Monday, December 31, 2007

Webley Patriot/Beeman Kodiak with a gas spring! - Part 2
Oh my gosh!

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before we begin, here's a new video test by Paul Capello, of the RWS Diana 460 Magnum.

Today, I'll report on the accuracy of the gas spring-converted Webley Patriot, and, oh my gosh! I don't get a gun that shoots this naturally very often. When it happens, it's quite a treat. Before you run to the forums and claim that I said the .25 caliber Patriot is a tack-driver, stop and read the entire report!

I usually sight-in starting at 10 feet, so the size of the group doesn't matter or even count. BUT, seldom do I put two pellets through the same hole and not see where the second pellet went! I'll accept that as a good sign of things to come. The pellet I used was a Beeman Kodiak, of course. Other pellets simply don't do well in a Patriot or a Kodiak, but the 31-grain Beeman Kodiak performs like it was made for the gun, which, of course, it wasn't, but could have been. (It was made for the Weihrauch EL54, an ether-injected rifle.)

A Leapers 3-9x50 scope with a red/green illuminated reticle was mounted on the rifle. This particular scope has a fine reticle with tiny mil-dots, so it's easy to aim with precision. I mounted it in a B-Square AA adjustable one-piece mount that remained rock-steady throughout my velocity testing back on Dec. 19 and again in yesterday's accuracy tests. I've installed the ultra-high riser kit on mine, so scope clearance is never a problem. Mounted correctly, this solves all your scope misalignment problems. The only reason my groups are not centered on the bull is that I didn't take the time to adjust the scope or mounts. After a quick sight-in, I went to town.

Firing behavior
I'd forgotten what a pleasure this Patriot is to shoot. Gone is the heavy recoil and stunning vibration. Just a solid "thunk" and a forward jump. You'd swear you were shooting a rifle with 20 foot-pounds instead of almost 30! The trigger had one spot of creep but was crisp after that.

Good groups from the start
I used the new artillery hold with the rifle balanced on the back of my fingers. The first group had an inch of vertical stringing, so I slid the rifle forward until I was touching the triggerguard. The rifle was very muzzle-heavy at this point, but the pellets started sailing into the same hole, shot-after-shot. From then on, I knew exactly what the rifle was doing.

An unintentional group of 6 or 7 Beeman Kodiaks at 21 yards clustered into this group measuring 0.349" c-t-c.

The first good group, which wasn't supposed to even be a group, was the best of all. I shot six or seven times into the same two holes, not caring to stop until I realized what I was doing.

Then, I shifted to other bulls and began lobbing the Kodiaks in. I couldn't miss! The technique was easy to repeat and the rifle shot like a champion. That said, a .25 caliber air rifle cannot compete with .177s, .20s and .22s. The pellets are just not up to it. But, when you smack a larger animal with a quarter-inch pellet, he knows it and he stays smacked! No acupuncture here! The .25 is for hunters, and this gas-spring Patriot is a good one to have!

This group of five Kodiaks looks more like the average group at 21 yards. It measures 0.592" c-t-c, with four pellets going into a hole measuring 0.372".

Other pellets
I tried both Diana Magnums and Beeman Ram Jets, but neither was anywhere near as accurate as the Kodiaks. I wouldn't waste my time with them if this is your only .25-caliber rifle. I've pleaded with Crosman for the past eight years to make a .25 Premier, but no luck. Until a top maker like JSB decides to make a better pellet, the Beeman Kodiak made by H&N is the best game in town, in my experience.

How good is the Turkish Patriot?
I failed to mention in the first report that the converted rifle was made in Turkey. I see on the forums that there are some discussion about whether or not these rifles are as good as the British-made Patriots. I've tested both, and the Turkish rifles are NOT made as well as the British-made Patriots. They're made BETTER! The internal dimensions (where it counts) are held to tighter tolerances inside the powerplant. That said, I can't see any difference in accuracy between a British-made Patriot and a Turkish-made Patriot. The British rifles had a better polish on the exterior metal, plus the scope-arresting cross grooves were cut deeper. That's about the extent of the differences.

Bottom line?
If you fancy a Patriot, get one with a gas spring. If you already own one, have it converted. It makes all the difference in the world.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cleanup day:
Silver Eagle pellets for speed, gas springs for lots of guns & the new P38 airsoft gun

by B.B. Pelletier

I had planned to share the accuracy test for the pump-assist Benjamin 392 today, but it's been postponed for a while. The design is being tweaked with a few improvements, and Pyramyd Air has deactivated the product for the time being. When it's available again, I'll announce it and test it with the new intermount.

Since I had some time on my hands, I thought I'd use it to clean up a little business. Buddy wanted me to try the Benjamin Super Streak with Crosman Silver Eagle lead-free pellets. He says he's gotten over 1,500 f.p.s. from his Gamo Hunter Extreme, and he wanted to know what the Super Streak might do with them.

You may remember that 5-grain Gamo Raptors averaged 1319 f.p.s. when I tested this rifle. With Silver Eagle wadcutters that weigh 5.2 grains, the velocity averages 1340 f.p.s., with a high of 1,367 and a low of 1310. That's too broad a spread to expect good accuracy at long range, but under 30 yards they should be fine.

The lighter 4.8-grain Silver Eagle hollowpoints averaged 1411 f.p.s. with a spread from 1310 to 1454. I can see where Benjamin's claim of 1500 f.p.s. comes from now. Of course, a 144 f.p.s. extreme spread is too vast to expect accuracy, though the majority of the shots were above 1400 f.p.s. Maybe with careful sorting by weight the rifle would shoot them well. Anyway, Buddy, now you know.

And we now know that Crosman has the fastest metal pellets on the market. They boosted the velocity of the Super Streak by 90 f.p.s., so if it's braggin' rights you're looking for, here they are.

Next subject - gas springs
You've followed my reports about the gas springs and now many of you want them for your own rifles. Here is a list of air rifles that will accept the gas spring that fits the Gamo Whisper:

Big Cat
Carbine Sport
Hunter 440
Hunter 890
Hunter Elite
Hunter Extreme
Hunter Pro
Hunter Sport
Shadow (all)
Varmint Hunter
Viper Express
Nitro 17
Delta (may fit with adjustments)

Quest 1000
Quest 800 (may also fit with some adjustments)

Legacy 1000

Additionally, there's another gas spring for:

Patriot (Beeman Kodiak)

Lastly...a new airsoft gun
Airsoft enthusiasts have learned to be patient on this blog, because I don't devote a lot of time to them. But now I have something new to announce. The Walther P38 green gas pistol will be here in January, and I have an advance copy to test for you. I'll try to get to it next week. I used to own a 9mm P38, and this new pistol looks to be made better than that one, though anyone who has ever owned a sheetmetal wartime P38 can tell you that's not hard to do.

Walther P38 airsoft pistol operates on green gas and looks well built.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What did YOU get?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I'll depart from the normal focus, taking some time to reflect on the presents I got for Christmas. As I mentioned yesterday, though not everyone celebrates Christmas, most people do buy something major for themselves at this time of year. If it wasn't for Christmas, it may be using that tax refund that will be coming in another month. One way or another, this is the hottest buying time of the entire year.

It's better to give...
I often get an airgun for Christmas, but this year I gave one as a present, too. My brother-in-law and his wife came up to celebrate with my wife and me and my sister. I'd given him a Hakim rifle many years ago. This year, I gave him one of the Predom Lucznik pistols that copy the Walther LP53. In fact, the gun I gave him was the very gun I used to write the blog post.

Predom Lucznik spring pistol is a copy of the Walther LP53 that has more power and good accuracy.

I showed him how it works and how to maintain it with oil. I gave him a tin of Gamo Match pellets to go with it, because when I tested it, I found them to be ideal. We didn't shoot much on Christmas Eve when I gave him the gun, but after he returned home he phoned to say he had taken it outside and was doing a number on a box in his yard. He adjusted the sights and had the gun shooting well by Christmas morning. He took it over to the grandkids on Christmas day so they could see the neat gun grandpa got.

Picture perfect - what every gun writer needs
I received a new digital camera that also takes videos. I have a great camera that does all that already, but it's so large that I often don't take it with me when I go to the range. When I find the perfect picture, there's no way to capture it. Or, I see something cool that would make a great video segment, but again, no camera to capture it.

Small digital camera will be easier to carry to the field. Shown about actual size.

My new camera is a Fuji Finepix Z with 7.2 megapixel images. I've used 3.2 megapixel images for newsstand magazine pictures, but this is more than twice the final image area and close to what I'm currently doing with my large camera. It's smaller than a pack of cigarettes, so I'll be far more likely to have it when I need it. My other camera is also a Fuji, so the controls and software are similar. Even the download software is the same, so there was nothing to do but connect the camera to my computer and go to work.

Wilson CQB
My other big gift was truly major - a Wilson Combat CQB with light rail. A 1911 pistol that's entirely hand-fitted with all forged steel and tool steel parts. No MIM parts (metal-injection molded), no castings - nothing you have to wonder about. Many of you have followed my saga of getting familiar with the Taurus PT1911, so this new pistol, which is perfect in all respects, represents the "after" to that "before" gun. The Wilson is the most trusted 1911 on the market. You can pay more, but they don't come any more reliable and rugged. It comes with a "1-inch at 25 yards" guarantee!

Wilson CQB 1911 raises the bar for my pistol collection. The Taurus now has big shoes to fill.

This gun will do many things. After I verify that it's as reliable as the ads and articles say, it becomes home defense gun No. 1 - displacing my Makarov. I will find a good tactical flashlight/laser combo to mount on the light rail for those chance nighttime encounters. It came with tritium night sights, but a laser dot on the chest is supposed to be a good persuader.

The CQB will also serve as the standard I will strive for in gunsmithing the Taurus. The feel of the gun cocking is incredible, plus the trigger is the proverbial glass rod, so the Taurus has a long way to go. I will not give up on the Brazilian gun until it fulfills it's promises, so the CQB will be a great go-to gun in the interim.

Those were my big gifts, now tell me about yours.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Pump-Assist Benjamin 392 - Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The new pump-assist Benjamin 392/397 with Air Venturi intermount attached is revised and more powerful.

Pyramyd Air is now stocking the pump-assist modified Benjamin 392 and 397 rifles. It complements their new Air Venturi intermount perfectly, by making it easy (for the first time) to pump the rifle with a scope mounted on it. So, I'm returning to this modification for more testing and this time I'll have a scope! Before we get to that, I want to give you some news about the gun, itself.

When I say the gun, I'm referring to both calibers .177 and .22, which are the 397 and 392 models, respectively. Other than the calibers, the guns are identical in all ways.

Testing the new unmodified guns
Bob Moss, the inventor who designed and builds the pump-assist modification, has done some additional testing and improved several features of the gun. For starters, he's boosted the velocity. He purchased 10 new guns and measured the average velocity for both .177s and .22s. The .177s averaged 719 f.p.s. with Crosman 7.9-grain Premier pellets, and the .22s averaged 605 f.p.s. with 14.3-grain Premiers. That was for the recommended 8 pumps maximum for both guns, and it's the average of four 397s and six 392s.

More power!
Moss then set about to increase the power in his modified rifles, one of which he kindly supplied to me for testing. On 8 pumps, the modified 392 averages 613 f.p.s. with Crosman Premiers. You may recall that the first rifle I tested averaged 589 f.p.s. with the same .22 caliber Premiers, so the power has definitely been increased. Moss says all guns will go out at this new power level.

Even more power!
As with the initial test, I pumped this test rifle more times than the factory-recommended 8, just to see what would happen. Neither Moss nor Pyramyd Air recommend doing this with your own rifle as it can stress the pump mechanism beyond its design limits. With 9 pumps, the gun averages 632 f.p.s. with Premiers, and no air remains after firing. With 10 pumps, the average climbs to 651 f.p.s., and, once again, no air remains after firing. On 11 pumps, the average velocity for Premiers is 667 f.p.s., but the spread from highest to lowest velocity opens up beyond 10 f.p.s. and there is air remaining in the gun after the shot. So, 11 pumps are clearly too many for the valve in the test gun. Again, I don't recommend pumping more than 8 times, but I did it to illustrate how the gun works.

A LOT easier!
Remember in the earlier reports I revised my pump efforts for the standard rifle downward after talking with the inventor? Well, he tested this new batch of guns and found them to be much harder to pump in their final strokes. The eighth stroke took an average of 40 pounds of effort and one rifle in the batch of ten was off the scale, at over 50 pounds! That is what is being reduced to between 12 and 14 pounds! The linkage was also revised to stop the pump arm from rising as the stroke count increases.

Let's test it!
Now that we have an easy-pumping 392, the Air Venturi intermount that positions the scope above the receiver makes sense. I'll mount what I think is the perfect scope for this rifle and give it a test. We can compare it to the results of the first rifle and see if this modification is worth the expense. That will come on Friday. Tomorrow, though, I have a surprise.

What did you get?
Tomorrow, I'll share what I got for Christmas with you, and then I want you to tell me what you got. I know all of us don't celebrate Christmas, but I also know that this season brings out the buyer in all of us. So, consider this your opportunity to tell all of us about your favorite new airgun or accessory.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Breakbarrels, sidelevers and underlevers
Advantages and disadvantages

by B.B. Pelletier

Merry Christmas!

Today's post is a light and easy one for me. It addresses a question from reader Stabbs about the good and bad points of the three types of spring-piston cocking mechanisms.

Breakbarrels - the good points
Breakbarrels are the most common type of spring-piston airgun. They use the barrel as a lever to cock the powerful mainspring. Because the breech is exposed when they break open, they are the easiest of all airguns to load - both rifle and pistol. They can also be lighter weight than the underlever or sidelever guns because they don't need a separate cocking mechanism (though there are plenty of breakbarrels that are very heavy, such as the Webley Patriot). When it comes time to take them apart, breakbarrels are simpler mechanisms, so they're easier to repair, though they do vary in complexity by brand and model. And, finally, a breakbarrel is quite easy to clean because of the good access to the barrel.

Breakbarrels - the bad points
Breakbarrels always require the most technique to shoot accurately. They are hold-sensitive, and although this differs by model, I can say universally that all breakbarrels are more difficult to shoot accurately than any sidelever or underlever. Breakbarrels usually have barrel "droop," which means the barrel points downward. Used with open sight, this hardly matters, as both the front and rear sights are mounted on the barrel, but when you scope the gun it becomes a problem. Also, when selecting a scope, you have to be careful that the scope isn't so long that it interferes with the barrel being broken open.

Breakbarrels - some interesting things
Some new shooters seem driven to experiment with their breakbarrel by pulling the trigger when the barrel is broken open. If the gun shoots (a lot of them won't), the barrel snaps shut, bending the barrel upwards and often cracking the stock. This is guaranteed to bend the barrel of the rifle or pistol every time, so be warned. And, dealers have learned to spot this kind of abuse, so they usually don't honor the warranty when they see this.

Some shooters avoid breakbarrels because they believe the barrel has to bend over time by cocking the rifle. That's not true. They are 100 year-old breakbarrels that are just as straight as the day they were made. Barrels can easily be bent through abuse, but they never bend in normal use.

Sidelevers - the good points
Sidelevers have a separate cocking lever on the side of the gun. They have a fixed barrel that many feel is more accurate than a breakbarrel. Although it isn't, it's easier to shoot a sidelever more accurately because they're less sensitive to handling. So I guess it's true that a sidelever will be more accurate than a breakbarrel in most shooters' hands. Just watch out for the man who has learned the right technique with his breakbarrel! Sidelevers can also accept longer scopes because the barrel doesn't tip up and get in the way.

Sidelevers - the bad points
Sidelevers tend to torque (twist) to the right when they shoot. The sidelever unbalances them to the right (because the lever is on the right side for right-handed shooters) anyway, and when the mainspring decompresses, it twists violently in that direction. The also have sliding compression chambers that can amputate fingertips if the sear releases while the gun is being loaded. That was a big problem with the original Chinese TS45 sidelever before the design was revised. Diana sidelevers have always had those safety features, so they're not a danger. Sidelevers can droop as much as breakbarrels, though the tendency is not to. And, finally, sidelevers have to include the weight of the extra lever, so they're usually heavier than breakbarrels, if the breakbarrels were made to be light.

Underlevers - the good points
Underlevers tend to be the easiest of all spring guns to shoot accurately. The Whiscombe, TX200 Mk III and both the HW77 and HW97 are underlevers with legendary accuracy. Unlike sidelevers, underlevers have no pronounced torque when they shoot. That's because the extra weight of the rifle hangs straight below the barrel as a counterweight. But, underlevers have the same sliding compression chamber with the same safety features as sidelevers, so long scopes are easier to mount.

Underlevers - the bad points
The sliding compression chamber is a safety risk, though all underlevers sold in the U.S. today have the proper safety features to prevent accidents. But older rifles such as the Chinese B3 are very accident prone. Like sidelevers, underlevers are heavier because of the lever and attaching mechanisms. Underlevers are particularly difficult to mount slings because the underlever tends to pop away under pressure.

Well, there you are. Perhaps you readers can add to these lists of good and bad points for me?

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Laser "sights" - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before we begin, I have to tell you that last Thursday's post about light, shootable air rifles got the biggest response we've ever received over a two-day period. Apparently, I struck a nerve.

Paul at Pyramyd Air asked for this post about lasers to help him explain them to his customers. I'm sorry it took so long to get back to finish it, but the gas springs sort of distracted me.

Today, I'll discuss mounting and aligning the laser with the bore, battery life and switches. I'll also discuss one particular very nice laser that I know a lot about.

Lasers attach to airguns with either an 11mm dovetail clamp or a Weaver dovetail, which fits either a Weaver or a Picatinny base. Since you want the laser to stay aligned, the mount should be rugged enough to withstand whatever recoil plus general handling bumps the gun is likely to suffer. Most laser come with mounts since they have 3/4" tubes instead of 1" tubes. If you don't get a ring mount with the laser, B-Square makes one for an 11mm dovetail and I believe a Weaver dovetail, as well.

Some lasers, like the Walther PPK/S laser have the mount built right into the laser body so there are no extra parts to look for. But, most lasers are separate tubes that come with some kind of clamp to attach to a gun. It's the clamp that comes in different dovetail sizes that you must be aware of.

Scope mounts are now being offered with additional mounting dovetails for lasers to ride piggyback with the scope. While they look really cool and tactical mounted on top of a scope, they're exposed to every bump the gun takes, so be sure they're mounted rigid enough to stay put.

Aligning a laser
I think the easiest laser to align on today's market is the AirForce LS-1. When I used to attend trade shows for AirForce Airguns, I had to mount and align the lasers there at the show. The way we shipped our guns to the show required that all the accessories be packed in their separate boxes, so on set-up day I had to mount scopes and lasers on 6-8 guns. I let the lasers go until last, because if the show had opened, I would align the laser with the scope while talking to a customer. Anyone who had even owned a laser before was immediately impressed with me holding the rifle with one hand and aligning the laser with the other while sighting through the scope. The only thing easier would be magic!

The AirForce laser has two thumbscrews that push on the laser tube inside the device for windage and elevation, in the same way scope adjustments push on the erector tube. A third screw tensions the tube to lock it after the adjustments have been made. Don't be surprised if the dot doesn't move straight in any direction, because it never does. It's always left or right with a little up and down, or vice-versa. Also, when the locking screw is tightened, it will move the zero a little, so you back it off in the direction it will move, then nudge it to the aim point as you lock it. These are things you figure out in the first 10 minutes.

These thumbscrew adjustments make the AirForce LS-1 laser easy to align with the scope or the point of impact. A similar screw hidden from view on the other side of the laser locks these settings when the laser is zeroed.

Every other laser I've used has Allen screws in the body to make these adjustments. That means you need a separate tool, you can't make both adjustments with one hand while holding the gun with the other, and they just take a lot longer to adjust. Once adjusted and locked, though, both mechanisms hold equally well.

One final point about aligning a laser. Unless you have a bright green laser you won't be able to see it very far in daylight, so align it for a close point of aim like 20 feet. Then sight the scope for 20 yards. That covers you for all distances in-between through interpolation with either sight.

Battery life
There are two common types of laser batteries: either several button batteries in series or one CR123A camera battery. Serious lasers like the AirForce LS-1 use the 123A. They say the battery lasts a minimum of 20 hours of run time, but I've been using one to play with cats for three years and it still has the original battery. Several of my other lasers with button batteries gave about an hour of use before they died. The more expensive lasers use the 123, the cheaper ones use buttons. If my life depended on the laser, I'd get one that uses a 123 (some now used two). Look for an exciting new laser, tactical flashlight combo from Leapers that uses 123s. The price will probably be good.

UTG laser by Leapers is a complete system in a box. Note the size of the three button batteries next to the CR123 battery. This laser offers standard and pressure on/off switches - your choice.

Switches are a big subject when it comes to lasers. The LS-1 has a 24" pigtail cable with a pressure switch at the end. You can locate it anywhere on the rifle you like with adhesive-backed Velcro that comes with the unit. With a cable that long, the LS-1 isn't suited for use on a handgun, but there are plenty of other units that are.

Some lasers have a simple spring-loaded push switch that doesn't let you leave the laser on. It has to be pressed all the time it works. Others allow on/off or push switch operation, depending how you set them up.

The thing about laser switches is people don't think about them when they buy the laser. Then, the first time they try to use it, they become instant experts on what they wish they had. Here's my guidance. If you have a laser that uses a 123A battery, try to get an off/on switch. If it uses button batteries, a push switch will prevent you from running down the battery.

Well, that's about it for the laser designators you'll see for airguns. Even the inexpensive ones are incredibly bright, so you must use care at all times when using them.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Testing the Gamo Whisper - Part 8
Gas spring accuracy

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Today, I'll test the accuracy of the .177-caliber Gamo Whisper with a gas spring conversion. Before we do, though, there are a couple of things to clarify. I said in the last report that the piston was replaced with the gas spring conversion, but that's not the case. The original piston stays in the gun. Also, Pyramyd Air has worked out a deal with Gamo that the original warranty remains with the gas-spring rifles.

Please remember that this rifle now has the GRT III trigger from Charlie da Tuna, so the trigger-pull is greatly enhanced. It also has the Gamo scope that comes with the rifle. It's not clear at the 25-yard range I'm shooting.

On with the test!
I moved outdoors for this test so I could shoot at 25 yards. That was the range at which I tested the original rifle in Part 5. Only, on this day, there was a stiff breeze blowing, so I had to wait for it to pause or die down before shooting. I used the best pellet from that test, hoping that the gas spring wouldn't make a difference, but I was wrong. The most accurate pellet with the factory rifle was the Gamo Match, which grouped as tight as 0.325". Well, the gas spring shot the same pellet into about one inch. So, I switched to the new Air Arms Diabolo Field domes, which we know are really JSBs. The description says they weigh 8.44 grains, but mine averaged 8.3. However, they grouped only a little better than the Gamo Match, so I switched to Gamo Master Points. They were all over the place, with three shots going into 2", so I stopped without finishing that group. Time for reflection.

What was different?
This was a different rifle from the standard Whisper I tested (I mean this was not the first test rifle converted to a gas spring, but an entirely different rifle altogether), plus this one had a gas spring instead of a coiled steel spring. I had cleaned the bore with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound and the bore felt smooth, which is not scientific, I know, but it felt just as smooth and good as the first rifle. Since I had no idea how this new rifle compared in accuracy to the first rifle, I concentrated on the pellets instead. I mentioned in the Webley Patriot report that a gas spring can blow the pellet skirts into the barrel walls, so maybe that was happening here. The correction is easy enough to apply - just start shooting pellets with heavy skirts or pellets made from hardened lead. I chose Beeman Kodiaks.

Close, but no cigar
Kodiaks tightened up the groups right away, but not to the extent I had hoped. Instead of an inch, they tightened to three-quarters of an inch, which is going in the right direction but not far enough. I was running out of Kodiaks, so I opened a fresh tin of H&N Baracuda Match - those Kodiaks by another name that Pyramyd has had on sale for over a year. I laid in a supply because the price was so low, and I alerted all of you, as well. I hope you acted on it.

I now started fooling around with the placement of my off hand. Resting it out by the forearm tip gave me three-inch groups, so that was out. The flat of my palm in front of the triggerguard gave me three-quarters of an inch, but no better. Then I remembered the backs of the fingers! Success!

The forearm has a raised area in front of the triggerguard that helps you locate your off hand. I balanced it on the backs of my fingers for best results.

The first group measured 0.614" and was strung vertically - an indication that the hold is not quite right. I found a slightly different way to rest the rifle on the back of my hand and voila - a group measuring 0.469". After that, I shot group after group under a half-inch. Best group of the day measured 0.441" Not bad for outdoors with gusty winds at 25 yards. The sweet resting spot on a Whisper has a ridge in the center of it, so you can feel when you're in the right spot.

A nice target with some vertical stringing. Measures 0.614". Still need to adjust the hold a bit. Shot at 25 yards with 5 Baracuda Match pellets.

With the hold adjusted, the rifle groups like this in a stiff breeze. 0.441" at 25 yards.

Nothing says I've found the absolute best pellet for this rifle. All I do know is that it'll probably be a heavy pellet or one made from hard lead. Maybe 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers will be best. But what I do know is that this rifle is a sheer joy to cock and shoot. The cocking is so smooth that I don't have the words to describe it. And, the firing is light, quick and as smooth as any tuned spring gun you've ever shot.

Hunters rejoice!
The fact that the Whisper likes heavy pellets should be comforting news to airgun hunters who want to use .177s.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

An open letter to airgun manufacturers

by B.B. Pelletier

For several years, I've noticed a disturbing trend in airguns. The manufacturers are peopled with employees who know nothing about airguns for the most part. Nor do they know what we want, or, more important, what we NEED. Today, I'll take a stab at answering that question, because airgun makers ask me all the time what I think the airgun market needs. Then, before I can answer, they tell me with a smile that their Chinese maker has a new rifle that's even faster than the one that wowed the market last week. Apparently, their question is rhetorical.

Power, we have!
The pedestal of ultimate power that all manufacturers are scrambling to perch upon is getting crowded. Numbers are inching higher than truth, but the fact is that no one can effectively use supersonic air rifles. Yes, solid "pellets" (otherwise known as bullets) could solve that problem, but they leave the aftertaste of unsafe ranges and ricochets. The diabolo pellet is our best friend, but we need to learn to live in the world it loves...the world of subsonic velocities.

So, what do we need?
We need some smaller, lower-powered air rifles made from quality materials and having great barrels that a person can shoot all day without a Gold's Gym membership. Guns that cock with less than 20 lbs. of effort, and guns that can hit a dime at 50 feet shooting offhand with open sights. Guns with good triggers that wear in to become great. I'll give you some examples.

The Diana model 27
Was there ever another breakbarrel rifle as nice as this one? Oh, it can't keep up with the TX200 Mark III, but my Ruger 10/22 plinker can't keep up with a Remington 40XB, either. I'll probably shoot the 10/22 about 500 times more often than I would a 40XB because the barrel doesn't wear out in 2,000 shots. I'm told I can get a half-million shots from my 10/22, but I doubt I'll live to see that. In the same way, the Diana 27 is a reliable, accurate breakbarrel that you can shoot all day and not have enough. It has the famous Diana ball-bearing sear release that can be adjusted extra-fine, as my .22-caliber model is. Cocking is around 15-17 lbs. and the rifle weighs about 5.5 lbs. No need to worry about the neighbors because the gun's discharge is such a mouse cough that it's unlikely they'll know you are there. And, the 27 is just one of many guns with similar features.

Diana's model 27 was a classic plinker. Today, they sell for $250 on the used market. Not because they're rare, but because they're so nice!

The Slavia 630/631
This rifle has more steam than the 27, but it's still a pipsqueak by modern magnum terms. It's as accurate as anyone could wish for, but a too-wide set of scope dovetails, coupled with the same quirky cross slot scope stop as the Webley Patriot prevents it from being easily scoped. It's possible, but the owner has to learn a lot about scope mounts before it will work. This rifle also has a barrel lock that seems quaint on a gun with this little power.

RWS Diana model 5 pistol
Thought this was just about rifles? Well, the model 5 pistol is a classic that should never have gone away. True there are some more modern spring pistols that can kick its behind in the velocity department, but for an all-day air pistol, you'll have to look a long time to beat this one. If you do find one, chances are better than 50/50 it will be a BSF S20.

I saw my first S20 in a German antique shop, and even then I knew it was really a small air rifle converted to a pistol. What I didn't know for 20 more years was that the trigger, which is a sandwich of riveted sheetmetal plates, breaks-in to become very nice. But it takes 4,000 shots to do it, so you really have to shoot the gun all day long. That's not hard to do though, because it's easy to cock. Recently, I said the Webley Typhoon could become a small carbine by a reversal of the process that created the S20. I wonder if anyone listened?

BSF S20 was a rifle made into a pistol. It was a wonderful, big air pistol.

What do we have?
It's slim pickings for plinkers today, but there are a few worth mentioning. The Beeman R7 along with the HW30 and HW50 are good starters. So is the Mendoza RM-200, the little rifle with the big value. And Gamo has the Delta, which is a nice little rifle with too much plastic. And ditto for Crosman's 795. Oh, yeah, the IZH 61 & 60. Good little guns, all, but nothing like what we had 20 years ago.

Diana had the model 24 then the model 28. They had the models 70 and 72, which were carbine adaptations of the models 5 and 6 pistols, respectively. Every manufacturer had a youth model or two, and a few, like Weihrauch, had adult rifles such as the famous model 55, and they were also low-powered and perfect for plinking.

Every week I get emails from frustrated parents looking for a good air rifle to teach the shooting fundamentals to their children. For some, I recommend Daisy's 499 and for others I recommend the IZH 61. But for a large segment, I have nothing to recommend. They don't want to spend over $300 for an R7, or even over $200 for an HW30. They would like a nice breakbarrel spring gun for around $150. Wouldn't we all? A gun that's accurate plus easy to cock and load. One that doesn't weigh too much and has nice open sights and a manual safety. The RM-200 comes as close as any, but that's just one gun. We need more!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Webley Patriot/Beeman Kodiak with a gas spring! - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

A couple of announcements....

First, the new podcast is up.

Second, some of you have noticed that the list of Weihrauch spring rifles is dwindling and are not being replaced. Pyramyd Air has experienced extreme difficulty getting these air rifles in a timely manner and has decided not to reorder after they sell out of what's in stock. The last shipment took longer than 6 months to come in and they are tired of disappointing customers. Of course, you can still get some Weihrauch models under the Beeman name, but you'll pay extra. If and when Pyramyd Air can reach an accord with Weihrauch over the timely fulfillment of their spring gun orders, they'll resume stocking them. The rifles are still great, but the shipping time is unrealistic.

Okay, continuing with our round of surprises, today we start looking at the .25-caliber Webley Patriot with a gas spring. Patriots with gas springs were available back in the 1990s, but the gas springs have not been available in recent years. They are again! Remember, the Beeman Kodiak is exactly the same rifle as the Patriot, so whatever I say here also applies to them.

Power stays constant
I didn't make the swap of powerplants in this rifle, so there's nothing to compare the gas spring to, but traditionally the power remains the same. What changes, of course, are the firing characteristics. There's still a forward jolt, but it's less than with the steel mainspring. Vibration is greatly reduced, and velocity is very consistent with the right pellets.

Hold loosely
With all spring rifles, a loose hold is mandatory for best accuracy. With powerhouses such as the Patriot, a loose hold also protects the shooter. What do I mean by "protect"? Well, a Patriot can give a shooter a headache if the hold is too tight. With the gas spring, the vibration that causes the ill feelings is greatly reduced. The recoil is also less, but in this rifle there is still a fair amount of forward kick. You definitely want to use a scope with proven ruggedness.

Let's be honest, a Webley Patriot is not a rifle you cock with one arm many times - even a standard one. I love to watch real he-men try to shoot a string of just 10 shots. By shot 5, they'll be using both arms! And, remember that a gas spring has resistance throughout the entire cocking stroke. That translates to a two-handed cocking effort every time. I measured the effort of the test rifle and found it to be just 45 pounds! I had guessed before measuring that it was 60! A steel-spring Patriot cocks with 50 lbs. of effort, so the gas spring is clearly less, though, again, I must say that I don't think you'll believe it when you cock the rifle.

Velocity and power
This is what you really want to know. I tried four pellets - Diana Magnums, Beeman Ram Jets, Beeman Silver Stings and Beeman Kodiaks, with Kodiaks being the traditional best pellet for this rifle.

Beeman Kodiaks
I discovered something about loading the Kodiaks that made a world of difference. Don't push them into the bore. Let the back of the pellet skirt sit flush with or just above the level of the breech, and you'll gain an extra two foot-pounds of energy. The Kodiak fits the breech like it was made for it, so this technique isn't difficult to learn. Just load the pellet normally and don't push it in hard. Beeman Kodiaks averaged 649 f.p.s., which is exactly 29 foot-pounds. They ranged from a low of 646 to a high of 651, for an unbelievably tight spread of just 5 f.p.s. Deep-seating drops the velocity to 610-630.

Diana Magnums
This is a 20-grain domed pellet that works great in Whiscombes, but I haven't had good luck with it in a Patriot. Some folks love it, though, which is why I tested it. They are too small for the breech of the rifle I'm testing, and the numbers show that all too clearly. If they're pushed in too far or if the particular pellet is too small at the skirt, the velocity plunges to about 700 f.p.s. When I flared the skirts a little with the fat end of a Bic ballpoint pen, the velocity ranged over 800 f.p.s. Velocity for untreated pellets averaged 731 f.p.s and ranged from a low of 686 f.p.s. to a high of 766. I cannot recommend these pellets for this Turkish-made Patriot.

Beeman Ram Jet
This semi-wadcutter has a domed top inside the flat top and weighs about 24.5 grains - heavier than what is listed on the Pyramyd Air website. Perhaps the older batch I have is slightly heavier. The pellets fall into the breech, then hang up tight on the skirt. They average 740 f.p.s. with a tight spread from 737 to 743 - just 6 f.p.s. That's a muzzle energy of 29.8 foot-pounds. A potentially good pellet!

Beeman Silver Sting
The Silver Sting is a 25.1-grain pointed pellet that gets very little press, but in .25 caliber I use the H&N-made Beemans almost exclusively. This one has good resistance in the Patriot's breech and averaged 725 f.p.s., with an 18 foot-second spread from 715 to 733. Though that was the greatest spread of all the good pellets (I'm not going to try the Diana Mags any farther), it's still very tight for a spring air rifle. The average muzzle energy is 29.3 foot-pounds.

What's the big deal about pellet fit?
You may have noticed that I seem to pay more attention to pellet fit these days. That's because I'm currently testing some real magnum spring rifles. All spring rifles are violent with their pellets, often blowing the skirts out against the barrel walls, so pellet fit is important. I think the little experiment with the Diana Mags proves that. These magnums are the absolute worst in this respect, so you want tough pellets that fit the guns well and offer some resistance to the powerful hammer-blast of air.

Is the gas spring worth the trouble in a Patriot?
You bet it is! Just to reduce that terrible recoil and vibration is worth the trouble and/or cost you will go through to get one in a gun. You can also leave the rifle cocked for hours, so hunting becomes a joy again. And, the Patriot is a pure hunting rifle! Nobody will ever mistake it for a plinker after cocking it once. Also, there is zero torque from the mainspring, something that really plagues some powerful spring rifles.

Pyramyd Air has no new Patriots to sell at this time, so until they arrive in January, they'll be retrofitting your Patriot/Beeman Kodiak rifles. Any caliber can be converted.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Entry-level 10 meter airguns:

by B.B. Pelletier

We get this question a lot, and it's a fun one to answer, so here we go. Today, I'm looking at entry-level 10-meter air rifles. I'll review pistols in the next installment.

Can entry-level target rifles be accurate?
You bet they can! In fact, you'd be surprised just how accurate these rifles can be. They're fully capable of hitting the period on the end of this sentence 8 times out of 10 from 10 meters. And, the two times they miss, the pellets won't land that far away. What keeps them from being competitive at the world-class level is ergonomics and those other two hits! Let's look at some typical 10-meter target rifles that are considered affordable.

Daisy 853
The Daisy 853 is a single-shot single-stroke pneumatic built for youth competition. It's the recognized leader in NRA Sporter-Class competition, which is a special class for inexpensive target rifles geared to first-time competitors. The class was founded to encourage new shooters to learn the fundamentals of safe gun handling and how to shoot accurately without spending a fortune.

The 853 and its 5-shot companion repeater, the 853C, are lightweight, ambidextrous rifles with Lothar Walther target barrels and inexpensive target sights. Their stock adjusts for length of pull so a gun can fit youths of many sizes within one shooting club. Although Daisy recommends the rifle for kids ages 16 and up, there are tens of thousands of children age 10 and older using this rifle in formal matches every year. The rifle can be sized for an adult by lengthening the stock, and it's quite heavy for kids under about 12 years; but, where there is the desire to shoot, most obstacles are overcome. The one major drawback for younger kids is the effort required to pump the gun. It's easy for a teenager, but can present a real challenge for a smaller child.

You can expect accuracy like this for five shots from a Daisy 853 or 753.

This would be the accuracy to expect for five shots from a top 10-meter rifle.

The trigger is heavy for a target rifle and also very creepy. Coaches have learned how to lubricate and tune the trigger for their kids, but most shooters will just learn to use it as is. It does break in over thousands of shots, so club guns eventually become smoother over time. The 853 is extremely reliable and can last for tens of thousands of shots, after which it can be easily rebuilt. I've seen club guns with a quarter-million shots on them that were still going strong.

The 753 is the same gun as the 853, with a stock proportioned even better for adults and sold with an upgraded rear aperture that can also be purchased separately for the 853. The 953 is a budget-priced version of the gun that doesn't have the Lothar Walther barrel, which is why it's not in the Avanti lineup. The savings is enormous, and the accuracy is still quite good, though not good enough for formal competition.

Crosman Challenger 2000
The Challenger 2000 is Crosman's answer to the 853. After giving Daisy two decades to themselves, Crosman brought out the Challenger 2000 in the year 2000 to do just what the name implies. It's a CO2-powered, single-shot rifle with some important differences. First, it uses a standard Benjamin 397 barrel, which, while accurate, is not in the Lothar Walther class. It's more of a challenge to the Daisy 953 than the 853 in terms of accuracy, but the Challenger 2000 cocks much easier than the Daisy and doesn't have a heavy pump lever to deal with. The trigger, while still creepy, is much better than the 853 trigger..

Crosman added an adjustable cheekrest, making the Challenger 2000 even more adaptable than the 853. However, they also made the rifle more than a full pound heavier than the Daisy rifle, so the youngest children will have trouble holding it for offhand shooting. Although Crosman's intent was to challenge the Daisy 853, what they did was give adult shooters a fine alternative that's more suited to informal target practice than the 853.

AirForce Edge
There have been several other 10-meter entry airguns on the market over the years, and they were all interesting and accurate. But one that isn't even available yet is catching the attention of target shooters in this country. It's so new that even the name isn't fixed yet. Currently it's called the Edge. It's a 10-meter, single-shot PCP rifle with a Lothar Walther barrel and something very exciting - an American-made target aperture rear sight!.

The Edge from AirForce is the first U.S.-built 10-meter air rifle. It'll be available at club pricing and also to retail customers.

The specifications are still somewhat in flux, but the rifle does appear to have a Lothar Walther barrel and an adjustable cheekrest and butt. The trigger has a dry-fire feature, the only one found at this price category. I've held the rifle, and it holds like a target rifle despite the "black-rifle" looks. I know AirForce plans to sell it through airgun clubs around the country, as well as offering it to the general public through their regular dealer chain. The price will be higher than an 853 or a Challenger 2000, but nowhere close to what a European target rifle costs. Accuracy should be at least as good as the 853, without the need to pump the gun, so smaller children will be able to use it.

Budget-priced 10-meter air rifles are worth considering if you want to shoot at targets. They're accurate enough to challenge any shooter, and they have sights good enough to provide a big training bonus. The ergonomics are not as sophisticated as Olympic-grade target guns, but selling for a small fraction of the cost makes them well worth the investment.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Benjamin Sheridan Super Streak - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Pyramyd Air now offers Air Arms pellets, and JSB makes them! They already have an excellent reputation in the UK, and I'm thinking they will do just as well over here. Check them out! I plan to.

Subsequent to activating the Whisper Gas Spring report report, I learned that the gas spring is filled with pure nitrogen. I had answered Vince that I thought it was filled with air, but it's not. However, there is no liquid nitrogen in it. That would take a NASA-grade unit that nobody could afford.

There's no provision for the customer to pressurize or depressurize the gas from this spring, just as Theoben removed that feature years ago from their units. It caused too much chance for over-pressurization, which quickly ruins the gun.

Today, I'll test for accuracy, though I knew from earlier testing that the Benjamin Super Streak can SHOOT! I used the factory-installed 4-16x40 CenterPoint scope that adjusts for parallax down to 5 yards. I checked the sight-in at 12 feet because I'd already sighted-in the rifle. It was still on, so I went back to the 21-yard line.

Using the new artillery hold
Remembering that the backs of my finders are more stable than my palm, that's the way I rested this rifle from the start. Initially, I rested the rifle just in front of the triggerguard, but this rifle is so front-heavy that it crushed my fingers. And, the groups weren't as good as I thought they should be.

I got two pellets in the same hole then two more in another hole a quarter-inch away and pellet No.5 went a quarter-inch below both those holes. That's indicative of a rifle that wants to shoot but something is wrong. At first I thought it might be the pellet, so I switched from JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes to Crosman Premier 10.5-grain "heavys". But they didn't give the same good indications of grouping tight.

Then, I tried Gamo Raptors, just because we saw how well they performed on the velocity test. But they were not accurate. Groups were about a half-inch, which is not bad for a cheap rifle but not what I expected from this big Benjamin.

By this time I had experimented with different resting spots for the forearm, including directly on the bag, which didn't work well. But, then, I discovered that the Super Streak wanted to be rested further forward, where my fingers were under the cocking slot in the forearm. And that's when the rifle started shooting.

The right stuff
Instead of being rested at a spot where it's front-heavy, the Super Streak wants to be balanced on your fingers - or at least my rifle did. The results spoke loudly. Pellet after pellet passed through the same hole. Group sizes with JSB Exacts were less than 0.20" at 21 yards. That's the exotic territory inhabited by TX 200s and finer spring rifles such as the Beeman HW 97 Mark III - not screaming 20-foot-pound .177s!

Once the hold was right, the Super Streak grouped like this! I needed an adjustable scope mount to move the group to the center of the bullseye, but that's nothing more than mechanics. This gun will shoot well no matter where it's pointed.

The best group measured 0.169" c-t-c for five shots. I won't say that it's easy to shoot that well, but I will say that if you follow the technique and relax before every shot, the rifle does the rest. You'll notice that my group is at 9 o'clock on the bull. The scope was adjusted all the way to the right and the erector tube was floating, so I had to crank in some left windage to get tension on the return spring. I would remount the scope in a B-Square adjustable mount. But don't buy one until you try your rifle first. Each rifle will be different in that respect.

Neither the 10.5 Premiers nor the Raptors improved that much with the new rest, so I'm not reporting groups from them. Doubtless, there are other pellets out there that group well in this rifle, but I would get some JSBs, if they have them when I ordered the gun. Perhaps order some Air Arms pellets if the JSBs aren't in.

The trigger is still loooong and creeeepy, just like an old Gamo trigger. If I had a second GRT III, I would install it and fix that right away. In all other respects, the Benjamin Super Streak in .177 is a heck of good air rifle. I can't wait to try the .22!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Testing the Gamo Whisper - Part 7
Gas spring conversion!

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Pinks are going fast!
Crosman's pink 760 has turned out to be a hit this season. Pyramyd has had to reorder several times, and they have now received what will probably be their final shipment before the end of the year. If you want one of these outrageous Barbie-doll-pink air rifles, the time to act is NOW!

Today's report is my huge surprise about the Gamo Whisper. It took longer than I thought to get to this report, but today you're going to read about an exciting new conversion possibility for this rifle: a gas spring for the Gamo Whisper! Please hear me out all the way, because there are some ramifications almost nobody knows about.

The gas spring is made as one self-contained unit.

Ramification No. 1: There's already such a conversion on the market. But the one I'm testing will be considerably more affordable. For those of you who weren't aware that there was a gas spring conversion for the Whisper - happy day! I'll reveal the other ramifications as the story unfolds.

What IS a gas spring?
A gas spring is a sealed, unitized device that replaces the coiled steel mainspring and piston in a spring-piston airgun. The gas spring unit uses compressed gas to power the piston. You're more used to gas springs than you may know, because they are all around you. They hold up the back deck lid on your SUV or minivan, and they make your desk chair adjustable for height. Gas springs have replaced coiled steel for a lot of applications where the spring has to last for years in a fully compressed state. Get it? You can leave your gas-spring-equipped air rifle cocked for hours and even days without degradation of power. Heck, your office chair stays compressed for years and still works - and the gas spring unit that's in an airgun is quite a bit more robust than the one in a chair.

How do gas springs differ from gas rams and gas struts?
They are the same thing. Gas spring is the correct generic term and "struts" or "rams" are slang terms, but they all refer to exactly the same thing. Instead of a coiled steel spring to push the piston forward, a gas spring uses compressed gas to do it. The gas remains captive inside the sealed unit, so you don't lose it as the gun is shot.

How does the Whisper like its gas spring?
I pushed for this conversion because of the Whisper's built-in silencer. I figured a gas spring would cancel all powerplant vibrations, giving the silencer a chance to work. Well, it does cancel all vibrations, but the powerplant noise sounds the same. So this conversion does nothing to quiet the rifle.

HOWEVER, that's where the bad news ends. The Whisper with a gas spring is a transformed air rifle! It's so dead-calm that most shooters will not believe it! In fact, although I have owned numerous gas-spring air rifles, I still have a hard time believing how absolutely smooth this one is. Now that I've installed the GRT III trigger, this particular rifle is positively marvelous! If it turns out to be accurate, as well, I might have to add it to my growing collection (hint to wife). Given the accuracy of the other Whisper, there's a good chance of it.

The cocking stroke changes
All gas-spring rifles have a noticeably different feel than steel-spring rifles when they're cocked. Instead of a little slack after the barrel breaks open, then a slow build to the maximum effort around three-quarters of the cocking stroke, you'll feel the full resistance from the start with a gas-spring rifle. It feels like it never changes throughout the stroke, though it really is a few pounds lighter in the beginning. Compared to cocking a rifle with a steel mainspring it feels like a lot more effort until you get used to the difference. If you recall, the cocking effort of the first Whisper I tested with the steel mainspring was 35 lbs. With the gas spring conversion, the effort is 34 lbs. But honestly - it does feel like more.

When the gun fires, there's a solid thump like a bank vault closing. There's no vibration. And, the firing cycle seems quicker than with the steel spring, though that may be due to the abrupt end of the cycle. Once that piston stops moving, everything goes dead. Recoil is greatly reduced with the gas spring installed, and that's something not common to all gas springs. Recoil is a function of piston weight, and this conversion uses a lightweight piston so there's very little felt recoil. That should help with accuracy, and we'll test for it.

Velocity test
This is a comparison test between the gas spring and a Gamo factory steel spring. The table below gives the velocity and extreme spread for each pellet with the steel spring and then with the gas spring. I retested the steel spring gun because I had only tested a couple of pellets before. Because two different rifles are involved, you don't see a direct comparison of before and after the gas spring is installed.

Crosman Premier 7.9 grain

Gamo Match

H&N Match

Crosman Destroyer

RWS Hobby
Av..... 997..........1012
Hi.....1006......... 1023
Lo..... 976..........1001

Gamo Raptors

So, the gas spring is slightly more powerful in the two rifles I happened to test. That was never the plan; it simply turned out that way this time. The smooth shooting behavior is worth accepting a power REDUCTION, so to have MORE is gravy. I think that if the gas spring produced similar results to the steel spring, it would be well worth the cost.

And what IS the cost?
As I write this report, Pyramyd Air is working that out. They know what the unit costs them but not how long it takes a technician to install and test it. I was eager to get this first report posted, so I jumped ahead of the business end of the process. There isn't even a web page to send you to yet, but I will give it to you as soon as I can.

New guns, first
The initial supply of gas springs is quite limited, so Pyramyd will install them in brand new rifles first. Those rifles will be sold as complete guns. When they get the price calculated, I'll alert you. Those guns will probably vanish in days, but there will be more gas springs to come. As soon as the gas spring maker ramps up his production to the level that Pyramyd Air can always have a few in stock, they'll start offering to convert their customers' rifles. I would guess that will happen after January, if the manufacturer can meet the demand for new guns. At this time, Pyramyd Air has no plans to sell just the gas spring by itself, because the installation requires a technical knowledge of the rifle and gas spring.

The benefits of gas springs
Gas springs act quicker, which some shooters feel helps with accuracy. Maybe it makes them less hold-sensitive (but it doesn't cancel it altogether). Gas springs can be left cocked for hours without losing energy. This is a real plus for hunters. This particular gas spring unit has the surface of its internal moving parts finished to 4 microns, an incredibly smooth finish. That will help maintain the gas seal for a long time. Gas springs often reduce the weight of a rifle, though in the Whisper's case, they do not. The weight remains the same. Gas springs reduce felt recoil. Gas springs shoot with unbelievable smoothness. I cannot emphasize this benefit enough. If I were to let you shoot both guns together, you would want the one with the gas spring.

Chew on this over the weekend. Gamo has been standardizing their powerplants over the past few years so that today they produce only a couple of different-sized pistons. The Whisper powerplant is the same size as the Gamo CF-X, etc. How does that strike you? Perhaps like the SECOND ramification!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Testing the Gamo Whisper - Part 6
Trigger job

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

We last looked at the Gamo Whisper on November 11. At the end of that report, I mentioned a HUGE surprise. Well, this isn't it.

So many of you raved about the GRT III trigger from Charlie da Tuna that I had to try it. I really like the Whisper, as I've said many times. It's light, easy to cock, accurate and priced right. Anything that makes it better is good in my book.

This is a different rifle than the one I tested in the first five reports, so I will be cleaning the barrel and going through all the other make-ready preparations once again. But, before I do, I want to report on the installation and operation of this aftermarket trigger. The purpose of the GRT III trigger, as it is known, is to lighten the trigger-pull and make the trigger more adjustable. Because many Gamo rifles come with the same trigger, as well as many more Chinese rifles that also use a copy of the Gamo trigger, this one unit, which is really nothing more than a replacement blade, fits a long list of popular models.

Testing the Gamo factory trigger
By a strange coincidence, the factory trigger in this Whisper is the best Gamo trigger I've ever evaluated - BY FAR! It has a definite first and second stage and stage two releases without a hint of creep. It's also quite short for a Gamo. It breaks at 4-4.25 lbs. repeatedly and is just a very nice trigger. Oh, it's not going to challenge a Rekord anytime soon, but most shooters would like it. Charlie has his work cut out for him.

The action must be removed from the stock, and that's when I ran into a surprising obstacle. Gamo now uses Torx fasteners to hold their rifles together! I own a Ford pickup truck, so I own a Torx driver set, but I bet this will catch a lot of hobby airgunsmiths by surprise. Allen wrenches and Phillips screwdrivers do not fit the Torx sockets properly; you need the right tools. I was angry when Ford forced me to buy the driver set, but today it saved my bacon.

All the Whisper stock fasteners are Torx.

The GRT III trigger consists of just a trigger blade. Clever shape is what makes the difference.

Remove the old trigger blade
With the action out of the stock, you remove the old trigger blade. The entire trigger doesn't have to come out - just the trigger blade, itself. The website has step-by-step instructions.

The old trigger blade is held by a single pivot pin. Remove the circlip and push the pin out. The trigger unit doesn't have to come out.

Remove the trigger-adjustment screw
You won't need the old trigger-adjustment screw, so it comes out, too. Then, you're ready to install the new blade. There's considerable difference between the old and new blades, and the secret of it's operation is in the shape of the new one.

At this point, I want to mention something the instructions dwell on. Inside the trigger housing is a lever that acts on the sear. This lever isn't bushed on its pins, so it has a tendency to get out of alignment. The trigger blade has ears that fit on either side of this lever and prevent it from moving, but these ears have to be aligned with the lever (so it fits between them) or it will be permanently depressed and the rifle won't cock. That fit is something you have to check as you install the new blade.

Looking up into the trigger unit with the old trigger blade removed, we see the lever that pushes the sear. This lever is not bushed on its pin and can flop from side to side. It has to be centered like this when the new trigger blade is installed. The hole on the right inside the trigger box is where the old trigger adjustment screw was removed.

Install the new trigger blade
Installation is a snap. Simply locate the new trigger and install one cross pin. Then, fit the circlip, and you're done. I had the entire job completed from start to finish in less than ten minutes, and I took my time. Next time, I'll do it in less than five minutes.

The new trigger blade fits in place and is held by a single pin.

And how does it work?
The new trigger works very well. It still isn't a Rekord, but it's both crisper and lighter than the original factory trigger. For a Gamo, it's a peach of a trigger. Mine breaks at 1 lb., 14 ozs. after adjustment. I may adjust that some more as I become familiar with it.

The nature of the trigger changes entirely. At first, I thought I'd lost the second stage, but it's still there. However, most of the pull weight is loaded into the first stage, then you feel the second stage hesitate and just a few more grams of pressure releases the sear. You can also pull the trigger but not fire the rifle. You will have removed some of the trigger-pull. It doesn't reset; it's just closer to release. It takes some getting used to, and it's extremely similar to a 10-meter target pistol trigger that can do the same thing. Once you know how it works, I'm sure you can do very good work with this trigger.

I have nothing but admiration for the man who thought up this modification. Partly, for how well it works, but mostly because it was done in such a way that it's easy to install. Yet, after installation, it's still finely adjustable. That's the sign of a good product.

Now that there's a nice trigger on this rifle, it's time to tell you about the HUGE surprise you have all been waiting for. Tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Benjamin Sheridan Super Streak - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

First, I must apologize for misrepresenting the scope on this rifle in the last report. Michael in Florida pointed out that his CenterPoint 4-16x40 adjusted for parallax on the objective lens, so I examined the test rifle (obviously for the first time) and it did, too! The knob on the left side of the scope turret is a rheostat to adjust the intensity of the red- and green-illuminated reticle. There are five levels of intensity, and the reticle is not etched on glass.

Next, I tested the barrel for a choke for Sumo. There is no choke.

Today, we'll look at velocity for the .177-caliber Benjamin Super Streak, which as far as I know is the first objective evaluation of this model. I didn't clean the barrel before testing because I did so back in October when I tested the rifle the first time. That was a test I didn't report, but the data are gone, so this new test is warranted.

The Super Streak is a large rifle, and the barrel measures 22-7/16" including the integral muzzlebrake/cocking aid. I have a 6' armspan, but this rifle is a little too long for me to cock comfortably. All that means is that the 35 lbs. of cocking effort, which should be really easy, seems like more to me. Some of you might be inclined to grab the barrel lower down, but that only increases the effort you have to apply. This rifle will seem right to shooters of large stature.

The mainspring sounds dry and crunchy when cocked, so it could stand some lubrication. If this were my rifle, I would lube the mainspring with black tar - what Jim Maccari calls velocity tar. There is enough power on tap that you won't miss the 20 f.p.s. loss that might entail.

The trigger is vintage Gamo from the 1990s - which is to say a long and creepy second-stage pull. I can't say if an aftermarket trigger would fit this model; but if it would, it would be something to do. The anti-beartrap mechanism prevents decocking the rifle, but the safety is not automatic. I like that better than an automatic safety, but remember that every time you cock the rifle, you must fire it.

The firing behavior reflects the dry mainspring. It's buzzy, but the light, pleasant kind and not painful in the least. Lubricating the spring as described would take care of that, too.

I began with Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets (remember, this test gun is a .177). They ranged from a low of 942 to a high of 1040, with an average velocity of 994 f.p.s. with all shots included in the string. This pellet was the only one with a large velocity spread, so I have no complaints. At the average velocity, the power output at the muzzle is 17.34 foot-pounds.

JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets were next. They ranged from a low of 1006 to a high of 1021, a spread of only 15 f.p.s.! That is remarkable in any spring gun and especially in one with this much power on tap. The average velocity was 1014 f.p.s., which computes to an energy of 19.18 foot-pounds. That's the kind of power I was expecting from this rifle.

The third pellet I tested was the Crosman Premier 10.5-grain "heavy." It ranged from 921 to 929 - a spread of just 8 f.p.s. People pay good money for aftermarket tunes that can't do that. The average velocity was 927 f.p.s. That's a muzzle energy of 20.04 foot-pounds. This disproves the common belief that heavy pellets don't work in spring-piston guns. The few other times I've seen a reversal like this (where a heavy pellet produced greater energy than a light pellet), the piston was on the heavy side. We'll see how the 10.5-grain pellet does on the accuracy test.

The final pellet tested was the Gamo Raptor PBA pellet. I tested it just so we would all know how fast this gun can shoot, but this time the Raptors surprised me! They ranged from 1313 to 1323, a total range of 10 f.p.s. By now, you know how good that is, and it's way beyond my expectations. Of course, there was a supersonic crack, compounded by the fact that the test was conducted indoors. The average velocity was 1319 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 19.32 - which is not bad for Raptors!

So what we have here is a 19-20 foot-pound airgun in .177 caliber, with every indication that in .22 it's really going to excel. I think the RWS Diana 350 Magnum, which produces over 24 foot-pounds, may be challenged. The Gamo Hunter Extreme isn't offered in .22 yet, so that leaves the field wide open for this rifle. Only the Webley Patriot has more power in a conventional spring rifle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beeman SS1000H dual-caliber rifle combo - Part 5
.22 barrel test 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Okay, today we have another hot topic. A return to the Beeman SS1000-H, this time to test the .22-caliber barrel.

Barrel fit
Reader Don expressed concern for how the .22 barrel fits in the test rifle. He purchased one and the .22 barrel was loose, though the .177 was fine. Pyramyd exchanged it and the second rifle had the same problem, so I was interested in how tight our .22 barrel fits.

Well, Don, this one fits tight - at least at this time. I will keep a watch on it as I test this caliber and give you an update as we go. One thing I will mention: the rifle comes with a second screw in a small baggie with the Allen wrench and an o-ring. Is it possible that screw would tighten the fit of your .22 barrel? Mine didn't need it because the .22 barrel fit the same as the .177.

Velocity testing
By this time, the rifle has over 150 shots on the powerplant. I expect a lot of the initial dieseling to be over and the velocities to be more consistent.

Crosman Premiers
Ever the "standard " pellet in .22 caliber, .22-caliber Crosman Premiers weigh 14.3 grains, nominally. In the test rifle, they averaged 694 f.p.s., but one shot recorded a very odd 458 f.p.s. I thought it might have been due to a lighting malfunction with the chronograph, but the same thing happened with other pellets, so it isn't an anomaly - the powerplant is malfunctioning. Given the average velocity, which doesn't include the slow shot, the pellet generates 15.3 foot-pounds, which is a little low for this rifle. Based on the .177 results, I had expected power in the 17 foot-pound region, at least.

Beeman Kodiaks
Beeman Kodiaks were consistent, averaging 544 f.p.s. The extreme spread was 24 f.p.s., which is fine for a springer that's new. Energy was 13.75 foot-pounds for this 21-grain pellet, which is low. But I expect the heavier pellets to generate less muzzle energy in a spring-piston gun.

RWS Hobbys
RWS Hobbys will have to serve as the lightweight pellet for our test, because they're the lightest .22s I have. At 11.9 grains, they're pretty light, though there are some synthetics that shave another several tenths. They averaged 748, but two shots went 517 and 500, respectively. This was now officially starting to concern me. If I use the high average, the energy is 15.42 foot-pounds.

Beeman Silver Ace
The Beeman Silver Ace is an old pellet dating back to the 1970s. The "piston-ring" look was really popular back in the 1978-1982 timeframe. They've been made by several different manufacturers and in this test the vintage pellets I used averaged 14.1 grains. Today's Silver Aces weigh 1.1 grains more. Mine averaged 689 f.p.s., with two pellets as slow as 441 and 430. Taking the high average, the energy is 14.87 foot-pounds.

RWS Superpoints
RWS Superpoints were the last pellet I tried. They exhibited a reversal of performance, with five pellets going 530, 404, 444, 439 and 437, respectively, and only one that went an expected 705. I did not finish the string, and now I have some concerns about the health of the powerplant.

The barrel remained firmly in place throughout all testing, so that's a plus. But the muzzle energy didn't increase as expected. Instead, it went down. Clearly this rifle works most efficiently as a .177.

Next, I'll test accuracy, then I'll retest the .177 for velocity, though now I don't hold a lot of hope that the rifle will have broken in as I thought before. Stay tuned for an interesting test!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Benjamin Super Streak - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

New Benjamin breakbarrel is a big, powerful breakbarrel spring gun.

I promised great things this week, and I'll start today!

I'm writing this a couple of weeks before the first Benjamin Super Streaks are due in. I'm doing it to placate several readers who really want to hear about the rifle, plus I've had a personal interest in it since first seeing it at the 2007 SHOT Show. The rifle I am reviewing is an early gun, but it was sent to me with the blessings of Crosman, so I believe it pretty well represents the production Super Streak.

First - the name!
By using the name Streak, the company really got the internet buzzing with speculation. Of course, the names Benjamin and Streak don't go together. Streak is forever identified with Sheridan, which a few of us old silverbacks remember as a company that was once separate from Benjamin. More importantly, Streak has been the name of a multi-pump pneumatic for more than a half-century. Early rumors predicted that Benjamin was about to bring out a powerful new multi-pump pneumatic. I laid that rumor to rest on November 5. When I did, readers found out that I had the rifle. Then, the pressure started to review it quickly. I stalled because I knew the guns would not be out in time for Christmas. The Pyramyd Air website shows them arriving by December 19, but I've seen that date change in the past, so don't hold your breath. Any new launch of a gun has great potential for delays.

Next - the gun!
The Super Streak is a conventional single-shot breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle that's available in .177 and .22 caliber when it comes out. The advertised velocity of 1500 f.p.s. (.177) is fiction of the same sort that Gamo uses with the Hunter Extreme. Spring airguns don't go that fast. You readers who've read this blog for at least the past 6 months know that. However, Crosman is targeting the much larger general shooting public who haven't got a clue. To remain competitive with Gamo and RWS Diana, they have to stretch their numbers upward as well. One of the things I'll do is chronograph the test rifle with several pellets of known performance so you can see the real story. But before we do that, let's give it the once-over.

Gossip and truth
Gossip first. Yes, this rifle is positioned to challenge the Gamo Hunter Extreme and the RWS Diana 460/350 Magnum rifles. It's big, powerful and demands the utmost in shooter awareness (of the proper spring airgun shooting technique).

Now, the truth. This is a Chinese-made airgun, but I don't think you pneumatic genealogists are going to be able to trace its origins. That's because I don't think it has any. I think this is the first time we have seen this particular model. Ok, it has links to Spanish guns. The Gamo-style safety on the trigger gives that away. But the powerplant doesn't seem familiar.

The Super Streak is a very large air rifle. As the specs on the website indicate, it is 49.75" long, which is about as long as sporting airguns come these days. The weight is 8.5 lbs. without the scope, but the factory-mounted 4-16x40 CenterPoint scope that comes with the combo bumps that up to 10.25 lbs. The stock is a thumbhole and fully ambidextrous. Shooters with large hands will appreciate all the room they've been given in the pistol-grip region.

A word about the scope
The scope they have selected for you is no chum optic. It's a top-of-the-line sidewheel parallax-adjustable glass. It has a duplex reticle with mil-dots and flip-up scope caps. Compare all that to the specs of most combo scopes, and you'll agree that Benjamin has poured the money into this one.

PS. After this post went live, Michael in Fla. pointed out that he had a similar scope, but his was not sidewheel parallax adjustable. Well, I looked and neither is the one on the test gun! I am sorry for the confusion this mistake may have caused. The parallax adjusts on the objective bell and the left turret adjustment controls the reticle illumination.

And the rest of the gun
The stock has four areas of fine stippling - one on either side of the grip and one one either side of the forearm. It's a fine, smooth stippling that doesn't arrest your hands. Underneath the forearm, the name Benjamin has been cut into the wood in tall letters. I was told it was for effect when the rifle sits in a rack. It jumps out at you! The stock is finished a dark, even brown with a dull matte sheen. The Monte Carlo raised cheekpiece rolls over to equal depth on both sides of the butt.

The name Benjamin is boldly carved into the bottom of the forearm.

The metal of my test rifle is finished an even matte blue, but for those who want a brighter gun, a matte nickel finish is also available. Both will have a black faux muzzlebrake/cocking aid. According to Pyramyd's site, the nickel version is available in .177 only, but the blued version comes in .177 and .22.

There are a beautiful set of adjustable open sights on the gun, even though it comes from the factory with a really primo scope already mounted. The front sight actually accepts replacement inserts, and the rear is adjustable in both directions. I'm thinking that the folks at Benjamin would not put a set of sitghts this nice on the rifle unless they believed that a fair number of users really wanted them. Sights have a cost, of course, and it would have been just as easy to install a cheaper set on the rifle if they thought people wouldn't really care. I really see a lot of potential in this new rifle, but I'll hold up judgment until the testing is complete.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How to make a leather piston seal

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I have to tell you that next week is going to be exciting. I will fulfill two promises you guys have been waiting for, plus there are some other nifty things going on in this blog. So, next week is not a time to skip reading. I will see some neat stuff. On to today's post.

Here's a good tip you can use to resuscitate many older spring-piston airguns. And, not just rifles, because plenty of old air pistols have leather seals, too. Dyb asked for this, and I've been meaning to do it for several years.

First, you need a supply of leather. I save old belts and shoes for this purpose. The leather needs to be about 1/8" thick, but don't obsess over that. It should also be on the stiff side, though it does have to be at least a little pliable for the forming you'll do.

Step 1. Measure the seal
If there's an old seal in the gun, measure it. A dial caliper is an easy way to measure, just try to forget those measurements on the dial smaller than 1/10". With leather, they're meaningless. Leather expands and compresses to fill the compression chamber. If there isn't an old seal, measure the diameter of the compression tube. That's the size of your seal.

Step 2. Make the form
Making a form for a leather piston seal is easy. Just drill a hole in a 1" plank and you're done. Drill the hole larger than the diameter of the piston seal, for reasons you'll see shortly. The only challenge is finding the right size drill bit, and I have a tip for that. If possible, use an adjustable drill bit. Drill the hole all the way through the board but don't obsess about the smoothness of the edges.

An adjustable drill bit makes it easy to drill a hole just the right size.

Step 3. Prepare the leather
Cut a square piece of leather wide enough to cover the piston with enough left over to make a sidewall at least 1/4" high. I like to make the sidewall higher than that, but don't get hung up on how high to make it. Keep it in the 1/4" range. Soak the leather in water for 24-48 hours. Add a drop of dishwashing detergent to the water to break the surface tension and make the water easier to be absorbed into the leather.

Step 4. Form the seal
Take the wet leather and center it over the hole in the board. Use the appropriate size wrench socket to drive the wet leather into the hole. Drive it in as deep as you want the sidewalls to be high. Set the board aside to dry for 2-3 days.

A wrench socket drives the wet leather into the hole in the board.

Set aside for several days to dry.

Step 5. Trim the seal
When the seal's dry, trim the edges while it's still in the board. I find a razor knife does this best. There may be wrinkles in the seal near the top, but disregard them. They'll go away when the seal's used.

Trim the dry seal while it's still in the board.

Step 6. Drill the screw hole
Invariably, leather seals are held to the piston head by a flathead screw countersunk into the steel piston. There has to be a hole for this screw to pass through, and drilling it while the seal is still in the board is easiest.

Drill the hole for the seal retention screw.

Step 7. Remove the seal and soak it in oil
If you're going to use the seal right away, soak it in petroleum oil for about 24 hours. If you have a magnum air rifle such as the Diana 45 or the BSF 55, use silicone oil. If you don't plan to use the seal soon, store it where it will get air.

This method produces seals with rounded bottoms. That bothered me before I bought a factory leather seal and saw that it looked the same. Shooting will flatten it out.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How does an air pressure regulator work?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question popped up earlier this week, so I thought I would address it today.

What IS a pressure regulator?
An air pressure regulator is a mechanical device that controls the air pressure and volume available to the firing valve of a precharged airgun. Because the pressure is always the same, a gun with a regulator shoots with very consistent velocity, plus it may get a few more shots on a fill. As long as there's enough pressure in the reservoir, it operates as described. When the reservoir pressure drops below the regulated pressure, the regulator remains open all the time and the gun becomes unregulated. It continues to fire, although most shooters notice a change in the discharge sound when their gun is "off the reg."

Without getting into design details, this is how an air regulator functions. As long as the air pressure in the reservoir is greater than the pressure setting for the reg, the reg closes after the regulated pressure has passed into the firing chamber. Once the reservoir pressure drops below the reg pressure setting, the reg never closes and the gun operates as an unregulated gun.

Okay, let's examine this closer. The reg allows high-pressure air to flow into a small chamber called the firing chamber. When the pressure in the firing chamber reaches a certain level, the regulator closes the air flow. The firing valve of a regulated PCP opens to release the pressurized air from the firing chamber. This air is at optimum pressure for the way the firing valve has been tuned...the size of the air passageway through the valve, the strength of the valve return spring (which affects the speed at which the valve closes) and the volume of the firing chamber. The gun is perfectly tuned when the air from the firing chamber expends all of its energy (to the extent that is practical) just as the pellet reaches the end of the barrel.

The output of a regulated airgun is affected by both the pressure inside the firing chamber and the volume of the firing chamber. Change either one and you change the tune of the gun. Although the illustration shows the firing chamber to be relatively large, in fact, it is much smaller than shown. In the AirForce Micro-Meter valve, the entire firing chamber fits in a small compartment inside the valve body, and even then they had to take steps to reduce the chamber volume so the gun wouldn't be too powerful. The Micro-Meter valve and tank are not regulated, but they operate by a similar design that severely restricts airflow to the firing chamber.

How does an air pressure regulator actually work?
The pressure regulator contains a powerful spring that acts on a valve. However, this spring is not powerful enough to keep the check valve closed against the high pressure of the air reservoir. Air forces its way through the check valve and into the firing chamber. When the pressure builds inside the firing chamber, it pushes on the check valve, helping the spring close the valve against the air reservoir. To control how much pressure is in the firing chamber, the spring is adjusted until the desired pressure closes the check valve.

The inside of a regulator, simplified. When the air pressure inside the firing chamber grows high enough to assist the spring to close the regulator check valve, air stops flowing from the reservoir.

Regulators take up space!
Air volume is lost to make room for the regulator. The tradeoff for that lost space is more shots, because the reg lets the firing valve operate on a lower air pressure. Sometimes, it's an even trade and no additional shots are gained. Other times, the regulated gun delivers a few additional shots. However, the firing valve must be tuned to work well at the reg output pressure. It's never a given that the combination of the reg setup and the firing valve tune work well.

What prevents shooters from filling their guns to an even higher pressure to get more shots? Nothing, except the regulator itself. The spring has to be small to fit inside the reg, yet it also has to be powerful. Most regs use a special type of spring called a Belleville washer, or more correctly, a Belleville spring washer. These are cone-shaped washers stacked in different ways to achieve desired spring rates through a range of values. Once set, the spring operates within a narrow band. Belleville washer springs are strong, relative to their diameter, which makes them perfect for the inside of a regulator. However, they do have limits. They'll do their job within the limits of their design, but they won't hold back pressure that's much higher than they were designed for. If you overfill the reservoir, the firing chamber will be filled with higher-pressure air and there goes the sensitive balance of the gun's tune.

Regulators fail
It isn't a question of "if" a regulator will fail, it's a question of "when." All regs fail, and when they do they have to be serviced. I have owned regulated airguns that worked fine for about five years, but then the O-rings went bad and the regs had to be rebuilt. Leaking seals are a real problem with a reg, as are failed Belleville washers, though in my experience they're not as much a problem as seals. The point is that all guns with regulators eventually require maintenance, though they may give many good years of service.

Because reglators are complex and less reliable, the USFT rifle doesn't have one. Instead, it operates on lower-pressure air for which a firing valve can be tuned to give an incredible number of uniform shots. That's an interesting direction that no other airgun manufacturer has yet taken. Walther, on the other hand, has gone the opposite route of greater dependence on regulators to moderate their 300-bar (4,350 psi) operating pressure level. Both approaches work and both have good reasons for their use. It isn't a question of whether it is better to have a regulated gun or not; it's really up to the shooter to understand the technology he's shooting, so he can get the maximum benefit from it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Beeman SS1000H dual-caliber rifle - Part 4
.177 test 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Got a lot of territory to cover today, because I learned a LOT about the Beeman dual-caliber SS1000H with this test. First, Vince advised me to adjust the trigger. I did and it works much better now. There are three adjustments, but two are tiny slotted screws and I didn't have time to hunt for my wee teeny screwdriver, so I lightened only the pull weight. I cut it from 4 lbs. down to about 2. The creep remained, but was lessened by lightening the pull weight, so the end result was okay. However, an overtravel screw would be great on this rifle.

Two tiny screws down in those deep holes and one accessible screw to adjust the trigger-pull weight. Those other screws are probably for the length of the first stage and the length of the second stage, which is actually a sear engagement adjustment. I adjusted the pull-weight screw and test-fired the rifle as I did. I always held the action to the stock when cocking and firing, because the triggerguard that does that has been removed.

Trigger adjustment is where the vanilla Beeman "manual" really let me down. I had to guess what each screw did, based on experience, because the manual contains NOTHING about adjusting this trigger!

New scope
I removed the scope that came with the gun and mounted a Bushnell 6-18x Trophy in its place. Wonderfully clear, plus it adjusts down to 10 yards. I was still shooting at 21 yards, so that was perfect.

Proven pellets
Both the JSB Exacts and the Beeman Trophys were already proven, so I didn't waste time trying what I knew didn't work. Just for fun, I also tried Gamo Tomahawks, but they were pretty bad in this rifle. They grouped close to 2". When I show you how good the rifle can shoot, you'll agree that's bad.

Couldn't shoot a group!
I tried group after group and couldn't shoot anything under 0.75"! That was after shooting several great groups yesterday. Well, the only difference was the scope, so I checked it thoroughly. The mounts were tight. The erector tube was screwed all the way down (pellets were shooting high) so there was zero chance of the reticle moving. Then, I checked the parallax.

Parallax was HORRIBLE!
Remember how I complained about the Beeman scope having parallax? Well, this one had a lot more! I could move the reticle more than 2" just by moving my head. Yes, this scope has parallax correction; and yes, it was adjusted right. But, scopes may still have some parallax after all corrections have been made, and this one does - buckets of it. Now, I know why I was never more than a mediocre field target shooter back at DIFTA! (Just kidding.) Actually, this scope has been mounted on dozens of rifles over the past 10 years, and it's probably getting a little out of adjustment.

I fixed it
I've told many of you how to do this, so now I'll demonstrate how to correct parallax. The goal is to position your eye in the same place every time - a good "spot weld," as it has been called in the military. Since both of my eyes are fairly well connected to my head, if I can put the head in the same place, the sighting eye usually follows. I put a strip of painter's masking tape across the stock where my head went and then each time I got into position, I slid my head forward until I could just feel the tape against my cheek. Neat, huh? The type of painter's tape I used doesn't remove the finish or leave a residue.

Putting tape across the stock where you want your cheek to stop each time is a cheap way to eliminate sighting errors due to parallax. This is painter's masking tape, which I discovered doesn't stick to finishes or leave a sticky residue.

Not quite enough
That helped, but it wasn't quite enough. I could hear all of you wondering why I was able to do so well yesterday with the fuzzy scope, but when I changed to the clear one that cost ten times as much, things went bad. Then, I tried something I have recently told you about and even promised to blog for you. Well, I won't need to blog it any more. I'll just include it in articles like this one.

Dancing reticle
I had just finished lunch and my heartbeat was wild from digestion. The reticle was dancing all over the place. I flipped my hand over and laid the forearm on the backs of my fingers where there are no blood vessels and guess what - steady as a rock! For thirteen years I have been writing about the artillery hold and in one day I learned a better way of doing it. Oh, and that solved the problem. Shots went into tight little groups the way they're supposed to.

Here's a variation on the artillery hold that I find improves the steadiness of the rifle tremendously.

That's five JSB Exacts in 0.275" at 21 yards. Yes, the rifle does shoot better with good glass, no parallax and a steady artillery hold.

I'm done with the .177 (except for re-examining velocity) and will move on to test the .22 barrel.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beeman SS1000H dual-caliber rifle combo - Part 3
Accuracy for the .177 barrel

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Someone asked if the Beeman dual-caliber SS1000H is a variation of the AR 1000 and I'm beginning to think that it is. It shoots remarkably like the Tech Force Contender 89 I tested, which is another AR 1000. Only this one comes with interchangeable barrels.

Mounting the scope
Beeman supplied their 2-piece 5030M scope rings, which mounted easily. The rifle has a scope stop built in so all you need to do is slide the rear ring against it and you're set. The mounts come with a vertical stop pin, but there's no need for one with this rifle.

Parallax problems!
The 3-9x32 scope Beeman packs with the rifle is parallax-adjusted farther out than 20 yards, so I was unable to see the targets clearly. I dropped the power back to 6x, but it was still fuzzy. There was still a lot of parallax in the scope, so I tried to get the same spot weld for every shot. I'm sure that caused some group dispersion, but since all pellets were tested the same way, it should cancel out. This scope is not what you want for this rifle, so plan on replacing it as soon as possible.

The first shot at 10 feet was a 10 and nearly a pinwheel. I've never had a first shot like that, and I took it as a sign the rifle was going to shoot good. Of course, the elevation had to be lowered a lot to get on target at the 21 yards from which I was firing.

Beeman Trophy
Beeman Trophys were first, and they seemed to do okay, but not earth-shattering. The first group measured 0.941" which is poor, but four of the five went into 0.482", which is okay. I'll come back to this pellet to verify accuracy or eliminate it.

The other pellets were poor to lousy
You may recall I tested Beeman Ram Jets, Beeman Kodiaks and Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. They all grouped over an inch with this rifle, with the Kodiaks going two inches. Because of the bad image from the scope, I was ready to quit...but there was one more pellet to try.

JSB Exact
The first group of JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets measured 0.691", so I thought I would give them several more tries. As it turned out, that was the largest group they shot - by far. The best group was 0.415", and there were several that measured under a half-inch. The pellet wants to shoot in this rifle! And the rifle wants to shoot! It just needs a better scope to extract the last bit of accuracy it has to give.

This is a nice, tight 21-yard group of JSB Exacts, considering the scope was out of focus and had a lot of parallax.

I did try the Beeman Trophys a couple more times, but the groups got worse rather than better. So, in this rifle in .177, it's JSB Exacts.

Firing behavior
This rifle fires smoothly and without a lot of recoil, putting me in mind of the AR 1000. The trigger has a big creep in the second stage, but it is consistent, so I could plan on it. Like most breakbarrels, it's hold-sensitive, but not overly so. It also has a ball-bearing detent to lock the barrel, just like the AR 1000.

The barrel remained tight through this shooting session, as well as the velocity test, so that's about 150 shots on it so far without any adverse effects. I believe it'll be fine until I intentionally remove the barrel.

I think I'll upgrade the scope and retest in .177. I would like to know if it can shoot any better when the target is clear. I'm sure you'd like to know, too.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Laser "sights" - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This post is for Paul at Pyramyd Air, who gets several calls a week asking about the usefulness of laser "sights" on an airgun. Today, I want to cover them and tell you what they can do, and what they cannot do.

Lasers are not sights!
First off - lasers ARE NOT SIGHTS! That's why I put the quotes around the word in the title. Somewhere along the line, salespeople started referring to lasers as sights, and now the market is very confused. Lasers are not a means of sighting a gun, but they can perform a similar function by pointing out where the pellet will go. Instead of a sight, a laser should be called a designator, and indeed, they are called that by the military. Don't expect Pyramyd Air to change their product descriptions, however, because the entire industry is now calling them sights.

Most people know that a laser projects a beam of light in the same way a flashlight does, but the light it projects is different. It is light traveling in a parallel path - meaning that instead of spreading out, a laser light stays tight for a very long distance. The better the laser, the less it spreads. And that is part of what you need to know. A cheap laser will spread faster than an expensive one. The dot from a $15 laser may be 2" in diameter after traveling 100 yards, while the dot from a $300 laser may be almost as tight as when it began. That makes the more expensive laser easier to see at longer distances, regardless of the laser's power.

Power does play a big part in laser effectiveness. The cheapies are all less than five milliwatts (probably less than four) and fire a beam of 630-680 nanometers, which appears red to the human eye. More powerful lasers bump up the wattage and fire a green beam at 532 nanometers, which is easier to see at long distances. But, even the cheapest red diode laser that's a class IIIa (low power and red beam) laser will appear to the eye to be brighter than the sun. And, you know to never gaze directly at the sun!

Looking directly at a class IIIa red laser at close range can cause flashblindness - same as a photo flash unit. The green lasers can burn retinas at up to 50 feet and cause flashblindness at up to a quarter-mile! The stargazer who disoriented the airline pilot with a green laser telescope designator in 2005 faced a 20-year prison term for doing what he did.

How they work as designators
A laser beam can be adjusted to coincide with the strike of a pellet if the laser is mounted in an adjustable mount. That's where the confusion about it being a sight comes from. At close range, this is a very handy thing for several reasons. First, most people can easily see a laser dot on a target of almost any color at 20 feet. Except in bright daylight, the dot appears bright on almost anything. But as the distance grows, the dot gets harder to see - not because it grows dimmer, but because our eyes cannot see the reflection of the dot off the target farther away. That's what many people do not appreciate. And animal targets sometimes reflect very little light, though other times they are good reflectors.

Don't be fooled by indoor demonstrations
Indoors, where most lasers are demonstrated and sold, they appear bright at distances of 100 yards and farther. But step outside and the distance at which they can be seen drops dramatically. A red dot laser disappears in less than 20 feet on a sunny day. If you spend the money for a law enforcement grade laser, then, yes, you'll be able to see the dot much farther outdoors. However, most of us would balk at spending $350 just for a laser. I know I would.

Lasers force compliance
Another great use for a laser is to let a bad guy know you mean business. Many times all it takes is a green or red dot to appear on a person's chest to get them to stand down and listen to reason. That's because in their chosen profession, they are well aware that the laser projecting that dot is mounted to a firearm that can send a bullet to that same spot in less than a second! I am not telling you to use a laser pointer to bluff a criminal. Never do that! I'm telling you that having one mounted on your personal defense weapon may be a smart way to avoid having to shoot someone. But always be prepared to follow through if you have to.

But airguns?
So why are lasers sold for airguns? Three reasons, really. No. 1 is simply the coolness factor. People just want them, and there's money to be made in selling things people want. No. 2 is that airsoft guns need lasers to complete their tactical look. Because the firearm mounts a laser, the airsoft equivalent has to, as well. Reason No. 3 is the most important one, I think. Lasers have a place on a hunting airgun!

Hunting with a laser?
I know a guy who shoots feral pigeons. That's his thing. He's a pest hunter and he specializes in wild pigeons. I sighted the scope on his Talon SS for 20 yards, so it's on between 20 and 30. A lot of times, he gets much closer than 20 yards, which is 60 feet. He carries his rifle in the cab of his truck, and sometimes he pulls under bridge overpasses where there are hundreds of pigeons roosting. Then he rolls down his window and uses the laser to designate a bird at about 20-30 feet. The laser is sighted for that distance, and it works very well for him. He kills hundreds of birds that way every month.

In the next and final segment, I'll talk about specific models and how they're mounted, plus things such as battery life and how the switches work.