Friday, March 30, 2007

11mm scope dovetails:
Why do they interchange with 3/8"?

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I get started on today's blog, I want to announce that Pyramyd Air is now making their email campaigns available online. This is great news, because many of us have avoided subscribing due to already-full inboxes. Each week, a new email is sent out with new products, sales and promotions, special offers, etc. They usually come out on Wednesdays, but not always. Here's the new products email for this week.

Now, on to today's blog.

dm20 gets the credit for this one. He made this comment. "I thought you said makers of quality rings only labelled them in either 3/8 or 11mm, and not both?"

I probably did say that, though I don't remember the context of the statement, so it's hard for me to remember exactly what I was referring to. But that's not the issue. The issue is: What is an 11mm dovetail?

Don't use common sense!
My aunt once told me that common sense isn't that common, and she was right. Think about electrical plugs, computer operating systems, cell phone plans or whatever, and you'll see what I mean. When something absolutely HAS to work, like air transportation, we gag the dreamers, fire the committees and enforce the standards ruthlessly. But, when free enterprise is given room to innovate - watch out! You'll get digital cameras that don't interface with most computers, giving rise to entire businesses that exist just to get pictures from your easy-to-use camera onto paper. So it is with the mythical 11mm dovetail!

The B-Square study
I am acquainted with Dan Bechtel, the founder of B-Square. His company grew up making no-gunsmithing scope mounts for military rifles back in the 1960s. In the 1990s, Dan saw an opportunity in airguns. He saw people were mounting scopes on more and more guns, and he wanted a piece of the action. Like many of you, he thought all he had to do was make a scope mount that fit an 11mm dovetail and be done with it.

No standards!
That's when he learned the bitter truth. Airgun dovetails - those 11mm dovetails we all talk about - actually range in size from 9.5mm to almost 14mm! When he discovered this, he wasn't discouraged. He simply made a mount with adjustable clamps that spanned the distance between the high and low number - one size fits all. Except, it didn't fit all! In fact, it was the reverse. It fit almost nothing very well. The rest of the guns had scope clamps on such an angle that their owners complained bitterly. What was wrong with B-Square? Why couldn't they make a scope mount that fit the dovetails properly?

I was one of a team of people around the U.S. who measured dovetails for B-Square. We even had to come up with a standard way of doing it so all our measurements would jive, because with a dovetail, where do you measure? From the bottom of the cut? From the top edge? Think about it. It's not obvious. We standardized by using two short 1mm wire strips inserted in the dovetails and measuring from the top of one wire to the top of the other. They went into the dovetail cuts almost completely, giving us a standard point of reference. If you don't understand what I'm saying, it doesn't matter. We measured all the airgun dovetails we could find, so B-Square could make mounts for them.

It gets worse
Well, it turns out there is even more to it than the width of the rails! Some makers cut the dovetails with a 60-degree angle while others cut it with a 45-degree angle. The angle of the cut influences the angle and depth of the clamp going into it, so B-Square had to use clamps with rounded edges as a compromise. Then they took heat because those clamps looked like they didn't fit ANY dovetails right! But there is even more to it than that!

And worse
The profile of the receiver above the dovetail affects how the scope mount fits on the gun. If the rifle is rounded and if it sticks up too high, it can hit the bottom of the mount and make it rock to one side. Nobody likes that. You might think that was the end of it, but there was more.

And worse!
The scope stop mechanisms on air rifles are not standardized. Weihrauch and Air Arms use vertical holes, Gamo is in a transition from a flat plate, which many Chinese makers use, to a more traditional add-on scope stop. Webley, FWB and CZ use half-round transverse grooves - all serving the same purpose. The scope mount has to be made taking things like that into account.

No hope for some
Then, there are the guns such all the RWS Dianas that, even today, have absolutely NO provisions for a scope stop! We have to be creative in how we mount scopes on these rifles because the factory obviously doesn't know or care that there is a problem. I think they think you can just clamp to the dovetails real hard and that will solve the problem. I know hundreds of shooters who have discovered otherwise. And, finally there are guns such as the Webley Tomahawk, which has no provisions for scope stops at all! None! Even B-Square can't do anything about that.

About now is when someone stands up and shouts, "Why can't they all just standardize on one kind of scope mounting system?" Sort of underscores why the military went out of their way to invent their own system, doesn't it? So, dm20, 11mm mounts SOMETIMES also fit 3/8" dovetails just because they do! A smart mount maker tries to fit as many guns as possible for the sake of more sales.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Clearing up some scope questions

by B.B. Pelletier

We had a LOT of questions about UTG Tactedge 4x40 scope and we got an important question about the Rex 10-40x scope that is directly related to the UTG questions, so today I thought I'd spend more time on my explanations.

Lack of AO
One person asked why I didn't mention that the 4x40 scope lacked an AO feature, and someone else asked whether or not it has AO. I actually DID address this point when I mentioned that the parallax is fixed at 35 yards. That means it isn't adjustable - no AO! I felt that was good enough, but the questions say otherwise. So, why didn't I mention the lack of an AO specifically?

I didn't mention the lack of an adjustable objective (for parallax correction) for the same reason that I don't expect a Porsche Boxster sportscar to come with a class IV trailer hitch. It's not appropriate. To use the adjustable objective, you must be able to see very small details, so you can tell when they come into sharp focus. Things as small as sugar ants. A 4x telescope can do that to about 5-7 yards. Beyond that, it's a guess. AO on a 4x scope would not be be useful at any great distance, and that is what AO is most used for by airgunners - determining distance!

In the post, I went on to say that everything seen through this scope from 7 yards to infinity appears to be in sharp focus. There's another clue that AO would not work. You need to be able to determine any change of focus through the scope, which is how AO works.

This situation doesn't just pertain to this scope, but to ALL scopes of low power! As magnification increases, the distance at which the AO can be used for rangefinding increases proportionately. A 6-18x can determine range out to about 25 yards but not beyond. A 6-24x can go out to maybe 35 yards. An 8-32x can go out to 50 yards if the optics are bright enough to see anything, which is where a lot of scopes fail. They will magnify as much as advertised, but you will only be able to see small details when the bright sun is coming from behind your position. That's where bright, clear optics pay off.

MCA just asked me to relate the 4x40 to the Bug Buster 4x scope. Okay, the Bug Buster, which has AO, will focus as close as 3 yards. That's nine feet. Even though the magnification won't allow you to rangefind out to great distances, the Bug Buster works in the region where 4x can actually be used to determine range. The parallax at three yards is many times greater than it is at 20 yards, so this feature is a good one. With the 4x40 UTG, you have no AO, so you have to guess the range and learn the trajectory of your pellet at very close ranges, which is exactly where pellets vary wildly with every yard they advance.

When I said AO is not appropriate for 4x scopes, I was referring to conventional AO that starts at 10 yards. With the Bug Buster, we have a special situation in which the AO minimum focus range has been brought close enough to give us a great feature that no other scope on the market has. At 25 yards, the Bug Buster isn't useful for rangefinding, either, but it can focus close enough that we can take those impossibly close shots.

Also, the Bug Buster is a mini scope, while the 4x40 Tactedge is of normal length. That will make a difference when you mount the scope. Compacts are more difficult to position correctly for your eye - especially when a scope stop is involved.

Relating to the Rex 10-40x50 scope
Why is the big Rex scope with high magnification not good for field target? Simple - it doesn't adjust down to 10 yards. Don't get confused because I said the scope is clear and sharp at 10 yards at 10x - that's not the same thing. If you crank the power higher, things will start becoming blurry, meaning that it really isn't in exact focus - it just looks like it is at 10x. There isn't enough adjustment in the parallax wheel to focus as close as 10 yards, so at higher power you will be stymied. You can still see your targets clearly and will be able to shoot at that distance - just not rangefind.

Joe in MD mentioned that people adjust their objective lenses to compensate for this, and he's right. But I don't want any of you doing that. I already answer enough comments about how to put this or that airgun back together - I certainly don't want to start on scopes! Until Rex changes the AO on this scope so that it focuses down to 10 yards out of the box I cannot recommend this scope for field target. But for long-range shooting of any kind, this one is a dream!

I think rangefinding with a scope is overrated
Just because the UTG 4x40 scope doesn't have AO is not a problem. I almost NEVER trust a scope to determine the range to a target. Because I'm out in all kinds of weather and the AO on scopes only works properly in a narrow temperature range, I find rangefinding to be overrated, cumbersome and a bother.

I once sat next to another field target shooter who missed two easy shots because he trusted his scope for the range. I could see that the target was less than 20 yards away, but his scope said 25 yards. That's right at the spot where pellet trajectories play tricks - all shots closer than 20 yards. I even told him the target was about 18 yards in my estimation, but he wouldn't hear it. He had a $475 Leupold scope with another $300 worth of modifications on it and, by golly, he was going to put his trust in the equipment! So, he missed two shots on a dead-easy one-inch kill zone.

There you have it. I hope I was clear enough this time, but you'll tell me by your questions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

REX 10-40x50 scope

by B.B. Pelletier

The largest scope in Pyramyd's lineup is this beautiful new Rex 10-40x50. Shown here with the sidewheel attachment mounted.

Springtime is when the shooting sports industry puts out the bulk of its new products, and this year Pyramyd Air has an embarrassment of them! They told me there are so many new products that they can't fit them all into their new product emails, so I am taking up some of the slack by showing you some of what's new.

Rex scopes
Pyramyd Air has added the Rex line of scopes to its scope line. These optics come from the same people who bring you the BAM air rifles; and from first examination, they appear to be just as well made. Today, I'll take a look at the 10-40x50.

BIG glass!
This is a HUGE scope! It has a 30mm tube and a 50mm objective lens for which there is a sunshade, if you need it. At 33.5 oz. and 16.75" long (without the sunshade!), this will be the largest scope many of you have ever seen! It is truely the Rolex Submariner of riflescopes.

BIG features!
The features are so plentiful I'll just highlight them:

  • 30mm scope tube

  • Red illuminated reticle with 11 settings

  • Mil-dot/duplex reticle with center lines etched on glass for resistance to flaring

  • Eyepiece has adjustable diopter

  • Separate sunshade

  • Sidewheel parallax adjustment to less than 20 yards

  • Separate, large (3.7") sidewheel for calibration of focus ranges

  • Target turrets with 1/8 MOA adjustments

  • Turrets are resettable for zero preservation

  • Spare battery included

  • Flip-up transparent lens caps

  • Waterproof & nitrogen-filled

  • Includes matching Weaver mounts

Now, so all of that makes sense to you, here are a couple pictures.

Lots of stuff in that box! Besides the scope, there's a sunshade, a large sidewheel attachment, a spare battery, matching scope rings and the owner's manual.

This closeup of the turret knobs shows the sidewheel parallax knob without the large wheel. Actually, the knob is pretty large by itself and will be fine for everyone who doesn't want to know distances to the exact yard.

It takes a long time to properly evaluate a scope, but I've had this one long enough to give you some preliminary observations. It is very clear - even at the highest magnification, which is where scopes tend to fall off. The parallax adjustment goes below 20 yards; and if you set the magnification to 10x, the image will be very sharp and clear at just 10 yards. Pyramyd Air has to tell you what the actual specifications are, and the parallax setting goes down to somewhere below 20 yards, but I'm telling you the scope is useful at 10 yards. I wouldn't select it for field target, but I would get it for just about every other long-range or precision target airgun application I had.

Long-range airgun shooters and firearms shooters, alike, will find this scope to be the right ticket. As long as the light is good, I would put this big Rex up against any other scope. The 1/8 MOA adjustments mean you can control the strike of the round very precisely. It seems perfect for a large, accurate PCP.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

UTG Tactedge 4x40 scope

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, here's a twist! A scope with fixed power. Back in the 1960s that was the norm, but today, it's a novelty. Yet when you look at what Civil War snipers used, it was a 4x telescope - and they have recorded shots of one mile!

Rugged scope
UTG is a brand name of Leapers, so the UTG Tactedge 4x40 scope has the same rugged construction they put into their other scopes. Their Smart Spherical Structure means that it has an erector tube that returns to the same place every time.

A bundle of nice features
It comes with resettable adjustment knobs so you can always return to your base sight-in zero setting. It has a red/green illuminated reticle for low light situations, which couple with the low magnification and large field of view make it an excellent scope for fringe times in the morning and evening. The lenses are emerald-coated for maximum light transmission, further enhancing the low-light capability.

It comes with rings
How nice that a scope comes with a good set of rings. These are four-screw cap rings that you would normally have to purchase separately. They say .22/Airgun, which means they will fit both the 3/8" dovetails on a rimfire and the 11mm dovetails on an airgun. Those two are close anyway, so a smart mount maker makes a product that will accommodate either one.

Flip-up lens covers
Both ends of the scope have flip-up covers to protect the lenses, yet come off at the flick of a finger. Hunters love them for their speed in the field. No more hunting for where you put the lens caps!

Long eye relief
This scope looks right up to five inches from your eye. That's more than two additional inches over any comparable scope. If you own a military rifle that you want to scope, use this one. You can use it in the military mounts that sit far ahead of where a regular scope goes. It will function the same as those expensive Russian sniper scopes at a fraction of the cost.

The first time you look through this scope, it's like viewing a widescreen TV. The field of view is enormous. And, the parallax that you have to worry over on all those high-powered variables is fixed at 35 yards, yet everything from 7 yards to infinity is in focus. With only 4x, everything looks crystal clear. I tested a Weaver mount version (only difference is the rings) of the scope on the UTG M14 Master Sniper Rifle, and I was able to watch the flight of the BBs all the way from the muzzle to the 50-yard silhouette! Though the BBs do drop over that distance, the wide field of view keeps them in sight throughout the entire range.

I think this would make an ideal hunting scope - not only for air rifles, but for firearms, as well. It would be perfect for squirrels out to at least 50 yards and for whitetail deer to 150 yards. The mil dot reticle is not so thick that it obscures that much of the target. which means that you can even use it for inpromptu paper punching, should the desire overwhelm you.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Peep sights

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm doing this post at the request of Steve, who asked:

Do you think you could write up a detailed article about peep sites and how to use them? I just bought one for my 392, and they are indeed very accurate; I was quite impressed. But, I found that I couldn't find much on the web about how to use them, which leaves me to believe that peep sites are a bit underrated in lieu of scopes. But I think they're a great cost-effective alternative, especially at around the 25 yard range.Cheers, Steve Seattle, WA

I don't know when the first aperture-type sights were used, but in 1884, Lieutenant Colonel A.R. Buffington introduced a new type of rear sight for the .45 caliber rifle (the Trapdoor Springfield). It featured a combined open and aperture (peep) rear sight in a raised leaf that was both adjustable to 2,000 yards range and could also adjust for windage.

It may not have been the first use of peep sights on a rifle, but the 1884 Buffington rear sight on the Trapdoor Springfield was probably the first military use of peeps. It even compensated automatically for the drift of the bullet caused by the right-hand twist of the rifling! A very complex sight, it got the U.S. into peep sights for battle rifles, and they still use them today.

I'm pretty sure that when soldiers saw the new sight for the first time they hated it! They were used to open sights and buckhorns, and the newfangled peep must have confounded them. To put it on a primary military rifle in 1884 no doubt took real courage. However, when the U.S. adopted the M1903 Springfield rifle 19 years later, it had a modified Buffington rear sight, and every primary U.S. battle rifle since then has had a peep sight in the rear. Today, there is a move toward optical sights on the battlefield, but as of this time the peep sight still reigns supreme. Why is that?

It fixes parallax!
A good peep sight forces the shooter to position his eye in the same place every time, because it is difficult to impossible to see through the hole if the eye is elsewhere. But allow me to differentiate a good peep from an average peep. A good peep has a hole small enough to do what I just said. An average peep, and this includes all military peep sights I have seen, must use a larger hole for rapid target acquisition. The military doesn't care where the enemy is hit, as long as he is hit. Target shooters do care where they hit!

The battlesight peep on an Enfield No. 4 Mk1 rifle can almost substitute as a basketball hoop. There is a much smaller peep hole on the calibrated leaf that's laying down in this view. With a hole this large you won't shoot targets, but a man at 100 yards is not safe. For more exacting work, flip up the leaf and go to town! The No. 4 Enfield is one of my personal favorite WWII battle rifles!

How to use a peep
Using a peep sight is MUCH easier than using an open notch-type sight! With a peep, all you do is look through the hole in the rear sight and put the front sight where it needs to be in relation to the target. Your brain will force you to center the tip of the front sight in the rear hole because that's where the light is the brightest and the sight is easiest to see. Yes, you can subvert this if you really want to, but if you don't think about it, your brain will center the front sight every time. For that reason, peeps are best used with square post front sights and annular (ring) front sights. Trying to use a peep with a post and bead front sight can cause confusion until you sort it out. If you think of the bullet going to the tip of the front sight, you'll get along well with a peep.

When using a peep with a front sight that takes inserts, choose the annular type (left) or a square post (center). The post and bead isn't as useful until you practice with it for awhile.

Adjusting a peep
The peep sight adjusts the same as every rear sight. If you want to move the strike of the round to the left, move the rear sight to the left. If you want to shoot higher, move the rear sight up.

Peeps in poor light
Like any non-optical sight, a small aperture will fail in poor light. A large aperture will work much better, which is another reason the military uses such large holes.

Why don't more rifles come with peep sights?
Today, any rifle that doesn't easily accept a scope is dead in the water. Non-optical sights generate little interest among rifle shooters anymore. The last big peep sight push on pellet rifles came from Germany in the 1950s and '60s. And Daisy collectors can tell you that certain Daisy models such as the No. 25 pump have had combination peep and open sights that were very popular at that time.

This combination peep and notch rear sight was popular on many Daisy BB guns in the 1950s and '60s. This one is on a 1955 Daisy No. 25 pump gun.

So, Steve, the peep sight is not much of a mystery to use. It forces you to concentrate on the front sight, which is where accuracy comes from. It works just like other open sights except for the aperture, however that small hole is what makes the peep sight the easier sight to use.

Friday, March 23, 2007

TV station lies to the public

by B.B. Pelletier

Not that this is news - you just won't hear it anywhere except, perhaps, here.

A "News Station" calling itself (WTVF in Nashville, TN) reported the following:

Toy Guns Illegal in Hendersonville

The story reports that several teenagers were cited for firing "air soft pellet guns" in Hendersonville, Tennessee, defying the town's "tough stand on toy guns."

They then cited ordinance 11-601, which makes it illegal to fire any airgun, air pistol air rifle or even BB gun in the city limits. (It's also illegal to throw a snowball maliciously!)

Right there - they lied, because their headline says toy guns are illegal in Hendersonville. In fact, the ordinance says no such thing. It is a commonsense law about not discharging an airgun (it's one word, WTVF!) within the city limits. In fact, the majority of incorporated communities in the U.S. have a similar law. News Channel 5 might as well have reported the rising of the sun!

We called the Hendersonville police department to ask specifically if toy guns (meaning airsoft guns, in this case - another one-worder, WTVF) are illegal. THEY ARE NOT ILLEGAL. Second lie. Actually, it's the same lie, but told a different way. Clever, these new age doublethink specialists.

The officer we spoke with said the teens were running down the street firing airsoft guns at each other and ended up in a school yard. In other words, they were having an impromptu skirmish. In reality, they broke the law by brandishing their guns in public. The officer said the boys were very close to a sanctioned paintball field and wondered why they didn't just go there. Contrary to what WTVF says, shooting guns in Hendersonville is perfectly legal at the paintball field and in private residences. And, like every other community in America, you can't run up and down the street shooting or sit on your front porch and start popping your gun!

The report tried to explain airsoft by saying the guns fire "tiny plastic beads" and can be purchased at stores like the K-Mart in Hendersonville. They couldn't very well report that the guns fire 6mm BBs, because they have to assume their viewing audience is as dense as the reporter who writes the story. They further reported that the store has no notice or information on the ordinance against firing the guns. Wow! Imagine that! And, I suppose that the television sets in the News Channel 5 broadcast area have no notice on them regarding the possible invalidity or outright falsification of their news reports!

Well, here's another headline for you:

Nashville's News Channel 5 Not Cited For Fraudulent Reporting of Toy Gun Story

Let's see how they like it!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Best airguns for the money - Part 4
Unlimited price

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Well, today I'll wrap up the air rifles and we can move on to handguns next. The sky is the limit today, but there will actually be fewer guns to choose from, because "for the price" is still part of the selection criteria.

For classic lines and quality, Weihrauch's HW77 is a certain winner. It's the rifle that used to dominate field target in the late 1980s, and it probably got looked at very carefully when the TX200 was designed.

Fire 201S
For mass-produced big bores, the Fire 201S is the clear leader in my mind. It offers a large breech for easy loading, great power for the caliber and decent accuracy. Before 1990, a rifle like this would cost at least a thousand dollars and would have to be handmade.

Quackenbush Bandit
For a little more money, you can get a .457 caliber rifle that has in excess of 500 foot-pounds at the muzzle. The Bandit Long Action has been to Africa twice and taken big game. Deer and boar have fallen prey, and a Bison is next on the agenda. When questioned about using a 500 foot-pound airgun for such large animals, Dennis Quackenbush is quick to point out that buffalo hunters of the 1870s killed hundreds of thousands of buffalo with the .50/70 rifle. They typically took a stand at 500 yards from the herd, so the noise of the gun would not alarm them. At 500 yards, a .50/70 (425 grain bullet that exits the muzzle at 1280 f.p.s.) has about the same energy as a Bandit has at 50 yards.

The Air Arms TX200 belongs on this list. I do not know how they build such a fine air rifle for such a reasonable price in the United Kingdom, where labor costs are so high. And, if that weren't enough of an impediment, Labour costs are even higher! Building an FAC air rifle in the UK these days is not the bright enterprise it once was, when the country was still relatively open to internal commerce.

The rifle is stunning! No one can open the box of a new TX200 and not be impressed. And when you shoot it, the impression deepens. Yes, the BAM B40 is a remarkable air rifle for being such a close copy of the TX, but it took the TX to set the standard initially. The TX200 has beautiful finish, flawless fit, superb firing characteristics, superior accuracy and a fine trigger. The scope mounting solution is well thought-out and easy to use. The stock is proportioned for both sitting and offhand use. The anti-beartrap catch is unobtrusive and easy to operate. This rifle is the one all spring gun makers need to study before they fire up their CAD systems.

I nominate all three AirForce air rifles for this list. They belong there because they each offer more value for the money than any other PCP. That doesn't mean they are the best or even the most accurate PCPs. But, they give a thousand dollars worth of accuracy and performance for half the price.

Each of these rifles can now be changed by the addition of the MicroMeter air tank and by the new CO2 adapter. They offer performance that will suit any shooter's needs. The "black rifle" styling is not to everyone's taste, and that's one of the reasons other PCPs still sell, but these three rifles are fundamental to modern airgunning.

Before we move on
The move toward repeating mechanisms in recent years has actually hurt airgunning, because some companies have killed their single-shot models altogether. This was an unwise move, because repeating mechanisms come with bundles of limitations and problems, while single-shots are so basic they don't have any of these problems. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have repeaters, but not at the expense of the single-shots. I'll give just one example. Daystate replaced their single-shot Harrier with a repeater. The single-shot would have made my list. I own one and will never sell it, because it is a fine PCP. The repeater has the limitations of pellet length and difficult cleaning, plus never knowing what remains in the magazine.

Falcon FN-19
Falcon has a long reputation of making fine PCPs, and Titan, their former incarnation, did, too! The FN-19 is their standard long rifle action and is one of the sweetest PCPs out there. I like the separate cocking handle that takes the effort off the bolt. I don't know if they still have that feature, but I really liked it. And, Falcons are quite accurate. Even their sporter rifles, such as the FN-19, are good enough to shoot field target in everything lower than a championship.

Another thing I like about Falcon is that their rifles don't always require the 3000 psi fill level. Neither did my Harrier. It's wonderful to fill to 2600 psi or so and still get the same number of full-power shots, because the rifle's valve has been properly balanced.

FWB P44 pistol
I shoot 10-meter pistols for sport, so naturally I would have one on my list. Actually, I like the Steyr and Anschutz pistols very well, but I've always favored the Feinwerkbaus. The P44 is the latest incarnation in a line of premium PCP 10-meter target pistols that began with the P30 over a decade ago. For me the adjustments are perfect, the trigger is ideal and I just seem to shoot a few points higher with an FWB. Pyramyd Air will start selling the P44 shortly.

FWB P700 rifle
And for a 10-meter rifle I can recommend the FWB P700. A direct successor to the P70, the 700 is very pricey, however I wouldn't recommend anything else. This is one time when I don't have a close second.

Whiscombe JW80
There is nothing else like it, and you've already seen how well it functions in my reports, so the JW80 has to be on the list. Featuring interchangeable barrels, harmonic tuning, and power adjustability, the Whiscombe is a rifle for discriminating airgunners.

What SHOULD have made the list
The Logun Solo probably belongs here, along with the BAM B50. Both offer a lot of features for a very reasonable price. Beyond that, I draw a blank. If Theoben still made the 12 foot-pound Fenman, it would be here, too, but they don't. That can be said for any number of fine guns that have passed from the scene. The HW55T, the FWB 124D and the BSF S54 all would have made my list if they were still around. Now, it's time for you to tell me what I forgot.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

UTG Special Ops M14 Sniper Rifle - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Let's look at the field performance of this airsoft gun.

The gun comes with two high-capacity magazines that hold 350 shots each. They are very conventional airsoft magazines, so anyone who's ever loaded an M16 or M4 AEG will be familiar with them. The top has a loading door that slides open and the BBs are just poured in. A BB bottle with a pouring spout is real handy for this and nothing gets spilled.

Pour BBs in the loading door.

Close the door and load the magazine into the gun just like you would a real M14 magazine. For the majority of you who have never done that, the M14 mag goes in with a slightly forward slant at the bottom. It looks and feels misaligned until you get use to it, and then you never forget it. It's been 40 years since I last loaded an M14, and I did it right the first time with the UTG. This must be the right way to load mags into rifles!

The windup!
High-capacity AEG magazines have a small toothed wheel at their base. It's for winding up the feed spring inside the magazine. Wind it until you hear or feel a distinctive change in how the wheel winds. At that point, you have about 30-35 good shots, at which point you wind the wheel again. Although there are over 300 BBs in the magazine, they don't all shoot without winding this spring. Think of the magazine as more of a reservoir, and you have about 35 ready shots per windup.

Wind the wheel at the bottom of the magazine to tension each set of BBs. When the gun stops shooting BBs, it's time to wind again.

This gun is rated to shoot both 0.20-gram and 0.25-gram BBs. When I loaded it with 0.20-gram BBs, it often spit out two and three BBs per shot. Obviously, the accuracy went south in a hurry. This was when I shot it on semiautomatic, which is how a sniper rifle is supposed to be used. On full-auto, things happen too fast to see this phenomenon.

Hop Up
On the other hand, 0.25-gram BBs were very good in both semi- and full-auto. The Hop Up adjustment requires that the magazine be removed, which is a pain because there will be three or four BBs sitting between the magazine and the breech. Prepare to catch them when you remove the magazine. I adjusted the gun in the field at 50 yards. By using white BBs, I could watch the trajectory all the way to and through the target. The Hop Up was grossly adjusted at first, then finely adjusted the closer I came to zero. The UTG Tactedge 4x40 long eye relief scope has a huge field of vision that made watching the BBs in flight like watching television.

I got the BB's curve down to about 3"-5" at 50 yards, but it was impossible to remove all of it. Every tenth BB or so curved wildly in another direction. That's caused by voids in the BBs.

The 0.20-gram BBs that didn't work well shot an average of 330 f.p.s.. The better-shooting 0.25-gram BBs shot 295 f.p.s. That's good speed for a gun in this price range.

The day was windy, with gusts at 5-20 mph. They were coming mostly from the back, which helped immensely, but no wind is good for airsoft. Especially not when the target is 50 yards away! Even so, the gun did quite well. I'll show you the target because this is not a minute-of-angle airgun. It's an airsoft sniper rifle and hitting the target is all that matters. Yes, there were complete misses. Most of them were wild shots from errant BBs. Once I got on target, it was easy to hit if the BBs were good - even with the wind.

50 yards with an airsoft gun on a windy day is nothing to laugh at. The M14 Sniper handled it well once it was sighted in.

Bottom line
If you want to get an AEG, this one is pretty good for the money. I cannot say it is in the same class as a $300 Marui M16, but it costs only half as much. I found the battery options limited and the battery door breakage was inconvenient. That aside, where are you going the get an AEG M14 for anywhere near this kind of money?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Growing pains

by B.B. Pelletier

There's been a lot of talk on the forums recently about how long you have to wait on the line with Pyramyd Air before a customer service representative picks up the phone. I remember the days when you could just call and get right through, but Pyramyd Air has grown tremendously in the past two years, and it now takes time to get through.

Airgun Express
Last year Pyramyd bought Airgun Express and absorbed their clients and inventory. AGE was probably the second-largest dealer in the U.S. after Pyramyd Air, so combining the two companies really boosted their business. They were already in a fast-growth mode, and this move boosted them into orbit! To deal with the increase, they added to their workforce, upgraded their phone system and made several tweaks to their office operations, but sales continued to outstrip their call center.

Customer reps
While all this was happening, Pyramyd expanded their warehouse space twice. Tom Gaylord took a tour in August, which he wrote up as an article (see I spent the day at Pyramyd Air), but Pyramyd expanded once again after he was there! He reported seeing at least 10 customer service reps, but even that didn't alleviate the problem of phone waits.

Hire more people!
Well, that's the obvious solution, isn't it? And, that's what they've done. They just added three more reps to handle your calls. These are all experienced call center employees, but it will take some time for them to become familiar with the Pyramyd Air inventory, which keeps growing by the day. Still, you're going to hear some new names when you call in the future. But that won't solve all the backlog of calls by itself because Pyramyd continues to grow.

Use the internet
Another no-brainer. Pyramyd Air has set up their website for ease of navigation and for speed. They are also pioneering several ways of displaying their products better. Take a look at the Walther PPK/S, for example. On the left side of the page is a blue icon with the number 360 in the middle. If it doesn't show up on your screen, you may have to click on the green OVERVIEW tab in the MODEL ASSISTANT box.

Click on this blue icon to see the product in full rotation.

Click on that icon, and you'll be taken to a page that shows a side view of the gun. Once you're on that page, click on the word PLAY below the image, then pause a moment and click PLAY a second time. The product will start rotating in a full circle. If you want to control the view, click and hold your mouse button down to stop the rotation. You can then control how the gun rotates by sliding your mouse from side to side. Release the mouse button, and the gun rotates on its own again. Several Walther pistols, the Beretta XX-Treme and the Magnum Research Desert Eagle already have this feature. More will be converted.

There are also video clips about several guns. The CP99 Compact, for example, has a video clip in the description. Simply click on the movie projector icon next to the pistol to watch it. Don't forget to turn on your computer's sound! If you want to see a real fun video, look at the one on the Jackal 9mm page.

Click on the movie projector to load the video.

And there are models that can be configured by the customer. Look at the Logun S-16s, for example. Click on the Configure button in the description, and you can accessorize the gun to see how it looks, plus add the cost of all the items you've selected.

So, there are several ways the Pyramyd Air website can assist you, but the fact remains that they're growing very fast at this time, and there are still going to be phone delays. They are continuing to work on new ways to improve service, and they want you to know how much they appreciate your patience. They know as well as you that the unanswered phone soon grows quiet and takes care of itself, and they don't want that to happen.

Having said all of that, I'm sure Pyramyd Air would like to hear how you feel about this situation, and what your experiences have been.

Monday, March 19, 2007

AirForce CO2 adapter is put to the test! - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Well, you were certainly interested in the AirForce CO2 adapter! Judging from the comments we received, many of you see the the possibilities. As long as you are buying a PCP, it doesn't hurt that you can make it into a great CO2 rifle as well. And, if you include the MicroMeter tank, there's a third possibility from just one gun!

Before I jump into this report, a word to several readers who asked about adjusting the top hat of the CO2 adapter valve. Don't do it. The adapter uses a Condor valve, which is already set at the maximum spacing for the average gun. CO2 isn't as fussy about clearances as air anyway, so just attach the adapter and use it as it comes.

And to those who are concerned that the use of CO2 will possibly damage the seals in your gun, don't worry. First of all, all the important seals are in the valve anyway. There are only two O-rings in the gun and they just seal the rear of the barrel. And AirForce makes the adapter, so they would use the right seals for CO2.

Shooting conditions
You probably want to know how it shoots. Well, the barrels are from Lothar Walther, so you have that going for you. The day I picked for the test could not have been better. There was zero wind and a light overcast that had been fog an hour earlier. I set an intermediate target at 30 yards to get the scope zeroed, and the real target at 50 yards for the record. Unfortunately, when I tested the Logun S-16s, the wind was blowing hard, so there's no way to do a direct comparison between the accuracy of the two guns. I think they're probably equivalent. The heavy Logun trigger makes it more difficult to shoot accurately, but the potential is there.

Talon SS
The Talon SS was already scoped and sighted-in for operation with air, so the switch was easy. I used an AirForce 4-16x scope, which is very bright for that power. The initial groups at 30 yards were as tight as the Logun S-16s groups at 25 yards, so I knew the rifle was going to do well. And, is it ever quiet! The noise of the pellet striking the cardboard box the target was taped to 50 yards away was louder than the discharge.

Talon SS with a CO2 tank. Call it a quiet SS!

The scope was mounted in B-Square AA Ultra-High 1" rings that were clamped to an AirForce Tri-Rail, which put the scope a little too high for my preference. I thought I needed the extra height, but the Tri-Rail coupled with the risers on the rings is too much. I'll lower the rings with a set of medium risers because I want to keep the Tri-Rail. It slips on all AirForce rifles fast and easy and keeps a pretty good zero when moved from one gun to another.

Both JSB Exacts and Crosman Premiers performed well. The rifle shot groups that averaged just under one inch, and the best of the day measured 0.379", though it was the only SS group that measured less than a half-inch. Because the pellet moved so slowly and the distance was so great, I could watch some of the pellets in flight.

Smallest group of JSB Exacts measures 0.379". Not bad for 50 yards!

On air, the SS is more accurate at this distance, but the difference isn't that great. I would expect to see a lot of groups between 0.50" and 0.75" on air. If the wind were blowing, the slow-moving pellet would be moved around considerably, so this long-range shooting is only possible under ideal conditions.

The Condor was snappier than the SS, obviously, and it made some noise...but nothing compared to a Condor on air. Sighting-in was very easy because the AirForce Tri-Rail permitted the scope to be transferred without a lot of change in zero.

A Condor on CO2 is still a Condor. It has as much power as some powerful spring rifles!

The Condor grouped in the 0.75" to 1.0" range, with the best group going 0.376". It also preferred Crosman Premiers and JSB exacts over all other brands. I got several JSB groups that measured just over a half-inch, and I think the extra 100 f.p.s. proved beneficial.

Five Premiers went into this 0.376" group from the Condor.

Condor put five JSB Exacts into 0.582" at 50 yards.

The bottom line
If you already own an AirForce air rifle, this adapter expands your rifle's already impressive portfolio of features. If you're thinking of buying one, here's another good reason for you. If you like the idea of precharged accuracy but don't want the hassle of the scuba tank or pump, here's the way out! Any way you look at it, this adapter adds a lot of value to the entire AirForce lineup.

Friday, March 16, 2007

AirForce CO2 adapter is put to the test! - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The new AirForce CO2 adapter is an exclusive at Pyramyd Air.

I have the best job in the world, because when new stuff comes out, I get to test it. Today we're going to take a look at the new CO2 adapter for AirForce air rifles. They'll be available exclusively from Pyramyd Air either tomorrow or the first of next week.

What it does
This adapter lets you operate any AirForce air rifle - the Talon, Talon SS and the Condor - on CO2. The CO2 is contained in a large tank that replaces the AirForce air reservoir and also serves as the butt of the rifle. The AirForce adapter is long enough to make up for the short length of a CO2 tank, so the pull of the rifle remains the same. You can use any standard paintball tank with this adapter, and Pyramyd Air sells both 12-oz. and 20-oz. tanks for this purpose. These tanks come filled with CO2 and ready to use. They also sell unfilled 12-oz. and 20-oz. tanks. Plus, they offer combos of filled tanks and adapters (12-oz., 20-oz.).

This is the adapter connected to a 20-oz. tank.

Let's examine the adapter
This is not just a simple coupling! It contains an entire Condor valve! So, the cost for this adapter is higher than for the Logun S-16 adapter. Because CO2 operates at one-third the pressure of the normal AirForce air tank fill, all AirForce models can use this adapter. Even though the Condor valve is huge compared to a standard valve, the lower pressure lets the two standard rifles use it, too.

Installing the adapter
Connect the adapter to the CO2 tank by simply screwing them together. I put three drops of Crosman Pellgunoil inside the adapter before I put the parts together so it will get blown into the valve when the gas starts flowing. As the connection nears completion, the adapter opens the tank's valve, filling the adapter with CO2 gas. That makes the final few turns harder, because now there's 850 psi pressing on the tank's O-ring. Keep turning the tank until it stops.

After the adapter is on the tank, attach the tank to the rifle the same as you would a standard reservoir. The adapter is made of blued steel and looks like it will last a long time. There is nothing else to do but shoot! The power wheel doesn't work as well on CO2 as on air, but there is a small range of adjustability.

CO2 is a lower pressure gas than the air used by AirForce airguns. Also, the CO2 gas molecule is much larger than the atoms of gases in air. So, the power is lower when operating on CO2. Here's what to expect from .22 caliber rifles at a temperature of 85 degrees F:

Talon SS: 610 f.p.s. on high power/495 f.p.s. on low power
Talon: 650 f.p.s. on high power/475 f.p.s. on low power
Condor: 734 f.p.s. on high power/685 f.p.s. on low power

In case you aren't that familiar with CO2 in .22 caliber rifles, the Condor is shooting about as fast as rifles ever do. Only a few wide-open Philippine guns are faster, and they're not accurate. The Talon SS on high power is right where the Benjamin AS392T is.

Number of shots per CO2 tank
Oh my gosh! This is where it gets good. CO2 gets many TIMES more shots per fill than air. Where a Talon SS gets 35 powerful shots per air reservoir. With a 20-oz. CO2 tank, the number climbs to over 1,000. Pyramyd Air tested the Logun S-16s and got over 1,300 shots on a 20-oz. tank before they got tired of testing. Over 1000 shots is a very conservative estimate! A 12-oz. tank delivers fewer shots, of course, but the number is still in the high hundreds.

On Monday, I'll tell you the rest!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Best airguns for the money - Part 3
Air rifles for $200 - $400

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The B40, of course. I just wish they would fix the trigger to have a definite second stage. Then, they would give Air Arms a run for the money! Other than that, the B40 has great power and accuracy in both .177 and .22 calibers. If you can learn to live with a super-light trigger, this one is for you.

I have to include the Beeman R7. It has too many nice things to pass it up. The size is right for an adult or an older youngster, and the trigger is a Rekord. The Beeman R9 is a classic that a lot of shooters buy as their first adult air rifle. It has both power and accuracy at a reasonable price. Being a powerful breakbarrel, it is very sensitive to hold, but that makes you a better shooter.

The Daisy Avanti 853C is a wonderful target rifle. Sure, it has a lot of plastic, but they hold up for decades of club use by hundreds of kids, so let's put the reliability issue to rest. The gun holds up!

The RWS Diana 48 is my pick here. It offers power, accuracy and easy cocking (for the power) for a great price. The scope-mounting solution is less than desirable, but that aside, the rifle is a real treat! It's nearly perfect for hunters. I do favor the .22 caliber over the .177, though both perform very well in this rifle.

The HW 50S is a fine Weihrauch rifle with target sights and a Rekord triggewr. It's the old Beeman R8 that hasn't been made for many years, but in a European stock. An intermediate rifle between the R7 and R9.

Guns that should be on the list
The BAM B50 probably belongs on this list, but I haven't tested it yet. Nothing gets on my list unless I know it's a great airgun. I also didn't include some models like the Daisy Avanti 753, which is, essentially, the same as a less expensive model (the 853). The same goes for the RWS Diana 52.

My next look will include all airguns over $400. There aren't that many that belong on my list, so that will end the rifles, and we can get on with pistols next.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics - Part 5
More accuracy questions, plus a look at airgun power

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Well, the next big question everyone wants answered is this: Does high velocity put an end to all hopes for accuracy? Before I give you even more data to support the fact that it does, let me first clear up some confusion. I get comments from readers telling me that their .22/250 centerfire rifle that shoots 50-grain .22 caliber bullets at 3900 f.p.s. can group five shots in a half-inch at 100 yards. How can that not be considered accurate?

It is accurate, of course. But, the people asking the question were not aware that I was talking about diabolo pellets when I made that statement. Streamlined spitzer bullets handle hypersonic flight very well. Diabolo pellets do not. In fact, diabolos are made in such a way that they are not intended to be accurate above the speed of sound, or even in the transsonic region that exists above Mach 0.8.

Do we need better pellets?
This is where the newer airgunners often say, "Well, if diabolos aren't accurate at supersonic speeds, let's shoot solid bullets" without realizing that they are undermining all the potential accuracy an airgun has.

Airguns were never intended for hypersonic speeds. In fact, with the exception of a few extraordinary airguns owned by the government and used for test purposes (don't lust after them, the barrels are 100 feet long in some cases!), only recently have airguns been able to achieve supersonic velocities. And, will all those who claim the speed of an airgun is limited by the speed of sound and who seek to "prove" it to me by directing me to this website or that chat forum PLEASE refrain from responding to this? I don't mean to challenge you, but there are technical means of increasing the speed of airguns beyond what physical laws would seem to permit by changing their environment and thus changing the laws that apply.

I digress. The fact is, as a pellet approaches the transsonic region, a sonic pressure wave forms around the nose of the pellet. This wave generates turbulence that impacts on the skirt of the pellet, causing the pellet to vibrate and flutter as it flies. This causes increasing destabilization, the farther the pellet travels. At 10 yards you might not notice it much, but at 50 yards, it's pretty obvious.

And here's the proof
Immediately after shooting several tight groups like the ones I showed you yesterday and the day before, I removed the transfer port limiter to boost power. This was to test the Crosman Premier hollowpoint, but I also shot the Beeman Kodiaks at this power level. They went 929 f.p.s., which translates to 20.32 foot-pounds of energy. And they grouped poorly.

Boosting the velocity of Beeman Kodiaks from 813 f.p.s. to 929 f.p.s. resulted in this 1.589" group - about one inch larger than it was at the slower speed! It is representative of what was possible at this power level.

Please understand that the HOTS was not tuned for this velocity, so I can't say that the groups I got were the best you can get from this rifle and this pellet. But they were shot through the same barrel and by the same powerplant, and the same shooter on the same day at the same distance. So, the transsonic region is to be avoided, as well, if ultimate accuracy is your goal.

What is the transsonic region?
Read this two-part post. Then, read this post about the transsonic region. Those two postings should clear up the meaning of transsonic.

Another lesson - powerplant potential
The final lesson we'll get from this session is the first step in learning about powerplant potential. The Whiscombe is set up as a .177 for these tests. So, the final thing I did was shoot several pellets to determine the maximum power potential of the powerplant for this caliber. You have read many times that light pellets generate more power than heavy pellets in spring-piston guns, and the reverse in CO2 and pneumatic guns. I fired several pellets to see what kind of power I'd get with the Whiscombe running wide open. The 7.9-grain Crosman Premier hollowpoints gave an average energy of 21.54 foot-pounds. Unfortunately, they were not very accurate at that power level. They really preferred to run at 14.63 foot-pounds.

Beeman Kodiaks were very accurate at 15.56 foot-pounds, but not nearly as accurate at their maximum of 20.32 foot-pounds. The old standby RWS Hobbys screamed out the muzzle at 1159 f.p.s. wide open and generated 23.57 foot-pounds. I didn't bother to test them for accuracy because I know they cannot be driven that fast without scattering. Hobbys want to pull 10 foot-pounds and less in a springer. Only the gentler PCP or CO2 powerplants can drive them faster with accuracy.

Just to keep the heat on Gamo, I did test their Raptors. They scooted out the hole at the front at 1390 f.p.s., for 21.46 foot-pounds. Once again they did not live up to the promise of greater power than lead pellets and I know they can't be accurate at that speed, either. Interestingly, they didn't come close in velocity to the AirForce Condor, which punched them to 1486 f.p.s. I'm still waiting for someone with a 1600 f.p.s. Hunter Extreme to step forward.

What have we learned?
Well, I hope you now see a relationship between a pellet's velocity and accuracy. If you do, you're well on your way to shooting better. I hope you also see that the claims made by airgun manufacturers and carried forward by airgun stores are meaningless without accuracy figures to go with them. Sure, it's neat to say a certain airgun gets 1000 f.p.s., but without any real accuracy, such a number is pretty worthless. Give me a rifle that shoots "only" 750 f.p.s. but can also nail its target every time. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Whiscombe rifles and barrel harmonics - Part 4
Long-range testing in .177

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

We last looked at the Whiscombe on November 28, 2006. I said then that I wanted to use the rifle for a lot of other testing, and this is one of those tests. In fact, this is the test that started the whole series. Does harmonic barrel tuning affect accuracy?

What are harmonics?
Anything that vibrates does so at a certain frequency. A guitar string is often used to represent the harmonic wave, because it really does vibrate with a sine wave pattern.

When a guitar string vibrates, it does so in a sine wave like this. The places where the curved line crosses the straight line are called nodes. They are places where the least amount of movement takes place.

A guitar string changes pitch (the number of vibrations per second) when it is either lengthened or shortened. The space between the nodes grows shorter as the pitch becomes higher. If we were to increase the mass of the guitar string, that would also change its pitch.

A rifle barrel vibrates just like a guitar string when the gun fires, and you can change its pitch or harmonic frequency by adding or subtracting mass. Or, if there is a movable weight on the barrel, changing its location also changes the location of the nodes. If you can get the muzzle to be located at a node, there will be the least amount of dispersion of the bullets coming out. That's what the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) does. It's no different than Browning's BOSS, and they hold competitions for them.

The HOTS weight is screwed in or out and locked in position to change the location of the vibration nodes.

Starting with good pellets
I tested three pellets of known performance in an attempt to find the best one. The were JSB Exact domes at 10.2 grains, Crosman Premiers at 10.5 grains and Beeman Kodiaks at 10.6 grains. All three performed well, but the Kodiaks were slightly better than the other two, so they were the ones I selected for this test. That's not to say the other two pellets couldn't have been adjusted to be just as accurate, just that the Kodiaks were closer to start with.

Baseline test
Before the barrel was adjusted, the gun was shooting Kodiaks into groups ranging from just under .75" to just under an inch. It took about an hour of adjusting and shooting, adjusting and shooting, before I found the sweet spot. Fortunately, I've done this before so I know that I can make large adjustments until the groups start to shrink. Then, things have to be done in small steps.

This group of five Beeman Kodiaks at 50 yards measures 0.926 between centers. It's representative of how the rifle performed before the HOTS was adjusted.

Sweet spot!
I finally found the sweet spot and locked the adjustment in place. The point of impact walked around the target while I adjusted, because I purposely made no attempt to keep the group centered on the bullseye. It doesn't make sense to adjust the scope before you have adjusted the barrel vibration, because the shots will move with every adjustment.

With the HOTS properly tuned, my groups shrank to just over a half-inch between centers. That's pretty good shooting for 50 yards! It was at this time that I shot the Crosman Premiers, and, once again, just because the HOTS was adjusted for Kodiaks doesn't mean it's right for Premiers. The barrel has to be tuned for each pellet.

Big improvement! The HOTS really does allow you to "tune" the barrel vibration for better accuracy. This group measures 0.578" between centers.

Harmonics can be tuned
So, we've answered the question about harmonic tuning. It does make a difference that can be demonstrated with an adjustable barrel weight. Now, I have a different question to consider. Would there be a difference in accuracy if I speeded up the pellet? Since I planned to do that anyway for the Crosman Premier hollowpoints, it was easy enough to check on the Kodiaks at the same time.

Come back tomorrow when I show you what happened with that, plus a lot more!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Crosman's Premier hollowpoint - Part 2
Long-range accuracy test

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

When I last tested this pellet, I was very surprised by the incredible performance it turned in. The expansion in Neutrogena soap was explosive, to say the least. You will recall that I had a transfer port limiter in the Whiscombe rifle to limit the Crosman Premier hollowpoint 7.9-grain pellet's average velocity to just 913 f.p.s.

Today, I want to report on accuracy I got with this pellet. Instead of testing it at an intermediate range, I shot it all the way out to 50 yards. That's where a pellet is made or broken, and I wanted to see just how good or bad this one was.

Adjusting the gun
Before I shot the CP hollowpoints, I adjusted the rifle's Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS), to see if there was any difference in grouping as the adjustable weight was moved. There was, but I'm saving that for another posting. Suffice it to say that I got the barrel in a sweet spot for the other pellets of known accuracy. That's not to say the barrel was tuned correctly for the Premier hollowpoint, but as I think you will see, it doesn't matter.

Good groups
The average group with Crosman Premier hollowpoints was 1.207" center-to-center for five shots at 50 yards. All groups stayed within a tenth of an inch of this one. That is outstanding accuracy for a hollowpoint pellet at this distance. Now, remember, the HOTS was not adjusted for this pellet. It took me about an hour to optimize the barrel for a different, heavier pellet of proven accuracy, and I simply did not want to invest more time to tune it for this one. There's even more accuracy to be obtained with the right adjustment, but this test tells us what we need to know.

This is what the average group of Crosman Premier hollowpoints looked like at 50 yards. It measures 1.207".

What about supersonic?
Supersonic pellets have long been the bane of accuracy, even though advertised high velocity sells airguns left and right. I wanted to test the same Crosman Premier hollowpoint pellet from the same barrel, only this time accelerating it to supersonic velocity. The Whiscombe made it easy for me. All I had to do was remove the transfer port limiter and the 7.9-grain Premier blasted out of the muzzle at 1,108 f.p.s.! I knew by the sonic crack it was breaking the sound barrier every time. The firing behavior of the rifle also seemed to get a trifle harsher with the restrictor out.

Changing transfer port limiters changes the amount of air that flows through the port to power the pellet. It's a five minute operation that changes the firing behavior of the gun. The Whiscombe is an ideal testbed because of this feature.

I hunkered down and made certain my technique was perfect for the supersonic group, which, at 2.813", is almost 1.5" larger than the average subsonic groups and fully characteristic of what you can expect from going supersonic.

Breaking the sound barrier is easy for the Whiscombe. But, as you see here, you don't want to.

I'm leaving out a few things that happened because I'm saving them for tomorrow's next report on the rifle. But I will say that this was a very good shooting day, and I was very pleased with how this test went. Clearly, the Crosman Premier hollowpoint is a pellet you can use at long range.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Will lighter spring-piston components speed up locktime?

by B.B. Pelletier

William made an observation that lighter powerplant components would speed up locktime in a spring-piston airgun. I have had some experience with lightweight components, as well as some very heavyweight components, so I thought I'd make my answer today's posting!

What is locktime?
Locktime is an old term that I believe originated in the days of flintlock rifles and muskets. A flintlock has a very long time from when the cock that holds the flint falls against the frizzen and the main powder charge ignites. After that, it's just as fast as a caplock. If you watch the movie Patriot, you'll see this clearly. The priming charge in the pan goes off several milliseconds before the main charge of gunpowder ignites. You see and hear two distinct explosions.

A good flintlock was one with a fast locktime, so there was less time for the shooter to flinch before the bullet left the muzzle. Having a charge of powder explode in front of your face is good cause to flinch!

Locktime and firearms
When self-contained cartridges came into use, locktime evolved to mean the time it took the hammer to fall against the primer after the sear released it. Again, faster was considered better at reducing random movement; though, if you examine that critically, you'll be able to poke holes in the logic. Rather than fast locktime, a shooter is far better off with a more neutral hold and good follow-through. Hoping for a fast locktime seems bent on sniping the target at the critical moment it is in the sights, and it's actually better to keep it there longer than to hope for a coincidental miracle.

Locktime and airguns
When it comes to airguns, locktime has to be considered for each powerplant separately, but William's observation was about a spring-piston gun, so that's what I'll review. Locktime has no bearing at all on a spring-piston gun, and here's why. In a spring-piston gun, the pellet doesn't start moving until the piston has almost come to a rest. A fast locktime wouldn't help accuracy, because that pellet isn't going to move until all the recoil and vibration patterns have begun. Whether it takes one millisecond or ten milliseconds for the piston to stop after being released by the sear/piston catch makes no difference, because the pellet is still stationary at the end of it all.

That said, there have been experiments done to lighten powerplant parts and speed up the piston cycle time. Jim Maccari made a plastic piston to test this very thing and installed it in a TX200 MkII. The gun was lighter but vibrated so hard that it stung the off hand holding the stock. No additional accuracy was noted.

Tom Gore of Vortek made a gas spring for a Beeman R1 that was .75 lbs. lighter than the steel piston and coil mainspring in the stock gun. This unit was incredibly quick and also vibration-free. It did improve the actual accuracy because the lack of recoil and vibration made the rifle easier to shoot accurately. Gore went on to do the same thing for the Beeman Kodiak, which is the Webley Patriot. It reduced the weight of the gun and almost eliminated vibration and recoil entirely.

Another gentleman attempted to build a more powerful spring rifle by scaling up the Beeman R1 by 25 percent. His 11-lb. monster had bigger everything...a bigger piston and a bigger mainspring that was harder to cock, at 75 lbs. of force. But the power was actually less than what a stock R1 had, because the bigger parts took longer to cycle. Recoil was about like the Webley Patriot, which is to say, brutal. Accuracy was average, despite the rifle's Anschutz barrel.

Perhaps, the greatest experience I've had with a balanced spring-piston powerplant was with an R1 tuneup kit from Ivan Hancock. The mainspring was incredibly powerful and the piston was heavy, but the parts fit so tight they had to be forced into the rifle with a rubber hammer. When that gun shot, it developed 22.5 foot-pounds of energy in .22 caliber, yet the recoil was less than half that of the stock rifle. Vibration was virtually gone and the locktime was very fast. That gun taught me that it isn't any one factor that's important to the performance of a spring gun - rather, it's how they all work together.

By the way - yesterday was the day for shooting. I finally got a wind-free day at the range, so next week I'll get back to the Whiscombe and address several of those questions we've been wondering about for so long.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Best airguns for the money - Part 2
Air rifles for $100-$200

by B.B. Pelletier

Best airguns for the money - Part 1

Before jumping into today's post, I just HAVE to share this with you. Yesterday, I was at the range trying, again, to shoot the Whiscombe at 50 yards to test a number of things. Again, the wind was too strong, and my groups were blowing all over the place, but just before I called it a day I suddenly noticed that the reticle wasn't in sharp focus! Hmmmm! Where did I just read something about that?

So, I removed my glasses and, lo and behold, the reticle was adjusted perfectly for shooting WITHOUT my glasses! It's nice and sharp! Only - guess what? The target is now fuzzy! I rotated the AO until it sharpened, and I learn that I have been shooting with the AO adjusted 20 yards too close!

Apparently, I can write about this stuff; but when it comes to actually DOING it - DUH! Oh! And, I found another way to screw up your parallax adjustment. Glasses - on or off?

Today, I'll answer Hank, who wanted to know the best airguns under $200.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499
It's not actually a rifle, but the 499 is the world's most accurate BB gun and has to be on this list. Don't buy it without also buying the optional Daisy aperture sight and Avanti Precision Ground Shot. Size-wise, this is a youth airgun, but from the standpoint of quiet close-range accuracy, it's for everyone!

Benjamin Sheridan
There are so many good rifles in this category. First of all, Benjamin and Sheridan were two different companies before Crosman bought them and combined the names. The .177 and .22 rifles are all Benjamins and the .20 calibers are the Sheridans. Both the Benjamin 392 and the Benjamin 397 are great buys. The Sheridan Blue Streak and Silver Streak are also good buys, but there aren't as many good .20 caliber pellets for them. Since Crosman stopped producing the .20 caliber Premier pellet, I find that the Benjamin 392 is the better buy from a pellet supply standpoint.

Gamo's CF-X squeaks under the $200 price limit, and is an exemplary rifle. I don't recommend Gamos as a rule, but the CF-X is the exception. It deserves to be on this list.

Who SHOULD be on this list?
The Bam B30 probably belongs on this list. Several readers have commented that they love theirs, and I hope to test one soon. Also, Mendoza probably deserves at least a shot for a model or two. Again, I haven't tested them so I don't know. I hope our readers will chime in on these two brands.

As for all the Chinese imports such as Beeman, Benjamin, Remington and Crosman breakbarrels, I find them to be about the equivalent of Gamo - good rifles but not on this list. The same probably goes for the Turkish Winchesters Daisy distributes, but I haven't tested those.

One Chinese rifle that does make the list is the AR1000 Magnum. I have tested it, and it's a world-beater. Fully the equal of the Beeman R1, this Chinese breakbarrel has good looks, power and accuracy going for it. The powerplant is smooth and free of most vibration. For the power, this is also one of the easiest rifles to cock.

You might think the list should be longer. If so, I hope you'll tell us which rifles I missed.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How your eye affects a parallax-adjustable scope

by B.B. Pelletier

Lots of interest in this subject. I will do more on scopes, open sights and related topics in the future.

A repeatable cheek weld
Cyberskin, this is for you. We know that the relationship of the sighting eye to the sights is critical to either canceling or introducing parallax, but how do we ensure the same placement time after time? This is where the fit of the stock comes into play. When the U.S. Army used wood stocks with definite wrists, soldiers were taught to grip the stock with the hand their trigger finger is on in a certain way. That positioned the hand in the same place on the stock every time, and then the soldier was taught to place his cheek against the stock so it touched his hand. I'm right-handed, so I was taught to touch the upper heel of my palm (back of the thumb) with my cheek.

When we switched over to M16s, the wrist of the stock was straight and no one had figured out the hold yet. I bet it has since been determined, but I don't know what it is. Now, if you have a poorly fitted stock, as over 50 percent of them are these days (especially for using scopes!), there is an artificial way to ensure cheek placement. Figure out where you like to hold your cheek, then put a piece of tape on the stock at that spot. Every time you mount the rifle, put your cheek against that tape in the same way, and you will have solved the problem. Remember, cheek placement doesn't have to be perfect - in fact there is no perfect way to do it. It just has to be consistent.

On to the eyes!
All good scopes have an eyebell (ocular) adjustment to correct for individual vision problems. The instructions on how to adjust this focus ring are in the owner's pamphlet. If you're like me, you seldom read those things. Still, this is a critical step to getting the greatest precision from your scope - especially when it comes to parallax adjustment.

The eyebell adjustment is actually there to focus the scope on the reticle, so it appears sharp. Adjust it by looking through the scope at a blank, light-colored surface, such as a wall, and turn the adjustment ring until the reticle lines are in sharp focus. When you do this, look through the scope for only a few seconds; because, if you continue to stare, your brain will take over and focus the reticle for you. Just keep glancing though the scope for brief periods and turning the eyebell adjustment ring until the reticle is sharp.

How this works
You wouldn't think this adjustment has anything to do with parallax adjustment, and it doesn't - directly. But, indirectly, it has a tremendous affect! If your scope is not adjusted before you start shooting, every parallax adjustment you make will attempt to sharpen both the target AND the reticle. Since it is impossible to do both (they are in two different planes), you will tend to average the adjustment - to vary it so the target and the reticle both appear to be in the best relative focus. That will leave the target somewhat fuzzy, and there is no way you can guess at the amount of fuzziness on repeated tries.

Let me put this another way. If the reticle is out of focus, it will appear to be the most out of focus when the target is in sharp focus. In extreme cases, it may disappear altogether. So without thinking, you will back off on the parallax adjustment until the reticle appears somewhat clear again. And that is what throws off your ability to determine range using the parallax adjustment ring or knob.

Don't loan your gun!
The first thing a knowledgeable shooter does when borrowing a strange scope is adjust the eyebell to sharpen the reticle. When they give the gun back it's out of whack for the owner. It's easy to adjust it back, but how many shooters know to do it?

Let me tell you another horror story. I was displaying my field target rifle at an airgun show. A man picked it up and, without looking through the scope, began spinning the reticle knobs to feel the clicks. I hadn't bothered to zero the knobs or to note their settings and I had spent an hour optically centering the reticle. In a few seconds, all that work was undone. People who do things like that are called "knobdickers" and they exist in great numbers. So - don't loan your rifle, or be prepared for the consequences if you do!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

UTG Special Ops M14 Sniper Rifle - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Pyramyd Air made some software changes yesterday that slowed the publishing of the blog. Comment moderation was turned on for protection, but it was turned off, again. We should be back to normal now.

Two years ago, G&G (Guay Guay) introduced an M14 AEG with a lot of fanfare. The gun is realistic and appeared rugged, though initial shipments proved otherwise. The problem was quickly resolved and the world of airsoft had a major new combat gun. Interestingly enough, the U.S. Army appears to be in agreement with the Marine Corps that in certain combat situations, the larger more powerful 7.62x51mm round used in the M14 is preferable to the 5.56mm used in both the M16A2 and M4 carbines. There are certain scenarios where the larger round is needed to get the job done, so the Army is fielding M14s to the Middle East in increasing quantities. The Marine Corps never quite got rid of the rifle during Vietnam, when the M16 was supposed to have replaced it.

So there is a resurgence in popularity in the M14 rifle, and the airsoft community is sharing the interest. When G&G brought out their gun, there was nothing like it in the same price range. At $400, it seemed like a bargain compared to the $3,000 that was asked for a BAR many years ago. True, that gun was built on an actual rifle, while the new M14 airsoft gun was a ground-up new build, but people make comparisons like that all the time. Well - here comes another comparison!

UTG M14 is patterned after the M21 sniper rifle. Scope is optional, but necessary.

Now there's an M14 AEG for $150! The UTG Special Ops M14 Sniper is a copy of the Army's M21 sniper rifle, standardized in 1969. The gun comes with an 8.4-volt 1500 MAh battery and charger, two 350-round magazines, a cleaning rod for unjamming the barrel, a lightweight carry strap and a Picatinny rail for mounting a scope.

The gun also comes with adjustable sights, but I found them to go soft and mushy at either end of the range in both directions. I think they're more for show than for use. Besides, this is a sniper rifle, and that means a scope. The scope of choice is Leapers 4x40 long eye relief scope, specifically made for sniper rifle duty. It has a mil-dot reticle and red/green illumination for low light use. I have a feeling I'm going to be recommending this scope for a lot of airguns in the future, so be sure to check out the specs. I'll do a separate report on it soon. (Airguns usually have 11mm or 3/8" dovetails, so you'd have to buy airgun rings, as the scope comes with Weavers.)

The M14 has a plastic stock that looks remarkably like wood. Until you hold it, you may be fooled like I was. The upper handguard, also plastic, looks like the fiberglass handguard on an M14. The buttplate flips up to serve as a shoulder rest, and the battery box is behind the trapdoor battery compartment lid in the butt.

With the scope mounted, the rifle weighs 9.5 lbs., certainly in the range of the firearm. The weight seems well distributed when the battery is installed and a loaded magazine is locked up. That may sound trite, but some AEGs get very butt-heavy when the battery is installed. This one doesn't.

Battery installation
A word about installing the battery. There isn't a lot of room inside the butt, so you need to ensure that the wiring harness is tucked out of the way before the battery slides home. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to remove later. I didn't know this, of course, so I put the battery in first, and now the wiring harness barely fits inside the butt. I broke off the plastic battery compartment lid putting in the battery, so there's a word of caution to the rest of you. With the buttplate down, the battery compartment lid doesn't show and cannot open, so all is well, but you should be more careful than I was.

Battery charging
The owner's manual doesn't mention how to charge the battery; but having tested a number of AEGs, I know the first charge has to be a long one. The charger is a trickle-type that charges slowly, so I gave it an 18-hour charge the first time. There are no LEDs on the charger to give the status of the battery, but I will use a universal charger from now on and it has status lights.

Next, I will sight-in the gun and report on downrange performance.

Monday, March 05, 2007

How to use an adjustable objective scope

by B.B. Pelletier

Before plunging into today's topic, I want to share some news. I reported that John Whiscombe is no longer making air rifles because in 2003 that was announced on the internet. Well, either he had a change of plans or I got hold of some bad information, because one of our readers just got a quote on a new Whiscombe from John. That's the good news. The bad news is the rifle with 2 barrels (he only does .177 and .22 now) sells for $3,500 in the UK. Because the British Home Office tightened the export laws several years ago, Whiscombe needs a license to export an FAC rifle to a specific U.S. dealer. Whiscombe may have someone to ship to in the U.S. , but even so, by the time the gun gets through U.S. Customs, you're looking at almost $4,000 for a rifle with 2 barrels. Makes me appreciate my gun all the more!

Skunked at the range!
I tried to get out to test the Crosman Premier hollowpoints for long-range accuracy on Friday, but the wind skunked me. I was shooting groups in the 1.5" to 2.25" range (rather than 3/4" or less) with the very best pellets. So, that test is on hold...which brings me to today's post.

How to use AO
A reader asked the following question on Friday: So, if my scope has an adjustable objective - do I just dial it to the correct range to correct this problem?

Quick answer - NO!

Here is how it works
This reader had read my posting about parallax, and that made him aware of scopes with parallax correction. The first scopes to offer this feature used the objective bell for the adjustment, so they were called adjustable objective scopes, which was soon shortened to AO. Nowadays, people don't know what AO means, but by context they guess it has something to do with parallax adjustment.

Why adjust parallax?
You adjust it to get greater aiming precision. Just as you use a scope level when shooting long range, parallax correction helps you sharpen your aiming solution all the more, because you always see the target from the same perspective. Please read the earlier posting about parallax. I explain why it's such a problem when shooting.

HOW is a parallax-adjustable scope adjusted?
There is just ONE way to do it. Look through the scope at the target and twist the adjustment ring or knob until the target appears as sharp as you can make it. At that point, you've removed all the parallax that you possibly can. That doesn't mean it's ALL gone, though. Even the best scopes will have some parallax left after adjustment, which is why your cheek placement on the stock is so important. If your eye is always in the same position relative to the scope, there won't be a parallax problem. The problem comes when your eye isn't always in the same position. Small variations in placement introduce parallax, even in scopes with parallax adjustment.

Try this NOW!
Want to see what parallax looks like? Close one eye and point your index finger at some distant object. Hold your finger steady on that object and switch eyes. The finger will move! That's because both your eyes cannot look at the same thing from the same perspective. The distance that they are separated in your head affects the amount of parallax they induce (how far the finger seems to move).

Now, imagine that your finger is the barrel of an airgun and your eyes are the sights. How could you hit anything if the target image keeps moving relative to the sights? You would pick one place to look from (look from one eye, only) and always use that place to line up the sights. Then when you sight in, you will adjust the sights until that picture, seen from just one place, produces hits where you want them. When you move to an air rifle, that means always placing your head at the same place on the stock so your eye will be in the same place, relative to the sights. That eliminates parallax from any scope - even one that is not adjusted for the range you are shooting.

Scopes with parallax adjustment take care of the largest share of parallax, so the shooter can be a little less careful when placing his head on the stock. That makes them faster to use when hunting. But, that's not their biggest attraction. Shooters tend to use scopes with parallax adjustments as rangefinders. The focusing function works like the coincidence rangefinder of a 35mm SLR camera. When the target is in sharpest focus, the scope is set to the range (distance to the target), in theory.

It doesn't always work that way
I've had scopes focus sharply but read a distance 20 yards different than the real range to the target. Cheap scope? You might think so, but no. The problem is the temperature. Optics are adjusted to the millionths of an inch (and less!). When you focus on a target, you adjust the lenses inside the scope to precise settings. However, as the temperature increases and decreases, the lens holders expand and contract - by thousandths of an inch! That throws off your rangefinding capability a lot! It's like having a broken clock that always tells the correct time twice each day!

They calibrate their own scopes
Field target shooters compensate for this by placing several different scales of distance measurements on their scope's adjustment mechanism. They verify these scales yard by yard for each temperature range the scale is set to. Sound like fun? This is how exacting some field target competitors get about their equipment.

I could go on, but I hope I've explained the situation well enough for everyone to comprehend. When you use a scope with AO, just look through it and focus the scope until the image is the sharpest you can get. Then, you can shoot. You will have reduced parallax by as much as you possibly can.

How does this work if you don't have perfect eyesight? Please, don't get me started, because that's a whole different blog. Write if you want to hear it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What are blank-firing guns?

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, this one came up like thunder! And, it has nothing to do with airguns, so I apologize to all the purists. Pyramyd Air recently added blank-firing guns to their lineup and the question was - what the heck are they?

They ONLY shoot blanks
Blank-firing guns are guns made to fire blanks only. When I was a kid in the early 1950s, they were sold in comic books and almost every man's magazine. The price was always around $6.95 for the repeaters. Later on in the 1970s, some German and Eastern European blank guns were offered in the same places (except the comic books). They were either single-shots or revolvers, and I don't remember the price.

What is a blank?
A blank is a cartridge that contains gunpowder but no projectile. Because there is no bullet mass to resist the powder, it is purposely faster-burning than conventional gunpowder. The object of a blank is to make noise, and for that reason, they are also called salute guns. They're also called starter pistols and are used to start races. Yachts used them to signal other craft and installations on shore. Winchester made blank-firing cannons that now have some collector value. They use 10- and 12-gauge shotgun shells and really make a bang.

Winchester 10-gauge blank cannon makes a big bang!

Since its invention, people have used gunpowder to make noise. Fireworks are one form, but since guns also made noise, they were used for this purpose almost from their beginnings. In my youth, blank cartridges were sold for firing in conventional firearms. They still are to a limited extent, but because they are not 100 percent safe there has been a move toward purpose-built guns that can only fire blanks - the blank-firing guns!

A blank has the same or greater potential energy than a conventional cartridge. Just look at heavy-duty nail guns that use special blank cartridges to drive big nails into concrete. Though they are very similar to .22 rimfire cartridges, the most powerful of these special-purpose blanks is far more powerful than a .22 long rifle cartridge. That's why they are kept under lock and key at the hardware store. Because a conventional firearm has a barrel that's bored through, nothing prevents someone putting something in the barrel in front of the blank and turning it into a projectile.

Outside of the U.S., the blank-firing gun has always been popular. Most countries regulate the ownership of firearms, but they permit the ownership and use of blank-firing guns, because they are purposely made so no projectile can be launched.

See and hear for yourself!
You can actually see a blank gun fire on this website! Pyramyd Air sells many different models of blank-firing guns, and the wildest one of all is the Jackal. Click on the link, and you'll go to the description where there is a cool short video showing the gun in action. Just click on the movie camera graphic or the "See for yourself" text to the gun. The Jackal is both full-auto and semiauto, depending on where the selector switch is set. It will fire 12 rounds in under two seconds, as you'll see on the video. This is a Quicktime video, so Windows users who don't have the software to view it can get a free download here.

Other blank-firing guns
There are also a ton of other blank-firing guns like the Walther P99. There's even a snub-nosed S&W revolver!

Why do they cost so much?
You can't fail to notice that these guns are not cheap. Why is that, since they don't shoot bullets? Well, they have to be made almost as well as firearms because they have to withstand high temperatures from the hot gasses. In the case of the Jackal, there is a lot of stuff packed into that frame to allow the gun to shoot full auto. The people who like them seem to have no problem with the prices, because these guns sell like wildfire around the world. From the look of things on the Internet, they are starting to sell well in the U.S., too.

Blank cartridges
Pyramyd also sells the blank cartridges, and they are pricey, too. But you don't use these guns every day. Imagine a July 4th picnic where you bring one of these instead of fireworks. Or New Year's Eve! Blank-firing guns are quite a bit safer than most fireworks because the hot gas is directed by the gun away from the shooter. The video shows that well.

They come 50 to a box. They are 9mm cases without bullets. The over powder wad is attached to the case, so nothing is projected from the gun except hot gas.

That hole in the barrel at the upper left is one of two gas ports through which the hot gas escapes. There is a similar hole on the other side of the barrel. The barrel is plugged so nothing can be fired through it.

So, that's the quick and dirty on blank-firing guns. They're pretty far from airguns, but among the many things we find to be neat.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Best airguns for the money - Part 1
Air rifles under $100

by B.B. Pelletier

I got an email a couple days ago from Hank, asking where was my posting on the best airguns for under $200. I couldn't find it and neither could he, so I agreed to do one. Only $200 is such an arbitrary number that I decided to expand the subject to include everything. What follows is my opinion, only. You don't have to agree with me, and the comments section is where you tell us what your list contains. I know this may not be a topic everyone enjoys, so it won't be run on consecutive days.

Best under $100
I have several rifles in this category. Let's start with the Crosman 1077. You can't buy more fun for less money! Read about it in this blog.

Next, there's the Crosman 2260. It's a bit of the past upgraded with modern components. And, you can upgrade it more with parts from Crosman's Custom Shop.

The Beeman Sportsman S500 belongs here. It used to be the Marksman 1790, and it's loaded with plastic, but shoot one before you criticize. It's fine for the money.

The Daisy Powerline 953 is a wonderful entry-level TARGET gun! Please don't use it for hunting. For plinking, it's great.

Daisy's 22SG is close to the top of this price range. You can hunt with it, and it comes scoped for under $100! Yes, there's plastic, but it works.

The Gamo Delta is a fine, inexpensive breakbarrel spring rifle. Some synthetics, but some good value, too.

Top value under $100
Baikal's IZH 61 wins, hands down. It just squeaks under the price wire, but no other gun at this level offers so much accuracy.

What SHOULD have made this list
Mendoza rifles should probably be here, but I have zero experience with them. The RM-10 and the RM-200 both deserve at least a shot, but you readers will have to supply the ratings for me.

Those are my picks. If you are disappointed that I didn't select YOUR favorite, tell me! I did exclude the Remington AirMaster 77, which was very close and the Crosman 2100B, also close, because they both shoot BBs and pellets. I find those compromise barrels less accurate than a dedicated pellet rifle.

I will come back with a list under $200 and after that I'll probably expand the price spread a little. Hank, thanks for the good idea!