscles. Move your elbow from side to side to accomplish this.

I have more tips like this, but I'd like to know that you want them. As I said, there are whole books on shooting positions, so I am going to take a different tack in addressing the issue.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Can a common BB gun be accurate?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I'll venture into an unknown realm - BB gun accuracy. Most shooters feel that anytime a BB gun can keep five shots inside an inch at 20 feet, it's doing pretty good! So, let's see if we can learn to do better.

No ringers allowed!
There are some BB guns that can hit aspirin at 20 feet regularly - from the offhand position! The Daisy Avanti Champion 499 comes to mind. In fact, it is the 499 that inspired today's posting, because it was developed with accuracy in mind. Before it was created in 1976, shooting coaches all around America pooled their knowledge to make a shooter out of the Daisy 299 - a regular BB gun that sported target sights. There was nothing special about the 299, but Jaycee coaches re-learned an accuracy secret that marksmen in Ohio discovered around 1850: if you shoot a round ball from a smoothbore gun, the closer the ball fits the bore, the more accurate it will be. I've read accounts where these gentlemen shot 2" five-shot groups at 100 yards!

The barrel search
The coaches figured that if they could find the tightest barrels, their guns would be most accurate. And, from a conversation I had with one of them, that's how it worked out. He told me the thing to do in those pre-499 days was to be "in" with someone at Daisy who would let you test dozens of shot tubes before buying a few. You didn't have to live near the plant - just be prompt about returning the shot tubes you didn't want. Daisy was very proud of the World BB Gun Championships, and they wanted to see kids do well.

Airsoft does it, too!
Let's not overlook the fact that for airsoft guns, a more accurate barrel is always a tighter barrel. I know a sniper who insists he can hit a 12"x12" target at 100 yards on a calm day. Of course, when you start using a tighter barrel, you also have to use the more expensive ground shot.

The results
A tight barrel could make the old Daisy 299 shoot half-inch groups at the regulation 5 meters. I've heard of some that were a little better. So the tight barrel really is the way to make a smoothbore shoot a round ball better. But what can you do if you can't cherry-pick through shot tubes?

If you can't make the barrel smaller, make the BB bigger!
There are a couple ways to do this. One is to sort through new BBs from different manufacturers until you find the largest BBs. Then, look through your BB guns for the one with the smallest barrel. Putting the two together should give you an edge up on the competition. Another tactic is to locate a supply of lead balls that are larger than BBs. I did this with a No. 25 pump gun, and I got groups of less than one inch at 20 feet. With steel, I was getting 2.5" to 3".

It's all academic
With the 499 so available today, we don't have to go through the gyrations coaches went through before 1976. In fact, this same information can be transferred to other types of guns, including the pellet guns we all love so much. The fit of a pellet to the bore of your rifle is also quite important.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Desert Eagle: The first blowback pellet pistol!

by B.B. Pelletier

Here is a pellet gun you can't buy for a couple of months, but I'm showing it to you now. Am I bad or what?


The new Desert Eagle pellet pistol from Magnum Research, Inc. is a full-sized handgun with realistic blowback action - the first for a pellet pistol.


Shown at the SHOT Show
The Desert Eagle from Magnum Research, Inc. is an ultimate big boy toy. It may not be the baddest pistol, there's always something bigger in the wings, but the Desert Eagle Mark XIX in .50 Action Express is a heckofa big gun, nevertheless. Now it's a pellet pistol, as well. And not just any pellet pistol!

The world's first blowback pellet pistol!
That's the claim, and I can't remember any other PELLET pistol with blowback. There are now several BB guns with blowback and many airsoft pistols, too, but this is a first for pellet guns. Blowback means the slide comes back with every shot, cocking the hammer as it goes. That lowers the trigger-pull weight needed to fire the gun. The 8-shot circular magazine will still be advanced by the trigger, so I'm not expecting a pull as light as the Crosman 600, but it should beat all guns that are double-action only.

Realistic recoil!
Let us not forget that with blowback comes the feeling of recoil. This is one of the greatest attractions for BB pistols like the PPK/S and the CP99 Compact. It's also a reason green gas airsoft pistols like the KSC G26C are so popular. Shooters LOVE that feel of recoil! Well, the Desert Eagle also has that feel - the first time in a pellet pistol!

Made by Umarex
Like every other realistic action pistol these days, this .177 caliber airgun is made by Umarex of Germany. They have made a name for themselves by creating the most realistic pellet and BB pistols that are exact copies of famous firearms. The Desert Eaqle has been popular in 6mm airsoft for a long time, but the advantage of a pellet pistol is greater accuracy at longer distances. Most Umarex air pistols, including this one, use metal 8-shot circular magazines.

Pellets
I've had good luck with Gamo Match pellets in all Umarex airguns. They 're still a bargain in the 500-pellet tins, so get a couple if you buy this pistol. The RWS Diabolo Basic looks like it's worth a try, too.

Powerlets
You're probably going to run through a LOT of these with the Desert Eagle, so I would stock up with a BIG box of powerlets!

Although the Desert Eagle isn't available yet, now is the time to order. Pyramyd Air is taking orders now, so you can get in line when they hit these shores. They will probably sell out of the first shipment right away, so don't wait if you want one.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Everblast M87LA tactical airsoft shotgun

by B.B. Pelletier

For those on a tight budget, this gun will get you into the game. Being a springer, the Everblast 87LA is affordable, but this one has a difference. It's a pump gun that lets you shoot as fast as you can work the handle!

NOT a shotgun!
Although they call this a shotgun, it really isn't. It shoots a single 0.12-gram BB per pull of the trigger and it has adjustable Hop Up like any other combat long gun. It's made for single-shot accuracy. Think of it as a fast-firing rifle that can double as a street broom in a pinch. Though the gun cocks and fires with each pump of the hand grip and pull of the trigger, if the trigger is held down, it fires every time the grip goes forward. That dramatically increases the rate of fire.

Three different guns
Actually there are three guns in the 87 family. There's a CQB Special Ops version with a six-position adjustable stock, a conventionally stocked law enforcement version and an Everblast 87SA gun with no butt. The Spec Ops is more powerful than the other two and has the buttstock that's needed for long-range accuracy. The LA seems more useful than the SA. For room-to-room fighting, the shorter gun would maneuver best of all. The short gun shoots slowest, but other than that and the stocks, the three are pretty much the same.

Sights and optical aids
A Picatinny tri-rail comes with each model to accept dot sights, tactical flashlights, lasers and more. You will need to mount some kind of sight because the gun comes with none. All accessories have to mount to Picatinny rail mounting systems (Weaver mounts will work, too).

Adjustable Hop Up
This is the feature you need for best accuracy. Hop Up puts the backspin on the BB, making it fly straighter farther. The adjustment feature lets you tune the gun to the specific ammo being used, and that means you can be more accurate at longer ranges. While adjustable Hop Up is common on high-end gas and electric guns, it's not so common on springers - certainly not on springers selling for less than $40! That's why I say this inexpensive gun gets you in the game. It has the power and the accuracy of an AEG costing four times as much, so you don't have to borrow or rent any longer.

Functioning
I found the last two BBs in every magazine were duds in the guns I tested. One would leave the magazine but not feed into the barrel and the other one stayed in the mag. But I only tested the 20-shot mags. Leapers has just come out with a high-capacity mag that may have better feeding, and even if it doesn't, you'll still have a lot more shots in each mag.

Solid feel and heft
You don't expect a solid feel in an airsoft gun for under $40 - especially not a long gun. But every member of the 87 family feels heavy and rugged. Yes, there's a lot of plastic, and I doubt the gun is a rugged as a metal-bodied AEG, but it looks tougher than the price would indicate. So, maybe this is a gun to get you started. If you like skirmishing, you have time to save up for a higher-end gun. If that's your plan, you can buy your optics with an eye to using them on the next gun!

The Everblast M87 guns are worth your consideration.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Shooting with the Alpha Chrony

A couple announcements: I'll be out of town until Wednesday, May 24. My daily blogs will be posted automatically. I won't be able to answer questions, so I'd appreciate it if other readers could step up to the plate and help out.

Tom Gaylord has posted an article about PCP hand pumps that also includes a short video. If you are unable to view the video or cannot download Quicktime, please post your comment to this blog. We're assuming everyone can watch the video unless you tell us otherwise.

Now, on to today's blog!

by B.B. Pelletier

Here is a device many of you need - the Alpha model Shooting Chrony chronograph! Pyramyd Air sells both the Alpha and the Beta models, and the only difference is that the Beta has a larger memory for storing longer strings of data, plus it holds the data when turned off. Let me explain.


The Alpha Chrony is shown with the diffusers installed.


What IS a chronograph?
A chronograph is a device that determines the velocity of projectiles such as bullets, pellets and arrows. Modern chronographs use light sensors to start and stop a high-speed counter. Using the distance between the start and stop sensors (skyscreens), the chronograph calculates how fast a projectile is traveling by determining how long it takes to go from the first sensor to the second.

What the Alpha Chrony gives you
The Alpha Chrony is a self-contained unit housed inside a metal box. Just unfold it, switch it on and start firing! If you follow the directions, the Alpha model (and the Beta model) give you velocities accurate to more than 99.5 percent. Typically, the Chrony will be less than 10 f.p.s. off at a velocity of 2,000 f.p.s. The maximum error is less as velocities decrease, so this is perfect for airgun use! Velocity reads out within seconds on a screen on the front of the unit. You can also push a button to get information like the total number of shots in a string (up to 32 with the Alpha), fastest shot, slowest shot, extreme spread, average and standard deviation.


This was taken during the Benjamin Legacy test.


The unit runs on one 9-volt alkaline battery (not included). It MUST be an alkaline battery for the electronics to work properly. The battery lasts a long time, although you should turn off the power if you're not going to be shooting for a while. The Chrony can sit flat on a table, or it can be attached to a camera tripod. The tripod is probably the better way to mount it because you can angle it down to shoot into the ground. You can leave it on the tripod for transport, too.

Skyscreens
The sensors are called skyscreens because the normal way to use them is to point them up toward the sky. If the day is completely clear or overcast, this works well, but a bright sun or fast-moving clouds requires the use of a diffuser that comes with the chronograph. The sensors require the pellet to pass over the center of the chronograph at a height of 4" to 6". This is not too hard to master. If you have difficulty knowing which way the barrel is pointing, you'd better erect the diffuser stands as a guide. The most common mistake is pointing the barrel down. You'll eventually hit the top of the second skyscreen this way.

Artificial light
You can use lights instead of the sky, but they have to be incandescent bulbs. Almost every other kind of light bulb will either trigger the sensors or give you no reading at all.

Why is the Chrony so cheap?
The Chrony is a careful blend of the features and attributes you need - with the elimination of everything else. Other chronographs have faster counters, so their error is smaller than 10 f.p.s. for a 2,000 f.p.s. bullet. Some have additional sensors to give you a check channel - which acts as a second chronograph. Some have printers (Chrony offers this as an option). But like I said, you don't need all that. For getting started with a chronograph, the Chrony is the best and least expensive way to go.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Airgun calibers and cleaning

by B.B. Pelletier

Reader JW asked for this post. Before I start, let me remind you that airguns usually do not need to be cleaned. They don't get dirty in the same way firearms do, so cleaning is reserved for when accuracy falls off.

Here's the question:

I was getting ready to clean the bore of my air rifle with J.B. Bore Compound but was having trouble finding a rigid cleaning rod for an air gun in .22 cal. (I'm not much on the flexible rods.) I was wondering if it would be safe to use a cleaning rod for a .22 rimfire?

What's different about airguns? Starting with .22.
Calibers! The .22 caliber airgun is 0.218" in diameter rather than 0.223". When makers of cleaning equipment make bore brushes, mops and patch holders, they make them for the large (and to them more common) firearms dimensions. Fortunately, the size difference is usually too small to matter, but with custom-made cleaning equipment there can be problems. Some makers of cleaning rods get anal about bore-fit, and I have seen .22 rods that were too large to fit in a .22 airgun bore. I've also encountered a FEW patch holders that were too large. The makers of these tools believe that there should be as little clearance as possible between their tools and the bore in order to prevent scraping one side of the bore with the rod through careless cleaning techniques. In effect, they're using the top of the rifling as a bore guide - but only in rimfire, as an airgun bore has far less space.

.177
In .177 caliber, the situation is reversed. Seventeen caliber in a firearm is exactly that. Airguns are .177, which is close to .18 caliber, so they are LARGER than the firearm equivalents. This time, the problem isn't as serious. The firearm equipment is all smaller, so the brushes don't fit as tightly but that's the extent of the problems.

.20/5mm
There are far fewer .20 caliber firearms, so most folks use .22 caliber equipment if it fits. If it doesn't, .177 can be used. Brushes can be a problem - not with finding them but with finding brushes that attach to the rod that fits the bore of your airgun.

.25
There is LOTS of .25-caliber cleaning equipment available for firearms. And, for your information, the airgun caliber is NOT standardized. Modern .25-caliber airguns have smaller bores than vintage guns - especially those from BSA and Webley. By vintage, I'm talking about the 1950s and earlier, not the 1980s. The difference in bore size doesn't matter as far as cleaning equipment goes - just pellets, but it's useful to know.

I buy my cleaning rods to fit firearms and I haven't had a problem yet. Just be cautious when buying handmade benchrest cleaning equipment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why is .177 the only caliber for field target?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question was asked by CF-X guy, but I hear it all the time from new airgunners. Let's take a look at why the sport of field target is suited only to .177 caliber.

You CAN shoot other calibers!
Field target is governed by the American Airgun Field Target Association (AAFTA). You can read the rules on their website. There are no caliber restrictions, so .22 caliber is okay to use. I used to shoot next to a lady who used a Falcon ultra-lightweight rifle in .22 caliber, and she did very well. Beat me several times as I recall. However, just because you can use a .22, doesn't mean it can win. In fact, on most days, it can't.

Understanding a field target
A field target is a sillhouette of an animal (usually) with one or more kill zones, which are holes through the steel target. Behind each hole there is a trigger called a paddle. The paddle has to be hit for the target to fall. If the target face is hit, it pushes the target back and the trigger (paddle) holds it firmly in place. Unlike the sport of airgun silhouette, hitting the field target in any place except the kill zone does not get you a point. The target must fall to get a point.


This Gamo field target has a large kill zone typical of the easier targets on a course.



These airgun silhouettes can be hit anywhere for a score, as long as they are knocked off their stands. They are not field targets.


The subtle difference in field target
Unlike other shooting sports, where a hit close to the bull counts for something, in field target it often counts for NOTHING! Here's why. If the pellet happens to hit the side of the kill zone hole as it tries to pass through, it pushes the whole target back against the trigger - locking it in position even harder. At that moment, if a piece of the now-shattered pellet happens to hit the paddle, it may not have enough energy left to overcome the locked-up trigger of the target. This is called a split (meaning the pellet has split on the side of the kill zone) and it is the bane of every field target shooter.

Tough targets
The kill zone hole can be as small as one-quarter-inch in diameter. That is so close to the diameter of a pellet that it matters whether you shoot a small pellet or a large one. Remember, the trick is to get through the hole without touching the side. Just touching it doesn't matter, but if enough of your pellet touches that it transfers enough energy to the target to lock the paddle, the target won't fall and you will lose a point! A .177 pellet has a greater chance of getting through a small hole without touching the side than a larger pellet. Field target is a game of percentages, as well as a game of marksmanship.


A dime is 0.705" in diameter. The 3/8" hole is a lot smaller. Try to shoot through the hole without touching the side. That's field target!


Believe me, a 1/4" kill zone is hard to hit. Even a 3/8" hole is hard. When a target with a small kill zone is positioned at 17 yards (a TERRIBLE distance for a gun that's zeroed for 20 to 35 yards - can anyone tell me why?), it represents a challenge that takes a master marksman to overcome. I have seen SWAT team snipers fall apart on targets like these!

That is the reason .177 is the only caliber for field target. Every year, new shooters come out with their .20s and their .22s and, if they shoot the entire season, they become experts in why the .177 is the way to go.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Where (and how) to locate a scope

by B.B. Pelletier

This post was requested by MCA, who has noticed some movement in his shot groups depending on where he places his face on the stock of his air rifle. This is a problem older than scope sights and was first addressed in early Army rifle marksmanship manuals of the 1870s.

The spot-weld
During World War II, marksmanship instructors taught soldiers about the "spot-weld." The term was used to embed the notion that there is only one place on the stock for the head to be. [I recently saw this term called both a "stock weld" and a "cheek weld" on the Internet, but they mean the same thing.] That is important because of the relationship between the sighting eye and the sights. Parallax is the phenomenon that describes the apparent movement of near and far reference points due to different sighting angles. Big words for a simple concept.

Parallax
Hold up one finger at arm's length and align it with a distant mark. Then close each eye separately and see if the finger moves in relation to the mark. It should appear to move when your non-master eye is open but your master eye is closed. Because your eyes are separated, they each see things from a different angle. That's what enables you to judge distances, and it also demonstrates the concept of parallax.

The eye must remain in place!
If you move your sighting eye relative to the reticle of your scope, the reticle MAY appear to move on the target. I emphasize MAY because if there is zero parallax at the targeted range, there SHOULD be no movement. So, if you place your head on the stock differently each time you shoot, the reticle will be aimed at a slightly different point. That will affect your impact point. If you keep your head still for five shots but in a different place than when you sighted in, you will get a tighter group that has shifted from the initial aim point. If you move your head for each shot, your group will be much larger than it should be.

The solution is to find the best spot on the stock for your head to rest in order to see clearly through the scope, and ALWAYS place your head at that spot! That spot, which must NEVER change, is called your SPOT-WELD! Got it?

Whether your scope has parallax adjustments or not makes no difference if your head is always in the same spot. That cancels any parallax error.

Natural hold
Locate the natural hold by adjusting how you hold the gun until it feels natural. If you cannot see through the scope in that position, you need to move the scope until you can. That can mean relocating the scope at best, or new scope mounts (and sometimes a new scope to go with them) at the worst.

Once your hold feels natural and you can see through the scope, LEARN that hold and practice it until it becomes a habit! This is the reason that a one-gun shooter is often more accurate than someone who owns many guns. In the Army, they used to put masking tape on the stock so the soldier would remember where his cheek was supposed to go. Another technique was to grasp the wrist of the stock in a certain way, so your cheek was always pressed against the side of your hand.

However you do it, locating your shooting eye at the same point every time is a serious accuracy tip.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Airgun seals: Where are they?

by B.B. Pelletier

A new reader named Carl prompted today's post. He owns a Daisy 22X and has some questions about oiling the seals. That resulted in this question:

You mention that you should keep your seals oiled. Where are these seals located?

I'll do multi-pump pneumatics today and if there is interest, I'll do the other types of airgun powerplants later.

Starting with the pump head
Think of a multi-pump gun as a progression of events. First, you pump air into the gun's reservoir. That takes a pump head that can seal air against loss as it compresses it into a small space. The pump head is a pliable material that fits the inside of the pump tube tightly enough to compress air but loosely enough to move easily. The pump head usually swells from increasing air pressure. In some guns, there's an O-ring, like a piston ring, around the head very near the end. Oil on the contacting surfaces of either the O-ring or end of the pump head seals the air in front of the head, just as oil in your car engine helps the piston rings seal the explosive gasses of combustion.


This rough diagram shows the relative locations of the seals in a multi-pump.


The inlet valve
As the pump head compresses air, the inlet valve in the end of the reservoir is forced open by air pressure. Air passes into the reservoir, which in most multi-pumps is nothing more than empty space inside the valve body. It doesn't take much air to drive a pellet! When the pump stroke is complete, the inlet valve's return spring closes the valve. As the reservoir pressure increases, more pressure is needed to open the inlet valve, so the pump head travels farther before the inlet valve opens. You feel the increased pressure as feedback in the pump stroke.

The exhaust valve
Air remains in the reservoir/valve until released through the exhaust valve. Typically, a spring-driven weight called a hammer knocks the exhaust valve off its seat, releasing the air. The released air flows through the same tunnel the valve stem operates in, but a hole in the side of this tunnel lets the air escape up to the barrel, where it gets behind the pellet. The bolt that loaded the pellet has an O-ring seal on it, so the only way the air can escape is to push the pellet out of the way.

Pump tube to barrel seal
This just keeps the air sealed inside the tunnel so it has to push the pellet out of the way.

Oiling all the seals
When you oil the pump head, oil migrates through the gun with the compressed air. By oiling this one spot, you are oiling the entire airgun.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

How long does a mainspring last? - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

When the mainspring starts to fail (bend), it rubs either against the inside of the piston or the outside of the spring guide on either end (inside the piston or at the other end of the compression chamber/spring cylinder). That rubbing slows the piston, causing a power loss, and it transmits vibration to the metal parts of the gun. If you know your gun very well, you can feel this increasing vibration, just as the owners of older Diana spring guns often notice the easier cocking and softer power stroke of a broken mainspring.

A few more factors
We still need to know a few more things. Some mainsprings are under a tremendous amount of pre-load. They are compressed 3-4" while at rest! The HW77 is like that, as is the FWB 124. The TX200, on the other hand, is only compressed about half an inch at rest. That affects how long the springs last. So does dieseling.

The more a gun diesels, the shorter its spring life will be. Every diesel smacks the mainspring with a rapid compression stroke. There are cases where the gun has recocked itself from a detonation! That force abuses a mainspring something awful. As does a sloppy powerplant.

A gun that has a lot of slop between the piston, mainspring, spring guides and cylinder wall is abusive to a mainspring. When a spring gun fires, the spring expands and rebounds so fast that at one point it doesn't touch either end of the gun! If there is lots of room all around, the spring will kink up in all sorts of nasty ways and get hit by other moving parts in the powerplant until it starts to degrade. A buzzing, vibrating spring gun is tearing itself to pieces, with the mainspring being the first victim.

So how LONG does a mainspring LAST?
Tom Gaylord published the only report I know about on the subject of mainspring life. In his R1 book, there is a chapter called the Mainspring Failure Test. He tested a factory R1 spring, a Beeman Laser spring, a Venom spring and a Maccari custom spring by cocking them all and leaving them cocked for ONE FULL MONTH! That's 735 HOURS of being cocked. Throughout the test he took shots at intervals to see how the springs were holding up, then recocked them until the next test shot. Each spring was test-fired this way 23 times during the test.


The R1 book by Gaylord has a whole chapter devoted to mainspring life.


The mainspring that lost the most power was the Beeman Laser spring. After being cocked for 735 hours, it had 93.25 percent of the power it had at the start of the test. The factory spring retained 93.89 percent of its original power. The Maccari spring retained 94.65 percent of its original power and the Venom spring retained 96.93 percent of its original power. The Vemon spring was slightly bent and had begun to vibrate - something Gaylord stressed it did not do before the test. The factory spring was ever-so-slightly bent and both the Maccari and Laser springs were still perfectly straight.

How long?
A full MONTH of being cocked is more abuse than anyone can heap on a spring gun in ten years of normal use. However, (and this is a long list of "howevers") a Chinese spring rifle MAY have an improperly stress-relieved mainspring that can fail in less than 1,000 shots. An older Diana from 1986 to 2000 will often have a broken mainspring from improper stress relief. That is not 100 percent guaranteed, however. An FWB 124 will often have a bent mainspring from failure due to excessive pre-load. An HW77 with a factory spring may fail after about 12-15 years of little or no shooting for the same reason. An older Russian spring rifle may fail due to the spring wire being too weak for the application. Any airgun that has been subjected to repeated dieseling will probably have a bent mainspring.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

How long does a mainspring last? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Here's a question all spring gun owners have asked. We got this question from an anonymous reader last week, but I know it's one many of you will be interested in. This will take some time to explain, so please bear with me.

What happens when a mainspring fails?
Before answering how long a spring lasts, we first have to know what a failed spring looks like. Mainsprings fail in several ways, and for a couple of reasons. The most common failure is when the steel in the spring relaxes, allowing the steel structure to shift. I will come back to this later, but for now, let's learn what happens when a coiled mainspring is made.

Turning a wire into a spring
I'm not going to explain steel structure, but think of a spring as a straight rod that has been twisted into a coil - because that is exactly what a coiled steel mainspring is! This rod is actually a thick wire, and that's important to know. When wire is made, the steel structure aligns itself along the linear axis of the wire and is then twisted into a long coil. The steel structure is stressed in the same way a tree is stressed when it is bent over to one side. There are ways to relieve the stress in the steel, but let's first consider where that stress is located.

Mr. Wizard time!
If you've ever served in the military or played in a marching band, you know that when a column of marching people turns a corner, the people on the outside have to move faster than the people on the inside. So it is for a steel wire being twisted repeatedly in a circle. The steel on the outside of the wire tries to move more than the steel on the inside of the wire. Except that the outside of the wire wraps COMPLETELY around the wire, while the marchers are a flat ribbon, by comparison!


The shaded portion of the wire has been work-hardened during the winding process and is very brittle.



Stress relief
If the stress is left in the wire, the surface remains brittle and subject to cracking. Further stressing, through spring compression and decompression, will cause the spring to fracture like glass! The most common way to relieve the stress is to massage it out with the impact of millions of tiny balls - commonly called shot-peening. A spring that has been shot-peened has a microscopically rough surface that looks like millions of tiny craters around the entire surface of the wire.


Close examination of the break point of a mainspring reveals a stattered structure, typical of an over-stressed steel that was not properly stress-relieved. The shading seen in the steel is real - not caused by shadows.


A well-made mainspring
When a mainspring is made right - with the proper steel, the correct manufacture and the proper stress-relief treatment, it doesn't shatter like glass. But it does fail! However, the time it takes to fail is orders of magnitude longer than the bad mainspring, so it is considered acceptable for that application. When a properly made mainspring fails, the steel structure around the circumference of the wire shifts, allowing the spring to bend at that point. The bent spring then puts uneven pressure on the inside walls of the powerplant when it decompresses and that results in vibration. The more vibration a gun has, the more you can determine something is wrong inside - often a bent mainspring.


This old mainspring served an honorable life in a military trainer, which means tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of shots. Even if it is a replacement, it still shows lots of service. The coils are bent AND collapsed.


Tomorrow I'll pick up at this point.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Weihrauch Barakuda EL54 ether-injection air rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

This post is for Jason, who was intrigued by the HW Barakuda EL 54 ether-injection spring rifle that was mentioned in the posting on Baracuda pellets It's also for CF-X guy, who asked what the maximum velocity might be for a dieseling gun. Since the EL54 works by dieseling, I thought I would address it here.


The ether-injection system attaches the the right side of the receiver to turn an HW 35 into an EL54.


An early attempt at magnum power
The EL54 was an early attempt (1954-1981) at achieving magnum power in a spring-piston air rifle. It is an HW 35 with an ether injector attached on the right side of the compression chamber tube. A medical ether ampule was inserted into the device and crushed. Each time the rifle was cocked and loaded, a shot of ether was injected into the compression chamber, where the heat of compression ignited it, raising gas pressure in the compression chamber.

The device was hell on pellets, blowing out their heads and leaving the bodies trapped in the barrel, so round balls were the only recommended ammo. It also blew the leather seals out of the early guns. It was very difficult to get medical ether ampules in the U.S., so the system was never popular. Most of the guns seen today are in new or nearly new condition.

The claim was that the rifle could drive a 15-grain .22 caliber ball to 1,000 f.p.s., but the only publicized test, done by writer W.H.B. Smith in 1957, used a rifle with blown seals, so the results were disappointing. One-thousand feet per second with round balls was smokin' in the 1950s, but an AirForce Condor would exceed it by at least 150 f.p.s. today.

Forced dieseling is NOT SAFE!
This is for CF-X guy and anyone else who wonders what can be done with a dieseling airgun. It's all been done before, and the facts are well known. Dieseling destroys spring-piston airguns. They aren't made to take the pounding of the repeated explosions. The EL54 lasted because people couldn't get the ether ampules. Yes, there are ways around that, and they have been tried - and they destroy guns, too. Shooters have been injured when their guns blew apart or pieces flew off at high velocity. This is not a road to go down. If you do, a lot is known about what will happen, and none of it is pleasant.

A safe alternative
If you want to experiment with loads and velocities, try handloading firearm cartridges. You can do a lot of experimentation, and it's all very safe - as long as you stay within the published guidelines.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Crosman 600 semiauto pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start, an alert reader has a report on the Gamo Rocket pellet.

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I've found the Rockets to be a tad better than B.B. did - basically the same results but with one big difference.

SAFETY WARNING!!!

When shooting them at 20m at a hardwood backstop tilted about 10 degrees one of them rebounded and hit my leg. It wasn't travelling very fast and I assumed it was a fluke. Then it happened again, and again and once it came back with a air amount of oomph!

Upon inspection of the rebounded pellet, it was only the lead portion and not the BB. Apparently the hard BB rebounds and transfers the energy cleanly to the lead since it travels back on almost the exact same vector from which it was fired.

If a rebounded pellet can cause a slight eye injury risk at 20m once every 10-20 shots then the risk at 10m is very significant. A hunting shot at 10m is not uncommon. Even if there isn't a clean surface to create a perfect rebound, the BB presents a major ricochet risk when fired at high velocities.

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Now, for the Crosman 600.

If there was ever a classic air pistol, the Crosman 600 is it! It's the gun others are compared to. Reader Schten Dohkji mentioned that we had no 600 pictures in the blog, and I was surprised to learn I had never reviewed it!


A nice early Crosman 600 in a "rocket box."


Early autoloader!
Crosman's 600 first hit the streets in 1960. That was the time when Crosman powerlets had a bottle-cap seal that leaked, so CO2 guns weren't well-received. But the 600 lasted through those times and into the era when reliable powerlets came along. It was a true semiauto, where each pull of the trigger fired the gun. It held 10 .22 caliber pellets in line on the left side of the action in a built-in magazine. Linear mags have a reputation for poor feeding, but as long as you used domed pellets or wadcutters, the 600 fed well most of the time.

Lightning fast!
The 600 has a feed arm that moves to the left so the next pellet can be shoved in, then back to the right in line with the barrel. A bolt probe then jumps forward, stuffing the pellet into the breech. All this happens super-quick. If the gun ever goes full-auto (shooting all pellets as long as the trigger is held down), it dumps all 10 shots so fast that it sounds like one loud shot! I'm guessing the cyclic rate is close to 2000 rpm! And, going full-auto was one of the 600's little quirks. In fact, people used to modify it to do that until they realized that it didn't sound like a machine gun at all - just a loud air pistol, because they couldn't distinguish the individual shots firing.

Not powerful
The stock 600 gets about 350 f.p.s. with medium-weight pellets. It's also a gas hog, getting only about 30-33 shots per powerlet. The rest of the gas has to operate the mechanism. Once a 600 is tuned by either Dave Gunter (503-556-1439) or Mac-1 (310-327-3581), it can get well into the 450 f.p.s. range - and Gunter gets over 40 shots per powerlet with his tune. A lot of folks attach bulk CO2 tanks and long barrels to shoot hundreds of shots at 500+ f.p.s.


The flip side.


Excellent trigger and great accuracy!
The trigger is very light and almost crisp. The little mushiness is hardly noticeable, since almost everyone shoots the gun as fast as possible. If you take your time, a 600 can be very accurate. Crosman really knew how to rifle a barrel, and they put the very best into this pistol. It's as accurate as a Crosman Mark I.

In demand!
A used 600 will bring $225 in shooting condition and $275 in excellent condition in the box. They shoot so well that they are in demand. When the UK relaxed their laws against CO2 guns years ago, the Brits went crazy importing the 600. For a while, you couldn't buy one for less than $350 in any condition. Those days are over, but don't expect to get a cheap one unless you get lucky.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Benjamin Legacy

by B.B. Pelletier


Benjamin's Legacy breakbarrel has stirred up a lot of interest.


There has been a lot of interest in the Benjamin Legacy 1000. Thanks to Crosman, I have a sample, and I'll give you my report today. I have the Legacy 1000X kit that comes with a 4x scope and mounts, so I installed it on the rifle right away.

General appearance and feel
The Legacy is light and small - Gamo Shadow 1000-sized, but the proportions of the stock are just right for an adult. The stock is a laminate of what appears to be beech. The stain is very even, and the laminations hardly show. The dark recoil pad has been expertly fitted. The profiling of the cheekpiece is vague, but I must comment that the pistol grip is one of the nicest I have felt in a long time! With a slight palm swell, it feels just right to me! Benjamin's laser-cut checkering is very flat and more for decoration than to help with holding the stock.

The metal surface on the barrel is the roughest I've ever seen on an airgun, but the spring tube is smoother. The front fiberoptic sight is bright, while the two red dots in the rear sight are small and dark. Since I used the scope all the time, this was not an issue.

Powerplant
The rifle cocks as easily as the ad says (28 lbs.), though it's a little stiff when new. I was skeptical about the power until I shot over the Chrony Alpha and saw the numbers for myself. After some initial dieseling, Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets averaged 902 f.p.s., 10.6-grain Beeman Kodiaks averaged 776 f.p.s., Remington pointed pellets (7.8 grains as weighed) averaged 921 f.p.s. and JSB Exact 10.1-grain pellets (as weighed) averaged 767 f.p.s. That's an energy range of 13.20 to 14.70 foot-pounds. One thousand f.p.s. velocities would be easily obtained with lightweight pellets, and I think the rifle will improve with a long break-in.

Trigger and safety
The trigger looks, acts and feels like a Gamo trigger. The length of the second stage pull is adjustable and the gun came out of the box with all the first stage adjusted out. The single stage letoff was heavy but even.

To its credit, the safety is manual. When the rifle is cocked, you can fire it without another action. To apply the safety, pull it back toward the trigger. It can be applied and released at any time, regardless of whether the gun is cocked. The rifle does have an anti-beartrap feature that precludes uncocking. So, if you cock it, you have to shoot it.


JSB Exact heavy pellet flies straight and true from the Legacy barrel.


Accuracy
The Legacy has the potential for good accuracy. I shot inch-sized 5-shot groups at 25 yards. For some reason, they opened up to 2.5" at 40 yards. I think that was due to the low magnification of the scope, more than the rifle. With greater aiming precision, I see no reason why this rifle couldn't shoot 1.5" groups at 40 and even 50 yards. It certainly has the power to reach that far. The most accurate pellets were Beeman Kodiaks and JSB Exacts (heavy).

My brief test shows the Benjamin Legacy to be a surprisingly good air rifle. It's available only in .177, which is a shame because it also has the power to be a .22. However, the .177 is just fine.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Beeman Kodiak pellet

by B.B. Pelletier

There are hundreds of different pellets on the market, but only a handful deliver accuracy in nearly all air rifles. One of these is the H&N Baracuda, a heavy, domed pellet made of soft lead. It was initially created for the Weihrauch HW EL54 Barakuda ether-injected air rifle because lesser pellets were blown apart or severely deformed when the ether gas exploded. Haendler and Natermann is a German firm with a reputation for making some of the most uniform pellets in the world, and their Baracuda gained great favor when spring guns rose to - and exceeded - the power of the HW EL54. Perhaps that was why Beeman Precision Airguns had it packaged under their label as the Kodiak.

The Kodiak
In all calibers, the Kodiak is a heavy pellet, though far from the heaviest. In .20 caliber, it's 13.3 grains and the lightest in relation to other pellets. In all three other calibers, it is among the heavier pellets. It's best known in .22 and .177 calibers, where its performance in the hunting field and in field target (.177 only) is legend.

What a Kodiak WILL do
In rifles of higher power, the Kodiak is nearly always one of the three best (most accurate) pellets. In some individual rifles, it is the best. There is no way of knowing this unless you test it in a rifle at long range. Short-range tests (out to 15 yards) do not reveal the full performance of a pellet, but after 30 yards it should start showing what it's got. In .177 I would use it in a gun that has a muzzle velocity of at least 800 f.p.s. (but not shooting the Kodiak) and in .22 look for at least 700 f.p.s.

What a Kodiak WILL NOT do
Kodiaks are not made for air pistols or rifles with low and medium power. The R7 is medium power - don't use Kodiaks. The RWS Diana P5 Magnum is an air pistol - again, don't use Kodiaks. If you wonder if your rifle (or pistol) can handle Kodiaks, shoot some groups at 30 yards or farther and compare them to the best you've shot with the gun. That's the only way to know for sure, but I think you'll discover I've told you the truth.

Kodiaks in springers
Kodiaks were originally made for spring rifles. The HW 54 was at least as punishing as a Gamo 1250 or an RWS Diana 350 Magnum. So - springers, yes. Powerful springers, that is.

Kodiaks in CO2 guns
There are a few CO2 rifles powerful enough to handle Kodiaks at mid-range - the Crosman 2260, the Benjamin AS392T and similar guns. The others, from the 1077 on down, are not up to this pellet at anything but close range. In some repeaters, you may have feeding problems because the Kodiak is a longer pellet.

Kodiaks in PCPs
Though they weren't designed for PCPs, they might as well have been, because PCPs really bring out everything the Kodiak has to offer to the top. Because American PCPs are more powerful than springers or CO2 guns, they are the perfect place for the Kodiak to shine. The heavy weight develops higher power, and the uniformity really helps accuracy.

Kodiak/Baracuda Match?
I've never seen any advantage to the Kodiak Match, so I buy whichever pellet is cheaper at the moment. As I write this, straight Beeman Kodiaks are cheaper than any Baracuda, though Baracuda Match are the cheapest in that brand. This changes all the time, so keep an eye out for it.

This is a pellet to try if your gun meets the criteria.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Big news!

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of you know that Webley & Scott was purchased last year by Airgunsport. Production of the airguns ceased and will resume some time later this year. Three models will be made - the Patriot Export, the Tomahawk and the Xocet. These airguns will be produced outside the UK but will be the same as when they were made in England.

Pyramyd Air bought the remaining British airguns
Josh Ungier informed me yesterday that Pyramyd Air purchased all the remaining British-made airguns from Webley. This is an opportunity to own one of the very last guns made by this manufacturing legend in its native land.

Prepare to act fast!
I just toured the Webley guns on the website, and I see a lot of holes. There is a final shipment coming, so if you have a specific gun you want, it's time to make your deal. After this final shipment, there will be no more new British Webley airguns. Ever!

Will the quality suffer in the future?
I don't think so. Webley's Managing Director, Tony Hall, is still at the helm of the brand and will be guiding its quality. Tony is a respected member of the airgun community. With him at the wheel, the quality of the new guns will remain as high as when they were made in England. However, when the guns hit these shores, I will arrange to test one for you. You will be the first to get my report on that!

Dominators are in!
There's more good news. The Walther Dominator, the field target version of the Walther LG300 10-meter target rifle, is now being stocked by Pyramyd Air. This rifle was developed by Walther as a project for Smith & Wesson. When S&W lost interest in airguns, Walther continued to develop the gun on their own. Their engineers incorporated features into the Dominator that no other airgun in the world can touch. One of these is a super-long scope rail to permit the easy mounting of very large scopes. Another is the extremely ergonomic stock of the LG300. Sill another is a fully isolated free-floated barrel that suffers no affect as the air tank discharges and moves.

The specs list the velocity at 1,000 f.p.s., and this rifle can do that. For best accuracy shoot .177Beeman Kodiak pellets at just under 900 f.p.s. The engineers worked some magic to get you nearly 200 shots at 21 joules (15.5 foot-pounds).

Two different Dominators
The two models are the classic fully adjustable aluminum stock and the traditional laminated stock that appeals to those who love the feel of wood. The action is the same in both guns.

So there's the news. The time to own a new British-made Webley is right now!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Advanced accuracy tips: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Tip 5. "Aim small, miss small"
A memorable movie line from The Patriot. And Joe in MD adds to the mix with his comments:

"1. Concentrate on the sights, not the target. This is something that one learns in shooting iron sights but many scope shooters don't think this will work for them -- it does. This is more mental with a scope than iron sights, but concentrate on the center of the crosshairs and not on the target. The effect is to reduce the movements you make to correct. This works even better for offhand shooting. "

Joe is essentially saying, "Aim small, miss small.

Allow me to elaborate
Many scope users seem to think that if the crosshairs are on the target, that's where the pellet will land. If the gun is sighted in, they are correct, but also far too vague for good accuracy. Here is an analogy. You agree to meet a friend at the mall at 1:00 p.m. You both get there but you go to Sears and he goes to the food court. In the days before cell phones, you could both be at the same place - the mall - and never see each other! Targets are like that.


On the left is the Hollywood version of a target. Anything the crosshairs touch must be hit! On the right is the marksman's version of the same thing. In this example, we actually look INTO the bullseye and see where the EXACT intersection of the crosshairs lies. We then do what's necessary to hold the crosshairs on the smaller target.


Tip 6. Learning the trigger
To "learn" a trigger means to become so familiar with it that you know exactly when it will break. If that seems to fly in the face of NOT knowing when the trigger is going to break - which is often quoted as a tip for accuracy - it is! Grasshopper, when you get to the point of NOT knowing when the trigger is going to break, you must then ADVANCE to knowing EXACTLY when it will break! That is not the contradiction it seems at first.

Wishing off the shot
When you know EXACTLY where the trigger is going to break you are able to control it to a ten-times finer degree than you were before. Perhaps, you've noticed how the crosshairs wander around the target continuously? By knowing exactly when the shot will go off, your subconscious (or less-than-conscious) mind is able to control the trigger. You pull off the shot at the exact instant the crosshairs pass over the desired aimpoint. While this may sound like mumbo-jumbo to some of you, every national-class shooter has learned how to do it. They might not describe it the same way I have, but they all do it this way.

If you learn to combine tips 5 and 6, you will become a much better shot!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Buzz Barton: First of the personality BB guns

by B.B. Pelletier

You can't be an airgunner without knowing about the Red Ryder. It's the most famous of all BB guns and the first one named for a fictional personality. Red Ryder has become synonymous with Daisy, BB guns and American youth. It wasn't the first BB gun to be named for a personality. That distinction goes to Buzz Barton.

Celebrity BB guns
In 1932, Daisy signed circus performer Buzz Barton to put his name on a special BB gun. The first gun appears to have been either a rush job or one that was half-baked. It had a PAPER label on the left side of the stock that proclaimed it as a Buzz Barton Special No. 195. The metal was blue and the stock was walnut. Daisy had come close to excellence in many ways, but that first gun missed the mark of being a classic. The paper label was quite fragile, as you might expect, so today a good one (the label, not the gun) commands a high price.

A shining star
A year later, Daisy got it exactly right. The second Buzz Barton was quite different from all other Daisys of the time. It was the first to feature a branded stock - Buzz Barton was burned into the left side of the butt inside a star frame. They used both light maple and dark mahogany wood for this stock, and the visual impact is both dramatic and gorgeous! That's why a perfect No. 103 Model 33 Buzz Barton Special commands almost $600 today. Even a well-worn original brings $200 to $250! Beware of refinished guns, though. They're worth far less than the real deal!


This all-original Buzz Barton Special has about 50 percent of its finish. The sights are complete, as well.



The Buzz Barton brand was the first celebrity-branded BB gun (1933-1937).


Tubular sight
The metal was nickelplated except for the unique rear tubular sight, which was blued. Working together with the front tubular sight, it was great! The inside of the rear sight was a small aperture, while the front globe housed a conventional bead. Acquiring a target with this sight is fast and easy - exactly what a shooter wants. Daisy received such a warm reception for the sights that it appeared on a number of their special BB guns for years after.

Rites of passage
The Buzz Barton had much of the early 20th century about it. The lever was cast iron and worked in the old-style short cocking stroke that made men out of small boys. It was harder to cock, but that was part of the passage to manhood! The shot tube was filled through a small hole behind the front sight. You learned how to manage the loading operation quickly or lost more than half your BBs as they missed the opening. The cover of the shot loading hole usually rotated past the right place, so a shooter had to keep one eye on the loading hole all the time, or BBs would come pouring out of the gun!


The loading port was small and didn't stay shut. Little boys and girls learned dexterity and responsibility by loading and operating a Buzz Barton BB gun.


They couldn't leave it alone!
Later Buzz Bartons reverted back to the No. 195 models 33 and 36. That model was based on a Markham BB gun, because Daisy also owned the Markham company. They made cheaper guns under that name for trade accounts like Sears & Roebuck. Though the stock was still branded, these Buzz Bartons are ho-hum compared to the No. 103.

Daisy went on to market the Buck Jones, a "trombone-action" pump gun that has the ONLY compass and sundial they EVER put on a vintage BB gun. It was another fine classic. After that, they made the gorgeous Golden Eagle, a copperplated gun with a black painted stock that is strikingly beautiful. But that Buzz Barton Special from 1933 was the high-water mark of the 20th century American BB guns.