Thursday, August 31, 2006

RWS Diana 34

by B.B Pelletier

A reader pointed out that I have never looked at the RWS Diana 34 before, so today I will rectify that. I have actually owned a couple of 34s over the years, and I've had both calibers. My time spent with other Diana guns is helpful as well, since things such as triggers and barrels are shared between models.

What IS a Diana 34?
The Diana 34 is an entry-level, German-made Diana breakbarrel spring-piston rifle. It's important that you know this rifle is made in Germany, because in recent years, RWS, like Beeman, has added guns to their lines made in Spain and now China. While the powerplants of guns from those countries might be as good as the lower-cost German guns, the barrels and triggers usually aren't.

Both calibers are good
The 34 comes in both .22 and .177, and, at the power level it achieves, it's good in both calibers. Though it is rated at 1,000 f.p.s. in .177, it actually achieves around 920-950 with light Hobby pellets and in the high 700s with heavier Beeman Kodiaks. That's when the gun is running right. In .22, you'll get velocities in the high 500s/low 600s with heavy pellets and the high 600s/low 700s with light pellets.

It's fairly easy to cock, at just over 30 lbs. of effort when broken in. The trigger is a two-stage adjustable model that can be adjusted for a crisp release. The stock is as plain as a wood stock can get, with just a raised cheekpiece and also a Monte Carlo profile to help scope users. The absence of a rubber buttpad means you must be careful when standing the rifle up on its butt.

The flagship of the Diana line
Diana designed the 34 to be an entry-level air rifle. At the time it was introduced, it had no raised cheekpiece or Monte Carlo profile. There was also a higher-priced model 36 that came with a rubber buttpad, front globe sight with replaceable inserts and a well-profiled stock with checkering. The model 38 was even nicer because it had all of those features plus a walnut stuck. The actions of all three rifles were identical. But, customers voted with their wallets, and only the 34 remains. For many years, it was Diana's best-selling model, and it may still be today.

Scope mounting
The 34 has the same scope-mounting deficiencies that most other Diana guns have, in that there is NO way to anchor a scope mount! You have to use a one-piece scope mount and let the scope stop pin hang down in front of the 11mm dovetail ramp on the receiver, same as for all the Diana sidelevers. That means a portion of the scope mount will hang off the rail at the front, but it's the only safe way to stop the mount from moving under recoil.

A big airgun!
This is a large air rifle, whose dimensions are well-suited to full-grown adults. Don't think of it as a youth gun just because the price is so low. It's the kind of air rifle that can grow with you as time passes. You can start out with just the rifle by itself and shoot for years using the sights that come with it. When the time comes, investing in a tuneup is worth the trouble because both the accuracy and the trigger warrant it. For a scope, I would choose a Leapers 3-9x40mm with a red/green reticle.

One note to owners. If you feel a distinct bump when cocking the rifle toward the end of the stroke, it means the plastic mainspring guide has broken. You can continue to shoot your rifle without damaging it, but your velocity will be lower.

The 34 can do what any of the powerful breakbarrels can. In .22, it's a good hunting gun; in .177 you can use it for field target. It's worth adding a nice scope and shooting premium pellets such as Crosman Premiers (I recommend the 7.9-grain in .177 and the 14.3 grain in .22.) You can also try Beeman Kodiaks and JSB Exacts in both calibers. This rifle is somewhat sensitive to hold as well as hand placement under the forearm. I like putting my open palm under the start of the cocking slot.

I am sorry I didn't get around to this rifle before, but now I have, so it's time for all you owners to chime in and tell the readers what you think of your air rifle.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Killing snakes with an airgun

by B.B. Pelletier

This is not your normal posting, because I don't usually discuss killing critters with airguns. That's not going to change, but a question last week prompted me to write this one post. A reader asked if there was a good semiauto pellet gun for under $100 that he might use to kill venomous snakes. Of course, there is no semiauto pellet gun for less than $100 and even if there was, it wouldn't be the thing for hunting snakes. What you want is a single-shot breakbarrel.

What I'm about to share with you, I had discovered 30 years ago and have used it successfully ever since. I've killed many snakes, venomous and otherwise, with this tip - every one was a one-shot instant kill.

When I was a young man, I went on a camping trip in northern California's Marble Mountain Wilderness Area with two friends. In those days (mid-1960s) the roads were unpaved, and it really WAS a wilderness area. We camped for four days and never saw another human being. But, I did almost step on a Pacific rattler in a creekbed!

The snake was a young one and his rattles were so high-pitched that he sounded like a large hornet. When I discovered him, he was three feet away and reared up to strike. I drew my M1911 Colt (in California, no less!) and let fly with a full clip, but the bullets all went through his thick body without stopping him. Alright, I MIGHT have missed once or twice. The final shot cut him in two behind the head, and he was finished. But I wasn't! I shook for 10 minutes, because we were a day's hike from our car and another day's drive from the nearest town! We had snakebite kits, but I had no desire to see how well they worked.

About six years later, I was maneuvering with my cavalry unit in the desert at Fort Bliss when another rattler reared up in the middle of the trail. This time, I was in a jeep and again armed with a Colt automatic, but I also had a cheap .22 revolver with me. I had the driver stop about 15 feet from the snake, and I took aim at the snake's head. When the shot went off I couldn't believe my eyes. I hit the snake between his eyes! I was a pretty good shot in those days, but not that good!

It dawned on me that the snake had played a part in the shot, too. I started killing snakes with a breakbarrel pellet rifle. My best shot was 20 feet without using the sights! I couldn't use them because there were none on the gun, but I had learned a secret about snakes and guns.

Apparently a snake lines up to face a threat head-on if possible. They do it so accurately that if you give them a few seconds, they will line up on the muzzle of your pellet rifle (or pistol, but don't use a pistol unless it has at least 20 foot-pounds). I have eliminated quite a few snakes since learning that trick and every one was shot between the eyes. All were instant kills. I might get lucky once in a lifetime, but never as often as I have. I've had help from the snakes.

Let's talk about safety. Some snakes are aggressive and move too fast to use this method. In the U.S., the water moccasin (cottonmouth) is one such snake. They will charge you aggressively, not leaving time to aim properly. Rattlesnakes are usually less aggressive, but don't bet your life on it. Avoid them if you can. My experience has been with Pacific rattlers and diamondbacks. The diamondbacks are aggressive, but they normally don't charge unless you scare them. Non-venomous water snakes can be pretty aggressive when you get too close. Although they don't have venom, they can draw blood. (Any snakebite, venomous or not, can easily become infected and should be treated immediately.)

Finally let's remember that most non-venomous snakes are creatures that benefit the ecology. Black snakes get rid of pests, and common garter snakes are as gentle as mice when handled gently in return. Some snakes, such as the California king snake, eat venomous snakes.

So don't go on a witch hunt for snakes with your newfound knowledge. But, if you have a few bad guys living under the porch, now you know what you can do.

Remember to check your state laws. You could be fined for killing a venomous snake that your state has decided to protect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How can a single-stroke pneumatic be a repeater?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came from one of our more active readers who wonders why a gun that requires you have to do something other than simply pulling the trigger for each shot can be called a repeater. That's a good fundamental question that I'd like to answer today.

Single-shots came first
Nobody will argue that early muzzleloading firearms were single-shots. The shooter had to preform an elaborate loading ritual each time he wanted to shoot the gun. Shooters in those days must have thought, what a blessing it would be if that were not necessary - if the gun could just be cocked again and shot without reloading!

There were many early attempts to create repeating firearms before 1800 - but the one I want to mention was the gun invented by Italian Bartolomeo Girandoni. He worked to get his gun perfected; but, when it blew off his son's arm in an accident, he abandoned the idea of working with gunpowder (too dangerous) and went to airguns. The 22-shot Girandoni repeating AIR RIFLE was adopted by the Austrian army in 1780, and they took delivery of up to 1,500 arms before the contract ended. This air rifle was capable of hitting a man-sized target from greater than 100 yards with lethal results! Imagine - everyone on the battlefield is shooting single-shot smoothbores that can't be expected to hit a man beyond 40 yards, and here comes a guy with a 22-shot repeating RIFLE! It was the assault rifle of its day (only this assault rifle was really accurate, too).

Austria's Girandoni of 1780 is a 22-shot .46 caliber repeating air rifle.

Repeating firearms - SAFE repeating firearms - had to wait another half century. In the 1840s, Jonathan Browning (John Browning's father) perfected a "harmonica " repeater that had a sliding breech with multiple (5 to 24) chambers in it. The mechanism that locked the breechblock in place also shoved it forward into the end of the barrel for a gas-tight seal. This was the innovation that was necessary to stop repeaters from blowing up. Unfortunately for Browning, the metallic cartridge was invented at about the same time, so the end had finally come for loose gunpowder.

Moving forward to 1873, the U.S. Army was issued a new breechloading rifle - the .45 caliber Springfield (Trapdoor). The Army thought a single-shot would discipline the men from wasting ammunition. They needn't have made this decision, because lever-action rifles were already available and had been used in the Civil War ten years earlier. But, it was peacetime, and the Army wanted to keep its budget as low as possible, so the single-shot prevailed (in the American Army, only) for about the next 20 years.

So, what is a repeater?
Here is the distinction - a repeater is a gun that contains more than one round of ammunition and can be readied to shoot without loading again. That doesn't mean you don't work the action to load the round into the breech - it means you don't load it into the rifle. So Daisy's 840 Grizzly single-stroke pneumatic can be a repeater, even though it has to be pumped for every shot. So can Crosman's 760 multi-pump pneumatic, even though it has to be pumped several times for every shot. Ah, but the Daisy 840 Grizzly is also a single-shot when you shoot pellets, because it has no pellet magazine. You must load a pellet each time you shoot, which makes it a single-shot, where the Crosman 760 has a five-shot pellet magazine, so it's a repeater with both pellets and BBs.

Magazine vs reservoir
Before we get out of the woods, though, you need to understand the distinction between a magazine (or clip) and a reservoir. Daisy's Red Ryder has a MAGAZINE capacity of 650 BBs. If you keep working the lever, all 650 will eventually be shot out. In contrast, Crosman's 760 has a BB MAGAZINE with a capacity of 18 BBs and a RESERVOIR with a capacity of 200 BBs. When the BBs are gone from the magazine, you shake the gun in a certain way to move more BBs from the reservoir to the magazine. If you don't do this, you can have 200 BBs in the gun and not be able to shoot a single one!

Get it?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Daisy No. 12, Model 29

by B.B. Pelletier

Daisy's No. 12, model 29 is a retro-looking single-shot from the 1920s and '30s.

I love this little BB gun - just for the way it looks. It's so retro, and, indeed, it's a follow-on to Daisy's earlier model H. According to Dunathan's The American B.B Gun book, the No. 12,pyramydai Model 29 was produced from 1918 to 1937. The Blue Book of Airguns, Fifth Edition puts the dates between 1929 and 1932. I believe Dunathan is closer to correct because this gun is obviously a follow-on to the model H, which ended in 1920 (Dunathan) or 1923 (Blue Book).

It's a single-shot that shoots both BBs and darts. To load it, you remove the barrel using the bayonet-type front sight blade, which is actually a spring-loaded barrel catch. The BB goes in the rear of the barrel and rolls down until it hits the shot seat, which is a constriction. There, it sits until the gun is fired. In this day of semiautomatic BB guns, I wonder how many shooters would be patient enough to put up with a system like this?

To load the gun, the shot tube is removed, and a BB is loaded into the breech. The front sight is also a spring-loaded bayonet catch for the tube. Neat!

Use the right ammo
By BBs, I mean air rifle shot, which are 0.175" lead balls. If anyone ever shot smaller more modern steel BBs in it, they would have hammered out the shot seat in the barrel so it wouldn't work with lead BBs any more (it wouldn't work with steel, either!). That's what happened to my gun, so I feed it .177 Beeman Perfect Rounds. They stick in the shot seat like they're supposed to, but the velocity is reduced because they are heavier.

My gun shoots Beeman Perfect Rounds about 285 f.p.s. when it's all oiled up, so it probably shot air rifle shot about 350 when it was new. Accuracy is an iffy thing, because the mechanism doesn't always seal correctly. Some shots exit at 135 instead of 285. But, you learn to live with that when you shoot old BB guns.

What catches the eye when you first see one of these is how incredibly
small it is! The overall length of 31" is about the same as other small Daisy single-shots, but the outer dimensions of the gun are positively child-like. Yet, cocking takes adult strength. Daisy had not yet repositioned the cocking lever screw, which they would do in just a few more years to cut the cocking effort by half.

Also quite neat is the cast iron cocking lever. Besides looking retro with the small finger hole and long straight piece, it resembles something the village smithy made. The cast iron looks cobby - like it came from a rough sand mold.

The No. 12 came in both nickelplate and blued steel finishes. The nickel gun is gorgeous when most of the nickel is intact, but the blued gun is also attractive. My own gun has nearly 100 percent of the original blue; unfortunately, it's well-peppered with rust. Daisy's name is found on both sides of the receiver between two bullseyes.

Even the name looks retro on this little beauty.

The rear sight is a simple wide notch with no adjustability. It's also the anchor for the mainspring assembly. A gumwood stock with a deep crescent butt has a scant 11.5" pull, which is very small for an adult, but the trigger return spring is stiffer than the one on my 1873 Trapdoor Springfield. This little gun is a study in contradictions!

I don't shoot it much; I just like to look at it. Every six months or so, I oil it and shoot just a few so it won't forget it's a BB gun.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Open sights: part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

We are discussing the types of open sights encountered on sporting airguns and firearms.

Post and bead
This has been a popular sporting sight for more than a century. The front sight is a blade with a small bead on top. The rear sight is a u-shaped notch. On some guns, a v-shape is possible, but that means whoever selected the rear sight was not familiar with this type.

The bead on top of a post has been a popular sporting front sight for a long time - and still is today. The bead represents where the bullet will go.

I have never cared for this sight. I find it too arbitrary for accuracy beyond simple plinking, and I find that the bead is almost never lighted well enough to use it the way it was intended. The recent addition of fiber optics has made an improvement to the second shortcoming, but the sight is still too imprecise for me. On the other hand, it is found on more guns than any other sight.

Another very popular sight that preceded the post and bead. This is a v-shaped front sight with an inverted "v" rear notch. It is even seen on military rifles, including the venerated M98 Mauser.

The barleycorn is very popular for both military and sporting rifles.

Post and notch
I don't know when the post-and-notch sight was first invented, but the first use seems to be in the latter two decades of the 19th century. By that time, the blade and notch had evolved into an adjustable sight that was quite precise, and the square post was probably only seen as a good sight to use on round bullseyes. In fact, it was just one of many sight types that emerged as the first true need for long-range shooting emerged during the buffalo hunting days. When that brief period was over, long-range shooting at targets took its place, and the square front post insert in a globe front sight (with aperture rear) was popular. But, the use of a square front post with a square rear notch must date from sometime in the 20th century.

The post and notch is a target-type sight.

Then there was the buckhorn and semi-buckhorn rear sight of the 1950s and 60s. For some reason, gun companies fell in love with this type of sight. It's really just a variation of the post and bead or barleycorn, but the "horns" were supposed to bring the eye into quicker alignment with the front sight. It's really just stylistic and not a different type of sight.

Buckhorn sight is just a style, not a different sight. It can be either post and bead or barleycorn.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Open sights: part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This post was promised last week, and it will take more than one posting to cover it all. Open sights are so simple-looking that few shooters give them a second thought. If we had been brought up at a time when firearms had no sights, we would probably appreciate today's highly refined open sights much more.

Blade and notch
The earliest open sights were on the front of the gun only and were nothing more than a reference point. Since the guns themselves weren't accurate, the sights were of little concern. However, during the matchlock era, rifling came into play, and the shooting community also discovered that a close-fitting lead ball can be very accurate when fired from a smoothbore, too. In fact, there was a club of target shooters in Ohio in the 1800s that shot nothing but smoothbore guns and round balls. They were said to be capable of making groups of just a few inches at 100 yards with those guns!

The early blade front sight was a low, rounded piece of metal made of brass or German silver (a combination of nickel, copper and zinc - but no silver). The rear notch was a wide, low v-shaped sight that was used as a reference point for the front blade. Both sights were fixed and the sight picture was changed to move the strike of the bullet.

This is a representation of the sights found on a Pennsylvania rifle from the late 1700s. Note the different sight pictures. These are just representations of the dozens of different sight pictures the rifleman had. Because the shooter probably had just one rifle, he became an expert at positioning the sights for the desired outcome.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Crosman's new 2300S

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman's new CO2 pistol! The 2300S is the gun that aftermarket makers have been building for years. Now, Crosman offers it straight from the factory

You can tell a lot about a company by the new products they field, and Crosman is a company that's alive with new products. Some of them, like this new Crosman 2300S target pistol, show they are listening to the serious airgun market.

What is the 2300S?
You may not know this, but Crosman doesn't offer a .177 version of the 2240 pistol. That's just the reverse of what usually happens, because .177 is so much more salable these days. Well, the 2300S is a longer-barrelled .177 version of the 2240. However, it's a lot more than just that.

Lothar Walther barrel!
Crosman gets it, don't you see? They know serious shooters want a serious barrel on their guns. Even though Crosman happens to make a heck of a nice barrel of their own, they put a Lothar Walther barrel on this gun. And, they specified a CHOKED barrel, which you know is the most accurate kind. The barrel is 10.1" long, which gives you the double bonus of higher velocity AND a few more shots. The greater efficiency of a long barrel is best used on a CO2 gun. Crosman says you'll get 60 consistent shots from a single 12-gram powerlet. But, the good news doesn't end there.

New bolt
This pistol has a stainless steel bolt with a longer handle for better purchase and a longer probe to seat the pellet deeper into the rifling. Deeper seating should give more consistency, and that should translate to increased accuracy. Crosman gets it, again!

Special Williams receiver sight
I know Williams receiver sights, and this isn't one I've seen before. It looks like it's based on their sport aperture sight with micrometer adjustment knobs, to which an open rear notch has been added. The association of Crosman and Williams goes back to the 1960s, and I suspect Crosman requested this modification just for this pistol. Obviously, someone at the company who knows about target airguns and what makes 'em tick! Score another one for Crosman.

The new pistol meets the requirements for IHMSA Production Class silhouette pistols, and it's also a dandy target pistol. The trigger is single-stage and adjustable from 1 to 4 lbs. In this day of liability suits, Crosman engineers must have drugged the lawyers to get that one approved! The trigger also has an overtravel screw, which you want in a target pistol.

Power is adjustable from 440 to 520 f.p.s., according to Crosman literature. That's done by adjusting the hammer spring tension, which is the same way most CO2 guns with adjustable power do it. The top end is powerful enough for hunters to take a look.

All these niceties come at a price, of course. The company has to buy both the rear sight and the barrel, so the retail price has to include them, as well. I predict that serious pistol shooters are going to want one of these. I'm putting in my request to get one for testing right now. As soon as I know - you'll know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How do you know if an airgun is accurate?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came in from Dave just yesterday. It's a good one because it goes to the very heart of what many of us want - accurate airguns. While I won't be able to give you a failsafe way of always knowing, I will tell you what my experience has been. It's been right about 90 percent of the time.

I "profile" airguns and the countries that make them
Just like airport security in every country except the U.S., I do profiling. But, I profile airguns. I've developed enough experience with different types and brands of airguns that I can tell how accurate they will be before I test them. Let's take Gamo, for instance. I have shot over 50 Gamo spring-piston rifles over the years, and they have all preformed very similarly. In fact, I was surprised when the CF-X turned out to be so accurate, because my experience had taught me not to expect it. But, I had also noticed earlier that the Shadow 1000 was more accurate than Gamos of the past; so, perhaps, Gamo is rifling their barrels a little better. That made an adjustment to my experiential database.

I also profile countries. China is the big one. Except for the BS4 target rifle and the SS2 target pistol, Chinese air rifles have always been disappointing. They have gotten better over the years, but not good. I remember when a Chinese rifle couldn't keep five shots inside three inches at 30 yards. Now they are down to one inch. That's an improvement; but I don't expect the next one I test to be an aspirin-buster, because the Chinese haven't shown that they can do it. I will be reporting on the Chinese B26 in a few weeks, so let's wait and see where that one lands.

Argentina makes spring guns, and I've tested a few in the past few years and found them all wanting. I started with no expectations. After several tests, I'm now very suspect of any spring guns coming from that country.

This doesn't mean I don't test the guns with the best pellets and techniques I know. It just means I'm not surprised (most times) at the results. Am I biased? Of course! Show me a person who isn't, and I'll show you a robot.

What if you have no experience?
I have a lot more experiential guidelines, but enough with the profiling. What about a gun you've never seen before? How do you tell whether it's accurate or not? First tip - stay off the internet and out of the chat forums! I have found people there making absurd claims about accuracy that they cannot back up with targets. One guy claimed to be shooting groups at a quarter-mile with a Crosman air pistol! That was obviously a kid trying to be funny, but what about the guy who claims to be shooting at 100 yards but is really only shooting at 50? A lot of people cannot estimate correctly, so I'd leave the talk alone and do the testing myself.

Make sure you have the best pellets and the best conditions when you test. That's why you see me using the same pellets over and over and why I don't use certain brands or types of pellets. It's an experiential thing, again. I've tried those pellets in guns of known accuracy and found them wanting.

"What if a pellet is really bad in most guns but particularly good in an airgun that is itself usually a poor performer? How will you spot that?"

Pardner, you've been watching too many Disney movies! The chance that a lousy pellet will be golden in a lousy gun approaches zero. Lousy guns reveal themselves with poor groups when all the right techniques and best pellets have been tried. Anyone who says different is trying to sell something.

Actually shoot the gun
I took some criticism on the forums when I "tested" the Gamo CF-X without shooting it. I used my knowledge of past Gamo performance and look where it got me. When I finally did shoot the gun, it was better than I had expected. The only way to know if a gun is accurate is to shoot it and examine the results.

Dave, I hope this answers your question. The short answer is to test the gun, of course. Is there any way of knowing without actually testing? Well, my profiling trick works a lot of the time, but the truth is, no, there isn't.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Teach a person to shoot: Part 5

Teach a person to shoot: Part 1
Teach a person to shoot: Part 2
Teach a person to shoot: Part 3
Teach a person to shoot: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

The best sights for training are the aperture rear and globe front with inserts. These sights are nearly as accurate as optical sights and impart quick success to student shooters. Sporting sights are much more difficult to use and can slow a shooter's progress by months or years. An aperture sight is much more difficult to see incorrectly, and there is much less subjective judgement required to make it work.

Most inexpensive target rifles come with inexpensive sights that must be accounted for when teaching. The Daisy 5899 Receiver Sight is a good example. It's made of plastic, so when adjustments are made they don't always go where you think they should. Veteran shooting coaches advised my team to watch which direction we were turning the adjustment knobs; and, if we ever had to reverse directions, it was best to go three clicks in the new direction before counting the clicks. That took the slop out of the mechanism. Other inexpensive aperture sights are similar in quality, and the same rule should be used.

Front sights - post
The traditional front sight insert for beginners is the conventional post. It is the most difficult of all inserts to master and really shouldn't be used with new shooters unless there is no other option. It requires the greatest amount of subjective judgement to use correctly. Very few modern competitors feel comfortable with this type of sight.

Globe and post front sight requires centering the top of the post in the rear aperture and positioning the bull exactly on top of the post. This takes skill and practice.

Front sights - ring
A better front insert is the ring sight. All the shooter has to do is center the bull in the ring. For many years, this was the top sight insert, until the floating ring came along.

The ring sight is much easier to use. All the shooter does is center the bull in the ring.

Front sights - floating ring
The floating ring is now favored by most competitive shooters. The ring "floats" in the front globe without visible support. All it is is a round piece of transparent plastic with a ring drilled in the center. Recently, this sight was made even better by making the ring adjustable in size and thickness. The principal advantage to the floating ring sight is that it lessens the chance of shooting at the wrong bull, because it's possible to see all the bulls while sighting on just one.

The floating ring has no support to get in the way of seeing the entire target

Should you let a student close the non-sighting eye?
This has long been the cardinal sin in target shooting. I was taught to NEVER close my non-sighting eye, because the extra effort to close it would cause strain in a match. I have also heard that by keeping the non-sighting eye open, the shooter allows more light to enter the eyes and therefore sees the sights clearer. I don't know what the truth actually is, and I have seen some pretty good shooters who closed one eye, but it is considered correct to keep both eyes open. Shooting glasses have blinder attachments to lower the distraction.

I didn't get to triggers as promised in part 4, so I'll cover them in a later post. I will also do a separate posting about open sights and how to use them. It won't be part of this series, but you'll see how difficult it use to use open sights correctly.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Teach a person to shoot: Part 4

Teach a person to shoot: Part 1
Teach a person to shoot: Part 2
Teach a person to shoot: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

The right guns for training
Let's talk about the guns you will use to teach a person. Airguns are ideal for teaching because of their safety and their lack of noise or recoil. It's very important that you use a gun that is inherently accurate, because the student has to see improvement as he or she progresses.

Most BB guns are out, except for the Daisy Avanti Champion 499. It's good enough for a world-class shooter to practice with!

In pellet guns, I like the IZH 61 a lot. It's small, light, easy to cock and can hit a dime every time at 20 yards - if the shooter can.

If you want to use guns you already have, here's a short list of what does NOT work:

1. Guns that shoots both pellets and BBs.

2. Sporting spring-piston guns that aren't recoilless, except the IZH 61.

3. BB guns, except the 499.

Here's a short list of what works well in a training program:

1. Multi-pump pneumatics with rifled barrels that do NOT also shoot BBs.

2. Most CO2 rifles, unless they are repeaters with hard triggers, such as the 1077 (sorry).

3. Some older spring-piston guns made specifically for target shooting, such as the Diana 70 and 72 or Marksman 1790-series guns (which they have just re-introduced as the Beeman Sportsman S500).

4. Single-stroke pneumatics with rifled barrels that do NOT also shoot BBs.

Single-shots are the best, because they force the student to reload the gun many times. This reinforces safe gun-handling practices.

Size matters
The size of the gun is important. No gun can be too small, but it is very easy to be too big. The main concern is the length of pull. That's the distance from the back of the butt to the trigger. An adult target rifle usually has around a 12-inch pull, but less is okay. A sporting pull is around 14 inches, and that's too long for most target shooters.

Watch the weight!
Weight can be a big issue with smaller shooters. We used to have small kids come out to shoot who weren't physically developed enough to handle a gun over 3 lbs. The 499 would have been great, but ours was an NRA program that used pellet guns only. For these kids, we rested the rifles across cardboard boxes with V notches cut on both sides for the gun to lay in. They shot them rested in the box that was sitting on a table. These kids could not go on to join our junior team until they grew a little larger, but we did teach them safety and the fundamentals.

I'll talk about sights and triggers in the next post.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A new book about air machine guns

by B.B. Pelletier

This subject is quite fascinating, and when you research it, you learn about airguns that most people have never seen. Now, there's a book about these guns, and it's pretty thorough!

New book by Larry Behling covers a subject never before reported.

Most people who read this blog know about the Russian Drozd. It looks like a submachine gun; but, because it operates on CO2, it can fire only full-auto in the burst mode (either three or six shots per burst). Shooting unlimited full-auto would freeze the action.

There are a lot of other full-auto airguns that can shoot for as long as the trigger is held down. They are the principal subjects of this new book.

Shoot out the star! - the Feltman
Anyone who's been to an American carnival in the past 40 years knows about this game! A gun that resembles a Thompson submachine gun is loaded with 101 lead shot, and the shooter is invited to shoot out the red start, from a paper target. It's next to impossible to do, but just shooting the gun is so much fun that practically nobody cares. The gun was invented around 1940 and became really popular after the war. It's tethered to an air source that's simply shop air (finally, an airgun that runs on a shop compressor!). The No. 2 lead shot goes out the spout at less than 300 f.p.s., but at close range they can do really dramatic things.

The Feltman runs on shop air.

The Feltman, as it is known, will shoot millions of shots with the most minimal maintenance and repairs. And, it operates on 90-125 psi! Consequently, it's the air machine gun every advanced collector wants. A good used one can probably be bought for $400 to $600 today, and there is a place called Shooting Star, Inc., in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where you can get your gun serviced. They also make entire new guns. (908-789-2500)

A crew-served BB machine gun seems even more exciting. During World War II, the Army and Navy used thousands of MacGlashan BB machine guns to teach the fundamentals of aerial gunnery. This much larger gun is cycled by an electric solenoid and powered by compressed air. The air pressure is higher, at 180-200 psi, but the velocity runs between 500 and 600 f.p.s. Working MacGlashans are more expensive than Feltmans, but not unaffordable. They shoot run-of-the-mill steel BBs, so the operating cost is quite low.

MacGlashan BB machine gun was used as a trainer in World War II.

NewMatics PM-16
This is a realistic-looking .22-caliber M16 that fires 26 lead balls at 900 rounds per minute. Velocity is in the mid-500s, and the rifle can be fired either semiautomatic or full-auto. It operates on air pressurized to 1,800 psi. Inventor M.D. (Doc) Schavone has been marketing his gun to military and law enforcement agencies around the world for at least a decade.

NewMatics MP-16.

He brought it to Maryland's Damascus Airgun show one year and let the public shoot it, and I had the privilege of squeezing off a few magazines. The rifle recoils like the real deal and is fairly accurate. If it ever gets into production, Doc has plans to sell a version to the public.

These are but a few of the many air machine guns that exist. The new 324-page book tells the story of each, including a lot of material that most advanced collectors have never seen. It sells for $65, plus $8.40 shipping in the U.S. Contact the author at

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Different types of rifling

by B.B. Pelletier

This will be limited to the common types of rifling found in modern airguns. I can't possibly cover all the types of rifling in this posting - or even in this entire blog! There are several books written on this subject, so if you are interested in pursuing the subject further, I recommend you do a search in the used book stores online. I'm doing this post because several people have asked why it's okay to shoot both BBs and pellets in some guns but not in others.

Lands and grooves
Lands and grooves are a common type of rifling. The lands are square-cornered ridges that raise up from the grooves. They are cut in a gentle spiral, so they impart a spin to the projectile. The twist rate is how many inches of bore it takes for the projectile to make one complete rotation, so one turn in 10 inches of twist (1:10) means the rifling (and anything that passes through it) rotates once every ten inches. A one-in-sixteen twist rate (1:16) that is standard for .22 long rifle is also very common in airguns of all calibers. Because the diabolo shape also helps stabilize the pellet, it doesn't rely entirely on the rifling, so the twist rate isn't as critical.

Some big bore air rifles have traditional land-and-groove rifling, which makes loading difficult if you try to seat the bullet into the bore (because the lands are taller and offer greater resistance). Makers compensate for that by tapering the lands at the breech.

Traditional land-and-groove rifling looks like this in cross section.

Microgroove lands and grooves
Microgroove is a trade name of Marlin. It was trademarked in the early 1950s, but the type of rifling has been known since at least the late 19th century. If he didn't invent the idea, Harry Pope perfected it. Microgroove rifling refers to the conventional land-and-groove pattern where the height of the lands is lower, and the width is narrower. While this isn't all that Pope created, it is an important part. Shallower, thinner rifling means less deformation of the bullet/pellet, which improves accuracy.

Airguns are perfect for microgrooves, because they also offer less resistance when the pellet is engraved by the rifling and help seal the bore better because there is less depth and width to seal. The simplest kind of microgroove rifling is just shallower and thinner lands of the land-and-groove type. Twelve lands are common, but sometimes six are used, especially in .22 caliber. Where normal rifling lands are 0.005" high, microgrooves might only be 0.0015" high.

Polygonal rifling
Barrels that shoot both BBs and pellets often have polygonal rifling. This is an old type that dates back to the 19th century, but it is also used by some very modern makers of firearms. Instead of the bore being perfectly round, it is a polygon. It still twists just like the other kinds of rifling, only the entire polygonal shape twists.

This drawing is exaggerated to better show the concept of polygonal rifling.

While the BB is still loose in any barrel that also accommodates a .177 pellet, the air blowby does no real harm. There are no lands to damage in polygonal rifling. However, accuracy is generally not as good as in a dedicated microgrooved barrel shooting lead pellets only. The dual ammunition is a good sales point in lower-priced airguns, and the much lighter steel BBs fly faster regardless of the amount of air that blows by. To compare this type of rifling to what is possible with a BB in a smoothbore barrel, Daisy's Avanti Cyampion 499 will group 10 shots in 0.20" at 16 feet, while a polygonal barrel might group BBs in one inch or larger at the same range.

For this reason, I call all such dual ammunition barrels a compromise. Like the .357 Magnum revolvers that also have cylinders for 9MM, neither one will be as accurate as a gun that is dedicated to just one type.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Spring gun tune: Part 13
Range-testing the R1 we tuned

Spring gun tuning: Part 1
Spring gun tuning: Part 2 - Building a mainspring compressor
Spring gun tuning: Part 3 - Mainspring compressor continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 4 - Let's disassemble a gun!
Spring gun tuning: Part 5 - Powerplant disassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 6 - Disassembly completed
Spring gun tuning: Part 7 - Disassembly of other spring guns
Spring gun tuning: Part 8 - Disassembly of other spring guns, continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 9 - Cleaning and deburring
Spring gun tuning: Part 10 - Lubrication and reassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 11 - Lubrication and reassembly continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 12 - Finish reassembly and test the gun

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, it's time to range-test the results of our Beeman R1 tuneup. You may recall that I said I wanted to lower the power to have a light-cocking, smooth-shooting rifle. What I didn't tell you was that my R1 had a gas spring in it before the tuneup. It was working fine, but I was tired of having to cock 50 lbs. every time I wanted to shoot. I had a special low-powered mainspring that I used with the factory piston and spring guide. After the tuneup, I knew the gun was easy to cock and shooting smoothly, but I had to take it to the range to learn the rest.

My R1 has a plain walnut stock, a Vortec muzzlebrake and a Bushnell Trophy 6-18x in Leapers Accushot medium rings. The low-power tune makes it very enjoyable.

I hadn't counted on this benefit, but the R1 is now extremely quiet. I doubt my neighbors would know I was shooting if they didn't see the gun or hear the strike of the pellet. After testing magnum guns for the past 6 months, it was a real pleasure to shoot a rifle this smooth and quiet; sort of the reason I got into airgunning in the first place.

Low power - but not THAT low
The tuned R1 spits out a 15.8-grain JSB Exact at 645 f.p.s., on average. That works out to 14.67 foot-pounds at the muzzle. A factory R1 in .22 caliber will generate about 17-19 foot-pounds, so this tune is definitely lower, but not so much that I can't do the same things with the rifle. And, that was also tested at the range.

Shooting an R1 requires a lot of technique. You simply cannot grab the stock and hope to hit anything. But, let it float and watch out! My results with JSBs at 40 yards were not as good as I had hoped. Usually, the JSB Exact groups tighter than any other pellet, but not in my R1. The best I could do was still slightly over an inch.

Beeman Kodiaks, however, brightened the day. They sailed through group after group and nothing measured larger than one inch. The best for the day was 0.847". It looks like only four holes, but two pellets went through one of them.

Having also had some luck with heavy Logun Penetrators in the past, I tried them, as well. The best group of five measured over 1.3". That left Kodiaks as the pellet of choice.

One of these holes passed two pellets. This was the best group of Beeman Kodiaks.

Barrel joint loosened
The barrel joint loosened during the shooting, so it would not stay in any position other than closed once the gun was cocked. I expected this to happen because of the lubrication. It didn't affect accuracy, but I still tightened it once I returned home. Remember, the test for the pivot bolt being tight enough is that the barrel of a cocked gun will stay where it's put.

This rifle is now a genuine pleasure to shoot. I am inclined to just sight it in at 20 yards and leave it that way. It might even become a "go-to" rifle, because it is just as quiet as my TX200 or Talon SS and lots of fun to shoot.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Diana 48/52

by B.B. Pelletier

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this classic air rifle, but last week a reader named Bob pointed out that I hadn't. I call it a rifle, singular, because the wood stock is the only thing that differentiates the two models. Both models have the same action, and Diana used to make the action with both numbers.

The Beeman R1 quickly took over as the baddest airgun in town in 1982, with an initial muzzle velocity of 950 f.p.s. in .177. Before that, Diana had one of the most powerful guns in their model 45, which could sometimes get up to 850. In the mid-1980s, Diana brought out the model 48 sidelever, which had an advertised velocity of 1,100 f.p.s. in .177. I have tested them in that caliber, and you actually can achieve it with light lead pellets. By that time, the basic R1 had climbed to 1,000 f.p.s. in .177, plus Beeman had a Laserized model that just made 1,100. However, you had to have that done as an option or you had to install the Laser kit yourself. Diana was back on top.

A quick caliber rundown
The 48/52 has been produced in all four smallbore calibers but is currently available only in .177 and .22. The .25 was disappointing for its low relative power, and I guess the .20 didn't sell well. The .177 is popular with shooters who compete in field target and is often purchased by people unfamiliar with adult airguns who are attracted by the high but unusable velocity. Once they discover supersonic pellets are inaccurate, they have the ability to go to heavier pellets and shoot them under 1,000 f.p.s. with a lot of power. Twenty-two caliber has always been the best caliber of all for this air rifle. It's best at using the available power, and it seems to shoot smoothest of all, though a tuned gun in any caliber can be very smooth.

Light cocking
For the power, I think the 48/52 cocks easier than any other spring gun. The ads say 39 lbs., but I have registered as little as 32 on some of them. The gun does have a healthy kick. Some I have shot also had a lot of vibration, while others were very smooth, so I guess it depends on the individual gun. A ratchet safety holds the sliding compression chamber until a button in the stock is deliberately pressed; and, while it is quite a simple arrangement, it works very well. Remember to press the button after loading, or the sidelever won't budge.

I registered a high of 22.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from a new .22 caliber model 48 when shooting 14.3-grain Crosman Premiers. That's a velocity of 846 f.p.s., which is an ideal speed for a pellet. I never tested the gun with JSB Exacts, but I certainly would today. They would go a little slower and produce a little less energy, too. A new .177 caliber model 52 I tested got 1040 f.p.s. with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. That works out to 18.98 foot-pounds.

This rifle has a deserved reputation for accuracy. The Bullseye Airgun Club in Louisiana used to have a huge contingent of shooters who shot 48s and 52s in field target competition. All were .177, of course. I personally have found the rifle quite accurate in both calibers but somewhat touchy as to how it is held. The trigger is usually under three pounds and a delight to use. With adjustments, it can get much lighter. A shooter who knows his gun can give a good accounting of himself with this gun in either caliber.

Potential for improvement
These guns respond well to a tuneup. I like to lower their power by 10 percent and eliminate all the vibration, and then they are a real delight to shoot. Hunters will find that they readily accept aftermarket sling swivels because of the solid stock. Ditto for bipod users.

All Diana spring airguns have a weak scope mounting system. Little thought has been given to it, and there is no intrinsic scope stop anchor point like every other quality airgun has. You work around the problem by hanging the stop pin over the front of the raised ramp. Why Dianawerke doesn't wake up and change this half-century-old system is a mystery to me. Although, I confess that I sometimes cheat and just back the rear mount up to the large screwhead in back of the ramp and hope it doesn't shear off, as they are known to do.

I hope this report makes up for my oversight in never covering this model. It's a very nice spring gun with lots of power and accuracy. If it tickles your fancy - go for it!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sighting in a scope
The stuff nobody ever tells you!

by B.B. Pelletier

There are plenty of scope-sighting postings on this blog. But all of them assume a perfect world and shooters with decades of experience. In a few instances, I delved into common scope problems that get blamed on "scope shift," but mostly I explained how to sight-in when everything is going fine. Today, I want to look at the dark side - when problems arise that the beginner is not well-prepared to understand.

Before we begin, you may want to look at the past postings on this subject.

Sighting in a scope - Don't get carried away
Where (and how) to locate a scope
Scope mounting height
Adjustable scope mounts
Another problem with scopes: Not mounting them correctly
Shooting with a pistol scope
Adjusting a scope
At what range should you zero your scope?
What causes scope shift?
Another cause of scope shift: over-adjusted scope knobs
More about sighting-in: How to determine the two intersection points
How to optically center a scope
Scope mount basics - part one
Scope mount basics - part two

What nobody tells you - 1
Nobody tells you to shoot groups of ten shots with your scoped rifle before adjusting anything. That gives you a good idea where the center of the group really is. Some shooters have gotten lazy and shoot only two or three shots before adjusting a scope. Well, if you're shooting a TX200 that you've shot 5,000 times before, you can get away with stuff like that. If you're shooting your first spring-piston air rife ever, it's another story.

Dr. Joseph M. Juran was one of two Americans who "invented" Japanese management (Dr. W. Edwards Deming was the other) in the 1950s and '60s. He had an exercise designed to demonstrate to senior managers why it isn't a good idea to make frequent changes to a system. He had a student stand over a piece of regular white paper with a dot in its center and drop a pencil, point-first, onto the paper, trying to hit the dot. The pencil was held to the tip of the student's nose before dropping. Wherever the pencil struck the paper, Dr. Juran then reported the result to the rest of the class who couldn't see the paper, and they developed instructions for the tester to adjust for the next attempt. He had to do what they told him. Within a few drops, the pencil wasn't even striking the paper any more!

That may have been a management exercise, but the same thing happens when a shooter takes a new air rifle and starts adjusting the reticle on the basis of two or three shots. Shoot a group of ten, and then you'll know what to do - which MIGHT include looking for a better pellet!

What nobody tells you - 2
Nobody tells you to keep your cotton-pickin' hands OFF THE SCOPE when pumping your pneumatic gun! I saw a man shooting in a contest where everyone but him was shooting a spring rifle. He had a Sheridan Blue Streak with a big scope mounted on an intermount. This guy was grabbing the SCOPE TUBE to pump his gun!!! When about 100 percent of the other shooters present told him why that wasn't such a good idea, he began holding onto the pistol grip of the stock as he pumped. That lasted for about ten shots before he was worn out! From then on, he used a spring rifle, too. Here's the moral: there is a very good reason why people don't play checkers in the middle of the freeway. If you want to be different, put your shirt on backwards, but for heaven's sake, be a traditionalist when it comes to shooting.

What nobody tells you - 3
Nobody tells you that some scopes aren't worth mounting on any gun. There are some real "bargains" out there that will bankrupt your sanity and peace of mind if you attempt to actually USE them. Raise your hand if you think a BB gun that is scoped with a $10 scope is going to be accurate. [Will the ushers please escort all those with raised hands to the funny farm?] If you don't invest anything in a scope, why should it do anything for you? Remember the Yugo car? Get a good scope!

What nobody tells you - 4
Last tip. BUILD A HOUSE ON A FIRM FOUNDATION! That means use good scope mounts. Most of what I see at Wal-Mart is crap! Often I see cheaper scopes that come with the rings attached. That's fine, but you don't want to put a $10 scope with rings on your $400 air rifle! If you actually want to HIT what you are shooting at, buy good mounts. They don't have to cost a lot. And, nobody needs the ability to see through a scope mount, no matter what Gander Mountain tries to tell you.

Well, I finally got that off my chest.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Spring gun tuning: Part 12
Finish reassembly and test the gun

Spring gun tuning: Part 1
Spring gun tuning: Part 2 - Building a mainspring compressor
Spring gun tuning: Part 3 - Mainspring compressor continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 4 - Let's disassemble a gun!
Spring gun tuning: Part 5 - Powerplant disassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 6 - Disassembly completed
Spring gun tuning: Part 7 - Disassembly of other spring guns
Spring gun tuning: Part 8 - Disassembly of other spring guns, continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 9 - Cleaning and deburring
Spring gun tuning: Part 10 - Lubrication and reassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 11 - Lubrication and reassembly continued

by B.B. Pelletier

Clean and lube the trigger
Okay, just a few more steps to complete this project. The Rekord trigger will be installed next, but let's first take a look at how it's lubricated. I have seen extremes of both over- and under-lubricating from the factory. Look at all the parts through the access holes and remove all the grease you can see. There's only one point in a Rekord that can be lubricated for better performance, and it applies to all Rekords, whether they are the match type or the standard sporting trigger that you see here.

Rekord trigger uncocked.

Rekord trigger cocked. The rear of the piston release has been pressed down until the sear caught.

To see the single lube point, cock the trigger by pressing down on the back of the piston release. The area where the sear and piston release catch make contact can be lubed with a small amount of moly grease. Small means the size of the head of a pin. Pay attention to the nut at the bottom rear of the trigger housing. It receives the rear triggerguard screw; on some guns, it's not held tight inside the housing and can fall out.

Where these two pieces come together is the only spot where lubrication will do any good.

Install the trigger
Once the trigger is cleaned and lubed it's ready to install. First, install the safety button and spring. Hold in the safety as you install the trigger. It takes a little fiddling - no force - to slide the trigger housing into the large slot in the end cap until the pin holes align. I put the front pin (the longer one) in first, and I inserted the pins on the right side of the end cap. On most guns, I can push at least one of the pins nearly all the way through with my fingers. You can release the safety when both pins are through.

The pins slide in, and the trigger is fired.

The trigger is still cocked, but the rifle isn't, so fire the trigger now. Drop the action into the stock and attach the triggerguard and the two stock screws. And, you're done! Cock and shoot the gun a couple times to make sure everything went back together as it should.

I am very pleased with the results of my tuneup. The rifle now fires without a hint of vibration, plus it's easy to cock. I'll have to do a range test and share the results with you.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Crosman 180: a collectible worth owning!

by B.B. Pelletier

Billed as a youth model, Crosman's 180 was adult in every respect.

During the period from about 1947 to 1970, airguns of all types abounded in this country. Crosman was extremely prolific and designed some guns that have become classics and collectibles in recent years. The model 600 pistol was one such gun and the model 180 (in .22 caliber, model 187 in .177) rifle was another. Introduced in 1956 as a youth gun, it was kept out of the limelight by Crosman's extremely successful model 160 rifle, which is also a classic and still being made today in the form of a Chinese copy called the QB78. But, the 180 had a few interesting features that should have made it more of a hit than it was. Sales finally ceased in 1967.

Two major variations
The first 180 had a stamped steel triggerguard and a crossbolt safety that went through the wooden stock. In 1963, it was replaced by the rifle with a diecast triggerguard that incorporated a rotating lever safety. But the difference is greater than just that. The second variation had a fully adjustable trigger that had been developed for the 160. It was adjustable for pull weight, sear contact and overtravel. This trigger, part of which Crosman engineers borrowed from an antique crossbow, was and still is one of the finest triggers ever found on an inexpensive airgun. Collectors need both variations, but all shooters want the second one.

What a barrel!
The 17-3/4" barrel is finely rifled in a steel tube that also encompasses the bolt and could be considered the receiver. This rifle was considered okay in its day, but the modern pellets we now have turn it into a very accurate rifle. Back in the '60s, the pellets were not well formed nor did they resist corrosion very long. Drop a .22 caliber Crosman Premier into a 180 and look for quarter-sized groups at 30 yards with open sights!

Adjustable power
The hammer spring pre-tension can be adjusted by an Allen wrench through a hole in the cocking knob at the rear of the gun. Adjusting that allows you to vary the power within limits.There are also two different power levels, depending on how far back you pull the cocking knob. My gun launches .22 caliber Premiers at about 380 f.p.s. on low power and 560 f.p.s. on high.

Power adjustability, 1956-style. There are two power settings, as well.

This was the real thrust of the 180. I remember being appalled that the 160 used 2 powerlets for 25 shots! That made it more expensive to shoot than a .22 rimfire, not that I was able to shoot .22 rimfires that often. But the 180 got about the same number of shots on just one powerlet, and that was worth talking about. Of course, those powerlets were the old leaky bottlecap design that wasn't very good to begin with. Today, you should get 35-40 shots per powerlet from a stock 180.

Really an adult-sized rifle
The 180 may have been smaller than the 160, but it has a 13-3/4" length of pull that is fine for a grown adult. The overall length is just a smidgeon less than 34-1/2", so it's a true carbine, but it doesn't have to be just for youth. Adults can love this gun, too.

Where do you get one?
There are always a handful of good 180s at any airgun show I attend. They also pop up on internet gun auction sites from time to time, though I think the bidding gets out of hand there. Expect to pay $80 for a shooter in decent condition and up to $150 for one that's like new in a box. I paid $20 for mine at a flea market and the guy sold it so cheap because he thought it was leaking. A little Pellgunoil got it back up and running, though I did eventually have to let Rick Willnecker reseal it.

You can learn more about vintage airguns like this in the Blue Book of Airguns.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Remington Genesis: Part 3
The final report

Remington Genesis: Part 1
Remington Genesis: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

A lot of time has passed since Part 2 of the Remington Genesis report. I used that time to further break in the gun and to learn the techniques needed to make it perform.

The Genesis IS a good shooter!
I'll cut to the finish, because so many readers have been waiting to hear my results. I was able to get the Genesis to shoot 1" five-shot groups at 30 yards, so the Genesis IS a good shooter! But, you need the right technique and the right pellet to make it perform.

The search for pellets
I tried many good pellets before I found the right one. With JSB Exact 10.2-grain pellets I got groups measuring 3" at 30 yards. That is no good. Crosman Premier 10.5-grain pellets gave 2.5" groups - also not good. Lighter pellets were all over the place and actually difficult to keep on paper at 30 yards. While this was unfolding, I was also experimenting with different types of holds, so some of those results might have been better if the rifle had been held correctly. I did go back to JSBs after learning how the rifle needed to be held, but the groups didn't get better.

Other pellets I tried
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets
Crosman Premier Super Point
Remington pointed pellets
Gamo Match
H&N Finale Match pistol
RWS Supermag
RWS Hobby

Finding the right hold
I tried every trick in the book and was frustrated by all of them. Then, I had a flash of insight. The shape of the Genesis stock invites - almost demands a tight hold! The straight line of the butt coupled with the thumbhole and vertical pistol grip make you instinctively pull the rifle tight into your shoulder. I mentioned in part two of this report that the right hold was probably going to turn out to be a feather-light hold and that turned out to be right, but even on the last day of testing I had to consciously remind myself to do that! The grippy-ness of the rubber inserts on the forearm, pistol grip and cheekpiece are also subtle cues to hold her tight, but this rifle doesn't want that at all! I found that it must be held as loosely as possibe. Under no circumstances should the forearm touch anything but the flesh of your flattened palm.

The best (AND ONLY) pellet for me
Others may have different results, but when I tried the Beeman Kodiak the first time, I knew it was the best pellet for this rifle. In fact, the Kodiak was such a good performer that it is the ONLY pellet I will now shoot in the rifle I have. By no means have I tried every available pellet, but I did run through a pretty good list, and this is the one that triumphed.

So, the Genesis turns out to be a fine spring air rifle for the price. Hold it loosely and start with Beeman Kodiak pellets, and you should be shooting well right away.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Spring gun tune: Part 11
Lubrication and reassembly continued

Spring gun tuning: Part 1
Spring gun tuning: Part 2 - Building a mainspring compressor
Spring gun tuning: Part 3 - Mainspring compressor continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 4 - Let's disassemble a gun!
Spring gun tuning: Part 5 - Powerplant disassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 6 - Disassembly completed
Spring gun tuning: Part 7 - Disassembly of other spring guns
Spring gun tuning: Part 8 - Disassembly of other spring guns, continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 9 - Cleaning and deburring
Spring gun tuning: Part 10 - Lubrication and reassembly

by B.B. Pelletier

Time to install the barrel. Lube the thin thrust washers with moly as well as the sides of the base block where they ride. That helps to hold them in place as you install the barrel. Connect the cocking link on the barrel to the sliding link in the piston, then carefully work the base block back between the arms of the mainspring tube. To get the base block aligned with the hole through the spring tube arms, the cocking link has to push the piston backwards, which is why we haven't installed the end cap yet. You'll have to realign the thrust washers on both sides after the base block hole is aligned for the pivot bolt.

The long cocking link is connected to the sliding link in the piston and the piston was pushed backwards to allow the base block to align with the holes in the spring tube arms. The pivot bolt passes through the left side of the gun. Don't forget the two thrust washers!

Coat the pivot bolt with moly and slide it through the left mainspring tube arm and the base block. DON'T FORGET to put a lockwasher on each side of the bolt. The bolt is what holds the joint tight, so tighten it until the barrel can't fall open from its own weight. Then, snug the nut on the other side.

Now, install the rifle in the mainspring compressor, allowing room for the end cap. Slowly compress the spring. As the end cap threads approach the mainspring tube, it's important that they line up correctly. You can move the end cap in the headstock by small amounts to make the alignment. And, if you use the B-Square mainspring compressor shown here, you can also adjust the position of the barreled action. When the end cap enters the mainspring tube, start turning the cap to engage the threads. You have to gradually increase tension on the compressor as the two parts thread together. When the threads engage and the cap begins threading into the tube, continue to keep tension on the cap with the compressor. Don't stop until a significant portion of the threads are engaged.

This is the entire barreled action in the mainspring compressor.

The end cap is under slight compression in this picture. As it comes closer to the mainspring tube, you have to make positioning adjustments to align the screw threads.

The bridge of the B-Square compressor has five bolts to finely adjust the position of the mainspring tube. Notice the leather belt I am using to protect the rifle's finish. No precision here!

I have shown the complete barreled action in the compressor and two closeups of the headstock and bridge. This is for those readers who asked for a closer look.

There will be more postings to finish putting the gun together, but tomorrow I want to give you a final report on the Remington Genesis rifle. I think I have some good news for Genesis owners.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Spring gun tuning: Part 10
Lubrication and reassembly

Spring gun tuning: Part 1
Spring gun tuning: Part 2 - Building a mainspring compressor
Spring gun tuning: Part 3 - Mainspring compressor continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 4 - Let's disassemble a gun!
Spring gun tuning: Part 5 - Powerplant disassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 6 - Disassembly completed
Spring gun tuning: Part 7 - Disassembly of other spring guns
Spring gun tuning: Part 8 - Disassembly of other spring guns, continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 9 - Cleaning and deburring

by B.B. Pelletier

Lube the parts just before you reassemble them so they won't attract dirt. Use another paper towel-wrapped screwdriver blade or dowel to spread a thin coat of moly grease on the walls of the clean spring cylinder/compression chamber. You'll be able to see the metal through this coat because it is so thin.

The piston and seal
Spread a thin even coat of moly grease around the piston seal and about a seal's width back on the body of the piston. Also, coat the rear piston skirt where it flares out wider. Coating the entire HW piston is pointless, because it doesn't contact the cylinder except where it is larger in the rear. I lube the front of the piston, behind the seal, in case the seal ever melts and there is metal-to-metal contact. Also lube the piston's cocking slot and the spring guide rod inside the piston. (Note: some guns don't have guide rods inside the piston) Next, insert the piston into the spring tube, keeping the cocking slot in the piston aligned with the one in the spring tube. Be careful not to cut the seal as it goes into the tube, and don't worry about the lube that's scraped off as it goes in. That's why you lubed the inside of the cylinder, as well.

The piston seal is coated uniformly with a thin layer of moly grease. Note that I also coated the front part of the piston body, as well as the cocking slot.

When the piston is far enough forward, you can insert the sliding link through the cocking slot in the spring tube. Once installed, the sliding link keeps the piston aligned properly. Lube the sides and bottom of the sliding link with moly grease.

When the sliding cocking link is installed, it keeps the piston from rotating. It's also lubed with moly.

The mainspring
The mainspring must fit inside the piston with a little room to move, but not much. The closer the fit, the less vibration the gun will have.

If there is too much room, a thin piece of strong metal plate such as stainless steel can be bent to line the inside of the piston, taking up space. This plate needs to be as long as the inside of the piston, and it should line the entire inside without overlapping. The mainspring has to fit inside this liner, so measure carefully before cutting. I don't care for this method, so I search for the tightest-fitting mainspring I can find.

Now lube the mainspring with what Jim Maccari calls velocity tar. It's an extremely viscous grease that clings to the coils of the spring and dampens vibration. And, to answer a reader's question from several weeks ago, it doesn't slow the velocity much at all. The difference in smoothness is worth the 10 f.p.s. you may lose. No other lube works as well as velocity tar. Look at the picture for how much to use.

Beeman used to sell Mainspring Dampening Compound, which was a thick silicone grease, but it did cut velocity significantly. Regular petroleum and lithium greases are simply not up to the task for this application, though they do work well in lower-powered spring rifles such as Diana 27s and IZH 61s.

Slide the mainspring as far into the cylinder as it will go. The spring that sticks out is what the mainspring compressor has to compress before the threads on the end cap start to engage.

This is what a low-powered spring looks like when it's pushed in as far as it will go. More powerful springs are longer and stick out farther. Note how much velocity tar was used on the spring. The spring guide is installed and also has tar on it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Spring gun tuning: Part 9
Cleaning and deburring

Spring gun tuning: Part 1
Spring gun tuning: Part 2 - Building a mainspring compressor
Spring gun tuning: Part 3 - Mainspring compressor continued
Spring gun tuning: Part 4 - Let's disassemble a gun!
Spring gun tuning: Part 5 - Powerplant disassembly
Spring gun tuning: Part 6 - Disassembly completed
Spring gun tuning: Part 7 - Disassembly of other spring guns
Spring gun tuning: Part 8 - Disassembly of other spring guns, continued

by B.B. Pelletier

We're ready to tune the Beeman R1. This will be a low-power tune using an aftermarket coiled steel mainspring and the factory piston and seal. The R1 factory piston is pretty good, and the piston seal is very good. I am looking for a smooth-shooting gun that cocks easily.

First, we deburr
There are several parts of the powerplant that have extremely sharp edges. Sometimes, these edges get mashed or rolled into the path of moving parts, so it's a good tip to remove the burrs before the tuneup. Be very careful when handling all parts, because they can cut as quick as an exposed razor.

Use a file to remove any burrs found on powerplant parts. The cocking slot shown here is a likely place for them.

I use Swedish files for this job. They make short work of the burrs. If you have never filed or applied stones to steel surfaces before, you'll want to go very slow. This isn't like sanding wood. Sometimes, all it takes is a single light stroke to accomplish your goal.

Parts that usually have burrs

1. The cocking slot in the spring tube.

2. The spring guide, where the piston passes through.

3. The cocking slot in the piston.

4. Any articulated linkage in the cocking link.

5. Any link between the cocking link and the piston.

Those are the usual places that have burrs on a new gun. You can find the others by running your finger LIGHTLY around all the parts that move. Be careful, because you can easily get a metal splinter this way!

Now we clean
We clean every surface of the powerplant and parts, both inside and out. Inside is the most important. The two hardest places to reach are also two of the most important places that have to be very clean - inside the piston and inside the mainspring tube. To reach into these two deep places, I have a screwdriver with an 18" blade that I wrap with paper toweling. It takes only a small piece of towel at one time. I use rubber bands to hold it on the blade, and I use denatured alcohol to clean the gun parts. It dissolves all greases and dries completely. Mineral spirits leave an oily surface that has to be dried before you can continue. WD-40 leaves a film that turns to yellow varnish. Alcohol is the best solvent I have ever found to clean a sprung gun.

Wrap a piece of paper towel around something long, such as a screwdriver blade or even a dowel, and secure it with a rubber band. Dipped in denatured alcohol, it dissolves grease quickly.

The smaller parts are cleaned with cotton swabs dipped in denatured alcohol. I always have a couple dozen clean ones when doing this job. You also need rags for general wipes, and I like to work on a terrycloth towel. It not only protects the surface of the table, it also prevents tiny parts from rolling far.

The next step is lubrication.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shooting safety

by B.B. Pelletier

The series on teaching people to shoot drew a comment about safety yesterday. It seems a reader has a friend who uses his riflescope as a spotting scope at a firing range. The problem is, he sits BEHIND the shooters when he does it! In Germany, hunters are taught to use binoculars to scan for game. You NEVER scan through your riflescope, for fear of pointing a loaded gun at another hunter. In the two years I hunted tin Germany, only one accident occurred - a visiting French hunter killed another hunter when he shot into bushes after seeing them rustle.

Airgun shows are lax
At EVERY airgun show I have ever attended, there is always a lot of dry firing going on. Once, a man picked a Daisy No. 25 pump up from my table and cocked it without asking. I asked him what he intended to do, since it is impossible to decock this model BB gun. I was prepared to take the gun to a safe place outside the show hall and discharge it when he smiled and said, "No problem." He then put the muzzle on his shoe and shot himself in the toe! Was the gun loaded? Of course! Did he bother to check? No.

He then chastised me for having a loaded gun on my table, but I didn't let him get away with it. I had a "Please ask before handling guns" sign on my table that he didn't respect. He was right, though. The gun shouldn't have been loaded at a show. But what is the first assumption everyone is supposed to make about all guns? Treat every gun as if it is loaded. The fact that I had done something wrong did not make his mistake right. In fact, it compounded it.

Lack of gun knowledge
At the heart of the gun safety problem today is a general lack of knowledge about guns. How many of you have seen supposedly gun-savvy people rack the slide on a semiautomatic pistol, then eject the magazine and drop the hammer - just the REVERSE of how it should be done! I once saw a First Sergeant in the Army take a pump shotgun from a guard and do something similar by using the pump to eject the shells. Well, he ejected four of them. He put a hole in the celling of the arms room with number five!

More training is needed
Why are some people careless around firearms? I believe the problem stems from a lack of training. People are no longer trained by the military, nor are many of them being trained by the NRA. That is where primary gun safety education is supposed to take place. The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 in reaction to the lack of marksmanship and general firearms knowledge among the Northern conscripts during the Civil War. The primary goal of the organization was to "...promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis." Since then they have taken on numerous other duties, including training people to shoot. The first thing they teach all new shooters is gun safety.

NRA's thrust has long been firearms, but they have also recognized the part airguns play in shooter education. Until recently, they thought of airguns for young shooters only, but there is a growing awareness in the organization that adults shoot airguns, too. The current NRA President, Sandra S. Froman, owns an air pistol that she shoots frequently.

More training is needed
Throughout our history, there have been times when average citizens could not be expected to know anything about guns. We are in a prolonged period like that right now, and the situation is being aggravated by the presence of combative sports like paintball and airsoft. People with little or no gun knowledge are engaging in contests where they shoot at other people. We need gun training now like never before!

I have no solutions for this problem, other than to suggest that we all do our part by training new shooters and by standing strong where gun safety is concerned.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Teach a person to shoot: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Teach a person to shoot: Part 1
Teach a person to shoot: Part 2

Proper sight picture
Illustrate the correct sight picture for the students. Tell them they will not focus on the rear sight; tell them to think of peeking through a small hole in a fence. The object is to see the front sight and the target, with the front sight being in sharp focus.

Correct sight picture looks like this.

The front post is supposed to be held up halfway in the rear peep. Your eye tends to center it because the light is better at the center of the hole, but tell the student where the post is supposed to be. The bull sits atop the front post, just touching it at the bottom. This is called a 6 o'clock hold and is universally used in the target shooting world when post-and-aperture sights are employed. Some people like to leave a thin band of space between the front post and the bottom of the bull, but this is better left to the student to decide without prompting.

The triangulation exercise
The sighting stick is laid on a low box, so students can see through the aperture when they are lying down, like a prone shooter. They must not touch the stick during the exercise.

The instructor sits on a chair 30-40 feet away and directly downrange from the sighting stick. In front of him is a cardboard box taped to the floor so it cannot move. A blank sheet of white paper is taped to the side that faces the student. The instructor holds a paper target with a single bull, and a hole has been punched through the center of the bull so a lead pencil can be inserted. The instructor tells the student to sight through the sighting stick and to guide the instructor in moving the target left and right, up and down, until the correct sight picture can be seen through the sights. The student is aligning the bull with the front post in this exercise.

When the sight picture appears correct to the student, he tells the instructor to mark the target. The instructor makes a mark through the hole in the center of the bull with the pencil, then he moves the target away and they do the exercise over again. After three targets, the instructor calls the student down to examine the sheet of paper on the side of the box.

Instructor moves the target as the student directs. When the student says the sight picture looks right, the instructor marks a pencil dot through the target onto the blank paper on the box.

The goal is to have three pencil dots as close to one another as possible. The three dots should be inside a dime (17.91mm) at least, if the instructor was 40 feet from the student. Ideally, the three dots should be inside a circle the size of a pencil eraser. What this exercise illustrates is the student's understanding of the correct sight picture, because they were able to form it three times in very close proximity each time.

It is important that neither the sighting stick nor the box in front of the instructor move during this exercise, because they are the fixed standards. We are training the student to sight correctly without having a rifle to manage at the same time. The next step in training will be the first shooting exercise, so do not progress beyond triangulation until the student has demonstrated proficiency.