Friday, February 29, 2008

What does "Accurized" mean?

by B.B. Pelletier

The term ACCURIZED is so common in airgunning that people use it without thinking. What does it mean?

As far as I can tell, Robert Law of Air Rifle Headquarters (ARH) was the first to use the term ACCURIZE in relation to airguns. You would think that he had a specific definition in mind, but when you read what he wrote in his Fall/Winter 1979 catalog to describe the term, you'll see it doesn't seem to amount to much.

A late ARH catalog gave the definition of accurization.

"Accurization involves having a highly trained specialist totally disassemble a gun. Each individual part is cleaned and inspected. The ultimate space-age lubricant or bonded coating is then applied to each component for optimum performance and friction reduction. This stabilizes the cylinder compression mechanism and greatly reduces normal wear. Both accuracy and velocity improve. Recoil is often reduced by as much as 60 percent."

That is the only paragraph out of four under the heading Optional Accurization that has any technical information in it, and, as you can see, what is there is pretty thin. It sounded good to me when I read it for the first time in 1979, but now that I've tuned a few guns, it doesn't hold much water. However, let's not stop there.

I have encountered the results of an ARH "Optional Accurization" and can report to you what I found. A friend acquired an FWB 124 that wasn't performing well and asked me to overhaul it for him. It had been accurized by ARH and not touched since. When I removed the action from the stock, I was shocked by the large amount of what looked like moly grease that had escaped the cocking slot and was now coating the outer surface of the spring tube. I scraped about a teaspoon of this gray viscous grease from the outside of the spring tube around the cocking slot, which told me to expect many times more inside the tube.

There was more, but not as much as I feared. The grease had been slowly migrating outside through the cocking slot, so I found a couple more teaspoonfuls inside, but no more. I was curious why this rifle was so loaded with grease, and the answer surfaced in an ARH pamphlet about accurizing FWB 124s. The instructions advised the use of Moly G powder everywhere on the inside of the 124 action except on parts relating to the trigger. They go on to say that an entire jar of Mainspring Dampening Compound should be spread on the mainspring. The ARH jar of Mainspring Dampening Compound held 1/2 oz. of thick white silicone grease. That's about four teaspoons full.

This pamphlet, published in 1976, describes what goes into an accurization.

Inside the gun, the lubrication (grease) had moved to the cylinder walls, so the mainspring was free to move. However, if it tried to wiggle against the cylinder walls it came in contact with this thick grease that dampened its vibrations. Over the course of the years, all the dark Moly G powder had mixed with the Mainspring Dampening Compound until what remained looked like a thick gray grease.

Before my tuneup, this rifle was shooting Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets around 730-750 f.p.s. After I tuned it up and switched out the mainspring and seal, it shot 960 with the same pellet.

The velocity reported in the preceeding paragraph is in error. The final velocity wasn't 960 f.p.s., it was 861 f.p.s. A reader of this blog named Lance pointed this out to me and I found the report in the November 1997 issue of The Airgun Letter. I apologize for this mistake.

Mainspring Dampening Compound was good stuff back in the 1970s, when factory mainsprings were loose both inside the pistons and on the spring guides. By the mid-1990s, tuners such as Ivan Hancock and Jim Maccari were telling everyone that the physical tolerances inside spring guns had to be made tighter and the lubrication had to be minimal. Hancock coated certain of his springs with a permanent black substance that I referred to in The Airgun Letter as Black Tar, a term that caught on. Maccari soon came out with a different black tarry grease that home tuners could apply, and, because it didn't rob velocity when done correctly (like the old Mainspring Dampening Compound had) he dubbed it Velocity Tar.

By the 1990s, most airguns in the higher-powered class were also using synthetic seals instead of leather. Let me tell you what that means. A tuned RWS Diana 45 with a leather seal can make about 840 f.p.s. with a light .177 pellet. With the same pellet in the same rifle converted to a synthetic seal, the velocity rises to the high to mid-900s. Before you start thinking about replacing leather seals with synthetic, however, know that most airguns will require a new piston for the synthetic seal - it's not a straight swap. Those guns that do have the leather seals are starting to have some collector value. I once converted an HW55 from a leather seal to synthetic and now I wish I hadn't, because with leather the gun is a better collectible.

At Beeman, the term was a "Super Tune-Up." I won't say that what they did was essentially the same as the ARH accurization, because I don't believe they ever used Mainspring Dampening Compound (which they also sold) to the same extent. Also, they were in business later, so they had some tunes like the Laser Tune that were far more modern than those done by ARH. A laserization involved a fitted piston seal, a mainspring that was easier to cock and a new gold lubricant called Laser Lube. Together, these things boosted the R1's velocity up to 1,100 f.p.s.

At ARH the term accurization was used loosely, and the procedures to do one probably evolved as time passed. Nobody would want a 1970s tune on their gun today. A 1976 FWB 124 got about 820 f.p.s. when tuned to the max, and the 124 has always had a synthetic seal. It also vibrated a little after tuning. With a good tune today, it's possible for the same rifle to reach 960 f.p.s. with the same pellet and be almost dead calm.

The bottom line to this report is that accurization is a nebulous term with no foundation in fact. It is about as descriptive as the term "Magnum," which used to mean an airgun that could shoot faster than 800 f.p.s., but today means faster that 1,000 f.p.s. In 10 years, who knows what it will mean?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why does my rifle shift its aim point? - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Okay, today I'd like to finish this report. There's a lot to cover, but I won't go into detail like I did in the first two parts. Remember, the complaint was a point-of-impact shift from one day to another AND a shift in the middle of a shot string. Those two separate reasons could each cause a POI shift, but if BOTH of them are happening, it can only be caused by parallax or a broken scope or loose mount. I think Hegshen is careful enough to catch the bad scope and loose mount, so I had to go with parallax. But there are other causes of impact shift.

Cause 1. Positioning of the cocking knob
This is an AirForce quirk, because they have a cocking knob that must be rotated into one of two locking notches on either side of the receiver. Fail to do it, and the bolt will move during firing, causing drastic changes in the amount of compressed air that gets behind the pellet. That will cause inaccuracy and POI shifts. When I was at AirForce and answered phone calls about accuracy problems, this was one of the main causes of those problems. AirForce made a video about how to operate the rifle and put the instructions in the owner's manual. If a shooter didn't pay attention to those instructions, they often had accuracy problems. Some guys went to the extreme of looping a rubber band around the bolt handle and the gun, so the handle would always be pulled into the notch when not being used to cock and load the gun.

The cocking knob of an AirForce rifle has to be rotated into one of the two notches before firing.

Cause 2. Elevation adjusted too high
When the scope's internal elevation is adjusted up beyond a certain point, the erector tube return spring relaxes to the point that the tube can move at will. This will cause a wandering POI or sometimes a jump from one POI to another. This is a universal problem with scopes and the principal reason I recommend B-Square adjustable mounts. You can usually feel when the spring tension relaxes, because the clicks become softer and mushier. Avoid this region of adjustment if you want accuracy and a consistent POI.

Cause 3. Temperature change
A large change in outside temperature will change how the lenses in your scope are aligned. This is usually a cause for a POI shift when more than a day lapses between shooting, but I once saw it happen in the middle of a field target match, when a thunderstorm dropped the temperature by more than 20 degrees in a short time. The only solution is to re-zero the scope.

Cause 4. Shooting at different ranges
I tried to make this point in Part 2, but if that wasn't positive enough, I'm saying it again. Shooting at different ranges affects the zero of your scope. I'm not talking about elevation. Everyone knows pellets don't fly straight and will print at different places depending on the range. But if the scope is not aligned with the bore of the airgun horizontally, it will shoot to one side close up and to the other side far away. You will never see this after zeroing, because you will have aligned the scope and pellet flight path at one specific range. But, change ranges, and the POI will shift to the side. When the scope is optically aligned with the bore, this won't happen.

That being said, this one isn't a big problem for most scope users. When you miss your POI on a deer, you're still within the kill zone and no one is the wiser. It's only when you're looking for half-pellet diameter accuracy and get slapped in the face with a one-inch shift that you pay attention.

Cause 5. Cant
Cant means tilting the scope away from the plane at which it was sighted-in. This will throw the pellet to the side and also down. I did a cant test that demonstrated a pellet movement of as much as 6 inches at 50 yards when cant is involved. For that test, the cant was a measured 20 degrees in each direction, something that would never happen in the real world. But a 3-degree cant is possible for some people on some terrain that doesn't give good cues as to level. That can throw you off by an inch at 50 yards.

Cause 6. Sidewind
A sidewind will blow your pellet in the direction the wind is blowing, and also either up of down, depending on the wind direction and the direction of spin imparted by your barrel. This is caused by a phenomenon known as precession. A gyroscope (your spinning pellet) that's pushed in a certain direction will move at 90 degrees to the force. The movement will always be in the direction of spin. If the gyro is spinning in a righthand direction and you push it to the right, it doesn't go goes down. Push from the left and the same gyro doesn't go goes up. The gyroscope is touching the earth at its point where a lot of friction holds it fast. But a pellet flying through the air has no friction holding it in place, so it tends to go with the flow. Therefore, the sideways movement is usually larger than the upward or downward movement.

Precession causes a gyroscope to move 90 degrees to the direction of force in the direction of spin.

Cause 7. Changing the scope's power
When the power is increased or decreased on some variable scopes, the point of impact can change. Apparently, it depends on how the lenses are arranged inside the scope. This used to be a common problem, but a lot of scope manufacturers have designed their scopes so it doesn't happen as much anymore. I shoot a lot of Leapers scopes, and I've never seen a POI change when the power was adjusted on one of them.

Those are all the causes for POI shift I can think of. If you know of one I've overlooked, please respond.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

10-meter rifle - Part 3
The Olympic rifles

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 2/The budget rifles, continued

Collector alert!
Collectors, there is an estate sale going on right now on the internet. Many of the guns have already been sold, but there are still a few choice items left. Also, there's a treasure trove of old airgun literature, including a rare first edition Beeman catalog. The site says estate auction, but what you do is make an offer to them. If they find it acceptable, they contact you, and you buy the gun or whatever.

Take this link to the estate sale.

There is more than what's listed. All the rifles are listed, but there are a couple of air pistols and a lot more literature than what you see on the site. Be sure to use the scroll bar and to click on the other links on the left side of the page. The former owner passed away a few years ago and his brother is helping the widow sell the items. I've already had a transaction with them and everything went well. Be sure to ask about condition because the photos do not show detail.

The family is having more difficulties right now, so it may take a while for someone to get back to you. Just be patient.

The best of the best
Today, we'll look at what many people believe to be the highest pinnacle in airgunning - the Olympic target rifle. When I got back into airgunning in 1976, these rifles were selling for $500-700. Today, they push $3,000.

There's hope
Fortunately, for those who don't have trust funds, there's a dynamic in 10-meter rifles and pistols that exists nowhere else in airgunning - planned obsolescence! Every few years, some new technology comes along and carries the majority of world-class shooters along to the next level. Many of them are sponsored and don't buy their guns to begin with; but once the movement starts, there's no stopping it. What it leaves behind is a host of deeply discounted, slightly out-of-date rifles, any of which could still win gold. I'll talk about used rifles in a different post, because today I want to concentrate on the state of the art.

Ergonomics - the top feature today
Without a doubt, the man-machine interface is what sets today's 10-meter guns apart. Since the 1960s, these guns have been improving in this area, but in the late 1990s they underwent a total transformation. Nearly everything that can be adjusted on the guns is now movable so it can adapt to whatever body configuration and shooting style might be desired. The only area yet to be optimized is those shooters with disabilities, and that's because each disability is unique. But, for able-bodied shooters, the new rifles offer near-perfect fit.

More adjustments than a Hollywood divorce! The new Feinwekbau 700 target rifle has it all. It's a PCP with removable air cylinders and has FWB's anti-recoil stabilization to cancel the tiny reaction when the pellet moves. However, as difficult as it is to believe when looking at this masterpiece, in 10 years it'll be obsolete on the world stage.

A look at three of the numerous adjustments on the FWB 700 reveals the extent the designers went to to adapt this rifle to a shooter.

About 10 years ago, two top airgun makers pioneered a way of canceling the slight movement that's transmitted when the gun fires. Newton's third law of motion cannot be ignored, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Shooters call this recoil. The amount of recoil depends on the mass of the object being acted upon, and in a 10-meter target rifle, that's a .177 caliber pellet weighing about 8.5 grains. That mass is accelerated to a given velocity by a certain amount of force. The rifle reacts to the movement of the pellet by moving in the opposite direction with the same force. The force that pushes an 8-grain pellet to 580 f.p.s. doesn't do much when it encounters a rifle that weighs 75,600 grains. In fact, as far as most people are concerned, there's no movement at all. To a person who can detect a movement as small as 0.01" while looking through precision sights, the reactive motion is present and significant. So, something was done.

In one system, a small weight inside the gun's action is pushed backwards with the same force that pushes the pellet forward. It travels for a short distance expending the minimal energy and the shooter never feels anything. I've shot rifles and pistols equipped with this technology, and the only clue you have that the gun fires is the sound it makes. There's not so much as a pulse of feeling when the gun fires! It makes an IZH 46M feel like a .22 rimfire in comparison.

I would have guessed that sights had progressed as far as they could go back in the 1970s, but they've kept pace with the new guns. Sights don't change as rapidly as rifles; they're on an advancement schedule of every 10-15 years, as opposed to every 5-10 years. And, unlike the guns, they aren't always abandoned when something new comes along. I have sight components, like a Gehman variable diopter and a set of graduated transparent front apertures, that I move from gun to gun. The Gehman design is over 40 years old, and the front apertures are at least 15 years old. Today, several front sights have the same feature by pressing an o-ring between two pieces of plexiglass. The o-ring fattens and thins based on the pressure.

For the past 40+ years, Gehmann has made this adjustable rear aperture for target rifles. It's hard to make something like this more modern.

Graduated transparent front apertures allow for individual tastes and lighting changes.

Fill pressure
Walther rifles fill to 300 bar (4350 psi). All others that I'm aware of fill to 200 bar, which is more common worldwide. Walther gets more shots from this higher fill pressure, but the lack of fill equipment, especially in the U.S., limits shooters. The guns will function with a lower-pressure fill, but total shots are fewer.

Specifications of a top 10-meter rifle
A top 10-meter rifle today is extremely ergonomic, with an aluminum subframe to which everything is attached. It has stabilization in some form. It is a PCP.

Acceptable specifications for competition
You can compete without the stabilization and even without the ergonomics. You should use either compressed air or have a single-stroke pneumatic action. The sights must be world-class but do not have to be the latest models.

I sense you readers want to know more about these rifles. Please tell me in your remarks what it is you'd like to know. In the next installment, I'll talk about things like triggers, power and how it has declined over the years, the progression of powerplants through time (1965 to now) and accuracy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why does my rifle shift its aimpoint? - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before I begin, I'm going to break my rule about commenting on forums. I read a thread about me on the Yellow Forum yesterday and was surprised to see some very complimentary remarks. I usually don't get that. Several who commented also mentioned that they don't agree with me all the time, and I'd like to say here and now - NEITHER DO I! I have changed my mind many times in the pursuit of this hobby and I bet I'm not done, yet. Just a few weeks ago I discovered a new wrinkle on the artillery hold that makes it work a lot better than the way I described it in the Beeman R1 book.

I'm not fishing for compliments, but I'd like to thank everyone who added to that thread.

Okay, to the task at hand. Our bore is clean, so let's mount the scope and get to testing. With an AirForce Condor, however, there are some other things that should be checked. Barrel tightness is an important one. Four screws hold the barrel in the Condor, and if it's a recent one the screws go through the bushings to contact the barrel. Older Condors have two long screws that contact the barrel and two short screws that contact the barrel bushings.

The other thing I checked was the clearance of the top hat. It's set at the factory at 0.090" clearance, and should be left there for best results. This one was okay. Then, I mounted the scope and tightened it down. I used an AirForce 4-16x50 scope I use on both my AirForce rifles. It's in a prototype B-Square adjustable one-piece mount with ultra-high riser blocks. It provides too much elevation, but it works on every AirForce rifle I try it on, so scope mounting takes about one minutes. Time is money. Let's shoot!

Shooting from the bench
I promised someone I would report about shooting techniques from a bench rest, so you probably think I have a high-tech bench to use in testing. Nothing could be further from the truth. My "bench" is a rickety folding table I drag from range to range. It's a TV table on steroids. When I shoot PCPs, I use a long shooting bag filled with crushed walnut shells. The top is arranged in a "V" and the rifle lays between the upright legs. A slender Condor fits this bag perfectly.

The shooting bench. Real high-tech, eh? The first target is about 12 feet away. The one in the field is about 20 yards.

Sight-in at 10 feet
If you haven't read my Sight-in article, I recommend you do so now. You don't need boresighters, lasers or any other gimmicks to sight in an airgun. Just start shooting at 10 feet. Your goal is to get the pellet printing as far below the aimpoint as the center of the scope is above the center of the bore. Of course, you want to be aligned with the aimpoint vertically. The picture shows this much better than I can explain. Remember, this is shot at 10 feet. Because of the terrain on this range I had to shoot at 12 feet. Everything worked as it should.

At 10 feet (12 in this case), it's hard to miss the paper. Shot No. 1 was low and to the right. The others were as the scope was dialed in. Four shots to zero and about five minutes.

Move to 20 yards
After you're on at 10 feet, move to a target 20 yards away. Refine the sight adjustments until you're on at that distance. This takes another 5 minutes (took three shots). On to 35 yards, because that was the distance at which Hegshen complained of point-of-aim shifts of 1-1.5 inches.

Move to 35 yards
At 35 yards, I started shooting JSB Exact 15.8-grain domed pellets with the power wheel on No. 4. On my Condor, that's where I get great accuracy. But not on Hegshen's rifle. The pellets were all over the place. His rifle has the latest valve (we checked it before I started this test), and we filled the air tank to 3,100 psi. After all the shooting I'd done to this point, the gun was probably down to 2,800-3,000 psi or so.

At 35 yards, these pellets are all over the place. The aimpoint is the center of this bull. The gun seemed to be shooting too slowly, so the power was turned up.

When pellets are all over the place and seem to be moving slowly (as these did), I turn up the power. In this case, I went to power setting No. 8. The point of impact climbed several inches, which was perfect, because I didn't want to destroy the aimpoint.

This time, the pellets went to the same place, so I shot 20 rounds to see if there would be a point-of-impact shift. There was none. From this test, I know the rifle isn't shifting its point of impact, so now we can move on to more likely culprits.

At 35 yards, these 20 shots give a good round group. The aimpoint was the center of the bottom bull. Yes, I see the pellet outside the group at 7 o'clock and also the one at 12 o'clock, but they're meaningless. I did nothing to control the regularity of these pellets - no weighing, no inspecting of skirts prior to shooting - nothing. They were shot as they came from the tin. I wasn't looking for a tight group (though I got one); I was looking for a point-of-impact shift that never occurred.

Before we move on, a word about this 20-shot group. It's not a five-shot group. Had it been, it would have been about 0.30" center-to-center. But, shoot 10 shots and that'll increase to 0.70". Shoot 20 shots and it increases again. The group that you see measures 1.124" c-t-c. Could this rifle have done better had I shot a second 20-shot group? Of course. Could it have done worse? Absolutely. Don't get hung up on the group size, because it doesn't matter. Look at the shape. There is no POI shifting going on, and that's all we care about today.

This shot was taken while the 35-yard, 20-shot group was being fired. There's no high-tech shooting equipment being used and that scope is very high above the rifle. So, parallax is a potential problem. I dealt with it and kept it under control.

Now what?
Okay, the rifle is fine, so AirForce packaged it up and sent it back to Hegshen, along with the 35-yard target that I wrote some notes on. What if he still has the point-of-impact shift when he gets the rifle back?

I'm pretty sure he will, because I know what's happening. When I was the technical director at AirForce, I took all the phone calls and emails about POI shifts and accuracy problems, and I have seen this happen many times before. Before I tell you what it is, let's review this case. Hegshen told me he would get his rifle sighted-in, then come back to it several days later and the point of impact would have shifted. He also said that sometimes he would shoot five or six shots and then the point of impact would shift 1-1.5 inches to the left at 35 yards. He also told me his rifle shot to one side close up and to the other side far away. What's wrong?


Look at the picture of me shooting the rifle. See how high my head is above the bore of the rifle? It has to be high because that's where the scope is. If I do not put my face at the same point on the buttstock every time I shoot, my point of impact will shift, too. I've had to learn how to position my head in the same place shot after shot, or my POI would shift, too. But that's not all.

Look at where the center of the 35-yard, 20-shot group is. Now look at where the first 35-yard group of shots with the lower power setting is. It's several inches lower and slightly to the right. In other words, changing the power changes the point of impact. And, changing where you position your head changes the point of impact.

It's difficult to see, but just in front of the scope on this rifle you can see a scope level. If you go back to Part 1 and look at the first picture, you can see it there, too. Hegshen has glued it to his rifle, which isn't the best way to mount a level, but it works. I used that level on every shot to get the 20-shot group. Had I not, there would either have been point-of-impact changes or a larger group.

Here is what I'm telling Hegshen - and anyone else who experiences point-of-impact shift. First of all, the first shot from a cold rifle will probably not go to the same place as the shots that follow. That's true for springers, for CO2 guns and for PCPs. It's even true for firearms. Airgun barrels do not warm up as the guns are shot, but the valve of a PCP needs to be exercised occasionally to deliver consistent performance.

Second, you have to work on your hold, so your eye always ends up in the same place relative to the scope. This takes a lot of practice, but it returns more consistent groups.

Third, find a power setting and a single pellet and stick with both. Every time you adjust the power, you'll have to sight-in the rifle all over again. Hegshen has been shooting Kodiaks, which are good pellets, but I recommend that he try JSB Exacts and Crosman Premiers. Both will outshoot Kodiaks in a Condor, as long as the power isn't turned up all the way.

Fourth, if you want your groups to move straight up and down instead of from one side of the vertical reticle to the other, center your scope optically. Don't take shortcuts. Do the labor and you'll get the reward.

I'm not finished with this report, yet. There'll be another part that covers all the other reasons for POI shift. But that will be another day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How to lubricate pellets

by B.B. Pelletier

In last week's report about Crosman pellets, I received two comments on how to properly lubricate pellets. If two people asked, there are 40 more in the wings waiting to hear the answer.

When to lubricate
Before we know how to lube pellets, let's learn when it's needed. I already mentioned that Crosman pellets are hardened with antimony, causing them to smear lead when driven to higher velocities. In truth, this can be anything above maybe 750 f.p.s., depending on the smoothness of the barrel they pass through. When the velocity moves above 850-900 f.p.s., the leading becomes almost a certainty in just about any gun. In spring-piston guns, every time the gun fires, the piston blows a tiny amount of oil vapor into the barrel. This oil is cumulative and thus keeps the barrel lightly lubricated. So, unless the gun has been tuned with moly and has no chamber oil in it, it doesn't need to be oiled.

PCPs do not have an equivalent oiling function. They don't blow any oil out when fired. CO2, however, can. If you lubricate the tip of each new CO2 cartridge with Pellgunoil, a tiny amount blows through the gun and out into the barrel. A multi-pump pneumatic will do the same, if the pump head is kept lubricated. A PCP blows no oil into the barrel...just dry air. So, PCPs, in general, can stand some kind of lubricant on their pellets at all velocities above 750 f.p.s. (approx.). Below that velocity, the lubricity of the lead takes care of things. So, no need to oil pellets for 10-meter guns.

What to use
I've covered this in several other places, but it here goes once again. I use Whiscombe Honey. It's an oil mixture told to me by John Whiscombe, though I recently learned that he may not have discovered it. Apparently black powder shooters also use this stuff on their patches. Mix two-thirds Hoppes Gun Oil with one-third STP Engine Treatment by volume. Mix them thoroughly, and they'll never separate. I store mine in a plastic squeeze bottle designed to hold fluids like oil.

My bottle of Whiscombe Honey is over 8 years old.I wrote the formula on the label to preserve it.

You can use other things besides this. In fact, the 1990s were filled with tales of comical mixtures that airgunners traded like love potions, in the hope that the right one would give better accuracy, higher velocity or, who knows, smarter children. One UK company still makes a concoction they claim will increase velocity AND accuracy! I tested their claims and found no truth in them (surprise!). All you want from pellet oil is pellets that don't lead the bore. Here are a few other commercial products that I know work:

1. FP-10
2. Break-Free
3. Sheath
4. Ballistol

I guess the sky's the limit when it comes to pellet lubes. I like mine best for a very simple reason - SCOTT298, ARE YOU LISTENING?

The name of my lube is Whiscombe Honey. Now, what kind of airguns does John Whiscombe make? Springers - right? And not just any springers either - the most powerful springers on the market. And, yet, here he is recommending a petroleum-based product to go into a spring gun, where we all know it will lead to detonations. Right?


Whiscombe Honey doesn't detonate if used as I am going to describe. At least I haven't had a detonation yet, and I've been using it for a long time. The STP probably does the trick.

Take an old empty pellet tin. A .22-caliber tin works best because it's deeper. Cut some good foam for the bottom of the tin. Real airgunners will cut the foam from one of the two foam pads found in every cardboard box of Crosman Premiers. Insert the foam into the tin and press it to the bottom. Put about 20 drops of your chosen oil on the foam, then cover the foam with a single layer of pellets.

This is what a tin set up for oiling looks like. Those are Premier 7.9s from many years ago when I competed in field target with a TX200 Mark II.

Twenty drops on the foam to start off and after that, 10 per month to keep up, if you shoot a lot.

When I competed in field target, I used to weigh all my Crosman Premier heavies and use only those from a specific weight group (weighed to the nearest tenth of a grain). These I loaded into a tin set up to oil the pellets. By spreading a single layer of pellets on the foam, they'll roll around as the tin is carried, thus transferring the oil to the OUTSIDE of all pellets equally. How much oil pellets need varies with who does the telling, but I have found that a light coat is all it takes. When your fingers become oily from handling the pellets, that's enough.

Reduced velocity
You probably expect increased velocity from oiled pellets, but that's not what happens. They will either shoot at the same speed as dry pellets or the velocity will drop a little. Oil works well on relatively slow-moving objects such as lawnmower engines and door hinges, but on high-speed objects like pellets the surface tension can increase friction. That's one reason that claims that any oil-based product can increase velocity are false.

Well, that's the skinny on oiling pellets. I hope it helps.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Why does my rifle shift its aim point? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, Pyramyd Air is closing out the Walther RedStorm pistol and is offering them at a terrific savings. This will be your last time to get this pistol.

This will be a series that explores one of the most interesting and confusing conundrums of airgunning - the point of impact shift. I hear about it frequently and the complaint sounds like this. "I get my rifle sighted in, then come back to it in a day or so, only to find that the point of impact has shifted. If I sight-in again, when I come back to the gun, the POI has shifted once more. The gun is very accurate, but why can't I keep the groups in the same place?"

Here is a second variation of this same theme. "I'll shoot a group of several shots and then suddenly the gun throws two or three shots wide of the group. Sometimes if I continue the shots will go back to the first group but other times, the new POI is where all the pellets will land."

I actually did a report on the problems of scope shift that you might want to read, though this series will be detailed in far greater depth.

This series is prompted by a reader comment that came in while I was at the SHOT Show. Hegshen said "I own an AirForce Condor and have been experiencing POI shifts that I can't solve. I've tried everything and have sent my rifle back to AF for them to inspect.

Hegshen and I then had a lengthy discussion about his problem, which you can read in the comments section of the third installment of the Benjamin Discovery report. Normally I would play 20 questions with the person until something I said triggered the right neurons and he did something that corrected the situation. But this time was different.

I happened to be at the AirForce plant testing the final prototype of the new Diana scope base (it works well, by the way), and I asked if they had any guns in for repair. They had two, and one of them was from a guy with the same problem as Hegshen, so I knew I had found his gun. This time, I figured I would test the problem rifle myself, and see first-hand if the gun was shifting its POI. What's more, I would document the entire process so you could see what I go through when analyzing a problem like this one. POI shift is one of the most common problems airgunners have today, so what we do here should really help a lot of you.

Step one - clean the barrel!
I did all the repairs at AirForce when I worked there, and whenever guns came in with complaints of poor accuracy, I always cleaned the barrel first thing. Of all the guns I ever tested for accuracy, I only found one barrel that was bad. It had a poor choke and I couldn't get it to shoot no matter what I did. But dozens of other rifles shot perfectly. I didn't take the time to test a rifle before cleaning because no one cares what it was doing before it got fixed and time is money. So, cleaning the barrel is always the first step, unless the barrel cannot be cleaned due to gun construction.

I've already described how to clean a barrel, and there are several posts in which I list the materials and steps to do the job right, but this time I took pictures to show you what I'm talking about. Here we go.

The gun, letter describing the problem, Dewey cleaning rod tipped with a brand-new brass brush and a jar of JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound.

This is how much JB paste I put on the brass brush.

The cleaning rod and brush meet with a lot of resistance when I first try to push them through the bore. Part of this - maybe most of it - is due to the friction of the brand new brush, and some is due to the crud in the barrel. I don't know until the session is over - after the brush has passed through the length of the barrel 20 times in both directions - how dirty the barrel really is. A lot of dirt and some lead flakes usually come out of the barrel.

When the brush first enters the barrel, a lot of JB Paste is scraped off at the breech. When I pull the rod back out, I'll apply this paste to the brush again.

Stroke after stroke, the brush is passed through the length of the barrel. Whenever possible, I try to hold the Dewey cleaning rod by the ball bearing handle to let the rod rotate and the brush to follow the rifling. However, for the first 14 strokes, there's too much resistance in this particular barrel to allow that. Either this was a very dirty barrel or this brush was very large.

After all the cleaning, the brush looks like this. This was not a dirty barrel, after all. This much crud is normal from an average barrel.

Following the cleaning, the rod is wiped clean and the brush is exchanged for a cleaning jag. Clean dry patches are then pushed through the bore in one direction, only (breech to muzzle). Continue pushing clean dry patches through until the come out clean. In this case, I was having difficulty getting the final residue out of the bore, so I wet a patch with Otis bore cleaner and pushed it through to soften the residue. The job was easier to finish after that.

Here are the cleaning patches I passed through the bore to remove all the residue from the JB Compound. They start in the upper left corner and proceed to the right. On the lower row of patches, the first (left) one had two drops of Otis Ultra Bore Solvent on it to soften the remaining residue. Otis is airgun-friendly and won't harm the seals. Note that there are still a few marks on the final patches. They'll never go away. This barrel is clean.

Now that the barrel is clean, I'll mount the scope and start testing next time.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Crosman Pellets
They weren't always Premiers!

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin today, I must retract something I recently said. Several days ago, I showed you a photo of the new Crosman Outdoorsman 2250XE I saw at the SHOT Show. I told you the pistol would be sold only by Crosman, through their Custom Shop. That was incorrect. In fact, Pyramyd Air is proud to now offer the Outdoorsman 2250 XE in their Crosman lineup. I also got it in my head that it was a pistol with a shoulder stock. It's's a rifle. It'll be available in .22 caliber when it reaches Pyramyd Air the beginning of March. I don't know how many they'll get, but one look at that custom skeleton stock suggests these will be in short supply. I'm sorry I led you astray with my prediction.

Many of our readers are relatively new to airgunning and don't remember the stuff we went through over the past 50 years. So, when I start talking about "pure" lead pellets as opposed to hard lead pellets, I get a lot of questions. I don't mind the questions, but in the case of pellets I'd like you to know some of what has happened over the past half-century, so you can appreciate what we have today.

Going back to the 1960s, the airguns we had in the U.S. were primitive compared to today's standards. Those were the days of the "Benjamin Franklin" guns and also the days of Sheridan and Crosman. Manufacturers were starting to experiment with materials and finishes, and we all lamented the loss of the blued steel, nickelplating and wood that was traded for painted metal, cast metal and plastic. In the U.S., we were unaware (for the most part) of the fine European spring rifles and pistols made by Weihrauch, BSF and Diana. Air Rifle Headquarters was just beginning to explore that world in 1963, and it wouldn't become widely known until Robert Beeman lent his golden touch in 1974. We were also unaware of the pellets that the European companies were just beginning to make - pellets that would redefine the accuracy of airguns in time.

This was also the time when some companies such as Crosman were starting to make repeating pellet guns. Some, like the Single-Action Six, were of conventional design, while others, like the model 600 pistol, were far ahead of their time. And, the pellets Crosman made for these guns were responsible, in part, for their mediocre level of performance at that point in time, just as were the leaky CO2 cartridges of that era.

Super Pells - flying ashcans
The pellets in question were called Crosman Super Pells during this time, and they came in red and black tins that resembled spice tins. Later in the '70s, the boxes were changed to a long plastic tube with a square section, but the pellets inside remained the same. They were, in fact, the same pellets Crosman had made on the same machinery since production began in the 1920s! Over the course of 60 years, the pellet-making machinery wore out and the shape of the pellets morphed from a traditional wasp-waisted diabolo into a lead cylinder with barely the hint of a waist - not too dissimilar from aging Hollywood starlets. It was those rough cylinders - we called them flying ashcans - that I shot from all my Crosman airguns of 1958 until 1990.

These Crosman Super Pells are of 1970s vintage, which means they were about as bad as the line ever got.

Those pellets were also made of pure lead, which made them easier to form but far more prone to damage during handling. In fact, in those days, you were lucky if a pellet started out round at the base. We took it on faith that the blast of air or CO2 would swage out the pellet skirt into the barrel walls, making it uniform, but I know now that probably didn't happen outside of the few spring-piston guns that existed.

Being soft lead and prone to deform, those old Super Pells didn't want to feed through repeating mechanisms. They were okay for revolvers like the SA-6 and the 38T and 38C; but in a 10-shot semiauto 600, they tended to jam the mechanism. We blamed the guns, because there weren't a lot of choices when it came to pellets in those days. Only Crosman and Benjamin brands were popularly available, and the Benjamins, while more like a conventional diabolo, were just as out-of-round, misshapen and prone to deforming.

So fine repeating semiautos like the 600 and the 451 languished, because the powerlets all leaked and the pellets jammed the mechanisms. Imagine our surprise to rediscover these fine guns in the 1990s, when we learned they were accurate, powerful and very reliable when fed good pellets!

Quick to oxidize
Another flaw the older pellets had was oxidation. Within a year or two, they would start to accumulate a dusty white coat of lead oxide if left exposed. Benjamin pellets came coated with thick oil and they oxidized, too. Today's pellets have either an oil, wax or graphite coating that resists oxidation for a lot longer, though they do cause airgunners to think their bores are dirty when the compound scrapes off.

I believe Crosman's investment in repeaters caused them to think about hardening the lead in their pellets when they came out with their new line of pellets at the end of the 1980s. Premiers are not the only pellet that's made from hardened lead - the entire Crosman lead pellet line is hardened with antimony. As a result, they deform less and feed better through mechanisms than soft lead pellets. However, they also deposit lead in the barrel at lower velocities than pure lead pellets. That's a drawback. The repeaters Crosman makes are all low velocity and aren't bothered by it, but when Premiers are shot from magnum guns at high velocities, they need to be lubricated or they'll lead the bore.

The Premier is the flagship of Crosman's pellet line. For all of the 1990s, they were the most accurate pellet in the world.

The change was worth it
Today's Crosman pellets are light-years beyond the Super Pells of the past. Believe me, you wouldn't want to go back to those times! The cheapest Chinese pellets are better than what we used to get from Crosman. However, today's Crosman pellets are world-class in many respects. They represent a great value and the Premiers in the cardboard box are among the most accurate pellets available.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Theoben Fenman - the gentle gas spring rifle - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before I begin, let me tell you that I just purchased a BSF 55N breakbarrel spring rifle. This rifle was originally sold by Air Rifle Headquarters and was sent back in 1980 for some repair work. I had one of these years ago that I let get away, but this one will remain with me. It's one of four air rifles that broke the 800 f.p.s. barrier back in the 1970s and was one of the first air rifles to carry the magnumlabel. I lived in the German city where this rifle was made when I served in the Army, so I've always had a soft spot in my heart for it. There will be a report coming in the future. But, today, we're back with the Theoben Fenman.

Last time, I told you about the bad experience I had when the Fenman first arrived. After the rifle was fixed, it functioned perfectly and made me glad I'd bought it. I told you that the power was down to 12 foot-pounds, which is a Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet going 825 f.p.s. That may not seem like much in this day of 1400+ f.p.s., but the Fenman was accurate and easy to shoot on top of everything else. I was able to connect with my intended targets with all that velocity, and that makes more of an imporession than missing them with double the energy.

Here's one of the few color photos I have of my old Fenman. I was at the DIFTA sight-in range on this day.

Back in those days, all Theoben gas spring rifles were owner-adjustable, through a screw on the back of the spring tube. Remove the screw, and you gained access to a port where air could be pumped into or released from the spring.

Remove this screw at the rear of the spring tube and gain access to the Theoben gas spring.

With the screw out, you have access to a Schrader valve (like a common bicycle tire valve). The pin isn't visible in this shot, but it's there. Pushing it releases air pressure. With a special Slim Jim pump, you can add pressure to the spring.

Of course, it was the adjustability of the spring that caused the problem I reported in the first installment. To pressurize the rifle correctly, you were supposed to fill the spring and fire the rifle through a chronograph. When it stopped gaining speed, you were done. My Fenman never stopped gaining speed, which is why it was sent to me over-pressurized. It should have topped-out at 12 foot-pounds, but it was producing almost 15 foot-pounds when I got it. Back down at 12 foot-pounds, the cocking effort was about 42 lbs. which is hard but not unreasonable.

Firing behavior
How the gun felt when fired was its principle joy. The recoil was very light (the rifle had to be held lightly for this) and the firing jolt was very minimal. For those who've shot Theoben Eliminators or Beeman Crow Magnums, a Fenman is a completely different experience.

The trigger - can you say perfection?
A Theoben Fenman trigger is based loosely on the Gamo trigger design, but it's no Gamo! It is, without a doubt, the best spring rifle trigger I've ever felt. The break is so crisp that it's like breaking the proverbial glass rod, and the trigger blade is nearly vertical, which gives you wonderful control. The movement is straight back until the break. The only thing that would have made it better was the presence of an overtravel adjustment. I credit this trigger for a lot of the exceptional offhand accuracy of the rifle.

The Fenman trigger is adjustable and has a lot of similarity to a Gamo trigger. It is, however, glass-crisp and very light. The automatic safety (lever in front of the trigger) must be pressed forward before shooting, but can be reapplied any time the rifle is cocked.

Don't forget that you can leave a gas spring cocked for hours if you like. The spring does not degrade. Having a safety that can be reapplied becomes an important feature in what is, essentially, a hunting gun.

My .177 liked Beeman Kodiak pellets best of all, giving me 5-shot groups of less than one inch at 40 yards. That's pretty darned good for any springer! Believe it or not, the actual barrel length on this rifle is only 7.375" long. The barrel brake adds some extra length to make cocking easier. For those keeping score, I think this is the shortest rifle barrel I've ever tested, and yet it can develop almost 15 foot-pounds in .177 if pressed.

Why didn't I keep it?
The answer is that the caliber was wrong for me. Had it been a .22, I think I would still own the rifle. I loved the little .22 I shot, but somehow the .177 didn't thrill me in the same way. Yes, it was much faster, but the .22 just seemed magical in the accuracy department.

Sadly, they don't make the Fenman anymore, though you can find a used one if you look. A modern equivalent, in experience, but not in finish, is the Gamo Whisper in .177 with an Air Venturi gas spring. That rifle thrills me in the smaller caliber in exactly the same way the Fenman did in .22.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

10-meter rifle - Part 2
The budget rifles, continued

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I'm sorry I had to break this up, but the text starts Where we left off yesterday.

The Chinese-made diopters have excessive slack in the gears and then "jump" when they start adjusting. For years, coaches who used Daisy's all-plastic, American-made aperture sights have instructed their shooters to wind the sight several clicks in the opposite direction before adjusting to take the slack out of the gears. Now the problem exists in the upgraded apertures, as well. Fortunately, there's a bright light on the horizon.

AirForce will soon be manufacturing an entirely new type of diopter rear sight for their new Edge rifle. This sight will also be available separately, and I predict it will become necessary equipment in the Sporter Class inside of a year. If you're looking to buy a 10-meter budget rifle and the sight is from Gamo, Daisy or Crosman, you might want to keep an eye on this development.

Weight and size - A budget 10-meter rifle usually weighs under 6.5 lbs. The ones at the bottom of the price scale all do. When you think of budget 10-meter rifles, you have to think about kids who are the target users. Even though we know that thousands of adults also shoot these airguns, hundreds of thousands of kids shoot them each year, so the guns will be made with them in mind. Fortunately, with target rifles, length of pull isn't as critical as with sporting rifles. The erect stance and different hold tends to shorten the required length of pull for everyone.

Accuracy - What can you expect from a budget 10-meter target rifle? More accuracy than most shooters can use. Until you're good enough to compete in national-level competition, a budget target rifle would not hinder you at all. I addressed this when I wrote about Entry-level 10 meter airguns in December. If you reread that post, you'll get a good idea of the level of accuracy to expect.

Ergonomics, however, is another story. The heavier triggers and less adjustable stocks will play havoc with all shooters, which is why I hate to hear a parent or coach say, "These guns are good enough for junior shooters." No, they're not! When I first learned basic rifle marksmanship from the NRA, they used Winchester model 52 target rifles to train us. I was only 9 or 10, but the rifle I shot weighed a good 10 lbs. I learned what a good trigger felt like and what good sights could do. After that experience, my cheap Winchester model 69 was a poor substitute and I knew it. Don't think for a minute that kids are not as sophisticated as adults when it comes to man-machine interface.

There is no reason budget (kids) target guns have to have creepy triggers or sights that don't adjust crisply. What prevents a budget target rifle from having a dry-fire feature? These things are all important, even if the trigger isn't going to break below 1.5 lbs. At least it can break cleanly.

What about the Daisy 753? The 887?
Daisy builds all their target guns on a common set of parts. The 753 has a more adult-sized stock and an upgraded rear sight (that is still Chinese), but in all other aspects, it's an 853. The 887 is a CO2 gun, of course, yet most of the frame and components of the 853 are used. The 887 comes out of the box with a 2-lb. trigger, while the 853 must be adjusted to get that light.

What about the Daisy 953?
The 953 is really outside the budget 10-meter rifle category, except a lot of people don't want to leave it there. It doesn't have a Lothar Walther barrel like the 853, 853C and 753, and the base rifle lacks any kind of diopter sight (but one can be added). Accuracy is surprisingly good, despite the American-made barrel, and thousands of shooters enjoy this rifle for informal target shooting.

To summarize
So, what conclusions can be made? First, that there are budget 10-meter rifles (costing under $1,000)...and within that category there are certain rifles acceptable to compete in the Sporter Class of NRA and CMP matches. The Sporter Class rifles are all at the bottom of the cost spectrum, because the two governing groups want to make 10-meter competition affordable for as many kids as they can. What you give up at the low end of the price spectrum of budget rifles is a nice/light trigger, ergonomics and a precision rear aperture (or diopter) sight.

You can spend more money and get a finer rifle, though it will still not be capable of competing at the world-class level, or what the NRA and CMP call the Precision Class. That may not make a difference to you if you don't plan on competing. I haven't mentioned used rifles yet, but I will when we look at world-class target rifles.

One final fact, and then I'll let this rest. At the 2006 SHOT Show NRA Airgun Breakfast, all who attended were told that the NRA has over 700,000+ kids competing in sanctioned matches each year. Most of those kids compete in the Sporter Class. Those numbers far exceed any other airgun sport, or firearm sport for that matter! Field target may have 1,000 shooters competing in the U.S., though I think that's overstating it, and silhouette may have another 1,000. Do you see why 10-meter competition is important to airgun manufacturers - especially the Sporter Class?

Monday, February 18, 2008

10-meter rifle - Part 2
The budget rifles

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

There's been a lot of interest in this series. I had to set it aside while I was at the SHOT Show, but now we're back on track. Today, I'll take a look at the affordable rifles for 10-meter competition. This segment is so large that I broke it into two installments, so the rest will be posted tomorrow.

A broad range of prices!
Because the true world-class 10-meter rifles have now all climbed up to and over $2,000, the range of guns in the budget category has become very broad...almost to the point of confusion.

For example, if you're affiliated with a CMP or NRA-sanctioned airgun club, Feinwerkbau and Beeman have joined forces to offer the FWB P70 Junior for under $1,000. I would guess that the new P700 Junior will be going the same direction. That makes it a "budget" 10-meter rifle, a class that also includes the Daisy 853 and the Crosman Challenger 2000. It's not a fair comparison, because the two FWB junior rifles are really world-class, while the two American guns are the anchors of the true budget class.

Between the top and the bottom, but closer to the bottom, are rifles such as the Tau 200, the Alfa Proj, the Air Arms S200 Target and so on. The S200 Target actually cannot be used in NRA or CMP 10-meter competition because it's too powerful. At 12 foot-pounds, it has double the power (and 250 f.p.s. more velocity) of an Olympic target rifle.

And, then there's the Air Arms S400 MPR, a rifle with true 10-meter power and features but priced at the $1,000 mark. It has to be lumped in with the budget rifles because you'll never see one in world cup competition. It lacks the sophisticated ergonomics shooting competitors demand at that level. They've been seen in the Sporter Class events, but only on rare occasions. For a private individual who wants to shoot a target rifle but doesn't want to compete, however, the S400 MPR might be perfect, because it has everything an Olympic target rifle has, other than the ergonomics, at $1000 to 2000 less.

The true budget class - under $500
The NRA defined budget-class 10-meter rifles for us when they defined what they (and only they) call the Sporter Class. This class is intended to be an entry level for young shooters, and the NRA maximum price isn't hard and fast. The rationale is to keep the sport affordable for kids, and I have to applaud that. Also, in NRA 10-meter competition, the shooters of all classes shoot in three different positions - standing, kneeling and prone, rather than standing-only of international competition.

I don't know if I'm making this point clear, so let me say it here: there are budget 10-meter target rifles and then there are rifles that have been approved for use in officially sanctioned matches run by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) and the NRA. When I refer to a Sporter Class rifle, I mean one that has been officially accepted for such competition.

AirForce Airguns recently had to become familiar with the official and unofficial requirements for a Sporter Class 10-meter rifle because their new Edge will compete in that class. You had better get familiar with some of them, too, because the guns in this class are built to satisfy these requirements.

The Edge from AirForce will compete in the Sporter Class. It has more features than are usually seen at the under-$500 level (club price), where it's expected to be. The rear aperture sight is brand-new, American-made and affordable!

Trigger - You'll not find any sub-pound triggers on Sporter Class guns, though there can be some very light ones in the budget category. The guns with light triggers are simply not permitted to compete in sanctioned matches. That and price are what differentiate the Sporter Class guns from the rest of the budget guns. So, a Daisy 853, which just about owned the Sporter Class when it was started, will have a heavy trigger. As it comes from the factory, I've measured them at over 4-lbs. pull; in competition, they're slicked up and lightened. At the lowest limit permitted in competition, the rifle trigger must be able to lift a weight of 1.5 lbs. and not fire.

Sights - Gamo switched the manufacture of their diopter rear sight from Spain to China and lost credibility among America's shooting coaches. The word on the street right now is to buy Crosman diopters instead of Daisy or Gamo because they're still sourced from Spain - but that could change at any time. And, you cannot tell any of them apart ina a photograph. You have to have them in hand and check the mechanisms to know for sure. Where the HW50 Diopter fits in is anyone's guess! The rear sight is one area where the buyer has to be careful, because once Daisy and Gamo started sourcing their sights from China, everyone became confused.

Continued tomorrow...

Friday, February 15, 2008

SHOT Show 2008 - Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

More pictures from SHOT today.

The new custom Crosman Outdoorsman, 2250XE. This gun was rumored to cost $1,000 but actually sells for $269.99 directly from Crosman.

For you air pistol lovers, Umarex is bringing out several new models that should be well-received. The first is a BB gun copy of Smith & Wesson's newly famous M&P pistol. S&W made the M&P revolver famous over the decades. When the new pistol hit the market a few years ago, it was received very well. The Umarex BB gun is a 19-shot repeater that doesn't feature blowback, but it does come with a tactical light rail under the slide. This double-action-only pistol has fixed fiberoptic sights front and rear and comes in all black or a two-tone black with earth brown lower half.

New S&W M&P BB pistol will have an attractive low price.

Another pistol that's going to receive a lot of attention is the new loaded PX4 Storm Recon. It has a compensator, a Walther dot sight and a tactical flashlight with a pressure switch on the grip.

For 2008, the PX-4 Storm will also come as a Recon version, loaded with tactical accessories.

Believe it or not, I'm only skimming the new products that are being brought out this year by Umarex USA! As the year unfolds and Pyramyd Air starts receiving some of the other new things, there'll be a lot more to see.

Over on the RWS Diana side of the house, there are two new .25 caliber pellets! That's right...the Superdome and Super-H-Point are now available in the big .25, as well as .177 and .22. The new pellets are obviously made for hunting, as they weigh 31 grains for the Superdome and 26 grains for the Super-H-Point. Both come 200/tin.

Many of you have already seen advanced photos of the new rifles RWS Diana will offer. The model 34 breakbarrel rifle will also be available as the Meisterschutze Pro, a scoped version with no open sights, a straight comb (no Monte Carlo profile) a muzzlebrake and a black rubber recoil pad. The Meisterschutze Pro Compact version of the same gun features a shorter barrel. The 34 synthetic-stocked Panther will also come in the Panther Pro (scoped) and Panther Pro Compact versions.

The magnum model 350 will also be sold as the Feuerkraft version, which has a longer forearm, no hood over the fiberoptic front sight and a straight comb. It will also come as the 350 Feuerkraft Pro Compact, with a scope and a shorter barrel.

The beautiful model 46 underlever is now a Stutzen, with a full-length stock and a tasteful schnabble tip. Only in .177 at this time.

The popular model 52 sidelever will come in a special Luxus version with a deluxe basketweave skip-checkered walnut stock (the refer to it as Scottish checkering). My buddy Earl McDonald flipped over this one when he saw it in the Umarex booth.

But for me, the really big news in Diana air rifles for 2008 is the new Schutze, a re-issue of the youth-sized Diana 24. I get lots of requests from parents and grandparents for recommendations for good youth air rifles, and the cupboard has been pretty bare until now. The Diana 24 was always a hit, not just with kids but adults, as well, and I'm delighted to see it back on the market. For now, the rifle is available only in .177 caliber.

The new RWS Diana Schutze is a youth-sized breakbarrel. Velocity in .177 will be 580 f.p.s.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Theoben Fenman - the gentle gas spring rifle - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, an update on the Beeman SS1000H dual-caliber rifle. You may recall that I stopped the test back in December 11, when the .22 rifle suddenly developed lower power. At the SHOT Show, I spoke to Beeman's service manager, Don Walker, and he told me to check the breech seal, which might have fallen out. Well, I checked and the seal is still there, so I will send the rifle to Beeman for Walker to check. He promised to tell me what the problem was.

I've wanted to write this report about the Theoben Fenman for a long time, and several readers have asked for it as well, so today I'll begin.

Theoben's Fenman was a compact carbine with a large muzzlebrake. U.S. versions of the gun had no silencing technology inside the brake. The stock is a gorgeous honey-blonde, which contrasts with deep mirror-polished black metal.

My first encounter with this rifle was at an outdoor airgun silhouette match. I showed up just to cover the match, I thought, but someone thrust a .22 caliber Fenman in my hands and I shot it for the rest of the day. Offhand at 45 yards, that little rifle was deadly on the rams. I had to have one!

The opportunity to buy a .177 Fenman arose sometime later. The seller was somewhat reluctant to say much about his rifle, so I sent my money and took a gamble. When the rifle arrived it looked similar to the one I'd shot, but it sure didn't act the same! Instead of cocking with 40 lbs. of effort, my new rifle needed over 60 lbs. - way over 60! That's completely out of profile for this model. Also, the muzzle energy was around 14.85 foot-pounds - also out of profile for what is supposed to be a UK 12 foot-pound airgun.

This was my second Theoben rifle, but the first that wasn't from Beeman. At the time, Davis Schwesinger of Air Rifle Specialists was servicing them, so I called him to find out what the problem was. Dave told me there had been a few FAC (higher-power) Fenmans built, but that my gun was probably an over-pressurized 12 foot-pound gun. He told me the gun would quickly destroy itself if I left it as it was, so I shipped it to him for a complete rebuild.

Sure enough, I had a 12 foot-pound Fenman that some American shop had grossly over-pressurized to get higher velocity. I'd shot the gun only a few times, and Dave told me the gun wasn't damaged in any permanent way, but the piston seal was partially vaporized from the excessive pressure. The piston moving faster than designed created excess heat that caused the synthetic piston seal to melt a little with each shot. That melting, in turn, caused a larger volume in the compression chamber, which the owner then "fixed" by adding even more air pressure to the gas spring to bring the velocity back up. It's a self-defeating cycle that ends up with a destroyed rifle. It's also the reason Theoben stopped letting owners adjust the pressure in their rifles, and make no mistake about it - the British owners were just as bad as the Americans when it came to this abuse.

The Fenman piston seal (Theoben calls it a crown) has been partially vaporized by too-high heat. If this continues, eventually the seal will be gone and the steel piston will slam into the compression chamber wall, destroying the rifle.

This Theoben seal was in service in an Eliminator for 8 hard years and an estimated 50,000 shots. It has almost no wear. Compare that to the Fenman seal above that was melted within a few hundred shots.

When the rifle came back, the velocity with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers was around 825 f.p.s. - right at 12 foot-pounds. Ben Taylor (the Ben of Theoben) was surprised to learn of the rifle's mistreatment, so he sent the new piston seal, the other gas spring seals and a new Schrader valve at no charge, which I though was a nice gesture. Cocking was now back down around 42 lbs., and I was finally able to evaluate the rifle the way it was designed to perform.

Next time, I'll give you some specs and tell you how it feels to shoot a Fenman.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SHOT Show 2008 - Part 3

by Tom Gaylord

Part 1
Part 2

Today, I'll start showing you pictures from the SHOT Show. Now that I'm back on my big computer, I can process photos much easier, plus I'm no longer constrained by slow RV park wireless connections. Thanks to the analysis done by BobC, I was able to correct Monday's photos so more of you can see them.

On the way to Las Vegas. Just outside Flagstaff, Arizona, we encountered a winter blizzard and had to pull our RV off the road at this rest stop. As it turned out, we were in a canyon and within five miles the snow stopped.

My wife, Edith, and me standing on the observation platform at the rim of Meteor Crater - the most perfectly preserved meteor crater on earth. It's about one mile to the far side of the crater. The next morning the temperature was a balmy 7 degrees F (-14 C).

After bragging to my wife that Las Vegas is always warm in the winter, we ran smack into one of the coldest winters they had in a long time. The days struggled to make it up into the 50s, and, while those of you in Minnesota and Idaho think that's warm, I was prepared for temperatures in the 70s and 80s during the day and dropping to the 40s at night! It was butt-cold in our drafty Class A RV, and we had the heater running most of the time. In the afternoon, however, that hot desert sun sent inside temperatures soaring up to 81 degrees, so regulating our living space proved to be a major challenge at this year's show. I think I'll go back to hotel rooms, thank you very much!

This classy cased pistol came from Crosman's Custom Shop. It's based on the 2300-series pistols, but you can change nearly everything to suit your tastes. The box comes with the gun.

Remember the rumor that Crosman was going to charge $1,000 for their wood-stocked custom 2250? I saw one in their booth at the show, and of course the rumor was wrong. For a handsome skeleton-stocked carbine, the price is in the mid-$200s.

Of course, the Benjamin Discovery was the big news at Crosman this year. From the feedback they received throughout the show, they know they have a hit on their hands. I shot a TV interview about the rifle for one of the cable sportsman's shows, so some of you may see that soon. I don't have any details about when or where.

Another big announcement from Crosman is their new archery division. They showed some serious hunting crossbows in their booth, and they tell me they're getting into archery in a big way this year.

Justin Biddle (right) of Umarex shows me Ruger's two new offerings. From appearances and a shockingly low price, I know there'll be some heat on these two.

Umarex USA
I spent a lot of time in the Umarex USA booth - primarily because of all the exciting new models they're bringing out. I've already told you about the Walther Falcon Hunter Edition that'll be available in .25 caliber and the Walther Talon Magnum that's an inexpensive 1,200 f.p.s. .177 breakbarrel. The two new Ruger rifles (Air Hawk and Air Hawk Elite) are two more shockers. See that thumbhole I'm holding? That's the Air Hawk Elite that sells, with scope, for under $180! The rifle JB holds sells for $110!

In this case, the Ruger name won't be as important as the price. These should be big sellers!

Air Arms biathlon rifle shoots 5-shot clips that are stored in the right side of the forearm.

Promatic electronic target can be timed and reset remotely. Shooters can compete in timed-fire exercises or first one to hit, wins. Air Arms uses them to demonstrate field target to the public.

Air Arms always has interesting targets in their booth. This spinner set looks very inviting for long-range plinkers.

Air Arms
The Air Arms booth was active with growth plans for airgunning here in the U.S. They're considering offering a challenge to U.S. field target shooters for a field target match at Camp Perry during our national firearms matches. This would be a mirror image of the Irish team challenge that was settled at Creedmore range in the 1870s and gave us our first American long-range rifle team.

That's it for now. More pictures are on the way!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Airgun safety

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm finally back home, so all those questions I've asked you to hold can now be sent. While I was on the road, I had to ask several of you to send me your questions after I returned home, so now is the time for that, as well.

There will be more on the SHOT Show, as well as lots more photos. My laptop that I travel with doesn't have Photoshop loaded (yet!) so I had difficulty dealing with pictures on the road. Live and learn!

Speaking of learning, today's post was generated by a remorseful reader who posted this comment back on January 18.

I have a forest behind my home separated by a brook. The Deer are eating everything in sight on the home side of the brook. I have been using at Gamo Whisper (.177) to plink them in their butt at about 50 to 75 yards with a Beeman Trophy pellet (other side of the brook) and they really feel it.

This week while I was taking shots at beyond the brook one full-grown deer bolted out from nowhere across my yard at about 20 yards intercepting one of my shots. It hit the deer just behind the shoulder. At first the deer jumped forward and went on its way. I was very upset as I am not a hunter and my objective has always been to sting them so as to have them stay away from my home plantings.

Whenever they were close to my home I would plink them in the butt with a Beretta A-9000 pistol and this would get them off the property. Shortly after I observed this deer on the other side of the brook sitting on the ground. After a while it tried to get up several times and move but it was obviously badly wounded. With-in a half hour it was dead.

I am sick over this. I lost sleep and I am so disturbed that I may stop using the rifle altogether. I am writing this as a warning to those who think that an air rifle is only affective on small animals.

I have often warned new shooters to not use airguns to "discipline" animals, and this is the reason why I say it. Granted, this is an extreme case and probably happens less than one percent of the time, but we don't even want it to happen that often, do we?

When I was much younger and in the Army in Germany, I would never have thought that a .22 long rifle could take a deer. Then, I met a poacher who not only hunted deer with the .22LR, he used a rifled barrel insert in a shotgun barrel, so his gun was almost silent, yet completely legal. Of course, what he did with it wasn't legal, but that didn't bother him. He got plenty of deer without paying for the priviledge.

I returned to the U.S. in 1978 and was surprised to read about California airgunners killing Catalina goats with .177 FWB 124s. They even published articles about it in an American airgun magazine!

The point is this: airguns today are much more powerful than many people think. Many of the "accidents" in which kids kill other kids with airguns are probably really intentional shootings, because the kids don't believe the guns they have are that powerful. Why should they? Their fathers and grandfathers don't believe it, either.

I'm no saint. Believe me, my house has pellet holes in places where they shouldn't be and I have made almost every mistake that can be made. But doing so has converted me into a zealot who preaches airgun safety above all. In other words, don't do as I did, do as I wish I had done.

If you want to motivate animals use an airsoft gun instead of a pellet gun. Airsoft will deliver the sting you want, without the risk of an accidental death or maiming injury.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Erma ELG-10 spring rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

This report was requested by Western PA. If you know anything about vintage firearms, you know the name Erma means quality. Erma made a .22 semiautomatic trainer for the Egyptian Hakim 8mm service rifle around the same time (1954) Anschutz made the underlever single-shot .22 pellet trainer, and it was just as well made as the pellet rifle. The ELG-10 is the only pellet gun made by Erma, according to the Blue Book of Airguns, though I always thought they made some of the 98 Mauser insert trainers along with Hammerli.

Erma's ELG-10 spring rifle has snazzy good looks and a solid build. It's a classic.

The ELG-10 looks very solid and good when you first see one, yet your airgunner's mind warns you to look for plastic and places to put the CO2. Is that due to too much exposure to the Daisy 1894? You won't find any plastic in this Erma, and it uses a spring piston to power the pellet, so no CO2, either.

The rifle is carbine length at 37.75" overall, but a weight of exactly 6 lbs. makes it feel exceptionally solid. Never does your hand touch anything but wood and metal.

Beeman brought the ELG-10 into this country in the 1980s. And they didn't bring in very many of them, either, because the retail price of more than $300 had to compete with rifles such as the R1, which was new and novel at that time. When you find one at an airgun show, it'll probably be in excellent condition with an asking price above $500. I owned two for several years, which is how I was able to do this report. For one new in the Beeman box, I paid $550 in the late 1990s; and the other I bought for $175 a few weeks later at a local gun store. I always felt the low price of the second one cancelled out the high price of the first gun, which is how it worked out when I sold them.

The finger lever cocks the mainspring but not exactly as you might imagine. Instead of just the lever moving, it's the grab handle of a longer lever. The rifle cocks on both the opening and closing stroke, and instead of cutting the effort in half, this arrangement actually doubles the effort required. Not that the rifle is difficult to's simply cumbersome. You aren't going to cock this rifle while holding it to your shoulder and aiming.

Cocking the rifle slides a cylinder containing the piston to the rear. When the lever is returned to rest, the piston remains in place, similar to an RWS Diana 48 or a TX200. With the sliding cylinder in the rear, there is direct access to the breech for loading a single pellet. A ratchet catches the sliding cylinder while it is being cocked, and it's one of the rifle's several safeties.

Finger lever is just a grab handle for the longer cocking lever. Stroke cocks in both directions, which doesn't make it any easier, contrary to popular belief.

Safeties everywhere!
The rifle cannot be uncocked, so it must be fired with a pellet every time it's cocked. To shoot, the finger lever must be pulled up by the shooting hand, so that's a second safety.

The manual safety is located in the place where a hammer would normally rest. Pushing it down and to the rear engages it, making the third safety.

What looks like a hammer is really the manual safety.

Velocity with .177 RWS Hobby pellets, it's in the low 600s when the leather seal is properly lubricated. You'll want to lube the piston regularly, as in every couple of months, at least.

The rifle has a hooded front sight and a rear that adjusts for elevation with the familiar stepped ramp. Some windage can be accommodated by drifting the rear sight in its dovetail. There's also a short 11mm dovetail along the top of the receiver, where I mounted a Beeman SS3 short scope. It's about 2/3 the length of the Bug Buster and perfect for the rifle's small size.

Cleaning kit
The tube under the barrel that would hold cartridges in a firearm actually houses a small cleaning kit, consisting of a single-piece rod and a bore mop. The mop is wedged in the tube to prevent the rod from rattling around when the gun is carried.

Accuracy and firing behavior
The rifle has a sharp forward thrust followed by a short spring buzz when fired. Tuning would be a blessing, though I'm not aware of anyone tuning one. Accuracy is on par with a Diana model 27, which is to say 0.20" groups of five pellets at 10 yards. Probably half-inch groups at 25 yards.

As I said, I had two and got rid of both of them. I saw one at the Roanoke airgun show last year, and I believe that the owner was asking $650. I would think $600 would be a good price to pay for an excellent one, and the price should drop if the finish is worn. You'll have to be patient if you want one, because there are probably fewer than 100 in this country.

Friday, February 08, 2008

SHOT Show 2008 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The Beeman booth was bursting with new models this year, but before we go there, I asked Don Walker, their service manager, about the 1000H rifle I had problems with. He said he wasn't aware of any general problem with power loss, but the breech seal, which is a common o-ring, can be prone to fall out on some rifles. When I get home, I'll check that immediately. Beeman included a spare inside the case, so if that's the problem I'll be running again right away. If it's anything else, I'll send the rifle to Beeman and Walker promised to tell me what the problem was.

Double Gold guns
These are a family of spring guns that have been carefully hand-assembled and have scopes mounted and sighted-in by the Beeman service staff. I learned that the R9 Goldfinger has always been sighted-in by Beeman, as well. You should be on paper at 10 meters as soon as you take the rifle out of the box. The new Double Gold guns include the R1, RX2, R9 and R7 rifles and the P5 pistol - a new version of the HW70 breakbarrel pistol that has no open sights and looks very sharp!

Beeman will be selling Falcon precharged rifles in 2008. The 8-shot Beeman Falcon R was formerly called the Prairie Falcon, and there's also a new Falcon carbine. Both have Lothar Walther barrels. Neither rifle will have a regulator, according to Falcon director John Cooper, but they have exceptionally well-balanced valves that get a good string of shots within a narrow band of velocity.

There will also be a single-shot Falcon Trophy that will be Beeman's entry-level PCP. It's truly ambidextrous and has a bolt that switches easily from right to left sides. All the Falcon rifles will accept Falcon's match-grade adjustable trigger that must be installed by Beeman.

One final, exciting rifle from Beeman is the new Heavy Target. It's a derivative of the AR1000 but with a special trigger unit that has been more carefully assembled. The rifle comes without sights but has a 4-12x40 scope mounted, and a price that will vault it into the killer class. Beeman also offers the rifle with a nickel finish and 3-9x40 scope in the Silver Sting model.

As usual, Leapers had double-handfuls of new products, the most exciting of which is a new 3-9x Bug Buster! Imagine what you can do with one of those! They also have several new long eye-relief scopes, including a new 2-7x variable. There's now a whole family of long eye-relief scopes.

Leapers is the company I'm working with on the RWS Diana scope mount base to correct for the scope stop and barrel droop. I spoke with the engineer who's working on the project, and we feel we have finally gotten the design down. It's just a question of which prototype we choose for the final production article. By mid-year, we hope to have a foolproof mount for all Diana spring rifles.

Leapers also has some exciting new lasers and flashlights. One is a combination laser/flashlight for tactical pistols that I will test on my new Wilson CQB Light Rail. If it can withstand that, it should work well on any airsoft pistol. The other new item is a green laser that's many times brighter than current red lasers. I saw the dot indoors at 100 yards.

The final Leapers product is a tactical bag with a single shoulder strap. If the street price is anywhere near the SHOT Show special price, I predict this will be a best-seller! I got one that I plan to use right away. It has more pockets than a magician, and looks like it will carry everything you need for a day trip.

Super-bright flashlights
An item that caught my fancy is a new tactical flashlight that puts out over 200 lumens of light and costs under $100. That level of power can be used to force compliance and give you time to club an intruder with a baseball bat or simply run away. Until now, that level of light cost over $200 and did not come in an aluminum shell that can withstand 20,000 lbs. of crushing pressure. It's made by Fenix.

In the AE Xenide booth, I saw a 1,500+ lumen light that operates on rechargable batteries and sells for less than $350. Compliance? You can easily force it out to 30 yards.

There was much more to see. I'll be returning to this report in the future.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shooting airguns at altitude

by B.B. Pelletier

A lot of you asked for this report but Jay was the first. As we drove from Texas to Las Vegas and the SHOT Show, we passed through several communities higher than 5,000 feet, and my appreciation for how widespread this problem is certainly increased. We think of Denver as the mile-high city, but there are plenty of smaller cities that are even higher, so knowing something about how airguns perform at altitude is important.

When we published The Airgun Letter, one of our readers, airgun dealer Howard Montgomery, did a test of spring guns, CO2 and multi-pump pneumatics shot at elevations ranging from sea level to 8,500 feet. He based his tests on another earlier study done years before by airgunner Ron Balbi.

Howard used the following guns:

RWS Diana 36 in good shape (.177)
Webley Hurricane pistol in good shape (.177)
Crosman 1377 in good shape (.177)
Crosman Mark II in good shape (.177)

Both an Oehler 35P chronograph and 2 Chrony F1 chronographs were used. The light pellets were RWS Hobbys and the heavies were Crosman 10.5-grain Premiers.

Howard also provided a test from Ron Balbi done years earlier and archived by airgunner Steve Gibbons. The guns used were:

FWB 124 (.177)
RWS 45 (.177)
Beeman R1 (.22)

So, the trends operate as shown. If you do your own test today, you'll get different results, but the relationships will be similar. Remember, temperatures below 50 degrees F will affect CO2 guns and temps below 20 degrees F will start to affect spring guns. Also, note that as the air thins at altitude, a gas gun can go faster. PCPs were not tested, but they should improve at altitude.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pump gun scope mounting tips

by B.B. Pelletier

We received this as a review several days ago, but it's really a procedure for mounting a scope on a pneumatic rifle or pistol. It was submitted by a customer named Greg. Here's what he has to say:

I"ve been shooting Benjamin/Sheridan Streak rifles and EB/HB pistols for over 25 years...all of which have been scoped with one optic or another! I think that I can help with mounting your scope so that it's rock solid stable on any of these or the 392/397 rifles. Believe it or not, there's a method of mounting that makes the new 4-piece mounts even more stable than the old 2-piece mounts...and I have experience with scoping dozens of each many times over.

The process follows...

Buy a 1-piece ring mount kit in the diameter and height you require for your optic. I recomend the Leapers Accushot high mount. Next, buy the Crosman 4-piece intermount.

When installing the 4-piece mounts, spread them apart on the barrel so they're the same width as your Accushot mount. Before you install them on the barrel, purchase thick 2-sided tape. Cut a small tab from the tape that's the same width as the 4-piece intermount and long enough to wrap around the barrel. Install the 4-piece mount over the tape and snug down the screw but do NOT over-tighten!

Place your 1-piece ring mount onto the intermount, making sure that they're the same width apart.

The next step is vital! When you snug the screws on your 1-piece mount (there are 3 or 4, depending on which brand you choose)...lightly snug down the end screws over the intermount, then tighten the center screws firmly. The final step is to go back and tighten down the end screws over the 4-piece intermount. Be sure to follow this order!

Install your scope, tightening the cap screws firmly but not too tightly. Remember, your rifle is a pneumatic and does not recoil. Now, you can sight in your rifle and enjoy it.

If you use this method your scope will never move, and it will also be solid. It also looks better!

Hope this helps. Enjoy your shooting.

Thank you, Greg, for that tip. And for those who want a solid mount that fits over the receiver, don't forget the Air Venturi intermount.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What came before the 10-meter rifle? - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I'll have more SHOT Show reports for you soon. I see that a lot of you are interested in the new models that are coming out. I can tell you now that Umarex USA, RWS USA and Crosman have some exciting new models. Beeman is also loaded with new airguns for the US market. I went to the Gamo booth several times, but no one was available to show me the new models. It appears that they have reskinned several guns with new names, and they have a new CO2 rifle. They were unable to give us a print catalog or technical specifications. As you know, Gamo was recently sold, and I think the company is still in a transition time.

More history
In the last report, I gave you a condensed history of the Zimmerstutzen rifle. The Golden Age was from about 1900 to 1914. During this time, all of the finest improvements were made. My rifle was made in Munich, but it features a Stiegele action. Stiegele was, perhaps, the most progressive of all makers during the Golden Age.

My Zimmerstutzen was made around 1910 and is not entirely a classic-style rifle. Mine has a Bavarian butt that drops lower than a traditional Swiss butt, and the cheekpiece is not as high and cupped. My rear sight has 8 different apertures to adjust for varying light conditions.

Zimmerstutzens today
WW I halted the production of the Zimmerstutzen rifle. After the war, a few more rifles were undoubtedly assembled from existing parts, but the manufacture of Zimmerstutzens changed at that time.

Instead of finely crafted and virtually handmade actions, the zimmers were made on single-shot rifle actions. The Flobert was popular but so was the bolt-action Mauser.

The product of zimmers continued past WWII and, in fact, is still active today. Even handguns have been created in 4mm caliber.

Two fired cartridges from my Zimmerstutzen. Note the scraping near the mouth of the cartridge on the left. My gun was chambered for 4.3mm short fixed ammo, but I had only 4.3mm longs, initially. Also, note the large impression of the firing pin. Since the cartridge is powered by the primer, it's mandatory that the ignition be positive.

In the 1960s, target air rifles began challenging zimmers as accurate shooters. By the time the FWB 150 came out, the Zimmerstutzen could no longer compete. My own rifle was capable of placing 5 shots in a group about 0.10" at 10 meters. That's good, but not up to today's standard, which is about 0.04" t0 0.06" at that distance.

Zimmerstutzens are not dead, however. Shooting them is now a sport of collectors and history buffs. RWS has continued the manufacture of Zimmerstuzen ammo, and shooters all over the world rely on them to keep their old rifles running. Sadly, here in America many zimmers have been converted to fire .22 short ammo. This was probably done because the owner was unaware that 4mm ammo was available.

Do you want one?
Several of you indicated that you would like to buy a vintage zimmer. When I started writing about them in the late 1990s, zimmers were available for $500-800. There has been a surge of interest that has raised the price up to the level of $1200-2000. But, they're still under-valued in my opinion. The only way to find a zimmer is to start looking. I've turned down 3 or 4 in the past 3 years, but people sought me out because they knew I was interested in them.

Do you want more?
I've written lengthy articles about Zimmerstutzens, but I don't know if they're anything that most airgunners want to read. I can cover most of their aspects or answer questions; but, because this is an airgun blog, I really want to hear from the readers before I do more on this subject. Remember, the purpose of this report was just to show you the predecessor to the 10-meter rifle.

Monday, February 04, 2008

SHOT Show 2008 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

First, a thank you to BobC in NJ. The book arrived and Pyramyd brought it to me in Las Vegas. It looks very interesting and covers many guns I had no information on. I know it'll occupy an important slot in my gun library. Thanks again!

AirForce Airguns...item #1
Okay, here is your first look at the 2008 SHOT Show. AirForce Airguns has determined that their valves and seals can operate with nitrogen, so they're now authorizing fills with either air or nitrogen. They are aware that many shooters have access to nitrogen from paintball facilities as well as industrial gas suppliers, so they've taken this step to support those shooters. The regular air tanks are now okay to use with nitrogen fills, as well. No modifications are required. No gasses other than air or nitrogen may be used to fill these rifles.

AirForce Airguns...item #2
I saw the new Edge target rifle in the AirForce booth, and it appears to be nearly ready for production. AirForce will supply their own rear aperture sight, which should also be available as a separate item for those wanting something nicer than a budget sight but more economical than a costly European precision aperture sight.

AirForce also recognized Pyramyd Air as their Top Gun airgun dealer for 2007. AirForce owner John McCaslin presented an engraved award to Pyramyd owner Josh Ungier in the AirForce booth on Sunday.

Pyramyd Air owner Josh Ungier (center) receives the Top Gun award as the best dealer for 2007 from AirForce Airguns owner John McCaslin. AirForce General Manager Yvette Hicks looks on.

Ruger air rifles
A lot of you have expressed interest in the new Ruger Air Hawk, and I saw it in the Umarex USA booth. I was quite impressed with the quality. The workmanship looks clean and sharp to me. The price should be very reasonable.

The Walther Falcon Hunter is a breakbarrel that'll be available in both .22 and .25 calibers for under $300. I predict there'll be a lot of interest in this one!

As you know, Umarex USA is also RWS USA, and they're planning on introducing a modern version of the Diana 24 youth rifle...the Schutze. It's a light, handy rifle that'll appeal to adults as well. Though shown on the website, a few more details need to be ironed out before this one will be coming in. When it does, it should be a pip!

That's all for now, though there is more to tell. I'll get back to you at least one more time with the latest news from Las Vegas.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Essentials of an outdoor range

by B.B. Pelletier

This one is for JP. He wanted to know what's important about an outdoor range. I'm using my experience setting up the sight-in range of DIFTA, the Izaak Walton League field target club in Maryland. This will apply to all outdoor airgun ranges, whether they're private or public.

The land
Obviously, you need a safe area behind the targets. This is usually an earth berm, but sometimes it's nothing more than distance across land that can't be traversed by people. You need at least 300 yards. Though an airgun will shoot up to 500 yards, you aren't going to elevate the muzzle on your range. A lake can be good, and so can the ocean, but you need to be aware that you'll be shooting lead pellets into the water. While lead isn't as toxic as people would have you believe, it's poisonous to wildlife, so make your land choices accordingly. An earth berm is ideal.

What doesn't work.
Trees are poor backstops because the pellets damage the tree and can kill it if it is small enough or already infested with insects. The sides of garages and houses are also bad. I used our garage wall as a backstop when I was a teenager and when I was done, the soft pine clapboards were riddled with pellets. Hit with a powerful rifle like a Condor, the pellet will go straight through the wall and damage whatever is inside.

The DIFTA sight-in airgun range serves hundreds of members. It has a covered shooting line and target frames marked with measured distances out to 50 yards. The berm is a former handgun range berm, so it's overkill for airguns.

Shooting area
The shooting area is important for comfort and for measuring distances to all the targets. You will want to know exactly how far it is to each target frame so there's never the need to guess. Once the shooting bench is spotted, it shouldn't move. If it does, there needs to be a firing line on the range to keep things in order.

Target frames
Permanent target frames make your job so much easier and faster. Use cardboard or better yet some waterproof board on the target frames so you can just staple the targets to the frame. The target frame should be movable and made from 1"x3" lumber. Encourage your friends to not shoot the frames! They can be cut in half with fewer than 20 shots, and you'll have the expense and trouble of making them again.

Permanent targets
Metal spinners can be left on the range all the time and make great plinking targets when you don't want to staple paper targets to the frames. Limit the targets to clean ones that don't make a mess. Don't shoot bottles on your range unless they are made of plastic and you can clean them after shooting. A range that looks like a dump quickly disrupts the domestic tranquility.

Where will the pellets that ricochet to the side eventually end up? They won't go as far as pellets going downrange, but plan on a safety range of at least half as far as the downrange distance.

Plan the range around people. Don't let people walk downrange without the firing line knowing it so they can call a cease-fire. At DIFTA, we had to build a fence on two sides of the range to keep people back from the targets out to 20 yards, and even then it has to be watched. Pellets are invisible and the guns make so little sound that shooters quickly become complacent about safety.

Define the side limits of the range with markers that are easy to identify. Make them visible from the firing line.

Well, those are some of the most important tips for outdoor ranges. There are others, like storage for targets and equipment, access for cars, electricity for test equipment and so on. If you have a favorite tip to add, please feel free.