Thursday, June 28, 2007

RWS Diana 34 Panther - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Before we begin, Gamo has just changed their warranty period from three years to one. I thought you would like to know that. Son of a gun if my post a few days ago about warranty periods changing wasn't prophetic!

Today I'll clean the Panther's barrel, mount a scope and head to the range.

Barrel cleaning
I'm using a new .177 brass brush loaded with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. The reason for cleaning a brand new rifle is to remove latent rust from the bluing process and all the sharp burrs that remain from barrel manufacture. The first several strokes were extremely difficult, but they eased around stroke eight. By the tenth stroke the barrel was feeling very smooth, and by stroke 16, I was able to reverse directions of the brush without removing it from the bore.

A BIG surprise!
As the barrel became cleaner and I was able to feel the brush passing through, I thought I could feel a restriction toward the muzzle. Of course I was cleaning from the breech, which is always recommended. When I started running the dry cleaning patches through the bore to remove the bore paste, I could definitely feel the restriction. On some breakbarrels there is a coincidental constriction from the upsetting of the bore when the front sight dovetails were swaged in, but this rifle doesn't have them. It has a plastic front sight base that's bonded on with epoxy, probably. That makes the bore restriction intentional, and what that means is Diana has intentionally choked the bore at the muzzle! I can't wait to see what this does for accuracy!

The RWS Diana 34 Panther is a slim breakbarrel rifle, so I selected a smaller scope to go with it. Being a breakbarrel, you have to keep the barrel joint free to open, which means a shorter scope. Normally I would like to use two-piece mounts for the extra scope positioning flexibility they give, but this is a Diana and has to use a one-piece mount with the vertical scope stop pin hung in front of the scope base on the rifle. The scope I chose was a 3-9X40 Leapers that Pyramyd doesn't stock at the moment, but in size it's very close to the 3-9X32 range estimating AO scope they do carry. I used a B-Square 17101 adjustable one-piece mount, and I put two turns of elevation on the rear ring and a half turn on the front. That should compensate for the Diana's tendency to shoot low.

Initial range results
It's been a wet year and my range in under water right now, but I am able to shoot at a closer distance (20 yards) in the backyard. I selected the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets, the Logun Penetrators that weigh 9.5 grains and a Czech Republic pellet called the Diabolo Standard. Well, the Czech pellet was all over the paper at 20 yards, so I didn't pursue it. But the Logan Penetrator showed some promise with some half-inch groups. It might be worth testing at longer distance when the range is available again.

However it was the old standard Crosman Premier that saved the day! They went into such tight little groups that I knew I had my best pellet. And then I noticed that this 34 is less sensitive to hold than others I've tested. Also, it groups better than any RWS Diana 34 I have ever shot!

Ten Premiers at 20 yards on the left. Five on the right.

Five more Premiers at 20 yards. Not bad for a quick and dirty test! This Panther holds very well and takes less technique than most breakbarrels.

Rest the rifle just forward of the triggerguard, where it is very muzzle-heavy, hold softly and this rifle will shoot! It takes far less technique than a Mendoza or that Hammerli Storm Elite I tested a few weeks ago. And it takes less than any 34 I've ever shot. I have to believe that a lot of the accuracy lies with the choked barrel.

The trigger is very crisp and light at 3.5 lbs. let-off. There is not one hint of creep. An overtravel adjustment would make it feel even nicer, but in this price category you won't find one much better.

The straight stock is a shooter's dream. The rifle comes up to your eye without any moving around and the sharp checkering make the gun easy to control with a soft hold.

Most of the piston seal noise is gone after 50 shots. The detent is still hard to open, but the rifle cocks smoothly from that point on.

I do need to get out to the range and see what the rifle can do at longer distance. but to this point I am very pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

RWS Diana 34 Panther - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today I'll continue with the physical description of the RWS Diana 34 Panther. I left off with the barrel, which is 19 inches long. The muzzle cap makes it look longer and also serves as the base for the front sight ramp, which is skeletonized.

The breech uses Diana's time-honored ball-bearing detent, and, lest anyone say a ball bearing can't hold the breech shut as well and a chisel detent, I have to slap the muzzle to begin breaking the barrel. Hopefully that will become easier as the gun breaks in.

This Panther seems like a hard-cocking breakbarrel! The piston seal honks like a goose, which indicates a dry seal, but I know the Diana seal is self-lubricating so I'll not lubricate it until the gun has some shots on it. I expect it to quiet down with use - to break in, so to speak. Cocking effort is a surprisingly low 31 pounds. The surprise is because it feels like a lot more - probably due to the noisy piston seal.

Front sight is fragile!
I must criticize the front sight element for being extremely fragile. Mine broke within the first few shots, and replacement doesn't look easy! This is a flaw Diana will have to fix soon. Fortunately I will scope the rifle, so it won't prove to be a problem.

This won't cut it! Plastic on airguns is okay, but there has to be enough to do the job. This sight needs to be redesigned!

Scoping is a challenge!
The scope base is the weak point on most RWS Diana spring rifles. It simply isn't engineered to accept scope rings with scope stops. There are two shallow holes for a vertical stop pin, but they aren't deep enough to do the job. I have seen dozens of Diana spring guns with long gouges extending backward from these holes. The earlier form of the Diana C Mount was a cause for some of these problems because it has a tapered rounded Allen screw stop pin that acts like a plow when the gun moves in recoil. But RWS recently went to B-Square to make the C Mount, and they have a better cylindrical stop pin. But at best, these are just field expedients.

The older RWS C Mount used an Allen screw with a rounded tapered bottom as a scope stop pin. It would plow through the backs of the shallow holes on the Diana rifle mount. B-Square fixed this flaw and the pin is now flat, but the rifle base still doesn't measure up.

The Diana rifle scope base has two shallow holes that are inadequate for scope stop pins. The large-headed screw on the rear (left) of the scope base should NOT be used as a scope stop. It has a thin shank that will shear off under recoil. The ONLY place for a stop pin to work is the front of the scope base (also called the ramp) shown at the right.

This pin on a B-Square one-piece scope mount is the right size and shape to stop the movement.

What is needed is a way to anchor the scope ring solidly to the rifle, and the only way I know to do that with what currently exists is to hang a vertical stop pin in front of the base on the receiver. The stop pin can then be lowered enough to really bear on the steel base and stop all rearward movement. Clamping pressure alone cannot stop the movement.

This was tested with the brand-new gun. No break-in was done. I expect some changes after a few hundred shots have been fired. H&N Baracuda Match (Beeman Kodiaks for several dollars less) averaged 820 f.p.s., Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets went 919 f.p.s. and RWS Hobbys averaged 1021 f.p.s. This is the first time I have ever seen a .177 model 34 get over 1,000 f.p.s., so something inside must be different. It will be interesting to see what happens after a few hundred shots are fired.

I'll save the firing behavior and trigger comments for the range testing. But the trigger is light, if not crisp, and the rifle doesn't buzz as much as I remember my other 34s buzzing. So maybe this is the dawn of a new day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

RWS Diana 34 Panther - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

RWS 34 Panther is an all-black air rifle with a synthetic stock. The use of a non-Monte Carlo buttstock is a bold move, offset by the straight line of the stock (less drop).

For those of you buying a Diana rifle for the first time, you cannot compare what you receive to the guns that shipped a decade or more ago, but I can. I have owned more than one model 34 in both calibers, so I'll make the comparison between those guns and this new RWS 34 Panther as I go. This one is a .177.

What's new?
The Panther has a black synthetic stock that's new. It's shaped differently than the wood stocked Diana 34 that's been made for so many years, and it felt a little heavier to me. Sure enough, the specifications on Pyramyd's website indicate an extra quarter pound. That's not much, except all the weight seems to be in the front of the gun. That makes the gun very stable to hold.

With the new stock, you get something no 34 ever had - checkering! Both the pistol grip and forearm are checkered with sharp diamonds to keep the rifle secure in your grip. In the past, you had to buy the upgraded model 36 to get checkering. There is no cheekpiece and the safety is in the center of the end cap, so this is truly an ambidextrous air rifle! The wood-stocked 34 is less so because it does have a cheekpiece on the left side of the butt.

Fiberoptic sights
The Panther also has TruGlo fiberoptic sights front and rear, which the wood-stocked model doesn't have. If the light is too low to light up the front bead, the shape of the post is square, so it makes a perfect conventional front sight. The rear notch is also square and sized correctly for the front post.

T05 trigger
The Panther has the T05 trigger, which is found on most of Diana's spring guns these days. That may not mean much to you, but as the owner of several older T01 triggers, let me tell you that the T05 is better. It's crisper than the older model, but unfortunately it has a plastic trigger blade that offends some shooters. I like it better than the older stamped steel blade of the T01 that was too curved, in my opinion. This trigger is straight and feels much better when pulled. It doesn't swing up as it comes back. I have lived with the use of plastic in firearms for so long that a plastic trigger in an airgun doesn't bother me, but I know there are many who object to one.

The trigger is adjustable for the length of pull of the first stage, which determines where the second stage kicks in. The manual warns that too much adjustment will remove all the first stage, but some shooters really want that. The pull-weight and overtravel are not adjustable.

The safety is automatic and pops out at the rear when the rifle is cocked. It can be applied at any time and simply blocks the trigger from moving. No safety is 100 percent safe, though, and you should always hold the barrel with the cocking hand when loading to catch it if the sear should slip.

After my little rant about Beeman's cancelled lifetime warranty yesterday, I thought to check on the warranty for this gun. Mine came packed with a lifetime warranty card that was issued by RUAG Ammotec, who sold their RWS USA franchise to Umarex two years ago. So, I called and spoke to the Umarex USA repair center, and they told me that the warranty they offer is a limited lifetime with 18 months on the wearout parts such as seals and mainsprings.

There are some contradictory words in the owner's manual about the warranty. It says the gun is warranted for two years. What's happened is that Diana has published their own warranty in the manual and RUAG/Umarex has included a separate U.S. warranty card with the gun. In the U.S., the warranty is for a lifetime, except as noted.

General fit and finish
Everytime I pick up a new 34, I'm impressed by its overall quality. I have to say that this Panther is the best one of all. The steel parts are not highly polished, but they're evenly finished and darkly colored. They are very attractive. The synthetic stock is smooth and even and the checkering is sharp, as noted. The stock is slender to favor a hunter or offhand shooter.

The owner's manual says not to use wire brushes in the barrel, but I'm going to disregard that and do my usual JB bore compound cleaning. I am not recommending that you do the same; I am simply avoiding the 500-1,000 shots at break-in to smooth out the bore for the best accuracy.

More on the Panther tomorrow.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Does "better" cost more?

by B.B. Pelletier

"You get what you pay for" is a quote you hear when talking about the prices of things. But is it true?

Not always! Sometimes, things that cost more are no better than other things, but how do you know for sure? Today's blog was prompted by a comment Matt made a couple months ago, "The Shadow is obviously a better gun because it costs more, but is it worth the $40 price difference?"

Don't assume that $40 makes any difference at all. I will explain with brutal frankness. You probably know that Beerman has its R-series spring rifles made by Weihrauch. And, the Beeman R1 retails for about $150 more than the Weihrauch HW 80. There are differences between these two models, but in this case, the stock is the biggest one. If that isn't a big deal for you, then go for the less expensive gun.

People used to say to me, "I bought the Beeman gun for the lifetime warranty." Well so did I, and when SR Industries took over the company, they lost little time changing that "policy" so the lifetime warranty became void. Apparently, the "lifetime" it referred to was the span of the warranty, itself, (he said, with a tear in his eye). In other words, when it's over - it's over! I'm sadder but wiser, as they say. I learned that my own ability to make repairs to my R1 is more important than any paper issued by a company that can change their policy at a moment's notice.

Price doesn't always mean quality, either. I bet you know of many products that sell the "sizzle" without the substance. That's what brand positioning is all about.

Sometimes, there are tremendous bargains buried among the cabbage leaves. When I find one, I'll shout it from the rooftops. I want to be sure you get in on the good deals. I have done that in this blog whenever possible. For example, the BAM B40 is a super gun for the money. The Gamo CF-X is another great buy. In the used gun department, an FWB 124 is one to watch for, as is a BSF 55N. And, the Hakim military trainer should also be considered if you want a nice accurate .22 plinker.

Except for the used guns just mentioned, this is only about new guns. And I'm not just talking about model cross-comparisons, either, though the R1/HW80 story was about that issue. I'm talking about guns that have higher prices and aren't necessarily worth it, while others with lower prices languish because people can't believe anything so inexpensive could be that good.

That's exactly where the Mendoza RM-200 falls. The more powerful RM-2000 is an okay airgun, but the RM-200 is a tremendous bargain if you ask me. I think it's underpriced by $50, and I hope Pyramyd Air leaves it right where it is. Thirty years ago, the Diana model 27 was in the same place, and they now command $250 in fine condition (up from a retail of about $69 when they were new).

But here's the deal. Just because the RM-200 is a super bargain doesn't mean the rest of the Mendoza line is. Another incredible bargain is the Marksman 2004, which has just recently started selling as the Beeman P17. The guns are identical and made in China. The Weihrauch HW 40 PCA that they copied is almost three times the price. Another super buy is the IZH 61. While it may be funny-looking, it's as accurate as any inexpensive target rifle. How can you go wrong paying $100 for that kind of quality?

You have to turn over a lot of rocks to find the gold. Sometimes, all you find is slithery! Just because something's new or you haven't heard of it before, doesn't mean it's a great gun...or a bad one. You have to know what to look for, which is what this blog is all about.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Flexible cleaning rods

Flexible cleaning rods

by B.B. Pelletier

Today's topic is one that I've wanted to do for a long time. Ever since we talked about the Dewey cleaning rod, I've also wanted to address flexible cleaning rods. I use them myself, but they have some drawbacks that you need to be aware of.

They come in all types
Most people probably think of the Otis flexible rod when they think of them at all. Otis makes flexible rods for Beeman, as well as under their own name. The thing that tells you it's an Otis is the round, padded zipper case.

Why use them?
Sometimes, you have to use a flexible rod because of the construction of the gun. If that's the case, you'll be putting the flexible rod through the muzzle and attaching the cleaning patch at the breech. Each time you want to use a new patch, you have to go through this procedure, which makes the flexible rod more cumbersome to use. The Otis comes with a brass crosspiece that slides through a hole in the tail of the cleaning rod, making a handle for pulling the rod through the bore. When you pull, make sure you pull in a straight line with the barrel. Don't allow the flexible rod to ride against any particular side of the muzzle.

The Otis rod also comes with a brass cleaning brush that works like any other bore brush. It's short enough for most breeches; but when you wear it out, it'll be difficult to find a replacement.

All rods are not created equal
I've been talking about the Otis rod, which is a well-designed flexible cleaning rod. There are others on the market. Several years ago, someone was selling a flexible rod made of lawn trimmer string, which is heavy monofilament fishing line. Using a rod like that is very dangerous, because the monofilament allows dirt to embed itself. That creates a saw sharp enough to cut steel. More than a few airgun barrels have had grooves cut into their muzzles by the improper use of this kind of flexible rod.

Flexible rods have been around for many decades. The Garand in WWII used one, because it was easy to carry and the construction of the rifle made it impossible to clean from the breech. As I said, there's nothing wrong with them. You just have to be careful with the muzzle!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What about shooting from a vice?

by B.B. Pelletier

Several months ago, a reader asked about using a vice to test the accuracy of different pellets in an airgun. In the comment sections of our posts, this question has come up many times over the years. Let's talk a little about using vices.

First, let me say that I'm not an expert on this subject. What I know has come from my readings and talking to airgun testers rather than actual experiments.

Even with a vice, there's vibration
A vice does not cancel all vibration. Depending on how the barrel is held by the vice, it'll still vibrate a lot or maybe significantly less than when it was not in a vice. You can't stop vibration completely. Many people believe a vice cancels all possible error. While a vice will cancel human error, there are other errors that the vice will not address.

Let's start with a vice-like product that's been in use for many decades...the Ransom rest. A Ransom rest is for handguns and is made to hold the grip of a handgun in a vice-like fixture. In some cases, this is identical to shooting from a vice because the barrel is rigid in the frame. With other guns, such as the 1911 Colt, the barrel moves during the firing cycle. All the Ransom rest does is guarantee the same starting point, shot after shot.

The Ransom rest is free to move when the gun recoils. After each shot, the gun is moved back to an indexed starting position for the next shot. So each shot starts from the same place. However, because the gun is free to move in recoil, the rest isn't exactly the same as a vice that never moves. It's more like a perefect artillery hold than like a vice.

Not perfect
Gun writers use Ransom rests because they save a lot of time when testing handguns, but they don't make the guns more accurate. In numerous gun tests, it has been demonstrated that a good shooter can out-shoot a pistol held in a Ransom rest.

I know that last comment is going to stir up a controversy, so it's time for me to tell you that several fine German airgun manufacturers test their airguns with human beings and not with vices. It's faster, and they've found no difference in accuracy. That's right, all those super-small shot groups that come with target guns were fired by a human being!

The biggest proof of all!
You've heard me quote many times in the blog from F.W. Mann's The Bullet's Flight From Powder to Target. Dr. Mann spent nine straight years and the better part of 37 years in total gathering information for this book, which was published in 1914. One of his test instruments was a concrete pier sunk 40" into the ground. Atop this pier was a fixture that held a cylindrical receiver, into which Dr. Mann threaded all of his test barrels. He called this fixture his "shooting Gibraltar." It was his belief that the vice would free him from any human error and make his test results as pure as possible. However, what he discovered was extremely interesting. He had guns in his personal collection that could out-shoot the Pope-made barrels mounted to the action on his shooting Gibraltar. The only explanation for this is that a vice, while seemingly rigid, does not solve all the problems that cause inaccuracy.

If you really want to read the definitive work on exterior ballistics, locate and buy a copy of Dr. Mann's book. His tests will open your eyes!

During the Civil War, there were several snipers armed with rifles that weighed 50-60 lbs. These guns had built-in rests because they were too heavy to be held and had to be shot from a specially made bench. In the finest recorded shot in history, a Union captain killed a Confederate general at a measured distance of one mile. The range was determined by artillery surveyors through triangulation before the shot was taken. The rifle used was not held in a vice, but the nature of its extreme mass undoubtedly added to the accuracy it achieved.

What I'm saying is that, while vices sound like a good way to test pellets, they may not be. OR, they may not be as good as some other method that is easier and more convenient.

Please remember that I am not an expert on shooting with a vice. All that I've told you here are things I've read or things that have been told to me by those who test airguns for a living.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What's wrong with scope adjustments?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came in from Pestbgone, who asked why a scope with 1/4" adjustments at 100 yards did not respond with 10 times the number of clicks at 10 yards. In other words, why don't 10 clicks move the pellet a 1/4" at 10 yards, if one click moves it 1/4" at 100 yards. Great question. Simple answer.

Nothing is for certain
How do you think scope makers get the reticle to move 1/4" at 100 yards? They do it by using a screw with a very fine thread. This screw moves the erector tube by a small amount. Attached to the screw is a ratchet or click detent that produces an audible and tactile signal that one "increment" of distance has been covered. For example, one click equals 1/4" at 100 yards.

The truth is that one click never does equal 1/4" at 100 yards. It's close, but not exact. That's because screw threads are not cut that way. While it's possible to get close, it's next to impossible to get exact movements that equal the measurements scope manufacturers put on the adjustment knobs.

Does that bother you? And, why do I know all this? Well, about 10 years ago, several field target shooters came up with a brilliant idea. They reasoned that if software programs could calculate pellet drop, they would never need to sight-in their guns at more than one distance. They could simply adjust their scopes for all other distances once they had been "sighted-in."

Surprise, surprise!
Only, it didn't work that way. When they actually tested their theory, they discovered that click adjustments came in all sizes. They found scopes with 1/7" adjustments, 1/5" adjustments and many others. What they never found were scopes with adjustments that were identical to the inch value given on the adjustment knobs or in the scope's instructions.

You would think that this would cause a tremendous uproar, but it never did. In fact, very few people today even know about this phenomenon. The truth is that when someone goes to the range, they adjust their scope til the gun hits where they want it to, and they pay little attention to the actual click value.

Airgunners, however, have a greater need than firearms shooters to know the click values. Because our adjustments are all at much shorter ranges, we have to apply many more clicks to move the strike of the pellet. Therefore, we notice when things don't seem to be working out the way we think they should. That's why Pestbgone noticed that his scope was not adjusting as expected.

Do the work
There's not substitute for actually sighting-in a scope at all ranges you wish to shoot. That's what the experts do, and that's what you'll have to do if you expect to hit what you're shooting at. This is the reason that my explanation of the two points of intersection (where the pellet is right on the crosshairs) is so important. No one has time to sight-in at every possible distance they will shoot. You need to find a good medium range to sight-in, then test your rifle at different distance throughout your intended range of use. Don't count on click values being correct. Even on precision target scopes, they're going to be off a little.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Are .177s more accurate than .22s?

by B.B. Pelletier

Reader Sumo inspired today's post.

Robert Beeman pushed .177 caliber over .22 when he owned the Beeman comany, and a lot of shooters got the idea that .177s were more accurate. Then, Beeman came out with .20 caliber and dropped the .22 models of many of the guns he carried.

His reasoning was that .22 pellets are more expensive, which they are. He also said that he got better groups with .177s, which he may have, but we have to consider what he was doing in the 1970s and '80s. Beeman was pushing 10-meter guns such as the FWB 300 and the HW55. At 10 meters, those rifles are incredibly accurate, and no one can say differently. But, they're not the only airguns on the market.

After Beeman left the business, field target became popular in the U.S. and the distances at which shooters shot stretched from 10 meters out to 55 yards. The .177 caliber dominates field target, as well as 10-meter, so it's natural to think that .177s are the most accurate guns of all. That isn't necessarily the case.

Also, when Beeman owned the company, he never saw the fabulous pellets that JSB sells. If he had, I feel he would have tried very hard to put the Beeman name on them, because their domed pellets are certainly the world's most accurate long-range pellets.

Which leads to me to my opinion on the .177/.22 controversy. As long as the quality of the ammunition is the same, I feel there is no difference between the two calibers. Here is my reasoning. At long range, the smallest centerfire caliber is not the most accurate. Back in black powder days, .32 to .34 caliber was the most accurate, and today it ranges between 6.5mm and .30 caliber. The distance has great bearing on the measure of accuracy, of course.

What I think has held .22 caliber back has been the quality of pellets available in that caliber. When I shoot a Talon SS, I always shoot a .22 with JSB Exacts and get 50-yard groups that a .177 would be hard-pressed to better.

So,why do both 10-meter and field target stick with .177? Well, 10-meter stays because the rules of the sport mandate the caliber. All the scoring apparatus is based on a .177 pellet. Field target sticks with .177 because it is the smallest pellet, and shooters don't want to touch the sides of the kill zone, if possible. Statistically, .177 is the best choice.

As far as I can tell, there is no real accuracy difference between these two calibers. Now, if only someone would make a .25 caliber pellet that was as accurate as the other three calibers!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why are first shots different?

by B.B. Pelletier

This post came from a comment left by K. Rihanek, who was surprised that the first shot from his spring gun was so different than the rest of the shots. In fact, this is a phenomenon that applies across the board, and not just to airguns. But, airguns are all that I will address.

Starting with springers
The first shot from a spring gun usually goes faster than the ones that follow. In fact, I can't remember a time when I saw anything else, though I have heard that in extreme cold, springers do need to warm up before reaching their normal velocity. Anyway, a faster-than-expected first shot was what our reader had noticed.

Some people think that when left to sit, air rifles will weep oil at the piston seal. Either that or the first shot will not inflate the piston seal fast enough, resulting in a slight detonation that boosts velocity. After that, the seal is flexible once more and velocity will remain within the expected range. But, put the gun aside for a length of time (12 hours or longer), and you're back with the first shot phenomenon again. I believe in the second explanation (stiff seals) over the first (weeping oil), because even guns that are not greased in any way will display this phenomenon.

There's not much that can be done to prevent this, but hunters and field target competitors will always shoot several shots to get their guns up and running before they go to work.

Pneumatics are not immune to the first shot phenomenon, either. Precharged pneumatics are the worst, with regulated guns being the absolute worst of all. They always need a first shot to "Wake up the regulator." Guns with adjustable power, such as the AirForce rifles also need a first shot after a power adjustment before they will shoot as expected. In my experience, they always shoot the first shot after an adjustment on the side from which the adjustment was made. In other words, if they were adjusted from faster to slower, the first shot will be faster. If adjusted up in velocity, the first shot after adjustment will be slower.

Even multi-pumps and single-strokes show a difference with shot No. 1. It seems they also need the exercise of going through the motions of firing before they can settle down and shoot normally. I think that they are no different than the spring guns, in that their seals need to be exercised, however, with these kind of guns the first shot after adjustment is usually slower than expected.

CO2 guns
If a gun was going to be immune from the first shot phenomenon, you would think it would be a CO2 gun. But, again, they do display it. In their case, the first shot is usually slower, though the temperature has something to do with it, as well. If it is very cold, the first shot might be very fast, and the follow-on shots might all be slower, because the gun is cooling and cannot recover.

This is a tip I wanted to pass along to all of you. I always shoot several "wake-up" shots before expecting the gun to perform as expected. I thought everyone did the same, but from the reader's observation, I'm now guessing they don't.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Why don't scope mount manufacturers list the largest objective bell that will clear the gun?

by B.B. Pelletier

Paul sez I've noticed that certain specifications on scope mounts is near impossible to find on the Pyramyd website and on the internet in general. In particular, the maximum objective sizes for certain mounts, like the B-Square 17101. I know its a good idea for people to call with their tech questions, however when assembling a wishlist at 2 am its a bit difficult. 

Even the B-Square website has no specs on their models. Pyramid would be the ONLY website with this info if they decided to add it to the description. I'm guessing that ther 17101 is for objectives up to 44mm, and the High Mount version 17701 is for 50mm and above. I've already emailed Pyramid on this, I just thought I'd share it with the readers who may also be scratching heads.

I have heard this same question many times, so today I would like to address it. Why don't mount manufacturers (or dealers, as Paul mentioned) list the largest scope objective bell that will clear a rifle with each mount?

The reason they don't do it (in fact, cannot do it) is because all guns are not made the same. Let's look at some dramatic examples that illustrate my point.

Spring rifles with straight receivers
First, let's consider a spring rifle that has dovetails cut directly into the spring tube. The scope will clamp directly to the spring tube, which means that the height of the scope mount is all that raises the scope objective bell above the receiver. Look at what happens when that kind of gun gets scoped.

This Bug Buster 2 has a 32mm objective bell, but look how close it comes to the top of the receiver on this Hammerli Storm. With this gun, and if you use no other scope bases, you need high rings to go to a 40 mm objective.

AirForce rifles
I'm going straight to the opposite extreme, when I show you a Talon SS. All AirForce rifles have a raised scope rail that elevates the scope far above the receiver. You can mount a scope with a 56mm objective in low mounts on these rifles and still have room to spare.

The scope rail on this Talon SS raises the scope high! The reason the rifle has the AirForce TriRail and the B-Square Ultra High rings is for the shooter's preference, but the scope's 50mm objective would clear with ease - even with low mounts.

So, each type of gun has a different scope height allowance, if you want to talk about it that way. And, that's before we throw in accessories that also raise the scope, like the AirForce TriRail shown above.

If this was such an important issue that the feds got involved, there could be standards like "measured from a straight receiver" in every scope mount ad. Then, the buyer would have to decide if his gun had a straight receiver or a raised one. If raised, how much?

But, it isn't that important, so the airgun industry will just have to keep plugging along. Dealers will have to answer these questions because no table can be constructed to fit all the circumstances.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How long will a CO2 airgun last? - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

We're talking about how long CO2 guns will last, and I said that the answer isn't as straightforward as it was for spring guns. That's because CO2 guns have used all sorts of construction methods in the 120 years that they've been produced. We left off with the guns of the 1950s, which was when some companies started to see how inexpensively they could build guns.

The 1960s bring more problems
Diecast metal continued into the 1960s, but it got stronger, and makers got smarter about designing the parts that use it. However, the problem of difficult machining is still very real. When a complex part breaks or wears out, it usually isn't worth the effort to try to reproduce it in steel. This is now causing problems for aging Crosman 600 semiautomtic pistols that have a steel cam and a cast metal cam follower. If that follower breaks, it's difficult to replace. And, the 600 is such a popular shooting gun that they'll continue to wear out and fail at an accelerated pace until the gun is too rare to shoot.

In the late '60s and through the '70s, they started playing with new seal designs that arent traditional. The Daisy 100/200/300 falls into this category. When new, the guns worked fine. Once they start leaking, however, not even the maker would repair them. They're wonderful fast-action semiautomatic BB guns with light triggers and great handling characteristics, and today they can be bought as parts by the pound at every airgun show. The problem with each one is always the seal, and they can't be rebuilt, as far as I know of.

The '80s are worse!
In the 1980s, some makers began substituting plastic for diecast metal. They reinforced the plastic with thin steel stampings at critical wear points, but the net result is that these guns don't have a hopeful outlook for longevity.

In the late 1990s, we had yet another revolution - this time in the direction of quality, for a change. Umarex (Walther) began to produce the most realistic air pistols (and one replica air rifle) that had been seen in CO2 guns. They are diecast construction, but that technology has come a long way since 1950. However, the problem of specialized parts still remains. When a diecast part breaks, it is quite difficult to make unless the design is very simple. And the realism of the replicas goes against simplicity.

Guns built to last
CO2 target guns are built to last. They do have complex parts, but they're mostly made of steel and therefore are easier to make. The receivers are machined from aluminum blocks and are complex, but receivers are usually not the parts that wear out and the seals are all straightforward.

Another kind of CO2 gun that will last is based on easily manufactured parts, such as Crosman's 2240 pistol and 2260 rifle. The round tubing-based assemblies in these guns assures their longevity, as long as tubing continues to be made and lathes still work. A look at the success of the Crosman 160 and 150 pistol shows just how good this type of construction is. Even when the guns are originally made of some plastic parts, like both models just mentioned, someone with a lathe and mill can replicate those parts in steel to make the gun last indefinitely. The Chinese QB-78 follows in the 160's footsteps, with interchangeable parts, making this family of guns virtually immortal.

Airgun makers such as Dennis Quackenbush and Gary Barnes work in steel (Barnes also uses aluminum) and make their parts on simple machines. That assures that their guns can be repaired for a long time to come.

The longevity question has many answers when it comes to CO2 guns. Unlike springers, CO2 guns have been made by many different methods, each of which carries it's own genes for longevity.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How long will a CO2 airgun last? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

How long will a spring airgun last?

This is the second in the series of how long airguns last. The first post dealt with spring guns, and we saw that they can last for centuries, with care. CO2 guns are different, though, and this post is larger to discuss all of them.

CO2 guns are different
CO2 guns span a wide range of construction methods, and some of the modern ones will be hard-pressed to last. Let's start with the oldest types and work our way forward to the most modern guns, with observations on longevity along the way.

Giffard was first
Paul Giffard was the first successful maker of CO2 guns. In the 1880s, he converted some of his pneumatic guns to operate on carbonic gas (CO2) and began selling them in both 8mm and 6mm calibers. They had removable tanks that held enough liquid for 150 shots.

Giffard guns are still in operation today. All their seals have all been replaced. There's a specialty aftermarket parts supply for them, but their owners don't shoot the guns that often. It's more of a "gee whiz" thing than an actual airgun in demand. But, the point is that the guns still work.

Swedish Excellent
In fact, Crosman was not really the second company to market CO2 guns. Sweden's Excellent company made CO2 guns as early as 1909, and the Swedish military looked into their use as trainers in 1910! So, a lot of water passed under the bridge before Crosman began their experiments with the gas in the 1930s.

When Crosman came on board, they made up for lost time. They had working gallery gas guns prior to World War II, but the war effort stopped the recreational airgun industry cold. The OSS purchase of several thousand Crosman pneumatics for use in Asia was the only significant wartime airgun contract they had.

Crosman CG was a gallery gun made to use WWII surplus CO2 tanks from large life rafts.

After the war was over, though, Crosman rebounded in a big way, and CO2 was at the forefront. Now, this post is about longevity, not the history of airguns, but the methods of construction in the 1940s and the early '50s were not that much different than they were in Giffard's day. Perhaps, they used some brass and aluminum instead of steel, but brass doesn't corrode with water as easily as steel. It's even better for a CO2 gun, where condensation is the name of the game. All those guns can be rebuilt today and will continue to function for hundreds of years. If they're kept charged with CO2 all the time, they last for decades. to this point, CO2 guns are very long-lived.

The cheapening of the 1950s
In the '50s, industry around the world was scrambling to make consumer products cheaper. That was when Daisy turned from wood to plastic and from blued steel to electrostatic paint. It was also the time when a number of small manufacturers decided to get into airguns, and they used modern production methods to lower their costs. The Schimel pistol will serve for this discussion. Schimel made guns with zinc diecast parts - what we call potmetal today. They are complex shapes that are difficult to machine. When one fails, making a replacement isn't economically feasible.

A second problem zinc parts have is that they bond with other metals through electrolysis over time. So, there are Schimels that cannot be fully disassembled any longer. I've used Schimel as an illustration, but there are dozens of CO2 guns from this timeframe that are in the same boat.

The Schimel was made of cast zinc parts that lacked strength. Over the years, they've failed and/or welded to steel parts. Either way, the guns are next to impossible to repair if these parts are missing or broken.

Other guns of the 1950s are made of steel, such as Crosman's model 150 pistol and their 160 and 180 rifles. These will last as long as the Giffards. A day may come when 12-gram powerlets are no longer available, but any of these guns can easily be converted to use bulk gas.

More on this subject tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Antique Big Bore Airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

Here is a video you can't get from The History Channel.

When I was young, in the 1950s, the only airguns I knew about were Daisys, Crosmans, Benjamins and Sheridans. There were no airgun magazines at that time, and the gun magazines seldom ran an article about airguns that didn't have the phrase "For the kids" in the title. How was I to know there had been large caliber airguns for hundreds of years. That the Austrian army had acquired between 1,000 and 1,500 big bore repeating rifles, starting in 1780, and that people all around the world had hunted deer and boar with large caliber air rifles since before this nation was founded?

When Digest Books published the first Airgun Digest in 1976, my eyes were opened to a world of airguns I never knew existed. It wasn't until I started attending airgun shows 18 years later that I began to see these guns close up. Now you can have that same experience with a new video from Bigbore Video Productions.

Airgun collector Larry Hannush talks the viewer through 11 different rare big bore antiques. As he goes, he points out the features on each and tells the story of its creation. Larry knows these guns as well as anyone in the world, so you have a front-row seat with an expert.

The show starts with some smaller-caliber guns in the .31 to .34 caliber range. Were you aware that such small calibers were made? According to the narrator, these might have been good for taking rabbits and similar-sized game in their day. He first shows a curious 1780 ball-flask rifle by Joseph Blunt. The rifle is curious because it is a full flintlock that does not really function but disguises the nature of the rifle until the ball is screwed on.

There are several ball-flask rifles, including a couple disguised as flintlocks. Photo used with permission of Bigbore Video Productions, Inc.

Hannush discusses the working pressure these guns used and the possible number of effective shots each might give. When you realize that someone might have pumped a hand pump 500 times for five or six shots, you can appreciate how fantastic and far out these guns were in their day. Clearly, they were too much trouble to be considered normal hunting weapons, so history has relegated them as the toys of the rich.

He also shows you details, such as the firing valves of some of the guns and how the triggers work. This is information you cannot get in any book, only if you know someone like Hannusch can you ever see detail like this.

One special rifle he shows is a civilian copy of the Girandoni pattern of 1780 - the famous Austrian military repeating air rifle. This one holds 15 .424 lead balls, and Hannusch shows how fast it could be fired. His knowledge of the history of the Girandoni is encyclopedic, and you learn that this rifle was built around the military rifle's butt reservoir.

At the end of the film, you see an original cased butt-reservoir rifle with its original hand pump. Hannusch shows you each part in the case and explains what it does. He then assembles the hand pump and shows how the reservoir is attached.

Hannusch shows all the tools and how they work. Photo used with permission of Bigbore Video Productions, Inc.

He assembles the pump on camera, then shows how to fill the butt reservoir. Photo used with permission of Bigbore Video Productions, Inc.

After that, he actually shows how the hand pump is used to fill the reservoir. This is so rare that even the Smithsonian doesn't have anything equivalent. For an airgunner who wants to know about big bores from centuries past, I don't know of another film anywhere that will show what this one does.

Imagine that your best friend owns 11 vintage big bores and gives you a private tour. That's what you get on this video.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Remington Genesis: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Sorry, my friends, but the Beretta CX-4 Storm that I scheduled to blog today has been delayed. It will be a couple more weeks before I can get to it.

Today, I'll conclude the Remington Genesis report. I told you how well the Gamo Tomahawks shot compared to all others, and you'll remember that the RWS Supermags were okay, but not great.

Crosman Premier lites
The final pellet I tried was the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain, which shot 2" groups at 25 yards. It also loaded very loosely in the breech and would be the perfect example of a pellet that doesn't fit the bore very well. It also noticeably increased the amount of mainspring buzz.

If you own a Genesis, don't stop there. There are plenty of good pellets that I didn't try, and I think you should give them all a chance in your gun. I do believe that the heavier pellets will probably not shoot as well as the lighter ones, because that's how it usually goes in breakbarrels.

Trigger and powerplant
Back in parts one and two of this report, I said the powerplant and the trigger acted like they would probably smooth out over time and use, and that's exactly what they've done. The trigger is still single-stage and still drags and creeps, but it's lighter and smoother than it was in the beginning. In part two, I said I could feel the beginning of a first and second stage, but that hasn't materialized. After a few thousand shots, the trigger should be very smooth. The spring buzzes very little now compared to when the gun was new. I think this rifle might respond well to a tuneup. All detonation (which I called dieseling in parts one and two) has ceased.

The Bug Buster 2 was just the right scope for this airgun. It mounted easily and was all the magnification I needed to get the job done.

The Bug Buster 2 was good on the Genesis. It fit well and went on quickly. The power was sufficient to give the accuracy shown in Part 3 of this report. Notice the flat portion of the stock just forward of the triggerguard. That's where the rifle sat on the gel pad.

Best pellet
I was most impressed by the performance of the Gamo Tomahawk pellet in this rifle. It saved the day like the cavalry! That will lead me to do a special test of the Tomahawk at some time in the future. With 750 pellets in the tin for as little as they charge, this pellet is one heck of a good deal!

The Tomahawk is a hollowpoint with a raised cone in the center. I don't know how well it expands, but it certainly made the Genesis a shooter!

The velocity has dropped and gotten more uniform now that the rifle is no longer detonating. I had gotten 785 to 811 fps with Heavy JSB Exacts in part two last year, and now the gun gets 734-747. RWS Hobbys go 887 to 901. Gamo Tomahawks go anywhere from 838 to 865, so their accuracy should decline at longer ranges.

Gel pad and stock shape
The Gel Shooting Support was another lifesaver for this rifle. Who would have thought that such a small thing would have such a dramatic impact on group size? The Genesis stock is perfectly shaped for the gel pad, too. It has a wide flat spot on the bottom, just ahead of the triggerguard. That's how field target rifles are shaped. While the Genesis will never be a field target rifle, the shape makes it easier to rest the rifle almost anywhere.

I think the reason the gel pad works so well is that it gets your other hand off the rifle. The Genesis is very hard to hold softly because the thumbhole stock design invites squeezing. Using the gel pad isolates the gun from your body to make a noticeable difference downrange.

Bottom line
The Genesis is in a price range with some tough competition - the toughest of which is the Gamo Shadow 1000 which is $20 cheaper. The Shadow can do anything the Genesis can do, but it doesn't have the nice grippy synthetic stock. So, buyers have to choose.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Remington Genesis: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Well, Part 2 of the Remington Genesis report was completed on June 19, 2006, so this report has been some time in coming. I'd like to tell you I have been diligently shooting the gun all that time, but the truth is - I completely forgot about it! Several readers reminded me during that time, but it didn't sink in until a couple of weeks ago.

Clean the barrel
I read both earlier posts to see what I'd done already, and it turned out I hadn't cleaned the barrel yet, so that was the first order of business. I was surprised by how light the cocking effort is and how smooth the rifle cocks now that it's broken in. Remember that I complained about spring noise when cocking back when the gun was new? Well, it's all gone now, and the rifle cocks very smoothly.

The barrel on this rifle was the easiest I've ever cleaned, which stood in sharp contrast to the Mendoza RM 2000 I recently cleaned. By stroke five, the brush was going back and forth with a light push, and by the end there was hardly any resistance at all. I could feel the rifling by holding the Dewey rod by the shank instead of the swivel handle. The lands bumped as the bristles bounced over them.

Change the scope
I changed the scope, just in case that was the problem that kept the rifle from grouping last year. This time, I went with a Leapers Bug Buster 2, which has less power than the variable scope that comes with the Genesis. Instead of using the scope-stop hole on top of the receiver, I just butted the back of the rear scope ring against the plastic end cap of the rifle. It seemed to work fine and the scope didn't move.

The wind was brisk, so I held the distance to just 25 yards

Find new pellets
In the last report I eliminated JSB Exact heavies and Crosman Premier heavies as possible pellets, so I looked at all new pellets for this time. On the advice of one of our readers, the first pellet I tried was the Eun Jin 16.1-grain extra heavy pellet. It grouped in 2.5" and was a total bust. After that, I tried Beeman Kodiaks and got pretty much the same large dispersion.

Logun Penetrators tightened things up to 1.5", but at 25 yards that's still not very good. Then, I tried some Gamo Tomahawks on the recommendation of another reader. Lo and behold, they turned out to be good pellets for this rifle! They were landing in the same holes or close to them, shot after shot. But the group size for five shots was still about 1". While that's okay, it's not great for 25 yards. But, it gave me a thought.

I pulled the Gel Shooting Support pad out of my range bag and put it on top of the sandbag in place of my left hand. The Genesis stock has a flat spot just forward of the triggerguard, and balancing that on the gel bag produced the perfect hold. The groups shrank to LESS than a half-inch! Now we're cookin'!

Gamo Tomahawk pellets made some impressive groups! This one measures 0.43".

The next pellet I tried was the RWS Supermag. While four pellets grouped in a neat half-inch in the best group fired, the last one opened the group to 0.906. It was always that way, too. They seemed to want to group, only to mess up with one pellet.

RWS Supermags wanted to be good, but there was always a stray pellet.

I'll finish this report on Tuesday, because on Monday I hope to start the CX-4 test (if the gun arrives, that is).

Thursday, June 07, 2007

B.B. gets disappointed!

by B.B. Pelletier

This is a story about a firearm I recently bought, and I want to use it to explain my motivation when I test airguns for you. I hope you will look past the firearm aspect of the story and try to put yourself in my shoes, because that is what I am trying to do for you. The point of this story is that I understand what it's like to buy something expensive without knowing what you will really be getting.

Taurus PT1911 is loaded with features that would cost thousands if they had to be added. On the surface, it looks like a great handgun!

The gun is a Taurus PT1911 .45 automatic. I have been wanting a .45 ACP for several years, and I shopped hard for the last two years to find exactly what I wanted. The gun is to be used primarily for defense, though it will also be called on to plink, hunt and generally accompany me when I go into the field.

The number one criterion is reliability. Semiautomatic pistols are not known to be 100 percent reliable, so a buyer has to decide how much less than perfect he's willing to accept. I have owned 5 Colt M1911s and A1s over the years, so I had a good idea of what was possible. I hoped for no more than three failures per thousand rounds, and hopefully less than one. With my Colts, that would not have been unreasonable.

I am aware that revolvers are more reliable than semiautomatic pistols, and I do own several of them, but all in .357 Magnum caliber. While that's a good caliber, it doesn't have the defense performance I'm looking for, plus revolvers generally hold fewer rounds than semiautomatic pistols of the same size.

The choices were many
Like many of you who are overwhelmed by the choices in airguns, I found that the firearm marketplace is bursting at the seams with 1911 pistols. And many of them have good reputations.

The S&W 945 is a wonderful gun. I have fired it and found it to be accurate, nice handling and it has a wonderful trigger. It was hard to pass it by. The price is high, but the gun seems worth every penny.

Kimber is the top name in production 1911s today. That makes them a sort of Weihrauch for 1911 pistols. I seriously looked at them for a year, but they turned me off with a few marketing practices. First, there are no reliable Kimber dealers in my area. The few guns that dealers do carry are not the models I would choose, and they are often priced several hundred dollars above Kimber's suggested retail price. I got fed up with that practice back in the '70s when the same thing happened to the S&W model 29 revolver. And, finally, when I tested Kimber triggers at the SHOT Show last year, they all felt creepy. That stopped me cold.

Why not buy from the original maker? I would, if Colt were the same company they were in 1950, but they aren't. They've been run into the ground by mismanagement, in and out of bankruptcy over the past decade and they were among the first to buckle to anti-gun interests - to the point of inventing features for their guns just to appease the anti-gun press, even though nobody had asked for them. They still make a good 1911, but the overhead burden of mismanagment has driven the price through the roof. Too many drawbacks for me.

Philippine .45s
There has been a rush to the Philippines to produce 1911s under American-sounding names - not unlike Winchester having their air rifles made by Hatsan of Turkey. Rock Island Armory is typical of the breed. They make good bread-and-butter pistols that others can gunsmith into great guns. But I wanted something off the shelf that they didn't offer. Most off-the-shelf upgraded pistols based on Philippine frames are set up for mall ninjas. I wanted a real defensive firearm.

Custom makers
There are dozens of these, coming and going all the time. A few are rock-solid and are the foundation of most of the good things that have happened to 1911s since 1970. Others are just hobbyists who turn out product that is less trustworthy - not unlike some airgunsmiths.

One custom maker who I did consider is Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat. His guns are the stuff of legends - quite similar to John Whiscombe in airguns. And his prices are similar to Whiscombe's as well! The price was the thing that threw me, because a Wilson CQB had all the features I wanted.

Which brings me to Taurus. If Kimber is the Weirauch of 1911s, Taurus is the Gamo. They have a spotty reputation that includes huge successes (the Raging Bull revolver) and dismal failures. Unfortunately, the failures are all on the semiautomatic pistol side. But advertising for the PT1911 showed all the features of the Wilson pistol I wanted at one-quarter the cost. Their full-page ad in American Rifleman (about $50,000 per insertion) shows the value of all the features they put into the pistol totaling $2,100, but retailing as a package for just $600. And I had tried their triggers at the SHOT Show and found them to be okay. So I bought one.

Now, as an owner, I'm an expert on why you don't want this gun. In the first 84 rounds, there were 8 failures to feed - exactly the complaint that's been leveled at this model, which I discovered after the fact. You can find heated arguments all over the internet about whether or not there is any substance to the claim that PT1911's have feeding problems, but I have lived it. This happened in both factory magazines with two different Remington factory loads, one of which was the time-honored 230-grain hardball GI load that chambers like quicksilver in most 1911s, so no alibi there. ANY failure to feed is the kiss of death for a defense gun. Ten percent makes me sick! Yes, I could try different kinds of ammo and hopefully one or two will be flawless, but my confidence is now shaken.

Taurus did this 8 times in 84 shots. In defensive situations you can't get the mutts to wait while you clear a jam. You need firepower - not excuses.

I like most of the gun's other features. I will even tolerate the Colt Series 80 "trigger safety" trigger that is unnecessary and makes for a creepy pull in the target mode (when the trigger is squeezed slowly). It adds one more safety to what is already recognized as the safest semiautomatic pistol in the world, and no custom tuner works with it. I hate the Colt-inspired hammer lock, but I don't have to use it so it's not a problem. I wanted so much to love this pistol, but poor reliability is the worst sin a defense gun can commit. I'm not sure I can forgive it.

Making lemonade
Taurus has a lifetime repair warranty that I intend exercising just as soon as I can. Like Gamo, they talk a good talk. I'm going to find out if the walk is there, as well. But either way, I'm going to write about this handgun for the rest of my life. Taurus is proud to tell all comers that each PT1911 is hand-fitted before leaving the factory, so I want to know why one of the two 8-round mags they sent will only hold seven rounds! How come I can gunsmith a real Colt 1911 and get it to work all the time, but Taurus can't? Perhaps they can fix the problems, but even if they do it will still be a long time before I can ever trust this handgun for defense work.

Where YOU come in!
I think about stuff like this when I test airguns for you, which is the point I'm making today. There is a lot of pressure - not from Pyramyd Air, but from some of you readers, for me to rate a certain airgun better than it really is. I suppose it comes from people who got stung and want me to convince them their gun isn't as bad as they know it is. If B.B. says it's good, then it must be! Well B.B. isn't going to lie for anyone. I have to worry about some crappola gun landing in my lap, just like you. And, like you, I cannot afford to spend my money testing everything on the market. This experience has renewed my perspective about the dangers of trusting advertising and why I have to tell the truth when I test airguns for you!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pellets' fit in the bore: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Well, well! There's lots of interest in this subject, and some of you have already made some observations of your own. Apparently, many people know that all pellets and bullets leak gas/air.

We left off with a discussion about thin-skirted pellets made from soft lead (which I often refer to as pure lead). Let's shift to pellets with thicker skirts, and pellets made of hard lead. All Crosman pellets spring to mind when I mention hard lead. The Crosman Premier domed pellet in the cardboard box is still one of the best pellets on the market - BUT ONLY WHEN IT FITS THE BORE WELL. In the case of the Mendoza RM 2000, it is too loose at the breech, and the air is not sufficient to deform that hard lead skirt. For that rifle, the Premier is not the pellet to choose. That's why I went with the Eley Wasp. That's also the reason I used the Beeman give you a pellet you can buy.

Crosman Premier skirt wall is thicker than the RWS Superpoint, plus it's made of harder lead.

Kodiaks are fatter pellets, and they also have thicker skirts. So they fit well in larger bores, and they don't deform easily. Premiers don't deform easily either, but they are smaller, so you need to check the fit in the bore.

Not only is the Kodiak skirt thick at the end, it tapers to much thicker very quickly.

This is one reason why I don't like repeating airguns. Guns with clips that have chambers smaller than the bore of the rifle allow the pellet to expand to that smaller size, then they enter the larger bore and rattle all the way through. If the clips have chambers larger than the bore, this isn't a problem. There are things the manufacturers can do to correct this, with a choked barrel being one of the best. If they don't do something, the rifle can never be accurate.

While this sounds like a terrible problem, most airguns don't have it, so perhaps it's more theoretical than real. I just like to load the pellet directly into the breech myself.

Why solid "pellets" cannot work in today's airguns
A solid pellet must be exactly the diameter of the grooves to seal as much of the gases as possible, because pellets do not obturate. Big word, there. Obturate. It means to stop up or to close. In vintage blackpowder arms, lead bullets expand at their base when smacked by the force of the black powder exploding, and they obturate the bore when they do. In modern guns, smokeless gunpowder doesn't burn fast enough to obturate a lead bullet as well as black powder, so the bullets must seal the bore with the diameter of their bodies. Airguns do not obturate bullets or solid pellets at all.

Because pellets do not obturate, the hole at the base of this piledriver pellet cannot cause the thick skirt to expand. This pellet must either fit the bore exactly or your thumb becomes a short starter! They are next to impossible to load in most breechloading air rifles.

The makers of solid pellets have to make their pellets to a certain diameter, then hope that the barrels they will be used in will have groove diameters close to the same size. They rarely do! Even different barrels of the same caliber from the same premium maker, such as Lothar Walther, will vary by several ten-thousandths of an inch in groove diameter, because the tolerance depends on the spring rate (rebound rate) of the steel in the barrels and the speed at which the rifling button is pulled or pushed through. Therefore, it's virtually impossible for a solid pellet to fit the barrel of a gun, except by chance. When it doesn't fit exactly, it becomes very hard to force through!

Shooters who shoot muzzleloaders use a wooden dowel, called a short starter, to hammer the bullet through the rifling and bore for the first few inches. This is best done with a single smack of the hand, but anyone who has shot muzzleloaders very long will tell you it doesn't always work the way it is supposed to.

Well, when you try to load a solid pellet into the bore of an air rifle, your thumb has to be the short starter. After five pellets, you give up because of a painful thumb - that is, if you make it that far! If you own a rifle with a cylinder like an AR6, you just drop the solid pellets into the chambers of the cylinder, assuming they fit, and you're done! The rifle's air will do the work of sizing the pellet and engraving the rifling for you.

What about diabolo pellets that don't seat in the barrel?
Your problem here is similar to the one of using a solid pellet. Some diabolos, such as Eun Jins, are very fat and don't fit well into the bore of the gun. But look what kind of airguns they were designed for - the Korean guns! And most of them either have a cylinder or a linear magazine. The shooter never tries to force the pellet into the barrel. When you try to use them in an RWS Diana 34 Panther, they surprise you by being difficult to chamber. That makes them the wrong pellets for that rifle, in my book.

What about other pellets that do go in the barrel but their skirts stick out? If the gun is a breakbarrel or any sort of spring gun, I just shoot them anyway. However, if you open the barrel after closing it, you'll often see that the pellet skirt has been smashed on one side. Don't expect good accuracy from that pellet.

If your rifle is an AirForce gun, you run the risk of jamming the valve open and exhausting all the air in the tank! AirForce guns must have their pellets seated at least flush with the breech to function properly. Otherwise, they can mash a skirt to one side over the breech, locking it in place and causing a stoppage in the breech that holds the firing valve open. The .22 Condor is powerful enough to overcome this, but the .177 Condor is known for it. So, seat those pellets deep!

Does oiling pellets help seal them?
Let's be clear - I'm not sure we need to seal pellets any better than they are sealed through normal handling. That said, would oiling them help? I don't know, but I think not. I think the air passageways around the pellet are so large the oil will be blown off by the force of the air. Also, every time I have compared oiled pellets to dry, the oiled ones were slightly slower. But, again, I don't know.

What should you look for?
This is not an exercise where micrometers are needed. Accuracy is the best way of knowing if a pellet fits well in the bore of a gun. Also, pay attention to how the gun behaves - especially if it's a springer. Springers are temperamental about the pellets they prefer and will tell you with excess vibration, recoil and detonations when things aren't right. Pay attention to how the pellet fits in the breech. These are the things that pay off downrange.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pellets' fit in the bore: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

An anonymous reader asked how to determine if a pellet fits well in the bore of an air rifle, and also if there's a lot of air blowby. Today, I'll discuss this and also, for those who can watch videos, I'll point you to a very revealing website where you can watch high-speed photography of what I am talking about.

Do you think that a pellet seals the bore so no air gets past? It sounds nice, but it doesn't happen. Air does get past (blow by) all pellets when they are fired. The best situation is for the least amount of air to get past, and several things contribute to that. They are pellet skirt diameter, skirt wall thickness and the hardness of the lead. We will look at each in turn.

Pellet diameter
You might think that if a pellet is larger than the diameter of the bore, no air could get past it. But some always does! I reckon it blows past at the instant the gun is fired. In the time it takes for the pellet to go from stationary to moving, air is rushing past - going through any available passage. But if the pellet is larger than the bore, what passages can there be? Well, for starters, the rifling distorts the pellet in many places, creating small openings. Air can rush through those tiny openings that form at the junction between the smooth part of the bore and the point where each land starts to rise.

Where the lead is forced to conform to the rifling lands, tiny openings form at the junctures where the lands start rising. This drawing isn't to scale, but air doesn't need much of an opening to escape.

Lead is the most malleable and affordable material from which to make pellets, so even though these small imperfections occur, there really isn't anything better at doing what lead does.

Here's the proof
For those with computers that can run videos, the proof of this is shown here. At the top of the page choose English. Then choose examples. On the left side of the page, choose videos. On the page this takes you to, click on the third video from the top, which is a .45 ACP exiting the muzzle at 70,000 frames per second. When you select that video, it will download to your desktop as a zip file that you must then click on to unzip and see. (A lot of work to see a video!) The unzipped file size is just 3.5 MB, so the download is quick if your internet service is broadband. My thanks to the anonymous reader who gave me this link.

For the rest of you, here is what they'll see. When the .45 automatic fires, the first thing that exits the muzzle is gas from the burning powder. Then the bullet comes out, followed by a denser cloud of gas. This is dramatic proof that gas does blow by, even when the bullet fits the bore exactly.

Skirt thickness and hardness of lead
Thin pellet skirts tend to be blown out into the walls of the bore by the sudden blast of air. This is not significant in PCPs, but it is in spring-piston guns, where the air blast is both sudden and violent. PCPs use more air than springers, but they release it over a longer time, so the push is more gradual.

Thin-skirted pellets that are also made from soft lead deform the most. When I shoot the Hakim .22, which is a taploader, I always use RWS Superpoints, which have the thinnest, softest skits I have found in a premium pellet. Even though the Hakim isn't powerful, it seems to blow out the skirt of the Superpoint to fill the loading tap, and I get more energy with them than a lot of other pellets.

RWS Superpoint has a thin, soft, lead skirt that lends itself to distortion.

Tomorrow, I'll finish this discussion, unless your comments give me more to consider.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Mendoza RM 2000: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I'm sorry this final report took so long, but the weather just didn't cooperate. Even today when I did get out, the wind was gusting 10-20 mph. But at least the day was dry and sunny.

Everything is getting smoother
The gross detonation stopped after about 250 rounds. I have grown fond of the strange two-bladed trigger and now look forward to the engagement of the second stage. I haven't adequately described how different this trigger feels, but it is one of the best features of these Mendoza breakbarrels.

Gel pad didn't work!
I tried the Pyramyd Gel Shooting Support at first, hoping to continue the great success I had while using it with the Hammerli Storm Elite. Unfortunately, it didn't. The rifle would group two pellets together, then flip the next two an inch away at 25 yards. Even given the wind speed, that was too much of a spread. It seemed like it was being caused by a bad hold. So, I removed the pad and used the open palm of my off hand, and the rifle began to shoot!

Which pellets?
As I reported earlier, this rifle likes a heavier, fatter pellet. The 14.3-grain Crosman Premier that works so well in many air rifles (and feeds through the magazine of this one) just isn't suited to the RM 2000. It's too narrow for the bore, and I was loading all pellets into the barrel myself. With the scope mounted, the magazine was just too difficult to use. It's much better with the fine open rear sight Mendoza provides, though I cannot get the same level of accuracy when using it as I can with a scope. By the way, I will be discussing pellet fit in airguns tomorrow.

Eley Wasp
I then tried Eley Wasps, which are the fattest lead pellet I know. Instead of 5.5mm they are 5.6! Shooting from the gel pad, they jumped around like the others; but when I put the stock on my palm, just in front of the triggerguard, the groups tightened to what I wanted! Even better, perhaps!

Eley Wasps are a good general-purpose fatter pellet.

Obviously, Wasps are not premium pellets, but their larger size makes up for their crude appearance.

Five Wasps at 25 yards. The larger hole in the center passed three pellets.

They worked remarkably well. I know things would have been even better if the pellets didn't have to fight the wind gusts. Pyramyd Air doesn't sell Eley Wasps at present because the North American Eley distributor refuses to bring them in. That's really too bad, because other airguns also like Wasps, like older BSA rifles and all older Webley rifles and pistols.

Beeman Kodiak
But that doesn't solve your problem. You need a viable pellet for the RM 2000 that you can also buy. Well, I may have found it. The Beeman Kodiak, which is also the H&N Baracuda, seems to be nearly as good as Wasps. The groups they produce are only a trifle larger than those made by the Wasps, though they do move the point of impact about three inches lower.

Beeman Kodiaks were almost as good as Wasps.

I didn't try to shoot Kodiaks off the gel pad - only the flat of my hand. The difference in velocity that was reported in Part 2 was evident by how much longer they took to get to the target. The adverse wind may have had more of an influence on them on this particular day, because the Wasps arrived on target much quicker.

The bottom line
The Mendoza RM 200 I tested earlier is a no-brainer. At its low retail price and high quality, there is no other .22 caliber rifle that can match it. The RM 2000 is a different story. It has fine features that no other air rifle (other than Mendoza) has, like the two-bladed trigger, the piston seal oil port, the fine rear sight and the repeating magazine. Added to that are a metal finish that Weihrauch would be proud of. But at the price it retails, there are several other good guns to consider, making the choice more difficult.

The RM 2000 needs lots of shooting technique, like most breakbarrels. Handle it right, and you're rewarded with fine accuracy and reasonable power. You must decide for yourself if the unusual features tip the scale in favor of Mendoza.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Airgun test and measurement equipment

by B.B. Pelletier

From the questions that have come in over the past six months, I believe many of you would like to start evaluating your airguns on a more precise basis, so today I'm going to look at some of the tools and test equipment I use to evaluate airguns.

Say the word airgun, and a chronograph is the first thing that leaps to many shooters' minds. I have even read reader comments that suggest they like or dislike their airguns on the basis of what the chronograph tells them. But I don't need to get into them here. I have written plenty of posts that deal with chronographs.

Here's a good one for you:

Shooting with the Alpha Chrony

Tom Gaylord also wrote an article with a short video about the chronograph:

Who needs a chronograph?

The easiest way to measure the size of a shot group is with a dial caliper. Your measurement will seldom be exact, but the margin of error is so small that it's insignificant. To measure a group, put the jaws of the caliper on the edge of the group at its widest point. This is where the inaccuracy comes in, because with many pellets it's very difficult to determine exactly where the edge of the group really is. Take the measurement across the widest point and subtract one pellet's diameter to find the width between the centers of the two pellets farthest apart. Sears sells calipers, and you can find them anywhere tools are sold. Pay around $20 for one made of stainless steel.

A cheap dial caliper like this makes the job of measuring group size a snap. Of course, it has hundreds of other uses.

I have a loupe and a handheld magnifying glass, plus I have a magnifying hood I often wear. Seeing things larger than life enables you to make judgements about such things as the condition of an O-ring, the sharpness of a muzzle crown, whether a discoloration is really a blemish or the start of rust and whether a solder joint is just scratched or cracked. I see them new in big electronics stores. Prices vary based on what you buy.

You can't work on what you can't see. Magnifiers are essential to the hobby airgunsmith and even to the general shooter.

Bathroom scale
Only the spring-operated scales work for this. Those with pressure sensors or balance beams don't work as well. Use the scale to measure cocking effort by breaking the barrel past the detent, placing the muzzle of a gun in the center of the scale and pressing down on the butt of the gun until it cocks. To test sidelevers and underlevers, put the scale on a table so you can elevate the gun. Place the lever just like you would place the muzzle of the gun. This is a good garage sale item that should cost $1-3.

Alternative to the bathroom scale
I used to have a large barn, so I envy everyone who owns one today. One neat thing about a barn are the interior beams that things can be suspended from - including spring scales. Spring scales that go up to 50 pounds are ideal for measuring cocking force. They have a million other uses, but the one I remember was weighing hay bales to find out how dry they were. Find them at antique shops and farm sales and pay around $25-40 for a good one.

Trigger-pull scale
Twelve years ago, I bought one of these things because, if I was going to write about guns and airguns, I needed a way to measure trigger-pull. You can also use the one I have as a small spring scale for weighing things like air pistols. The electronic gauges are easier to use, but I guess I'll just keep right on using my mechanical gauge. You'll pay less than $30 for one like mine at Midway USA. They are essential when setting up a competition gun for a competition where the trigger-pull is mandated.

Trigger-pull gauge is one of the few purpose-built test items you need. It can also be used to weigh light things.

Balance beam scale
As rudely honest as these things are when it comes to weighing yourself, they are also absolutely true when it comes to the weight of an airgun. They are poor for measuring dynamic forces like cocking effort, but stellar for determining the total weight of something. These are pricey, selling used for $100 or so.

Postal scale
These are great for weighing smaller things like scopes, mounts, etc. They can handle more weight than a powder scale and are accurate enough for most work. Pay around $20 in an office equipment store.

Powder scale
These are very useful for weighing very small things like pellets and bullets. The electronic ones cost around $100. The mechanical ones go for $30-40.

Any of these things can be found on eBay for a lot less than I have quoted. If you look around your house, you probably already own several of them. You don't need everything at once, but the most helpful ones are the dial calipers and the magnifiers.