Thursday, November 30, 2006

Drozd BB machine gun - bulk-fill! - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I have an announcement. The Crosman 2200 I was testing for you is not performing consistently enough for an accuracy test, so I'm sending it off to be overhauled. Until I get it back, that final report will have to wait.

Pyramyd's bulk-fill Drozd is a full-auto airgunner's dream.

There's a lot of interest in BB machine guns these days, and the Drozd is the most available and affordable of the few that are on the market. I reviewed it for you on August 22, 2005, but that was the basic gun. Today I'll start a long look at the model Pyramyd Air has converted to bulk-fill.

Bulk fill
Three things keep the Drozd shooting - BBs, CO2 and six AA batteries. The BBs fit in a removable stick magazine that holds 30 at a time. The batteries last a long time, so the only other thing to worry about is the CO2. Because the Drozd is both powerful and fast-firing, you'll go through a 12-gram cartridge pretty quick. With Pyramyd Air's bulk-fill conversion, you'll have more shots than you know what to do with. And, they'll be cheaper, because bulk gas runs less than CO2 cartridges.

The adapter accepts any standard paintball tank, and Pyramyd supplies a huge 20-oz. tank with the gun. It attaches to a dummy cartridge by a flexible hose that allows the magazine to be removed for loading. Once the tank is connected, there's no need to take it off until it's empty, however nothing prevents you from removing it at any time and no gas is lost.

Size and weight
The tank adds length to the gun, turning it from a large machine pistol into a submachine gun. It functions as a shoulder stock, too. The entire setup with batteries, a full tank and BBs weighs about 6 lbs. and is 25.6" overall. Compare that to the standard gun that weighs 3.5 lbs. and measures 13.75" overall. The weight of the tank in back shifts the balance from the front to the rear, but if you keep the tank tucked under your arm, Rambo-style, the balance feels right.

This gun is controlled entirely by electronics. When you pull the trigger, a solenoid, instead of a mechanical piston, fires the gun. A circuit board controls the number of times the gun fires with one pull of the trigger and the number of rounds per minute it fires. Because the powerplant is CO2, the gun cannot shoot continuously or the action would freeze up. It's been set up to fire either one shot per trigger-pull or bursts of three or six shots.

The gun has three controls. A power switch that doubles as a safety, a selector switch that determines the number of shots with one pull of the trigger and another switch that controls the rate of fire or cyclic rate. The gun can be fired as a semiautomatic, or in the burst mode of three or six shots. The rates of fire are 300, 450 and 600 rounds per minute.

The power switch is on the right. In the down position, as it is now, a red light indicates the circuit is live. That means the gun is ready to fire. The selector switch on the left selects 1 shot (semiautomatic), three- or six-shot bursts.

The cyclic switch determines the rate of fire (rounds per minute).

I'll be testing this rifle for accuracy with steel BBs and lead balls. I'll show the results so you can decide which is better. I'm beginning to understand that the Drozd is more like an airsoft gun than an airgun, so perhaps I have been thinking about it the wrong way. It seems that the most avid shooters want the sound of full-auto fire over the last bit of accuracy and power.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

RWS Diana 54 - Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Let's look at the accuracy of the Diana RWS 54, plus a few things I have learned from testing it.

The range
I picked a bad day to test a pellet rifle. The wind was blowing 10-20 mph, so I had to shoot through it. There was no waiting for the wind to calm down; it never did! Therefore, the distance was reduced from the hoped-for 50 yards to a more conservative 35 yards. We know the rifle is shooting well (.22 Crosman Premiers at 800 f.p.s.), so it should be able to tough out these conditions.

The mount
I promised to show you this, so here it is. I used a B-Square AA 1-piece mount and hung the scope stop pin in front of the Diana scope rail. When the mount tries to back up, the pin prevents it. It's simple and it works. From the picture, you should be able to see why a 2-piece mount won't work.

The front of the Diana scope rail will be used to stop the mount from moving.

The mount extends past the rail on the receiver so the stop pin can be butted against the rail. It looks odd, but it works.

The scope
I used a Sightron SII 4-16x42 scope. Although expensive (over $670), this scope is very compact for its power. It's more the size of a 3-12x, so it doesn't hang over the rifle's loading port. That's an important feature for a sidelever or underlever, because a too-long scope can get in the way of easy loading.

Sightron SII is a compact 4-16x scope. It's pricey but very clear and bright.

I had sighted in the rifle before this day, so it was already pretty close to the mark. I had to crank the rear ring 2.5 turns higher than the front ring to compensate for a bad case of barrel droop. Without an adjustable mount, it would have been impossible to sight in this rifle.

I started with 15.8-grain JSB Exacts, because they're the most accurate pellet in 90 percent of the rifles I test. But the groups I got were disappointing. I was shooting off a sandbag rest and resting the stock directly on the bag - something you never do with a recoiling spring gun. I'd thought the recoil mechanism would compensate for the lack of the artillery hold, but 1" groups at 35 yards are hardly good for a German air rifle. So, I switched to the artillery hold, with my off hand resting on the bag. No improvement.

By this point, I was wondering what was wrong with the rifle, because a 48 or a 52 will group in half an inch at 35 yards all day long. Could it be the pellet? Just as a test, I loaded and shot some .22 Crosman Premiers. The group shrank to an unexpected 0.27" group! There was the accuracy I was looking for!

Shooting JSB Exacts, this was the best group.

Crosman Premiers tightened things up plenty!

Then, I tried shooting directly from the rest and it worked! The 54 doesn't require the technique of a typical spring air rifle. It shoots more like a PCP. After I learned that, I had fun with the gun. On a calm day, I'm sure I could push those groups out another 10 yards.

So, this has turned out to be a very good test. The RWS Diana 54 is easy to shoot, quite accurate, recoiless from the shooter's perspective, powerful and easy on the eye. It's in the same class as the TX200, which is the highest praise I can give.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics - Part 3
Introduction continued

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

I'll try to finish the intro with this post. Several of you have asked about the Whiscombe price and availability. John Whiscombe supposedly stopped building new guns several years ago, but his site is still up. If you read it, it looks like he still makes them, but the last post was in 2003. Mac-1 Airguns sold them for many years but the guns are no longer on their website, as far as I can determine. Pelaire also sold them, but they stopped before 2003. To the best of my knowledge, Whiscombe rifles are no longer being made. If anyone learns differently, please direct me to the website by posting a comment on this blog.

As it turned out, I bought the next to last JW75 made. Most of Whiscombe's customers wanted fixed-barrel rifles, so the JW80 replaced the 75 in the last few years. My rifle came with all four barrels, as I mentioned last time, but I didn't tell you that all four of them are set up for Whiscombe's Harmonic Optimization Tuning System or HOTS. It's an adjustable weight at the muzzle to allow the shooter to "tune" the barrel harmonics to the pellets being used, which is why this blog also addresses barrel harmonics. We will spend more time with the HOTS in the future. My rifle, ordered in 1996 with a thumbhole stock in Grade III walnut, came to $2,350 for everything.

The silver weight can be screwed in or out, changing the barrel vibration harmonics. It's an adaptation of the Browning BOSS that has been used successfully for decades.

When you change pellets or calibers (which means a different barrel), the HOTS has to be retuned. If you think about all the possible combinations, you'll see what a daunting task this can be! That's why it's best to stick with one good pellet per caliber and to index the HOTS weight for that. I haven't done this yet, so I'll use the testing I do for you to establish that for this rifle.

To demonstrate the rifle's potential, I shot a few groups with .177 Beeman Kodiaks at 35 yards. I have no idea if these are the best pellets for the .177 barrel. Of course, the HOTS has yet to be adjusted. The results were close to the best you would get from a TX200, but not quite at the PCP level, which this rifle is capable of. I haven't had much experience with the .177 barrel, either.

At 35 yards, this group of five Kodiaks is good for a spring gun but not quite up to precharged levels. The rifle needs to be tested to find the best pellet for this caliber, then the HOTS needs to be adjusted.

Drawback of the breakbarrel
The barrel has to clear the scope, and that is the biggest drawback to the breakbarrel model. A benefit, of course, is that the breakbarrel is easier to load. I have a 3-12x Simmons on the gun, and it works well, but I cannot mount the Leapers 8-32x that I'd really like to have. The rifle is accurate enough to warrant it.

Trigger and safety
The Whiscombe's trigger is fully adjustable and every bit as nice as any you would find on a premium PCP. The length of the first stage is adjustable, as is the sear engagement and the pull-weight of the second stage. There is also an overtravel adjustment. Despite having to restrain several hundred pounds of force, the trigger is both light and crisp. The automatic safety is a button on top of the receiver that moves back when the rifle is cocked. If the safety hasn't set, the rifle may not be fully cocked. I had a few occurrences with that when I was first learning about the gun. Once taken off, the safety cannot be easily reset.

Worse than a dry-fire
I told you how bad a dry-fire is, but there is something even worse. If you load the rifle first and then cock the pistons, you create a vacuum in the compression chamber. The pellet blocks the air from entering. If you shoot, the pistons are drawn together by the force of both springs and the vacuum between them. That will destroy the rifle.

Adjustable buttpad
I could have gotten an adjustable cheekrest on the rifle; since the buttpad adjusts up and down, I figured a movable cheekrest was superfluous. It's already high enough for scope use.

Well, that's the intro. In the coming months, I'll use the Whiscombe to demonstrate a number of classic airgun facts, including the accuracy benefit, if any, of harmonic tuning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics - Part 2
Introduction continued

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, there was a lot of interest in this gun, so I don't mind showing it to you again so soon. Today, I'll continue our walkaround introduction.

Interchangeable barrels
When I bought my Whiscombe, the fact that I could get barrels in every caliber was one of the factors that helped make the decision. I'm pretty careful with my money when it comes to expensive airguns, but the thought of having all four calibers in one air rifle seemed a bargain, even at the price I paid. Barrel changing is a short procedure, after which it is necessary to sight in the rifle again, despite the fact that the scope never moved. There is more to tell about these particular barrels, but I'll save it for another day.

JW75 could be bought with barrels in all 4 calibers - .177, .20, .22 and .25.

Transfer port limiters
A very funny thing happened when my new rifle arrived. It wasn't funny at the time, but as soon as I knew what was going on it became laughable. I had ordered the JW75 because it was the most powerful breakbarrel rifle I could get. I had tried one of the fixed-barrel JW80s and found it to be difficult to load, so the breakbarrel feature seemed good to me. The difference in power between a 75 and an 80 isn't much. The 75 will pull about 30 foot-pounds, while the 80 will go 32.

The barrel raises for loading. Note the bar under the barrel. It's held in place by twin chisel detents that keep the barrel tight in place for zero air leakage and superior accuracy. This is why I know for a fact that a breakbarrel rifle can be just as accurate as a fixed barrel, because my rifle shoots like a PCP!

But when I tested my new rifle, it shot .22 caliber Crosman Premiers at an average of 577 f.p.s., which works out to 10.57 foot-pounds. I was shocked! Had Whiscombe misunderstood and built this gun to British specifications? I didn't know at the time that the JW75 could never be built to UK specs. I called the U.S. dealer to inquire. He laughed when I told him the problem. It seems Whiscombe ships all guns with a 12 foot-pound transfer port limiter to keep the British government happy. They know the gun is capable of 30 foot-pounds and Whiscombe has the license to export guns they consider to be firearms, but the Home Office feels it's best if the guns get shipped at the "legal" limit (please, lie to me!). All I had to do was remove the limiter and the gun would shoot at full power. I did, and the velocity of Premiers jumped to an average of 920 f.p.s., or 26.88 foot-pounds.

That hole in the receiver is the transfer port. That's where the limiters go. The large flat lever at the bottom opens the barrel for loading. The two chisel detents that hold the barrel in place can also be seen, This rifle is built like an artillery piece! All the metal except for the detents is dark black, but the rifle is polished to a mirror finish.

John Whiscombe had included a number of transfer port limiters with the rifle so I could try it at different power levels if I wanted. Not only did I have a gun with four calibers, I also had the ability to run the spectrum of power levels, from next to nothing clear up to the rifle's maximum. I hadn't known about this feature when I ordered the rifle 10 months before. If I had, the decision to buy would have been a no-brainer.

These Allen screws are the transfer port limiters. The one with the tiny hole at the bottom is the 12 foot-pound limiter that was in the gun when I got it. By removing all limiters and leaving the transfer port wide open, you get the maximum power the rifle can deliver.

We're not finished with the introduction yet. There are still a few more surprises for next time.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Crosman 2200 - Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, this was an interesting test! The 2200 I have apparently has a hardened pump cup. It doesn't pump as much air as it should with each pump stroke, so the gun doesn't reach the power levels it's supposed to.

Remember that the 2200 Magnum is a .22. I tried Crosman Premiers, RWS Meisterkugeln and RWS Hobbys. At first, I tried a Premier with 10 pumps. Velocity ranged from 433 to 452 - which is way too low for this gun. I increased the number of pumps to 15, knowing that each pump stroke only counted as a fractional stroke due to the hard pump cup. Velocity climbed to 514, which is still too slow for the rifle. Jumping to 18 pump strokes, velocity jumped up to 616 f.p.s. To see if I had possibly over-pumped the gun, I fired a second shot, but absolutely no air escaped. So, 18 pump strokes was not too many given the condition of the pump cup.

How do I know it's the pump cup?
How did I know it was a hard pump cup and not a leaky valve? The test for a leaky valve in a multi-pump gun is to pump three times and store the gun overnight. If it will fire in the morning, the valve holds air. With some guns, such as the Daisy 22SG, this procedure isn't recommended because you have to cock the gun in order to pump air into the valve, but the 2200 operates in a more conventional way.

The only other cause for low power would be a weak hammer spring. If that had been the problem, velocity would not go beyond a certain level and there would be extra air in the valve with a second shot. My problem is definitely a hard pump cup.

20 pump strokes!
I decided to go up to 20 pump strokes to see if there was anything left to gain, and, indeed, there was! At 20 pumps, a Premier went 624 f.p.s. That's a gain of 8 f.p.s. for two additional pump strokes, which tells me that 20 is very close to the maximum number of pumps the valve can exhaust. I did not pump it more times because I'm not interested in the absolute last foot-second of speed - just what kind of performance to expect if there was a pliable pump cup in the gun.

Shooting the Meisterkugeln
This was the baseline test since this pellet is the same one Jim House used in his gun the one time he pumped it up 10 times. All the other tests he did were with a maximum of eight pumps, based on his conversation with Crosman engineers. His rifle averaged 590 with Meisters on 10 pumps. My rifle got 595 with 20 pumps and 500 with 10 pumps. That tells me there is no difference between a first variation 2200 Magnum and one made later in the run (House's was made in the late 1980s). The urban myth of a more powerful first model is busted! Also busted is the myth of a Crosman multi-pump more powerful than Benjamin's 392. However, the 2200 is still quite a bit ahead of the Daisy 22SG, which gets about 20-40 f.p.s. less.

Will more oiling help?
As I explained yesterday, I liberally oiled the felt wiper on the pump rod, to get the rifle working again. Was that enough? I did it again and reran the tests to see if there was any improvement. Here's where owning a chronograph pays off! The pump stroke changed in difficulty, and I heard new noises as I pumped. I would have sworn by that evidence that oiling helped, but the chronograph disagreed. There was no significant change in any of the numbers. The numbers don't lie, so I have to assume the extra oil just got in the way. It's not all bad, though, because that oil gets blown into the firing valve from the air reservoir, and those seals need it, too.

I've established that the first variation Crosman 2200 Magnum is no more powerful than any that followed. If you see one and want to get it, go ahead. There's nothing special about an early one except for the finish.

I've also verified that buying an airgun and "putting it aside" is not such a good idea. That's where my like-new gun came from. The first owner had set it aside just because the price seemed good and he liked the look, but pneumatics need to be exercised, or they harden up like this one did. If you own a bunch of pneumatics, you need to take them out and use them from time to time, or this will happen to them.

We'll look at accuracy next.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Crosman 2200 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, since today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the people who make this blog possible - our hosts at Pyramyd Air. They generously give us this wonderful place to explore airguns as much as we like, and for that they deserve our thanks.

Crosman's 2200 Magnum was a great .22-caliber multi-pump of the 1980s.

Now for something old. Jim House wrote the book American Air Rifles, and he recently told me that the .22 caliber multi-pump pneumatic Crosman 2200 Magnum was one of the best-kept secrets of recent times.The first ones, made back in 1978-1980, were supposed to be extra powerful, capable of velocities over 700 f.p.s.! Then, Crosman throttled them back in 1981, so they were no longer more powerful than the Benjamin 392.

House buys them. Why shouldn't I?
House told me that he buys every 2200 he sees unless it is outrageous or in sad shape, and he has them all put back into working condition. If you read about it in his book, he tells you that Crosman engineers now feel the stated maximum pump limit of 10 strokes was too much and that owners should stop at 8. House used a late 1980s gun for his velocity testing in the book, so his max velocity with RWS Meisterkugeln and 10 pumps was 590 f.p.s.

This is why I go to airgun shows!
Well, I stumbled on a real prize at the recent airgun show in Roanoke, Virginia. A first-variation 2200, it has the chromeplated receiver with a dark brown plastic stock and forearm. And, yes, this is one of those rare occasions where the gun really is plated with chrome - just like the metal on a motorcycle! Usually, the plating is nickel, which looks a little golden next to chrome. There were a few 2200s that were nickelplated, but apparently they're quite scarce.

Chrome receiver looks sharp. You can see the scope rail at the top.

The gun is in like-new condition and the price was too good to pass up. Actually, the seller was a friend who cut me a real deal because he suspected what I wanted it for...this report.

This vintage air rifle is almost 39" long, with an adult-sized 13.75" pull. It weighs 4.5 lbs. I must admit that I don't like the feel of a plastic stock, but the gun is quite attractive. If Crosman still sold it, I believe it would give the Daisy 22SG a run for its money.

The tests House published show the 2200 ahead of the 22SG for power, pump for pump. The 22SG has an all-wood stock and comes with its own scope, so there are some tradeoffs to be considered. The 2200 is grooved to accept a scope, and it comes with a nice set of adjustable open sights. While the adjustments are a bit fundamental, they do work, which is all that really matters.

Rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation. Rear screw is loosened and sight pivots in the direction you want the pellet to go.

Fixing a gun the easy way
For all you readers who wonder whether I'm making all this up about how Crosman Pellgunoil saves old airguns, this gun was not accepting a charge until I oiled the pump head, as I have instructed so many of you to do. Of course, I used Pellgunoil for this. Of course, it worked. Even better, this is a "like new" airgun, it still has the sticker on it telling you to do just that! See! I wasn't making it up! Crosman used to tell you to oil the pump head.

This is one of the places I get that advice I give.

We'll check the speedometer tomorrow. Don't eat too much turkey!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

RWS Diana 54 - Part 2

Part 1

by B. B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I noticed that there are some pellet packages in the Pyramyd Air Gift Guide now. If you have someone who wants to give you a nice gift but doesn't know much about airguns, these are great selections. Plus, they're giving the 4th tin free in the promotion! Better hurry, though, because the best pellets will probably sell out as the season progresses.

We're back on the RWS Diana 54 today, but if you are concerned that this rifle or the Whiscombe are going to hog this blog, don't be. I will take plenty of breaks and do other airguns. I'll need the time, because some of my future reports require trips to the range. Let's look at several details I glossed over in the first report.

I told you this is an easy rifle to cock, but now I'll tell you why. The sidelever is arranged to provide superior leverage, and this is true for the Diana models 48 and 52, as well. It's true the sidelever does add some weight to an already heavy airgun, but the cocking advantage makes it worthwhile in my opinion.

The action slides forward and locks up until the gun fires. When the piston springs forward, that pushes the action to the rear. The harsh impulse of the piston coming to a halt stops the action in its tracks, which removes every sense of recoil from the shooter.

The sidelever swings far to the rear, so the mechanical advantage is great. The strange thing about this picture is the fact that the rifle was not cocked! As I tell you in this report, the ratchet was holding the sliding chamber. The lever still goes back another 20 degrees.

Sliding compression chamber
This rifle has a compression chamber that slides to the rear, pushing the piston until it is caught and held by the sear. Then, the chamber is returned to the front to serve as the compression chamber for the shot. When it is in the rear position, the back of the barrel is exposed for loading. You can also see the steel ratchet that catches the sidelever should your hand ever let go during cocking. When the chamber is fully to the rear, that ratchet doubles as the anti-beartrap. Without this mechanism, your fingers would be sheared off if the chamber were to close while your fingers are in the way.

The silver cylinder is the sliding compression chamber.

On the left side of the stock there's a button sticking up. It's the release button for the ratchet, so you can slide the chamber forward once the rifle is loaded. If the button is ever difficult to push, back off, because the rifle is not cocked! The ratchet is holding the chamber, instead. Keep your hands off this button while you load the rifle! That actually happened to me while shooting the pictures for this report!

Here you can see the breech, which is very accessible for loading. The steel ratchet is seen at the bottom of the cylinder and the button standing proud of the receiver is the ratchet release. This one was holding the sliding chamber at the time, though I didn't know it when I took the picture!

Next time, I'll mount a scope and head to the range!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Whiscombe JW75 breakbarrel. I know this is a tiny picture; but in the coming reports, we'll see all the details of this exemplary air rifle.

This report has been a long time coming, but now its time has arrived. It will be a general exposure to Whiscombe air rifles with a discussion of barrel harmonics, because Whiscombe was the only airgun manufacturer who ever sold a system to tune them. I'm doing this report now because of the RWS 54 report. There are several similarities between the two rifles that I think are best discussed when both are in front of us.

Dual opposed pistons
John Whiscombe's chief claim to lasting fame in the airgun world was the invention of dual opposed pistons that increase power and eliminate recoil in a spring-piston air rifle. The pistons are opposed, which means they're facing each other. When the gun is cocked, each piston is pulled back against its own separate mainspring. When the gun is fired, the pistons come the clapping of hands. Instead of a closed compression chamber, each piston acts as the compression chamber for the other piston. They come together at the air transfer port, so all the compressed air is squeezed out the port and behind the pellet.

The challenges were the timing of the pistons, getting both to release at the same time, and building a cocking mechanism that applied equal force to two pistons going in opposite directions. Whiscombe solved all these problems and wound up with exactly what he set out to create, a spring-powered rifle that shoots like a PCP.

Every Whiscombe model has a designator that tells you exactly what the rifle is. The initials JW stand for John Whiscombe and the number that follows is the separation of the pistons in millimeters when cocked. So my JW75 has a 75mm piston separation. Greater separation means more swept volume, which means more air to compress, resulting in more power. Other models were designated as JW50, JW65, JW70, JW75 and JW80. There may have been others, but these are the ones I'm sure of.

Underlever cocking
The Whiscombe is an underlever. The smaller models are cocked by pulling twice on the lever, while the 75 and 80 require three pulls. A toothed gear ensures both pistons are withdrawn exactly the same. The mechanism is well-designed and robust, but I get the impression that it's rather like a bumblebee that, according to aerodynamic engineers, should not be able to fly. I try not to think about it too much.

You are now seeing where few airgunners have ever looked. This is the cocking mechanism of a Whiscombe in action. A geared rod moves each piston in the appropriate direction. The JW75 requires three pulls on the underlever to cock.

Actually, Whiscomes are very robust, but they will not tolerate idiots. If an owner tries to disassemble his rifle without knowing exactly what he's doing, he'll break it straightaway. And, the rifle simply cannot stand being dry fired even once. The first one will damage the gun, necessitating repairs. Think about it - two pistons come together and each serves as the end of the compression chamber for the other. The only thing protecting them is the thin cushion of compressed air that stops them from colliding at speed. A dry fire is a head-on collision of the pistons that destroys their seals. A Whiscombe owner must act like the owner of a Ferrari. You operate the equipment within the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer and forget going to Jiffy Lube or Midas Muffler (or Smiling Jack's airgun shop, in this case)!

To avoid confusion
No, the rifle does not develop less power if you only pull the underlever twice. The trigger does not engage the sear until the end of the third pull. In fact, until you develop the knack, it's possible to think you have fully cocked the rifle when you haven't. Yes, it is possible for an underlever gun to also be a breakbarrel. The barrel breaks for loading only, not for cocking.

I'll cover these points in greater depth in future reports.

Monday, November 20, 2006

RWS Diana 54 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Diana RWS 54 looks like the 48 and 52, except for the checkered stock. The 52 has pressed checkering but these diamonds are all cut!

Okay, had enough action BB pistols for a while? Good! Today, I'm starting an in-depth look at a rifle that's had some interest from readers of this blog.

Same power as a 48/52
The Diana RWS 54 is a 48/52 as far as the action goes. It develops the same energy/velocity and should have the same accuracy, with one exception that I'll mention in a moment. The sights are the same and as is the powerplant, so this is a rifle I have covered adequately except for one thing. This one is recoilless. Or, more to the point, it does recoil, but the shooter is insulated from the recoil by a sledge-type anti-recoil mechanism built into the stock.

What IS a sledge-type anti-recoil system?
It's a system where the rifle action is isolated from the stock by a pair of steel rails. When the gun fires, the action moves in recoil, but the shooter who holds on to the stock doesn't feel it. The weight of the rifle action keeps this movement down to a fraction of an inch. Feinwerkbau used the same system on their model 150 and 300 10-meter target rifles. It works well as long as the rifle is fired more or less level. If you shoot straight up or down, it tends to not work as well.

Here is what the sledge system does for you. You know all that stuff I write about holding the rifle as loose as possible, so it can recoil as much as it wants to? Well, the sledge system accomplishes that for you. In theory, this rifle should be easier to shoot accurately than either the 48 or 52. We shall see when I get out to the range.

The rifle I'm testing isn't brand new, so the first thing I did was shoot it to see what sort of velocity it had. If there was anything wrong with the powerplant, I would correct that before proceeding. Fortunately, there was nothing wrong. The rifle shoots just like it should, which is a Crosman Premier 14.3-grain pellet traveling just over 800 f.p.s., or just over 20 foot-pounds. The extreme spread for 10 shots was excellet...only 10 f.p.s. Although this is a used rifle, it shoots like a new one.

It came with an RWS C mount attached, and I have lectured about how these mounts are not suited to Diana rifles. I'll show you what I mean. I know it seems wrong that an importer like RWS would specify the exact wrong scope mount for all their spring guns, but it's true. You absolutely cannot clamp tightly enough to the scope rail to avoid slippage no matter what mount you use, and the Diana rifles have inadequate scope stop provisions. You have to hang a stop pin over the front of the scope rail, or you will have the damage shown here.

The RWS C mount has two recoil stop screws with points at their ends. They are supposed to engage holes in the top of the scope rail.

And this is what happens every time! This rifle wasn't shot much with this mount installed, or the grooves (there is another one just like this) would be longer.

The scope rail is aluminum and the C mount is steel, so there is no stopping the mount when it wants to move under recoil.

This is a sidelever rifle, meaning you pull back on the lever on the right side of the action to cock it and make it ready for loading. I measured the effort at 33 lbs., which is consistent with all Diana sidelevers, despite the fact that RWS says 39 lbs. A sliding compression chamber comes back to cock the piston, and a ratchet safety mechanism holds it back. A button on the left side of the action next to the loading port must be pushed to release the sliding chamber after loading. A word of caution here. The ratchet will hold the chamber and piston in the rear position even when the piston has not been caught by the sear. Always keep a hand on the sidelever when you push that button!

I'll get into all that in the next installment.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Crosman Pro77 - Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Time for the performance report on the Crosman Pro77 BB pistol. We know it's a blowback, and with the test of the Walther CP99 Compact so fresh in out minds, don't we expect this pistol to turn in similar results? Those were my thoughts as this part of the test approached.

You can load up to 19 BBs into the stick magazine (the spec says 17, but 19 will fit) through the same loading hole that the CP99 Compact uses. The spring-loaded follower works the same way, too. But I have to comment that the Crosman magazine is much more fragile than the Walther mag. Mine came apart at the start of testing and from that point I was constantly putting the floorplate back on. It's held in place by two rather thin plastic latches and one of them on my mag is bent and useless. While a replacement mag will solve the problem, it will not correct the inherent weakness of this design.

The Pro77 has the same tendency to drop a BB out of the muzzle each time the trigger is pulled when the gun is uncocked - just like the CP99 Compact. A reader just told me that he sometimes worked the trigger of his uncocked P99 Compact between shots and got double feeds when the BB didn't fall from the muzzle, so you definitely don't want to do that!

Using Crosman Copperhead BBs, I saw similar accuracy at 15 feet with the Pro77 as the best groups with the CP99 Compact, or, let me rephrase that - this gun grouped well from the start. Actually the two guns grouped about the same one inch after I got used to the Compact, but the better sights of the Pro77 made it easier to hold those groups from the beginning.

The trigger that I had liked so well before shooting BBs suddenly decided to hang up, leaving the pistol with an very indecisive one-stage pull that could go two-stage at any time. Had that not happened, I believe the groups might have improved.

Hold-open device failed
For some reason the device that holds the slide open after the last shot is fired quit working during accuracy testing. The only way to make certain of whether the gun was loaded was to remove the magazine and examine it. Now that's a safety measure anyway, but it is odd that the hold-open function quit working. I believe the reason for this failure is the action is over-lubricated. The slide release that springs up to catch the slide seems to be slowed down by excessive oil.

When the magazine is empty, the slide release is suppose to spring up and catch the slide like this. Too much oil and a weak spring caused intermittent operation.

It was 52 degrees when I tested the pistol's velocity. That's very significant, because 50 degrees F is where CO2 guns start losing major velocity. Using Crosman Copperhead BBs, I averaged 256 f.p.s. with an extreme spread from 249 to 267. Had the temperature been 68 degrees, as it was for the CP99 Compact test, I believe the average velocity might have been about 275 f.p.s.

Hard case
The Pro77 comes in a hard black plastic carrying case, as opposed to the plastic clamshell packaging on the P99 Compact. The triangular case has two latches to secure the lid and egcrate foam inside to protect the gun.

Although the Pro77 is meant to be a P99 Compact competitor, there are several subtle differences between the two guns. The Pro77 has just been launched as this is written, so buyers have to give Crosman a chance to catch up with their orders. The basic gun has already sold out at Pyramyd Air, but they do have the kit for just a few more dollars. I'm sure they have the guns and magazines on order, as this promises to be one of the hot items for this Christmas season.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Crosman Pro77 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman's new Pro77 is an exciting BB repeater with blowback action.

Okay, today I'll bring you this little treat. The Pro77 is one of Crosman's 4 Horsemen of the Airpocolypse, which have been so highly touted by them and just as eagerly anticipated by airgunners. I reported on the Crosman C11 on October 24, so this is the second Airpocolypse pistol I am testing for you.

Uncanny resemblance!
The Pro77 is obviously positioned to compete with the CP99 Compact, which I've just finished reviewing for you. It's the same size, single-action only, 17 shots in the stick magazine and so on. Only $6 separate the basic guns here at Pyramyd Air. The two guns do hold differently, though. The CP99 Compact grip feels larger than the Pro77 grip. The Pro77 grip is more angular than the CP99 Compact grip. All subtle differences for sure, but noticeable when you have both pistols to hold.

The Pro77 is a blowback BB repeater. At just 22.5 oz. with a Powerlet and empty magazine onboard, it's noticeably lighter than the 29-oz. Walther. The metal slide has enough mass to impart the realistic feeling of recoil every time the pistol fires. There is also a Weaver accessory mount on the underside of the frame, just forward of the triggerguard. Although this is the same on the CP99 Compact, this mount is about a quarter-inch longer, which means it will be easier to mount lasers to this pistol.

Like the CP99 Compact, the Pro77 has a polymer frame with a metal slide, trigger, sights and controls. The Pro77 also has an external hammer and that is metal, as well. Both guns are finished a dull black, very reminiscent of modern tactical firearms.

Unlike the Walther pistol, the Powerlet on this gun hides in the underside of the grip. The magazine covers that objectionable thumbscrew, so everything looks copacetic.

They tucked the CO2 loading port inside the bottom of the grip, where it doesn't show. Once the magazine is in place, there is no clue to how the gun is filled.

Trigger and hammer
Being single-action only, the gun must be cocked to shoot. Pulling the trigger when the gun isn't cocked accomplishes nothing. Fortunately, the Pro77 has an external hammer that can be thumbed back at any time, so cocking and decocking is a very easy one-handed operation. Of course, every time the slide blows back, it recocks the hammer. The trigger is a wide, deeply curved blade. Pull weight measures 4 lbs. with a surprisingly crisp release.

An external hammer makes cocking and de-cocking easy with just one hand. The safety lever is also a one-handed operation!

The switch is located on the upper right of the frame and easily controlled by the shooting hand. It is a trigger disconnector, not a de-cocker. This feature on the Pro77 is way ahead of the difficult de-cocking safety on the CP99 Compact.

Possibility of dot sights and scopes?
Because the slide is balanced to the gas that pushes it back, you can't just add a dot sight or scope to it. It won't function reliably. A mount has to attach to the frame and enclose the slide without touching it-birdcage fashion. Such mounts already exist, so I think it's only a matter of time before Crosman (and Umarex) offer them with these BB pistols.

I will finish this report tomorrow. Then, on Monday, something entirely different and fresh!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Walther CP99 Compact - Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday we looked at the pistol, today we'll see the downrange results.

Gas consumption
I loaded a fresh powerlet and shot the gun without a magazine to see how many shots I'd get before the slide stopped blowing back. After shot 80 the functioning became intermittent, sometimes working and others not. The slide wasn't blowing back far enough to cock the hammer. Since the gun is single-action only, it would not fire. By shot 90, it no longer cocked the gun on any shot, though there was still gas left in the powerlet. This is not quite as good as the CO2 version of the PPK/S, which I attribute to the somewhat greater velocity of the CP99 Compact.

To load the stick magazine, you first compress the follower spring and lock it in that position. Some guns do not lock reliably, leading to a mess when the follower releases. I'm happy to say that the CP99 Compact magazine follower locks reliably.

An odd quirk!
While shooting, I noticed that every time I pulled the trigger on a loaded but uncocked gun, a BB would fall out of the muzzle. I can hear a mechanism moving inside the gun, so apparently this pistol uses a mechanical bolt to push the BB from the magazine as the blast of gas hits it. It's a new one on me, but I thought you should know about it. Remember, every time you put the safety on, the hammer is uncocked and has to be recocked by pulling back on the slide when the safety is taken off.

Because Crosman literature accompanied the gun I tested, I used their Copperhead BBs exclusively.

This is a minute-of-pop-can gun, not a target shooter. That said, it did respond well to a target pistol hold, with 15-foot five-shot groups shrinking from 3" to about one. The rear sight notch is too wide for the front post, so some of the group size may be due to imprecise aiming. The sights are not adjustable, though I found them to be generally right-on at that distance.

The average velocity on a 68-degree F day was 300 f.p.s., with a spread from 292 to 311. There was evidence of the cooling effect of CO2, as the velocity did drop toward the end of the string, despite my waiting 10-15 seconds between shots. On a very hot day, you can expect these numbers to be higher by 20-30 f.p.s.

There are two safety points I wish to raise. First, when the gun is cocked, there is a red indicator visible at the rear base of the slide. I am colorblind, so the red dot has to be in bright sunlight for me to see it (Umarex, are you listening?) but it shows clearly in the photo I took. The second issue is that the slide locks in the open position after the last BB has been fired. You are prevented from firing an additional shot, just as with the firearm. This means that when the slide is forward, you should assume the gun is both cocked and loaded.

When the gun is cocked, the red signal appears under the rear of the slide.

Slide locks open when the last shot is fired.

I found the CP99 Compact to be a wonderful fast-action BB repeater. It's just as much fun as the PPK/S and a close copy of the firearm it imitates. Airgunners should know that there is a choice between the pellet-firing CP99 and this pistol. This one's a true semiautomatic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Walther CP99 Compact - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

With Casino Royale coming out on November 17, there's bound to be renewed interest in the Walther CP99 family of air pistols. I reported on the CP99 Compact already, but many of you have had a lot of interest, so I'm doing it again. This time, we'll look at the gun in a different light.

CP99 Compact
The CP99 Compact is a BB-firing CO2 pistol. It's modeled after the P99 Compact, a concealed-carry version of the P99. There are several different versions of the Compact, each with a different type of trigger, and the CP99 Compact appears to be modeled after the single-action only (SAO) gun. To fire, the hammer must be cocked first. The only way to do that after loading a fresh 12-gram CO2 Powerlet or putting the safety on is to pull the slide to the rear and release it.

The Powerlet goes in the back of the grip. Don't forget to put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of each Powerlet!

The pistol weighs a bit over 29 oz. with a fresh Powerlet and empty magazine aboard. It has a fat grip, the result of modeling the gun after a pistol that uses a double-stack magazine to gain cartridge capacity. The barrel is 3.5" long. When coupled with the blowback slide, I expect a muzzle velocity of around 300 f.p.s. or perhaps a little more. A Weaver rail (according to the Walther website) under the slide and forward of the triggerguard is for mounting accessories. As of this writing, there are no accessories to fit it. There is a laser that's supposed to be available soon, and we will eagerly await it.

Trigger and safety
As mentioned, the non-adjustable two-stage trigger is single-action only, which means the gun must be cocked before firing. When you put on the safety, the gun is also uncocked, which is a good thing. That way, you can store it with CO2 but not cocked. The trigger-pull is a long first stage followed by a short second that releases at 5 lbs. There is some creep in the second stage.

The safety is a strange lever that takes a deliberate push rearward to unlock the switch so it can be moved. To aid you, the safety has three large ridges to catch the thumb. I don't know what the reasoning is behind such a design, but as a shooter I have to say I don't like it one bit.

The safety must be pushed to the rear to allow the lever to swing from safe to fire and vice-versa.

Blowback action
Every time the pistol fires, the metal slide blows to the rear to simulate the action of the firearm. The mass of the moving slide causes the pistol to feel like it is recoiling. Some CO2 gas is used for this function, so the total number of shots is affected. As they did with the PPK/S CO2 pistol, the designers have reduced the velocity to compensate for this. As a result, there are still plenty of shots in every Powerlet. One nice thing is that the velocity of the slide is slow enough to see the slide move, which is mesmerizing by itself. I would imagine a gunstore owner could sell lots of these pistols just by occasionally firing one with no magazine in the gun.

The magazine holds 17 BBs under spring tension. They're loaded through the large dark hole on the left.

Tomorrow, we'll look at velocity and accuracy. Then, I have a special treat for you!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gamo's new Viper Express air shotgun - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Have you looked at the Christmas Gift Guide on Pyramyd's website, yet? It's a great place for friends and relatives to find the things you really want.

Okay, today we return to the the Gamo Viper Express air shotgun. I went to Gamo's US website to see what they have to say, but there is very little technical info there. They do say this gun is for hunting small game and birds (which are small game) at close to medium distances. I disagree. Maybe you could take a roosting sparrow at 20 feet, but to push the envelope out farther or to go after larger animals would be unsportsmanlike, in my opinion. And, PLEASE, let's hear no tales of scaring off domestic pets with it!

I checked the shotshell velocity again and found that it had increased to 598-601. That's better and more in line with what I would expect. The shot charge weighs 15.3 grains, so now we are up to about 12.2 foot-pounds. However, you cannot use that energy to calculate the effectiveness of this gun on game. Because it is a shotgun, only the shot that actually hits your quarry transfers energy, so we first need to establish what the pattern looks like.

I used a white sheet of paper placed at 10 yards on a stout cardboard box. The box had both two- and four-fold thicknesses that enabled evaluation of penetration. The first shot was quite revealing, as the photos show.

This pattern was obtained at 10 yards. The black circle was the aim point. Notice the large areas devoid of any hits. In shotgunning parlance, this is what's known as a "blown" pattern.

Nineteen holes show, but I think two shot went through the same hole somewhere. Notice the large areas in which there are no holes. This is a poor pattern that shotgunners would call a "blown" pattern, meaning the voids (areas where there's no shot) in it.

The tin of pellets gives some scale to the pattern and the holes in it. You can see other spots just as large that also received no shot.

The first pattern is rather tight at the center, so I shot a second one to confirm or dispel this trait. If you could count on the shot holding together this tight at 10 yards, the gun might be able to take pigeons and squirrels reliably.

This second pattern is more evenly distributed, however it also has some voids. The pattern should be round, but 20 shot aren't enough to give a distribution like that.

On shot No. 1, 14 of the 20 shot made it through both sides of the box. Six of those passed clear through four thicknesses of box, because of some reinforcements they had to pass through. That's very good 10-yard performance for No. 9 shot that starts out going only 600 f.p.s.

Hunting - yes or no?
A resounding NO! Too few shot make a blown pattern that has limited effectiveness on game...even at close range. This is always a problem for air shotguns, and especially for this one, which is the midget of all of them. Hunting game with this gun would be cruel.

There are other things to shoot. Like insects, for instance. How I would love to go after carpenter bees with a Viper Express. What about that nest of yellowjackets in your backyard when the climate gets very dry? The shots would have to be taken closer than 10 yards, which would add a sporting side to the challenge.

We still need a good way to reload the empty shells, so there's going to be at least one more report on this gun.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Marksman 1010 - Part 3
An air pistol that has endured

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, we saw how the Marksman 1010 operates. Today, let's look at how well it performs downrange. Remember, I am shooting the Marksman 2000 instead of the 1010. It's a very similar air pistol, but there are the differences I've mentioned.

A single-stage trigger that breaks at more than 8 lbs. is not conducive to precision target shooting. I'm estimating the one on the 2000 breaks at 10 lbs. plus. My trigger gauge tops out at 8 lbs., so that's just a guess. It's perfect for kids and for those new to shooting because it forgives the deadly sin of resting the trigger finger on the trigger; but veterans shooters will find it very difficult to use. There's no way to know how the trigger feels until you cock the gun. Once it is cocked, it cannot be uncocked. It must be fired.

The trigger on my older model 1010 is a little lighter and a lot smoother. Maybe, there's a break-in period.

The old MPR has simple vestiges of sights instead of real working sights. The joint where the two metal halves of the external frame come together runs through the center of the rear sight notch. The older 1010 I have has a very sharp rear sight, but the notch and front blade are both quite thin.

In the 2000 model, a better Patridge front sight was added, but someone changed the once-ideal rear sight to a U-shaped notch that doesn't work well with a square front. Even though the 2000 is finished in silver and the rear sight is also silver, it's easy to pick up the black front sight under good lighting conditions. Under poor conditions, though, the rear sight blurs to an indistinct speed bump in your line of sight.

Marksman 2000 rear sight is a groove. Silver color makes sighting difficult unless the light is perfect.

Front sight on the Marksman 2000 is this modified Patridge post atop a ramp.

The first target test was with RWS Hobbys. From 15 feet, I attempted to shoot a group on a target. Two out of five pellets actually hit the 5" square target paper. When one completely missed the safety backer board (three feet square) that stood behind the pellet/BB trap, I ended the session. Accuracy with lead pellets, Hobbys in this case, is very poor.

BBs were next. I loaded a slew of Daisy BBs into the magazine and proceeded to shoot at the target. From 10 feet, I wasn't able to stay on paper, so I went up to six feet, where a 3" group was my best result. Three inches for five shots at six feet is pretty poor performance from a pistol shooter who has a national ranking (NRA Sharpshooter in 10-meter pistol)!

Marksman darts grouped okay, at about 4" for five shots from 10 feet. If you used a conventional dartboard as your target, this would be a fun gun to shoot. There would be an element of luck involved, but skill would also play a part in your score.

The black dot was the aim point, and this was the best group of five darts shot from 10 feet. Target was just a cardboard box.

Almost as an afterthought, I decided to try shooting Gamo Raptors, too. This is a smoothbore pistol, so the hard zinc (I believe) material they are made from should not be a factor, as far as accuracy goes. They were the clear velocity champions, which should help with accuracy and penetration in a pistol of this low power.

Gamo Raptors were the real surprise, out-grouping other pellets and BBs in the Marksman 2000, as this group from 10 feet shows. Only four holes appear, but two pellets passed through one of them. The aim point was three inches low and two inches to the right.

One reader commented that his 1010 will not penetrate a cardboard box, though he didn't specify what ammo he was shooting. I was surprised to see BBs penetrating a fairly stout cardboard box I used as a target during the chronographing session, but the Hobby pellets just bounced off. The Raptors, however, zipped through with no problem.

I learned a lot during this long test and examination. First, I learned that the Marksman 1010 is not the hopeless case I had always thought. By reading the owner's manual and using the pellet/dart seater, it shoots as advertised. Second, I confirmed that it's just a general plinking airgun and not a target shooter. No amount of care will provide groups worth bragging about. However, Gamo Raptor pellets gave the best velocity and accuracy in my test gun. I hope this look helps you to make an informed choice about this gun.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Marksman 1010 - Part 2
An air pistol that has endured

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, we looked at the history of the Marksman 1010. Today, let's look at the gun.

A strange spring-piston gun
The 1010 is a spring-piston airgun unlike any other that I know of. When you cock it, you first release the slide, which pops back under slight spring pressure. Then, you pull the slide all the way back to position the piston. Returning the slide to battery (the locked forward position) puts tension on the mainspring and completes a cocking sequence that is unique in all of airgun-dom, as far as I know.

Push the slide release down, and the slide pops back like this.

Pull the slide all the way back like this. When it stops, push it forward until the slide release catches it again.

Before we discuss loading, we have to talk about the ammunition the pistol uses. It shoots BBs, darts, pellets and another longer dart-like projectile called a bolt. That's four different types of ammo that shoot in one airgun. Except for BBs, all the ammo must be fired single-shot. As many as 18 BBs fit into a magazine above the barrel. They're fed by gravity when you cock the pistol, as long as you hold it correctly during cocking!

BBs MUST be loaded through the magazine. They cannot be loaded singly into the barrel. Pellets are loaded directly into the barrel, as are darts, but each must be seated to the correct depth in the barrel. For that, Marksman provides a seating tool, but it was missing from my early MPR. I believe that is the chief reason I did not enjoy my first pistol. Also, I didn't have a manual. I was unaware of how important both are to the correct operation of this pistol! I must have acquired my gun used and just thought I could figure it out on my own. After reading the manual of my new Marksman 2000, I have to warn everyone that this pistol is different. The dart-like bolt does not require the use of the seating tool and is loaded directly into the barrel.

When the barrel flips up, you can see the square BB magazine and the round breech.

The gun must be cocked before loading. When it is cocked, pressing in on a button below the muzzle flips up the breech for loading. After loading a pellet, dart or bolt, just press the breech back into position and the gun is ready to fire. If you loaded BBs into the magazine, there is one more important step. The muzzle must be elevated to feed a BB into the breech. If you shoot BBs, you never need to open the barrel again as long as BBs remain in the magazine, but you must remember to raise the muzzle each time you cock the gun to feed the next BB.

Power has always been the weak suit of this pistol, though I suspect it wasn't quite as bad as I once believed. Because I tried to shoot pellets that were improperly loaded, I had little success with them. BBs were problematic, because I didn't know about elevating the muzzle when cocking. My ignorance limited me to just darts (bolts hadn't been invented for this gun back in the 1970s), and I was even loading them improperly!

I shot the 2000 for velocity, because it is the newest gun I have. The rated velocity is 220 f.p.s. Daisy BBs (5.1 grains) averaged 187 f.p.s., with an 8 f.p.s. spread. RWS Hobbys (6.9 grains) averaged 123 f.p.s. with a spread of 6 f.p.s. Gamo Raptors (5 grains) averaged 217 f.p.s. with a spread of 20 f.p.s. That made them the velocity champs. Too bad that 300 pellets cost more than the gun! Finally a 12.7-grain Marksman dart (I used the same dart for all shots) averaged a turtle-esque 64 f.p.s. with a spread of just 5 f.p.s.

Conclusion? I may have misjudged the 1010 for three decades! It's a worthy little air pistol with a lot of attractive features. Until airsoft guns came on the scene, it was the only game in town for those wanting a low-powered plinker. And, the discharge noise is about the same as a mouse cough, so those with snoopy neighbors now have a stealthy shooting option.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Marksman 1010 - Part 1
An air pistol that has endured

by B.B. Pelletier

The pistol we know today as the Marksman 1010 has been around in some form since I was a little boy back in the 1950s. In those days, it was made by Morton H. Harris, Inc. of Beverly Hills, California (!!!!). The company moved several times in the early years and ended up in Torrence as the Marksman company. The first gun they made (model MP in 1955) was all metal and looked keen (the 1950s version of "way cool"), so we all wanted one. It was heavy, which translated to power in our minds. It looked like a .45 automatic, so a semiautomatic operation was inferred, as well. In fact, the gun of those early days was a single-shot and not very powerful at all.

I truly lusted after that early $6.95 black beauty ($8.95 for chrome), but it wasn't until the 1970s that I bought my first one. By then the price had escalated to $9.95. I was an adult, but I just had to satisfy that itch that started two decades earlier. The gun was still all metal, but it had been turned into a repeater for BBs, while still shooting pellets and darts single-shot. It was called the model MPR (Marksman Pistol Repeater, 1958-1977), and it was now made in Los Angeles.

My old Marksman MPR was the direct ancestor of the 1010. Made until 1977, is was all metal on the outside.

I was also shooting a lot of .45 ACP and .45 Long Colt at this time, so you can imagine my surprise to discover the low velocity this pistol produced. Of course, I had previously owned a Whamo Kruger that was lucky just to get the BB out the barrel, so the 150-200 f.p.s. (or so) of the Marksman was an improvement. I say "or so" because chronographs weren't affordable in the '70s. Until I did the research for this piece, I never really knew how fast things were going.

That early Marksman of mine was so weak that lead pellets simply bounced off target paper; sometimes when I didn't seat them deeply enough they didn't even leave the bore! BBs and darts were the only usable ammo. I found darts to be the best because they stick in a dartboard with the slightest provocation, which is about all they're going to get. I disliked the clumsy BB repeating function, which is really problematic until you develop the knack for it.

For some reason, I hung on to that pistol all this time and still have it today. It no longer works, having stopped about 15 years ago, but I could never bring myself to throw it away - sort of like the spare set of keys in your junk drawer that fits your last car.

Dawn of the 1010
The 1010 was the next logical step, and manufacturing technology began to creep in - in the form of plastic parts. I have avoided testing one until now. My experience with the earlier gun wasn't good, and I really didn't want to have anything more to do with one until one of our readers asked for it. Since times and airguns both change, here we are.

The first 1010 was nearly identical to the MPR, except it has some plastic parts. The front sight and grips appear slightly different, too.

I obtained an older version of the 1010 that is mostly metal with a little bit of plastic (barrel shroud, trigger, slide release and safety), and for this test I just bought a new Marksman 2000, which is a 1010 with a silver frame, separate black plastic grip panels and a black plastic slide. In many ways, it's the same as the 1010, but apparently the new 1010 is all plastic. I wasn't able to buy one of those, so the 2000 will have to stand in for it. The firing mechanisms are identical.

This Marksman 2000 is the same physical structure as the 1010, except that it still has some metal parts on the outside. A real 1010 is all black.

Well, that's a little bit of the history; tomorrow, we'll look at the design and some of the performance.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The QB78: A copy of the Crosman 160/167

by B.B. Pelletier

QB78 is a good copy of Crosman's famous 160/167 air rifle. It is available in both .177 and .22.

Many airgunners are fond of saying they wish such and such an airgun was remade. "If they would just remake the Crosman 600, I'd buy one!" Well, in 1986 Daisy remade a very accurate copy of their pre-1920 No. 25 pump BB gun, and I didn't buy one - despite being one of those who was most vocal about wanting it. Years later, I had the privilege of paying nearly twice what Daisy had asked when the replica was new.

The Crosman 160
Not long after Crosman quit making the 160 rifle, the same cry went up from the airgunning crowd. Used gun prices escalated and everyone said they would buy a replica if they were made again. So, a man named Henry Harn did just that. He had Tim McMurray build a custom 160 with several of his most popular modifications, and Harn took it to China to have it copied. The resulting rifle was called the QB22 in .22 caliber and the QB77 in .177. The price of the new rifle was apparently so high that sales were not as good as anticipated, and within a few years the gun was becoming hard to find.

The QB78
By then, the Chinese came out with their own version of the gun, a rifle they called the QB78. This rifle exists in both .177 and .22; the model remains the same for both. It sold for less than half what the other copies retailed, and sales were brisk from the start. A QB78 looks like a QB22/77 that hasn't been given the same attention to finishing. At its heart, it is a rather faithful copy of the original Crosman 160/167 in its most-evolved form. A discussion of those features follows.

The final Crosman 160 trigger was adjustable, and a very nice one for the price. The QB78 also has an adjustable trigger with a manual safety. To adjust it, the action is removed from the stock, and then a sideplate is removed from the unitized trigger. You can adjust pull-weight, sear engagement and overtravel - very sophisticated for this under-$100 price range.

The 20" barrel is the one shortcoming of the 78. Not that it is inaccurate, because plenty of them are very accurate. But quality control hasn't been as good for the QB78 as it was for the Crosman and QB22/77 rifles that preceded it. If you get a good one, you can rejoice. Most of them are good, I'm sure, but there always exists the specter of a bad barrel.

Power source
Power source is one area where the Chinese have surpassed Crosman. The basic rifle uses two 12-gram Powerlets to get a good number of shots. I've heard up to 80 shots reported from a set of Powerlets, though I would rate it more conservatively at 60 shots. The old Crosman 160 got only 30-35 shots per set of Powerlets, so things have advanced pretty far. Once a shooter gets the QB bug, Powerlets soon give way to bulkfill. The original Crosman also had a bulk adapter option, but the technology has advanced way beyond where Crosman left off. The target version of the gun even has a lever to exhaust the remaining gas and chill the gun to receive a full fill. That's to prepare it for a 60-shot match.

The gun has also been adapted to operate on paintball tanks - sort of a People's AirSource cartridge. So, the filling options are many, and shooters can operate this airgun quite inexpensively.

The QB78 comes with adjustable open sights. More importantly, it has an 11mm dovetail rail for scopes. That's something the old 160s lacked. The target version of the rifle has optional aperture sights from China. They copy an old version of the FWB 300 sight and are very useful for match shooting.

This is the 78's real strength. Because it's so affordable, a great number of people are offering modifications. Many airgunsmiths learned their trade of this rifle and are now pleased to pass it along.

Because of all the modification possibilities, the only performance I can report is what the factory rifle gets. The .177 rifle gets somewhere in the mid-700 f.p.s. region with lighter pellets, and the .22 gets about 600 f.p.s. That's just under the final Crosman 160 power level; but, as I said, modifications are everywhere, so you can change things if you want. The biggest change in today's guns is that the majority are .177, while .22 was preferred in the past.

On a calm day, a stock QB78 should keep all its shots on a nickel at 20 yards, or a quarter at 25. Shoot Crosman Premiers and JSB Exacts for best results. It's a good idea to clean the barrel of a new gun, but you must be careful to keep bore paste out of the transfer port (located in front of the loading trough). If you have a fresh charge in the gun, you can blast a few shots of gas to clear the transfer port, but be sure to thoroughly clean the barrel and breech afterwards.

The QB78 is one of those good ideas whose timing was nearly perfect. Had Crosman stayed with the gun, it probably would have increased in price by this time, while the Chinese copy is well under $100. As long as you understand the quality crapshoot, this is a hard bargain to pass up.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nothing new under the sun
What's the problem with primer-powered pellets?

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On to today's blog....

by B.B. Pelletier

Okay, you had all weekend to think about this. I said at the end of the Zimmerstutzen post last Friday that there was a big problem that Zimmerstutzens and primer-powered pellet guns brought to the table. Today, I'll show you what it is. First, let me introduce you to a very different kind of gun!

Rocky Mountain Arms muzzleloader
Several years ago, I was fortunate to acquire a rather rare gun. It doesn't look like much at first glance, but when the truth of what it can do sinks in, you'll realize that this is a very pivotal piece of shooting hardware.

Rocky Mountain Arms Corp. made this muzzleloading .22 caliber lead ball shooter. It uses toy caps to ignite a small charge of black powder.

That round block is the breech. When unlocked, it turns toward you so the gunpowder and a lead ball can be inserted. When rotated back into this position, it locks in place and a toy cap is inserted behind the knurled ring at the back of the breech. Then, cock the hammer and fire.

The rifle is an inexpensive little .22 caliber muzzleloader designed for kids. A pivoting breech swings open to the side for the powder and a ball to be inserted. It's called a muzzleloader because the ball is rammed into the firing chamber from the front - just like loading the cylinder on a cap and ball revolver. After loading, the breech is swung back into alignment with the barrel and locked in place. The final step is to insert a cap from a cap gun in the holder behind the breech. The strike of the hammer sets off the cap, which sets off the black powder charge, propelling the lead ball on its way.

We've seen cap-firing BB guns before
Besides the posting on the Convert-A-Pell gizmo, I've done two posts on the Wham-O Kruger cap-firing BB guns. They launched a BB or .12-caliber lead shot with the explosive power of a toy cap. Some of you are starting to put the pieces together, aren't you?

The Kruger '98 was Wham-O's idea of
a cheap BB gun. It uses caps to propel a steel BB or a .12 caliber lead ball (No. 6 birdshot).

The rusty breech where the caps went. The BB was loaded at the muzzle.

For anyone who hasn't caught on yet, this idea is very bad. Children and others with sociopathic minds have access to a gun that can ignite any amount of explosive black powder. What's to prevent kids from stuffing powder down the muzzle of the plastic Kruger? What's to prevent them from NOT putting a ball in the breech of the Rocky Mountain rifle and filling the entire breech with black powder? Then they could ram the ball down the muzzle - just like dad!

The last time the American public saw black powder seriously misused, it was on April 19, 1995, to initiate a fertilizer bomb that removed the front of a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people! When unsupervised children and miscreants have access to black powder, nothing good can result. By the way, Rocky Mountain also made a .45 caliber version of the gun shown here. It also ran on caps; once junior learned how to work his own gun, there was no stopping him from moving up to some serious firepower!

The Rocky Mountain rifles are very scarce, thank goodness. I'll bet someone in the company realized they'd let the genie out of the bottle and stopped production right away. Wham-O BB guns are not common, but they are around. I own three and see them all the time at airgun shows. I know of four or five other cap-firing BB guns that have been made. There are probably many more than that.

What's bad about Zimmerstutzens, guns that use primers to fire pellets and cap-firing BB guns is that they're firearms by the strictest definition of the term. Anyone with half a brain can make them do things their designers never imagined, nor wanted to do. Let's stick to air!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nothing new under the sun
The Zimmerstutzen

by B.B. Pelletier

I had to laugh a month ago when I read the online story of a Colorado gun dealer who is trying to patent his "idea" for propelling a lead pellet with a firearm primer. This idea dates clear back to the 1840s, when the first parlor rifles were created. The percussion cap was about two decades old when several somebodys in Europe (and America) got the bright idea that an exploding cap had enough power to propel a small lead ball at a reasonable velocity. Thus was born the parlor rifle.

Soon after its creation, the rimfire cartridge was invented. Before too much more time passed, someone else in Belgium or France discovered that a rimfire priming charge would drive a tiny lead bullet hard enough for some close-range (50 feet) target practice. We call these rifles Flobert, after the inexpensive breechloading action they often used, and most of us pay no attention to the slightly older idea of using a separate percussion cap.

The Zimmerstutzen is born!
The Swiss, however, did pay attention. They shot their big target rifles outdoors when the weather permitted and bemoaned the long winters when it did not. So, when the percussion cap idea came along, they quickly adapted it to a similar rifle they could shoot indoors when the frost was on the pumpkin. To reduce friction, they used short, rifled barrels that were located about 8" from the muzzle of the gun. The firing pin that exploded the cap was long - reaching many inches from the action out to this short barrel. Thus, the first room rifle (Zimmerstutzen) was created. As the years passed, the designs grew more sophisticated and fancy until, by 1910, they had reached their zenith. These rifles could group their tiny lead balls in one small hole at 15 meters.

This Zimmerstutzen from about 1910 was made during the golden age of these target rifles. It's as accurate as a 10-meter target air rifle of the 1980s, only this one came 70 years earlier!

Not well understood
Though a Zimmerstutzen is clearly a firearm, it isn't well understood as such - even by gun dealers. When one becomes available here in the U.S., it's classified as an airgun half the time. The lead balls they shoot range in graduated sizes from 4mm to 5mm, and at least 21 sizes are known to exist. The 4.3mm rifle shown here fires a fixed cartridge that drives its 7.4-grain lead ball at around 1,000 f.p.s. Because it is a round ball, it isn't as disturbed by transonic velocities as diabolo pellets, though I must observe that the best five-shot groups I ever got from a rested gun measured in the 0.07" range for five shots. That's no better than a modern target-grade air pistol or rifle.

Separate and fixed ammo
Toward the start of the 20th century, Zimmerstutzen ammo was joined into a self-contained rimfire cartridge, such as the one shown below. There were advocates for that as well as supporters of separate ammo, with the results that a full century later it still comes both ways.

A 4.3mm fixed Zimmerstutzen round looks small next to a .22 long rifle cartridge.

A crime against history!
Too many Zimmerstutens have had their bores reamed out and relined with a .22 rimfire liner so they can shoot shorts. That takes an $800-$1,000 rifle and reduces it to a $200 junker! The people who do this usually can't find the right ammunition for their guns (it's often very hard to find it in the U.S.), or they just want a .22. The latter excuse is similar to putting a dump bed on a BMW sports car so you can haul manure!

A BIG problem!
Zimmerstutzens are wonderful, historic target rifles whose very nature allies them with airguns. Many advanced airgun collectors also collect them. But they do bring one very big problem to the table. Can you guess what it is? Here's a clue: airguns that use primers to power the pellets have the same problem.

Guess all you like. I will show you the other side of this story on Monday.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

RWS C225 pistol
Another quality pistol from Umarex!

by B.B. Pelletier

The RWS C225 is the second action pistol Umarex made. It's no longer available.

This report is for a reader who specifically wanted to know about the C225. Although under the skin it's identical to all the other Umarex CO2 pistols, the C225 did have the distinction of being the first Umarex gun to be cancelled. Let's see if we can figure out why.

Second pistol Umarex made
The Walther CP88 was the first pistol Umarex made. It came out in the latter half of 1996 and was received with great fanfare. The realism of the new gas pistol got airgunners excited and anxious to see what would come next. One year later, in September 1997, the RWS C225 hit the streets. However, in sharp contrast to the CP88's instant fame, the reception for the C225 was less than thrilling. I believe that was for a couple of reasons.

What chilled the C225?
First, the C225 is finished matte black. The CP88 was this gorgeous dark shiny black pistol, but the C225 was a dull gun that hid the realistic castings. The form of the SIG 225 this air pistol copied is also nondescript. Rather than the sexy curves of the P88 firearm that eventually proved too expensive for Walther to manufacture, the 225 is a cookie-cutter pistol that looks like a thousand other handguns few people can identify. It's a sort of modern action pistol chic, which makes it as unexciting as a Glock.

The second reason for the poor reception is the one that I believe really doomed it. RWS was made the exclusive distributor, to the extent that their name went on the gun. Unlike Colt and Smith & Wesson, which actually produce the firearms that Umarex copies, RWS doesn't make the 225. I'm sure it must have seemed like a good business decision when the deal was struck; in truth, RWS was searching for its own identity in the airgun world at the same time, and I think this fine little pistol got lost in the shuffle. Sales lagged behind all the other pistols that joined it within a few years. In the end, it was difficult to justify a model that wasn't selling.

The gun
The C225 is really a rather nice air pistol. Like all Umarex pistols, it's really a .177 caliber 8-shot revolver disguised as a semiautomatic pistol. The slide separates in the middle, and the 8-shot pellet magazine is loaded into the gun. It fires both single- and double-action without a lot of velocity variation between the two.

There isn't a nickel's worth of difference among the Umarex pistols that have barrels of the same length. The C225 shown here has a 4" tube, so the maximum velocity with 6.9-grain RWS Hobby pellets (in 1997 that's what they weighed) was about 370 f.p.s. Heavier H&N Match pellets slowed down to an average of 352 f.p.s. You'll get about 50-60 good shots from a CO2 cartridge, though the velocity will vary by 90 f.p.s. If you want a tighter spread, you'll have to stop shooting at 40 shots, but this kind of pistol doesn't warrant that degree of fanaticism. This is an action pistol that's designed to shoot many reactive targets, one after another.

With a Tasco Pro Point red dot sight, the C225 delivered acceptable accuracy for can-busting and fast action shooting.

B-Square made a mount for a red dot sight that fit into the rear sight dovetail. It worked well because the design of the pistol allows reloading with the sight mounted. At 10 meters, the C225 groups five shots in 1-1/8" when you rest the gun and really try. That's on par with all the Umarex pistols.

If you want a C225, it shouldn't be too difficult to find. Even after they were cancelled, the interest has not picked up and a used gun in the box should be available for around $100. Find them on the airgun classified sites.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nothing new under the sun!
Crosman CG-series CO2 rifles

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman's CG was a standard 101 pneumatic with a CO2 tank hung below the action. It held CO2 for hundreds of shots!

The longer I study airguns, the more I'm convinced there are precious few new ideas. No doubt that you are aware of Crosman's 88-gram AirSource CO2 cylinder introduced a few years ago. It holds enough CO2 liquid and gas to power a gun for hundreds of shots. But, the AirSource isn't a new idea. There were Crosman guns with massive CO2 tanks in the 1940s, just after World War II. Today I'd like to share one with you.

Military surplus
The popular story (which sounds true) is that the military had thousands of brass CO2 tanks left after the war. They had been used to inflate life rafts. When someone from Crosman located them, they thought it was too good to leave alone. Before the war, Crosman had been working on some shooting gallery rifles that were tethered with hoses to large bulk gas tanks. These small 4-oz. tanks seemed ideal for making an autonomous gun, so that's just what they did.

The Silent makeover
Taking the Silent pneumatic (the model 100 and 101 from 1924), Crosman tweaked the valve to run on CO2 and hung the tank down from the gun. This also wasn't a new idea, since ball reservoir airguns had done pretty much the same thing with a spherical air reservoir since the middle 18th century. The new gun was called the model 100/101CG, for compressed gas. None of the guns had model numbers marked on them, as Crosman wasn't doing that at the time.

Other than how the gun is powered, the rest of the rifle is the same as a 1940s 101 pneumatic...the same maple and walnut stocks, the same peep sights and the same painted finishes. My rifle has a steel barrel, which I think was more common than brass in that era.

Besides the rare .177 and the far more common .22 caliber rifles, they also made a ball-firing .21 caliber rifle. The idea was that a proprietary caliber would force shooters to come to Crosman for ammunition. That caliber was somewhat scarcer than .22 but a lot more common than .177. No ammunition is available today, except in collections.

The slanted tank
The straight vertical tank shown here is the most common variation of the CG rifle. There was also a version in which the tank slanted backwards on an angle. It's somewhat scarcer but not at all rare.

The CG guns were powerhouses for their day. The one shown above gets 575 f.p.s. with .22-caliber Crosman Premier pellets. The valves in both the rifle and the tank were refurbished by Rick Willnecker about eight years ago to bring them up to specs, and the CO2 tank has never been allowed to run dry since then. It will probably hold for the next 40 years.

Compare that performance to a modern Benjamin AS392T, which gets 610 f.p.s. with the same pellet. Accuracy is equivalent to a Crosman pneumatic of the same period, which is almost the same as a Benjamin 392 pneumatic today. The trigger is lighter because there were far fewer worries about product liability in those days.

You'll pay $250 and up these days for a CG in working condition. I find it a pleasant rifle with funky looks and a reminder that there are seldom completely new ideas.