Friday, September 29, 2006

Anics Skif A3000 CO2 pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Anics Skif A3000 is an attractive CO2 pistol. Holding 28 shots, it is the high-cap leader among pellet guns!

I was asked to report on this air pistol by one of our readers. I don't think very much of the gun, and I'll try to tell you why, but for the sake of the person(s) who might like to get one, I will also try to tell all its good features.

28-shot repeater!
Right off the bat, the A3000 has the largest magazine capacity of any pellet pistol I know of, and also one of the largest BB magazine capacities. It shoots both BBs and pellets, which I will get into in a moment; but, with 28 shots on tap, it out-classes every other repeater on the market. The magazine is a transparent plastic stick affair with individual tubular pellet/BB holders running around like bumper cars on the inside. They follow an elongated track clockwise, until finally aligning with the barrel for firing. You load each chamber from the rear, then manually advance the tubes. Loading takes some time, but this is a double-action pistol that fires as fast as you can pull the trigger.

The magazine is unique. Twenty-eight separate plastic tubes move in a clockwise direction to bring either pellets or BBs (it doesn't matter which) in line with the barrel, which snaps backwards to hit them and drive them back to open the valve. A bit like a nasty game of croquet.

Very good feel in the hand!
The Skif is also quite attractive, which is it's strongest point after the magazine capacity. It's just a real pleasure to hold. The rear sight is adjustable. And that's pretty close to where the good points end.

A horrible trigger!
The double-action trigger-pull of 12 to 15 lbs. is about as bad as it gets. Not only do you have to advance those 28 plastic tubes inside the magazine each time you pull the trigger, but the way the gun works is that the barrel is also the hammer! It moves forward as the trigger is pulled until it finally slips off the sear. Under spring tension, it slams backwards into a hole in the magazine. The back of the barrel slams into a plastic tubular pellet holder and rams it backwards through another hole in the magazine into the firing valve, forcing it open. The pellet or BB is then pushed forward through the moving barrel by the force of the gas exhausting from the valve. It must have sounded neat to the drunken designers when they first thought of it at the fraternity kegger, but it works about as smoothly as a frozen caulking gun! It also has a single-action feature, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having 28 However, the single-action trigger-pull is very nice, if a trifle heavy at just over 5 lbs.

Accuracy - schmakuracy!
As if a moving, spring-powered barrel were not enough to throw off all shots by itself, the Skif A3000 accommodates both BBs and pellets. The rifled barrel is one of those compromise-type affairs you've heard me talk about. No chance that anything emerging from the muzzle will go in any but a general direction! However, that's not all. Those 28 plastic tubular pellet/BB holders in the magazine have to be small enough inside that a 0.173" diameter steel BB will not fall out. To do that, guess what they do to the thin soft lead skirt of a pellet that starts out at 0.177"? That's correct, they squash it down to fit! They even give you a little tool to poke the pellets into the tubes because they fit so tight.

Your chances of actually hitting what you aim at with a Skif A3000 increase with the size of your target. Pop cans at 20 feet are very possible. I was able to hold groups to 2" at 30 feet when I shot single-action off a rest. However, who wants to cock the hammer manually every time when there are 28 shots aboard? In the double-action mode, the gun becomes a good noisemaker.

Your best chance for accuracy is to stand inside a weather balloon and shoot. You're almost guaranteed to hit something.

I have laughed to read velocities quoted at over 500 f.p.s for this pistol. Maybe with BBs it goes that fast, but with regular lead pellets it's in the 380-415 f.p.s. realm. That's still cookin' for a small pistol like the Skif, so feel grateful to get two full magazines of shots per CO2 powerlet.

This pistol is one you either will love or hate. Those who love it, enjoy the realism, the heft, the look and feel of the gun. Those who hate it are more focused on accuracy and shooting performance.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

BAM B40 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

BAM B40 - Part 1

Today, I'll look at the shooting aspects of the BAM B40 underlever spring rifle. First, however, I want to tell you what I found with the trigger.

Adjusting the trigger
I removed the action from the stock to examine the trigger. It appears to be a copy of the Air Arms TX200 trigger but much cruder. The crosspins are so loose they fall out when the unit is turned sideways and bumped. I doubt this trigger can ever perform like a TX200 trigger without a major rebuild that would cost more than the price of the rifle. So, the question is, can it be used as is? For that, I tried to adjust it.

B40 trigger looks similar to a TX trigger, but the workmanship is poor. That results in a sloppy trigger engagement.

There are two adjustment screws, and they do have an effect on the trigger engagement, but nothing I tried gave me what I was after. What I wanted was a definite first and second stage, with a pause between them that could be discerned. I never got it. Instead, the best I was able to achieve after an hour of trial and error was a single-stage trigger with a very light pull and buckets of creep. I doubt it even goes 8 oz., but my trigger pull gauge doesn't go down that far, so there is no way to tell for sure. My advice is to leave the safety on until you are ready to take the shot. It's a shame that the Chinese were able to do so well with the rifle and then failed to get the trigger right. Maybe someone out there has learned the secret of how to adjust a B40 trigger, but I sure haven't.

Firing behavior
The B40 cocks a little harder than the TX, but just as smoothly. The anti-beartrap ratchet works in exactly the same way, catching near the end of the cocking stroke. And one quirk of both the TX and the B40 is that the trigger must intentionally be cocked during the cocking stroke. If the lever doesn't come back far enough, the ratchet will hold the sliding chamber open and the gun will look like it's cocked, but you will not be able to release the chamber to slide back forward. All you have to do is pull harder on the underlever and the trigger cocks and the safety sets.

Shooting is still just as smooth as a TX, and that's after 75 shots on the powerplant. Some guns loosen up after several dozen pellets have run through, but this one doesn't show signs of that yet.

After rereading my first post, I should have tested it with Gamo Magnum pointed pellets, but instead I tried it with Beeman Kodiaks and Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. The Kodiaks gave an average velocity of 833 f.p.s. with a high of 841 and a low of 825. That's a spread of just 16 feet per second over 10 shots, which is excellent for any spring rifle and unheard-of for a Chinese rifle. I am amazed by the power, too. The energy calculator on the Pyramyd website says that's 16.34 foot-pounds of energy. By comparison, my well broken-in TX200 delivers an average velocity of 823 f.p.s. with the same Kodiaks. The spread was 23 f.p.s. and the muzzle energy was 15.95 foot-pounds. This is a result I never would have believed if I hadn't seen it for myself!

In the B40, the light 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers gave an average of 909 f.p.s. with an extreme spread of 22 f.p.s. That's a muzzle energy of 14.5 foot-pounds. The B40 goes against the common result of light pellets being more powerful than heavy pellets in a springer. My TX averages 933 f.p.s. with a spread of 19 f.p.s. and an energy of 15.27 foot-pounds. Apparently it also runs contrary to the norm with these two pellets.

The next report will be about accuracy. I have mounted a 3-9x Leapers scope on the B40, so both rifles are scoped equivalently. If this Chinese rifle continues to perform like it has, it will be a real airgun value and I will have to eat my words. I'm hoping that happens!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What is valve lock in a pneumatic gun?

by B.B. Pelletier

Two things drove me to this posting today. We had a reader from Hawaii whose AirForce Condor is not performing as it should, and another reader named baldtrucker asked what happens when a multi-pmp pneumatic like a Benjamin 397 is over-pumped. I did a search and couldn't find where I had addressed this question before; but, even if I have, it's time to do it again.

How does an impact pneumatic valve work?
The most common valve is the impact type or knock-open valve, and that's the one that has a problem with over-pressurization. When a hammer strikes the end of the valve stem of an impact valve, it forces it to momentarily lift the valve face off the valve seat. When that happens, air can flow through or past the valve stem and out into the breech of the airgun.

The valve face is held against the valve seat by a return spring. Also, any air pressure inside the reservoir where the valve face and seat are located pushes against the back of the valve face, forcing it against the valve seal. These two forces (the return spring and air pressure) are what keep the valve closed.

The hammer has to strike the valve stem with enough force to unseat the valve momentarily, allowing air to flow from the reservoir. The weight of the hammer and the strength of the spring that pushes it have been calculated to open the valve when the pressure inside is at its maximum. For most multi-pump guns made today, the valve allows all the stored air to be released. That's easy because their reservoirs are very small. But, precharged pneumatic reservoirs are larger and only a portion of air is released. The next time the valve opens, the pressure inside (pushing against the valve face) is slightly lower, so the valve remains open slightly longer. A little longer flow of air at lower pressure is released, giving the same velocity to the pellet. This is always easier to control when the barrel is longer, so long-barrelled rifles are generally the most consistent, though a valve can be tuned for any barrel length.

What happens when a pneumatic is over-pressurized?
When the air pressure inside the reservoir is higher than the design of the action can accommodate, the hammer cannot open the valve as far as it should, so less air escapes. That is exactly what is happening to the Condor out in Hawaii. The Condor valve face is HUGE! It has to be, to allow as much air as possible to move through the valve. However, such a large surface area means the valve is also EXTREMELY sensitive to air pressure. Any over-pressurization will hold the valve shut, so the pellet gets very little air to push it.

When you put air into an airgun, it is nothing like putting gasoline into the tank of a car. Even then, more gas doesn't make the car go faster, does it? What a pneumatic gun needs is air FLOW, and that happens only when the valve remains open as long as it was designed to.

Condors do not like to be filled to 3,000 psi. I have seen only a few that would tolerate it. Most like to be filled to around 2,800 psi. And I have seen a few that liked to be filled to just 2,600 psi. No matter what pressure you fill them to, as long as it is their maximum pressure, they will all give you about 20-25 VERY powerful shots when the power setting it set on high. That may seem counter-intuitive to some, but consider this: A NASCAR race is not won by putting more fuel into the car. It's won by making the most of the fuel that is put into the car.

The same thing happens when a multi-pump is over-pumped. I hear stories all the time about how so-and-so pumped up his Sheridan Blue Streak 20 times, and it cracked like a .22. I just smile and keep my thoughts to myself, and now you know why. A gun that is supposed to be pumped a maximum of eight times isn't going to crack like a firearm with 20 pumps. It isn't going to do much of anything; and if it does, that gun is already worn out and powerless.

Crosman had the answer!
In the 1950s, Crosman came out with a pneumatic valve that couldn't be over-pressurized - at least not easily. They put it in the Crosman 140 rifle and the 130 pistol and touted it as the answer to over-pressurization and valve lock, as this problem is commonly known. The valve did work as advertised, however, it had a few drawbacks. As the pressure increased, the trigger became harder to pull. It was impossible to fix that, and the triggers were always second-rate. This type of valve had the habit of opening on its own when the pressure was still low. I've had guns fire while I was filling them - so this valve type was not the solution to valve lock that it promised to be. They also had the problem of the pliable parts of the valve extruding through the valve ports under pressure.

So, that's the story on valve lock. It's pretty straightforward. As long as you operate your pneumatics within the parameters that they were designed to operate, they will serve both well and long.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The LD pistol from Mac-1

by B.B. Pelletier

This post was requested by a reader named Michael.

Crosman Mark I is a great pistol to start with.

The LD is a specialized pistol modification for long-range air pistol shooting.

What is it?
The LD is a long-barrelled customized Crosman Mark I target pistol. It's made by Mac-1 Airguns and has been around for more than a decade. It was designed primarily as a sillouhette gun, but it's also used by many shooters who never compete. It has rifle-like accuracy and rifle-like bulk, without the length and weight of a rifle.

Over the years Mac-1, has offered guns with all sorts of barrel lengths, but they seem to have settled on a 13" .22 caliber barrel. According to their website, they do not offer the gun in .177. The barrel is a German make, but not Lothar Walther. Rumor has it that they use Weihrauch barrels, but I can't confirm that. It's a heavy barrel and they re-contour the bolt probe for better gas flow. Readers of this blog should know by now that a CO2 gun gets its best velocity from a long barrel, so an increase of five inches over the factory length should offer a significant advantage. The designers of the LD have chosen to have more shots at a consistent velocity over raw power. Since they still get 75-100 f.p.s. higher than the factory Mark I, that's a pretty good decision.

There are open sights, but this pistol is meant to be scoped. In fact, it uses a powerful rifle scope that is held up to the eye when shooting. A 3.5-oz. bulk CO2 tank hangs below the grip, giving enough gas for about 250 powerful shots, but it also serves as an anchor point for the pistol. The tank lowers the center of gravity, which offsets the large scope on top. It also cancels the weight of the long barrel. If you hold the tank against your chest, it steadies the gun. Your non-shooting hand grabs the rear of the scope and holds it to your eye in what looks and feels like a strange way to hold a pistol, but actually gives a very steady hold. The gun is painted black to match the dark barrel.

The gun weighs 61 oz. with an empty tank fitted. Add another 1-1.5 lbs. for a scope, and you can see this "pistol" is really a small carbine. That's exactly what they intended it to be, and the weight helps you hold steady on target.

A great start!
They couldn't have selected a better gun to start with than the Crosman Mark I. It already has a wonderful trigger and great balance. When they add their modifications, the gun just gets better. You can either supply your own Mark I or II for a discount, or you can just buy the entire gun all customized.

Powerful but not a magnum
The LD is set up to deliver its shots at 500 to 525 f.p.s. when shooting a 13.9-grain lead pellet. That's not magnum power, but it is considerable. You can hunt with this airgun because it is a .22 and it's accurate. Squirrels and rabbits out to 35 yards should be okay, and pigeons can be taken out as far as you can hold a 1" group. RWS Meisterkugeln pellets are the recommended ammo out to 25 yards, but almost any quality pellet works well. I would use JSB Exacts for long-range shooting.

With all that power, the LD is really very quiet and docile. It doesn't bark or kick because the gas use has been matched to the barrel. When the pellet leaves the muzzle, there isn't an exhaust of white vapor that is often the case with unbalanced gas guns. The propulsive power of the gas is mostly expended pushing the pellet, leaving little pressure behind to go bang.

Accuracy is up in the rifle category. Once you learn the proper hold, you'll be amazed at the accuracy you can achieve. I know shooters who can do very well at 50 yards with their LDs. I've never shot mine that far; but, at 35 yards, no target the size of a quarter was safe. The pistol retails for $395, if you buy it without a trade-in. That gets you the gun, two tanks and a refill adapter to fill from a bulk CO2 tank. Contact Mac-1 for further details.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How are barrels rifled? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Several readers have asked for this posting, and one reader asked about lapping a barrel, which is supposed to be part of the rifling process. It has all but been abandoned by modern barrelmakers, at least those who make large volumes of barrels. Actually, the first person to request this post asked me to explain how BARRELS are made, but because that answer is included in this discussion, I included it within the talk about rifling.

Rifling was discovered very early in the history of gunmaking. In the beginning, the grooves ran straight down the bore, but soon they were made in a spiral pattern, and immediately gunmakers discovered that a spinning ball was more accurate. There are records of shooting matches in the mid-1500s, where rifled barrels were NOT permitted, because of the advantage they offered. So, the effect of a rifled barrel was known a long time ago.

Three types of rifling
There are three principal ways rifled barrels are made today, and two of them start with a long tube of metal. They are the cut-rifled barrel and the button-swaged barrel. The other - hammer forging - is quite different, so I'll cover it by itself.

The following process refers to both cut-rifled barrels and button-swaged barrels. To get the long tube of metal needed for the barrel, the maker starts with a tube or a solid rod. Some small makers of airgun barrels start with a seamless hydraulic tube that they rifle. If they start with a solid rod, the hole through the center must first be drilled. The task of drilling a deep (long) hole through a solid rod of metal is one of the toughest machining tasks known. In World War II, the M1 Carbine was redesigned to eliminate one deep hole in the side of the receiver, because too many receivers had to be scrapped when the drill broke out of the side of the hole.

Many barrelmakers drill this hole on a lathe, but the precision barrelmaker uses a vertical axis machine to eliminate the effect of gravity on the long drill bit. The drill bit itself has a special cutting surface to reduce the tendency for the bit to wander. Even so, no hole is ever drilled entirely true. The barrel maker has to use other means to true up the hole if he wants a quality barrel.

The hole is reamed and (possibly) lapped
The next step is to ream the hole. A trueness of about 0.001" along the axis is possible with very careful work. If the process is speeded up or the reamer is dull, it will be 0.0015" or even 0.002" of variation along the entire axis. If the maker is a good one, the next step is to lap the bore.

Lapping does not increase the dimension of the bore. It's purpose is to remove the tooling marks left by the reamer, just as the reamer also removed the larger marks left by the drill bit. The finest lapping is done with a lead slug that is cast right in the bore of the gun, so the fit is perfect. The cooled slug is broken free and pushed halfway out the bore, where fine abrasive power and oil are brushed on. This is called charging the lap. I have read in many places that lapping doesn't use abrasives at all, but rather it uses polishing compounds. Well, Virginia, polishing compounds ARE abrasives! They're just very fine. If they weren't abrasive, they wouldn't work.

The charged lap is run up and down the bore, recharging as required to keep polishing the bore. Because the lap is lead, the lapping powder sinks into it before it scratches the steel bore, so this is a laborious process. It's not unlike using J-B Non-Embedding Bore Compound to clean a leaded barrel!

Cut rifling
After lapping, the barrel is cleaned. If it's going to have cut rifling, it is now installed in a rifling jig or machine, which looks something like a lathe. A headstock holds one end of the barrel, which is held at the other end so that it can be turned easily. A rifling cutter is a very small tool that fits on the end of a rod long enough to pass completely through the barrel. The cutting rod is mounted on a fixture that causes the rod to spiral as it passes through the bore. Two hundred years ago, this fixture was a wooden positive of the rifling pattern desired. It had the same twist rate that was desired in the rifle. Today, a precision rotating fixture is used. Alternately, the barrel may be rotated and the cutting fixture held still, and the same result will happen.

When a cut is complete, the headstock is indexed for the next groove and another cut is made. When all the grooves have had one pass of the cutter, it is adjusted to cut deeper and another set of cuts is made. Each pass of the cutter will remove about one ten-thousandth of an inch, if the barrelmaker is a good one, so each thousandth of an inch takes ten full passes. If the rifling is 0.005" deep, each groove took 50 passes of the cutter. If the barrel has six grooves, it took 300 passes of the cutter to completely rifle that bore. To speed things up, the cutter can be set to cut deeper, but that means more chances for burrs, gouges and associated tool marks.

Cut rifling has largely gone out of fashion today, though it's still practiced. It does not result in a barrel that's any better, but it does allow complete freedom over dimensions that button rifling does not allow. There is one more step after cutting the rifling, and it's a final lapping. I will cover it after I describe button rifling in the next part.

Friday, September 22, 2006

BAM B40 - Part 1
A first look

by B.B. Pelletier

Today we begin our look at the BAM B40 underlever spring-piston air rifle. It's a direct copy of the Air Arms TX200, and you know I think highly of it. This first part is a physical comparison between the two. The B40 comes in both .177 and .22 calibers, and I will test both for you. Because I own a .177 TX200, I will start there.

BAM B40 (bottom) is a close copy of the TX least in appearance.

This is the most beautiful Chinese air rifle I have seen! The stock is a hardwood stained to the light side of medium, and the contouring is nearly perfect. I found two spots where wood filler was used, but that is almost a trademark of Chinese woodwork. The thick black rubber buttpad is perfectly fitted. Even the two parts of the forearm that extend past the breech are nearly centered on the barrel and underlever mechanism.

This wood putty repair on the pistol grip of the B40 is about one inch long. It's typical of all Chinese wood stocks - even the ones they consider high quality.

The stock differs from the one found on a TX200 in that is there is no checkering on the pistol grip or the forearm, and the forearm wood isn't tapered to a slimmer profile. Also, the pistol grip isn't quite as deeply scalloped as the one on the TX. As a result, the B40 stock feels slightly bulkier when held to the shoulder for firing.

The metal is polished, but not to the same extent as a TX. It is, however, up to the same standard as a Weihrauch rifle, which puts it light-years ahead of where Chinese rifles used to be. The triggerguard is dull but evenly black, and the trigger blade is well-formed.

Breech not finished as well
When I cocked the gun, the sliding compression chamber slid back to reveal a cone-shaped breech with some tool marks. The squared-off TX breech is perfect, by comparison. Cocking effort is slightly higher (a pound or two at most), but my TX has thousands of shots on it and this is a brand-new action, so I'll cut it some slack. Cocking is just as smooth as the TX, and the anti-beartrap ratchet that holds open the sliding compression chamber is just as crisp as the one on the TX. The underlever lock (a ball bearing) has been exactly replicated on the B40 and works fine.

When you scrutinize the work it comes apart, like these tool marks left on the breech.

Very smooth shooting
I'd heard a comment that the B40 had lots of spring noise and vibration, but that isn't the case with the one I'm testing. It shoots just as smoothly as a TX200, which says a lot. The TX shoots like a tuned gun right out of the box, and I'm saying that the B40 does, too. It's also just as quiet as a TX, which means the baffles in the barrel shroud are just as effective.

Trigger light but mushy
The two-stage trigger is a copy of the TX trigger, which in turn is a close approximation of the famous Rekord trigger that Weihrauch has used for five decades. The release is very light, but, like I commented about the BAM B26 trigger, the first stage is mushy and the second stage is imprecise. I can get used to it, but it's a far cry from a TX trigger. I hope I can do something about it before I go to the range for accuracy testing.

From the firing behavior, I suspect the rifle will shoot either in the high 800s or the low 900s with the Gamo Magnum pointed pellets I used to check firing behavior. If that's true, I would expect to get the best accuracy from either Beeman Kodiaks or JSB Exact domed heavy pellets.

We'll find out in the next test!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Teach a person to shoot: Part 6

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
Teach a person to shoot: Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, we'll talk about triggers. Besides the sights, the trigger is the most important part of a target airgun. On a pistol, the trigger is just as important as the sights, because the proper use of the trigger promotes stability and control over the handgun.

How light should a trigger be?
Many veteran shooters like their triggers to be as light as they can be, commensurate with safety. Indeed, on world-class 10-meter target rifles, the trigger-pulls can be adjusted to mere tens of grams. But, a light trigger is not good for the beginning shooter for a number of reasons, with safety being the overriding one. By the way, the guns are called 10-meter guns because the targets we shoot are 10 meters, or just under 33 feet, distant. That distance is measured from the muzzle of the gun - both rifle and pistol.

Training triggers
The types of target rifles that are intended for training shooters have heavy (for competiton guns) trigger-pulls. Crosman's Challenger 2000, for example, has a two-stage trigger that breaks at 3 lbs. Daisy's Avanti 853, which has been around for decades, has a single-stage 6-lb. trigger! Neither one is adjustable. Both companies have learned the hard way that new shooters, and some who should know better, are not cautious about the trigger, so they make their triggers on the heavy side. This is perfect for the beginner. By the time they know exactly what they want in a trigger, the safety procedures will be deeply ingrained.

Watch each new shooter!
An instructor faces the moment of truth every time a new shooter touches a gun. The most dangerous part of the gun is the muzzle; however, at the same time, the instructor must watch how the shooter addresses the trigger. I have some friends who instinctively put their trigger fingers on the trigger of a gun every time they pick one up. These are dangerous people! If memory serves me, every one of them has had at least one shooting accident. Do not allow new shooters to get into the bad habit of touching the trigger before they're ready to take the shot. Make them hold their trigger finger straight out alongside the triggerguard until the proper command is given to shoot.

The RIGHT (and only) way to squeeze a trigger!
There is just one way to squeeze a trigger to obtain the best accuracy. I will describe rifles first, and then pistols. First, get into your position so the rifle is fairly close to the intended target. Then take a deep cleansing breath and let it out. Next, breathe deep and let about half out. You now have five seconds or less to sight and squeeze off the shot. Align the sights and take up the first stage. This is where a single-stage trigger becomes a liability. When the second stage is reached, squeeze with increasing pressure while keeping the sights aligned with the target. If you go longer than five seconds, relax and begin again. If all you have is a single-stage trigger, pretend it is the second stage of a two-stage trigger. The reason for the five-second limit is that after that time, your muscles will start twitching and throwing you slightly off target. If you watch a champion shooter, they get the shot off in three seconds or less.

The shot should come as a surprise. Keep practicing until it does. If you intentionally make the shot go off, you will move the gun, however slight, and that's called "flinching." At this point, you'll also understand the necessity of an overtravel adjustment. It makes the trigger that much more precise. When you have done this a thousand times, you will get a feel for your trigger and how it has to be manipulated.

Trigger work with the pistol
First, get into your stance. Raise the pistol with your eyes closed, and the sights should be on the bullseye when you open your eyes again. If not, move your feet until they are. I like to point both toes slightly inward to put tension on my legs; it gives a more solid stance. Then, you're ready to shoot. Rest the loaded pistol on the shooting table and take a cleansing breath. Take another breath and let half out as you raise the pistol and drop it back until the sights are aligned with the target. This starts your five seconds. Squeeze the first stage out and begin the second stage. Increase pressure until the pistol fires. If you take too long, release the trigger and start over.

After the student has fired many shots and about five times as many dry-fire shots using exactly the same technique, they will be proficient with that trigger.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Crosman's 2300T - Part 2

2300T - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, we'll look at power, gas consumption and accuracy of the 2300T. First, I chronographed two pellets I felt were likely candidates for the accuracy test - the Gamo Magnum pointed and the Crosman Premier 7.9 grain. When I refer to a Crosman Premier, I always mean the pellets packed in the cardboard boxes, unless I say otherwise. The other "Premier" pellets in tins are not sorted by die lot and may vary more in size and weight. You never know, so I use the ones in cardboard boxes.

First, the chronograph
With a fresh powerlet installed (always with a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip), I was ready to clock some pellets. The Gamo Magnum pointed pellet is the heavier of the two, so you would expect it to shoot slower than the Crosman, which it did. I got an average of 515, with a spread from 494 to a high of 522. The Premier lite gave an average of 520, with a spread from 501 to 529. Both pellets had a spread of 28 f.p.s., which is a bit high for a CO2 gun.

Problems with the Premiers
If you recall the loading difficulties I mentioned with the 2300S pistol, they carried over to the 2300T. The Gamo Magnums loaded okay, but the Premiers were rolling on their noses and jamming sideways in the breech. Either that or they would not chamber at all - having hung up on the sharp edge of the breech. I think this is something Crosman needs to address in both pistols. A shooter in the field isn't going to appreciate having to rod the bore every third shot, and a competitor won't stand for it.

Sights were difficult to use!
I noticed that the front post is very narrow on this pistol, compared to the rear notch. There is a lot of daylight between the notch and post, which makes it difficult to estimate when the post is centered. Because of this, I believe I will mount a red dot and try it again. You don't get any more precision with a red dot sight, but the difficulty of aligning the sight elements goes away.

Because the 2300T has no power adjustment, the gun was at full power from the start, so I went right to work at the power that proved most accurate for the 2300S. It must be for this gun, as well, because I shot a better group than I did with the 2300S. That's doesn't mean the T is more accurate than the S, but it DOES mean that Crosman's barrel has a lot going for it! The average groups were larger than the one shown, but they were still smaller than an inch.

Gamo Magnum pointed pellets were the best. This 15-yard group can be covered by a dime.

Groups with the Premier were a quarter-inch larger than the Gamo groups. The sighting difficulties affected them, as well, but I think the Gamo Hunter did do better, even with that taken into consideration. I will test them again when I mount the dot sight, so there will be no mistake what each pellet does.

Crosman Premiers made this best group at 15 yards.

Gas consumption
Crosman rates the 2300T at 40 shots per powerlet, but I got 60. I think the 2300S would do the same if you ran it on high power all the time.

Final comments
I think Crosman has hit one out of the park with both the 2300S and the 2300T pistols. The T lacks the power adjustability of the S, but the Crosman barrel loses nothing to the Lothar Walther. If a shooter wants a good all-around pellet pistol, the T is the one to buy. If you want to compete in airgun silhouette, the S is for you. Either way, you're getting a great American airgun.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Crosman's 2300T - Part 1
The OTHER miracle handgun from Rochester!

by B.B. Pelletier

The 2300T is Crosman's other remarkable new target pistol.

The OTHER new air pistol from Crosman is the 2300T, a more modest target pistol with only a few of the same features as the 2300S (read my 3-part blog about the 2300S. At first glance, it might seem quite similar, but closer examination reveals a host of differences. This is a pistol that must be evaluated on its own merits.

Out of the box
Just like the 2300S, the T model comes in a foam-lined box that can be used as a carrying case if you don't already have one. Also, like the 2300S, the T requires that you install the rear sight, only this one is quite different from the S model. It's more in line with other Crosman pistol sights, but made of steel and click-adjustable. A multipurpose tool for adjusting it comes with the gun.

No power adjustment
There is no power-adjustment knob on this pistol. Crosman rates it at 520 f.p.s., which is where they put the 2300S on high power, but they give the total number of available shots as 40 per powerlet, a decline of 20 from the more expensive model. I will be testing the one I have to give you an exact count.

Steel breech!
Like the 2300S, the T comes with a steel breech, fully dovetailed for scope mounts. The breech on this pistol is shorter than the one on the 2300S, but longer than the plastic breech on the 2240. (Read my blog about the 2240.) I realize that just means a slight program change on the CNC machine these days, but it speaks of the attention to detail Crosman paid each of these new pistols. A steel breech used to be available only as a third-party aftermarket add-on, and, of course, it enhances the option of mounting a scope.

The front sight is a squared post atop a raised plastic ramp, identical to the one on the 2240. The steel rear sight is a fully adjustable notch with white dots. The dots are unnecessary on a target pistol, and I wish they hadn't been put there. Perhaps, the sight comes from another action pistol. Instead of clamping to the dovetails like the Williams sight on the 2300S, this one slides into a special cross dovetail and secures with two small Allen screws. Because it does slide in a cross dovetail, you get a greater range of windage adjustability than if it was simply clamped like the Williams.

The rear sight is steel and click-adjustable. It could do without the white dots, however. Note the absence of a power-adjustment knob on this model.

Adjustable trigger
One feature that did carry over is the single-stage adjustable trigger. It is identical to the trigger on the 2300S, so you can both adjust the pull weight and also limit the overtravel. I measured the trigger on this test gun and got a low of 2 lbs., 14 oz. and a high of 6 lbs., 12 oz. There's a moderate amount of creep in the pull.

Small Allen screw in the triggerguard adjusts the trigger overtravel.

The barrel is a 10+" steel barrel rifled by Crosman, so accuracy testing is going to be fun. We already know how well that Lothar Walther barrel works on the 2300S, so here's the chance to see what a Crosman tube can do. I'm betting there will be little difference.

We'll look at velocity and accuracy in upcoming reports.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A look at China's B26 - part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

B26 from BAM is an attractive copy of the Beeman R9. Scope is Leapers' 3-12x44 compact Tactical SWAT scope.

One of our readers asked for this review, and, as I happened to have access to a .22-caliber B26, I was able to test it. The B26, made by BAM, is a second-generation Chinese copy of the Beeman R9/HW95. The first-generation copy is the B20, which was, and still is, an impressive airgun for the Chinese, but not up to Gamo quality or accuracy. The R9 was in no danger from the B20. It's a tough act to follow for any airgun, and I'm cutting this one no slack. Let's see what she's got!

The rifle is very attractive for a Chinese spring gun - heck, it's attractive for ANY rifle. Period! The bluing is even, and the metal underneath is finished nearly as nice as a Weihrauch. But the bigger story is the wood stock. First, it's a nice piece of wood - really looking like walnut with a very even medium brown stain. Second, it's shaped as well as any German stock. Third, there are no gouges or divots filled with with wood putty - the trademark of Chinese gun stocks to this time. The butt is padded with a solid black rubber pad that's fitted as well as any I've ever seen.

The only drawback is that the manufacturer shipped the gun in a single cardboard box with minimal padding and support, and a rifle stock simply cannot travel from China to America without more protection than that. As a result, the stock on my rifle has a tiny crack running with the grain in the pistol grip - the weakest spot on a rifle. Other than that flaw, the stock is wonderful.

Stock was marred by the presence of a hairline crack on the font of the pistol grip. It runs along the grain of the wood at this weak point.

Physical specs
The rifle measures 42.5" long with a 16.25" barrel. The one I am testing is a .22, but it also comes in .177. Weight is about 7 lbs., 5 oz., but that will vary a little depending on the density of the wood used in the stock. The sights are a fiberoptic post in front and fully adjustable notch (also fiberoptic) in the rear. The front sight is in a globe with massive cutouts for light to pass. Both sights are easily removable.

Front sight is a hooded post with a red fiberoptic bead.

Rear sight is a conventional notch with fiberoptic inserts. Windage and elevation screws bind and get loose as they adjust.

Trigger and safety
The trigger is a copy of the Rekord, a two-stage modular unit with adjustable pull weight and, if you know how to do it, adjustable letoff. As it came, it was not adjusted correctly. There was actual creep in the first stage, which, coupled with a light second stage, made a good shot nearly impossible. I intend adjusting this trigger to see how nice it can become. If it's like a Rekord, it should be pretty nice. The safety is identical to Weihrauch's safety, which goes on automatically every time you cock the gun. To reset it, you must break the barrel all the way, as though cocking the gun again. I've had some Weihrauch safeties on brand new rifles malfunction until they were cleaned, but the one on this rifle is crisp and positive.

Cocking is light and smooth
The cocking effort is an incredibly light 24-25 lbs. of effort, about 2-3 lbs. less than even the R9, which was itself a light cocker. That fact makes the B26 stand out, though all Chinese spring rifles have been easy to cock. Usually, the reason for light cocking is that the mainspring has taken a set or broken, but I don't think that is the case with this one. It has too much power. Cocking is also smooth, though the gun does honk like a goose when cocked. That's a sign of a piston seal that could used some lubrication.

Firing behavior is quick and smooth
It fires with almost no vibration and just a quick forward jump of recoil. So far, I've found it to be extremely sensitive to hold, just like an R9.But, even when it's floated on the hands, it doesn't move much upon firing.

A word about the scope
I've mounted Leapers' 3-12x44 compact Tactical SWAT scope for this test. It's sized just right for a smaller rifle, plus it gives a crystal-clear image of the target. The reticle is a bit thick for paper target shooting, but I'm not going to be shooting past 40 yards, so it shouldn't make that much difference.

First test
I've already had this rifle to the range two times. The first time I tried it at 50 yards and was disappointed with large groups. The second time, I shot at 25 yards with JSB Exact Diabolo Jumbo pellets and got groups as small as one inch. While that is not a super showing, I think the rifle deserves more testing with other pellets after I've had a look at the trigger. The JSBs weigh 15.9 grains and gave velocities ranging from 693 to 778. That kind of spread would open groups beyond 25 yards but shouldn't affect the closer shots that much. Most of the shots seemed to cluster around 750 f.p.s., which gives a muzzle energy of 19.86 foot-pounds. That is astonishing! I want to see whether the gun settles down and what can be done to the trigger to improve the situation.

Perhaps the B26 is a breakout Chinese adult air rifle.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Testing the .20 caliber H&N Silhouette pellet

by B.B. Pelletier

The H&N Silhouette looks a lot like a Beeman Ram Jet.

Ever since Crosman stopped making the .20 caliber Premier, the airgunning world has searched for a substitute. I don't shoot the caliber very often, but all my Sheridan rifles use it, so I asked Pyramyd Air owner, Josh Ungier, what .20 caliber pellet he recommended. He said the H&N Silhouette was giving good results and invited me to test it for you.

This is not a mainstream pellet, to my knowledge. The German maker, Haendler & Natermann, is one of the top pellet makers in the world, so anything they produce is likely to be special; but, until Josh told me about this one, I had never noticed it. On Pyramyd's website, it says the pellet weighs 11.4 grains, but I found a lot of them weighed 11.3. The range stretched from 11.0 to 11.6, which is very large for H&N. They can usually keep them within three or four tenths.

The pellet is a domed wadcutter. If you've never heard of that shape, then you've never examined a Beeman Ram Jet, which is suspiciously similar to the Silhouette, except that it lacks the ribbed sides and is a trifle heavier. I suspect the popularity of the Ram Jet, which I've never tested in .20 caliber, is what keeps the H&N Silhouette profile low. Ram Jets have never been good performers for me, so the positive results of this test tell me I need to start looking at them again.

A real test with a real gun
I tested the pellet at 25 yards, shooting my old faithful Sheridan Blue Streak. The sights are open post and notch, and the rifle is 28 years old. I wear bifocals, and the norm for me at 25 yards with this rifle is a five-shot group of about one inch.

Tired Streak
On testing day, I shot the pellet with four, five, six and eight pumps. In doing so, I discovered that my fine old rifle is now in need of an adjustment. The best velocity it gave on eight pumps was 557, when it should have been 675-700. It gave 524 on five pumps, so a pump rod adjustment is called for, because not enough pressurized air is going into the valve after pump five. There is probably too much space in front of the pump head. However, five pumps was sufficient to give me what I needed for the test.

Getting dialed in
With any airgun I'm not current on, there is a period of just shooting and getting poor results, as I refine the technique needed for that particular gun. Though the Blue Streak is an old favorite of mine, I have used it at closer ranges and never on paper targets. This was a new experience. The groups started out in the 1.5" to 2" size and gradually shrank to 1" as the sight picture was refined and I got used to the trigger, again.

Then, the light changed for the better, and I was able to pick up the front sight with crystal clarity. That was when it happened - a single group under three-eighths of an inch! Sure, it was a fluke, and, sure, I'd have to shoot 50 more to get another one, but it shows the pellet can shoot! And, that was the object of this test. The Blue Streak isn't a target rifle, after all.

Five Silhouettes went into a group measuring 0.374" at 25 yards. A lucky group with an open-sighted Blue Streak, but it demonstrates the accuracy of the pellet.

This little test seems to show that this is a .20-caliber pellet worth considering. The Ram Jet is probably the same thing, so try it, too, then buy the one with the best price.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Great airgun bargains!

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we get into today's blog, I want to tell you about something that's coming. I've asked Pyramyd Air to loan me a Chinese BAM B40 rifle to test. This is a direct copy of the Air Arms TX200 Mark III that I always brag about. We had one request to test this rifle, but the airgun forums are full of talk about it, so I thought it would be nice to take a closer look at it.

Instead of just testing the gun like I normally do, I'm going to do a side-by-side comparison test between the B40 and my TX200 Mark III. That's what I think you readers want. It will be a feature-for-feature comparison, so it will have to be broken into several parts.

Pyramyd Air does not normally stock Chinese air rifles, but they got this one when they recently purchased Airgun Express. The BAM B40 sells for $286, while the TX200 sells for $548, so if you could get the English rifle's performance for just over half the money, that would be a great bargain. In my experience, there aren't that many great bargains, but there are a lot of heartaches and disappointments. As you can see, I'm skeptical about the B40, but I will test it fairly and let you decide.

Great bargain No. 1: Marksman 2004
To be a real bargain, the airgun has to be accurate, reliable and priced right. Most guns have two of these, but it's rare to find all three in one airgun. In that light, the Marksman 2004 is a real stand-out! I reported on it in the February 10 blog, and my opinion hasn't changed. If you read that report, you'll learn that the 2004 is an exact copy of the Weihrauch HW40 PCA, which Beeman sells as the P3. Yet, this one sells for less than one-third the price of the other two. It's just as accurate, just as powerful and just as well-made, too. I know that comes as a shock to those who own the other two pistols, but it's the truth. I am extremely surprised that the Chinese can put a good barrel in an airgun this cheap and make them all to the same standard. That's not typical, but, in this case, it is what's happening. Don't be shocked by the amount of plastic on the gun, because the other two have it, as well.

Great bargain No. 2: IZH 61
The IZH 61 is a Russian 5-shot sidelever spring piston repeater with legendary accuracy. When I say legendary, there was an owner who installed Olympic aperture rear sights costing $350 and had a target stock custom-made from a laminated wood blank. He then used his modified rifle to compete in 10-meter target competition. The gun shot as well as a Daisy 853C, which is saying a lot! You don't have to go crazy to enjoy this rifle, though. And, at less than $90, it's a sure thing. The power is low, with target pellets traveling between 450 and 475 f.p.s.; but for targets or informal plinking, it's hard to beat. I reviewed it for you in March 2005 (A gift from B.B.! - The IZH 61 air rifle).

Great bargain No. 3: Daisy 22SG
For under $100, I don't know where else you'll get a new scoped multi-pump this good. I'm talking about the Daisy 22SG, of course. Please understand that there's a world of difference between this model and Daisy's other multi-pumps. This is a .22 with a real rifled barrel and powerful enough for limited small game hunting. It comes with a decent scope and easy pumping effort, despite the power. I reviewed it in September 2005 (Daisy 22SG). There's a lot of plastic on this rifle, but it's very durable. Don't let that dissuade you from one of the best buys on the market.

There are many good deals in airguns these days. These three, however, go far beyond that category. These are real bargains!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The difference between creep and take-up

by B.B. Pelletier

I find the subject of triggers is misunderstood by many shooters, and not at all helped by some gun manuals whose writers haven't a clue what they are talking about. So, today, I'd like to set the record straight on the difference between creep and take-up. In so doing, I will also be describing the difference between single-stage and two-stage triggers.

Single-stage trigger
A single-stage trigger is a simple lever that has resistance from the start. As your finger squeezes the trigger, you are met with full resistance from the moment you first touch the trigger blade. If the trigger is a good one, the resistance is even right up to the moment the sear releases. There is never an increase in pull weight, and you do not feel any trigger movement before the release.

If the trigger starts moving, as if to release, then hesitates and perhaps moves again, you are experiencing what is known as creep. Creep can also be any movement of the trigger, regardless of whether there are hesitations or not. Creep is the detectable movement of a trigger that doesn't result in the release of the sear. Good triggers have no detectable creep. An average single-stage trigger may have just a single spot of movement/creep, while a poor one moves and pauses, moves and pauses several times before release. The poor one will unnerve the shooter and make it much more difficult to stay on target.

Two-stage trigger
A two-stage trigger has two separate movements. The first stage is a lighter spring-loaded pressure working against your trigger finger from the moment you touch the trigger blade. At the end of this travel, the trigger stops positively against the second stage. If you release the trigger at this point, it should move back to the starting position so you can go through the first stage many times without firing the gun. The second stage is the one that releases the sear. It acts exactly like a single-stage trigger, with an increase of resistance from the trigger until the sear finally releases. Because of that, a two-stage trigger can have creep in the second stage, just like a single-stage trigger.

The purpose of having the first stage is to provide feedback to the shooter, so he knows when the trigger is ready to fire the gun. You don't get that feedback with a single-stage. With the single-stage trigger, many more accidents happen because shooters are not aware they are squeezing the trigger until the gun fires. The two-stage trigger is considered the more sensitive and more advanced trigger type.

The movement of the first stage of a two-stage trigger is called take-up. A good trigger allows the shooter to adjust take-up. Some shooters dislike the take-up and either adjust it to be as brief as possible or, on some triggers, it is possible to remove it altogether. Then, the two-stage trigger becomes a single-stage. Unfortunately, take-up has been described in some owners' manuals as creep (in the IZH 46 manual, for example). That has confused new shooters, who then cannot communicate about their triggers because their vocabulary is wrong. They may even think that a fine two-stage trigger is flawed because they can feel the first stage take-up that they believe is creep, and they have heard that creep is bad.

The effect on accuracy
You might think the choice of a single-stage or two-stage trigger is a matter of personal preference, and to some extent it is, but very few top shooters use single-stage triggers because of the lack of feedback. The set trigger, which is always single-stage when set, is the only exception I know. The top Olympic target air pistols that have a minimum trigger weight limit of 500 grams have the ability to put most of that weight into the first stage. They are so smooth and sophisticated that it is possible for the shooter to feel a second-stage resistance of a few grams, when already pulling most of the total release weight in the first stage. This gives the same level of control as a set trigger.

I hope this clears up any questions you might have about the differences between these terms. If not, I await your comments.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Beeman R9 breakbarrel spring rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

A reader asked for this report. Since the Beeman R9 is such a popular air rifle, as well as having some unique attributes, I was happy to review it.

Out of the box
Like all Beeman/Weihrauch air rifles, the R9, known as the HW 95 elsewhere, is a beautiful example of a modern adult spring rifle. It comes with a Rekord trigger, which I've mentioned numerous times before, and a fine Weihrauch barrel. The fit of wood to metal is flawless and so is the finish of both. It's an air rifle that will make you proud.

Shooting behavior
The new R9 is something of a "buzzy" rifle. Every one I have shot that wasn't tuned tended to buzz more than I would like. This rifle wasn't entirely developed by Weihrauch. When they bought the BSF factory, they also got a nice, powerful long-stroke spring rifle called the BSF 70. They added their Rekord trigger to the 70's action and the Beeman R10 was born.

The "Son of R1" sired the R9
Beeman called the R10 "Son of R1." It had the same power, though it was maxed out from the factory, while an R1 can go faster and harder after a tune. Some R10s were smooth and some were very buzzy. That aspect transferred to the R9, which is uniformly buzzy when new. It's also one of the most hold-sensitive air rifles there is. Hold an R9 right, and it shoots like a TX200. Hold it wrong, and it shoots like an old Gamo. You have to use the correct technique to get this rifle to shoot.

The R9 incorporated the more expensive R10's features into a rifle with a thin-walled spring tube. Because of the thin wall, it disassembles differently than most Weihrauchs and absolutely cannot tolerate scope mounts that clamp too tight. They will collapse the tube! Other than that, it's a less-expensive R10.

Out of the box, my new R9 fired 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers at an average of 834 f.p.s. - a lot lower than the 1,000 f.p.s. advertised in the early days. After a 500-shot break-in, the average was still just 836. That performance gave Beeman a black eye, so they lowered the stated velocity figure to 930. No longer was an R9 the son of anything. However, the inability to break 1,000 f.p.s. out of the box proved to be no problem for this rifle. Shooters soon learned of its incredible accuracy for a lot less money than a TX, and they started buying lots of them.

As I have said, the accuracy is comparable to the TX200. It takes an extremely soft, neutral hold, but some shooters have learned how to repeat the hold well enough to compete in field target with this rifle.

30-yard target was five .177 Premier lites into a group smaller than 0.375"

40-yard group of Premier lites grew to 0.459"

It responds well to tuning!
Unlike the hell-for-leather R10, the R9 has room for improvement. A good spring gun man can bring the velocity up into the 900s with Premier lites, if that's what you want. I prefer 875, which my R9 did easily after a professional tune. The cocking effort that had been a paltry 27 lbs. from the factory rose to just 33 lbs., which is still on the light side. And, all the vibration was removed. The tuned gun was as smooth as the R1 project I did for you recently, but the recoil was still there. And, that recoil means you can never let up on the holding technique.

The R9 is a poor man's TX200 to a degree that no other spring rifle I've tested can compare. In the right hands, it is a shooter's dream.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Crosman 2300S target pistol - Part 3

Crosman 2300S target pistol- Part 1
Crosman 2300S target pistol- Part 2

by B.B Pelletier

I knew the 2300S was going to be an accurate pistol, so my day on the range was a pleasant one. I tested all pellets for grouping at 15 yards. That doesn't sound like a long range, but I was using the target sights provided. In other words, open sights.

Looking for the right pellet
I struggled at first, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I was able to get four of five shots inside a dime, but there was always one flyer that opened it up to one inch. I tried the following pellets: Crosman Premier 10.5 grain, Crosman Premier 7.9 grain, Gamo Master Point, Winchester hunting pellets, Crosman Premier Super Match, Crosman Copperhead pointed, JSB Exact Diabolo Heavy 10.2 grains, H&N Finale Match (pistol) and Beeman Kodiak.

None of the pellets I recommended so boldly last week in How to find the best pellet seemed to make a difference. Beeman Kodiaks were the best, but even they were not giving me the groups I had hoped to get. Yes, there is a "but" coming. First, I want to cover some interesting things that turned up during shooting.

The sights are incredible!
I have liked the Williams rear sight from the beginning. Once I had the chance to adjust it, however, and see what a fine sight it truly is, my enthusiasm only increased. The click adjustments remain velvety smooth throughout the range, yet each one is as precise as the others. That's true for both windage and elevation adjustments. The adjustment increments are so small that you can "walk" a pellet into the 10-ring without compromise. With some other sights, you might get close; but, with this one, you'll be spot-on if you take the time to adjust the sight correctly. Crosman needs to make this sight available as an option for their other pellet pistols, and I can see it on some entry-level 10-meter pistols, too.

Loading is tricky
I remarked on this in the second part of this report, and the problem continued while I was target shooting. In fact, I have to rule out wadcutter pellets altogether. They are simply too finicky to load into this pistol. Other short pellets, such as Crosman Pointed and Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets, were hard to load, too. What happens is that the pellet gets stuck either in the loading port of the barrel or just before that as it enters the breech. It often flips sideways. If you're not careful, you'll have a pellet jammed sideways in the breech. I kept a .177 cleaning rod on my shooting bench and had to use it several times.

On the other hand Beeman Kodiaks and 10.2-grain JSB Exact domed pellets fed very well. The Kodiaks also proved to be the most accurate pellets of the test, which was good. However, that was only after I discovered THE SECRET to making this pistol shoot.

Beeman Kodiaks gave the best groups, once the power was turned all the way up. Shot from a rest at 15 yards with open sights.

What's the secret?
When I dialed the power from midrange all the way up as far as it went, the groups shrank to just over dime size with most pellets. This isn't a drawback; because, as I reported before, the 2300S gives you way more shots from a powerlet than most other air pistols. So, my advice is to run the gun wide open all the time. The long Lothar Walther barrel keeps the discharge down to a neighbor-friendly level.

I was shooting Gamo Master Points when I upped the power, and the groups suddenly shrank into half the size I'd been seeing. At first, I thought the pellets were completely responsible. While they're a very good pellet, most others were more accurate on high power, as well.

Gamo Hunter pointed pellets were surprisingly good.

The 2300S was designed for airgun silhouette competition in the IHMSA production class. It will probably be shot from the Creedmore position. (with a handgun, the shooter is lying on his back and holding the pistol steady with one or both legs). In that solid position, this revolutionary new air pistol from Crosman will be almost as accurate as a rifle.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Piston bounce:
When is a pellet "JUST RIGHT"? - Part 2

Piston bounce:
When is a pellet "JUST RIGHT"? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Boy, did we ever hear from a lot of readers on this topic! I knew there were questions, but I had no idea so many people wanted to know this stuff.

We ended after the discussion of the pellet starting to move too early and too late. The ideal is for the pellet to start moving when the piston is almost fully forward, so the air cushion stops the piston and the pellet is pushed as hard as possible. The remaining bit of air that will be compressed as the piston settles to the end of the compression chamber only serves to sustain the air pressure an instant longer once the pellet starts moving.

Many shooters do not appreciate that a spring-piston airgun does an incredible amount on work of just the smallest bit of compressed air. That's why all acceleration is over so quickly, and the pellet just coasts down the barrel the rest of the way. So, a shorter barrel on a springer isn't a velocity disadvantage until the barrel gets below 10 inches, or so. The exact optimum length differs with every powerplant and with each caliber, too. However, that doesn't mean that a longer barrel is bad. Shortening a springer barrel is also counterproductive, because the friction in that length of barrel where the pellet is not accelerating is so minimal that it's nearly meaningless.

Can a pellet be too light?
Of course! The proof is felt cleaning pellets that are much too light for most spring rifles. It takes five of them to adequately cushion a Beeman R1, and I wish you good luck trying to load that many. Any less and you get a dry-fire detonation. Super lightweight pellets can also be harmful in powerful springers. I would avoid them altogether.

This is the reason I do not advocate the use of synthetic lightweight pellets in spring airguns. They're too light to adequately cushion the piston, and their synthetic skirt material is too easily engraved by the rifling. All of this adds up to pellets that move too soon.

A real reason to buy a chronograph
Finding a pellet that performs well in a spring gun means you need to know the muzzle energy each pellet is developing. For that you need a chronograph. I've tested spring guns that delivered 16.5 foot-pounds with one 7.5-grain pellet and 18.75 foot-pounds with a different 7.5-grain pellet. The only way to know about huge discrepancies like this is to know what kind of energy each pellet is developing.

What about tight-fitting pellets?
Robert Beeman used to liken a pellet to a champaign cork that pops out violently when the resistance of the cork is overcome. I have tested tight-fitting pellets by seating them flush with the breech and also seating deep into the rifling. The velocity varies, but not by much - maybe 20 f.p.s. or so. Remember, too, once a tight-fitting pellet is inside the bore, it isn't a tight-fitting pellet any longer. After the rifling has engraved the pellet and the bore has sized it, the friction drops to very little. Tight-fitting pellets do affect the velocity in pneumatics and CO2 guns to the extent that sometimes a too-tight pellet that won't move can create a backpressure wave that holds the firing valve open and exhausts all the air or gas.

So, Crimson Sky, that would be my answer to your question about whether or not to shoot heavy pellets in your Diana 34. As you can see, there is a lot to consider.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Piston bounce:
When is a pellet "JUST RIGHT?" - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday's post about picking the right pellets brought a question I hadn't anticipated. When I tried to formulate my answer, I realized it might make a very good blog. Here we go.

Question from Crimson Sky
I've read that using pellets that are beyond a gun's power rating (e.g. a Beeman Kodiak heavy pellet in a Diana 34) can be detrimental. What truth is in this, if any? Just trying to avoid these beginner pitfalls. =) cheers.

An anonymous answer
I think the potential issue in using pellets that are "too heavy" for a given gun is that the internal pressure in the gun needs to get to a higher level before the heavier pellet shoots. If the gun isn't designed for this higher pressure, there could be damage over time.

A Diana 34 is a powerful springer. I can't imagine any reason not to use heavy pellets in this rifle.

That was a good answer
That would have been my answer, as well; but, thinking more about it, I decided to expand the answer. You seem to want to know more, and I'd like to tell you what I do know about this.

RWS USA used to recommend heavy pellets for their big springers
Tim Challener, the technical man at RWS USA, told many people that using pellets that were too light was a primary reason Diana springers broke in new guns. Everyone was wild about shooting faster than 1,000 f.p.s. in the 1990s and breaking springs were a real problem for the powerful Dianas.

The chat forums are loaded with talk about the performance of heavy vs. light pellets
I normally don't read the airgun chat forums except for comic relief, but there are a few people who really do know what they're talking about. Guys like Russ Best will tell you straight out the way things are, so I've learned to pay attention whenever he or a few other writers make their comments.

One topic I've seen in the past few years concerns heavy pellets and piston bounce, so I'd like to address that phenomenon today. When a spring-piston airgun fires, the piston is propelled forward by the mainspring. It compresses the air in the chamber in front of it. As it nears the end of the compression chamber, the air has been squashed down into the tiny volume of the transfer port and a few hundredths of an inch of remaining space in the compression chamber. At this point, the air pressure, which was ambient when the piston started, has risen to over 1,000 psi.

The pellet sitting in the breech of the barrel holds this pressure back for an instant. While it doesn't stay still very long, it's long enough for the air pressure to rise very high.

Depending on the weight of the piston and the strength of the mainspring, there comes a point at which the air pressure is so high that it stops the moving piston before it slams into the front of the compression chamber. That is the reason a well-tuned spring gun can last so long and also why dry-firing can destroy it so quickly.

Then the pellet takes off!
The pellet cannot contain the pressure that's built up behind it so suddenly, so it takes off. As it moves, the volume behind it grows rapidly and the pressure of the air drops off. When the pellet finally exits the muzzle, the pressure has decreased to only a small amount above the ambient, which is why spring guns are so quiet compared to pneumatics and CO2 guns.

And here is the big deal
If you've read and understood how this activity takes place, you should begin to understand that the timing of the pellet starting to move is important to the efficiency of the air rifle or pistol. If it takes off too soon, for instance, the pressure never reaches its potential peak, and the velocity/energy of that pellet is lower than it should be. If it takes off too late and the piston cannot continue to move against the compressed air it's created, it bounces backwards. Hence, the term "piston bounce."

A piston that rebounds prematurely lowers the available pressure and also sends an impulse back into the mainspring that had almost reached its most relaxed state. The impulse is usually very low unless there is a detonation to compound it. If that happens, the piston can slam back far enough to even re-cock the gun in rare instances. But, the rebounding piston has lowered the available air pressure and that has an affect on the muzzle velocity of that pellet.

I'll continue this discussion tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How to find the best pellet

by B.B. Pelletier

This is a question I get asked a lot. Today, it's easy to find good pellets, but back in the 1970s that wasn't the case. Back then, you had to try pellet after pellet in a gun before you would stumble onto something that worked. That was because of bad pellets - not bad guns. In fact, here is something to think about. A 1955 Crosman 160 rifle may have initially grouped five shots in a 1" group when it was new, but today we expect it to group inside 1/4" with good pellets. That's how much pellets have advanced over the years.

So, what's a good pellet?
I have written about this many times, but here we go again. The JSB Exact domed pellets in all calibers and weights are always the place to begin. Most air rifles will shoot them better than any other pellet. That's because these pellets are hand-sorted by weight at the factory. If you take the time to do that with your pellets, almost any pellet will shoot better.

Also consider the Beeman Kodiak (or H&N Baracuda, which is the same pellet). Sometimes, it out-shoots the JSB. I've never found the "match" grades of this pellet to be any better than the standard ones, so I buy them on price, alone. All Crosman Premiers are good, BUT ONLY THE ONES IN THE CARDBOARD BOXES! They are boxed by die number, where the pellets in the round metal tins are not. Sometimes, the tinned pellets are just as accurate, because they are the same in all ways except sorting, but the cardboard box guarantees that what you get is all the same.

10-meter guns are different
Each 10-meter gun needs to be tested not only with all pellet brands (only wadcutters, of course), but also all head sizes - if you want to shoot in competition. If you're just fooling around and plinking, almost any wadcutter is suitable, and some inexpensive ones such as the Gamo Match are real bargains.

What about other pellets?
Many other pellets are very good and should be tried. The Logun Penetrator, for example, can be one of the most accurate pellets in a particular airgun. And, there are many pellets that shoot well - just not the best. I've already listed the best. Start with them.

What pellet should be avoided?
I usually avoid the novelty pellets, such as the new Gamo Raptor. It isn't accurate, plus it develops LESS power in a spring gun than a light lead pellet - so it isn't very efficient, either. I also avoid those pellets with steel tips and other gimmicks. I usually don't shoot synthetic pellets; but, of those I have tested, both the Skenco and the Prometheus brands seem to be the best.

Be sure you have a good gun before testing pellets
You can shoot for days and test every pellet in the book, but your average Chinese air rifle will not perform. It's a waste of time to try to shoot well with it. The Chinese are starting to bring out better air rifles, and the B20 is a long way from where they used to be, but it's still only as good as an average Gamo breakbarrel (not the latest line of Gamos, but the ones made in the 1990s).

Just because I recommended only a few pellets doesn't mean they are the only kind I use. Like you, I have a cabinet full of all sorts of other pellets, and I try to test each new one as it comes out. After all, testing means shooting, and that's ALWAYS fun!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gamo's new Viper Express air shotgun - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

There's been a lot of interest in the Viper Express air shotgun since it appeared on the internet. I saw my first one in February at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. I asked Gamo's U.S. Vice President of Sales what the gun was to be used for and he told me, "Hunting." When I asked what kind of game, he replied, "Squirrels."

Now, no air shotgun other than the Fire 201 can take squirrels, and this gun is one-tenth as powerful as that one, so I eagerly awaited the opportunity to test it. Unfortunately, the gun I received was missing the two plastic shotshells it's supposed to come with, so all I can test at present is the brass pellet insert and also give you some general comments about the gun.

This small brass insert is how you shoot pellets from the Viper Express. It is unrifled.

The manual is sadly lacking!
I am amazed that a reputable company like Gamo would let a new gun like this out the door with the manual it has. It has virtually ZERO instructions about using an air shotgun! There is no reference to how to reload the plastic shotshells, what shot size to use and where to obtain the wads that have to go in either end of the shell. Apparently, they just kicked this gun off the tailgate, hoping people would be smart enough to figure it out by themselves. The manual even makes repeated references to your new RIFLE and not the shotgun!

I suppose the author was given the dirty little job of writing the manual and, because he or she knew little or nothing about shotguns, he or she cut-and-pasted paragraphs from other Gamo manuals. They had to make sure those paragraphs were not specific to other airguns, so you end up with a manual full of palaver that isn't worth the paper it's printed on. The title on the cover is "Handbook Break Barrel Shotgun/Air Rifle," so this little booklet is supposed to do the job.

Pretty weak
A drawing in the manual shows a hunter leading a flying pheasant. From preliminary testing, I have determined that this gun probably will not kill a small mouse past about 15 feet! I shot it at the plastic cover of a small coffee can at 20 feet, and the shot BARELY dimpled the plastic. Squirrels, my eye! How did I do this if there were no plastic shotshells included with the gun? Simple. I just used the brass pellet insert tube and turned it into a shotshell. It is not rifled, so even though it may be not as long as the plastic shells, it still works. This is by no means a conclusive test, but I wanted to get a sense of what I was dealing with and this gave it to me.

At 20 feet, the three shots (of the 12 in the shell) that hit this plastic coffee can lid failed to penetrate the plastic. You couldn't kill a small mouse with this kind of performance, to say nothing of squirrels.

The gun
This is a very attractive breakbarrel single-shot gun. It looks like a sleek 28-gauge upland gun. The exterior "metal" parts are mostly synthetic (except for the spring tube) and the stock is also the gray synthetic Gamo has been using for several years. Grippy rubber pads are inset into the forearm, pistol grip and the rollover ambidextrous cheekpiece. The cheekpiece gives the impression of a Monte Carlo stock profile because it rolls completely over the top of the stock.

The trigger is standard Gamo, which is mediocre by air rifle standards but adequate on a shotgun. The safety is manual, which is good. An 11.5" long 11mm dovetail provides one of the longest scope bases I have ever seen (I believe only the Walther Dominator has a longer one), and there is a proper scope stop hole at the rear. Bravo, Gamo! This rail is aluminum to hold up in rugged service.

The gun is 43.5" long with a 14" pull that puts it square into the adult category. Cocking is very light at 33 lbs., and the piston has an incredibly long stroke for all that power. When the barrel is fully broken open, it resembles a Perazzi single-shot trap gun that breaks open far past 90 degrees. The light 5.75-lb. weight completes the image.

The piston stroke is very long as this shot of the gun fully broken reveals. That's where the power comes from.

I'll be back
Okay, I'm stopping right here. I will come back and go through this gun like a good dose of salts, but that takes time for more testing. By my remarks thus far, you might think I don't like the Viper Express, but that's not true. I do like it. I just think Gamo has done a horrible job of launching a product that general airgunners are not going to understand. Further, because of the company's own lack of airgun savvy, Gamo has portrayed this air shotgun as something it is not - a hunting airgun. If you stick with me, I promise to show you everything you need to know about this surprisingly different airgun.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crosman 2300S target pistol - Part 2

Crosman 2300S target pistol- Part 1

by B.B Pelletier

Apparently, a few of you were as thrilled as I was about this new pistol, because I got comments to that effect right away. Today, I want to look deeper into the gun and explore some of the things advanced airgunners are going to want to know.

For starters, this IS NOT a 2240 with a .177 barrel
We got that comment, and I want to assure you all that this is a completely new airgun. To answer a comment from a couple of weeks back, the receiver of the 2300S is steel, and, as you can see in the picture, it is much longer than the plastic receiver of the 2240. The new gun's receiver is also dovetailed the full length for a scope, unlike the 2240.

Until now, if Crosman pistol users wanted a steel breech for their pistols, they went to someone like Dennis Quackenbush, who makes them as aftermarket options that were retrofited to existing guns. The latest price of one of his complete guns with a steel breech but without the Lothar Walther barrel, the special target sights or the adjustable trigger, was $130. So, the price of the 2300S is right in the ballpark.

Not only is the receiver of the 2300S steel (top), it is also much longer than the plastic receiver of the 2240. The longer receiver holds onto more of the barrel, plus it offers a longer surface for the deep 11mm dovetails.

Ties to the 150
Another person mentioned that he enjoyed Crosman's 150 pistol the most of all. Well, the 2300S has a LOT of ties to the 150, though none of the old parts appears to have been resurrected. The 150 has adjustable power and so does this one. The 150 has a movable piercing pin and, though I have only pierced a few powerlets at this point, it seems the 2300S does, as well. The 150 is all-steel and so is this new handgun. Like I said before, Crosman is making a bold statement with the introduction of the 2300S: they know what their customers really want and are ready to make it for them. I am so used to airgun companies getting all jazzed when they introduce a new line of packaging that this pistol caught me completely by surprise.

Velocity test 1
Because the power is adjustable, I decided to use a single brand of Crosman pellets and test the muzzle velocity at the high and the low ends to see what the limits are. I chose Crosman Copperhead pointed pellets. Because the weight of many of their .177 pellets is 7.9 grains, the numbers I got can just as easily be attributed to other shapes that weigh the same. On the lowest power setting, the first 10 shots gave an average of 422 f.p.s., with a spread from 414 to 428. Going to the highest power setting, the average was 484, with a spread from 475 to 492.

Velocity test 2
Then, I turned the power wheel down from full power one turn at a time, to see what kind of adjustment there was. The first turn yielded no appreciable change. The second turn also saw no measurable change. On turn three, the average velocity dropped to 462, with a spread from 458 to 466. That proved to be a sweet spot for the pistol I am testing. Four turns down showed another small velocity decrease and five did, as well. The average was now down to 444 f.p.s. and the spread was 438 to 450.

Velocity test 3
At this point in the test, the first powerlet had already fired 60 total shots - Crosman's claim for the maximum from a powerlet. I turned up the power to high and got an average of 484 f.p.s. with a spread from 479 to 487. Compare that to the first test on high power, which was started at shot 24. The averages are the same, and the highest velocity is only five f.p.s. slower. At this point, the pistol had 70 shots on the powerlet and was still in the zone. I adjusted to low power and got an average of 415 f.p.s., with a spread from 411 to 425. The average and the high and low have now slipped a few f.p.s., but you are still in the running at 80 shots on the powerlet.

After shot 80, I noticed the classic decline in velocity that comes at the end of a powerlet's life. On high power, shot 81 registered 480, but shot 90 was at 452. Switching to low power for the next 10 shots, the average was 403, but the spread opened up to from 385 to 411. Shot 100 went 385, so we know this powerlet is finished, but 80 good shots from a powerlet is more than anyone has a right to expect, especially when the pistol has this kind of power. What about the claim of 525 f.p.s. maximum velocity? It's possible with lighter pellets, plus the gun should speed up a little as it breaks in.

Pellet feeding
I noticed the pointed pellets had the tendency to tip upon entering the barrel. Twice I had to rod out tipped pellets that were jammed crossways in the breech. The solution is to elevate the muzzle when loading. Once I learned how to do it, I had no more problems.

There is so much more to report on this pistol that I will have to come back to it soon. Tomorrow. I'm going to start my report on another airgun many readers have been waiting for, so I'll give this a rest for several days. I also have a 2300T pistol to test for you, so this series is by no means over!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Crosman 2300S target pistol - Part 1

by B.B Pelletier

I stumbled onto this pistol recently while cruising Pyramyd's website, and I had to tell all of you about it. The Crosman 2300S is more than just a new air pistol. It is a statement the Crosman Corporation is making to the airgunning world. The statement is, "We are in this game to win. We understand our customers, and we know what they want. While we do build many inexpensive airguns, we also know where our strengths lie, and we know how to capitalize on them. And, we know airguns!"

When an airgun manufacturer packages guns like this, we know that THEY care as much about their guns as they hope their customers will.

Out of the box
That's what the new 2300S says to me. For starters, let's look at the box it comes in. It's a plain brown box, but inside there is egg crate foam to hold the pistol securely. That's a detail that, until now, few other airgun manufacturers have understood. I'm so used to carded guns in clamshell packs that this box threw me for a loop. Let's move on.

Installing the rear sight
There is a brand-new rear sight for air pistols, and it comes with this gun! I thought Williams had adapted one of their other sights to the pistol; but, while it does resemble the sport aperture sight they make for Beeman, it is an all-new design. Bravo, Crosman! I am a target pistol shooter and love the fact that the adjustments on this sight are crisp click detents. This thing is American-made and just as good as that phrase always used to mean! It's ALL metal, with crisp detent stops on both adjustment knobs. My only comment is that I believe there should be an index mark on the horizontal scale, like there is for elevation. This sight looks right on this pistol.

This rear sight is a brand-new design from Williams, and Crosman is to be congratulated for putting it on this pistol. Round knob below the sight adjusts the gun's power.

Front sight
The front sight is a round post that looks square when viewed through the rear notch. It sits atop a bright aluminum muzzle weight, whose sole purpose is to elevate the front sight to the correct height. You don't notice the bright finish when sighting, so the whole thing works as intended.

The front sight sits on top of a barrel weight that also protects the muzzle.

Of course, that front sight sits atop a genuine Lothar Walther barrel - the same kind found on the deadly accurate AirForce precharged rifles. I'll find out how good it is when I go to the range. For now, I'm simply impressed by the name. Also the length. This is a 10.1" CHOKED barrel (see - Crosman listens!), so you are going to get lots of efficiency from it. The longer the barrel, the better the efficiency in a CO2 gun.

Adjustable trigger!
The pull weight is adjustable and there is an overtravel screw to stop the trigger blade when the hammer is released. These are features a target shooter demands. I measured pull weights from a low of 2 lbs., 6 oz. to a high of 5 lbs., 8 oz. One grip panel is removed to gain access to the adjustment screw. I do believe this weight range will decrease with use. The overtravel screw is in the rear of the triggerguard and works perfectly to stop the trigger wherever you want.

The trigger-pull adjustment is concealed under a grip panel.

Adjustable power!
This is something I haven't see on a Crosman gun for a long time. A knob at the rear of the action lets you increase and decrease tension on the hammer spring. It's a simple and effective way to control velocity.

I'm just getting started with this pistol, so there will be more to follow.