Friday, December 29, 2006

UTG Master Sniper - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

On to the range. Because the UTG Master Sniper is an airsoft gun, I started shooting indoors to keep the winds from affecting things.

How good do airsoft sniper guns get?
I tested a Classic Army M24 sniper rifle a few years ago. It had been highly modified, which included a power upgrade, a tighter barrel and the addition of an adjustable Hop Up mechanism. That gun could hold all its shots in less than one inch at 10 meters. If you were lucky and selected the right BBs (those without voids in them), a half-inch group was possible. It shot 0.25g BBs faster than 400 f.p.s., so it was really rockin'. But the 190 percent mainspring made that gun much harder to cock, and the investment topped $500, with all the work and parts. Here, we're looking at a gun selling for less than $100, so a direct comparison isn't fair.

UTG Master Sniper accuracy
I started shooting at 20 yards, but it soon became apparent the gun couldn't hold better than 12" at that distance. Remember, this was after I had dialed in the Hop Up! So I moved up to about 30 feet and tried again. With 0.20g BBs, the rifle shot five-shot group after group of about 4-5". That's not bad for starters, but it means the max range for skirmishing is going to be about 30-40 yards.

Switching to 0.25g BBs, the group size shrank to 2.5-3.5". That's much better, and the Hop Up wasn't even adjusted for that weight BB! With additional adjustment, another half inch might be shaved. That pushes the effective range for skirmishing out to 50 yards. I did not find the 24x scope to be an advantage, as many readers pointed out beforehand.

Firing behavior.
All shooting was off the bipod, which works as it should. It's lightweight and quick to deploy, but when you carry the gun it stays up and stowed, too. Can't ask more than that - especially when it comes in the box with the rifle! The gun was very calm upon discharge. I could watch the ball toward the end of its flight, but in a real sniping situation, you would use OD BBs to conceal your position and watching would be much more difficult.

The trigger was easy to use, if not exactly what I'm used to. It's a long single-stage pull with no creep, but a very long and fairly light pull. Except for the pull weight, that trigger got me ready for the trigger on the IZH MP 513M pellet rifle.

The 0.20g BBs ranged between 277 f.p.s. and 297 f.p.s., with an average of 288. The heavier 0.25g BBs ranged from 238 f.p.s. to 256 f.p.s., with an average of 247 f.p.s. I didn't try 0.12g BBs. When the power gets this high, there's usually no way the Hop Up can handle something that light.

Final opinion
This gun comes with a lot of nice features and accessories. I think it's a great value for the asking price. It can be used for informal war games among friends, but I don't think it's ready for the big time as it comes from the box. I didn't check into the availability of aftermarket parts, such as a tighter barrel and more powerful mainsprings. Knowing the airsoft market, I'd be surprised if they aren't out there. If you want to get into airsoft with a budget long gun, this is a bolt-action springer that has a lot going for it right out of the box.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

IZH MP 513M air rifle - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

In our last look at the IZH MP 513M air rifle, I noted several quirky design details on the gun. The safety, which works like an exposed hammer, is the biggest, but there are others.

Air transfer port seal
Another strange detail is the location of the seal for the air transfer port. On all other breakbarrel spring rifles that I can think of, the seal is on the breech surrounding the barrel. But on the 513M, it's located on the compression cylinder located behind the barrel. I don't suppose that it matters where it is, but it seems strange that only one air rifle would do it differently.

Scope mounting problems
This rifle has a dovetail base that accepts the scope rings. Instead of being cut into the cylinder, it stands proud of the gun, just like the RWS Diana springers. And, like them, the Russians have made poor provisions for a positive scope stop. I did the same thing as when I mounted the scope mount to the RWS Diana 54...I used a one-piece scope mount and hung the stop pin in front of the rifle's base. The 513M has a steel base instead of the aluminum one Diana uses. There are three small holes in the base, which I suppose are for a scope stop pin, but I've not see one small enough to fit them.

513M scope base has three holes for a scope stop pin, but all are too small. Hang the stop pin in front of the base, as you'd do for the RWS Diana rifles.

I used a Leapers 3-9x40 (model shown is obsolete) scope on the MP 513M.

The real problem was that the one-piece mount was so far forward on the gun that the scope eyepiece was also too far forward. It was difficult to get a good view of the target from so far back, so I had to shove my head forward on the stock.

The safety that acts like a hammer didn't prove to be a problem, as the photo shows. There was plenty of room under the scope to pull the safety back after cocking, and I soon found myself doing it as a habit. However, this "feature" is still an unusual one.

There's plenty of clearance to cock the safety.

Trigger behavior
I wondered how the trigger would feel when shooting for accuracy. Well, I found out. The two-stage behavior becomes almost single-stage when you shoot for real. That means the first stage is quickly taken up, but the second stage pulls through a long arc before releasing. It feels like a long single-stage trigger when you shoot for record. I found it heavy when I had to concentrate on the pull, probably because the trigger was moving all the time instead of breaking crisply.

How accurate?
The 513 is accurate enough to challenge any Gamo, except perhaps the CF-X. I did my testing at 30 yards on a calm day. Beeman Kodiaks grouped 0.807", and I would have stayed with them longer, except JSB Exact 10.2-grain pellets, which are nearly as heavy as the Kodiaks, shot almost twice as good - at just 0.458." Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets tantalized with groups ranging from 0.539" to 0.687", but within those groups most of the pellets went into much tighter groups. I tried and tried, but could never equal the groups of the JSB with the Premiers. So, JSBs won the day.

The best group came from JSB domes. It's less than one-half inch.

Crosman Premier 7.9 pellets grouped between a half-inch and six-tenths. In this group, however, four of the pellets are grouped in 0.149." Several groups teased like this, but none beat the JSBs.

The 513M is as powerful as I thought it would be. Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets averaged 934 f.p.s., with a total spread of just 7 f.p.s. JSB Exact domes averaged 826 f.p.s., with a spread of 11 f.p.s. Kodiaks averaged 803 f.p.s., with a total spread of 15 f.p.s. All of these numbers suggest a well-balanced powerplant. The cocking effort of 40 lbs. is about 5-8 lbs. heavier than other airguns need to achieve the same power; but if you don't mind it, the 513M is a good value.

JSB Exacts are clearly the best pellet for the rifle, being the most accurate and the most powerful at 15.46 foot-pounds. The rifle recoils heavily forward and vibrates a little. The heavy cocking effort became a strain after 100 shots. Still, at the price you'll pay, this is the best buy on the market. I would get the .22 and use it for hunting.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How are barrels rifled? - Part 3
Hammer-forged barrels

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Hammer-forging, also called rotary forging today, is the high-rate production way to make a rifle barrel. The process takes three to four minutes, start to finish.

The hammer-forging process itself is actually close to two centuries old. It was used by gunsmiths in Appalachia, who hand-hammered steel barrel blanks around mandrels to make barrels for the famous Tennessee Poor Boy rifles of the 19th century. They used a special "gun anvil" that had a special hammer fitted to it. The barrel blank was placed between the hammer and anvil. The special hammer was struck by a conventional hammer to form the steel.

Cold formed
A modern hammer-forged barrel is formed by beating on a steel tube with multiple hammers until the steel forms itself around a tungsten carbide mandrel. Believe it or not, the correct alloy of cold steel will flow like toothpaste when the circumstances are right. The mandrel is engraved with a reverse of the rifling pattern. When the steel conforms to it, it takes on the exact pattern the maker desires. The hammers strike the steel tube about half-million times during the forming process, and they leave a pattern on the outside and inside of the barrel. Some companies remove this pattern, while others, like Mannlicher and Ruger, proudly show it off.

Ruger proudly displays the marks of hammer forging, seen in this enlargement of their 10/22 Target bull barrel as spiral flats running the length of the barrel. The marks running across the flats (top to bottom in this picture) are tiny grooves in the steel that opened up during the forming process. You can see these rough marks only under magnification and the right lighting.

The blank steel tube is fatter and about 30 percent shorter than the finished barrel will be. When the barrel is finished, a lot fewer operations need to be performed than with barrels rifled by other methods. The bore comes out glass-smooth and very hard from the hammering process. That hardness resists erosion from the heat of the combustion gasses of a firearm cartridge, thus prolonging the life of the barrel.

On the negative side, hammer-forging introduces stress points that must be relieved or the barrel will warp when it heats up. So, target shooters don't pick hammer-forged barrels. It isn't as critical for rimfires as it is for centerfire cartridges, so Ruger gets away with hammer-forging its 10/22 Target barrel. The only way a centerire rifle can get away with one is to have a lot of stress relief after the barrel is made.

Of course, airguns produce no heat to speak of when they fire; so, the barrel stress points are not critical, and target air rifles and air pistols are a possibility. We know that IZH makes hammer-forged barrels, and there are probably other companies who do as well.

Why doesn't everyone do it?
A new hammer-forging machine costs $750,000 or more, making it a large capital investment. When a button-rifling setup costs $50,000, or so, it's hard to justify the more expensive process unless the demand for barrels is very high, as each barrel has to carry an amortized share of the machine's cost. Only companies making thousands of barrels per month can afford to do it this way.

There is no particular advantage to a hammer-forged barrel on an airgun, nor is there any disadvantage. If a maker can afford a machine, it can pump out a lot of barrels, but there has to be a market for them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What are airsoft guns used for? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This one is for DSW, who was surprised by the high prices of certain airsoft models. He asks what these guns are used for.

The origins of airsoft
Airsoft, or soft air as it is also called, originated in Japan some time around 1980. Firearms are unavailable to most people in Japan, and those interested in guns were looking for a legal way to enjoy at least some of the attributes. I understand this entirely, as there are times when I take out a particular firearm, be it a Garand or my Trapdoor Springfield, just to hold and mentally connect with the gun. Many women cannot walk through a fabric store without feeling the various fabrics and many men have a need to connect to things mechanical. For me, it is firearms, even when I'm not engaged in shooting them, so I understand the need to just hold something in my hands and let my imagination wander where it will.

Very realistic!
The early guns were extremely realistic, to the point of fooling even avid shooters. But the wood and metal replicas were quite expensive, and soon a cheaper class of gun that was affordable to the masses was created. That's when airsoft really took off. So, in the beginning, the guns were made as replicas of firearms that could not be owned legally. The fact that they happened to shoot small (6mm most of the time, but many other calibers have been created, as well) plastic balls that the Asian manufacturers called BBs, was secondary to the realism factor.

Airsoft development starts to branch
Once collectors were satisfied, airsoft manufacturers found a second market with shooters who actually used the guns to shoot at things - targets at first. A secondary branch of airsoft development began to improve the accuracy of the guns. That branch is still actively working, but it has now merged with a third branch that has taken over the lead - gaming or skirmishing.

In Asia and later in Europe and last in the U.S., airsoft was employed as an alternative to the sport of paintball, which is only slightly older. It seems no matter what the culture, some people like shooting at other people. In England, the local law enforcement establishments and governments are using airsoft skirmishing to drain the energy from teenage gang members - setting the model for the world. In Asia and Europe, skirmishing with airsoft has taken the lead over paintball as the No. 1 combat sport. In the U.S., it's growing rapidly toward that end - to the point that Nelson Technologies, the people who invented the paint marker for agricultural use only to see it grow a million times larger as a gaming sport, are now actively developing paintballs for airsoft guns. They see the future in airsoft, because the guns are more realistic and the "BBs" don't hurt as much as a .50- or .68-caliber paintball.

Today, the guns are made primarily for those who want to shoot at targets with something very safe, and those who want to get into tactical games. The games will soon be a billion-dollar market, if they're not there already. Secondary items like tactical clothing, field gear, radios, goggles, electronics, night vision and actual military vehicles, and even aircraft are entirely supporting some companies who don't sell a single airsoft gun!

Law enforcement and military simulations
Law enforcement agencies and military units around the world are turning to airsoft guns to use as a safe and non-lethal simulation for tactical training. Unlike simunitions that work in real firearms, airsoft guns do not cause accidental deaths when someone mistakenly loads live ammo.

There are airsoft M16s and M4s that cost over $1,600 and are just as rugged as the firearms. They only hold 30 rounds, just like the firearm, so shooters are forced to play like the real world. These guns are sold only to the military and law enforcement, because they're considered too realistic for civilians to own. Makes me glad to be an American, because the constitution guarantees me the right to own the real thing, unlike most people in the world!

The film and theater industry turned to airsoft in the 1990s, after accidental deaths like the on-set shooting of Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee's son) resulted when live ammo was loaded instead of blanks. Property masters no longer have to worry about securing actual firearms on set. For that reason, Hollywood lobbied long and hard to be allowed to possess airsoft guns without the blaze orange markings

DSW, I thought I could do this in one report, but there's more to come; so stick around for part 2!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Why are some PCPs so darned expensive?

by B.B. Pelletier

Merry Christmas!

Don't worry. I wrote this post last Friday. I'm enjoying the day with my family.

Glen asked a question that comes up all the time. I have tried to answer it individually before, so now I'll just blog it to everyone.

I read your articles and had decided on which springer to buy when I found your article addressing springers at altitude. Whoops! I'll be shooting at about 8500 feet. Guess I need to look for a PCP instead.

I'll be exclusively target/FT shooting and refilling from my scuba tanks. But which rifle? I've never shot pellets before but have shot skeet/trap and rifles/pistols at targets. A shrouded Logun Solo sounds like a fine rifle, but what improves as one spends up to say $1200? Do you have a favorite rifle or manufacturer? You haven't devoted much space to PCPs and I could sure use some additional, independent advice.

Modern production methods
When I was a kid in the early 1950s, the term Made in Japan meant crappy goods that wouldn't last. That changed in the 1960s, when the teachings of W. Edwards Demming and Joseph Juran were embraced by the nation of Japan as the best and only way to manufacture things. Those two gentlemen, who streamlined the U.S. war production effort during WWII, taught the rebuilding Japanese nation how to best make and move things, and the Japanese exported it to the world in the 1980s as "Japanese Management."

There was once a time when U.S.-manufactured goods were too expensive for most of the world. That's not true today. The European Union, despite some taxation problems, has built the euro into a strong world currency. The British pound is equally strong against our dollar, with the result that American-made PCPs, which just one company makes at present (AirForce), are significantly cheaper than guns coming from Europe. So Glen, this is part of my answer. If it comes from Europe or the UK, it has to cost more. If it's made in a place where labor, utilities, and materials are even cheaper than they are here in the U.S., say China, then it will cost less.

Business practices
PCPs can be made by automated machinery (U.S., England, Sweden, Germany, Bosnia, China to an extent and Korea to an extent), or they can be made by slower processes that require more labor. HOWEVER, once the parts are made, the guns can be assembled rapidly (U.S., Sweden, Germany, Bosnia, China and Korea) or they can be assembled by expensive labor that fine-tunes them (England, to a large but decreasing extent). In the case of several companies, the guns are actually made by others (Air Arms buys the S200 from the Czech Republic, Logan buys the S16 from Bosnia) and sold by the company whose name is on the gun. If that company is located in a country that has high overhead (England, Sweden, Germany), the cost of passing the gun through the books of the named company is high. So, the Bosnian-made S16 that should be relatively cheap costs a lot more because it's run through the books of a company whose operating costs are high.

Glen wants to buy a shrouded Logun Solo, but wonders what he'll be giving up. Well, I think the Solo is a remarkable bargain! It's noteworthy that a company based in the UK (Logun) can get a PCP to market for $525 unshrouded and $575 shrouded. These are fantastic bargains! If you are looking for a traditionally stocked PCP, why wouldn't you want this one? Ah, it's a single-shot and you want a repeater.

If you want a repeater, prepare to spend money. Except for the Korean guns, most repeaters are quite expensive. In fact, the repeating function is perhaps the most costly feature you can add to a PCP.

Good wood
Fancy wood used to be the big-ticket item, and is still very costly, but manufacturers are aware of that problem and are fighting to keep the costs low with synthetics and laminated stocks. Funny thing about laminates...they're expensive, too, but not in Europe, where figured walnut is off the wall. In the U.S., we have a cheaper source of figured wood, as does Asia. But any wood you can PAINT will be MUCH CHEAPER, because the wood underneath can look horrible and no one is the wiser.

Power adjustability
Ten years ago, Korea was the only country making PCPs with power adjustability. In 2000, AirForce Airguns brought out the adjustable Talon. A year later they brought out the quiet SS with an integral shroud. Now you can't find an airgun maker that DOESN'T offer those features! They all have to offer the features shooters want.

Power and accuracy
This is what I think lies at the back of most people's mind. How can a $580 PCP be as powerful and accurate as a $1,000 PCP? They can and they often are! Not always, but more often than the big price differential would seem to imply. The AirForce Condor is more powerful than any of the thousand-dollar air rifle, and it has a Lothar Walther barrel, same as most of them. I've even heard reports that the $350 Chinese-made B50 is very accurate, too! How can it be?

Here is a firearms analogy. Savage makes inexpensive centerfire rifles (110-112 series), but their action is so well-designed that a number of long-range shooters prefer it. Weatherby also makes accurate rifles, but they sell for 2-3 times as much as the Savage rifles. Are they 2-3 times "better" (more accurate, easier to shoot)? No! Why do they still sell well? Style and advertising. Same for airguns.

The real exception to what I'm saying here is in the ranks of the 10-meter target rifle, where things like superior ergonomics, anti-recoil mechanisms and better sights really DO offer a tangible advantage. The Beeman FWB P700 may retail for $2,900; but if I were competing in 10-meter rifle competition, I'd buy it.

So, Glen, get that shrouded Solo if it appeals to you. I'm sure it will be a wonderful rifle.

Friday, December 22, 2006

UTG Master Sniper - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Boy, you guys sure didn't cut me much slack on the scope I selected for the gun! Of course Leapers 6-24x50 costs $20 more than the gun, but I was just trying to have a little fun. A real sniper rifle would have a 10x scope on it, so what I set up was somewhat overpowered.

In this report, we'll take a look at shooting the UTG Master Sniper. From some of the comments, I know a thorough explanation is in order.

The gun comes with two magazines and a very nice speedloader. I found it a breeze to load without spillage. Once loaded, the magazine is slipped into its well under that stock. A word to the wise here. You have to deliberately push up the magazine until it clicks into place. If you don't, it'll work intermittently and you'll be removing it all the time to clear a mis-fed BB. So, push it up flush!

Handy speedloader on the right. The Master Sniper comes with two magazines. Each has a capacity of 24 BBs.

Adjustable Hop Up
Hop Up is a feature that puts a backspin on the plastic BB, so it leaves the barrel spinning backwards. That makes it cut through the air and fly straighter longer. You turn those curveballs into fastballs! The Master Sniper has an adjustable Hop Up that lets you tune to the brand and weight of BBs you use. There's just one drawback - you have to tune the Hop Up to the brand and weight of BB you are shooting!

That lever slides forward and back to adjust the backspin put on the BB. It's both quick and easy, yet very precise at the same time.

Instead of mounting a scope and adjusting it until the shots go to the point of aim, with adjustable Hop Up you first have to adjust the Hop Up and then the scope! If it sounds confusing, wait till you try it! I selected a target that was very visible (a wooden fence about 17 yards away. Then I found a spot on the fence that was easy to identify with both my naked eye and through the scope. I sighted the scope on this spot, then watched the BB go downrange with my naked eye. That showed me where the BB was hitting relative to the target, and also if it was curving. I made no attempt to hit the spot; just to get the BB going as straight as possible, regardless of how far off it was from the aimpoint.

The Hop Up on the Master Sniper is very sensitive and easy to adjust. You can feel when you've moved the lever a small amount. It took about 40 shots to properly adjust it so the BB was flying as straight as I could make it. Then, it was time to adjust the scope.

How does it shoot?
To cock the gun, the bolt is lifted and retracted, then pushed home again - exactly like a bolt-action rifle. Pulling back on the bolt compresses the mainspring, which is light, so the cocking effort is not too heavy. The oversized, rubber-coated bolt handle really helps you hold on.

The trigger is single-stage with a long, light pull. There is no creep - just a long pull. When the gun fires, there's no noticeable recoil and only a slight noise upon discharge. The bipod really stabilizes the gun when shooting from a rest, and it's so easy to cock that you can pump out a relatively high volume of fire.

Scope adjustment
After adjusting the Hop Up for the straightest flight, the BB was hitting low and left of the aimpoint by a few inches. It was fairly easy to adjust the scope to bring it back to the intersection of the crosshairs. Another reason I used this scope was that it was already mounted in some Weaver rings, and the Master Sniper has Picatinny bases that work with two-piece Weaver mounts. I didn't need to adjust the aimpoint that much, so there was no need for adjustable scope mounts. Then, it was on to the the range and some target practice.

Ah, but that's for another day!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Beeman Pell Seat - does it work?

by B.B. Pelletier

Beeman's Pell Seat is a simple tool, but sometimes very useful.

Quick question
This question came from Phil last week. He asked if the Beeman Pell Seat was really useful for straightening the skirts of pellets. Since I have personal experience using one, I told him I'd blog the answer.

Quick answer
Yes, to answer the question outright. The Beeman Pell Seat does open the skirts of damaged pellets, providing they haven't been damaged too much. But how does it know when to stop? Better yet, how do YOU know?

You don't HAVE to know!
The beauty of this device is that you don't really have to know how far to go when opening and reforming a pellet skirt. You have a wonderful pellet sizer called the barrel of your airgun. It will swage the skirt down to size if you've been a little too aggressive in using the pell seat.

Okay - exactly what are you doing?
You're using the ball end of the pell seat to round out or flare the skirts of lead pellets. The ball is rolled around the inside of the pellet skirt, where it presses the skirt out equally in all directions. It's harder to envision than it is to do.

Pellet on the right has a deformed skirt. It can be reshaped with the pell seat.

Why should you care?
If a pellet with a deformed skirt is loaded into a barrel, there's no telling what will happen. The skirt may flare out perfectly just from being squeezed down by the bore. But, it can also collapse on one side, making an opening in the skirt where air can blow past when the gun shoots. If you want the best accuracy from a gun, don't use pellets that have damaged skirts or reform them with a ball tool. The pell seat is the most convenient tool available to do this.

Some pellets won't reform
Hard pellets, such as those made by Crosman, will not flare as easily as pure lead pellets. They also tend to have very shallow skirts that prevent deformation in the first place. If you shoot Crosman Premiers, for example, it's probably better to just throw the bad ones away than to try to flare their skirts. That comes from years of experience shooting Premiers.

What about seating pellets?
This IS a pellet seater, after all. The other end of tool is used for that. Seating means pushing a pellet into the barrel by a uniform amount every time. Is that important? It can be for some guns. Some spring guns like to have their pellets seated deeply, while others seem indifferent. The AirForce Condor (a PCP) will get a small gain in velocity and will have a tighter velocity spread if you seat the pellets deep. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of room to align the pellet seating tool at the Condor's breech, so sometimes I just use an Allen wrench with a very short end.

Modern target guns, on the other hand, don't seem to require seating. When I say modern, I'm saying PCPs, only. The older springer target guns may need their pellets to be seated.

So, Phil and everyone, this simple aluminum tool actually does work. For some guns, it's an essential tool; but for nearly all pellets, it can be a lifesaver!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

UTG Master Sniper - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

UTG Master Sniper offers a lot of features for very little money. Scope does not come with rifle.

A reader asked for this review some time ago and I am happy to finally be able to comply. His question was actually, "How good could a sniper rifle like this be when sells it for under $100?" Well, we will all find out together!

The UTG Master Sniper is a spring piston 6mm airsoft gun. The one I have has a synthetic stock finished in desert camo, but they also come in black and olive drab. It looks very much like the Army's M24 sniper rifle, which is based on a Remington 700 bolt action receiver.

Bolt handle is rubber-covered for silent cocking.

I have tested a Classic Army version of this gun and of course I reviewed the Marui VSR-10 G-Spec sniper rifle for you in May of 2005. Both of those guns cost considerably more than the UTG Master Sniper, so the question of quality is a good one that needs to be addressed. I have to tell you, I didn't expect much, based on the price. Well, I was wrong!

What is it?
Well, being a 6mm airsoft gun for starters, this is not actually a rifle at all. It has a smooth bore but uses a system called Hop Up to put a backspin on the plastic ball when it flies. The result is a major gain in accuracy. How much accuracy is a subject I will explore. Because this is an airsoft gun, federal law requires the bright orange muzzle tip. Only law enforcement agencies and legitimate theatrical production companies are allowed to remove or change the color of this tip and to possess the gun when it is removed. I will refer to it as a rifle in all the reports I write, simply because the prototype gun it was copied from is a rifle.

Setting up the rifle
This gun comes in a box broken down into two major components and several accessories. The action first has to be put into the stock and fastened tight with three screws. That probably took me 45 minutes by itself because I couldn't get all the screws to align at the same time. The problem wasn't that the holes were mis-drilled - just that the screws are so long there is a lot of slop as they search for the threaded hole. The British slang "fiddley" came to mind. But with patience, the job was completed and the gun rested tight in the synthetic stock.

Next, the bipod was attached to a Picatinny rail located under the forward part of the forearm. It went on easily, but I had to read the gun's manual to discover how to deploy the legs. The manual is entirely in English, by the way, and has step-by-step setup instructions. Once installed, the bipod legs were deployed to make the perfect rifle rest. The bipod legs are spring-loaded and adjust to any height within their 1-3/4" range. They also swivel for ease when you are setting up your shots.

The black tactical sling went on last. It was a breeze to install and will be to anyone who ever served in the military. The sling attachment points are permanently attached to the stock, so there was nothing else to do.

All this stuff (bipod and sling, plus buttplate inserts I didn't mention, but did install) was INCLUDED with the gun! Nothing to buy buy a scope. That is a real plus, especially at this price.

Three buttplate inserts increase the length of pull to suit the sniper.

Overall -what do I think?
I have to say I'm impressed so far. The butt is weighted to counterbalance the bipod, and the weight of the gun with everything attached is 7 pounds 3 ounces. Throw in the Leapers 6-24X50 scope I mounted and the weight jumps to about 9 pounds! That takes it out of the cheap toy category and positions it in the serious player venue. I'm not ready to make that call because I haven't shot it yet, but based on looks and features, it's there.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pellet velocity variance

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came in last week, and I thought it was too good to pass up. I'll try to address it in this post, though I think this one could keep us talking for a while.

"For an unregulated PCP, how consistent does it have to be in order to be good enough for FT at 50 yards? (ie: what's the maximum standard deviation in FPS allowable considering pellet weights are equal?)."

I used to think that way - that pellet velocity was a key to accuracy. Now, I'm not so sure. This reader has also made the assumption that a precharged rifle that doesn't have a regulator will have a greater velocity variation than one that does. Usually, that's true...but not always.

A regulator controls the air pressure that goes to the firing valve. It steps down the reservoir pressure to a level at which the valve operates uniformly. A regulated gun has a chamber between the reg and the valve that contains the optimum amount of air at a given pressure (the pressure at which the reg is set). When the valve opens at firing, it always passes the same volume of air at the same pressure. Regulated guns usually keep their shots at a velocity that doesn't vary by more than 10-15 f.p.s. I've heard stories about guns that never vary by even one f.p.s., but I've never seen one.

When the reservoir pressure drops below the pressure at which the reg is set, the gun goes "off the reg," and the velocity varies more and starts dropping. The big advantage of a regulator is not the tight velocity variation; it's the greater number of shots a gun can get before needing to be topped off.

Let's take a look at a balanced valve. Actually, all precharged valves are balanced, more or less, against the fill pressure of the gun. Some, like the Career 707 set on high power, drop in velocity from shot to shot, while others, like a Daystate Harrier, can get a number of shots (mine gets 24) with a tight velocity variation (15 f.p.s.) before they need to be topped off. My Harrier has to be filled to only 2,650 psi instead of 3,000, which makes pumping a lot easier.

I believe the best example of a balanced valve is found in Mac-1's USFT rifle. It has a fill pressure of 1,800 psi and gets 60 shots while using only 400 psi of air. It shoots a 10.6-grain Beeman Kodiak at 900 f.p.s. with a velocity variation of 15 f.p.s. for all 60 shots. You may notice that it has a huge air reservoir. That's what it takes to get that many shots at that low pressure. This unregulated PCP has competed successfully at the national level. The starting price for one of these limited-production airguns is $1,800.

The USFT rifle gets a lot of shots with a tight velocity variation on relatively low air pressure.

So, the regulator isn't needed for shot-to-shot consistency. It's there to give more shots per charge. However, regulators are failure-prone. It's not a question of "if" they will fail, but when. If you can get along without one, you're better off, in my opinion.

The answer to your question is...
Finally I'm getting to the question the reader asked! And the answer is: I don't really know, but the number is higher than most people think. Remember that Career 707 I mentioned? It might drop 50 f.p.s. in the first 5 shots at high power, but it can still group five Crosman Premiers in half an inch at 50 yards on a perfect day! So is 50 f.p.s. the magic number? Like I said, I don't know.

I always look for a maximum velocity variation of 20 f.p.s. in a spring gun. If it can do that, I'm happy. Obviously, a spring gun does not have velocity drop-off, but I guess I have transferred that number over to PCPs, as well. I tend to think a PCP that varies by no more than 20 f.p.s. is doing well. When I shoot a PCP to determine the maximum number of shots, I usually make the cutoff at the point where the velocity varies by more than 20 f.p.s. My Harrier is an exception, because it goes crazy after the 24-shot cutoff.

My numbers are arbitrary and mean nothing without shooting the rifle at distance. If you plan to shoot field target, the distance is 55 yards.

I know a field target shooter who was so concerned about velocity variation that he put TWO regulators in his FWB P70 FT rifle! One reg controlled the air for the other! Now that's as anal as it gets, yet this guy was a nationally ranked shooter. He also mounted a wind gauge on his rifle! I would make fun of him; except that, on my best day, I couldn't shoot as well as he did on his worst day. On the other hand, there was another man who spent even more money on his gear than Mr. Anal. His custom-made scope rings cost $500! Yet, I could beat him, sometimes. And that, I think, is the real answer here.

In the final analysis, it isn't the regulator or your equipment or your barrel's pedigree that matters. It's how well you shoot. To win at field target takes a rifle that can compete and a shooter who shoots better than most snipers on municipal SWAT teams. You get there by practice, and practice, alone.

Monday, December 18, 2006

IZH MP 513M air rifle - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This rifle is a strange duck. It's a breakbarrel spring-piston airgun, but cocking requires a process unlike most other air rifles. Several readers have asked me to look at it because they know the high quality of Russian airgun barrels. I was very curious myself, since I've tested many of the other airguns IZH makes and found them all to be high quality. The IZH MP 513M is different, not only because of the cocking process but also because it's a magnum rifle. Everything else the Russians make now or have made in the past has been low-powered and geared toward target use.

First impressions
The 513 is big! It's sized like an RWS Diana 34, though at just 7 pounds it's about a half-pound lighter. The stock dimensions are all on the large size except the pull, which at 13.75" is on the short end of normal for an adult rifle. The stock is made from some medium-colored hardwood that, because the gun comes from Russia, I must assume is birch. It has a little figure that would be pleasing if it weren't hidden by a muddy brown finish. The steel parts are finished completely matte, and I think this is how the Russians keep the cost down. They can finish the parts with production methods like tumbling, rather than having one person working on each part at a buffing wheel. And, for hunters, matte is more desirable, because it doesn't reflect.

The open sights are nice but also odd in a few respects. First, the front sight is a large plastic globe that covers a very tall post. The globe gives every indication that it can be removed by tapping it forward, but that would leave a tall post exposed, which wouldn't look nice. You can scope the gun and leave the front sight in place - the scope will never notice it because it is too close.

The rear sight is nicely adjustable and bears some resemblance to the rear sight on the 46M target pistol. It's all metal and very simple in design. The Russians are known for designing things that way. If it works good enough, then simpler is always better.

Cocking and preparing to fire
With most other guns, cocking is how you prepare them for firing; but the 513M doesn't work that way. You first break the barrel down until the sear catches the piston, like any other breakbarrel rifle. As you go, you'll hear a ratchet that will catch the barrel, should your hand slip. Cocking effort is a stiff 40 lbs.

Once the sear has caught the piston, the barrel becomes free again, and you can even close it; but don't forget to first load a pellet! With other guns, the rifle would either be ready to fire or an automatic safety would first have to be released, but the 513 works differently. Instead of releasing a safety that comes on automatically during cocking, you have to "cock" a hammer-like lever located at the back of the receiver tube. This is a safety, but it works in reverse. You don't put it off to fire; instead you have to cock it, too, or the gun will not fire, despite the fact that the mainspring is fully compressed. It looks like a conventional exposed hammer, so that's what I call it, though it is actually the gun's safety.

The "hammer" is forward; even if the mainspring is compressed, the gun will not fire.

The "hammer" has been thumbed back. Now the rifle will fire.

There is another airgun that works this way. In August 2005, I showed you the Pioneer 76 BB gun gun. It must also be cocked first via an underlever, then the hammer has to be pulled back separately or the gun will not fire. The process seems strange, but it does force the shooter to be deliberate in his actions.

Obviously, there's no way to uncock the 513M other than shooting it. So don't cock until you are ready to shoot. The ratchet mechanism prevents you from breaking the barrel down part way; once it catches, you have to complete the cocking procedure.

The trigger has two stages, with a light first and a second that breaks at 4 lbs., 4 oz. It seems to be adjustable, but I'll wait to shoot the rifle for accuracy before commenting further.

This was a first look at the rifle. If it turns out to be accurate, then it may just be a great hidden value. I know the power is there because of how the pellets have performed during the few times I've shot it. Clearly, this rifle was designed by someone marching to his own drum! It's loaded with quirky innovations that may combine to make it a best buy in a spring rifle.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Daisy model 177 Targeteer BB pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Among the many models of airguns that might be called classics, there are a few quirky guns that have to be loved just because they exist. Daisy's model 177 Targeteer is one of them.

The first Targeteer
All you armchair airgun designers - listen up, because the story of the 177 is a lesson in why scaling guns up or down doesn't always work. Daisy's debut in BB pistols came in 1937, when they brought out the first version of the Targeteer. I reported on this one in May 2005. Although this gun was touted as a BB gun, it didn't shoot conventional steel BBs. Instead it shot a tiny .12 caliber steel ball that was called Targeteer Shot. Initially they came 500 to a small cylindrical tin.

Low power
The first Targeteer was purposely low-powered - or was it? In fact, Daisy got about as much power as they could from the gun, because the piston was so small and the stroke so short that the displacement was miniscule. Further compounding the problem was the need to keep the mainspring weak so the pistol could be cocked. Unlike a rifle that has a lot of leverage for cocking, an air pistol is smaller, and the Targeteer was cocked by pulling back on the slide - not a very convenient method! The net result was a very weak air pistol, best-suited to close-range target practice, only.

A BB gun doesn't have an especially efficient powerplant to begin with, and the Targeteer's was small in comparison with the long guns Daisy made. They were lucky to see as much as 200 f.p.s. with steel shot. After they stopped making .12 caliber steel shot, the world had to switch to No. 6 birdshot, which is pure lead and, of course, heavier. Velocity dropped off even more.

The original Targeteer resumed production after the war and held on until the early 1950s. But its low power became a liability when a new crop of very powerful CO2 pistols hit the scene. The Targeteer was laid to rest in 1952, but it wasn't gone long. In 1957, Daisy brought it back, this time as a true BB pistol called the model 177. I reported on it in June 2005. This new gun shot the popular steel BBs that were easy to find, but not without a problem.

Can you guess the problem?
If the original Targeteer was underpowered, the new BB pistol was hopeless! The much heavier 0.173-sized steel BB went less than 125 f.p.s. in a well-maintained gun! It was a sharp-looking air pistol that, unfortunately, failed to deliver in real life. The instructions claim it's made for indoor ranges of 9-12 feet, but I have had BBs bounce off the target at that range! In fact, I just tried my gun while writing this report, and it can't penetrate one sheet of paper at two feet! If I oiled it a lot, it would go through a sheet of paper, but just barely.

The BB-shooting Targeteer looks like more of
a gun than the older .12-caliber pistol.

So how did this pistol ever sell? That's easy; it looks great! Look at the picture. You'll see deep dark paint that looks like bluing, and finely sculpted grips that resemble wood more than a little. It came packed in a box that looked like a fitted case, with styrofoam that was heat-shaped to accept the pistol perfectly. Sales began in 1957 and continued until 1978. The first guns were made in Plymouth, Michigan, before Daisy moved to Rogers, Arkansas, and they now command a premium. Mine is a late Rogers model and is in like-new condition. A lot of the BB-caliber Targeteers I see are nice, because I don't think people used them very much.

So what?
The lesson here is that every airgun that looks cool doesn't necessarily shoot the same way. Remember the recent test I did with the Marksman 1010? It looks like a semi-auto, but functions like a flintlock!

Scaling an airgun up in size and caliber sounds like a good thing, but it often doesn't work out. However, as these guns get some age they become interesting in their own right as a study in airgun history.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Setting up a home airgun range - Part 3
Pellet guns

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Pellet guns are the highest form of indoor target guns, even surpassing firearms. They are the most accurate guns at the distances commonly available to indoor users.

Let's start with the range
The ideal distance for a pellet gun is 10 meters, which is close enough to 33 feet that we use that figure interchangeably. The reason 10 meters is ideal is because all world-class competition is shot at that distance. The targets and scoring devices are all gauged for 10 meters, and the target guns are even called 10-meter airguns. So, you need 10 meters from the firing line (the muzzle of the gun must not pass forward of the firing line) to the target. An additional 3 feet are needed on the target end for trap and backer board and 5 feet on the firing line end for the shooting table (pistols) or stand (rifles). I recommend just using a table for all shooting because it is so handy. Of course, you can get by with less space.

The nice aspect of pellet guns is that pellets don't ricochet like steel BBs or airsoft BBs. They do break into fragments and even lead dust when the impact velocity exceeds 600 f.p.s., but I am recommending that you shoot guns with lower velocity than that indoors. If you do, all you'll have is flattened pellets in the target trap. Use lead pellets only, unless local laws force you to use synthetics. I realize this is inside your house, but some places in California have ordinances that restrict clubs to non-lead pellets. Synthetic pellets do ricochet, and they're not as accurate as good-quality target lead pellets.

Lead indoors
There is little danger from lead pellets indoors, as long as the velocity is kept below 600 f.p.s. However, there are some things to consider. Lead is malleable and some small children like to chew it. If you have an indoor range, it is imperative that small children do not have access to pellets, spent or unfired. If you cannot do that, do not shoot pellet guns indoors. There is virtually no danger from lead dust if the velocity is kept below 600 f.p.s., because pellets don't start coming apart until they reach that speed. At 800 f.p.s., a lead pellet will explode into tiny fragments and dust and often be accompanied by a bright spark, which is a portion of the dust flashing to incandescence from the heat of impact. To avoid that, keep it slow indoors.

The best trap
The best pellet trap for indoor use is the quiet pellet trap. The impact putty not only stops and holds each pellet, it also makes it impossible for lead dust to form. The downside of this trap, other than the initial cost, is the fact that it must be cleaned periodically. The pellets must be pried out and the putty smoothed over where the holes were. I have owned and used a quiet trap for 8 years, and it's my favorite trap to use indoors. Besides the lack of impact noise, there's no mess.

A word to the wise on quiet traps. Some shooters try to avoid the high cost of impact putty by filling homemade traps with modeling clay or plumbers' putty. Modeling clay doesn't have the resistance needed to stop pellets above 500 f.p.s. or so. It's good for very low-powered airguns only. Plumbers' putty dries out when exposed to the air. It crumbles and will get all over the floor. Don't use it! Impact putty is actually Duct Seal and costs about $3/lb. unless you buy it in large quantities. But it is by far better than the other two.

Good traps
The next best trap in my opinion is the heavy duty metal trap. That's because you can use it with every smallbore airgun, regardless of the power. It does make noise when hit, but it will last a lifetime. Mine must have more than a quarter-million shots on it. Except for the peeling paint, it's still like new. However, if you are shooting under 600 f.p.s., you can get away with a lighter trap that costs less. The Daisy 879 pellet trap is a great trap for guns that shoot slow. My 10-meter club had 10 of them that we used for 20 years for all kinds of training and competition. None of the guns we shot went over 550 f.p.s., and those traps were fine.

Backer board
Behind the trap put the same 3'x3' backer board that I recommended for the BB gun range. If you think you might shoot a more powerful airgun in the house, use a thicker board. Match the thickness of the board to the power of the gun. The .22-caliber AirForce Condor will shoot through one-and-a-half 2x4 boards at close range, and it can crack a cinderblock with just a single shot. Don't ask how I know that! So, I recommend sticking with guns that shoot less than 600 f.p.s.

Well that was a big subject! I felt it was necessary for all those who want to build indoor ranges for some lucky person this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Setting up a home airgun range - Part 2
Airsoft guns

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Most airsoft users don't shoot targets with their guns, but they can! So, this post is about setting up an airsoft range inside the house.

Pick the right gun
You don't want to shoot electric guns or full-auto gas guns indoors. The plastic BBs go everywhere, and these guns are not conducive to target shooting. Go outdoors when you want to rock 'n' roll. Indoors is for accuracy.

That said, indoor probably doesn't have enough room to shoot a good sniper gun comfortably. You really should have at least 50 yards for a sniper rifle and few houses outside of mansions have a linear 150 feet. Indoors is for close-range guns, and that usually means sidearms.

An indoor range is the perfect place to shoot those inexpensive M1911A1 guns and even some that cost a little more. But you don't have to stop there!

An indoor range is the perfect place to sharpen your skills with a top-end gas gun, such as the Raging Bull revolver by Cyber Gun. If you do get this revolver, though, please note that it's 8mm and not 6mm, which is more common. You probably won't find 8mm ammo at Wal-Mart, so be sure to buy a good supply of ammo when you get the gun. Another very attractive indoor target shooter would be the MKI carbine from KJ Works. A copy of Ruger's Mark I pistol with a shoulder stock, this little gas carbine will give you lots of aiming precision on your indoor range. It's higher power, like the 8mm revolver. I'll address what you need in the target trap section.

Target traps
Plastic BBs go everywhere, so you need a target trap that holds them. With lower-power guns (those that shoot 0.12-gram BBs at 200 f.p.s. or less), a cardboard box with a rectangular hole cut out in front makes a great trap. Hang the target in front of the hole. The BB passes through the target and hole, rebounds off the back of the box and stays inside. I always cut the hole with at least a five-inch lip on the bottom to prevent BBs from escaping.

A cardboard box with a hole for the target is a simple airsoft BB trap.

Reinforce the trap for higher-power guns
When using higher-power guns, reinforce the trap by fastening a piece of carpet or thick piece of material, such as a blanket, to the back of the box. If you hang this material rather than fastening it to the back of the box, it will slow the BBs to a standstill. If you shoot more powerful guns (above 300 f.p.s. with 0.20g or heavier BBs), inspect this material often. I once shot through a heavy canvas bag with just 20 shots from a powerful AEG. When they hit the same place every time, they can tear through the material faster than you think!

What about sticky targets?
You want to use those neat sticky targets? All you have to do is use a larger box and cut a hole large enough to see the sticky target inside. It captures and collects the BBs that hit the target, and the box holds the BBs that miss the target. This also works for the electronic re-setting targets.

You don't really need a backer board for airsoft, but it's a good idea to hang a thick blanket or something behind the trap in case you miss. The fabric will stop the BB, and you won't have to chase them all around the house.

I know airsoft guns are not often thought of when target shooting comes to mind, but my experience tells me they can be as much fun as any pellet or BB gun. I have purposely left out the distances for the airsoft range, but if you really need them, just build it the same size as the BB gun range.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Setting up a home airgun range - Part 1
BB guns

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start, Gamo has issued a recall of certain air rifles. This was originally issued in October 2006, but it's been reissued along with the gun serial numbers affected.

The recalled air rifles are the following GAMO models: Hunter Pro, Hunter Sport, Shadow Sport and F1200. These models bear the serial numbers 04-IC-415577-06 through 04-IC-579918-06. The model and serial numbers can be found on the left side of the barrel just above the front left side of the stock. Models Shadow Sport and F1200 look identical. Sold by: Sporting goods stores and gun shops nationwide from June 2006 to September 2006 for between $150 and $280. Model F1200 was sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores. Manufactured in Spain.

The scope mount on these rifles can be installed incorrectly, causing the rifle to fire unexpectedly. This poses a serious injury hazard to consumers. GAMO has received one report of an air rifle firing unexpectedly. No injuries have been reported.

Contact Gamo USA ( for instructions.

Now, on to today's blog.

With Christmas bearing down on us, a lot of parents and grandparents are thinking about getting an airgun for some lucky shooter. Some of these folks will want to shoot inside the house, but they don't know how to set up a safe range.

What kind of gun?
There are three basic airgun types to consider when setting up an indoor range - BB guns, pellet guns and airsoft guns. They are each so different that I will address them separately, starting with the BB gun.

Power levels
BB guns come in power levels ranging from under 200 f.p.s to over 700 f.p.s. For indoor use, I would keep the muzzle velocity below about 450 f.p.s., and below 300 f.p.s. is even better. You don't need a lot of velocity to shoot at the short range recommended for indoors, and safety is always a prime consideration. When you buy that present, look at the muzzle velocity if indoor shooting is what you want to do.

Don't shoot your eye out!
Steel BBs bounce back from hard surfaces such as steel, concrete, boards and trees. They can come straight back with nearly the same force they left the muzzle. For this reason, everyone in the area where shooting is taking place has to wear protective shooting glasses. This is nothing to be lax about. The danger is real, and every shooter knows that glasses are supposed to be worn whenever firing a gun, but it's just as important that the other people in the area wear them, as well.

A place to shoot
You need a safe place to shoot and about 20 feet from the muzzle of the gun to the target, if possible, though you can get by with less if necessary. Then, you need about three more feet for the target trap and backer board and five more feet for the firing line. Altogether, that comes to 28 feet of linear distance. The lighting should be low for the firing line and bright on the target. When shooting BBs, paper targets are one of the few things that are safe to shoot indoors.

Your shooting place should not allow people to be downrange while you are shooting. If there is a door downrange, or if you shoot down a hallway with doors you must make sure there are no people who can open the doors while you are shooting. If the door leads outside, it's best to lock it while shooting takes place.

A BB trap
Because BBs bounce back, you cannot use a conventional steel bullet or pellet trap. One good BB trap is Crosman's model 850 BB and pellet trap. It has cloth curtains to stop the BBs; and if you tilt it slightly backwards, the BBs will remain inside. To help keep them inside, you can lay a rubber magnet strip on the floor of the trap.

The other good BB trap is the AGE Quiet Pellet Trap. This trap is capable of stopping BBs from the most powerful BB guns, but I still don't recommend shooting powerful guns indoors because of how much the BB will bounce if you miss the trap. After a lot of shooting, BBs have to be removed from this trap's impact putty to prevent bounceback.

A backer board
Behind the BB trap, you'll put a backer board, so if the trap is missed the BB won't hit anything in the house. A thin piece of plywood, about 3 feet square is fine for this. I didn't have any plywood handy when I made my range, so I used a 5/8" thick slab of particle board. Of course, a BB will bounce off this board, so I slant mine away from the firing line at the top. Just leaning it back against a wall takes care of that. Most BB guns are not accurate, so this board will be hit about one time in every 100 shots, and those BBs will bounce around the room. That's why everyone wears shooting glasses.

Setting up a shooting range for BB guns in the home is not difficult, but there are special steps that must be taken. Remember, it isn't a shooting gallery - it's a small range for one shooter, and paper targets are the only safe things to shoot at. If you choose a BB gun with a modest velocity, your in-home range will be safe and fun. Be sure to read the Home IS the range! article on this website.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Drozd BB machine gun - bulk fill! - Part 3

B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Let's finish the Drozd velocity testing we began on Friday. Remember, the ambient temperature during shooting was 61 degrees F.

Performance with 4.4mm lead balls
The average was 458 f.p.s., with a spread from 444 to 474. A 4.4mm lead ball weighs 7.6 grains, so the muzzle energy for the average is 3.54 foot-pounds. The extreme velocity spread with this ball, which is larger than a steel BB, is quite large. I believe there is still a lot of gas blowing by the ball in the bore. Why the smaller steel BB has less velocity variation might be because it isn't engraving the rifling, so it encounters no resistance, while the 4.4mm lead ball does.

Performance with 4.5mm lead balls
This was the big eye-opener! The 4.5mm Beeman Perfect Round balls are a true .177 bore size, and I suspect that the bore of the Drozd barrel, being rifled, is .177, too. There is no rationale for rifling a BB bore, only a pellet or lead ball bore. The only rationale for using a rifled barrel in a gun meant only to shoot steel BBs is because you have easy access to rifled barrels. It's just easier to use what you have than to add another manufacturing process to make smooth bores. And, we know IZH makes several models of .177 pellet guns. That is another reason why I believe 4.5mm lead balls are correct for this gun But let's look at the performance.

These balls weigh 8 grains even. They averaged 473 f.p.s., with a spread from 464 to 481. That's FASTER than the smaller, lighter 4.4mm balls, with a tighter velocity spread, too. The muzzle energy comes out to 3.98 foot-pounds, making 4.5mm balls the most efficient ammo for this gun. I believe they get this efficiency from a tight bore fit that seals the gases behind the ball.

I have read a couple of comments regarding hunting with the Drozd. With the low energy it delivers, I cannot recommend the gun for hunting beyond very small critters like mice and moles. I understand that the semiautomatic capability helps in a hunting situation, but it is not sporting to have to shoot an animal several times to get results.

Other considerations
All the velocity tests were done while firing in the semiautomatic mode. Because the Drozd is powered by CO2, the velocity drops as it is fired repeatedly. I waited for about 15 seconds between shots to let the gun warm up after each shot. Even on a very hot day, the velocity will still drop with repeated shots. The hotter the day, the faster the recovery.

The chief reason people have said to not use lead balls is they tend to jam when fired in the burst mode (3-round or 6-round bursts). One reader said 3-round bursts were okay but 6-round bursts produced jams. I will test for this in the future. In the past when I did accuracy testing, all my firing was semiautomatic, because that is the only way to get reasonable accuracy from a select-fire gun. I will therefore do all accuracy testing in the semiautomatic mode.

After that, however, I will test this gun in the burst-fire mode in an attempt to see if it will jam. I will try all the cyclic rates and both burst modes to see if it will jam. We're going to really wring out this gun for you in the weeks ahead. I hope you enjoy the reports.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Drozd BB machine gun - bulk-fill! - Part 2

B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Well, we looked over the bulk-fill Drozd in Part 1. We saw all the controls and took the weight and measurements, so we got to know the gun pretty well. Today, we're going to start shooting for record.

Should you shoot steel BBs?
I made a point of telling you to shoot lead balls in the first report on the gun, back in August 2005. Since then, I have received numerous comments telling me why I was wrong to say that. The manufacturer packs steel BBs in the box with the gun, EAA (the importer) says to use steel BBs and many owners say lead balls have jammed their guns. So, am I willing to admit I was wrong? Not on your life!

So, being the stubborn cuss that I am, I tested the velocity of this gun with three different types of ammo this time: conventional steel BBs, 4.4mm lead balls and 4.5mm lead balls. It fed all three without a hitch, but I'm not claiming anything because of that. I fired only a handful of rounds, while I am informed that a Canadian club has some guns they have shot as many as 100K times! I can't begin to compete with that. They shoot only steel, and they say that an IZH factory representative told them steel BBs are the right ammo.

Loading the bulk-fill Drozd requires removal of the magazine. However, on that model, the magazine is free of the gun ONLY; it's still tethered to the CO2 tank by the hose. When you want to load, find a place to lay the gun close by. To load, pull down the spring-loaded follower. On this magazine, there's no way to lock it in place, so one hand has to hold the follower all the time. Therefore, you'll want to locate the ammo in such a position that your other hand can do all the work.

When the magazine is free of the gun, it's still tethered to the CO2 tank. This is on the bulk-fill gun, only.

Load one at a time by dropping them into the one hole at the top of the magazine. The hole is large enough, but BBs or round balls will go everywhere if they don't make it in the hole, so I advise putting a cloth under the magazine to stop the strays from rolling away.

Inserting the magazine back into the gun seems to require a knack on my gun. I don't know whether this is normal or if it's caused by the springiness of the gas hose, but the magazine kept trying to go too far to the front of the magazine well and would not seat properly. The solution turned out to be to force it to the rear of the mag well while inserting it. Then, it went in without a hitch.

Performance with steel BBs
The temperature was 61 degrees. I used Daisy Premium Grade BBs, which weigh 5.1 grains. They averaged 535 f.p.s., with a spread from 526 to 541. The muzzle energy for the average velocity is 3.24 foot-pounds. The very first shot was a low 481, but no other shot came close to that so I threw out that result. It seems you have to "wake up" the valve when shooting this gun the first time. That's common for both CO2 and pneumatic airguns.

We'll finish this test on Monday.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rifle stock terms

B.B. Pelletier

I'm doing the blog just for myself. That's not entirely true; I'm really doing it to save my sanity. When I answered a recent question about a common stock shape, I wondered what the internet might have to say on the subject, so I Googled the term "Monte Carlo." One tactical site showed a stock without a Monte Carlo comb but with a high rollover cheekpiece, and they were telling people that the high rollover cheekpiece they were showing was a Monte Carlo shape! If that's the best the internet can do, it's time we explained a few simple and somewhat common rifle stock terms.

Stock terms
Let's learn the right names for the parts of a stock.

These are the correct terms for the parts of a buttstock.

Monte Carlo
The Monte Carlo stock is characterized by a high comb that drops to a lower line near the butt. A former ruler of Monte Carlo popularized this shape in the mid-20th century when scopes came into widespread use. This shape has an advantage for scope use because it raises the cheek and eye up to better alignment with the scope.

Though it's less common than it was in the 1950s, it is still possible to have a Monte Carlo stock profile without a raised cheekpiece. The stepped comb is what makes it a Monte Carlo.

This is the most common form of Monte Carlo stock. The raised cheepiece is combined with the Monte Carlo profile.

A raised cheekpiece is a projection of the stock on the side where the shooters face touches the stock. Cheekpieces can be very low or extremely high, with the Tyrolean cupped cheekpiece found on some German/Austrian offhand target rifles being perhaps the highest of all. A cheekpiece can be combined with a Monte Carlo comb, or it can be on a rifle with a conventional comb, however at this time it is very common for the cheekpiece to extend out from the Monte Carlo comb.

This stock has a raised cheekpiece without the Monte Carlo profile. This profile with the dropped comb is called the Bavarian style. It's not Monte Carlo because the comb isn't high in front and it isn't stepped in the back, it just gently slopes down.

Bavarian stock
A Bavarian-style stock usually has a low cheekpiece, but is characterized by a drop in the line of the comb as it approaches the butt. When Robert Beeman first examined German airguns before he began importing them to the U.S. in the mid-1970s, he found many with Bavarian-style stocks. He imported them in the beginning, but his R-series guns were the same guns restocked with a more Western-style stock having a straight comb or a Monte Carlo comb.

This was a brief look at stock shapes and terms. I don't want to bore anyone with stuff like this, but there is more to show, such as the various types of checkering, stippling and so on. If there is interest, I will do more reports like this.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hydrostatic testing of pressure vessels, including scuba tanks

by B.B. Pelletier

This posting was requested by a reader several months ago, and I think it's timely now with Christmas approaching. People buying PCP guns for the first time are going to make the choice of whether to use a scuba tank or a hand pump to fill their guns, so the maintenance of scuba tanks should be of interest to many. In fact this information applies to all pressure vessels that have to be tested.

Controlled by DOT
Every country has a national agency that controls the use, transportation and maintenance of pressure vessels. Though the laws differ somewhat, they are all pretty similar because the concerns are always the same. In the United States, the Department of Transportation controls pressure vessels. They establish the regulations for their use, one of which is periodic pressure testing to determine if the vessel is still safe to fill. That test is done with water instead of air and is called a hydrostatic test. Water is much safer because it doesn't compress; so, if there is a rupture, it doesn't explode like pressurized air does.

Each type of tank has its own test
The hydrostatic test is peculiar to the type of tank being tested. Not all tanks are hydro-tested every five years, though that is a normal period of time. There is a type of carbon fiber tank that has to be hydro-tested every year! Let's look at a common 80 cubic-foot aluminum scuba tank. It needs a hydro every five years. The testing station has a test chamber, usually buried in the floor or behind massive blast walls. The tank's valve is removed and a test fixture is screwed in its place. For the 80 cubic-foot aluminum tank, the test is to pressurize the tank to 5/3 of its standard operating maximum. Since 3,000 psi is the standard fill pressure, they pressurize it to 5,000 psi. But they use water, not air, so if there's a failure, the explosion is relatively minor.

What are they looking for?
They're not trying to blow up the tank. Instead, they measure the volumetric displacement of the tank when empty and again when pressurized to 5,000 psi to determine if the tank walls still have the required flexibility. After many pressurization/depressurization cycles, the tank walls become work-hardened and are no longer safe. That tank will fail, and failure means it can no longer be filled. No dive shop will fill a failed tank.

How do pressure vessels fail?
I talked to the test engineer at a test station, and he told me a failure during test was rare. I don't mean a tank that fails to pass the test, I mean one that actually ruptures during testing. The most common failure point are the valve screw threads. They strip out under pressure, and the test rig is blown out. The second most common failure point is the base of the tank. When the tank is stored standing up, water (from condensation inside the tank) runs down to the base and promotes corrosion. Aluminum doesn't exactly rust in the conventional sense, but it will corrode under the right conditions. These failures are rare, but not unknown. However, a tank that bursts on the side is almost unheard of, though I'm sure it does happen with all the tank testing that occurs.

Tank markings
The top portion of a tank is covered with markings stamped into the metal. Among them are the type of tank, the manufacturer, the max working pressure, the serial number and the dates of all the hydrostatic tests.

Lots of information on this old tank. It was made and first tested in December 1980. You can read the other dates clearly. This is an aluminum 3000 psi tank, which you can also read, along with the manufacturer.

A dive shop will send your tank to the test station for you, and the fee is usually $25-35, depending on the location. Or, you can take it there yourself and save a little money. Without a current hydro stamp on the tank (within the last five years) no dive shop will fill the tank.

I hope this posting answers all the questions about hydrostatic testing. If not, you know where the find me!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tech Force 99

by B.B. Pelletier

Tech Force 99 is a large underlever spring rifle.

This review was requested by a reader several months ago. The Tech Force 99 was created to rival the Air Arms TX200 in accuracy and power. It's advertised accuracy is a five-shot group of 0.13" at 10 meters, and the advertised velocity is 1,100 f.p.s. in .177 and 900 f.p.s. in .22.

The rifle
The 99 is a large underlever rifle. It weighs about 8 lbs. and is 44.75" long. The pull is a generous 14.5". The stock is reddish-brown hardwood with tight grain but without much figure. It has a low cheekpiece on the left side and the top of the comb is contoured in the Monte Carlo style. The metal parts are all an even dark blue. There are a few plastic parts, such as the end cap and triggerguard, but the bulk of the action is wood. The fit of the black rubber recoil pad and white line spacer is crude and uneven, but the rest of the wood fit is pretty good. The stock on the rifle I've got has one spot filled in with wood putty, which is almost a hallmark of Chinese wood stocks.

Unlike the majority of Chinese airguns, the TF99 is a copy of nothing. It is, rather, an enlargement of the TF97, which is an improved version of the QB36 underlever.

Loading and cocking
To load the rifle, pull down the underlever as far back as it will go. That retracts a silver-colored sliding compression chamber and reveals the breech of the barrel. The pellet is inserted directly into the breech, and the underlever is returned to the stored position, which closes the sliding chamber. You have to unlock the anti-beartrap mechanism or the underlever won't move. The lock is a lever located just behind the trigger. Pull back and the underlever is released. You get used to this after a few shots.

With the sliding chamber withdrawn, the breech is exposed for loading.

Three levers inside the triggerguard can be confusing. The one in the rear (the right in this shot) is the anti-beartrap release for returning the underlever to the stored position. The trigger is the long one in the center. The automatic safety is in front (left) and must be pulled back before the gun will fire.

The rifle cocks with about 28 lbs. of effort, which seems light for a rifle that shoots 1,100 f.p.s., but the one I tested did not achieve that velocity. With 7.0-grain RWS Hobby pellets, it averaged 890 f.p.s.; with Gamo Match pellets that weigh 7.5 grains, it averaged 801 f.p.s. With 10.6-grain Beeman Kodiaks that are among the most accurate, the rifle averaged 629 f.p.s.

Trigger-pull and firing behavior
The trigger pull is quite light. It's a long second stage but not over 2.5 lbs. of pull weight. There's a lot of low-level creep in stage two, but this trigger does break-in over time. After 1,000 shots, you should start to notice a smoother pull. Firing behavior is very smooth, with practically no vibration or recoil.

Accuracy is on the order of 0.30" to 0.50" at 10 yards when the best pellets are used. The rifle is very sensitive to how it's held and demands a light hold on the palm of the hand. Resting it on sandbags destroys accuracy.

You have to compare this rifle to others in its price range. It currently sells for $170, though there are often sales throughout the year. That positions it against Gamo CF-X, which sells for $200. While that is $30 more, you get more power and a lot more accuracy with the Gamo. What you get with the TF99 is the .22-caliber option that many hunters will want. So there is a place for it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Can a CO2 gun work with air?

by B.B. Pelletier

We got the following question posted to Friday's blog:

"This question is both for the Chinese Crosman copy [the QB 78] and the Drozd. Is there a way to convert such weapons to use compressed air, such as a fillable tank?

The quick answer is yes, a CO2 gun can be made to run on air. As long as the pressure of the air is not too different than the pressure at which CO2 normally operates (853 psi at 70 degrees F), then the valve will open with the same hammer weight and spring strength. Once open, the thinner air, which is comprised of several elemental gasses, flows through the valve faster than the large CO2 molecule, so the velocity will spike. Because the air flows more freely, more air than CO2 gas will flow. The pressure will drop faster, resulting in fewer shots. Also, the CO2 in a reservoir is a liquid that evaporates into gas, maintaining the pressure of the gas. Pressurized air is just a gas; and when it's gone, there's nothing to replace it.

It's been done many times
I'm sure this has been done by many experimenters, but the first one I'm aware of was one that Dennis Quackenbush did in the mid-1990s. A .22 caliber Quackenbush Excel that got about 650 f.p.s. on CO2 jumped to over 800 f.p.s. on air. An air reservoir of nearly the same size as the CO2 paintball tank got far fewer shots per fill, but enough to make the experiment worthwhile.

Air Arms S200
You may be more familiar with the Air Arms S200 PCP rifle. It started life as a Tau 200 CO2 target rifle that several American field target shooters decided would make a good PCP gun. At the time, the rifle was selling for about $275. Several people began converting Tau 200s into PCP rifles, and they worked well enough that they caught the attention of Air Arms. They contracted with the Czech factory to produce the rifle under their name, and the S200 was born. By passing through another set of hands and with the increase of the euro against the dollar, the price has risen quite a bit.

Steyr CP1/LP1
Several years ago the Steyr company contracted to make their popular 10-meter target pistol, the LP1, into a CO2 gun with Barbara Mandrell's name on it. Starting in 1999, It was sold through the NRA to raise money for USA Shooting, the American Olympic contingent. Steyr used a CO2 valve and a CO2 tank. Why the gun was requested in CO2 is a mystery, since PCPs had taken over the world stage when the pistol was first offered, but Steyr also offered the parts kit to change the gun to a PCP through Steyr dealer Scott Pilkington. Though 250 were scheduled for production, the actual number produced was probably close to 100, because the price was perhaps too high for non-airgunners.

The Barbara Mandrell Steyr pistol was available in either CO2 or PCP.

Both the QB78 and the Drozd have been converted to air
These days, making such conversions is easier because of the paintball crowd and their constant-air technology. They have regulators to lower air pressure for the firing valves in their markers to 850 psi, which makes a gun run just as efficiently on air as it would CO2. By controlling the volume of the firing chamber, they can also control the potential power of the gun. As long as the valve can pass only a certain volume of air, it cannot exceed a certain power level regardless of the valving it has. It doesn't become more powerful on air than on CO2.

This paintball technology transfers over to airguns very nicely. It's been done on the experimental level, and the small production level with the QB78 and the Drozd, but no big company has yet employed it. I think they will, when somebody realizes the potential for greater sales.

Friday, December 01, 2006

QB78 Family Workshop Manual - New airgun book!

by B.B. Pelletier

I have a real treat for everyone! A new book about airguns has just been published, and it's one I know you're going to enjoy. It's the QB78 Family Workshop Manual by Stephen Archer, and it's all about the QB78 CO2 rifle. When I say "all about," I'm not exaggerating!

Everything you ever wanted to know about the QB78!

What's a QB78?
The QB78 is a modern version of Crosman's famous 160/167 air rifle. I wrote about it on November 7, 2006. Many of you already know what a fine air rifle it is. For those who don't, some research is in order. Before the 78 was available, people were paying up to $250 to get a Crosman 160, because the supply is limited and the rifle has some great features. The QB78 is essentially the 160 made for everyone.

I learned!
In just the first scan of this book, I learned that my velocity recollections for the 78 are incorrect. I had the .177 down for 700+ and the .22 for 600 f.p.s. But the author tested many rifles and presents a table of observed velocities that are quite a bit lower. He also shows the factory spec for both calibers and where actual rifles he has tested fall against it! You usually can't buy that kind of data. The rifles I tested must have been tuned before they were sent to me.

But the best part of this book are the technical details about the rifle. It starts by assembling a tool kit and takes you through complete disassembly of the rifle, adjustments, repairs and troubleshooting. Determining what to fix by where the gas escapes the gun is very helpful info, and that's just one of the tidbits I picked up in this book. The instructions are specific and complete, and they take you all the way down to every part of the gun. Even the complete valve disassembly is described in detail. Assembly instructions are far more comprehensive than the usual "do everything in reverse." You are shown special assembly tips and even told how and what to lubricate as you assemble.

Performance charts
This book is filled with charts of caliber-specific velocity and accuracy gathered from hundreds of individual tests. For example, Archer charts the power curve of both calibers as it relates to the ambient temperature. I had a question this week about how airguns do in heat; this book shows how the QB78 is affected, degree by degree. You might be surprised to know there is a power downturn as the temperature gets up over 96 degrees F, so shooters in Las Vegas aren't always in the ideal circumstances we sometimes think they are.

Another reader asked several months ago if I would address customizing airguns with various accessories. This book gets into that, telling you how to change the stock, installing a custom bolt handle, fitting a sling, refinishing a wood stock and bedding the action, and converting the rifle from 12-gram cartridges to bulk-fill.

The book is filled with detailed photos and line drawings. The author has pictured aspects of the technical work that are difficult to convey with words, and there are many assembly drawings of parts, such as the valves. There's also a numbered parts list that translates Crosman 160 parts numbers to QB numbers where the parts interchange. Where they don't interchange, you are told what doesn't work (and sometimes why).

The 88-page book is available from the author. Contact him at The price is $24.95 and $5 shipping to any address in the 50 States and $10 to the rest of the world.