Monday, April 30, 2007


by B.B. Pelletier

Here's a bit of history for you. Back in the late 1980s and early '90s, Beeman was selling two popular mid-power spring rifles. The R7 and the R8. The R7 was the smaller of the two and was based on the Weihrauch HW 30. The R8 was larger, more powerful than the R7 and was based on the HW 50.

The R7 remained in the lineup, of course, and for a few years after the 1994 sales of the Beeman company, the new management even cataloged it next to the HW30, but rated both the power and accuracy of the R7 that was based on it as better. They still rate them that way. But the R8 went away. The HW50 remained for several more years, and a curious new R-series rifle called the R6 made a brief entrance and exit. I have been told by several people that the R6 is also based on the HW50.

Shown with the diopter sights for target shooting, the HW 50S is a classic spring rifle from Weihrauch.

The point is that the R8 and R6 are both history, yet the HW50 lives on. Now that it's no longer in the Beeman lineup, importers are able to bring in variations that Beeman never would - such as a .22 caliber version! Pyramyd Air has just made a large purchase of the HW50S and is stocking both calibers with either open sights or peep sights. Starting at $312, you can own a rifle that may not be around much longer - certainly not for that low price. The way the Euro keeps escalating, the price of the HW50 will soon rise to more than $400, where it will be challenged by top new spring guns from China. Those new guns are very good, but the HW50 has a couple things they don't have and probably never will.

The Rekord trigger
Ain't no two ways about it - the Rekord is a fine trigger. Not only is it adjustable to a fine degree, but it breaks as clean and crisp as you could hope for. Back when Beeman was pushing the R7 over the HW30, the big selling point was that the 30 they sold didn't have a Rekord, but as far as I know the 50 has always had one. So savvy airgunners knew they could buy an HW50 and save about a hundred dollars over the Beeman equivalent. The only real difference was the stock. All the R-series guns have American-style stocks, while the HW series often have the Bavarian-style stock with shorter forearm wood and a slope behind the cheekpiece.

You can't do the same with an HW30 and an R7 because the HW30 doesn't have the Rekord trigger. If you want the trigger, you have to get the R7.

Weihrauch barrels
Maybe you aren't aware of this, but Weihrauch made their reputation with fine single-shot target rifles in .22 LR caliber. They were considered the equivalent of Walther before WW II, which was to say the best in the world. Weihrauch knows how to rifle a barrel! In fact, when Mac-1 decided to manufacture the USFT rifle, they chose Weihrauch barrels for their world-class field target rifle. This is one thing no other manufacturer can give you - a classic Weihrauch airgun barrel.

Is this all just hype?
Actually, no, it isn't. Weihrauch quality is the equivalent of BSA, Webley and FWB sport airguns. Their triggers are better than any of the triggers from those brands. The Beeman R1 I used for the spring gun tune series is a Weihrauch with...I don't know how many thousands of shots on the clock. It has been tuned and re-tuned numerous times, the trigger has been adjusted to perfection, the gun has worn more than 20 different scopes and it still looks and shoots great. This is the kind of lasting performance you can expect from Weihrauch.

Tomorrow, I'll cover the options and performance of this rifle. I'm waiting for a nice range day to test the Hammerli Storm Elite. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten.

Friday, April 27, 2007

How long will a spring airgun last?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today's posting was one I have wanted to do for a long time, but a question from Jeremy prompted me to do it today. Two days ago he asked, "I have a couple more questions about the Gamo 850.

1. How long would the break in be?

2. How good is the scope that comes with the 850?

3. What would be the longevity of the 850?

4. How would i maintain the 850?"

1. How long to break-in?
I think almost every spring gun needs at least 500 shots to break-in, with the TX200 being the sole exception (maybe the BAM B40, but I don't know that, yet). I've seen Gamos and Webleys that were still breaking-in after 3,000 shots. The rougher the gun, the longer the break-in takes. I'm guessing that the Gamo 850 will take several thousand shots before it's fully broken-in.

2. Is that scope any good?
I'll be honest, scopes that come bundled with airguns are often selected on the basis of price. HOWEVER, scopes in general are very good these days. That scope is probably a great one to get you started. I doubt it's going to break on you the way scopes used to break on spring guns 20 years ago. And, after you've used it for a while, you'll know better what you really want.

3. How long will the 850 last?
This is the question I really wanted to address. Friends, I have owned a few spring airguns that were over 125 years old and still working. They didn't come with a lot of performance back in 1870, so they look pretty puny compared to today's giants, but they do hold up! I had a wonderful BSA underlever that was made in 1914 and still worked as good as new after I made a new piston seal.

The thing that differentiates today's crop of spring guns is their construction and power. The old guns were overbuilt for the power they delivered. Today's spring guns are pushing the envelope of possibility. Still, because they use modern synthetics, I think they have just as good a chance to last, not 100 years but 400 years and more! Naturally, their springs will wear out many times and those piston seals will have to be changed, and there will come a day when the parts will have to be made because they no longer exist, but I really think such longevity is possible.

Of course, in the wrong hands, the same gun can be destroyed in a short time. Here are the leading causes of the destruction:
  1. Disassembly without a clue how to put it back together.
  2. Over-oiling the piston.
  3. Over-cleaning the barrel.
  4. Experiments to "see what happens," such as pulling the trigger with the barrel open to watch it snap shut, which is the No. 1 destroyer of spring guns.
  5. Dry-firing.

4. How to maintain the 850?
Jeremy - this is the best question you asked. Before you ever shoot your rifle, I recommend cleaning the barrel with a one-piece rod and a brass brush laden with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. This will bring out the inherent accuracy right away. Then, never clean the barrel again unless the accuracy falls off. If you have the rifle but lack the materials to clean it, go ahead and shoot it, but clean it this way as soon as possible. Or, just shoot it for 500 shots, and you'll pretty much accomplish the same thing.

Second, don't oil your gun too much. None at all until you have at least 2,000 shots through it. The exception is if the piston squeaks when the gun is cocked.

Third, wipe your gun after every handling. Use a cloth that has silicone on it. Pyramyd Air sells such cloths (Beeman and G96 brands), but they're easily made from an old t-shirt and some silicone spray.

And that's about it. How about if you report back to us after you've had your gun for a while and tell us your impressions?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A second new bipod!

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start on today's blog, here's a link to the latest email promotion from Pyramyd Air.

A reader who calls himself Farmer commented that his son's Mendoza RM-65 BB gun wore out in a year. This is his comment:

I bought one of them for my kid about a year ago. The spring in the Mendoza wear out quickly and velocity drops to under 200 ft/s. It took about 2000 BB's to wear the gun completely down to apoint wher you can't even cock the rifle, because the trigger won't engage anymore. My advise, get a Daisy. The Red Ryder is a lot more accurate and lasts a lifetime.

I told him that based on his report, I would shoot my test RM-65 5,000 times and report to you how it does. I think I have to also test a Red Ryder for 5,000 shots just to be fair. I'll also test both guns for accuracy - just so we know. That's in the works.

I'm also conducting a 5,000-shot test of the BAM B40 as we speak. Some readers were concerned about longevity, so I felt we really should test the gun that way. But here's the deal. I'm not a testing laboratory. These things take time, so don't ask me for more of these "just to see." I'm doing this because there is a concern about new brands, and I think we all want to know.

Now, on to today's post!

A second new bipod?
There is a lot of similarity between this bipod and the one I showed you back in February. That one is called the Dragon Claw. Today's bipod is the Multi-Functional Universal Bipod, and it's different in that it has two different types of mounts.

Why two bipods?
If you haven't tried to fit a bipod to your gun, you aren't aware of the problem. Bipods are difficult to fit to specific guns! In the firearms world, they go through quite a lot to get bipods on guns, and they have it easier than airgunners. Firearms don't have underlevers to cock the action or long splits in their stocks to clear the barrel and cocking linkage. It's easier to attach a sling swivel stud to a firearm than to an air rifle.

So, this is an interface issue. The Dragon Claw solved many problems by being so adjustable, but I had to tell a reader who wanted to put one on the underlever of his B3-1 rifle that the underlever is too thin. There is adequate clearance between the underlever and the barrel, but the mount will never get tight on the underlever.

The Multi-Functional Universal bipod I'm reviewing today won't solve that problem, either, and here's the point - there will always be airguns that have difficulty mounting a bipod. But, today's bipod does clear up a lot of problems you readers have been having with some airguns.

For example, let's say you want a bipod for your RWS Diana 48/52/54. Those rifles have solid wood stocks that can accept sling swivels such as the special Beeman swivel 1/2 set thats tailor-made for this installation. This bipod preserves your sling swivel mounting point so you can retain a sling as well as a bipod.

This is the setup for attaching to sling swivel studs. That doohickey at the bottom has a long screw that passes through your sling stud, then the thing passes through the padded mount and the knurled ring tightens it. Note that this mount leaves you with an unused sling swivel stud after the bipod is mounted!

Another example - you want a bipod for your Marui M4 System. It has a Picatinny rail under the forearm, so just remove the sling stud mount and this universal mount is now a Picatinny! It doesn't get any better than that.

Loosen the big screw on the side, and the mount becomes a Picatinny mount, too!

The universal bipod is just as rugged as the Dragon Claw and shares the same adjustability, so for less than $30 you're getting a great bipod. If you have taken the time to price good bipods, you know this is less than half what they usually cost.

The market is flooded with cheap flimsy bipods from China that will not do the job you want. A bipod has to be steady or it isn't worth fooling with. This one is very steady! If any reader owns this or the Dragon Claw, I'd like to hear your comments on either bipod.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hammerli Storm Elite: Part 1
A First Look

by B.B. Pelletier

Hammerli Storm Elite is a sharp-looking new breakbarrel with a synthetic stock and matte nickel finish.

When Umarex acquired the Hammerli name in 2006, the shooting world waited to see what would happen. Hammerli is a legendary Swiss maker of fine target arms. Though many of their models have actually been made in Switzerland, they have actually rebadged a lot of airguns. In fact, many airguns were made for them by the former East German firm of Haenel. But the quality has remained high no matter what factory was making the guns. Today, Umarex is applying the Hammerli name to new low- and mid-priced sporting airguns made by new companies. The Hammerli Storm Elite is such a gun.

The Storm Elite is a conventional .177 breakbarrel rifle. It has a matte nickel finish with contrasting black sights, scope stop, triggerguard and trigger. The synthetic stock is colored to look like burl walnut and is fully ambidextrous. It has coarse pebbling on the pistol grip and forearm to facilitate a better grip. The stock is very thin and deep, which makes it easy for smaller hands to grasp. The pistol grip is similarly thin in cross section.

This is a light air rifle, weighing just 6.8 lbs. The long 19.5" barrel provides plenty of leverage for cocking, which requires a force of only 32 lbs., with a spike at the very end to 35 lbs. It comes at a point where your arms are best positioned for strength, so it's of no consequence. The barrel latch is a ball detent that's smoother than a chisel. It seems to lock up fine.

Ball detent makes for smoother cocking.

Trigger and sights
The non-adjustable trigger is two-stage and breaks at a stiff and lawyerly 6 lbs. even. Cocking also sets the automatic safety, which is a square button descending from the front of the triggerguard. The gun is made with an anti-beartrap, so uncocking is not an option. Once cocked, you must load and shoot the rifle.

The sights are fiberoptic, but a little unusual. The front is a true bead sight and the rear notch is square, which makes no sense with a bead. Except with the fiberoptic dots on this rear sight, the front bead does form a center dot and is very usable.

Sights are fiberoptic and front is a true bead.

The rear sight is a fiberoptic square notch, as mentioned, in a nice, adjustable unit. The clicks are sharp and crisp for both windage and elevation, making this a sight you can use.

There's also an 11mm dovetail cut in the top of the receiver tube, so scope mounting is possible. And Hammerli wisely gave us a built-in scope stop plate, so there is nothing to buy but scope and mounts. Undoubtedly, there will also be combos before long.

I was curious about velocity because this is a new model from a Spanish maker - possibly Norica. With 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers, the brand new gun shot an average of 898 f.p.s. The velocity spread was quite low, and I would anticipate gaining an extra 10-20 f.p.s. after break-in. If 1000 f.p.s. is really that important, you can always get it with novelty lightweight pellets. But shoot regular lead pellets in the 7.8-10.5-grain range for accuracy. Because this is a springer, the lighter pellets will probably work best.

I noticed that the pellets were difficult to load because of a tight breech. That may turn out to boost accuracy.

Bottom line
At less than $200, the Hammerli Storm Elite is an affordable breakbarrel spring rifle. However, pricing it where they did, Hammerli is up against the stiffest competition of all the spring guns - a $200 .177 breakbarrel that shoots 1,000 f.p.s. Their plusses are a nice-looking synthetic stock, nickel finish, light weight and a very nice set of sights. On the minus side they have a too-stiff trigger that's not adjustable.

This is Gamo Shadow territory and also CF-X, though the Storm Elite is positioned against the Shadow and a dozen or so other $200 breakbarrels. A trip to the range will show us what we need to know.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mendoza RM-650 BB gun
Another one to love!

by B.B. Pelletier

Mendoza's RM-650 is a classic-looking BB gun with some traditional touches that I like.

I have recently discovered that Mendoza produces some pretty fine airguns. The RM-200 test has really opened my eyes, and today I have another super Mendoza gun for you - the RM-650 BB gun.

Why do I like it?
I like traditional guns, by which I mean guns that do not depart from classic lines and even traditional materials. I guess I make some exceptions for guns like those made by AirForce, but I am a traditionalist at heart. This Mendoza BB gun is made along more traditional lines like the Daisy Red Ryder. It's profile doesn't look as classic as the Red Ryder's, and the automatic safety atop the receiver is a turnoff, but on the other hand I have never forgiven Daisy for changing the front of the model 1938 to make the BB loader a plastic mechanism.

The Mendoza uses a more classic loading system dating back many decades. It's no better than the Red Ryder's, and you might even argue that the Mendoza is harder to load because the hole you pour up to 500 BBs into is smaller, but I just like it. With the Mendoza, a turn of the knurled muzzle exposes the loading port underneath the barrel. It's what I grew up with in the 1960s, and I just like it.

The loading port is under the barrel. Rotate the knurled muzzle to open the port.

Unfortunately, the RM-650 has a plastic lever just like the Daisy. But that is the only plastic piece on the outside of the gun. Even the automatic safety slide atop the receiver is metal. When the gun is cocked, the safety slides back automatically, putting the gun on safe until the shooter takes it off deliberately. The location of the slide makes it easy to take off the safety. You can do it with your cocking hand when you return the lever to the stored position.

The automatic safety goes on every time you cock the gun. It gives an odd hump to the top of what is otherwise a traditional-looking BB gun.

Overall quality
The Mendoza is not a copy of the Daisy, though it shares many of the styling lines. And, there are construction differences. The largest is that this gun has only one visible screw - the one holding the forearm. The metal action is entirely riveted together! Now, that's going to make the RM-650 more difficult to repair down the road, but I have never worn out a BB gun. I know the Army repaired their Daisy Quick Kill guns a lot, but each one of those was shot millions of times, and they were used by thousands of trainees. I think it's very unlikely that one person or even three can wear out a BB gun that's well cared for.

The stock and forearm are wood, which most BB-gunners like. The metal is mostly finished with a tough, uniform coat of paint that exhibits a very high gloss. A few smaller parts like the rear sight and trigger have been given a black oxide finish that leaves them dull in comparison. Overall, this is a very nicely finished BB gun.

Daisy Premium Zinc-Plated BBs registered between 276 and 280 f.p.s., which is on a par with the Red Ryder. The trigger is single-stage and stiff, like all BB gun triggers. It pulls off at 44 oz., which is 4 oz. under 3 lbs. That's pretty good.

As far as accuracy goes, I must confess I'm not much of a BB gun shooter. Except for the exceptionally accurate Daisy Avanti Champion 499, most BB guns have lousy accuracy. When I tested the Marksman 1010, I did measure a 10-foot shot group for you, so I shot the RM-650 at 15 feet - a good BB gun distance. I got a 2.7" group, of which I was responsible for about a quarter-inch. I would expect the same performance from a Red Ryder.

The rear sight is adjustable for elevation only, using the traditional stepped ladder type of adjustment. For windage corrections, you need to learn the aim-off for your gun, which is no different than other BB guns for the past century.

Bottom line
I guess I just like the whole Mendoza line, which transfers to this BB gun. I like that they finish their guns so well. I like the shot groups that come with each rifle. I like the oil hole they put in the outer tube of the spring piston rifles and the super-fine rear peep sight that I have yet to review for you. Like most pure BB guns, the RM-650 isn't a standout on its own, except that it includes many of the extra little details such as the all-metal construction and nice finish. Pyramyd Air will soon carry these, so next Christmas there will be a choice among BB guns.

An aside
Yesterday's post received a number of interesting comments, plus at least one request for another posting on reticles. It seems that we're all interested in the technology of scopes. I also can see from the comments that there are number of readers who know a lot more about this subject than I do. I rely on some industry contacts, but my knowledge is pretty thin when it comes to optics. So, you can help me by making comments like those made yesterday. Please tell me what you're interested in.

Monday, April 23, 2007

AirForce 4-16x50 scope

by B.B. Pelletier

AirForce 4-16x50 scope is a really good hunting scope. This photo shows the new target turrets mentioned in this post.

A reader asked for this review last week, and I was surprised to learn I had never done one. I don't talk about this scope a lot, but when it comes to my AirForce rifles, this is the scope I usually use.

How does it rank?
I talk about Leapers scopes a lot, because they have been the best scope values for many years. Nearly all scopes are made in China today, so the origin of a particular brand is no way to tell if it's good or bad; but there's a huge range in the quality of scopes!

The Chinese have the best commercial lens grinding machines in the world. The Swiss and Germans set them up in the 1970s so they could use the cheaper labor to make their optics. That's why almost all of the best optics are now made there. The few brands that are still made in Europe and the U.S. stand out because of their higher prices.

What differentiates scopes is the quality of materials put into them and the time spent in certain operations. Leapers scopes are very good because they put good materials into their scopes. Their emerald lens coating on all lens surfaces transmits more light than multi-coated lenses, making Leapers scopes brighter than most. But, AirForce went a step farther.

The AirForce differences
AirForce specified optical glass of higher quality than most scopes. I cannot say they are higher quality than Leapers, but I can say they beat BSA, Simmons and many brand-name scopes. Some scope manufacturers, such as Bushnell, have different grades of quality in the lines that carry their name. The top lines from these manufacturers probably use optical glass of the same quality as AirForce, but these scopes sell for two and three times the price of the AirForce 4-16x50.

Then, there are the lens coatings to consider. Low-priced scopes often use multi-coated lenses, which means they have several different coatings on the lenses. Each does a different function, and together them make a well-rounded scope. However, these lens coatings absorb some of the light that passes through them. The more lenses in the optical package, the more light is lost this way, which is why some mid-priced scopes are either a bit dark or muddy-looking. They are fine when the light is bright, but they degrade when the light is marginal. AirForce specified a single coating of fluoride for their lenses. That makes their scopes very bright compared to average scopes.

Also, AirForce uses a 50mm objective lens that lets a lot of light enter the scope. Though they specified a 1" scope tube, which passes less light than a 30mm tube, they managed to produce a really bright scope of decent power for hunters. You'll get extra minutes on both ends of the day where you can still see the target clearly enough to take the shot.

The reticle is a duplex with thin center lines for more precise aiming. The thick reticle lines at the extremities help you locate the thinner lines when you're looking at sun-dappled vegetation.

New target turret knobs
The turret knobs are target type, and AirForce upgraded them last year to a sharper profile. The new knobs look different than those pictured on this site, and they no longer have caps. You simply turn the knobs themselves for adjustments. They're still 1/4 MOA adjustments, but the detents have been made even crisper than before. There is no "stacking" of pressure at the ends of knob travel until the final few clicks.

Quick change
I own both a Talon SS and a Condor, so I transfer this scope between the two. I have used both a B-Square-single mount base and an AirForce TriRail for this, and both work equally well. The scope stays tight in the rings and just the base is loosened for the move. AirForce's 11mm scope mount rail makes it easy to make this switch. The scope re-sights quickly as both rifles shoot very nearly to the same place.

This scope is more expensive than a comparable Leapers, but I do feel it's worth the extra money. For hunting, especially, this is a hard scope to beat, plus it's a perfect match for the entire AirForce line.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mendoza RM-200
Final report

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

I finally completed the accuracy test of the Mendoza RM-200. The day was breezy, but the wind was not a problem. I shot at 25 yards, which I felt was in keeping with this type of rifle.

One of our readers suggested scoping the rifle with a Bug Buster, and I had one already set up in rings, so that's what I used. It was a Bug Buster 2, 6x32mm scope. It fit the rifle very well and the small size of the scope compliments the rifle, but shooting from the bench made the eye relief a little too long. I managed, but it would have been much nicer shooting offhand.

From the first test, I knew that neither Crosman Premiers or JSB Exacts would shoot in this rifle. It seems to need a fatter pellet, which is why RWS Hobbys did so well. For this test, I chose pellets that are either fat or have thin skirts that can be blown out into the rifling. The first pellet was a 5.6mm Eley Wasp that is, unfortunately, no longer available. It grouped well. Since it can no longer be purchased, I won't tease you. It did tell me that the rifle was accurate and that it probably did need bigger pellets.

I also tested RWS Superpoints, Beeman Silver Bears, RWS Hobbys and Logun Penetrators in the 16-grain weight. Well, the Superpoints were a complete bust. The Silver Bears were not much better. Both pellets gave 2.5" to 3" groups at 25 yards. Since the Wasps worked so well, I knew the rifle could shoot.

RWS Hobbys shot groups of about 1.5", which isn't horrible but isn't as good as I expected from this rifle. However, I had an ace up my sleeve. One of our readers, powermacsc, got half-inch groups with his new 200 shooting the 16-grain Logun Penetrators, so I saved that pellet for last. And, it did perform well. I got groups between 3/4" and 1" for five shots. That's close to what the Eley Wasps were doing, but the Loguns were ever-so-slightly better.

Technique, technique technique!
Then, I went to work on my shooting technique. I tried all kinds of holds and I balanced the stock at various critical spots. My conclusions are these:
  1. The RM-200 is very sensitive to hold.
  2. It likes the forearm to rest as far out as possible from the triggerguard.
  3. Pellet seating pressure is very critical.
  4. Being a carbine, the rifle wants to be held as loosely as possible.*
*This needs some explanation. When you hold a spring rifle, and especially a breakbarrel springer, you want the gun to move freely when it recoils. However, there is one final trick that the RM-200 really likes. After you have your sight picture, relax and see if the reticle moves. Your goal is to relax with the reticle remaining on target. If it moves when you relax, the rifle will throw the pellet in that direction. I found the RM-200 very sensitive in that respect.

A reader asked about the stock, because I neglected to mention anything about it. The stock is not strictly ambidextrous, having a low comb on the left side, but the shape of the butt is ALMOST symmetrical. A lefty could use the rifle with no problem. The automatic safety is completely ambidextrous, with a lever on both sides of the receiver.

The bottom line
I think the Mendoza RM-200 is a wonderful little .22 sporting rifle. Expect it to shoot groups of 3/4" to 1" at 25 yards with good pellets. I suspect that as you become more familiar with your rifle, the groups will shrink because this rifle is very sensitive to how it is held. I don't know how you could do any better at the price!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blast from the past
The Haenel model 28 pellet pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we begin today, attention bargain hunters. Pyramyd Air has a great sale on H&N Baracuda Match pellets in .22 caliber.

The Haenel 28 is a stout single-shot spring pistol from before WWII.

I was at a gun show 10 years ago and saw a strange-looking pistol on a table. Something about its shape told me it was an airgun and not a firearm. When I picked it up, though, the substantial weight of 38 oz. told me that this was an airgun built to LAST! Probably made before WWII (it was), it was all steel and wood with leather seals.

That first gun show model 28 was overpriced at $100, but I bargained the seller down to $80. The gun had no finish and a fair bit of pitting from former neglect, so that was about the maximum it would be worth. Someone had wire brushed all the metal, so there was no collector's value left, but it still functioned in every way. With a gun that old, that's something.

When I got the gun home, it had no power. I stripped the powerplant by unscrewing the end cap. That gave me access to the piston, which had no seal, so my first job was to make a new one out of an old leather belt. When that was finished, I had a gun that shot .177 RWS Hobby pellets at about 250 f.p.s. Not a magnum! My mainspring was canted, so I guessed that a new one might get 300-350 f.p.s.

A breakbarrel and more!
The model 28 has a conventional breakbarrel for loading, but the gun is cocked another way. The barrel is only held by a chisel detent, so all you do is break the barrel down at any time to load. The action is cocked by unlatching the pistol grip, which is a subframe, from the upper frame of the gun and swinging it down and to the rear. The picture shows it more clearly. Once the gun is cocked and the pistol grip is locked with the upper frame, you're ready to fire.

The Haenel 28 is a stout single-shot spring pistol from before WWII.

Bottom subframe unlatches from the top and pivots back to cock. Note that the trigger is now disconnected from the powerplant. That's why the trigger can never be great.

The trigger is a single-stage, but slop in the trigger mechanism allows the blade to wiggle like a false first stage. The pull is even and breaks at 7 lbs., which sounds very heavy, but for some reason doesn't feel that way. I suspect the deeply curved trigger blade has something to do with that. With the pistol breaking apart the way it does, the trigger linkage has to do a lot more than a conventional trigger.

A little history
Hugo Schmeisser designed this pistol in 1927, but production didn't start until around 1933. It continued up to the start of WWII, but ended there. Approximately 25,000 model 28s were made, along with a few thousand earlier unnumbered guns. You cannot help but notice the similarity of the shape to the famous P08 or Luger, which has given rise to speculation that Haenel 28s were used for military training. However, I know of no hard evidence to support that claim. Germany did make use of many long airguns as rifle trainers, but they used no pistols that I know of.

Second pistol
I sold the first model 28 after playing with it a few years, but about a month ago a second gun came into my hands. This one is in much nicer condition with some bluing, while the remainder of the metal has turned to be a pleasing plumb patina. It has a stronger mainspring than the first gun, and the piston seal is fresh, yet the velocity with RWS Hobbys is still between 250 and 270 f.p.s. So, my guess about a new mainspring may be overstating the capability.

Sights and accuracy
The front sight is a barleycorn mounted on a dovetail. The rear is a V-notch mounted on an adjustable leaf with its own dovetail. Adjustment comes via a small screw at the back of the leaf. Accuracy with an air pistol of this vintage is a problematic thing. Expect to hold groups of 2.5" to 3" at 10 meters in spite of the rifled barrel. Actually, there are some smoothbore 28s known, as well as some in .22 caliber, though a rifled .177 is the most common type.

Of all the heavy steel pre-war air pistols, only the Webley Senior is more common than the Haenel model 28. So, if you want one, they're available. I would guess that a nice one with lots of blue will cost $175-225 - more if there's a box with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mendoza RM-200: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 2
Part 1

How many of you know the significance of today's date? Here's a hint - something very important happened a long time ago.

Normally this would be the final report on the Mendoza RM-200, because I'm going to talk about accuracy today, but there needs to be some further testing. I got good results, but they weren't achieved the way I would like because I tried to test too many things at the same time. I tried to use a new scope to test this rifle and, though the scope worked fine, there were some complications that make it necessary to shoot more. However, I know many of you have been waiting for this, so I'll tell you what I've seen thus far.

Barrel cleaned
The first step was a thorough cleaning of the barrel with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. Even though the rifle is brand new, I know that rust from bluing and dirt and metal burrs left over from the manufacturing process need to be removed to get the best accuracy. If you don't do this, the barrel will eventually get cleaned by simply shooting 500-1,000 pellets through it. I don't have the time to wait that long, so I cleaned the bore.

Pellet sensitivity
I set up a target at 18 yards and started shooting with three pellets - Crosman Premiers, JSB Exacts and RWS Hobbys. The Premiers didn't group at all, but they did teach me something very important about the RM-200. If I did not insert the pellet deep into the breech, it shot very fast and powerfully. If I did insert it deep into the breech, it lost all power. Apparently, the size of the Premier's skirt is just a few thousandths bigger than this rifle's breech, because the pellet popped into the bore with slight finger pressure. I had noticed this during chronographing last week, and you may remember that I got varying velocities. Some of that was due to dieseling, but it was also due to how the pellet was seated.

I got 4" groups with the Premiers! That eliminated them from any further testing. The JSBs grouped about 2", which also eliminated them. That left only the RWS Hobbys. They fit the breech very tightly, so I thought they might have a chance for accuracy - and they did. However, the scope issue caused me to shoot all my groups with open sights. Though the accuracy was very good, the rifle will do much better when I get a scope mounted on it - so that's why there has to be another report. The scope issue was not a problem with the rifle, but a mounting problem with the scope I tried to use.

Hobbys did well
With RWS Hobbys, the groups shrank to 0.752, which is just over 3/4". That's shooting with open sights. A scope will measurably decrease even that kind of spread. Hobbys also tended to group about the same, time after time, which means they are consistent. That makes me wonder if there is an even better pellet for this rifle. If there is, it will probably be a fat bore-filling pellet that takes the shallow rifling well. That's another reason for more testing, not just for the RM-200. Because all Mendoza rifles most probably use the same barrels, if you find the right pellet for one and you've found it for all.

A good group for open sights at 18 yards. We don't even know if the Hobby is the best pellet!

There was a clue that the gun was accurate. The factory sent a sample group laminated in a hang tag. Not only is the group a good one (with no indication of what distance it was shot) but the mere fact that Mendoza thinks enough of their guns to SEND a sample group lets me know they are proud of their airgun. So, I must look for the best pellet I can find.

The company sends this hang tag with a test group with every rifle. Impressive!

How did it feel?
I really enjoy the light cocking effort of this rifle. For a .22 with as much power as this one has, it cocks like a dream. It's definitely an all-day plinking rifle. And, I really like the trigger. The two blades still feel odd, but the positive first stage and light second stage are a delight to use. When the gun fires, it's pretty stable. There's a small amount of buzzing from the spring, but it's over quickly and the overall firing impulse is quite light.

Sights are good and bad
The fiberoptic sights are very clear, crisp and sharply defined. It was dirt-simple to get a good sight picture. The adjustments, on the other hand, are too crude for precision work. I would remove the rear sight and install a Mendoza peep sight in its place, when it becomes available.

A good little R7 substitute
Okay, that might be a little much. But, it's a nice little rifle that puts me in mind of the classic Beeman R7. Oh, the R7 has the better trigger, but the one on the Mendoza isn't bad. Many of the innovative features I've seen, such as the two-bladed trigger and the oil hole, make me think Mendoza really cares about their product. I'm yet not satisfied that we know the whole accuracy story, so please be patient...but this is a very nice little air rifle.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Don't shoot your eye out!

Today, we have a guest blogger. She'll tell you how to avoid eye injuries when shooting airguns and how to protect your children from the same.

by Mirfee Ungier, M.D., Ophthalmologist and eye surgeon

Airgunning, for all its fun as a shooting sport and its relative safety compared to firearms, is still a high-risk sport for eye injuries. A small projectile moving at a high speed concentrates energy impact at both a desired target and occasionally at an undesired target. Six percent of all serious eye injuries are BB-related. Eighty-four percent of these injuries result in legal blindness. In fact, the eye injury rate from airguns has actually remained stable at approximately 6 per million, whereas the rate of firearms eye injuries has declined from 14.8/million in 1993 to 7.5/million in 2002.

YOU are the first line of defense!
It's not just the increase in deliverable energy that results in a disconnect between airgun safety and firearm safety, but two entirely different factors: lack of supervision of children using airguns and underuse of protective eye wear.

A study from Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, found the mean age of the victim at the time of eye injury due to airguns to be 13. Another study from Canada demonstrated airgun injuries were responsible for 25 percent of all injuries severe enough to cause loss of an eye. The mean age of the victims was 14.

The circumstances of these injuries put the burden squarely on the parents. Injuries were:

1. 24 times more likely to occur when there was no adult supervision
2. 12 times more likely to occur at a friend's house
3. 5 times more likely to occur indoors
4. 6 times more likely when no target was used

Ricochets accounted for 26 percent of injuries. In almost all cases, no eye protection was used.

Obviously, we can prevent the vast majority of these injuries with proper supervision and instruction of our children. I'm including teenagers in this group.

How to pick the right shooting glasses
Eye protection should not just be available, but mandatory for both adults and children. In fact, shooting glasses should be worn by everyone in the vicinity of the shooter. Street glasses are not satisfactory unless they are polycarbonate (which I actually recommend for all children anyway) and in a wraparound frame. Targets should be soft and capable of trapping the pellets without causing ricochets. Airguns are fun, but they're definitely not toys. They deserve respect for the damage they can do.

Pyramyd Air sells a full line of shooting glasses. If you're buying glasses for children or teens, be sure to pick glasses that will fit them properly.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Where did the National Rifle Association come from?

by B.B. Pelletier

Now, there's a loaded question. Pun intended! It's loaded with emotion for many people in the U.S. and for those who watch the United States from outside the country. I expect many people believe the NRA was founded to protect the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or to protect "gun rights," whatever they might be.

Actually, the association was founded to correct a problem our nation faced during the American Civil War. By 1860, our nation was more urban than we might believe. Men were not as reliant on firearms as their fathers and grandfathers had been, and the Union Army faced an appalling lack of basic rifle marksmanship skills and even common sense firearm handling skills. As far as I can tell, the South did not have this problem to the same degree, if at all. It was largely an agricultural society at that time, so firearms knowledge was probably a lot more common.

Several Union Army generals and a few other influential people founded the NRA in 1871 "To promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis." A plot of land was found on Long Island, the Creed farm, and, with financial help from the State of New York, the land was purchased and given to the new organization in 1872. It became the famous Creedmore range.

Rifle marksmanship was turned into a scientific practice with the help of several books of the period, and the NRA was under way. However, when World War I broke out, Americans again lacked the shooting skills they needed. While shooting had been popularized, shooting technology had not, and new inductees were more familiar with muzzleloading black powder rifles than with modern, bolt-action repeaters. The NRA was quick to catch up with the times and even insisted that the Springfield Arsenal produce a .22 rimfire version of the U.S. M1903 battle rifle for training programs around the nation.

Still, when World War II broke out, our armed forces found themselves behind the technological curve once more. During peaceful times, it seems that many citizens do not practice rifle marksmanship. When the bad times come, they have to be trained in the basics and then advanced to the latest state-of-the-art firepower. In WWII, it was the semiautomatic Garand and Johnson rifles.

Today, the NRA oversees the training of more than a million new young shooters each year. Airguns have become the primary training tool. In the 1950s (when I learned to shoot), .22 rimfire rifle was used most often. However, even in my day, indoor ranges for the lowly .22 rimfire were in short supply. I was lucky enough to have been in an NRA training program in the 1950s, but a lot of kids never had the chance because there were no ranges close by. Air rifles change all that, of course.

This past weekend, I attended the NRA Annual Meetings in St. Louis, and I visited the airgun range. They have been running this event for the past five years or so, and this year it was a huge success. Thousands of youngsters and oldsters alike got to sample some very modern and accurate air rifles.

Back in the 1970s, when I joined the NRA as a Life Member, the organization thought of airguns strictly as a child's first shooting experience. Today, they see them as the best way to introduce anyone to the shooting sports, and they're starting to realize airguns are perhaps the best way to bring new members into the organization.

Citizens of the United States are proud of their freedom to shoot firearms, yet this country has never won Olympic gold in an airgun event. Airguns now comprise one-third of all Olympic gun-shooting events, yet the U.S. has never won gold. Some countries have now stripped all airguns from their populace, and others are heading in the same direction. We have the right to keep and bear arms, yet we sometimes treat that right as a trivial thing. If history shows us anything, it's that bad times will always come. When they do, we have to be able to shoot.

The NRA has 4 million members, but there are over 70 million households in this country that have guns. The NRA was founded to spread rifle marksmanship, but today it stands as the only bulwark against the political forces that attempt to disarm our citizens. There is a much greater threat than a lack of basic firearms knowledge, and that is complacency.

The readers of this blog share a love of shooting. Because of the NRA, U.S. citizens are also able to own and use firearms as well as airguns. We shoot because we love to, but we should also bear our arms proudly and strongly so that no political body can ever take away our rights.

In case no one has ever asked you, I invite you to join the NRA and join the battle to defend out rights. It's the Second Amendment that secures all our other rights!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dewey one-piece cleaning rod vs three-piece rods

by B.B. Pelletier

I have used three-piece cleaning rods all my life. And, when I recently added up the cost of the 30 or so I've bought over the years, the total topped $200! However, that's not the reason for this post. A one-piece steel cleaning rod - coated or not - is actually BETTER for the bore of your airguns than a jointed rod. I can't prove that, but recent research uncovered the fact that all real marksmen for the past 200 years have insisted on a one-piece steel or iron rod. Today, I'll explain what I found.

About 25 years ago, Robert Beeman wrote that the one-piece steel rod is best because it has no joints to collect dirt that can scratch the bore as it passes through. I thought that was a stretch when I first read it, but now I've uncovered several historical reports that agree. The most recent was Ned Roberts, a notable marksman and the inventor of the .257 Roberts cartridge. Roberts was a contemporary of Schalk, Pope and other top rifle and barrel makers, and all of them - to a man - used only a solid steel rod. He used the same reasoning as Beeman - that jointed rods tend to collect dirt that can scratch the bore.

Scratch my back - not my bore!
The book in which this appeared was a book about muzzleloading rifles, and they had barrels made of either iron or dead-soft steel, similar to our airgun barrels today. So, scratching the bore was and still is a distinct possibility.

Aluminum rods
Many aluminum cleaning rods are the jointed type, like the one found in the Gamo .177 cleaning kit. You probably thought that aluminum, being softer than steel, would be better for the bore of your gun, but here's the catch. Because it is so soft, aluminum can become embedded with hard particles of dirt and act like a file on your bore. That's besides the joint between the sections. If you are scrupulous about cleaning your rod after cleaning your airgun, this doesn't present such a problem, but I know I wasn't doing that.

A steel rod will not allow particles to embed themselves, and even the coated rods apparently don't have this problem, because they are the ones Roberts recommends the most. Beeman said they weren't as good, and all the other experts lived at a time when synthetic coatings didn't exist. So, it's Ned Roberts' word against Beeman's. But that wasn't the argument that won me over. I break cleaning rods!

Steel is hard to break
At least I break aluminum rods. Or I cross-thread them or I break off the threaded portion that holds the tips. The .177 rods are the worst. So, a year ago I sprang for a .22 caliber Dewey and a .177 Dewey. That's $72 worth of cleaning rods! However, I have the pieces of at least that many broken rods laying about everywhere, and I've thrown away most of them over the years. In fact, I caught myself at Wally World with another $30 worth of aluminum rods headed for the checkout when the reality hit me. Dewey rods are cheaper! Not by the piece, but over the long haul. I've been cleaning firearms and airguns for over 40 years, and I guess I still have a few decades left, so I decided it was time to stop throwing money down the drain.

Dewey rods have ball-bearing handles, so the bore brush can follow the rifling and not skip across the lands. When you're using JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, that's a plus and a half!

I have friend who has Deweys that are 20 years old and still working fine. I know a rifle manufacturer who cleans his new barrels only with Dewey rods, and that's several thousand barrels a year! So, they do hold up.

Dewey is a complete system - not just a rod. When you buy one, be sure to also buy a matching jag, mop, slotted tip and brushes (plural). I recommend using a new brush every time you clean with JB paste, so buy your brushes in quantity.

If you have any questions about the accessories, please ask them. I would be happy to talk about them and even to describe the complete process, if you like. I do plan to talk about flexible rods in another post, so that will be coming soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How this blog works

by B.B. Pelletier

Today was supposed to be a third report on the Mendoza RM-200, but we have a problem that needs attention before I get to that. So, that report will now be postponed until next week. I have to tell you that we're receiving a LOT of comments and questions about this model and Mendozas in general, but I will wait until the final segment of the report before taking any questions.

This blog has been a very pleasant place to discuss airguns for more than two years. However, last week, members of the Talon Owner's Group (TOG) started posting comments with a vengeance in response to two postings about Condors written by Tom Gaylord. Their comments began in a confrontational vein and quickly degenerated to name-calling. Before long, they were fighting among themselves and arguing with our longtime readers. I have removed all of the personal attacks that I've seen, and today I want to tell everyone about the rules of this blog.

Not a forum
This blog is not a forum. It's a blog about airguns. When the discussion is about airguns, it's in safe territory; when it degenerates into name-calling, personal attacks and attacks against dealers, manufacturers, and other entities, I will cut it off and start erasing the comments. I did not have to say that for over two years, and now, with just one week of attention from a few members of one airgun forum, this blog is becoming an armed camp.

There are members of the TOG who are long-time contributors to this blog. They have behaved like everyone else here, and many have been helpful to you newer airgunners when I didn't know the answer or was unavailable. I thank them for that. I know that on the TOG, they speak with a different voice and make much harsher and more personal comments, but that is their business. This blog is my business, and I invite anyone who wants to ask questions or just talk about airguns to stay and participate. If you cannot do that, please don't feel the need to comment at all.

Do not throw the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in my face over this policy until you actually read it and see that it does not apply. This blog does not belong to the Congress of the United States. We do have freedom of expression here, but I am now defining the limits for those who don't seem to possess a social conscience of their own.

If you want to show disfavor with a product, explain your reasons and your position. No wild arm-waving, innuendo or damning with faint praise is required. This blog will not degenerate into the snake pits that many airgun forums have become. If you don't know how to do what I am talking about, read the postings and the comments of others but do not feel compelled to make comments of your own.

Some time ago, I had to put a security measure into effect to remove the automatic spammers who posted to this blog. I hate it more than you, because I also have to type in those letters no one can read for every answer I give. I can also make registration mandatory for everyone. I haven't had to even think about doing that until last week, but I will do it if it is the only way to preserve the pleasant atmosphere of this blog.

I can also turn off the ability to make comments altogether.

This blog belongs to Pyramyd Air. They have put a lot of time, money and effort into making it what it have I. Think of it as your home, and keep the antisocial activity out of here. I want a nice place for new airgunners to come to ask their questions and experienced airgunners to answer them. This will be a place for airgunning to grow. If you absolutely HAVE to spray-paint nasty words on the overpass, find somewhere else to do it.

I am not interested in discussing this policy, so go vent your anger on one of the forums. I have disabled comments on this posting and will not answer any questions about behavior. Let your conscience be your guide.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mendoza RM-200: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before I get started, I have a couple of announcements.

Pyramyd Air's latest email promotion is now available. It's all about the new PCP hand pump. They're superior to the European ones we've used up til now. They'll be in stock by next week, so Pyramyd Air is taking pre-orders.

There's a new deal on .177 H&N Baracuda Match pellets! Pyramyd Air made a special purchase and got a boatload of these. They usually sell for $9.95/tin, but the price has just been lowered to $8.05/tin. Time to stock up!

Today, I'll finish the exterior look at the RM-200. If you haven't already read Part 1, it might be helpful if you did that first.

The rifle cocks very easily. The description says 29 lbs., but my test rifle cocks with just 24 lbs. of effort, and it's brand new. I would imagine that would decrease by a little as the gun wears in. When you click on the closeup image on the website, you'll see that Mendoza put a small muzzlebrake extension on the barrel to ease cocking, and it definitely works! Cocking is very smooth and positive. The chisel detent holds the breech tight, yet doesn't fight you when you want to break open the barrel.

Automatic safety
The safety is a bar on both sides of the end cap that goes on automatically when the rifle is cocked. Push it forward with your thumb to shoot. As long as the gun is cocked, you can put on the safety at any time after taking it off, but it will not go on when the gun is uncocked. Another safety feature is that the rifle refuses to fire when the barrel is broken open. This is an anti-beartrap mechanism to keep careless shooters from losing digits while loading. That makes a total of three safety mechanisms on the rifle. The two-bladed trigger provides some measure of safety for careless trigger-pullers, the automatic safety and the anti-beartrap mechanism are all there to keep you safe. Never rely on them, of course. Always point the muzzle of the gun in the direction you intend shooting.

Mendoza put a very good set of open sights on the RM-200. The front is a square post on a ramp. It's covered by a large globe with a huge hole. That hole lets light through to illuminate the fiberoptic rod. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation and also has two fiberoptic points. What I like about these sights is that they're very sharp and crisp, just as they are. I'm not big on fiberoptics, but I do like good open sights, and this rifle has them.

Lots of light gets through to illuminate the front fiberoptic rod.

The rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation. It's also fiberoptic.

Firing behavior
I had to shoot the rifle to get chronograph readings and to test the trigger-pull, so I have a preliminary feel for how it shoots. It has a little spring buzz that's very short-lived, and the recoil is almost negligible. It's not as smooth as an R7, but close to it. For the price, it feels like much more air rifle!

The best feature!
I saved this for last. The RM-200 and other Mendoza spring rifles have a dedicated oil port on the side of the gun! No more hunting for the air transfer port. The hole is only opened when you purposely hold the barrel as far broken open as it will go. Then, the piston seal retracts beyond the hole, and you have access to oil. Now, just because it's that easy doesn't mean you should oil this rifle any more than any other spring-piston air rifle. About one drop every 3,000 to 5,000 shots is plenty.

You can oil the compression chamber directly through this hole on the left side of the spring tube.

I must say that I'm impressed so far. After reading all the negative comments, I didn't expect Mendozas to be this nice or this full of innovations. I'm hoping this quality carries over when the shooting begins.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mendoza RM-200: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm sure many of you long-time readers remember back when I did the CF-X "test" before actually shooting the rifle. That was back in January 2006. A month and a half later, I actually tested the rifle and discovered that a few of my assumption were off the mark. The rifle surprised me by being better than any Gamo rifle I had ever shot.

That should have prepared me for Mendoza, but I have to admit - I never saw this one coming! Several readers have commented that they don't find their Mendozas to be all they expected, and the forums are similarly split as to whether these rifles are good or bad. Therefore, I was prepared for the worst, and I have refused to comment on the rifle until testing them. However, I have mentioned several times the bad things other shooters have said about them.

Now, I take it all back! Either Mendoza has changed their quality greatlyn or those shooters all got lemons! The rifles I'm now examining are beautiful! Today, I want to walk you around the RM-200 - a rifle Mendoza says is for young adults, but which I think all adult shooters will enjoy. This is a carbine-sized airgun with a length of 41", a weight of 6.6 lbs and a pull of 13.5". It's sized for an adult, but it's compact. It puts me in mind of the wonderful Beeman Webley C1 carbine!

Even better than the compact size is the caliber. This is a .22! It's supposed to spit out pellets at 600 f.p.s., but the rifle I'm testing is over-lubricated at the moment, so the velocity is varying from a low of 550 to a high of 707 with Crosman Premiers. RWS Hobbys range from 522 to 1028, but the bulk of them hover around 750-850.

It's going to take some shooting to get rid of the excess chamber lube, but I expect the gun to settle down pretty close to the published velocity after that. We'll see.

Fit and finish
Remarkable at twice the price! The blued steel parts are nicely polished. The wood stock is nicely fitted to the action, but the contour will seem a little strange to most shooters. The pistol grip region is taller and less deeply sculpted than other rifles - resulting in a stronger wrist. They made the wood thin through the cross section at this point, but the grip still fills your hand and makes the rifle feel substantial. The Beeman Webley C1 stock was similar, but they did it with a thick wrist.

The end cap is plastic, but every other black piece on the outside of the gun is steel with the exception of one of the two trigger blades. I believe that one is aluminum. The end cap is also a perfect scope stop, so no need to buy one of those. Just butt the rear ring against the end cap, and it will stay put.

The end cap is also a scope stop. Butt the rear ring against the end cap, and it can't go anywhere. The safety is ambidextrous.

Two trigger blades?
Yes, there are two trigger blades! But only one trigger. Now, how is that possible? Well, this is the strangest trigger I've ever seen. The two blades are set side-by-side, but the blade on the right (the aluminum one?) is slightly ahead of the one on the left. When the rifle is cocked, it moves further ahead of the other one. The forward blade is responsible for the first stage of the trigger pull and the rear blade is the second stage. I tried just squeezing the rear blade and nothing happened, so this design is a safety feature. The first stage must be pulled for the second stage to work.

Front trigger blade is the first stage. When it gets even with the rear blade, the second stage kicks in. Unusual design, but safer than a single-bladed trigger because a slight pull will not fire the rifle. It looks like the front trigger is longer than the rear, but they align when the front one swings back.

I'm still getting used to the feel of puling two thin blades instead of one thicker one. I can't say I like the feel of this trigger, yet, but I don't dislike it. It's just very different. However, stages one and two are differentiated. The rifle I'm testing has a 1-lb. first stage and goes off with 3 lbs., 6 oz. of pull. The trigger is not adjustable, but it's light enough and crisp enough to do the job.

Tomorrow, I'll cover the rest of the physical parts of the rifle for you.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Daisy No. 100 Model 38

by B.B. Pelletier

When you hear the name "Daisy," I bet you don't think of a single-shot BB gun. Most people probably think of the popular Red Ryder Daisy has made since 1938. But, there were plenty of single shots in the early Daisy lineup, starting with the first models in 1888. By the turn of the century, Daisy had added a lot of repeaters, but single-shots were still very prevalent. However, after World War I, the repeater ruled the day and single-shots were not as common.

In 1938, Daisy made a single-shot they called the No. 100 Model 38. It resembled the 1912 Model C made 26 years earlier but stood apart from the typical lever-action construction of the day. Besides the obvious lack of a cocking lever, this rifle has no visible screws. It's held together by rivets.

Daisy's No. 100 Model 38 is a simple single-shot BB gun that looks different than the traditional Red Ryder. It was made for younger children and also to be cheap.

Fixed sights
This was a budget BB gun, so the sights are fixed with no pretense of adjustability. In fact, the rear sight also serves to anchor the spring-piston assembly, which was a common way for BB guns to be made at the time. The riveted construction makes this gun a little harder to work on than a more conventional gun with a cocking lever.

To cock the gun, you break down the stock. I've taken a picture to show you how it works. Loading means just dropping a BB down the muzzle. This gun was produced starting in 1938, so it's built for .173" steel BBs - the BBs of today.

Broken open for cocking, the gun shows how much more leverage there was over traditional lever-actions. Though it was a youth gun, the Model 38 was powerful.

The age of the gun also means the piston seal is leather, so you have to keep it well-oiled to keep the power up. There is no oil hole, so drop the oil straight down the barrel and stand the gun on its butt for about an hour. Do that every couple of weeks, or as the power seems to drop.

What kind of power?
This model was made for younger children, but the mechanical advantage of using the whole butt as a cocking lever means it can be powerful. And it is! Mine has an air leak in the compression chamber because the tack-welded outer tube has broken open, and I still get 220-240 f.p.s. A good one will, no doubt, top 300.

My gun is not one to go by since it leaks air, but I get reasonable BB gun accuracy from it. I don't shoot it enough to really know the gun, but I'm sure little boys who shot their guns every day got pretty good with them.

It wasn't an expensive gun when it was new and it's still very affordable today. You should be able to find one in very good condition for $100 or less. I paid $50 for mine because of the damage. An equivalent grade of lever-action from the same time frame would bring $150 or more.

I have to admit that I never saw one of these when I was a kid in the 1950s. It wasn't until I started attending airgun shows that I saw my first one, but they aren't rare. You can always find several at any good collector's show. I admired them for many years before getting this one. Now, I'm thinking I should get a fully functioning gun to really give it a test.

Any of you old boys out there ever have one?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Advice on pellets - for Sharon

by B.B. Pelletier

First I have to observe that we received a large number of comments on Tom Gaylord's Wednesday post about abusing a Condor. Apparently, a lot of you have a lot to say about that rifle. Everyone kept a civil tongue, though it was apparent there were a lot of emotions behind those comments. I must observe that the discussion polarized around the same points that always seem to surround AirForce Airguns. Some of you like 'em just the way they are, some wish the company would build them better, some wish the company would innovate more and some believe that the individual owners are doing more to advance the rifles than anyone.

The funny thing is, you don't see this same kind of intense discussion when Falcons or Loguns are the topic. Then it's just a discussion of the specifications and performance. That tells me that people are more interested in AirForce guns because of how they are designed and built. The guns have a large following - though not everyone is a supporter. Of course, AirForce guns out-sell other sporting PCP brands by a factor of 10 to 1 or greater in the U.S., so there's a larger group available to make comments. Still, the mention of the AirForce brand name seems to push hot buttons all on its own.

Okay, today's post is for Sharon at Pyramyd Air, who specifically asked me to tell you that there are other pellets besides those made by Crosman. She pointed out that I always seem to recommend Crosman Premiers among the few pellets I do recommend, but that Crosman now puts the Premier name on a lot more than just the domed pellets that come in their classic die-marked cardboard boxes.

Sharon also told me she has had a few returns of the die-marked boxes, with customer complaints of damaged pellets. That was a surprise. I have always thought the die-marked boxes of Premiers were the most perfect pellets Crosman makes. They were the finest pellets in the world in the middle '90s, and I still have a few rifles that get better accuracy with them than any other brand of pellet. But Sharon sees the other side of the order; and if some customers are having problems, I need to take notice.

But, the basic complaint is a valid one. I do talk too much about Premiers and JSBs and not enough about pellets from Beeman, RWS, Gamo and others. So that will change. I'll start testing guns with Beeman Silver Arrows, which Sharon assures me several of her customers thoroughly enjoy. I'll try to interest you guys in more than just Kodiaks, Premiers and JSBs.

For starters - try the .177 RWS Supermag
RWS has a heavyweight wadcutter called the Supermag that I often use but seldom talk about. I bought 5,000 several years ago, and I'm still working on them steadily. They weigh 9.3 grains, which makes them a light heavyweight. They're just enough to slow down the RWS/Diana 34 below 900 f.p.s., where it can really show off its accuracy potential. And, they're great for the hot Beeman R1 for the same reason, though they may cruise right at 900 in that big bruiser.

Good for hunting
When we think of wadcutters, we think of paper targets, but the Supermag is a great short-range hunting pellet, too. Keep the range under 30 yards, and they'll really slam your quarry with energy! The flat nose transmits energy to the target almost as well as a wadcutter. Much less chance of over-penetration, for which the .177 caliber is notorious.

At 9.3 grains, the Supermag lives in a region with few other pellets. Medium-weight pellets top out around 8.8 grains, and the heavyweights kick in around 10.2. There isn't much to choose from at the 9-grain weight range, so these are perfectly positioned as a transitional pellet you can try.

As a final word, I will say that I am not giving up on Crosman pellets. I find the Premiers in the die-stamped boxes to still be superior, if no longer the best in the world. But, Sharon was right to point out that I oversell them to the exclusion of many other fine pellets.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rex 6-25 AO scope

by B.B. Pelletier

Here I am trying to mention new products, again. Last week, I showed you the big Rex 10-40x50 scope that I think is a wonderful new scope. I did say that the scope doesn't work for field target because it doesn't focus down to 10 yards. Today I have a new Rex scope that is ideal for field target and for all you long-range shooters.

Another big Rex
The new Rex 6-25x50 side-focus scope is made for sports like field target. Its 30mm tube transmits gobs of light, which comes in handy when you are trying to resolve a tiny image in dappled forest shade.

Two-piece sunshade
Included in the box is a two-piece sunshade for the 56mm objective bell. These are handy when shooting with the sun on either side of you, because if the sun hits the objective lens, it flares and the image turns murky. It's like trying to sight through dense fog. With a two-piece shade, you can have any of three different lengths by installing either one separately or both shades coupled together.

Interesting reticle
It's both a mil-dot and a duplex reticle, so hunters and target shooters, alike, will find it useful. The center lines of the reticle are fine...for precision aiming. The heavy lines at the end help you find the center reticle in dappled light and shade. I personally don't find mil-dots useful, but they are the rage today and a new scope has to have them to sell. The reticle is not illuminated.

Target turrets
The reticle adjustment knobs are tall target knobs with a fine adjustment scale on each. They are not resettable, so you will have to note your position on the vertical scale when rotating farther than one full turn. The click values are 1/8" at 100 yards, which is correct for a target scope. The clicks themselves are not as smooth as some I have tried, but they don't seem to bind or get loose at any point.

Sidewheel parallax adjustment
One of the best features is the side wheel adjustment of parallax. In case you don't understand why that is so good, imagine yourself sitting and holding a big rifle with a 25x scope on a small target. Your rifle and scope probably weigh 12 lbs. When it's time to focus the scope which would you rather do. Hold the rifle with one arm while you reach way out to an objective bell or reach straight up and grab a sidewheel that's a foot closer? You only have to do it once to realize the sidewheel is the way to go.

Mounting concerns
This is a large scope with a 30mm tube, so you need 30mm rings high enough for the objective bell to clear the rifle. On PCPs, that will be easy; on spring guns, not as easy. Also, the length of the scope will cause some loading or clearance problems for most spring guns. This scope is made to take magnum airgun recoil, but that doesn't mean it's right for all springers.

I have two other Rex scopes to show you, and then I will work them into my other posts as a way of testing their features. So, if you want to know more about this new line of optics, it's in the works.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Abusing your Condor

by Tom Gaylord

Before we get started on today's blog, I wanted to let you know that Pyramyd Air's latest email newsletter is out. It's all about the special promotions and giveaways from Crosman and Gamo. Check it out!

Now, on to today's blog!

B.B. let me have the blog again today, to finish the discussion I started on Monday. When we left off, I had just explained how to test your AirForce Condor to determine the correct fill pressure. We had a lot of phone calls about this issue at AirForce, but eventually the word got out.

It took several months to calm things down, but no sooner had we done that than the "inventors" went to work. One gentleman, who called himself Mr. Condor on the forums, installed an overweight hammer in his new rifle and proceeded to pound his rifle to pieces. He was giving lots of advice about how other owners could get more out of their rifles right up to the day he walked into our shop with his brown paper bag full of damaged Condor parts. I had to assemble it for him and install several new parts because that 6-month old airgun was all beat up. He paid for the work because he had disassembled the gun and voided the lifetime warranty, but he seemed to be happy.

Two weeks later, he was back in our shop - this time with his air tank that wasn't working. You could see that the top hat was mashed down flush with the top of the valve and had no more resiliency.

When I disassembled it, I found the valve had been destroyed by the repeated impact of an overly heavy hammer - just what Mr. Condor was telling everyone on the forums they should do to their rifles. I saved the guts from that ruined valve so I could share it with other airgunners as an example of what not to do!

This is what can happen when you take advice from the airgun chat forums. This is all supposed to be one single valve assembly, and the threaded portion is supposed to be attached to the valve stem stub sticking out of the brass insert. Notice the crushed stainless steel valve stem around the air hole.

Mr. Condor wasn't alone in ruining Condors, of course. He was just one of the ones who stood out by ruining his gun so quickly and completely. I remember another experimenter who wanted to shoot as fast as possible, so he cut a hole in his air tank and threaded the hole to accept a hose fitting from a helium tank. He then ran the gun on helium. He claimed he was shooting .22 caliber JSB Exact pellets at 1,500+ f.p.s. and that he was getting super groups at 200 yards.

Even if any of that were true, he still voided the warranty on his gun, subjected himself to unknown danger by putting a hole in the air tank and wound up with an airgun that had to be tethered to a helium tank! I don't know about you, but that's not why I got into airgunning. If you're going for the airgun land speed record, there are several testbed airguns owned by NASA that are used to simulate micrometeor strikes on space vehicles. They shoot into a vacuum, as I understand it, and achieve velocities above 5,000 f.p.s.

As for me, I like shooting quiet, accurate guns.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Airgun shows for 2007

by B.B. Pelletier

Okay, the season of airgun shows is upon us once more. Every year I hear from desperate airgunners in November after the Roanoke show is over. They ask why nobody told them about the airgun shows that were held in the U.S. Well, I am about to do that right now!

What you will find at a show
If you have ever cruised active flea markets or gun shows, an airgun show looks like a condo yard sale in comparison. There aren't many tables (20-130, depending on the show), and there aren't enough people to make a good cheering section for a chess tournament. Usually, when a first-timer sees the show, he initially thinks he missed it, and these are the remnants of dealers packing up.

Don't be too quick to judge!
On one table, you may find 10 Benjamin air pistols from the 1940s - and three are still in the box! Where else are you going to find that, outside of your wildest dreams? Another three tables hold every model of Daisy BB gun from 1887 until 1920. They don't look like much when they're not on a two-page spread in a coffee table book, but five of them will buy a new car and ten will buy a Corvette. There are over 60 guns on those three tables.

Take your Ritalin!
I love to watch the guy who speedwalks the show, looking for a BSA Superstar underlever in .22 caliber! He sees the entire show in 25 minutes, loudly pronounces it a huge waste of time and leaves - presumably to go back to his chat forum to rake the show organizer over the coals. Half an hour later, a doctor who has just decided to give up airgunning piles 40 modern guns on a table at the entrance to the show and starts selling them for what he paid for them - FROM 1980 UNTIL FIVE YEARS AGO! Among the boxes (they are all boxed) is a like-new BSA Superstar underlever in .22 that he wants $300 for. This is a true story that I watched unfold last year.

First show: Windsor, CT
On April 14 & 15, the first show of the season will be held at the Elks Club in Windson, CT. Saturday 9-4, Sunday 9-2. This is the first year for this show. Call Kevin Hull for details 860-649-7599.

Little Rock, AR
The Little Rock Airgun Expo is in its 12th year. It will be held at the Saline County Fairgrounds (Exit 116 on I-30) on April 27 and 28. If at all possible, arrive at the opening at 10 a.m. on Friday. Admission is $5. The dealers will have been buying and selling among themselves since the afternoon before, but there will still be bundles of great deals at opening time. On Saturday, dealers will start thinking about the long drive or flight home, and will start to pack up early. Some have come from California, some from New York and some from Florida, so I don't want to hear any excuses that Little Rock is 150 miles away!

If you want a table, call 501-315-5515 or visit the website at Tables are $50 each. Show is open 10-6 on Friday and 10-3 on Saturday. There is an auction on Saturday at noon.

Toy Gun and BB Gun Show: Wooster, OH
I have little information on this one. I believe it runs in April. Contact Ron Wright for details 330-624-3741.

Baldwinsville, NY
On the third Saturday in July, Larry Behling (the author of the Air Machine Gun book) holds the Baldwinsville Show and Shoot in this beautiful old village nearby Syracuse. If you are an antique buff, there is a super 3000-booth outdoor antique show very close by. The airgun show is held in the hall of American Legion Post 113. Call 315-695-7133 or email

The nice thing about this show is that it draws a lot of Canadians, and they sometimes bring guns not often seen in the U.S. It also pulls from the New England area, so you'll see some very rare, old antiques...and many of them will have airguns! BB gun guru Wes Powers will have a table that will astound most new collectors. There are many regulars such as Don Raitzer and Richard Schmidt, who will have the common vintage collectables most new collectors and shooters long for. Crosman 600s will abound as will Town & Country guns (if you're lucky) and other vintage guns such as Rochesters and Apaches. Remember, New York has been home to many airgun manufacturers.

Daisy Get Together: Mason, MI
If you collect BB guns, or want to, you must attend this show. It's held in Mason, which is in southern Michigan, in late August. This show attracts all the most serious Daisy collectors in the United States. There is no model you cannot buy or upgrade at this show.

There are about 100 tables at this very active and jammed show. Call Bill Duimstra at 616-878-0306 or email him at

Frederick Gun Show
When the Damascus Airgun show was cancelled several years ago, it left a void for airgunners in the Mid-Atlantic states. For six years, airgunners had attended Damascus to see new airguns. There were vintage guns there as well, but there were more new airguns than at all other shows combined. That show has been replaced by airgun tables at the Potomac Arms Collectors Association gun show in Frederick, Maryland. In 2006 there were about 20 tables of airguns, but don't let that number fool you. Quite a few major airguns were there, and some of the walk-ins were surprising, too (butt-flask rifle from the 1700s). They are planning on emphasizing airguns at this year's show.

Marv Freund puts on this show in conjunction with PACA. Call him at 301-424-7988 or email He's planning to hold it in October this year.

The BIG one: Roanoke, VA
The International Airgun Exposition will hold its 14th show this year in Roanoke, VA, on the first Friday and Saturday in November. This is the largest airgun show in the world, and it attracts visitors from Europe. You may see anything and everything for sale at this show. There were 130 tables in 2006.

The show is held at the Roanoke Civic Center Exhibit Hall. Contact Fred Liady at 540-344-1677.

Those are all the regular airguns shows I know about. I welcome information on any other annual airgun show in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Filling an AirForce Condor

by Tom Gaylord

B.B. Pelletier turned the blog over to me today to answer a question that has arisen in Mexico concerning the AirForce Condor. Some owners have noticed that when they fill their guns to 3000 psi, they don't shoot with much power. They have to shoot many shots before the guns start performing as they should.

This is normal for the Condor. B.B. already addressed it back on September 27, 2006, in the post What is valve lock in a pneumatic gun? Allow me to explain again what's happening.

Big valve!
The Condor has a huge air valve to pass all the air that generates its incredible power (65+ foot-pounds!). When the air tank is filled, the air inside presses against the valve, holding it closed. The Condor had to have a special firing hammer with additional weight to open the valve against all that pressure.

But the Condor is right on the ragged edge of performance as it comes from the factory. Some guns will work fine with a 3,000 psi fill and some won't. When I was the Technical Director at AirForce Airguns, I got phone calls when we first started shipping Condors. Nobody knew this situation existed, but when the calls came in and some early guns were even returned, I had to do some quick testing. Sure enough, SOME of the Condors we shipped did not operate properly on a 3000 psi fill. I experimented with these guns and discovered that each one worked fine, but required a lower fill pressure. They still achieved the same high velocity they were supposed to and they got the same number of high-power shots per fill, but their fill range was lower than the standard 3000 psi.

Other Condors worked fine when filled to 3000. But even these rifles would start losing power if we overfilled them by as little as 100 more pounds of air, so 3000 was the absolute max they could take.

Armed with that information, I stated asking the callers all sorts of pointed questions, and this is what I discovered. Some were filling to 3200 psi because somebody on some forum talked about filling their Talon SS to that pressure. When it didn't work, I would get a call. Others were using the gauge on their refill clamp, even though they knew it was off by 300 psi (that can happen with small pressure gauges). They were filling to "3000 psi," but they admitted that it was an overfill in all likelihood, because they knew their gauge was off.

If you own a Condor, here is how to proceed
Here is what I used to tell Condor owners when they called AirForce with the low power complaint. First, fill your air tank to just 2,600 psi and start shooting. If you have a chronograph, measure the speed of the pellet with the power setting as high as it will go. A .22-caliber 14.3-grain Crosman Premier domed pellet should go around 1,200 f.p.s. Some rifles are a little slower, others are a little faster. Of course, lighter pellets will go a lot faster than that, but the Premier is what we always used to test the rifle.

Field expedient
If you don't own a chronograph, shoot into a soft pine 2x4. The pellet should go all the way through, provided it doesn't hit a knot. I got so used to the gun that I could tell by the sound and recoil if it was shooting okay. The production manager could also tell; and when we chronographed the rifle to be sure, we were always right. There is something distinctive about the bellow and crack of a Condor that imprints on your mind.

If the rifle shoots fast at 2,600 psi, fill to 2,700 psi the next time and test again. If it's still shooting strong, go up to 2,800 psi the next time. I never saw a Condor that topped out at less than 2,600 psi; and, if the gun was not shooting right at 3,000, it was always topping out below 2,800 psi.

Condors are very individual guns and this procedure is how to determine their maximum fill. B.B. has been kind enough to allow me to write a second posting about Condors, which I will have for you soon. It's all about those who ruin their guns and want to ruin yours, too. I call it "Abusing your Condor."