Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crosman 105/106 multi-pump pistols

by B.B. Pelletier

Here's another blast from the past. If you own the new Blue Book of Airguns, or if you attend an airgun show this year, you'll see one of these curious retro-looking air pistols. They weren't well-publicized in their day. Even if you're in your 50s or 60s, you may never have seen one before now. While the Benjamin pistols were included in almost every ad they ran, Crosman didn't advertise these pistols as much.

Crosman's 106 pneumatic pistol looks very retro.

The 105 is the .177 model, and the 106 is the .22. They were made from 1947 to 1953, which was a time when .22 caliber was far more popular in America, hence the 105 is the scarcer gun. But neither model is particularly rare. You won't believe how inexpensive they still are today!

Scissor-pump mechanism
Crosman pioneered the underlever scissors pump for air rifles in 1924. Until then, multi-pumps had used either a front pump rod or a more elaborate butt-pump that dates back to the 1700s. Benjamin was going great guns (pun intended) when the 1924 Crosman scissors pump hit the market, and within just a few years they had a major competitor on their hands. The competition was so intense that they had to come out with a scissors underlever pump of their own.

The 1924 Crosman rifle evolved into the "Silent" model rifle of the 1940s. Unlike Benjamin, though, they had no pistol to go with their rifle. After World War II, Crosman got into CO2 guns in a big way, but they didn't forget the pneumatic market because people still wanted them. Perhaps this was because CO2 was a new method of propulsion to many shooters, while they had been living with multi-pumps since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1947, Crosman brought out the .177 caliber model 105 pump pistol, followed by the .22 caliber model 106 a year later.

The pistol looks remarkably similar to the Crosman model 111/112 CO2 pistols from just a few years later (1950-1954). It's obvious that the pump pistol inspired the CO2 pistol. There are small differences, as you can see, but it's obvious the two guns shared a lot of parts.

The 106 looks very similar to Crosman's 111/112 and 115/116 CO2 pistols. Shown here with a .22 caliber 116 that has a shorter barrel. The larger 112 also has an 8" barrel like the 106.

Pump mechanism
This was the first multi-pump pistol Crosman made. The pump mechanism was a finger-lever that was a little too small for adult hands. Most people can get three fingers through the lever, but some will find it hard to get even one, as the hole is too narrow. The linkage parts are very narrow and small, compared to pump pistols of today, and the swept volume of the pump also seems small. All of this adds up to a relatively weak air pistol.

The pump mechanism is almost dainty. It was not up to the task of pumping a lot of pressure.

With pellets of its day, the .22 caliber model 106 was a 350 f.p.s. gun at best. With today's better pellets and a fresh valve, that might increase to 375 f.p.s.; but I would be surprised to ever see 400 from one of these guns. In .177, the velocity would increase another 50-75 f.p.s. The power isn't up to today's Crosman 1377C. The 1377 also has a pump handle that's grasped externally (they learned that the finger lever design doesn't work). Of course, the 1377 is made by modern design with modern materials. The Benjamin HB17 is the gun to really compare to, because it hasn't changed that much in the 60 years since the Crosman 105/106 models were new. The velocity for the HB17 is lower than the 1377, but still higher than the 105 could achieve, which demonstrates the airgun design advances that have been made in the intervening half-century.

I've not found the Crosman pneumatic pistol to be as accurate as their CO2 pistols of the same era. Perhaps that's because the CO2 guns are significantly more powerful. For me, the pneumatics group in 1.5" to 2" at 30 feet.

Where can I get one?
These are available in non-working condition for around $50 and working for about $90-100. They are found at airgun shows and regular gun shows. Don't pay too much more than these prices, because the guns are very available. If you can't get to an airgun show and just have to own one, search the internet by model number. Just to prove that statement, I searched just now and found one on Gun Broker in working condition going for $50 plus $10 shipping. They're out there!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Please be safe!

by B.B. Pelletier

This posting comes to you at the request of Pyramyd Air. They have had a gun returned that shows evidence of a dangerous mishandling accident, and they asked me to address some common and dangerous airgun "accidents" that we all have to learn to avoid. I will cover the incident at the end of this post.

"Accidental" discharge
Accidental discharges are extremely rare, but guns do get fired all the time when they shouldn't be. One place this happens is at gun shows. Several years ago, an airgunner I know had a table at a gun show on Long Island. He had a semiautomatic firearm pistol on his table, into which he inserted a loaded magazine, for reasons I cannot fathom. It is against the policy of every gun show to load a weapon in the show for any reason, but enforcement is left up to the tableholders, of which my airgunner acquaintance was one.

Then he showed the gun to a potential buyer, but before he handed it over he "cleared" it in the classic backwards method that's usually the cause of accidental shootings. He pulled the slide back to look into the chamber, which was empty of course. Then he released the slide and removed the magazine. Of course the act of releasing the slide stripped off the top round from the magazine and chambered it, so when the man pointed the pistol toward the ceiling and pulled the trigger, he ventilated the ceiling with a 9mm hole! After everyone in the show recovered, the man was escorted out and asked never to come back.

At the SHOT Show last year, a new exhibitor showed up with his custom .45 pistols that he built and some live ammo to demonstrate to potential buyers how well they fed. One of the other exhibitors warned him to get rid of the ammo immediately, but he just laughed it off. Half an hour later, I saw him being escorted out of the exhibit hall by several security guards. He was pulling a wheeled cart with everything that had been in his booth. He lost his $3,000 booth fee, and he'll never be allowed to display at the SHOT Show again!

At an airgun show, I once had a Daisy model 25 pump gun for sale on my table. It was loaded because I had just demonstrated that it fired to a potential buyer. While I was away from the booth and my wife was watching the table, another man came up and picked up the gun. He cocked it and when my wife told him it couldn't be uncocked (the No. 25 cannot be uncocked), he said, "No problem," put the muzzle on the toe of his shoe and pulled the trigger. He was thinking that by putting the muzzle against his shoe he was creating a cushion of air to slow the piston (which doesn't work). What he actually did was shoot himself in the foot! He then expressed surprise that the gun was loaded (he was right about that - I should have been thrown out of the show for leaving a loaded gun on my table), and then he bought the gun! My wife said he looked embarrassed, and she thought he bought the gun to cancel his embarrassment.

The BAD one!
Now to the business of the day. A customer sent back a Fire 201 9mm rifle with a ruined nosecap. He told Pyramyd Air that the "accident" happened as he was pumping his rifle with a hand pump, but that story doesn't hold water. Folks, there is NO WAY using a hand pump could cause the damage you are about to see. So, let's get to it.

This is what happens when a VERY HOT flame is held against aluminum for a long time! It looks like a cutting torch has been used on this gun from the inside out.

Note the discoloration of the anodizing. Forensic scientists use clues like this and the bending of the steel barrel to determine how much heat caused the damage and how long the fire lasted.

The probable cause of this damage is the use of oxygen instead of compressed air to charge the gun. People have done this before, and the results are always the same. Someone is too lazy to get his scuba tank filled or to use a hand pump, so he figures there isn't much difference between compressed air and compressed oxygen in a welding tank. Oxygen and petroleum products combine to make an explosive gas that takes very little to ignite. The friction of a pellet or bullet passing through the bore is enough to set it off. The resulting fire would have looked like a cutting torch flame that would have lasted until the last of the oil was burned from the outside of the gun. The air reservoir could easily have ruptured like a hand grenade in a lethal explosion. At least one shooter in England is believed to have died from this kind of abuse.

The heat generated by this fire vaporized a major percentage of the aluminum nose cap of the rifle. It also heated the barrel hot enough to bend it, so in a few seconds the gun got up over 1,200 degrees, and more likely closer to 2,000 degrees.

The damage you see here is the reason every precharged airgun maker in the world specifies the use of compressed air only in their guns. With compressed air, a fire like this cannot occur. This damage is just as much the fault of the user as an "accidental" discharge of a firearm is the fault of the shooter. I think you can see just how close this user came to never having accidents again!

One of the best things about shooting airguns is their relative margin of safety compared to firearms. But, airguns are not toys for big kids. They demand the same respect as anything that shoots, and their users have to be willing to play by the rules, because the consequences of some thoughtless acts can be too high to pay.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why are some spring guns more sensitive than others?

by B.B. Pelletier

Let's look at a question posed by Dave on Friday.

"I was wondering why different spring guns need different holds. Is there really that much difference in how they are manufactured?"

Good question, and I like giving the answer, because it explains so much about airguns - and everything else!

Yes, there can be a lot of difference in how airguns are manufactured. There is also a huge difference in how they are designed, which also affects how hold-sensitive they may be. Before I get to that, let me tell you a short story that will illustrate my point.

Formula Vee racing
A friend of mine was into Formula Vee racing. That's a poor-man's Formula Three car powered by an air-cooled VW engine. Although I said "poor," it's easy to spend more than $50,000 on the engine and car - so it ain't cheap. Because the engines are small and low-powered, the speeds are slow, compared to Formula Three.

My friend built engines for these cars. His engines always performed a little better than all the others, which kept him in demand. His competitors wanted to know his secret, which he never told them but did share with me. When he built an engine, he kept the specifications as close to the limits as possible. He blueprinted the engines, which not only meant their tolerances were tight, but also all moving parts were balanced to the gram! When they revved, they were smoother than the engines of his competitors. They got up to speed a little sooner and revved a little higher than all the other engines. And, that, in the hands of a good driver, won races!

The same is true for airguns. A "1000 f.p.s." airgun that recoils and buzzes when it shoots will throw pellets all over the place compared to a smooth-shooting 900 f.p.s. rifle that feels like a safe door closing when it fires (yes, there are such rifles). But, power doesn't have to go down for performance to go up. A stock .22-caliber Beeman R1 gets about 17.5-19 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. It vibrates some and kicks a lot. When the legendary Venom Mag 80 Laza tune was applied, the power rose to 23 foot-pounds, while the vibration stopped completely and recoil dropped to the same level as a Beeman R7. A rifle with that tune would actually shoot better than a factory R1 - just because it was easier to shoot the gun. That's what can be done with a good tuneup.

Now, the manufacturer can also do this to the gun before it leaves the factory. That's exactly what John Whiscombe does with each of his handmade air rifles. They're in the highest state of tune when they leave the factory. All the hand work that goes into that tune drives up the retail price of the basic gun to $3,500! Wouldn't it be nice if someone would design a gun that could be built right without the need for all the hand work? Well, someone has!

Air Arms has designed a spring gun that goes together quickly and still delivers wonderful performance. It's the TX200 Mark III. Please don't write me to ask if the TX200 Hunting Carbine or the Pro-Sport are just as good as the regular TX200 Mark III, because I am telling you right now they aren't. The TX200 is perfection. The other two fall short - though not by a lot.

Other air rifles are compared to the TX200 both in terms of smoothness and insensitivity to hold. The HW77 and HW97 are pretty close. Both can be improved with tuning. There are other rifles with increasing sensitivity that are still considered not too sensitive. However, breakbarrels, as a design style, are always more sensitive than underlevers and sidelevers. They can be just as accurate as the others, but they nearly always do require a lot of special handling technique to shoot accurately. Just why this is, I really don't know.

Here's what I do know for certain.

1. The less a rifle recoils and vibrates, the less hold-sensitive it will be.

2. Rifles of the same model tend to be alike. If one Beeman R1 is hold-sensitive, they all are. Only by tuning can you make a difference in one specific rifle.

3. Rifles of similar build characteristics tend to perform similarly - which is why I don't have to test each and every model of Gamo to know how they perform. One time I got bitten by this generality, though, when I tried to estimate how the Gamo CF-X would perform. It surprised me by out-performing my estimate. In general, though, rifles of similar builds perform similarly.

So, Dave, there are lots of reasons why different spring guns perform differently. However, you now should know that they aren't all unique. There are ways of generalizing.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pellet penetration: they can go deeper than you think!

by B.B. Pelletier

I received a question from Michael N. on Friday that I thought needed to be shared with everyone. It concerns how far a pellet can penetrate.

Since my backstop has proven useless against my slingshot, I'm thinking of buying a Gamo 850 carbine to try to punch holes through that phonebook I mentioned earlier. Will it punch through with Crosman Super Points, or maybe Premier Ultra Magnums?

This comment was preceded by a confusing string of comments, but it appeared to me that Michael wants to use a phone book as a backstop for his pellet gun. If that's the case, and for everybody else out there who has similar thoughts - this post is a report on penetration.

You might think the answer to Michael's question is, "Which phonebook are you shooting at?" but it isn't. All the phone books for New York City aren't sufficient to stop pellets! Allow me to explain.

Some embarrassing history
During World War II, the U.S. mobilized all industries to support the war effort. Companies such as Daisy and Crosman made parts for the war, as did many other less likely companies. The M1 Carbine program was one of the most ambitious production programs of the war. They went from not having a carbine in mind in 1940 to producing more than 6 million guns by the end of 1944. To do this in an era of machines run by humans instead of computers, the government had to organize a huge system of production that involved 9 or 10 prime contractors (depending on how you count the one that never delivered) and dozens of subcontractors. Winchester was a maker, but so were IBM, Underwood Typewriter and Rockola - a jukebox manufacturer.

While these companies knew about mass-production (some more than others), some of them were not up on basic firearm safety or of the performance characteristics of firearms. This was compounded by the fact that the M1 Carbine shoots what is essentially a pistol round, and is therefore not afforded the respect that it should be by unknowing workers.

M1 Carbine round in the center is basically a pistol bullet, running hot. It's closer in killing power to the .45 ACP pistol round to the left than to the WWII standard .30 caliber U.S. rifle cartridge (.30/06) on the right.

One of the prime contractors for the carbine was the Thermoplastics Division of The Standard Products Company. This company had primarily made parts for automobiles before the war. They converted their plant to build the carbine, and had to construct an indoor range for proofing, function testing and sight adjustment. The backstop was ten FEET of damp sand, backed by a 10" thick concrete wall. One evening while several office personnel were blasting away on this range for fun, a night watchman outside the building saw bullets blowing through the wall and ricocheting off the perimeter fence! He saw light streaming through many holes in the wall!

Fortunately, he was able to stop the shooting. The company had to build a proper range with real safety features before resuming testing. If you'd been asked if a 110-grain .30 caliber bullet with 1960 f.p.s. muzzle velocity could go through 10 FEET of wet sand and 10" of concrete after that, would you have said yes?

One bullet can't. Ten bullets can't. But when bullet after bullet is fired at the same place, time after time, eventually they chew their way through. And eventually doesn't take as long as you think.

Respect is what I want to address today. Respect for airguns. Just because they are weak compared to firearms, always remember that the M1 Carbine round is also very weak, and look what it did. Twelve years ago, while shooting in my basement, I missed the big steel bullet trap that caught all my pellets. One pellet from a .25 caliber Webley Patriot hit a cinderblock in the foundation wall and chipped out a 3" spall. That would have been bad enough, but when I examined the spot more closely I discovered that the pellet had cracked the entire side of the cinderblock I was able to see! One pellet!

I suppose it was my bad luck that I wasn't shooting a Diana model 27 when this happened, but also my good luck I wasn't shooting a Career 707 loaded with 28-grain Eun Jin pellets! I never thought I would ever miss the huge bullet trap, when most of my guns shoot quarter-inch groups at this distance. But a touch of the trigger at an inopportune time while shooting at an outside bull on a 10-bull target brought all the circumstances into alignment at the critical moment.

Think I learned from that? NO! I put a half-inch 3'x3' plywood board on a slant behind the trap and continued shooting. Two years later, after more than 50,000 more shots had been fired, I had occasion to look behind the plywood board. There were six more spalls - all smaller than the first, due to the backer board, but against the light yellow wall they looked like the backdrop to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre! Six misses out of 50,000 shots. Not a bad record, if you don't own the house, but I did.

Newspapers, carpets, phone books and boards are all just temporary backstops for pellets. If 100 shots land in the same place, they will do a lot of damage. Heck, I used to shoot more than that in just one session. But a real steel bullet trap, backed by 1.5" of plywood about 3'x3 ' is a good start to a safe 10-meter range. My own steel trap was made by Outers many years ago and has absorbed over a quarter million rounds by now. It has stopped guns up to 120 foot-pounds and still looks untouched, except for paint loss. Pyramyd Air sells the equivalent trap they call the Heavy Duty Metal Trap.

Airguns are a great extension to the shooting sports. They have less power than firearms, for the most part, and are easier to use indoors. We have to remember the basics of shooting safety all the time, even with lowly airguns, because weak or not, they will get away from you if you don't pay attention.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Walther CP99 Limited Edition: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I had every intention of finishing the CP99 Limited Edition today, but something happened in testing that has never happened before. I want to report it completely today, so there's going to be a part three for this gun!

First pellet
Everything went according to plan when the first CO2 cartridge was installed (with a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip - as always). The first pellet tested was the Crosman Competition Wadcutter. I shot the pistol in both double-action and single-action, which I will show you how to do. Had this gun been an Umarex of five years ago, it would have been noticeably faster in single-action than in double-action, but that wasn't the case with the CP99. In double-action, it averaged 355 f.p.s., and in single-action it averaged 332 f.p.s. Clearly faster in double-action!

For all shooting, I paused a minimum of 15 seconds between shots. There's no sense shooting any faster than that, because CO2 will always cool down a gun and lower the velocity. You have to allow time for the gun to return to normal after every shot. The temperature when I shot (indoors) was 71 degrees F.

Shooting single-action
Just because there's no hammer visible doesn't mean you can't cock it. Pull on the back half of the top slide; and when the silver metal underneath is completely exposed, the hammer will cock. You will see the trigger move as this is done.

Just pull back the slide to cock the gun.

Then I attached the compensator, because several people wanted to know how it affects accuracy and velocity. As I was getting ready to shoot, I was already drafting in my head how to explain why a fake compensator cannot possibly add anything to the velocity of a pistol like this, and then I took the first shot - 365 f.p.s.! Okay, I thought, that must have been an anomaly. Shot two - 365! Shot three - 364. And so on. With the comp, it didn't see to make a difference whether I shot single- or double-action. So the CP99 shoots Crosman wadcutters faster with a compensator installed than without it. Very interesting!

Next pellet - not the same!
RWS Hobby pellets were next. Without the compensator, they averaged 353 f.p.s. in single -action and 367 in double-action. With this pellet, the gun shoots faster double-action than single. Once again, the reverse of what was expected. With the compensator installed, single-action averaged 354 and double averaged 368. Very little difference with or without the compensator.

Last pellet
Beeman Lasers were the final pellets I tested. Without the compensator, they averaged 378 f.p.s. in double-action and 380 in single. That's too close to say there's a difference. When the compensator was installed, the velocity jumped to 385 single-action and 389 double. Only a small increase with this pellet.

Number of shots per CO2 cartridge
Everybody wants to know this! On the first cartridge, there were 42 good shots in a tight spread. Then velocity started tapering off. By shot 55, it had dropped to 289 f.p.s. with a Beeman Laser, which you would probably notice. It really depends how far you are shooting when you notice the power dropoff. Shots at 25 feet might not move too much as the velocity declines, but at 25 yards they certainly would. Figure 50 good shots per cartridge. The second cartridge performed exactly the same as the first.

The fastest recorded shot was a Laser in double-action with the compensator installed. It measured 397 f.p.s. The fastest without the comp was also a Laser shot in single-action. It measured 385 f.p.s.

So it seems there is something to this compensator, after all. I note that it improved the performance of Crosmans more than the other two, so there must be something like the weight of the pellet to consider, as well.

I had planned to look at the laser and do accuracy testing today, but the time spent chronographing the gun proved to be excessive. Also, there was a lot to explain. We'll do the laser and accuracy next, plus one reader wants me to tape up the compensator holes to see if there's a noise difference.

Walther CP99 Limited Edition: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, I'll finish the CP99 Limited Edition report. Boy, has this ever been a learning experience! I'll cover accuracy, the laser and an experiment with the compensator.

I shot at 25 feet from a rest. Instead of shooting just five, I shot all eight to empty the clip. All shots were single-action for best accuracy. The same three pellets used yesterday for velocity testing were also used for range testing. Right off the bat, the Beeman Lasers proved themselves to be not right for this pistol. They were all over the place, and 8 shots delivered a 2" group.

Hobbys were better
RWS Hobbys proved to be much better, grouping in about 1-1/8". I would have done more with them had the next pellet not turned out so well.

Crosman Competition Wadcutters were best
Crosman Competition Wadcutters are good for this pistol! The best groups were well under one inch - for 8 shots, not 5! The first group was shot with open sights and was good and tight. I did throw one called flyer to the right of the group, but the rest were good and tight. The hold was 6 o'clock and the pellets hit at 7, which means the pistol is sighted to hit the point of aim. It's hitting to the left of aim but at the correct height. Good thing, too, because the sights are not adjustable for elevation and only by drifting the rear sight can you get any windage.

With the compensator
When the comp is on the gun, the sights are useless. I thought about installing a dot sight, but to put on a Walther dot I happened to have meant removing the rear sight. It is held in its slot by friction and, because this is a borrowed gun, I didn't want to possibly mark it up knocking out the sight. So, I noticed where the laser was sighted, which turned out to be very close to the sights. With the comp installed, the laser beam was placed in the center of the bull for the two targets you see.

Shot at 25 feet from a rested gun. Target on the right is with open sights and the one flyer was called. Target in the center was with the compensator installed and using the laser. Target on the left is with the comp taped up. Coin at top is one Euro; at bottom is a quarter.

Shooting with the laser was even easier than shooting with open sights! The trigger had a nasty creep that began to work itself in as the shooting continued. Without that creep, these groups would have been smaller. It feels like it will go after more of a break-in, but it's too soon to tell for sure.

The laser
Gotta tell you, the laser proved to be a lifesaver. With the open sights blinded by the compensator and no dot sight available, it was the only sighting reference I had. You can see by the targets that it works. The one flaw is that this laser cannot be adjusted in any direction, so the shooter has to use Kentucky windage to hit the target. Mine was shooting 1/2" high and 2.5" to the left at 25 feet.

When the laser is on, the shooter has two status lights shining back at him. They are at the bottom front of the triggerguard, and the laser light is on the fabric.

The final test was to tape up the holes in the compensator and listen to the report. A reader said it would be quieter. I used duct tape, but black electrician's tape would have looked better. The first shot startled me - by how much the noise was reduced. I don't own an audiometer, but it sounded like 2/3 of the noise was gone. If you own this gun, this is something to try.

It's not pretty, but it does work. Taping up the compensator this way lets you shoot this gun in a small apartment.

Accuracy with the compensator?
I can't say accuracy increased with the comp installed, but it certainly doesn't get worse, either. As you may notice, I tried it with the comp taped up, too. No difference as far as I can see.

The Walther CP99 Limited Edition certainly has a lot going for it. Good looks, accuracy, great accessories and a wonderfully ergonomic air pistol for the action shooter. With Father's Day approaching, isn't it nice to have some present options to hand out?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Walther CP99 Limited Edition: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, I must comment on the level of interest many of you have shown in big bore airguns and hunting with them. I figured there would be some interest, but not as much as I saw. I will come back to them in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, now it the time to ask.

Let's look at a completely different kind of airgun - a Walther CP99 Limited Edition . Only 300 of these guns were produced, and Pyramyd Air bought them all. At the heart of the package lies a Walther CP99, but there is a lot of stuff to consider before we get to it.

First consideration - the price
This is not a cheap airgun. At $229, it will take some thought for most buyers. A standard CP99 sells for $89 less. So what do you get with the Limited Edition?

The CP99 Limited Edition comes in a special blue hard case. It's larger than normal to store all the extras this gun has.

1. Custom hard case
2. Gun serial-numbered within the 1-300 production run
3. Screw-on compensator (looks like a silencer)
4. Custom-fit laser + batteries
5. Two 8-shot rotary clips
6. Additional backstrap to fit gun to hand
7. Muzzle protector when comp is not attached
8. Allen wrench for rear sight
9. Owner's manual

Here you see the gun and all the accessories that come with it. Clockwise from 7 o'clock is the laser, the compensator, the additional backstrap, the muzzle thread protector, two circular clips and the Allen wrench.

Consider a dot sight
The one thing that's not in this package that you'll probably want is a dot sight. When the compensator is attached, the open sights on the gun are useless. But the compensator doesn't add any velocity or accuracy, so it's just as easy to take it off and use the sights the gun come with. If you decide to mount a dot sight, the Leapers Quick Aim sight looks the best, but our readers have mentioned seeing a lot of parallax through it. I know the UTG Red/Green dot SWAT Force sight is a good one with minimal parallax.

Here's the pistol with the accessories attached.

One more thing
The final value to this airgun is the fact that it is a limited edition. Only 300 were made, and each one has a unique serial number engraved on the right side of the top rear slide. Does that make the gun collectible? Right now, probably not. CP99s are still being made, and this limited edition is still available. In 10 years, when this model is dropped or at least the limited edition is no longer available, then yes, this gun should be worth a premium. But that would only hold true for guns in mint condition. If you plan on shooting the gun, just go ahead and use it all you like. The remaining unused guns will benefit from there being one less perfect example in the world.

What IS a CP99?
A CP99 is an Umarex CO2 version of a 9mm firearm made by Walther. Umarex owns Walther, so this isn't a copy - it's the real gun in CO2. This gun has a plastic lower frame and grip and a two-piece metal "slide" on top. What would be the slide on a 9mm pistol is in two parts on this gun. The front part moves forward to expose the place where the 8-shot rotary clip is inserted, and the back part slides back to cock the hammer, if you want to shoot single-action. The gun is set up as a double-action pistol, which means pulling the trigger cocks and releases the hammer to fire the gun and also advances the rotary clip to the next pellet. If you cock the rear slide manually, the clip advances and the hammer remains cocked until you release it by pulling the trigger. Shooting single-action gives you a two-stage trigger with a long first stage and a crisp second.

Front half of the slide pops forward to load the circular clip.

Circular clip is in the gun, ratchet teeth to the rear.

Tomorrow, I'll show you some velocities, accuracy and which pellets to use and why. I'll also talk about the laser and compensator.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ram Air: a new big bore hunting video

by B.B. Pelletier

First, an apology from yesterday. The blog would not accept comments until MajorKonig pointed it out to me. Blogger's default, which they hide from you in editing, is to not accept comments. This one time I forgot to go in and change that. Blogger software has recently been "upgraded," which I am sure has made some people very happy. For me, the changes have increased the workload. I work on a Mac platform with a Mac-specific browser and Blogger is apparently PC-dominated. Recent changes have disabled one of my favorite browser from working with the Blogger software.

"Ram Air" is the latest big game hunting movie from Bigbore Video Productions.

Are you interested in hunting with an airgun? Do you want to see how big bore airguns perform in the field? Well, if you do, there's a new hunting video from Bigbore Video Productions that fills both requirements.

Eric Henderson is a big bore airgun hunter who makes videos of hunts so more people can enjoy the sport. He hunts in the U.S. and in South Africa, and he introduces other airgunners to the sport at the same time.

Maybe you own a Big Bore 909 from Sam Yang or a .50 caliber Dragon-Slayer, and you wonder how and where it can be used. Eric takes seven other hunters and himself on several hunts at the Wildlife Ranch in Mason, Texas, where they hunt exotic animals such as Jacob 4-horn sheep, Ibex, Catalina goat, axis deer, fallow deer, Texas dall sheep, aoudad sheep, Black Hawaiian sheep, mouflon sheep, corsicans, elk, red deer and many other species. The ranch is open year-round, so anyone can fit this kind of hunting into their schedule.

Wildlife Ranch has leased 20 different ranches located near the Mason area, so the hunting area is expansive. The game has every advantage. In other words, you really have to hunt!

Each hunter is guided by the ranch, which is included in the fee. Eric goes along with each hunter to record the event both for them and for you.

If you've watched hunting shows on television, there are two differences between what you see there and this video. First, Eric usually shows you the entire approach to the game. There's no cutting to commercials or cutaways to interview celebrities. It's all just hunting. Oh, he does interview the hunter, but not during the action.

The second difference is one that took me some time to appreciate. I have hunted quite a bit with modern centerfires, and I'm used to one-shot kills that drop the game quickly through hydrostatic shock. Hunting with a big bore airgun isn't like that. It's more like bow hunting, where the game takes some time to bleed out and expire. The big bullets move slowly compared to a bullet from a centerfire rifle. But they weigh many times as much as the centerfire bullet does, so when they hit they penetrate very deep. If your aim is good, they're just as effective as supersonic bullets, but the kill usually takes longer. Bowhunters will be familiar with this kind of hunting; but, for someone used to a small, fast bullet, it takes some time to adjust your thinking.

And, Eric doesn't edit the time between the shot and the kill, like they do on TV. You watch the entire hunt, just as though you were with the hunters.

The Texas scrub country where they hunt is wide open and strewn with rocky outcroppings, so stalking is possible but tricky. The ground crunches with every step that's not on rock, so stealth is important, because these animals are very wary.

One thing that surprised me were the number of shots that completely penetrated the animal! Elmer Keith wrote extensively that slow-moving lead bullets or balls would out-penetrate a lightweight .30 caliber bullet from a .30/06, and these hunts seem to bear that out. The shots are taken at 50-90 yards and at least one time Eric slows the motion enough that you can actually see the 405-grain lead slug fly from the rifle to the target.

Besides the hunts, there is footage of the ranch. You become familiar with how they operate, and you get the feeling that this is something you could do. Between hunts, Eric shows you examples of the other exotic game on the ranch, and some of those shots are idyllic. I remember in Europe where a red deer might have cost several thousand dollars (back in he 1970s) and you got only one if your name was drawn from a lottery. Here there are plenty of them!

There are two separate hunts on this video. The second one is a much larger group of hunters, and one hunter, Big Bore Bob, takes his animal with an antique outside lock rifle equipped with open sites. This one shot a round ball, so you don't need those big slugs to do the job.

If you ever needed motivation to buy a big bore air rifle, here is more than one hour of it in the comfort of your own home.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Big bore airguns: Think you've seen it all?

by B.B. Pelletier

Got an urge to talk about big bore for a while, so I'll start with what many airgunners don't know. Big bore airguns have been around since the 1500s - that you know. And, in 1780, the Austrian army had either 1,000 or 1,500 .47 caliber .22-shot repeating air rifles - you probably know that, too. But are you aware of the resurgence big bores are making on the American hunting scene? Not many are.

What IS a big bore?
Well, it's anything bigger than a smallbore, I guess. Since .25 caliber (6.35mm) is the largest common smallbore airgun caliber, anything bigger than that would qualify. Yes, there are .28 caliber big bores, but the preponderance of calibers start at 9mm, which is very close to .357 caliber (it's .356, actually). They go up as large as 118 caliber, which is a projectile larger than one inch in diameter! If you're good, I might show that one to you later on.

Can you do anything with 9mm?
What this question really asks is if you can hunt with 9mm. The answer is YES. If you use the 9mm single-shot from Shinsung, you can shoot pistol bullets up to 125 grains that will stabilize and be accurate at ranges under 75 yards. Bullets like that are suitable for coyotes, fox, beaver, javalina, turkey and other game in the 25- to 50-lb. range. If you shoot the 9mm Career Ultra repeater, it can only shoot a lightweight pellet, but that's still good medicine for rabbits, woodchuck, raccoons and possum. Pyramyd has many pellets for this caliber

Penetration is the name of the game
Writer Elmer Keith tested lead bullets on cattle and hogs in stockyards and proved that pure lead bullets moving at low velocity can out-penetrate a high-velocity rifle bullet, unless that bullet is designed for penetration, such as an armor-piercing round. Penetration is how big bore airguns do their work. When you hunt with them, you're more like a bow hunter than a modern rifleman, because your bullet penetrates deep and causes massive bleeding. The animal doesn't usually drop instantly, but will run for a distance, then lay down to expire. Of course, shot placement is even more important when shooting a big bore because you do not have hydrostatic shock assisting you.

Moving up in caliber
If you want to go larger, Sam Yang makes the Big Bore 909, a .45 caliber single-shot. It's got about 200-225 foot-pounds of energy and can take deer with a good close shot. Then there is the Dragon-Slayer, a .50 caliber rifle from Shinsung. This one also makes it up to 200 foot-pounds and has already taken whitetail deer. Pyramyd Air sells both .45-caliber and .50-caliber lead "pellets" (they're really bullets) for these big bruisers, or you can use lead pistol bullets in the 909. But, it doesn't stop there.

Moving up in power
Dennis Quackenbush makes big bores up into the 500 foot-pound category, and one .72-caliber monster he built topped 1,000 foot-pounds. Gary Barnes also makes powerful big bores in the 400-1,000 foot-pound class. Both of these makers are backordered most of the time, so you will have to wait anywhere from one to four years for one of their guns. Pyramyd Air has big bores you can shoot right away!

That's a 77-grain 9mm pellet in between a .563 caliber bullet (left) and a .459-caliber bullet.

Two .45-caliber lead spools dwarf a .22 caliber Crosman Premier pellet. They have high drag that makes them fly straight.

I will talk about actions, barrels, bullets and more in the future. Tell me what you would like to know about big bore airguns.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Beeman P1/HW45 air pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

The other day when I reviewed the HW75M pistol, I referred you to a post I'd written on the Beeman P1 back in 2005, titled The Beeman P1/HW 45: A shoulder stock, red dot sight & more! I thought I'd thoroughly covered the P1 in that post, but when I looked at it again I saw that it wasn't complete. I want to correct that today.

Several readers expressed an interest in either the HW75 or the HW45/P1, and one gentleman asked me which of the two pistols I'd choose to train for shooting an M1911A1. I picked the P1 because of its recoil. The HW75 is going to be a lot easier to shoot accurately, but the P1 will be very demanding of your hold, just like the 1911 firearm. When considering my reply to that question, I had to evaluate both pistols critically, and that was what pointed out the holes in the earlier post.

You can see why the P1 (top gun) is called a 1911 on steroids! The pistol below is a 1911 .45 ACP, but the air pistol dwarfs it. Notice, though, that the grips are very similar. Grip panels interchange.

P1: Beeman's magnum pistol
The P1 or HW45 (identical, except for their names) is a powerful spring-piston pistol with two power levels (only one in the .22 caliber version). The levels are achieved by the sear catching the piston with the spring half-compressed and fully compressed. Although it's a selling point to have the two levels, my own pistol started detonating on the lower level. After I solved that problem (more about that in a minute), I never used low power again.

Fitting the piston seal
I called Beeman Service Manager Don Walker when my gun started detonating with almost every shot. He told me to dry-fire the pistol on high power two times. He explained that the P1 has a PTFE (another term for Teflon) piston seal and that the factory fits the seal by dry-firing the gun. Sometimes, they don't quite get it fitted and the owner has to do it. Teflon deforms and doesn't recover when the gun is dry-fired. Since there is no place to go, the seal conforms perfectly to the end of the compression chamber. There were also some Webley rifles with PTFE seals; I believe the Beeman C1 had one.

Adjustable trigger, manual safety
The trigger is adjustable for the length of the first stage travel (what the manual calls "slack") and the weight of the second stage. Since it's possible to eliminate the first stage with the adjustment, you can make this a single-stage trigger if you like. The safety on the P1/HW45 is manual, so you can decide to use it or not. It has levers on both sides of the frame, so the pistol is ambidextrous. There's a dry-fire training feature so you can use the trigger without cocking the gun.

The sights are the same as the HW75. The rear is click-adjustable in both directions and the front is a low, square blade.

To cock the pistol, pull back on the hammer slightly and the top of the gun will pop up. Pull it up and forward to cock the mainspring. The sear catches at both low and high power. There is a trick to cocking. By rotating your left (cocking) hand clockwise and grasping the upper portion of the gun (the part that contains the barrel) underneath, the cocking effort is greatly reduced. To envision what I'm saying, put your two closed fists together, thumbs up, in front of you so they touch, then rotate each one in the direction it wants to go. This is how you will be holding the pistol if you follow my instructions.

Loading and firing
With the gun cocked, insert a pellet in the breech point-first. Then return the top to the closed position and the hammer will lock it closed. The pistol is now ready to fire. For best results, use the same hold you would for shooting targets with an M1911A1. Apply pressure with your middle finger, squeezing the pistol into the web of your hand. Apply no pressure with the other two fingers or the thumb. Squeeze the trigger straight back until the shot fires. The pistol will recoil the maximum amount and, more important to accuracy, it will move the same way every time.

When I first bought my P1, it got close to 600 f.p.s. with RWS Hobby pellets. The gun had some objectionable buzzing, so I stripped it, following an article published by The Airgun Letter. This pistol isn't easy to disassemble, so I don't recommend doing this unless you are already the master of several different spring-piston powerplants. I wiped all the factory grease off the internal parts and lubricated the compression chamber with Beeman M-2-M moly grease. I lubricated the mainspring with Beeman Mainspring Dampening Compound (no longer available). Were I to do the same job today, I'd use black tar on the mainspring (a special viscous grease used by spring gun tuners to control vibration).

The result was a very smooth pistol and a 40 f.p.s. drop in velocity - to 559 with Hobbys. Which begs the question: What can be done to increase power in a P1? NOTHING!!! This gun already runs at its maximum. Various spring gun tuners in the 1990s offered "sure-fire" power upgrades to this pistol, but nothing ever beat the power the factory put in it. One guy was so frustrated by the situation that he made up a special barrel from nested brass tubes of differing diameters to shoot 1/8" ball bearings. He claimed velocities of more than 800 f.p.s., but when another gun was built and tested for Tom' Gaylord's The Airgun Revue, it got 664 f.p.s. on high power. The article did say the ball bearing was loose enough to roll out the barrel, so that could have caused the lower velocity than the initial gun had. Accuracy of the test gun was 1.5" at 10 meters, which is not bad for a smoothbore, but not in the P1's class when lead pellets are used.

Diana P5 Magnum
In case you wonder, the RWS Diana P5 Magnum is another 550 f.p.s. air pistol. When it first came out, RWS advertised it as a 700 f.p.s gun, but independent testing quickly poked holes in that elevated number. You'll still see the number on some websites that haven't kept pace. It's very accurate and well-made, and you often hear the compliment that it's a "poor man's P1," which says as much about the Weihrauch as the Diana.

Brass tubes of different diameters were nested to create this custom .125 caliber smoothbore. An attempt to make the P1 shoot faster.

Like the HW75, the P1/HW45 is a gun you'll shoot for the rest of your life and hand down to future generations. Both are as well-made as the Beeman R1, which says a lot.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A whole bunch of questions

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, I received this comment from a reader who is planning to buy an AirForce Talon SS CO2 rifle. He asked so many questions and was confused on the topic of pellet performance, so I thought I'd answer his questions here. If one person has these questions, others probably do, too.

His questions are in green.

I plan on getting the Talon SS CO2 .177. But I have a few more questions. I was wondering about the trajectory. I think it would be the same with any rifle shooting the same pellets at the same velocity.

You are right! A bullet fired from a .30/06 at 2,900 f.p.s. drops at the same speed as a .177 (or .22) pellet. Galileo demonstrated this principal by dropping two balls of dissimilar weights from the Leaning Tower of Piza. The thing to understand here is that gravity acts the same on all falling bodies.

Your other clause, "...and same pellets," shows that you understand how aerodynamics affect ballistics. Pellets slow down rapidly in flight, while streamlined .30/06 bullets do not. Although pellets and bullets fall at the same speed, the DISTANCE FROM THE MUZZLE varies greatly between pellets and bullets.

At what distance will the pellet drop 1.5 to 2 inches below what I am aiming for? I ask because I plan to use open sights for now and wonder whether I will have to compensate very much.

That depends on the distance at which you sight your rifle to strike the target. The pellet falls very slowly, relative to the distance it travels when measured close to the muzzle; the farther it gets from the muzzle, the faster it falls (again, relative to the distance it travels). I've done a pretty good number of blog posts on this very subject:

At what range should you zero your scope?

More about sighting-in: How to determine the two intersection points

ANOTHER problem with scopes: Not mounting them correctly

The last reference is loaded with additional references to sight-in questions. Although all the references are for scopes, open sights function the same.

If you took the time to read a few of these posts, you'd understand that YOU are the one who decides where to sight in your rifle. If you're smart, the first aim point will be at 20 yards, making the second one anywhere from 26 yards to about 35 yards, depending on the pellet's initial velocity. Caliber has no bearing on any of this. Sure, you can sight in for 50 yards, but if you do you will have a horrible curve to your pellet (only relative to where you aim - the actual trajectory never changes).

If you sight in at 20 yards, all shots between 20 and 30 yards will hit close to the same aimpoint (for a domed diabolo pellet exiting the muzzle at 900 f.p.s.) Your 1.5" to 2" drop below the aimpoint will come somewhere around 45 yards. If the pellet is traveling 700 f.p.s., the 1.5" to 2" drop will occur somewhere around 35-38 yards, and your second point of intersection (please read the indicated posts) will be at around 28 yards.

For pellets I was thinking of getting Crosman .177 Premier Domed 10.5-grain for shooting at longer ranges.

The 10.5-grain Crosman Premier pellet is a great one for long-range shooting from a precharged pneumatic (PCP). In the CO2 version of the Talon SS, this pellet will be going much slower on high power (I would guess it will top out at around 575-600 f.p.s.), so you will need to sight-in accordingly. First point of intersection 20 yards, second point 26 yards (or so) and the place at which the pellet drops by 1.5" to 2" will be around 33-35 yards. A better pellet for the CO2 rifle, where a flat trajectory is desired, might be the 7.9-grain Premier. It will have increased velocity and will be almost as accurate, if not just as accurate, as the heavier pellet. If you sight-in at 20 yards, you'll be on target out to 27-28 yards and your 1.5" to 2" drop will be at 34-35 yards.

I was thinking of shooting the 16.1-grain Eun Jin pellets, but might they have too much drop at 50 yards? I would like these to make better holes and blow things up more.

I hope by now you see the answer to your question. The 16.1-grain .177 Eun Jin pellet is not suited to the power level available in a PCP Talon SS, much less in the CO2 version. Far from "blowing things up," this pellet would do very little damage to the target, compared to a lighter pellet that is better suited to the rifle's power curve. Something in the 8-grain to 8.5-grain range, maximum.

I know the .22 would be better for this (blowing things up). But I'm thinking the pellet will drop a lot along the way, and you said in the review that the extra f.p.s. of the Condor is nice. That's my reasoning for getting the .177. If I'm not right about that I will get the .22 and save up to buy pellets.

This last comment leads me to the conclusion I've been building all along. A friend of mine happens to be battling this same question: If pellets drop because of velocity, wouldn't I be better off shooting as fast as possible, so I don't need to worry about the trajectory as much? My answer to him and to you is "NO!" Velocity doesn't make any difference if you don't hit the target. My friend bought an AirForce Condor and fitted it with a 25" .177 barrel from Mac-1 to get as much velocity as possible so he wouldn't need to worry about trajectory. Now, all he has to do is find a pellet that will fly straight at 1,450 f.p.s.! I predict that when he does, it will be a spitzer (a long pointed bullet). He will have reinvented the .17 Aguila cartridge in an airgun (with less velocity, of course).

The .17 Aguila round fires a spitzer bullet at 1,850 f.p.s. It's based on a necked-down .22 LR cartridge.

There is another way. It's been around for more than a century. Please watch the movie Quigley Down Under, if you have not seen it yet. In that movie, Matthew Quigley shoots a Sharps rifle that fires a 540-grain lead bullet at about 1450 f.p.s. and manages to hit man-sized targets at 1,000 yards and beyond. The movie is not true, but the shooting is, for the most part.

In September of 1874, the world-champion Irish rifle team shot against an American team at the famous Creedmore rifle range in Long Island, New York. The six best shooters from each team fired for record. They shot at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards at a target that measured 12 feet square. The "center" of this target was worth 3 points and measured 6 feet square. The bullseye was a 3-foot square inside that and scored 4 points. The shooting took several days to complete. When the smoke had cleared, the U.S. team was the winner by three points - 934 to 931. One Irish shooter had shot at the wrong target and lost the 4 points his bullseye scored. Had he been firing on his own target, the Irish team would have won by a single point. That's how close the match was.

That match was shot with peep sights! The shooters had to know how far the targets were because their bullets were dropping many feet in flight. A light wind could also push them several feet to the side, so they had to know how to compensate for it.

The point is that it is always best to shoot just one accurate pellet and to learn how it performs at all ranges. Then, learn to estimate ranges accurately. In the Army, I learned to direct artillery and mortar fire by learning how to estimate distances very accurately. It's not easy, but it is a skill that can be learned. They may not allow laser rangefinders in field target, but nobody can deny me my own skill for range estimation.

In a few days, I will be reviewing a very special airgun hunting video for you. In that video, hunters shoot big bore air rifles with bullets weighing up to 510 grains in weight. They use a laser rangefinder to determine distances to the game, because those big slow bullets drop like stones after leaving the muzzle. But, they also take game such as deer, boar, goats, elk and even a 2,000-lb. American bison! They are extremely effective, but the hunters shooting them have to know their trajectory to the last yard they intend shooting. That's my real answer to our future Talon SS CO2 rifle owner. Get the gun, find one good pellet and then GO LEARN TO SHOOT IT!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mendoza RM 2000: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Okay - back to business. When we last looked at the .22 caliber Mendoza RM 2000, we saw the beauty of its adjustable sights and the marvel of the magazine loading system that enables this breakbarrel to be a repeater. Let's look at velocities and some necessary preparatory maintenance.

One of our readers wrote a comment that his RM 2000 got about 500 f.p.s. with 15.8 JSB Exact pellets. The description on the website says the gun gets "...smashing velocities up to 850 f.p.s. in .22 caliber." Of course that would be with lightweight pellets, but I would expect around 700-750 with .22 caliber Crosman Premiers and somewhere in the mid- to high 600s for the JSBs. That said, let's see!

The first pellets I tried were the Premiers. They averaged 713 f.p.s. with a spread of 38 f.p.s. The rifle is still producing a lot of smoke on every shot, so this wide variation is due to excess fuel burning in the compression chamber. If you wonder what that means, read the recent 3-part post about dieseling. This velocity is on the low end of what I expected from the stated velocity provided by the manufacturer. Going next to the 15.8-grain JSB Exacts, I got an average of 643 f.p.s. with a spread of 54 f.p.s. Again, this was slightly below the expected velocity, and the spread pointed to fuel-burning.

But, the real shocker came when I tried 11.9-grain RWS Hobbys. I expected to get up into the 800 f.p.s. realm, or at least close to it, but instead the average was only 726 f.p.s. That's only a little more than the heavier Crosman Premiers! However, the extreme spread was down to 35 f.p.s., indicating the rifle likes this pellet better than the others - or at least that's how I read it. The last pellets I tried were 21-grain Beeman Kodiaks. To my surprise, they averaged 618 f.p.s., with a spread of 34 f.p.s. The gun vibrated noticeably with this pellet, so I think there is some piston bounce, but look how close in velocity they are to the 15.8-grain JSBs. That tells me I need a better fitting pellet in about the same weight as the JSBs, because they obviously don't fit the bore well.

Dirty bore!
All shots were loaded single-shot, because most of these pellets will not feed through the magazine. I resolved to test some Premiers through the magazine for you, as well. Unfortunately, when I was blowing the smoke out of the barrel during testing I happened to look through it and, for the first time in my life, I saw a dark airgun barrel. Usually darkness is a sign of smoke remaining in the barrel, but that wasn't the case this time. This barrel was dirty in a very visible way! I had forgotten to clean it with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, like I have been lecturing you for over a year. So, everything stopped while I cleaned the barrel.

What a lesson!
This was the most difficult airgun barrel I ever cleaned! The brush just didn't want to go through the bore. Boy am I glad I have a Dewey one-piece steel cleaning rod, because I think the effort would have broken a three-section aluminum rod. Up to pass number four, the force needed to push the rod through the bore took all my strength. The brass brush bent at the breech several times, so great was the entry force required. After pass number four, it became slightly easier, but I was able to feel a rough section just a few inches in front of the breech. That feeling went on until pass number 15, when everything smoothed out and became light and easy. I wish I owned a borescope, so I could look at these new bores and even take some pictures before cleaning them, because the feedback I get from the rod tells me they really need the cleaning!

Performance after cleaning - another lesson!
Crosman Premiers were first to be tested, and what a lesson they taught me! Velocity ranged from a low of 622 f.p.s. to a high of 832! Yes, nearly 200 f.p.s. spread. The median shot hovered around 724 f.p.s., so not a lot of change. BUT, when I loaded them through the magazine, the velocity was always higher and more consistent. That suggests that the Premier is too small for the bore of this rifle and it needs the extra resistance of squeezing through the end of the moving shuttle/breech to generate power.

Having established that, I figured fat pellets would be the best medicine for the RM 2000. RWS Super-H-Points are medium weight at 14.2 grains, but they have a wide skirt. Maybe that is why they gave a velocity of 754 f.p.s. with a spread of only 18 f.p.s. Beeman Ram Jets, on the other hand, are heavier, at 14.8 grains, but not particularly wide. They averaged just 670 f.p.s. with a 43 f.p.s. spread. Not the pellet for accuracy in this gun. Hobbys went an average of 724 f.p.s., which was a little slower than before but they only had a 25 f.p.s. spread - down 10 f.p.s., which is significant.

What have we learned so far?
  1. The RM-2000 likes fatter pellets.
  2. Crosman Premiers feed well through the magazine.
  3. The Bug Buster 2 scope cannot be mounted if you want to use the magazine.
  4. The RM 2000 is well-lubed from the factory.
Now that the barrel is clean and I have a good handle on which pellets to use, we'll try accuracy next.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The HW75M single-stroke pneumatic pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

HW75M is a beautiful target pistol.

Taking a different road today to look at a higher-priced air pistol. Don't fret - I haven't forgotten the RM-2000 or the Remington Genesis.

I have owned this pistol for about 8 years and, though I never thought I'd ever be able to buy one, an opportunity suddenly presented itself and I did get it. It's funny when things happen that way, because you can end up owning something you never would have picked for yourself; but through prolonged use, you grow to LOVE it! That's what happened to me.

No longer a Beeman
My pistol is a Beeman P2, but it's identical to the HW75M except for the markings and the grip. For many years, Robert Beeman touted the P2 as being as accurate as a 10-meter pistol - without the ergonomics. I am a 10-meter air pistol shooter, and I can tell you that this description is accurate. However, because it was in the same catalog as the Beeman P1, guess which one I bought first? The P1, of course. Why? Because it has more power, and although I try not to admit it very often, I tend to make the same decisions most of you do when buying airguns. Speed sells. Beeman stopped carrying the P2 recently, making the HW75 the only game in town.

Beeman P1 (top) and P2 look very similar. They have completely different powerplants with different firing behaviors.

I thoroughly enjoy the P1/HW45, and you can read my blog about it, but the P2/HW75 is a different pistol altogether. As a single-stroke pneumatic, it's easier to cock (pressurize) than a P1, has no recoil and has a much lighter factory trigger. Though the velocity is stated as 410 f.p.s., my own pistol shoots around 440 with lightweight wadcutters. It's no hunting gun, to be sure, but what a wonderful plinker or target pistol!

When I was a kid, pellet pistols were one of two different things. Either they were Benjamin pneumatics that would shoot 2" groups at 30 feet, or they were CO2 pistols that wouldn't group that tight. Velocities were in the 350 f.p.s. range, and of course the pellets we had were trash compared to what's available today. If there had been a pistol like the HW75M back then, it would have been regarded as world class. I can shoot a perfect 50 for five shots on a 10-meter target with this pistol. The adjustable sights sit a little higher in the hand, and you have to use an M1911A1 grip for best results, so it's not as easy to shoot as a 10-meter pistol; but, like the P1, the 75 is another perfect training tool for 1911 shooters.

To load and cock the gun, press in on a flat button on the left side of the frame next to the hammer. The top of the frame containing the barrel is unlocked and swings up and forward - pivoting at the muzzle. Compared to the P1, much less of the gun swings forward and there is very little resistance. When the barrel is fully extended forward, load a pellet directly into the exposed breech and close the gun. It takes a lot less effort to close this pistol than the Marksman 2004 that is now called the Beeman P17. The gun is now ready to shoot. The safety is not automatic, so it remains off throughout this operation.

P2/HW75 with barrel fully forward for the pump stroke.

Do not leave any single-stroke pneumatic pumped for very long. The flexible piston head is also the front reservoir seal, and, being flexible, it does not want to remain under pressure for a long time. Perhaps five minutes should be considered the maximum.

The two-stage trigger is butter-smooth, and mine is set to release at 20 oz., but you can easily adjust it down to 10 oz. or less and make it a single-stage, if you like. The pull weight is also adjustable. You can dry-fire the pistol by cocking the hammer without pressurizing the pistol.

The rear sight is fully adjustable and features a sharp notch. The front sight is a low, square blade that's nicely sized for the rear notch. The top strap that's used to charge the pistol has an 11mm dovetail cut for mounting pistol scopes or dot sights, so the choices for sights is broad.

The grip
Weihrauch made two different grips for the HW75. One was a standard set of M1911A1 scales that interchanges with those on the P1 or a 1911. The other was a more sculptural grip with slight ambidextrous thumbrest scallops on either side of the gun - the grip you see on the 75M. This grip is heavily checkered and very attractive, in my opinion. Unfortunately, mounting this grip requires machining of the grip frame, so it doesn't fit a P1, or P2 that currently has 1911 scales. This grip is the one thing I wish my P2 had, but it was always a costly option, so the standard grip probably outsold it by a wide margin.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. The HW75M is an heirloom air pistol - the kind you hand down to your heirs with pride. As the years and decades pass, quality of this level will become rarer and rarer, and makers of new airguns will not think of trying to repeat it.

Monday, May 14, 2007


by B.B. Pelletier

We got this comment to last Friday's blog, and I couldn't resist making a post about it.

"i make alot of my purchases based on an airgun manufacturer's warranty. i always lean toward those that offer limited lifetime. i feel like this limits my perspective. are there any manufacturers you would recommend whose warranty period is generally moot, based on their reputation, workmanship, and longevity? even though they might offer 1year, i could expect to get years of uninterrupted satisfaction

Warranties are meaningless!
I used to do the same as this reader. Made my major purchase decisions on the basis of warranties. Then, I began to notice a pattern. When the time came for me to use the warranty, the situation often changed. The happy salesman with his confident words of comfort was replaced by a narrow-eyed bean-counter who thought my sole purpose in life was to put his company out of business. It started with a fishing rod purchased from Orvis.

The fly rod was their premium model. Top o' the line graphite rod when I purchased it, and I absolutely loved it. Then it broke. Snapped the top section. Oh, well. I figured Orvis, the company that touts itself as a flyfisherman's paradise, would break their backs making things right for me. That was the start of my first "lesson" in warranties. Seems my rod had only a one-year warranty, and I broke it well into year three. Okay, they got me. But surely such a premium rod as this had parts I could buy? Like a replacement top section? "No, we don't "make" that model any more.

Turns out they don't "make" anything but money! They "source" all their products from other countries, and when a product doesn't sell well or the real manufacturer in China doesn't want to make it any more, that's it! No more fly rods. They did give me a cheap pair of binoculars for being bold enough to question their warranty policy (i.e., I was a nuisance), and we parted company. I resolved to never trust warranties again, and I don't. And, Orvis, this story has been another installment on a lifetime of payback. You see, I am a writer.

That attitude served me well when Apple Computer tried to tell me my brand-new computer was out of the extended warranty eligibility period because it had laid in some musty warehouse for too many months before I bought it - AND the expensive extended warranty I had just paid for and was trying to activate could not be activated! To no credit of their own, they finally buckled when my wife ran the problem high enough on the Apple corporate flagpole.

Then there was the Chrysler minivan that the dealer assured me DID NOT have the problem of a weak automatic transmission that had been reported by so many consumer groups. So, when my transmission blew up one year out of warranty, I was able to look the dealership in the eye and scream their reassuring words back to them - which netted me nothing more than, I suppose, that they didn't try to sell me an extended warranty on the replacement tranny I had to buy!

You see, I've been bitten hard by the warranty bug.

On the other hand...
There was the time I broke a pair of Craftsman channel lock pliers and, when I took them into Sears, the salesman handed me a replacement - no paperwork, no questions asked! Sears doesn't make hand tools any more than Orvis makes fly rods, but they do know the value of an iron-clad replacement guarantee. Guess which brand of hand tools I've bought for the pst 40 years?

Land's End and L.L. Bean have the best product return policies I know of. Bean actually teaches their culture to other businesses, so they can learn how to improve both their operations and their relations with customers. And, neither of them makes all the products they sell, but they do stand behind them. There are other fine companies with super return policies that you could argue are better than warranties.

What am I saying? Just this - it isn't WHAT you buy; it's WHERE you buy it that matters, and the type of technology gets factored in. I bought an extended warranty on my iPod mini, but little did I know Apple was going to discontinue the model six months later. If I had to send it in for repair after that, they would have had to replace it with a completely different model, because the mini isn't just unrepairable - it's no longer made! Remember that when you think about that next gee-whiz Swedish PCP semiautomatic that promises the world. It's a long way to Sweden!

On the other hand, buy the same Swedish rifle from an American dealer with a good reputation for customer service and you are protected as well as can be expected.

Now, some airgun technologies are easier to repair than others. Spring-piston guns, for the most part, are simpler than pneumatics or CO2 guns. When they need fixin', the job is usually more easily done. The exceptions are all the Diana recoilless piston guns that have the Giss counter-recoil system. Those guns have two pistons that have to be timed exactly if they are to work at all.

Yes, you are limiting your selection by basing decisions on warranties. A strong dealer is just as important as a good warranty. In most cases, dealers are much more flexible. Plus, they're a lot closer to their customers. Consider that when you buy your next airgun. Know the dealer's return policy, because some dealers don't even offer that. Here's Pyramyd Air's.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mendoza RM 2000: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

And, now, for something completely new, let's look at Mendoza's .22 caliber RM 2000 repeating spring-piston rifle. That's right, this one's a repeater! The rifle I tested was in .22 caliber, which should excite all you hunters.

The RM 2000 is a large air rifle that's close to fully ambidextrous.

The RM 2000 is a large and powerful breakbarrel rifle. It's 45.5" long, with an 18.5" barrel (including the muzzlebrake). The rifle weighs 7.7 lbs. and feels big in your hands. Cocking effort is about 38 lbs. The stock is hardwood stained a medium dark brown with no checkering. The black buttpad is solid rubber and very grippy. This rifle could easily be used by a lefthanded shooter because the safety has bars on both sides of the action and the stock shape is not radical. However, the low cheekpiece is on the left side only.

The sights on this rifle are something to talk about. It comes with a hooded front square post that's also fiberoptic and a wonderful micrometer open rear sight that has beautiful, crisp target adjustment knobs. This rear sight unit would be a $50-60 sight by itself, but it comes mounted on the rifle! It also has fiberoptic inserts for use with the front sight; but, under low light conditions, the notch is as sharp as anyone could hope for.

Rear sight is a high-quality, click-adjustable micrometer open sight with target knobs.

Repeating mechanism
A tubular magazine atop the receiver feeds pellets into a sliding shuttle for the repeating function. It's a linear feed, meaning the nose of one pellet is pushed into the skirt of the one in front of it, so pellet shapes are critical. Mendoza does make special ammunition for all their magazine rifles in both calibers, but I did not have any on hand to test. So, I simply loaded .22 caliber Crosman Premiers into the magazine tube, and they worked flawlessly! I don't see why you would need to purchase special pellets. Even .22 caliber Benjamin Sheridan diabolos will work. The .22 caliber Premier hollowpoints should also work.

The magazine tube lays close to the spring cylinder. Silver sticker advises to use Mendoza 2000 express ammo only, but I learned that Crosman Premiers work perfectly.

Pellets are inserted into the magazine through this hole, once the spring-loaded follower is locked out of the way. The length of the hole limits what can be loaded, so you don't jam pellets in the loading shuttle.

If you don't want to use the magazine, just load pellets directly into the barrel the same as any other single-shot breakbarrel rifle.

I mounted a Leapers Bug Buster 2 on medium mounts for some preliminary testing and learned that the magazine cannot be loaded with this scope/mount combination on the gun. The follower hits the scope before the pellet loading hole is opened. That was okay because I didn't use the magazine for accuracy testing; but, if you want a full-time repeater, remember to order a higher scope mount and a not-too-large objective bell. A 32mm objective is probably as large as you want to go with high mounts.

How the repeating function works
A loading shuttle rises when the barrel is broken open. It aligns with the magazine tube and a pellet is pushed in. The length of the pellet is important so the shuttle doesn't jam when it moves downward again. This is the same way a Career 707 loads, except from the side instead of the top. When the barrel returns to battery, a forked plate pushes the shuttle down into alignment with the closed barrel. The shuttle is also the breech.

This picture shows how the shuttle, or breech, moves up to accept the next pellet and then back down for firing.

The remainder of the RM 2000's attributes are much like those we saw on the RM 200. The same two-part trigger controls the first and second stages, and I must say I am warming to this idea a lot. It gives an absolutely positive indication of where the second stage begins, and the pull is very light and even. This rifle has the same clever piston-seal oil hole as the 200.

Make no mistake, this is a much larger, more powerful rifle than the 200. This is one to consider if you want to hunt.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gel Shooting Support - A valuable tool for spring gun shooters

by B.B. Pelletier

Okay, so now you know what I used to tighten my groups by 40 percent with the Hammerli Storm Elite. The Gel Shooting Support is a small pad you lay on whatever surface you have and lay your rifle on top of it. Yesterday, I laid the pad on top of my regular shooting bag, a long canvas bag filled with crushed walnut shells and proceeded to shoot the Storm. This is the rest of that report.

Shooting bags work well - except...
I normally lay all my firearms and PCPs directly on this shooting bag, and it supports them fine for more precise shooting. Remember I mentioned yesterday how much my heartbeat was moving the reticle on the target? Well, that's normal. It happens to every shooter, and the more contact you have with the gun, the more you influence it. The key is to get the movement as small as possible, and one way to do it is to isolate the gun from your body. A good way to do that is to lay the gun on a sandbag (crushed walnuts, in this case). Unfortunately, spring-piston guns do not like to be laid directly on sandbags. And, breakbarrel springers are especially sensitive.

Until now, the solution has been to lay your hand on the bag and the forearm of the gun on the flat of your hand. Yesterday, I was able to use the gel pad instead of my hand to shoot very tight groups. The difference was that I was no longer holding the gun with my left hand, which isolated the gun enough to eliminate a large part of the movement. I was also able to concentrate more on the other parts of my hold to make them as light as possible, and that reduced the reticle movement even further.

Double-rest shooting
This is not new. About 130 years ago, target shooters used two rests for their target rifles. The front rest was a mechanical affair that was sometimes permanently attached to the rifle, and the rear rest was either a second mechanical rest or sometimes a sandbag. They used 20-power scopes to sight these target rifles, and at 220 yards (40 rods) the best of them shot 10-shot groups measuring less than one inch, center-to-center. That wasn't the way they measured groups in those days, so we don't hear much about them today; until the 1940s, these old-time shooters were unmatched by modern firearms. The double-rest removes all of the body's movement, which means you get those "vise-tight" groups you've always daydreamed about. And, you get it from a true "soft" hold, instead of a hard vice-like grip. It's the ultimate artillery hold.

Brockway .38 caliber muzzleloading target rifle with false muzzle for more accurate loading is capable of sub-minute-of-angle groups at 220 yards. Note the machine rest attached below the muzzle. The false muzzle has an obstruction sticking up to block the scope, so the shooter doesn't forget to remove the false muzzle before taking the shot. This rifle is a relatively lightweight double-rest gun, weighing only 16 pounds.

Training wheels for springers
Until now, soft rests didn't work with spring guns. They don't like touching most surfaces and tend to vibrate unevenly, throwing off shots in random directions. But, yesterday, I found that the gel support pad acts exactly like human flesh. At least, it did with the Hammerli Storm Elite. I'll need to do more testing with this pad to determine if it works with most or even all springers. Let's hope it does, because this is like training wheels for springers. You won't need to learn and practice all that technique if this device removes a large portion of the need for it!

I laid the Hammerli Storm Elite directly on top of the gel shooting support, which was resting on top of my sandbag gun rest.

Lay it anywhere!
The real beauty of the Gel Shooting Support is that you can take it along with you and lay it on any convenient surface - even a rock! The underside is some sort of tough synthetic material that does not want to slide on any surface, so you can lay it on the top rail of your deck and fire away. No matter what surface it comes in contact with, it seems to stay put until you pick it up.

The pad fits into your pocket, plus it comes with a D-ring to snap to a rifle sling or belt loop. It weighs next to nothing so you won't know you have it until you need it.

Best of all - the price!
This thing costs less than a tin of good pellets! If it's as handy as this one test seems to indicate, it's worth many times the price. Joshua Ungier, the owner of Pyramyd Air, told me he uses his as a support when he shoots his Winchester .30-30! The next time I go to a firearm range, I'm going to test it with my Garand. I will also continue to test it with all the spring guns I test, and from time to time I'll let you know how it's doing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hammerli Storm Elite: Part 3
Back to the range

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I had a great day at the range. Shot two rifles for record and tested two other products - one of which you'll read about tomorrow!

What looks like the next day to you was actually a separation of nearly a week since I last shot the Hammerli Storm Elite, so a lot of things had to be remembered. One was the lousy too-heavy trigger on this beast. It feels like it may lighten up but I don't have the thousand shots to invest. However, I think some of you may want to do it, based on what I saw.

When we last talked...
The short-range sight-in you read about yesterday saved me bundles of time at the big range. The rifle was already on target and I knew one good pellet, the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain, as well as five that weren't worth trying again. Also, the barrel was clean, so I was ready to shoot in no time.

At the range
The day was perfect. No wind and clear skies. I had an additional "helper" I will tell you about tomorrow that really aided me in getting the groups I got. I set the target out at 30 yards, and you will remember that the gun is scoped with a Leapers Bug Buster 2 6x32 scope.

First shots
The scope was right on for elevation but shooting a bit to the left, so I dialed it in and proceeded to shoot some nice groups under an inch. My heartbeat was moving the reticle about a quarter to half an inch. I tell you that because a spring gun has to be floated on the palm of your hand to limit the biological input from your body. The recoil and vibration of the gun at firing is attenuated by your body, which alters the direction of recoil. This is what makes spring guns so difficult to shoot, compared to pneumatics and gas guns.

Coupled with that, the Storm Elite is a breakbarrel which is also sensitive about WHERE it is held. I had determined that a point just ahead of the balance point worked for this rifle, so no time was lost looking for another sweet spot.

Then, I discovered a fantastic device that tightened the groups by about 40 percent more than I was holding! You'll hear about it tomorrow. But the bottom line is this - the Storm Elite can shoot 3/4" groups at 30 yards all day long with good pellets. Yes, the Premiers are good, but so are Gamo Match wadcutters! I shot a group of four into 0.631". The fifth shot was a called flier (the rifle slipped as the shot went off) and opened the group to more than two inches, but I feel confident telling you it was a bad shot and not the rifle's fault. I would have shot more of these but time was heavy because I had lots of guns to test.

Five Premiers at 30 yards went into this 0.755" group. The Euro is for scale for our European readers.

Four Gamo Match wadcutters made this 0.631" group. The fifth shot was a called flier and opened the group to over 2".

The rifle does kick some and vibrates briefly, but on the whole it is a well-behaved spring gun. If they could just do something about that horrible, heavy trigger!

Bottom line
The Storm Elite is a keeper. Bfore you ask, that makes the regular Storm a keeper, as well, because finish is all that separates the two.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hammerli Storm Elite: Part 2
A trip to the range

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I just finished preliminary shooting with the Hammerli Storm Elite. I didn't go to my big range, so the targets were confined to 18 yards. There were some surprises, nevertheless.

Like usual, I cleaned the barrel with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound on a Dewey rod. As always, I used a new brass brush for this, and I have to tell you that this rifle has a VERY tight bore! It is perhaps the tightest .177 barrel I have encountered, though I don't keep a journal on that stuff. While cleaning, I detected a possible choke at the muzzle, which is a big surprise for a spring rifle barrel. I thought I must be mistaken, because no manufacturer would fail to tout such an important feature in their advertising, so I conducted a positive test.

No choke
By pushing a pellet through the bore from the breech, it is easy to feel any constriction in the barrel. I confirmed the tight breech mentioned in part 1, but there is no choke at the muzzle. Also, I can report that the entire barrel is exceptionally smooth, with no tight spots or rough areas.

I mounted a Bug Buster 2 in Accushot medium 1" rings. The eyepiece doesn't come back far enough for me to see the entire sight picture when shooting from a rest, but it's close to perfect for offhand work. The two-piece rings butted against the built-in scope stop, which made mounting very easy, because the rings were already on the scope.

This Bug Buster 2 was already mounted in rings, so it was a quick installation on the rifle. The eye relief is right for offhand but too short for benchrest.

Taking a cue from Squirrel Killer, I selected Eun Jin 16.1-grain domes. I also had some old 13.1-grain Cobra pellets from Air Rifle Specialists, so they were thrown in the pot. Beeman Kodiaks and JSB Exact domes were also tried, as were RWS Super Mags - a 9.3-grain heavy wadcutter. And, finally, I tried some 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers that would have been my first choice for this gun because of its power and the fact that it's a springer.

Some quirks to note
I like the way this rifle cocks! First of all, the ball-bearing detent means the barrel breaks open and closes like a bank vault - smooth and positive. When the rifle is cocked, there is none of that backlash where the barrel continues to travel down and has to came back several inches to where the sear catches it. The sear on this rifle catches the barrel at the end of the cocking stroke for a positive feel. The trigger, on the other hand, is extremely heavy. It's two-stage, but the second stage breaks at 6 lbs., which makes precision aiming a chore. There isn't much creep, and I noted that it was starting to smooth out and possibly lighten up at the end of the short shooting session. To the guy who remarked that the Bug Buster crosshairs are thick, I didn't think so when I examined the scope for you, but when I tried to take a precise aim at a target, I have to agree.

Squirrel, I wish you well, but I gotta tell you, this rifle cannot handle 16.1-grain Eun Jins! They do hit the trap with authority, but when the third shot landed 2" from the first one at 18 yards, I gave up on them! Cobras were a little better, but still spread to almost 2". Kodiaks grouped a little over 1", and RWS Super Mags were a trifle better. JSBs were worse, at 1.25". Then I tried the Premiers. Oh, boy, do they shoot! Sorry, Sharon, but in this rifle the 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers are the standout pellet. They will be used in the next and final test when I can get out to the longer-range course.

Five Kodiaks spread out pretty good, even at 18 yards.

Five RWS Super Mags grouped just slightly tighter than the Kodiaks.

Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets were the star of this show.

All pellets were tight in the breech, but Eun Jins were extreme. Even Kodiaks that usually slip in so easily met with resistance from this barrel. I didn't have a pellet seating tool, and I wasn't able to seat any pellet entirely inside the breech.

You need technique but it's not fussy!
The correct technique with the Storm Elite is to lay the forearm on the flat of your palm just forward of the balance point. The end of the long cocking slot will be on your palm. A light, dead hold produces great results. The rifle is not as twitchy, as many breakbarrels I could name.

Bottom line?
At this point, I am pleasantly impressed. The Storm Elite seems to be a nice little breakbarrel with good behavior, accuracy and power. The trigger sucks, but I would give it time. It will probably break-in to a nice pull.

Monday, May 07, 2007

What does dieseling mean? - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Before we begin, a word to those who are having difficulty emailing Pyramyd Air. They recently changed their email program and the one they use now is more sensitive to blocking spam. Some ISPs (Individual Service Providers - the place where you pay for your internet connection) are known for their spam, and if the Pyramyd email software detects them, it may discard your email without giving you any status. If you can't get an answer, I recommend you call them at 888-262-4867. They have worked hard to reduce the phone wait time and, while it's still not perfect, hold times are much shorter.

Well, this three-part posting is turning out to be one of your all-time favorites. It seems we have a great number of spring gun fanciers in the audience.

Intentional dieseling
Let's look at how a gun can be made to diesel intentionally, starting with the famous Weihrauch HW Barakuda EL54. That was a standard breakbarrel rifle, the HW 35, to be specific, with a tube on the right side to inject a small shot of ether vapor into the compression chamber just before the shot was fired. I covered it in a special post last year, so you can read all about it there if you want to. The point is thst manufacturers recognized the power potential of a detonation and tried to harness it to make airguns shoot faster. Today, we would call the EL54 a firearm, because that is exactly what it is.

You don't have to be an airgun manufacturer to make a spring gun diesel. Now that you know how it works, you've probably figured out it takes just some fuel coming in contact with the superheated, compressed air generated by the piston. Children have known this trick for at least half a century, which is the basis of the Oil-Can Louie story I mentioned in the previous post. However, that story ends with the destruction of the airgun, so please don't experiment that way.

Deception through dieseling
Gamo sells a .177 breakbarrel spring rifle called the Hunter Extreme, which they claim is capable of generating 1,600 f.p.s. with PBA pellets. When a friend of mine chronographed his, it was shooting just over 1400 f.p.s. Many of you know that I asked for any reader with a Gamo Hunter Extreme to chronograph their rifle and to tell us the numbers. To date, no one has come forward. Gamo used to show a film clip on their website from the Shooting USA TV program that shows a shot chronographed at more than 1600 f.p.s. I tested a PBA pellet in a .177 Condor and it went only 1486 f.p.s., which tells me something might be fishy about Gamo's claim. However, it is possible to make a pellet go as fast as that televised shot with some trickery.

All it takes is a pellet with a partial drop of a volatile substance like diesel fuel in its hollow base and you will get velocity figures like that. Forget accuracy at that speed, but the velocity will be there. That's all some people want to see. The gun may not hold up long with that kind of abuse, and I do not recommend that anybody attempt it. As far as I know, this is the only way to get a pellet from a spring-piston airgun going that fast without extra mechanisms, such as an ether injector.

Daisy used the principle, too!
In the late 1960s, Daisy put the caseless cartridge of Jules Van Langenhofen into production in a rifle that ignited the solid propellant using the heat of rapidly compressed air. Theoretically, their gun was a .22 caliber spring-piston rifle that just happened to shoot a caseless .22 as powerful as a conventional long rifle. In practice, the bore was too large for pellets, and any .22 pellet you tried to shoot in it was hopelessly inaccurate as well as being underpowered from all the blowby. Guns that use the VL system are still popping up at airgun shows, where they now command $150-225, depending on condition. The cased presentation models have always gone for more.

How to stop the detonating
Apart from specific Webley and Weihrauch guns that have piston seals made of PTFE, stopping a spring gun from detonating is iffy. Some guns seem to detonate more than others. Cleaning the compression chamber and lubricating with a small amount of the correct lubricants is a surefire way, but it involves disassembly of the powerplant. You can sometimes solve the problem by putting a drop of high-flashpoint silicone oil into the chamber through the transfer port (or the oil hole in the case of a Mendoza). The high-flashpoint oil seems to dilute the other oils and greases to the point that they diesel but no longer detonate. This isn't a positive solution, but I have seen it work.

Well, that turned out to be a longer answer than I thought it would be. But, now, when the subject of dieseling comes up, we have a place to turn to.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What does dieseling mean? - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

WOW! This subject, which I felt was going to be too simple for many of you, has really raised a lot of good questions. I will try to address them today.

If the fuel is burned, why does the gun keep dieseling?
Thus asks Nathan, and it's a good question that has several possible answers. And, I will conjecture a little to explain them, which means I am not certain of what I am saying, either. First point: the amount of fuel that gets burned each time is very small. It doesn't take much to sustain it for years. However, if the fuel does get burned in the compression chamber, why does the gun keep dieseling?

One possibility (this is conjecture) is that all the fuel doesn't burn, that only a small fraction of what's there actually combusts. That would explain why you can keep on burning fuel shot after shot.

Conjecture No. 2: several writers, including the Cardews, have suggested that the lubricants in the spring tube behind the piston contribute fuel by slinging their lubrication onto the walls of the spring tube. When the piston is withdrawn in cocking, some of this lube is not scraped back by the piston seal and remains on the walls to go forward with the piston as the gun fires Remember, the piston seal works best when going forward. There is a continuing replenishment of lubricant ratcheting its way forward to the compression chamber through the action of cocking and firing. Combine this with the other explanation of all the fuel not burning each time, and you have a relatively self-sustaining fuel burning engine.

Is fuel even necessary?
For years, I was satisfied with this explanation until I read what the Cardews did to try to stop the burning. They rebuilt a powerplant after drying it completely. They then lubricated it with dry graphite powder. They cleaned all oil from the pellets they used. The gun sounded like a "bag of washers"; but, even after all of this, they could still smell the acrid smoke of combustion when the gun fired! Something was still burning, though there didn't seem to be anything left to burn. They left this observation unsolved.

The nitrogen experiment
The Cardews tested a .22 caliber Weihrauch HW35 that was getting 636 f.p.s. with a 14.4-grain pellet. They put the rifle in a large plastic bag and sucked out all the air. The left it that way for 30 minutes to get all the oxygen out of the piston seal, then they filled the bag with nitrogen, which doesn't support combustion. The muzzle was poking out of the bag, but they resealed it with a plug after each shot. They shot this gun in a pure nitrogen atmosphere for several shots and recorded a velocity average of 426 f.p.s. The gun had only 45 percent of its initial power (energy, not velocity) when it was not permitted to burn fuel. Then, they took the gun out of the bag and continued firing it and the velocity rose back to the initial figure. This is their proof that combustion happens with every shot. Not only that, but with some guns that have tight velocity spreads, it is also very well regulated!

Buy the book!
Don't think that I have told you everything that's in the Cardew book. Indeed, what I have told you comes from just 4 of the 235 pages.

Next question: Light or heavy pellet?
I have tried to follow the intense thread of discussion that Squirrel Killer started when he told us of his success with 16.1-grain Eun Jin pellets in his .177 Gamo CF-X. To that I responded that many shooters (not me) feel that heavy pellets will damage the mainspring of a spring gun. And, then, we were off to the races! To Squirrel I say - keep shooting the pellets that work.

For the rest of you, I do have some information about the effects of light and heavy pellets on detonation. Light pellets seem to make a gun detonate; heavy pellets don't. This has been my observation after years of shooting. Anytime I forget to load a pellet into a rifle (yes, it happens to me, too) and the one time I loaded a .177 pellet into a .22 Beeman R1, I got a detonation. Any pellet that is obviously too small for the bore is another almost certain candidate to detonate. Sometimes, I get detonations from pellets that seem to fit well but are extra light. This is one good reason why I do not like Gamo PBA ammo.

From my observations, I would have to say that backpressure seems to stop the detonation. When I shoot a very powerful airgun, I always start out with heavier pellets, though until I read Squirrel's story I never thought of using super heavy pellets in spring guns.

Here I must break off the last part of the report into part 3.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What does dieseling mean? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Sometimes, I have to be reminded that not everybody understands all the terms I use in my postings, and last week someone asked for an explanation of the term dieseling. This term is almost always used when talking about spring-piston airguns, though there is such a thing as a dieseling event with a precharged gun, as well. That's something you NEVER want to witness. But, the most common use of the term dieseling applies to spring guns.

What it means
In 1894, Rudolph Diesel designed a working internal combustion engine that ignited the vaporized fuel by means of heat generated by compression, alone. It did not rely on a sparkplug, which meant that an entire engine subsystem was eliminated. The diesel engines of today are based on the work he started that long ago.

A spring-piston airgun generates a very small amount of highly compressed air to power a pellet or BB. When the air is compressed by the piston, the temperature rises to very high levels (Beeman has said 2000 degrees F) that can ignite tiny oil droplets, created when the lubricated piston seal scrapes the walls of the compression chamber. Thus, the diesel effect happens. Because the amount of "fuel" is very small, the force of the resulting ignition is usually also very small, but the presence of smoke in the barrel after a shot has been fired is one telltale indicator.

Read your Cardew
G.V. and G.M. Cardew wondered about the same things we do, so in the 1970s they conducted a series of experiments to determine what things were happening when airguns fire. Their book, The Airgun From Trigger To Muzzle, was a report on these experiments. In 1995, they updated their work and published The Airgun From Trigger To Target. The approach they took makes it obvious to me that they had read Dr. Frank Mann's seminal work on firearm ballistics of nearly a century before, The Bullet's Flight From Powder To Target. Like Mann, the Cardews used ingenious ways of testing various airgun principles, and I think that nowhere did they do better than when they described dieseling. You can buy this book here at Pyramyd Air. If you are curious about all technical aspects of airguns, this is one you really need.

Four phases of a spring-piston airgun
They categorized four phases of spring-piston power, based on what happens when the guns fire. Those phases are blowpipe, popgun, combustion and detonation. We are only concerned with the two most powerful phases; combustion (the Cardews call dieseling combustion in their second book) and detonation. Combustion is a true diesel event, but there isn't enough fuel present to make a mighty bang. The reason they did not use the term dieseling for this phase is because the detonation phase is also a dieseling event. The difference between the two is the amount of fuel available.

A detonation is a very strong combustion. You will hear a bang and, in the most extreme instances, guns can recock themselves and even blow apart! Jess Galan wrote about this in Airgun Digest Vol. 2, when he wrote about "Oil-Can Louie."

Obviously, there will be a lot of smoke with detonations, too; but with a detonation, you will sometimes see a small flame coming out of the muzzle of the gun! It helps to be in a very dark place to see this phenomenon. The Cardews warned of the danger of creating an intentional detonation, but they did it to learn as much as possible. They also proved beyond a doubt that all powerful airguns support combustion with every shot. That is the same as saying all powerful spring-piston airguns diesel with every shot.

Tomorrow, I will tell you how they did it, and also give you some hint as to how certain sly airgun manufacturers can cheat their velocities.

What about a PCP diesel?
When you charge a precharged gun from a scuba or carbon fiber tank, the rapid compression of air generates heat - a LOT of heat, as a matter of fact. So much heat that there have been a few accidents attributed to this heat and the presence of petroleum-based lubricants that do not belong in precharged reservoirs. These accidents are nearly always catastrophic, and at least one resulted in the death of the person filling the airgun. Another accident happened with a vintage big bore airgun, where lard is used inside the reservoir to trap airborne contaminants. These reservoirs were made at a time when scuba tanks and 3,000 pound pressures did not exist, so lard was not the danger we think it is today. But, if someone fills a vintage tank from a scuba tank, even though they are careful not to exceed the vintage pressure of 500 or 600 psi, the speed at which the air is introduced is enough to create sufficient heat to ignite the lard. When it did, the tank was blown off the connection, fortunately, injuring no one but resulting in this cautionary tale.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Predom target pistol by Lucznik

by B.B. Pelletier

The weather has been poor, so I haven't gotten to the range to test that Hammerli Storm Elite, yet. Now, I'll add the Remington Genesis to the test, because I have not done part 3 as promised. I also have a Mendoza RM-2000 on deck for testing, so my spring-gun plate is overflowing.

Today, being a miserable rainy day, I thought I'd test a gun many of you will never see. The Predom by Lucznik!


Lucznik's Predom is a close copy of the Walther LP53, which, in turn, copies Walther's Olympia target pistol.

A little history
Lucznik is a Polish gun factory, possibly the state firearms factory, or what we might call an arsenal. They make military weapons. In the 1970s and '80s, they also made a curious single-shot pellet pistol that was a knock-off of the famous Walther LP53. The LP53 is most famous as the gun Sean Connery held for many publicity photos for James Bond films. Because they were filming in the UK, it was easier for the film's media team to use an airgun than a firearm. And, if you're going to use an airgun, the LP53 is as realistic as it gets!

The gun
The Predom is a .177 caliber breakbarrel that cocks in a very strange way. The piston is located vertically in the pistol grip and, upon firing, springs upward. The sales hype for the Walther LP53 always used to say the gun was designed to replicate the recoil of a .22 Walther Olympia target pistol, but the truth is that it feels nothing like it. Instead, it feels like a baseball bat has cracked in your hand, or perhaps a mousetrap you were holding went off. It doesn't pinch or hurt - just vibrates with a shock.

Breaking the barrel pushes on the triggerguard that is also a cocking link. The mainspring and piston are in the grip. Be careful! This gun has no anti-beartrap and can close suddenly from this position if the trigger is pulled.

To fit in the grip, the piston has to be small and the stroke has to be short - neither good for great power. When I tested several LP-53s, they were always in the lower 300s with lightweight target wadcutters such as RWS Hobbys. In spite of the small piston, the grip on the Predom is hand-filling at the very least. I wouldn't call it a large grip, just a trifle fat.

It's a biggie!
This is a large air pistol. It's constructed mostly of steel, though the frame is aluminum. The gun weighs 39.6 oz. and is just under 12.5" long. Because of the strange design, which is best seen in the photo of the cocking process, the barrel is almost 9.5 inches long, but not all that length is rifled. There is a whopping 3.5" freebore at the front! On the Walther, a much shorter freebore was used to accept a pin from a cocking device that protected the hand from the sharp front sight. A freebore means the barrel has been drilled out to a larger diameter than .177, and of course that part of the barrel is not rifled. Freebore protects the crown of the muzzle, but I would love to know why this pistol has such a deep one.

Hard to cock
This design is a real bear to cock. I estimate that it takes at least 35 lbs. of effort to break open the barrel to the point that the sear catches the piston. With the Walther cocking aid, cocking was tolerable, but the Predom didn't come with one. I have no idea if it ever had such a device, but it sure needs one.

The front sight is a fixed post and the rear is a notch adjustable in both directions. It's stiff but very crisp. And, I cannot complain about the accuracy. I get 3/4" groups and better at 10 meters.

Rear sight adjusts both ways. This is a nice target pistol that deserves these good sights.

I didn't expect the power to be greater than the Walther's, but here the Predom surprised me. It shot 7-grain Hobbys at 400-411 f.p.s. - a full 100 f.p.s. faster than I was expecting. The piston is powered by a double mainspring, a smaller-diameter inner spring and a larger-diameter outer one.

Can you say DEAL?
But the biggest news about the Predom isn't its performance or history. Like many deals I have told you about in the past, the Predom is a deal RIGHT NOW! They have flooded the U.S. market to the point that the Blue Book's suggested value of $350 has gone out the window. You will find them selling for $50-90 on the gun auction sites right now. Sportsman's Guide apparently unloaded several recently, and they're showing up at gun shows. So, if you want a crazy oddball air pistol, the time is right now.

I have no idea how well made these guns may be. They look very stout, but that doesn't mean they are. If you do go after one, caveat emptor!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

HW 50S - part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Yesterday, we looked at the history of the HW50S - where it comes from and what other guns were based on it. Today, we'll look at performance. This rifle has been around long enough that performance has evolved upwards. Back in 1974, the .177 model 50S rifle was listed as a 705-f.p.s. gun, while today it's advertised at 825 f.p.s. All Weihrauch guns advanced during this timeframe, so this increase is normal. It's also a real increase - not just bolder advertising hype. As synthetic materials, lubricants and pellets improve, the velocities of airguns will increase. Also, manufacturers can alter the stroke of the piston to boost power. You'll never be able to tell by just looking at the gun.

What IS an "S" model?
The letter "S" after the model number signifies that the stock is traditional European. If there were an E there, it would stand for Export, and the stock would be a more classic American pattern. A European stock has a lower cheekpiece, no Monte Carlo shape and a downward slope to the butt just after the cheekpiece. Other than the stock, the metal parts are identical, though there does exist a lower-powered version of this model for German use only. Since the 50S doesn't break the 12 foot-pound limit, it can be exported as is to both the UK and US markets. I mentioned yesterday that the forearm is also shorter than the R-series stocks, but today's R7 and standard R9 also have shorter forearms, so that isn't always the case.

Target sights
The HW50S can also be purchased with an adjustable diopter rear sight and a globe front sight that accepts inserts. The price for the rifle with these sights is only $40 more than for the open sights, which makes it quite a bargain if you're looking for an informal target rifle.

Years ago, Weihrauch made a real target air rifle - the model 55. It was also a breakbarrel and a spring gun, but it shot so well that it actually won gold in a world competition against more modern recoilless rifles, such as the FWB 300. The 55 had a small powerplant because you don't need or even want power in a target rifle. It also had a special version of the Rekord trigger that adjusted down to mere ounces of pressure. Pyramyd Air sold the heck out of the 55 in its final years, but unfortunately that model is no longer made. The 50S with diopter sights is as close as you can get to one in the Weihrauch lineup today.

One additional point on the sights. Weihrauch used to make an all-steel diopter sight for all their target guns. It was designed just after World War II and the design never changed, so it had a very retro look to it. Back in 1974, this sight alone sold for $34.25, which sounds like a great price until you learn that the FWB diopter sight was also selling for $39.95. Today, you'll pay over $350 for an FWB diopter sight, so imagine what the Weihrauch diopter would cost if they still made it. The diopter that's on the gun today appears to be a Daisy diopter, which is a good, inexpensive sight.

The 50S just kisses 12 foot-pounds, so it can be used for things other than target shooting. For example, it can be used for hunting as long as the game is not too large. I would say crows and cottontail rabbits under 40 yards are about at the top limit of its power. If you do intend to hunt with it, you'll probably want to buy the model with micrometer open sights, because you're just going to remove them to install a scope.

A gun to hand down
I mentioned in last Friday's blog (How long will a spring airgun last?) that most spring guns that are cared for will last hundreds of years. Well, the Weihrauch line is built to convey a sense of quality to everyone who handles one. Yes, it may cost an extra $100 now, but when the time comes to pass it along, you'll be proud you made the decision for quality.

Which brings me to my final point. The world economic situation is changing rapidly. I sold a Sheridan Supergrade five years ago and told myself I could always buy another one. Well, in those five years, the price has become five times greater! Increases are going to happen to any air rifle tied to the Euro, too. While the price of the rifle may look high today, in 12 months it will probably seem like a bargain. The current batch of rifles Pyramyd just received is now starting to sell and there are no guarantees that the next batch will be at the same price.