Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Steel Dreams - Part 1
Building a more powerful spring-piston gun

by B.B. Pelletier

More than a decade ago, I saw a curious rifle at the Little Rock Airgun Expo. It looked something like a Beeman R1 but was quite a bit larger. When the seller told me that it was a handmade, one-of-a-kind rifle that was designed to be a more powerful R1, I couldn't resist buying it. I had just published the R1 book, and here was a great follow-on story that needed to be told.

This curious springer is a monster.

Steel dreams
The inventor of this rifle, Steve Vissage, had seen the Beeman R1 and wanted a rifle that would put a .22 pellet into the supersonic realm. That was quite a goal for a spring-piston gun of the early 1980s, and it still hasn't been reached today by any except a few PCPs. Steve thought the best approach was to increase the diameter of the piston and to increase the length of the stroke - some of the same topics we frequently discuss on this blog.

Now I'll tell you why I am making this report. A number of our new readers are asking the same questions that Steve Vissage asked back in 1981. What does it take to get more power from a spring-piston air rifle? Back in 1982, the R1 was the most powerful spring-piston gun in the world. At 940 f.p.s. in .177, it offered velocity undreamed of 5 years earlier.

When the R1 came out, Robert Beeman wrote in his catalog that it took more than just a powerful mainspring to boost power in a springer. But, because those catalogs are now collector's items, a lot of newer airgunners haven't had the opportunity to read them. Many who might have read them don't believe what Beeman said. What Steve Vissage did is what many of you think should be possible today, and I want to share my observations on that topic.

Steel dreams become real things!
Vissage built three rifles, of which mine was the first. Let me explain what's so different about talking about airguns and actually building them. When guys start discussing airguns, anything seems possible; but, whenever Vissage made a decision, it got locked into steel...not easily changed. Even if he did make some changes, there was still a cost involved for the original decision that was not followed. Steel dreams cost more and take longer than daydreams. If you don't understand what I'm driving at, you will by the time this report is finished.

The date of manufacture and serial number are stamped on many exterior parts. SS stands for supersonic and V1 stands for Vissage model 1.

Both sides of the baseblock and spring tube are marked similarly.

Let's look at this rifle
A stock R1 weighs 8.9 lbs., give or take. Many new airgunners feel it's far too heavy, and they're also impressed by it's sheer size. The Vissage rifle weighs 11 lbs. It's also longer than the R1, but I don't seem to have recorded the length. The barrel came from an Anschutz target rifle; and, since Anschutz doesn't make target air rifles in .22 caliber, I think that means it's a .22 rimfire barrel. So, accuracy was out the window, because .22 rimfire bores are several thousandths larger than air rifle bores, and don't fit pellets very well.

The spring tube, end cap, baseblock and cocking link are all custom-made parts. Steve told me he reckoned he put $600-700 1980's dollars into making this one rifle. The wood stock came from an HW80. It was opened up to receive the 40-thousandths-larger spring tube. The forward stock screws are very close to the end of the forearm. Look closely at the first photo, and you'll see they had to be moved forward almost an inch.

Just so there is no doubt who made the gun, Steve put his address on the end cap. He later moved from that address. See that flathead screw ahead of the end cap? That's how the end cap is held to the spring tube.

The sights are stock Weihrauch items, the same as come on an R1. There is no provision for mounting a scope. The entire rifle is plated with Armaloy, a tough material used on tactical handguns. It is said to resist wear and to be self-lubricating.

The trigger is a Rekord, which was very popular back in the 1980s. Vissage would have been able to get one easily, since they had been on the HW35 for at least 20 years at that time. This is a good place to reflect that he used the factory trigger and sights instead of inventing his own. By this point in the project, he'd sunk a lot of money into this rifle, and inventing a whole new trigger would have cost him more than all he had spent to this point. Don't forget that all the internal parts - the piston and mainspring, for instance, have to be made from scratch, because the entire rifle has different dimensions than a standard R1.

Speaking of different dimensions, how does Vissage get a stock Rekord trigger to line up with the piston hook if all the internal dimensions are different? Details like that are always overlooked when guys talk about airguns; but, when you actually build one, you want to cock it!

Here is what happens when dimensions change. The Rekord trigger had to be suspended at a different point inside the end cap in order to align with the piston hook. See the empty hole at the top left? That's where the safety button is supposed to go if this were an R1, but ooops - it doesn't contact the trigger because the end cap is larger than an R1 cap. Look at the picture before this and see the other side of the cap. No safety!

I disassembled this rifle to examine the innards. I also tested it before and after disassembly. Next time, we'll look deeper into the Vissage SS-1.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Evanix Renegade double-action pistol
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Let's take a look at the velocity of the new .22-caliber Evanix Renegade pistol. As we do, pay attention to how I adjust the fill level as I go. This is a classic demonstration of why a PCP owner needs a chronograph.

Velocity with Crosman Premiers: single-action
Remember that this pistol, and all Renegades for that matter, will be more powerful in the single-action mode. That's because the hammer has more inertia in this mode. I filled the pistol by hand pump to 3,200 psi and got the following from .22-caliber Crosman Premiers:


The average was 785 f.p.s., which is a muzzle energy of 19.57 foot pounds. The pellets were loose in the chambers and the straight drop of velocity leads me to suspect the Premier is not the pellet for this pistol.

Velocity with Crosman Premiers: double-action

I learned a lot from this test. First, a 3200 psi fill is WAY over the top for double-action work! The valve is partially locked a long time, as you can see by the rising velocities. Second, after this string, the gun was down to 1,500 psi, just like the rifle was! So, it needs a much lower fill to achieve top velocity - just like many of the first-generation Condors.

I won't give you an average velocity, but I would limit my fill to 2800 psi after seeing this string. Maybe that would start the velocity at 719 f.p.s. I would then get 9 or 10 good shots that would average around 730 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 16.93 foot-pounds.

Velocity with Beeman Kodiaks: single-action
I filled the pistol to 3300 psi for the Beeman Kodiak pellets fired single-action. That gave the following string:


The average of that 8-shot string is 692 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 22.34 foot-pounds. I got perhaps one additional usable shot for the extra pressure, but only owners of Hill pumps and AirForce pumps (and Benjamin Discovery pumps) can go that high. That pressure will destroy an FX or Axsor pump.

Velocity with Beeman Kodiaks: double-action
I stopped the fill at 2800 psi for the double-action string. That gave these results:


I let the string go on longer to demonstrate how fast the velocity falls after you're off the power curve. And, 2800 psi is still too much starting pressure for double-action work with this pistol. So, again, no average is given. A 2600 psi fill might net about 7-8 good shots. If we use 620 as the average, the gun produces 17.93 foot pounds.

Velocity with Eun Jins: single-action
In the Renegade rifle report, we saw that Eun Jin pellets are the best, and they continue to be so with this pistol. I filled to 3300 psi and got this string:


Once again, I let the string go longer than I felt was necessary to demonstrate how quickly the power drops off after the power curve is gone. I normally would have stopped after shot No. 7 if I were chronographing the shots, or stop after one cylinder if I were in the field. That's easy to remember. Then I'd have an average of around 610 f.p.s. for a muzzle energy of 23.47 foot pounds. In a PISTOL!

Velocity with Eun Jins: double-action
This time I filled to only 2600 psi and got the following string:


I computed the average for this 9-shot string, and it was 551 f.p.s., which is a muzzle energy of 19.15 foot pounds. Not too shabby for a fast-shooting revolver.

What have we learned?
First, that powerful air pistols don't get many shots. Their barrels are short for pneumatics and so are their reservoirs. Both conspire to limit the number of shots. Second, we see that the Renegade valve works the same way in both the rifle and pistol. For the record, you'll shoot the gun single-action most of the time (for improved accuracy) and only resort to double-action for a fast follow-up shot.

Next, we'll look at the accuracy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What to oil? - Part 1
A guide to sealing pneumatics and CO2 guns

by B.B. Pelletier

I get many questions about where to oil certain airguns, so this multi-part report will address all the places. This information has been written in owners' manuals for some airguns but not for them all. Think of this as your universal tutorial.

Multi-pump pneumatics
Whether the gun pumps from the bottom, the side or has a rod coming straight out the front, they all need oil to seal their seals and internal o-rings. If I haven't shot a gun in a month, it gets oiled the first time I pick it up. If I shoot it often, it gets oiled once a month.

What oil to use?
Use some form of petroleum oil for most multi-pumps unless the manual warns against it. Crosman Pellgunoil is 20-weight motor oil with no additives except an o-ring preservative, making it the perfect oil to use.

To oil the pump head on a multi-pump rifle, open the pump handle as far as it will go. That brings the pump head to the bottom of the pump linkage slot. It will either be a silver metal part or a dark rubber part.

This is a closeup of the pump head. Put three or four drops on the pump head.

Vintage Benjamin guns
Some vintage Benjamins have a warning that says, "Do Not Oil" next to the air hole located near the muzzle of the gun. Benjamin recommends removing the pump rod and greasing the leather pump head with petroleum jelly. If you don't want to do that, you can use oil, but the small hole where the warning is located is the air hole. Don't plug it with grease or oily residue.

Oiling CO2 guns
Put a drop of oil (Pellgunoil is the best) on the tip of EACH NEW CARTRIDGE you pierce. The gas pressure will blow some of the oil through the gun, where it will get on the seals and o-rings. It is impossible to over-oil a gun, if you do it this way.

Before installing a CO2 cartridge, put a drop of Pellgunoil on it like this.

When I get a new CO2 gun and want to give it a huge shot of oil, I try to put the oil directly on the cartridge piercing mechanism. More than one drop can be put there and I usually give a new gun five drops or more. This is also helpful when oiling a vintage CO2 gun. It puts a lot of oil on the internal seals, which may have dried out.

When installing AirSource cartridges or when filling with bulk CO2, like this target pistol, drop 5 or so drops of Pellgunoil into the connection first. The gas will blow it into the gun.

Don't forget AirSource and bulk-fill guns!
I always oil AirSource and bulk-fill CO2 guns this way. These guns shoot a lot more shots between fills than guns using 12-gram cartridges, and it's good to have extra oil available for the seals. My own bulk-fill 10-meter pistol is now about 9 years old and has fired perhaps 30,000 shots, yet it still seals well because I oil it with every fill.

Here are some topics I will cover in this series in the future:
  • How to oil a spring-piston gun:
    • Breakbarrel
    • Underlever and sidelever
  • How to oil a BB gun
  • How to oil a single-stroke pneumatic
  • Should you oil a precharged pneumatic?
  • Oiling airguns for lubrication, not sealing

Have I missed anything?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

HW 55 Tyrolean - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

One of our blog readers apparently doesn't know how to leave comments on the blog, so he emailed them to Pyramyd Air. If he is reading, the way comments are left is by clicking on the Post a Comment found at the bottom of the comments for each blog report. To get to the Comments section, click on the (number of) Comments at the bottom of each blog report. If there are no comments, each new blog has the Post a Comment at the bottom of the blog, itself. That brings up a window in which you write your comment and then scroll down and submit it. If possible, give yourself a name, so I can respond to you by name, and try to remember which blog entry you asked your question on. I see all the questions, but if you don't remember, you'll never find my answer. On some blog entries there are now over 200 comments, and in the comments window you have to also click on "Newest" at the top of the comments window to see your comment and my answer.

Just this once I will address his question without him commenting. Marc Wasserman asks if I'm going to ever do the additional report I mentioned in the third part of the Ruger AirHawk report - where I said I wanted to look at the trigger further. Well, Marc, you caught me! I'd forgotten about that promise until reading it today. I'll look at the AirHawk, which I still have, and see what can be done.

Please don't use this method as a means of bypassing the word verification that is required for every blog comment. Yes, it's clumsy and buggy - but that's Google, not Pyramyd Air. This blog is so popular that if we were to take that off we would be flooded by spams that I would have to delete.

Pyramyd Air Garage Sale
Many of you are interested in the Garage Sale Pyramyd Air held last weekend. Owner Joshua Ungier took some pictures and asked me to share them with you.

Lots of great deals at the garage sale.

On Saturday, the crowd was large at times.

If you couldn't make this sale, don't forget Pyramyd Air will be at the Roanoke Airgun Expo on Friday and Saturday, October 24 & 25.

Today, I'll look at the velocity of Wayne's HW 55T. From examining and shooting the gun, I'm getting lots of indications that is was recently tuned, and perhaps hasn't had time to break in, yet. The barrel latch is too stiff, like it was recently adjusted. And, the gun fires with just a "thunk." A factory 55 would vibrate just a little, so I anticipate finding either black tar on the mainspring or a super-tight spring guide. Finally, I've spotted a lot of moly paste at the pivot point, but the factory uses only clear petroleum grease. So, that was added later. It all adds up to a recent tune.

You may remember that I reviewed the HW 55 SF I found at Little Rock for you. I thought I'd compare the velocity of that rifle against this one, just as a baseline of expectations. Here are the 4 reports on that gun.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Firing behavior
I must say that I'm not pleased with the way this rifle performs right now. The barrel-locking latch is too stiff, as I noted, and there's a dragging of the cocking shoe over the mainspring that, while normal on some tuned springers, is distracting nevertheless. I'll see what can be done, if anything, when I go inside the rifle to examine the powerplant. I also don't like the trigger setup. This is a special Rekord, and it's capable of a very light release, yet this one is set up like an R1. Of all the Rekord triggers, the HW 55 trigger is special and deserves to be adjusted properly. I plan to make some adjustments, which I'll describe for you in detail.

Velocity with Meisterkugeln
My HW 55 SF averaged 543 f.p.s. with RWS Meisterkugeln wadcutter target pellets. The spread was just 18 f.p.s., which is pretty good for a springer. This Tyrolean averages 516 f.p.s. with the same pellet and the spread is 27 f.p.s. That's not too large, but it's a clue the rifle is still breaking in, as is the slower velocity. The barrel latch may have something to do with this because the breech seal appears to be mashed pretty flat.

Velocity with RWS Hobbys
My 55 averaged 631 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys with a spread of 38 f.p.s. That's a little high, but at 10 meters you would never notice it. The Tyrolean averages 598 f.p.s. with the same pellet and exhibits a 40 f.p.s. spread. Not much difference except a little slower.

Velocity with Chinese blue-label target pellets
Back when I competed in 10-meter pistol, I found a Chinese target pellet that out-performed RWS R-10s and Beeman H&N Match pellets. They weigh a little less than H&N match pistol pellets, but since I don't have enough of those for testing, I used this 7.6-grain substitute. They're no longer available, so when my small stash is gone, I'll have to find a new pellet. I got an average velocity of 598 f.p.s., with a spread of 21 f.p.s., the tightest of the test. The H&Ns gave an average of 622 with an extreme spread of 19 f.p.s. in my SF.

So, what did I learn?
A pre-tuneup test like this is a very helpful diagnostic for an airgunsmith. I now have a list of things to look for and several adjustments to be made. I'll check to see if too much vibration-deadening grease has been applied to the mainspring. And, I'll check the breech seal carefully. I'll also adjust the trigger until it performs like I know a target Rekord can. And, I may adjust the barrel latch if it still seems too stiff when I get to it.

The next thing we'll do is dive inside the rifle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pro-Guide spring retainer system for RWS Diana rifles
Part 5
The RWS Diana 34 Panther

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Today, I'll test the Air Venturi Pro-Guide spring retainer in an RWS Diana 34 Panther - the same rifle that was used to test the new Leapers drooper base. This rifle has been broken in and used a lot in the time I've had it, so the powerplant should be ready to accept the new Pro-Guide system.

Installing the Pro Guide in the breakbarrel 34 was easier than installation in the RWS Diana 48 because there is no sidelever mechanism to remove. In fact, now that I'm familiar with how the T05 trigger comes apart, I find this action faster to strip than almost any other breakbarrel - even the easy Weihrauchs that have the screw-in end cap. I did not use any washers in this rifle - just the basic Pro Guide system as it comes.

Assembly is equally easy, though I must comment that the T05 trigger doesn't want to cock after assembly. I had to really tug on the barrel to cock the rifle the first several times after putting it back together. Then, it settled in and became docile once more.

Though the spring tube of the 34 is a smaller diameter than the tube on the 48, the same Pro-Guide fits both rifles. It fits to the trigger instead of the inside diameter of the spring tube.

Firing behavior
The transformation was incredible! Not that the 34 vibrated before the Pro-Guide, but after it was installed, the gun just went "Thunk!" To a greater extent than the 48 we tested, this rifle accepted the Pro-Guide willingly and thankfully - which is to say the firing behavior rivals the best tune job you can imagine. Only the Gamo Whisper with the gas spring conversion is as dead-calm as this rifle with the Pro-Guide.

Velocity with Kodiaks
Before the Pro-Guide installation, this rifle averaged 820 f.p.s. with Beeman Kodiaks (they were H&N Baracudas, but the same pellet). With the Pro-Guide, the average was 825 f.p.s., so a slight increase. That's 16.02 foot-pounds. The spread was 21 f.p.s., from 816 to 837.

Velocity with Premier Lites
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets averaged 919 f.p.s. with the factory spring and 936 f.p.s. with the Pro-Guide. There was one anomalous shot that went 952 f.p.s.; otherwise the average would have been lower in the 930s. The spread was 926 to 952, and the average energy was 15.37 foot-pounds.

Velocity with Hobbys
The average with RWS Hobby pellets was 1021 f.p.s. before and after the Pro-Guide was installed. The spread was from 1008 to 1031 f.p.s., and the muzzle energy was 16.21 foot-pounds.

My assessment
If you own an RWS Diana 34, get the Pro-Guide for your rifle the next time you need a tuneup. Or just get it now - I don't think you'll regret it. The firing behavior becomes so smooth and positive that it's a different rifle. This is an option that is even worth installing on a brand new rifle if you want smooth operation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evanix Renegade double-action pistol
Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Renegade pistol is nicely styled and beautifully finished.

Hot on the heels of the Renegade rifle test, I'm now testing the Renegade pistol. In the photo, the pistol may appear normal size, but looks are deceiving. This is a very large air pistol. That said, it isn't any larger than the Falcon, Daystate or Air Arms PCP pistols that have sold over the past 15 years. To work at all efficiently, a pneumatic pistol needs some size for barrel length (to achieve acceleration of the pellet) and for reservoir capacity.

Because there may be some crossover interest in other Renegade guns, I'm giving you the links to all five reports for the rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

The Renegade system is new to Evanix airguns, which until now have been the latest versions of the AR6 family of Korean pneumatic rifles and its associated relatives. The Renegade is a departure because, for the first time, the double-action trigger-pull is feasible to use. That means you get up to 6 quick shots by just pulling the trigger. How fast they happen is up to you.

Precharged air pistols have not been plentiful up until now, and the few that existed were nearly always very expensive - as in $700 and more. There has been an AR6 air pistol for at least the past 8 years, but for a long time it was based on the rifle and was little more than a cut-down carbine. On the plus side, it developed 50 foot-pounds. On the minus, it was as large as a small carbine. The current AR6 pistol looks very similar to the Renegade, with the difference being it is a little more powerful but doesn't have the double-action facility.

The Renegade pistol is sized as a real pistol, weighing a trifle over 3 lbs. without sights. The grip is sized for the average hand, though shooters having larger hands should find it handy because there is an abundance of gripping surface. Your fingers have places to go if they wrap around farther than average.

You cannot fault this pistol for looks! The wood stock is finely crafted of light walnut with panels of fine checkering on either side of the grip. There are scalloped finger grooves on the front of the grip. The triggerguard is formed from the wood in a single piece, adding style to an attractive piece. All metal parts are polished and deeply blued in the equal of a good European finish. This is an airgun of which to be proud.

As with the rifle, the trigger doesn't work properly until the rifle is pressurized. Since that is the state in which you should always maintain it, you won't notice anything except when the pistol is brand new or has just been received from a common carrier.

If you want to fill from a hand pump when the gun is empty, the hammer must be cocked first. Always put the safety on when you do this; and, for extra safety, remove the cylinder. Without the cylinder, the pistol cannot shoot anything but air.

The air intake port is at the front of the pistol under the free-floated barrel. It has a captive cover that simply has to be rotated open when you want to insert the fill probe.

There are no sights on the pistol, so either a scope or dot sight must be added. This is one time you will want to use a real pistol scope for the added eye relief. I don't have one, so I plan to use the Leapers UTG Tactedge 4x40 scope, whose long-eye relief will at least let me hold the gun 5" from my eye. The pistol has a conventional 11mm dovetail on top of the aluminum receiver, and of course recoil is not a problem.

No shooting in this report, but let's all get ready for it. This is an air pistol, so it's not going to get a large number of powerful shots. Because of the small reservoir and short 10" barrel (short compared to a rifle, that is), it will either get a few powerful shots or many low-powered ones. Knowing where this one came from, I'm pretty sure it will get fewer more powerful shots. The specs say 841 f.p.s. in .22 caliber with a 14-grain pellet. We'll compare our stats with theirs, plus I think we'll see a difference between single-action and double-action power. I'll document that, as well.

This pistol is meant for hunting, pure and simple. It's not for target shooting, and no formal air pistol sport will tolerate power like this Renegade delivers, but it's perfect for hunters. So, once again, the goal will be long-range accuracy.

This should be interesting!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Air Venturi Avenger 1100
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

First order of business: the Pyramyd Air Garage Sale was a huge success! Both days were active and the sales were so good that Pyramyd Air wants to do this again twice a year. Saturday was busier than Sunday and the next time they say they will hold it Friday and Saturday. People came in from Canada, New York and Missouri...among other places. There are nice hotels close by, so fly-ins are accommodated well. Not knowing what to expect, Pyramyd was overwhelmed on Saturday for a while. Next time, they'll plan for a big crowd. I'll keep you informed.

Next...if you missed this sale but plan to attend the Roanoke Airgun Expo on October 24 & 25, Pyramyd Air will have tables there, as well. That's on Friday and Saturday. For added incentive to come, there's a regular gun show in the same Roanoke Civic Center where the airgun show will be held (but in a different hall). The gun show starts on Saturday.

This is the largest airgun show in the world and usually has over 120 tables of rare and vintage guns as well as modern guns from dealers like Pyramyd Air. Each day is unique. On Friday, the long-distance buyers are there in force; on Saturday, the locals stream in. On Saturday the firearm show attendees can come to the airgun show for free, and that definitely bumps the attendence. I'll have a table there, too, so please stop by to say hi.

Well, last Friday's blog hit a nerve with some of you. Apparently I'm not alone in wanting more quality in airguns. I have to say that I'm impressed with how well many of you understand the market. You don't fall for that "build a better mousetrap" pablum. Keep submitting your comments on that blog, and I'll summarize them for you at some point.

Ironically, today I continue the test of the Air Venturi Avenger 1100. This test was most enlightening.

I've now tested three Mendoza pellet rifles - the RM-200, RM-2000 and RM-2800. The Avenger is the fourth Mendoza. In the last test of the RM-2800, I experienced wild velocity swings and no shot was up to the advertised velocity. I stopped the test after that, rather than continue on with a rifle that varied by over 200 f.p.s. Well, the Avenger 1100 did the same thing! Let me share my results with you.

Crosman 7.9-grain Premiers
From the start, the Crosman 7.9-grain Premiers exhibited signs of being inappropriate for this rifle. They fit the bore too loosely, which probably caused several detonations I experienced in 4 shots. The velocity ranged from 612 f.p.s. to 892 f.p.s. - a range of 190 f.p.s. There were several sharp detonations that spewed fire out the muzzle, so I stopped testing after the fourth shot.

JSB Exact
Next, I shot the 8.4-grain JSB Exact domed pellet. I thought a pure lead pellet like this would fill the bore better and stop the detonations, but in only three shots I could see I was mistaken. Like the Permiers, these JSBs also fit the bore very loosely. The velocity for the three shots was 724 f.p.s., 794 f.p.s. and 820 f.p.s. A final detonation that shot flames from the muzzle caused me to stop testing this pellet.

Air Arms domes
The next pellet I tried was the Air Arms 8.44-grain domed pellet. Weighing almost exactly the same as the JSB it should have performed the same, but I noticed it fit the bore a little better. No matter, however, because in just 4 shots the velocity ranged from 734 f.p.s to 843 f.p.s. Detonations again!

Mendoza solid skirt pellets
I figured it was time to use Mendoza's own pellets on the off-chance they might be better-suited to the rifle. These are hollowpoints that have a solid skirt, so there's no possibility for flaring. I thought that might stop the detonations, because the pellet, which fit the bore of the rifle best of all up to this point, would also stand up to the explosions behind it. The gun still detonated, but I hung in for 8 shots. Velocity for this 8.4-grain pellet ranged from 769 f.p.s. to 944 f.p.s., and there was another flame-producing detonation.

Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoints
As long as I was detonating, I figured the velocity with this speed champion (Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoint) would be dramatic, and it was. I went from a low of 1052 to a high of 1427 f.p.s. with a flame-producing detonation. I stopped after shot three.

The rifle was detonating too much for good work, so I reckoned a heavier pellet might calm it down. Crosman 10.5-grain Premiers were selected for this because they fit the bore so well. They stopped all but 2 detonations in a total of 10 shots...the first string of 10 I was able to get with the rifle. Velocity ranged from 489 f.p.s. to 923 f.p.s. - a span of 434 f.p.s. So, although the detonations stopped (or at least slowed down), the gun still dieseled pretty bad.

I can't tell much from this test, except that the Avenger 1000 I'm testing wants to diesel and even detonate with every pellet it shoots. Also, though the velocity of 1100 f.p.s ., can be reached with non-lead trick pellets, no lead pellet will go that fast.

Questions answered
Reader K. Rihanek didn't see how a plastic end cap could stop the setback of the scope mount, so I promised him I'd show a picture of it. Wayne talked about the rifle's lack of a baseblock, so I'm showing you that, as well.

As you can see, the shoulder against which the rear scope mount presses is very large. This amount of engineering plastic could stop the recoil of a .30-06.

The barrel doesn't pass through a baseblock in this rifle. It's welded to a small stub that pivots when the rifle is cocked.

I ended the test of the RM-2800 without accuracy testing because of wild velocity swings. Since I've read several favorable comments about this particular model, I'm going to proceed with accuracy testing next. Then, I'll revisit velocity testing once again, to see if a greater number of shots through the powerplant have quieted it to any extent.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Ultra-Reliable air rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

Pyramyd Air Garage Sale!
Don't forget, all of you who live within striking distance of Bedford Heights (Cleveland), Ohio, that this Saturday and Sunday is the Pyramyd Air garage sale! It's everything you could ever imagine would be possible in a huge airgun dealership! Stuff has been discovered in out-of-the-way places, there are returned guns to pick through, scratch 'n' dents to ponder and all with the convenience of credit-card shopping and shipping for those flying in. If you've ever wanted to pick through a pile of airguns, this is your chance!

Ultra-Reliable air rifle
In the past two days, I have received two comments that have pushed me into today's subject. The first was from a reader who wanted an R7 but wondered if the power could be tweaked up just a bit. My response was that the R7 isn't easy to boost, but it's probably possible. Then I told him that if the power could be boosted to 800 f.p.s. in .177, the resulting gun would probably no longer be the R7 he loved. It would certainly be harder to cock, and the recoil and possibly even vibration that would result from such a fire-breathing modification would probably spoil the shooting experience for him.

The second comment came from The Trout Underground, and I'll quote it for you here.

"Are problems inevitable with rifles in this [Air Venturi Avenger 1100-Ed.] power and price range? I already had to send my Gamo CFX back once for a mainspring repair, and only got 300-400 rounds through it before it failed again. An online buddy's Panther seems to be losing power.

"Do you need to spend TX200 money to get a powerful springer that holds up to regular use? I know cheap guns can last - my bargain basement Daisy 953 eats tin after tin of pellets with nary a problem - but is it too much to ask the same from springers?"

That question really hit home because I've asked it several times myself. The "Best guns for under X dollars" blogs were spawned by such thinking, and if you happen to notice that Tom's Picks are limited to only a VERY FEW guns on Pyramyd's website, you'll appreciate how much this affects me. (Tom's Picks is a work in progress, as some of my favorite guns haven't been added to the list, yet.)

But I have an idea - or maybe it's just a notion. I can't go to airgun manufacturers (other than Crosman) and find anyone who will listen to me on this subject. What the airgun community needs is a nice, reliable air rifle that will last for years past the short warranty period. Most airgun manufacturers don't think that way. For starters, most of them don't have anyone on their staff who actually USES airguns, so it's very difficult to talk to them. Most manufacturers have removed themselves from the user and go about marketing based on the buying trends they see. If someone makes a successful airgun, there will soon be copies from other companies.

Marketing decisions
When a large airgun manufacturer decides to introduce a new air rifle, the process usually goes like this:

First the marketing department notices that they have an open spot in their catalog - maybe for a .177 powerhouse spring rifle. They present that to management, and they decide to see what can be done.

They quickly discover that Gamo, Benjamin, RWS Diana and Webley all have such a rifle. So, they look at the specs and price. From that moment on, no thought will be given to anything besides the features all other companies are offering (velocity, scopes, etc.) and price. This circular logic soon leads them to China or Turkey, where it's possible to buy anything for very little money.

Now, jump over to the Chinese airgun maker's perspective. Here come the Americans, whose dollar is suffering everywhere. They're asking you to build a powerful .177 rifle with their name on the side. You both know that you already produce the "Gamma 5" for Germany, but the Americans say they must pay 30 percent less for theirs. You decide to replace some parts with some that are less expensive to make, eliminate some finishing processes such as tumbling the trigger parts before hardening and the Americans will have to take the guns with the "as blued" finish instead of the polished metal finish the Germans get. You can sell them a rifle that looks a lot like the "Gamma 5," known to the world as the Imperiator from Rast und Gasser, the Bavarian airgun maker.

The American marketing department develops a color lithographed box that's 30 percent thinner than their other boxes, so Dick's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart can stock more of them in the same shelf space. One week after the new model hits the market, a wiseguy in southern California has decoded the whole deal for the internet, and there are new websites springing up to solve the "problems" the American Imperiator copy is starting to exhibit.

One month later, when initial sales don't take off as planned, the marketing department slaps on a 4x30 scope they couldn't sell any other way and calls the package a promotional combo.

The OTHER way!
Or, you could do the whole thing differently. Lock the marketing people out of the conference room as you design the gun. Put in design features your customers say they want, but do so with an eye toward keeping the gun affordable.

It's a spring gun. Since you're designing it from the ground up, you can make it easier to maintain. Put the mainspring under less preload and buy a quality spring wire that'll give at least 10K shots before failing. Build a piston that fits the bore of the compression chamber and put on a quality seal that self-lubricates. Use a spring guide that closely fits both the piston rod and the mainspring.

Everybody loves a Rekord trigger, but you cannot afford the extra hundred dollars that it adds to the price of a gun. You design a less expensive trigger that still has a safety, some adjustability and maybe some special features the competition doesn't have--like an adjustable trigger stop. You know, Crosman put a trigger like that into their 160 rifle back in the 1960s, and you can get one now in a QB78 that sells for under a hundred dollars.

Be sure to put a mechanical scope stop on the gun. And make the high-wear parts like the barrel pivot bolt replaceable. Any bearings used to make the barrel operate smoothly have to be replaceable.

So, you design such a gun and it's made right here in the U.S.A. It ends up with a retail price of $239, a price that causes the marketing department to wince. The rifle shoots 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers at only 850 f.p.s., but the hammer-forged barrel you're buying from Remington makes the rifle capable of shooting 3/8" five-shot groups at 40 yards. The cocking effort is 26 lbs., and there's no vibration. There was some during testing, but you played with the spring diameter and the mainspring guide and got it all out.

Here's the big question. Will this gun, that every knowledgeable airgunner will love, sell well enough to keep your company in business, or would you have been wiser to buy that cheaper Chinese copy of a Chinese design sold worldwide as a German design? That gun was advertised as developing 1,200 f.p.s., and it could almost do it with a new 3-grain plastic pellet the Chinese were willing to put your company name on. That rifle would only group three-quarters of an inch at 25 feet with a few pellets, and not always then, but the graphics on the lithographed box sold tens of thousands of guns to the big box stores. The fact that the model has very high returns and requires a complete overhaul by one of several airgunsmiths before it can shoot well, isn't really anyone's concern. The truckloads that were shipped in the first quarter of the year made the sales plan, and that was the goal.

The point
Both approaches to making airguns are real, and both are followed today to a certain extent. The question is this: If YOU were in that design meeting, what would YOU say the Ultra-Reliable air rifle should have? Could such a gun even be built today, given how the market works?

What do you think?
I'd like to turn this discussion into an open letter to the world's airgun manufacturers, most of whom have somebody on staff reading this blog every day. It's not enough to just "blue sky" your ideal airgun. They do that on all the forums and nobody cares. Your job is to design a modern air rifle that is reliable, usable and attractive enough to command the price it's going to have to cost if it's built your way.

Whaddaya say? Can the readers of this blog design a practical air rifle that has a chance of surviving in today's market? In other words, can guns like the HW50 and the FWB 124 still be made?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

HW 55 Tyrolean - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

HW 55T is an all-time classic air rifle.

The deeply cupped cheekpiece is the Tyrolean signature. It positions your eye for the sights.

The lever locks the breech after closing. All HW 55 rifles have it except the rare SF models. Push forward to unlock the breech and backwards after loading.

Let's take a look at a classic air rifle that captures the heart of most collectors whenever they see it. We have reader Wayne of the Ashland Air Rifle Range to thank for this report, because he graciously sent his rifle to me for testing; in return, I offered to tune it up and to give the rest of you a look at the inner workings of a fine spring-piston powerplant. This report will be a long one for two good reasons. First, I'll be testing the rifle both before and after the tuneup; and during the tuneup, I'll show you the guts of the gun. Second, I'm hoping that the longer I drag this out the less attached Wayne will be to his rifle, giving me time to find the means to wrest it away from him. Please don't tell him I said that!

When I researched the history of the HW 55SF I got at the Little Rock airgun show this year, I discovered some things about the 55-series gun that I didn't know. Yes, they began making them in 1955, but no - the famous Rekord trigger was not a part of the earliest guns made. I stumbled onto the American Vintage Airgun Forum while doing that research and came in contact with most of the top collectors of vintage spring airguns. I learned, for example, that the earliest HW55 rifles were hand-assembled and fitted and that each builder stamped his mark on the guns he made. Those guns are more carefully fitted than the later guns that have no special builder attribution. I also learned that the Rekord trigger that I thought went clear back to the first post-war Weihrauch guns was introduced after the 55 target rifles were in production. The earliest 55 rifles have a much simpler trigger that collectors refer to as pre-Rekord.

At the time the HW 55 began production, the target-shooting airgun world was still several years away from the first recoilless spring-piston actions. The emphasis was on firing smoothness - not on recoil reduction. The HW 55 went head to head with Walther's target rifles. Both companies made very smooth guns that, in their final years, were nearly recoilless. The culmination for HW was the 55 Custom Match, a heavy breakbarrel that won the world championship in 1969. The Walther LGV capped off their run of fabulous breakbarrels. As a former owner, I can vouch for the fact that there is next to no movement when an LGV goes off.

The HW 55 Tyrolean, however, was a throwback to a different sport that used a different rifle altogether. The sport was saloon shooting (called parlor shooting in this country), and the rifle was a zimmerstutzen--a 4mm cap-powered firearm that was probably the sire of all target air rifles.

The zimmerstutzen was the predecessor of the modern target air rifle. It's 4mm and is nearly as accurate as a modern 10-meter rifle. The Tyrolean style was perfected with this rifle and with the larger 8.15x46R schutzen rifle.

4mm zimmerstutzen cartridge on the left, .22 long rifle on the right.

An official zimmerstutzen target is similar to a 10-meter rifle target and only slightly larger. This sport is shot at 15 meters.

In the indoor match that zimmers shoot, the target is 15 meters away and the rifles have a trademark ultra-high cheekrest to bring the shooting eye up to a very large and adjustable rear aperture sight. The front sight is a pinhead-sized bead atop a fine wire. I'm showing you the pictures because this stuff is too difficult to envision.

This zimmer rear aperture sight disk has 12 adjustable holes for different lighting conditions. It measures about 2" across.

The front sight is a fine bead atop a thin post. For scale, the hole in the center of the muzzle is smaller than a .177 pellet!

As I examined Wayne's rifle, I found ample evidence that it was tuned recently. It fires with a dead-calm thunk. The trigger is adjusted a might too heavy for me, and Wayne mentioned a grinding feeling when returning the barrel after cocking. I now know that it's the cocking plate or shoe sliding over the compressed mainspring. It's perfectly normal.

This is going to be a fun project. It will resemble the R1 tune I did during the 13-part spring-gun tune series, but there are some differences to show, as well. Sit back and grab your popcorn, boys and girls. We're in for a treat!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BSF S20 Match - Part 3
Germany's rifle-pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, we'll test the accuracy of this BSF rifle-pistol.

I decided on a 10-yard indoor test. I used a rest, resting my forearms on a bag and holding the pistol with two hands just in front of the bag. The hold was steady, but the post-and-bead front sight made it difficult to acquire a precise picture. Posts and beads are better for hunting or shooting cans and are not well-suited to holding at arms-length.

When I was testing the Air Venturi Avenger 1100 for yesterday's blog, I read in the owner's manual that they recommended using a Crosman 850 pellet trap for the rifle. I wrote a whole paragraph of criticism about that, because I felt the trap was built too light for such a powerful rifle; but my wife, who is both my editor and my conscience, called me on it. So, we went to the garage, and I shot a Crosman Premier 10.5-grain Premier into the trap from a foot away. I felt certain the pellet would deeply dent the steel backplate, but it didn't even make a mark. So, we erased the entire paragraph, and on this day I used the same trap for the BSF S20 Match. It's a fairly quiet trap and I envision using it a lot more in the future.

RWS Basic
I'm running short of RWS Hobbys, so I used RWS Basic pellets to sight in. Because this is a new pistol that I haven't shot much, the first two shots were at 20 feet. They were high, so I cranked the elevation down several clicks and backed up to 10 yards. Still high at that distance, so I dropped the sight many more clicks and also put in some correction to the right. Now, the pellets were impacting at the right height but still too far to the left.

Six RWS Basics went into 1.5" at 10 yards.

Then, I looked at the front sight. It was way over to the right in its dovetail, which of course threw the shots to the left. So I tapped it back to center and continued the test. After all this shooting, I was becoming aware that my prediction of a difficult-shooting gun, due to the high line of the piston, was true. The best group I could get with Basics was 1.5" for 6 (I lost count). That's a good BB-gun group, but hardly a target pellet pistol group. I decided to switch to RWS Meisterkugeln.

RWS Meisterkugeln
Meisterkugeln pellets were packed with this pistol when I bought it. I tried them, but they're oxidizing fast and fit the gun too tightly. I tried some cleaner pellets and got about the same results as with Basics. Given the price difference, I'd stick with the Basics.

Five Meisterkugeln group about the same as the Basics.

By this point, I was starting to wonder if I would ever shoot a decent group with this pistol. I liked the light trigger that didn't pull me off-target despite the shaky grip, but those post-and-bead sights were less than desirable.

Air Arms to the rescue!
Finally, I tried some Air Arms domed pellets. I think they are made by JSB. They gave me a group just slightly larger than a half-inch, which is what I expect from a gun like this at 10 yards. They also fit the bore much better than the Basics or the Meisters.

Now, that's a group. But see how it's still to the left? The sights need more adjustment.

What do I think?
My initial lukewarm reaction to this pistol the first time I saw one in Germany in the mid-1970s was right on the mark (in many ways). It isn't the pellet pistol for me. However, I was wrong on a couple of accounts. First, the trigger is much lighter than I thought it would be and second, the gun cocks smoother and shoots smoother than I thought. I like the Beeman P1 much better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Air Venturi Avenger 1100
Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The Air Venturi's Avenger 1100 is a big spring rifle for not a lot of money.

Today, we'll begin looking at a .177-caliber Air Venturi Avenger 1100 rifle. This is a breakbarrel spring piston rifle made by Mendoza. It's a single-shot, and is one of the most powerful rifles Mendoza makes. The advertised velocity is 1030 f.p.s., which we'll certainly test.

My test rifle has a different stock than the one shown on the website. Mine is plain instead of being checkered on both the grip and forearm, and the stain on my rifle is a lighter brown than you see here. My stock also lacks the sling swivel stud that appears in the photo on the toe of the butt. Other that that, the two rifles appear the same. The reason my rifle is different is because the new-style stock just came in recently, and the one I'm testing was ordered when Pyramyd Air had the plain stocks. I want to draw your attention to the shape of the stock at the cheekrest. The groove that is supposed to define the pistol grip is cut higher up on the cheekrest of this rifle. Also, the toe of the stock is swooped up instead of following the line of the stock bottom. It makes the butt appear very Bavarian. The wood appears to be beech with very little figure.

The stock is not ambidextrous, but the action is, and I don't think left-handed shooters will find too much to complain about. The automatic safety has a switch on either side of the spring tube, so it's equally convenient to shooters of either persuasion. And, being a breakbarrel, the breech is 100 percent symmetrical.

The rest of the features are typical of Mendoza rifles, like the two-bladed trigger, a deep blue finish on all the metal parts, an oil hole for the piston seal and fully adjustable fiberoptic sporting sights. A word about these sights is required. The rear notch is too narrow to show any daylight on either side of the front sight, so this is one rifle that demands you uses the red/green dots of the fiberoptic elements for sighting. I'll mount a scope for the accuracy test, and the 11mm grooves on top of the receiver end in a stout plastic end cap that serves as a scope stop.

Shooting characteristics
Mendoza ships all their rifles with a test group on the hang tag attached to the triggerguard. If the one on this rifle is any indication, I think we're in for a treat. The couple times I function-fired the rifle to make sure it was ready to go, I noticed a shudder of vibration with each shot. It isn't bad, but it's noticeable. Also, the mainspring makes some noise as the rifle is cocked.

Whoever designs these rifles is an experienced shooter. I can tell that from the balance, which is decidedly muzzle-heavy. It holds very steady as a result and will do well off the hand in the artillery hold. The bottom of the forearm is wide and almost flat, which will also help a good rested hold.

This is a $150 breakbarrel with all the power anyone could expect to use. If it holds up to the advertised velocity claims and if the accuracy is anything close to the test target, this will be a best buy. Imagine knocking $50 off the price of an RWS Diana 34 Panther. This will be an exciting test!

Monday, September 15, 2008

BSF S20 Match - Part 2
Germany's rifle-pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

In the first report, I told you something of the history of the BSF S20 Match pistol but not everything. The gun I own doesn't actually say BSF on it. It was exported by Wischo, a company that was also headquartered in Erlangen, the home of BSF. Like RWS, Wischo didn't make airguns. They put their name on guns made by several other European makers, with BSF among them.

My pistol was purchased from Air Rifle Headquarters; and all the BSF guns they sold, at the time this gun was purchased, came through Whisco. It may seem like trivia unless you're searching for a certain model. Then, knowing the other players is important--like the names Hy Score, Beeman, Winchester, Geco, Gecado, Original and Peerless can all mean a Diana gun. Before RWS took over distribution of Diana in the 1980s, any of those names could be found on the various models.

Wischo of Erlangen was the exporter, not the maker.

Many post-war German guns have this strange marking. "West" was added with a separate stamp.

But when you need parts for the gun, then you need to know where it really came from. Then the name Wischo means next to nothing, while BSF S20 Match is all-descriptive.

I also failed to make another connection in the last report. There was another rifle-pistol in the market back then, and it's still being made today. The Beeman HW70 pistol has a stock that is more contemporary, but look closely and you'll see the same youth rifle cut down to make a handgun. Even the advertised velocity of 440 f.p.s. is in the same ballpark as the BSF pistol that was rated to 470. We'll find out today what my example does.

Velocity with 7.9-grain Premiers
The first pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. This pellet fits the bore very tight, so I seated it as deep as I could with finger-pressure, because I didn't want seating friction to affect velocity. It didn't seem to, as the average velocity was 398 f.p.s., with a spread from 388 to 413.

Velocity with RWS Hobbys
RWS Hobby pellets weigh just 7.0 grains and have been used for decades to clock the fastest velocities with airguns. They're pure lead pellets, though, so today there are a number of non-lead pellets that are even lighter and faster. I did something unusual while testing these pellets--I lubricated the compression chamber, even though it seemed to be well-lubed already. Pyramyd Air had sent me an Airgun Express .177 cleaning kit to evaluate, and I noted that it contained a small bottle of chamber lube, along with an oiling needle for oiling through the air transfer port. I just couldn't resist the temptation to oil the leather piston seal. Guess what happened?

While there were several shots considerably faster than the 436 f.p.s. average for this pellet, there were also several that were slower. The result was that I got about the same average velocity, but the maximum spread went 73 f.p.s. - from 425 f.p.s. to 498! The moral of that story is don't lube in the middle of testing.

Warp drive!
After two lead pellets, I tried a batch of Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoint pellets. These lightweights are non-lead and  generally less accurate in most guns, but they're the speed-demons of the pellet world. Nobody uses them for anything but bragging rights, which puts them into a class by themselves. They averaged 553 f.p.s. in the S20 Match, but again the velocity ranged from 496 f.p.s. to 597 f.p.s. That was the lingering effect of the recent lube, however, the average seems about right.

The pistol continues to interest me. I like how it cocks so easily and locks up so solid at the end of the stroke. The light trigger is still a concern, but so far no problems. I'll keep the muzzle oriented safely, nevertheless, which is good advice for all guns.

Accuracy testing comes next. I don't know how the high center of the powerplant will affect where the pellet goes, but we'll see.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Evanix Renegade double-action rifle
Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Today is the day many of you have been waiting for. Let me be the first to tell you - the news is very good! The Evanix Renegade rifle is a real shooter. However, it's a repeater, as well as being capable of double-action fast firing, and there are some things you need to know.

I scoped the rifle with a Leapers 4-12x44 Mini-SWAT scope with sidewheel parallax adjustment and a 30mm scope tube. With that accomplished, I headed to the range, taking a hand pump to fill the gun.

The range was relatively quiet, as the air clears ahead of Hurricane Ike. The winds were variable at 5-10 m.p.h. with no great gusts. The target was set out at 40 yards, because the Renegade is a long-range hunting rifle. It took 10 shots to get zeroed, with the first two at 10 feet and then a cylinder full at 20 yards. Once the target was moved to 40 yards, two more shots were required to get on target.

Beeman Kodiaks
I'd thought Beeman Kodiaks would be good in this gun, but they turned out to have a quirk. Remember me saying some of their skirts were so large the pellets would barely seat in the cylinder (pellets are loaded skirt-first in this rifle)? That meant that some Kodiaks seated deeper in the chambers than others, and that's never good for accuracy.

When the pellets are seated at different depths (like this), you can't expect accuracy. This is caused by skirts that are slightly too wide for the chambers because the pellets are loaded at the front of the cylinder, skirt-first

Double-action shooting results
However, I did get one good cylinder of Kodiaks that I shot double-actyion at 40 yards. Now, I'm not Chuck Connors and this blog isn't Hollywood, so the group you're looking at is a real one shot double-action at 120 feet.

Five double-action shots at 40 yards. These Kodiaks went into a group measuring 0.901". They're below the bull because I didn't bother sighting for double-action.

I didn't do any more double-action shooting because I really wanted to see what this rifle can do. With the great single-action trigger-pull, why mess around with double-action? Yes, I would use it for a fast follow-up shot; but at 40 yards and beyond, it'll take some learning to know where to aim, because the aimpoint changes with the velocity of the pellet. As you'll remember from the earlier testing, Kodiaks vary by over 100 f.p.s.; past 30 yards, that's going to make a big difference where they land.

I tried a cylinder of JSB 15.8-grain pellets just so I could tell you about them. They went supersonic and grouped in 4". No further testing was done. Obviously, Crosman Premiers, which are even lighter, would also have gone supersonic on this day, so I didn't try them. The JSBs fit the chambers better than the Premiers, so they may have been faster despite their heavier weight.

Eun Jin
Ahh! The pellet the rifle was designed for. You would expect the Eun Jin super heavyweight pellet to shoot the best on high power and it did, but not before some learning took place. At first, the best I could do was just less than 1" at 40 yards. That's not bad; but when I can shoot just as well in double-action, I know I can do better with a crisp single-action trigger. I shot and shot; as I did, the answer revealed itself to me. The Renegade has a real "sweet spot" between 2,500 psi and 2,000 psi where everything comes together for Eun Jins on high power (single-action). Once the gun was in this pressure range, it simply could not miss! You'll get only 12 shots in this narrow power band; but when you want to thread the needle, this is the way to do it!

Five single-action Eun Jins at 40 yards. This is an average group.

Five more single-action Eun Jins. This group is a little better.

Five more single-action Eun Jins. The pellets just kept landing in the same place, once I found the secret.

The shooting was getting very routine, so I adjusted the scope and fired one last group. It turned out to be the best one of the day!

Best group of Eun Jins measures 0.603."

There's SO much more testing I could do with this rifle that it staggers the imagination, but I believe we have at least explored the performance enough to know where it falls within the ranks of PCPs. I'll test one of the other three Renegades next.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

BSF S20 Match - Part 1
Germany's rifle-pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

When I was stationed in Germany from 1974 through 1977, I was primarily interested in clocks - both wall and tall case (grandfather/grandmother). My apartment was full of them! I had a favorite antique store in Fürth, a suberb of Nürnberg, where I bought most of them. One day, I spotted a strange air pistol in the store. It looked for all the world like someone had shortened a breakbarrel spring rifle and fashioned a wood pistol-grip stock for it. At the time, I was unaware that Erlangen, the city I was living in, was also the home of the Bayerische Sportwaffenfabrik (Bavarian Sporting Arms Manufacturer) or BSF. That pistol was a BSF S20.

The BSF S20 Match is a big air pistol that looks like a cut-down youth rifle. Sorry for this rotation, but Blogger only permits 5-inch-wide photos, and I wanted to show more detail than that allows.

In the middle of my tour, I purchased a Diana model 10 target pistol and became reacquainted with pellet guns. Robert Beeman's Air Gun Digest was published in 1976, and I bought a copy in the Stars & Stripes bookstore at my Kaserne. Reading that book kindled a desire to obtain an FWB 124 breakbarrel spring rifle, which I did just as soon as I returned to San Jose, California.

It's as if I had been living in Golconda for four years and suddenly became interested in diamonds after learning about Tiffany's. What I could have done if only I had known then what I know today!

Ugly duckling
The BSF S20 is an acquired taste. It looks grotesque at first glance. Well, actually, it still looks grotesque to me, even today. It still resembles a youth model breakbarrel that was chopped and channeled into a "pistol" that only the inventor or his mother could love. To my eye, it looks oversized and unbalanced, but that goes away when I hold the gun in my hands. It feels lighter than it appears, and the balance is nearly perfect. That huge stock actually fits my average-sized hand quite well.

Bank-vault smooth
Another drawback to a breakbarrel air pistol is the large effort needed to cock the gun. Owners of Diana models 5, 6 and 10 pistols will know what I'm talking about. My Diana model 10 required 35 lbs. of effort to cock, which was very hard until I got used to it. This larger, rougher-looking BSF pistol must be even harder. Right? Not even close! The cocking is light and butter-smooth. A Mercedes among spring-piston pistols.

Watch that trigger
A real key to smoothness in a BSF spring gun is use. These guns wear in, not out, as the advertising from both Air Rifle Headquarters (the original one, not Jim Maccari's website) and the Beeman company both touted. I mentioned that in the report I made about the BSF 55N several months ago. In that report, I mentioned that the trigger was set so light that it slipped when I shut the barrel the first time, putting a hole in the ceiling of my office. I adjusted it much harder, but it's still only 38 oz. Advanced collector Don Raitzer tells me he thinks all BSF triggers are "twitchy," as he puts it. I think they have to be watched closely, because they have a tendency to become more sensitive over time.

The trigger on my well-used pistol was breaking at about 8 oz. when I got it, so I immediately cranked it up to 18 oz., which is the MOST I can get out of it! That's somewhat scary, following the hole in the ceiling, so I'm extremely careful where the muzzle points when the barrel is closed. The trigger adjustment screw is in the bottom of the grip, behind where the pistol is held. I accidently removed the adjusting screw and saw that it affects the amount of bite the sear takes, which is a dangerous kind of adjustment. On other airguns, this screw would be the one they warn you not to touch!

The trigger adjustment screw is beneath the spring cylinder, behind the grip. The large screw on the right is the elevation adjustment for the rear sight.

A completely unnecessary trigger shoe makes it all the easier to apply enough pressure to break the sear before you're ready. I like the look and feel of this option, but given the light pull, plus the fact that it's a single-stage trigger, means I have to be fully ready to fire before my finger touches it.

Strange sights!
The sights are a strange post-and-bead front and a U-notch rear. They belong on a .22 rimfire rifle, not a target air pistol. The front sight is covered by a large steel hood, giving you a place to grab when cocking the pistol. The rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation. The elevation is a somewhat mushy click detent system, while the windage is a sliding sheet metal notch with a jam screw to lock it. Sort of an IZH 46 meets a 1950 Crosman 106 arrangement.

Just what you would expect on a 1959 .22 rifle! A post-and-bead front sight. Very hard to use on a pistol!

It's a big 'un
The weight of 43.5 oz. feels surprisingly light, probably because of the gun's size. This is no pocket pistol! At 15-3/4" long, it rivals the other massive air pistols, such as the BSA Scorpion and the Diana model 5. The barrel and action sit very high in the hand, leading to a lot of wobble when held on target. Hence, this target pistol is anything but! It's fine for informal targets, but they used that title to differentiate between this one with the adjustable sights and the plain old S20 that lacks them.

With all this criticism, you probably think I hate this pistol, but I don't. It just has quirks, like its 55N rifle sibling. Many older airguns have similar quirks that have to be learned and watched. Because safety is involved, I would pay extra attention to the orientation of the muzzle every time you make the gun ready to fire.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Starting your own field target club
Target hardware and maintenance

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

We looked at target mechanisms and methods of permanent emplacement last time. Today, I'll focus on the details of target hardware, especially the stuff that can prevent the target from working.

Not so simple
When you first see a field target, you're impressed by its simplicity. After running several matches, however, you'll reverse that opinion and wonder how something that appears so simple can also be so complex. On the surface, it seems like you just run a length of string out to the target and reset it every time it goes down. In a perfect world (or a perfect vacuum--I forget which), that would work. In the real world, though, reset strings unravel, or they cut themselves on the sharp edges of targets or they get snagged in the target mechanism, making it impossible to reset the target. So, field target shooters have learned a few fixes that improve the reliability of the targets greatly.

The first tip is to use fishing swivels and leaders with snap fasteners as attachment hardware for both the targets and the reset strings. That way, all you have to do is snap a string swivel to a target swivel and you're done. And don't buy cheap ones like I used to. I would buy a large bag of generic swivels at K-Mart and attach them to everything. But one or two matches later, my cheap hardware was itself causing as many problems as the bare string had caused. Other club members bought better-quality swivels that lasted for many seasons. Mine quit after a couple of matches. The cheap, uncoated steel swivel stops swiveling after one exposure to moisture, while the plated or solid brass or stainless swivel almost never freezes up.

Knotty situation
You need a swiveling action because the twine you use to reset the target is made from twisted fiber. In essence, the reset string is a long spring. As you pull and release, it tries to twist based on the alignment of the strands. Swivels cancel this motion, rendering it inconsequential. Without swivels, your strings soon start tying themselves in knots down by the target.

Tangled target strings!
When some targets fall, they pull on the reset strings with considerable force. This can pull the string into contact with the target mechanism, where it will get snarled. Many clubs tie a rubber band to the base of the target and to the reset string, so no matter how hard the target pulls the string when it falls, the rubber band always pulls the reset string free of the target mechanism afterward. When these are fresh, they work like a champ. After several exposures to sunlight, the rubber bands lose their elasticity and start breaking. Rather than use these temporary measured, I like to use targets that don't exhibit the string-pulling tendency.

The After Hours target has high-quality hardware. Look at the cable to which the reset string is attached. A target made this way will operate reliably for years without the problems mentioned here.

This little quail target was made by Ulysses Payne. It's too pretty to shoot, so I use it as my demonstration target. Notice that the maker installed a brass swivel on the target face for attaching the reset spring. This target has a bright orange paddle that you cannot actually see because of a shadow. That happens on a field target course all the time.

Air Arms bunny target solves the reset string tangle problem by holding the string attachment point out to the side. They use a circular clip instead of a swivel as the attachment point.

Maintaining reset strings!
When you make a new reset string, make it at least 65 yards long. You can do this quickly by measuring the string with your hands and arms. One span (holding your hands as far apart as you can) is approximately the same as your height, so if you are six feet tall, measure 33 spans of string. As the strings age, they break and the break is usually very close to the target. If the string is long, you can cut some off, attach a swivel and still have the maximum length string for a 55-yard target. You'll get close to a decade of use from a string this way.

Repainting targets during the match
Not all clubs do this but I always repainted the field targets in the middle of the match. I used the lunch break to do it, and with two people working it took only 10 minutes to paint 30 targets. Each painter carries a can of flat black and a can of international orange spray paint. The paddle is painted orange and the target is painted black. I used a cardboard mask to protect the paddle as I painted the target. It takes about 30 seconds to paint a target, which will dry in 10 minutes.

After a target has taken 25-30 hits, the definition around the kill zone is lost. You can't tell where the kill zone is because everything is shiny gray. When you see this through a scope under certain light conditions, it's impossible to see any details. Those who argue against painting during a match say that no one paints game animals for hunters, which is true, but game animals also don't wear a shiny silver breastplate. Field target is a sport, and I see nothing wrong with maintaining the equipment in the middle of a match, which is, after all, a contrived event. So, when I'm the match director, we repaint.

What about pretty targets?
You may have seen some field targets that are painted more like actual game animals than the flat black targets I mentioned. Some of them are real art. I have a theory about that. A beautifully painted target is a delight to see, but after it gets shot it has to be painstakingly repainted. At an amusement park where I used to work, they painted all the steel targets on the shooting gallery with lead paint that never hardened. It was easy to repaint the targets and backstop once a week because of how everything was painted, and that's my philosophy for field targets, too. If I have just one, I paint it like a work of art; if I have 30 to maintain, I paint 'em all black. The one exception I made was the club mascot - Long Tom - a life-sized turkey target we placed out at 50 yards. I repainted Long Tom with natural colors for the state match every year. That was the one and only concession I made to artfully painted targets.

Next time, I'll talk about scorecards.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Crosman 1377 - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I'll test accuracy today. I want you to remember the price of this pistol - that it is less than half the cost of a Benjamin HB17. I've heard from shooters who love their 1377s and from a few who think the HB17 is far superior. In fairness, the 1377 lovers outnumber the Benjamin fans several times, as the price would seem to dictate. So one of my big questions was, "Is the 1377 a credible air pistol, all things considered?"

Sight adjustments
The pistol shot high at 21 yards, as several readers said it would. When I adjusted it as low as it would go, it shot below the point of aim, which is also good. I fiddled with the sights for a while until I got them where they needed to be, which turned out to be where I started! You see, I had started shooting with my glasses on, but when I tool them off, the front sight became sharp and in-focus, and it was easy to align with the rear. Until I did that, I got lots of vertical stringing.

Initial groups were high, but not due to the sights. I was unable to see the sights clearly through my glasses. Once I took them off, the problem went away.

Many of my early groups were strung out vertically, like this group of 5 RWS Superdomes.

I started shooting RWS Superdomes, then switched to Beeman Kodiaks and finally tried Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. After I switched to Premiers, I started settling down. After discarding my glasses, I adjusted the sights a bit and got them pretty well centered for 21 yards on 6 pumps. Then, the groups tightened up!

The average group of Premiers was just larger than six tenths of an inch and there really was no "best group. They seemed to shoot where expected once the sights were fully seen and understood.

An average group of five Premiers at 21 yards is 0.622" center-to-center. That's not bad for open sights on a $55 air pistol!

The best group of five Premiers measures 0.591". Not much different than the average.

After trying a great many groups of Premiers, I shot a single group of Superdomes, and bested the best of the Premiers by a couple of thousandths. Too close to call, really.

The best group of 5 RWS Superdomes measures 0.584". They beat the Premiers by a thin margin, though it's really too close to call.

At the end of testing, I shot a final group of RWS Superdomes, and darned if I didn't beat the best group of Premiers! This is one of those airguns that simply shoots a wide selection of pellets, so leave nothing untried.

The 1377 shoots!
The point is that the Crosman 1377 really shoots! For not much money, you get both power and accuracy in a simple package. People are always asking about guns like that, so I have to tell them this is a world-beater. I don't know where you can find this kind of value in an air pistol anymore.

The downside
The 1377 isn't perfect. It has two obvious flaws that most people will notice - the trigger and the grips. The single-stage trigger is stiff and slightly creepy - breaking fairly consistently at 5 lbs. 2 oz. The grips are loose on the gun and no amount of screw-tightening can help them. One reader told us he installed shims under the plastic panels, but many simply swap them for a custom pair of wood panels from Ralph Brown. Either way will fix the problem, which is more annoying than functional.

With both of those problems I still managed to shoot some nice groups, so the problems aren't insurmountable. And, given the strength of the aftermarket for this pistol, they can be resolved in a number of different ways.

I'm very pleased with the performance of the 1377. It makes me wish Crosman would bring back the 1322, because it upholds more than a half-century of air pistol-making.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Photographing airguns - Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Just in case you missed this announcement before....Pyramyd Air is having a garage sale Saturday & Sunday, Sept. 20 & 21. If you can't make it, have a look at their used products. However, the garage sale will have much more than just used products, so it's worth attending even if you've got a ways to travel.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Today, we'll look at showing printed details on a gun - one of the most difficult shots to take, but with digital cameras it has become a lot easier. Like all photography, it all comes down to light; and, with printed details, how the light strikes the subject is extremely critical.

You can easily see the printed details on guns because you've learned how your eyes work. Without even thinking, you turn the gun until the ambient light strikes it in such a way that the printed details stand out. On some guns, though, the print is very thin and small, and you really have to work the light to see them. Certain airguns such as Daisy BB guns are the worst of all.

Print is hard to see
Print on guns is usually stamped into metal surfaces or molded into the synthetic parts. On some guns such as the first run of BSA underlever rifles (ca. 1905-1914), the print is put on by acid etching that may have blended into the patina by now. AirForce rifles have laser-etched text that is very shallow and doesn't have much contrast once the white ash left by the laser is wiped off.

This is the hardest!
I think the most challenging camera shot of a gun is photographing the rounded top of a Daisy receiver so the printed details are visible and legible. The light just doesn't want to wrap around that curved surface to let you see all the print. You can use reflectors, but they have to be close to the subject to work.

This is how most people would take this picture. One strong overhead light source and ambient sunlight from the left. It leaves a lot to be desired. The bottom line of the text--"Plymouth, Mich. U.S.A."--is almost invisible. I used a white paper reflector that wrapped completely around the bottom of the gun and reflected from both sides.

This shot is a highly processed version of the first shot. It's only slightly better, and it shows mottled surface patina that makes the image confusing. This patina problem is very common on rust-prone guns like old Daisys.

By shooting a strong light from the right side, the letters show up clearer, and the bottom line now becomes visible. I used a tactical flashlight for this, which is a field expedient at best, but it does illustrate the concept.

Chalk in the letters is an old standby, and you can see why. It makes the letters jump out. I used sewing chalk that's used for marking garments because it's what we had (it also crumbles less). If you don't have any chalk, I recommend this stuff over blackboard markers.

Light angle reveals a lot of detail
Anyone who has ever done photo intelligence knows that the camera angle is very important. It can conceal or reveal important information. Look at the two photos below to see what I mean.

The back of the Daisy target trap from yesterday--taken in light that was almost overhead. The depth of the BB dents is difficult to estimate.

By angling the light from the left side, the dents come into sharp relief. Notice the highest dent on the left is actually two dents very close together. That was impossible to see in the first picture.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Daisy 325 2-Way Target Outfit - Part 2
A different pump BB gun!

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

As a wrap-up to this report, I'm going to chronograph the 1936 version of the Daisy No. 25 pump BB gun. I'll also show you the Daisy target trap in the kit, and, just for grins, I'll chronograph a 1954 version of the same No. 25 pump gun that the 1936 version morphed into. This is playtime for me, and I hope it tickles your fancy, as well.

First - oil the gun!
Many of you haven't heard this story yet, so allow me to tell you a sad tale from my childhood. It's probably one of the main reasons I became such a devoted airgunner. After my mother embarrassed me with the world's weakest airgun, she relented from her "NO BB GUNS" policy by allowing me to buy a real Daisy. My older sister's boyfriend had a 1930 variation Daisy No. 25 pump (that's the same gun as the 1936, but with no engraving and a color case-hardened pump linkage) that he offered to sell me for $5. I couldn't get the money fast enough! (I had a paper route.)

I'm a dope
That gun was a beauty and I loved it--for all of 3 days. Then, on day 4, the BBs stopped coming out. Or, they simply dribbled out with no force. I was 12, so all I knew was to take it apart. I made it almost halfway before realizing I didn't know what to do after that. I couldn't get it back together again. So, to rid myself of the pain of the basket-case I'd created, I sold it to an acquaintance for a quarter. A couple days later, he comes around to show me his fully functioning BB gun and tells me, "My dad says you're a dope for not knowing you have to oil these things all the time!"

So, I'm a dope...and I became a diehard Daisy No. 25 BB gun collector on that very day. It would be 24 more years before I bought my second No. 25, but once I did the floodgates were opened. This 325 is one of the nicest in my small collection that includes every No. 25 variation from 1913 to 1954.

As I was saying, first you oil the gun by removing the screw-in shot tube and dropping 10-20 drops of plain household oil down the muzzle. Stand the gun upright for a few minutes, then load and fire. You cannot over-oil these guns, but you can make them so saturated they'll leak oil for weeks, so keep it real.

The 1936 variation fired Crosman Copperhead BBs at a velocity in the 330 f.p.s. range. There were, however, a number of shots as slow as 269 f.p.s. That tells me the leather seal either isn't saturated yet, or it's worn a bit. The former is more likely, because those seals can last more than a century with minimal care.

All No. 25 guns had a 50-shot, forced-feed magazine. The later guns that shot steel BBs instead of lead shot will have mags with an external wire spring to hold the BB at the shot seat, like this one.

Testing the 1954
For comparison, I dragged out my 1954 variation to test. In 1952, Daisy stopped bluing their BB guns and started painting them with a glossy black electrostatic paint. About the same time, they began experimenting with injection-molded polystyrene (plastic) stocks. However, the No. 25 went through one additional transformation. The early ones had engraved receivers that were actually engraved (stamped) with gold paint in the lines. Later guns had painted engraving; the stamped lines were left out. Mine is painted with a plastic stock and engraved, and the general consensus seems to be that this model should be called the 1954 variant, though it was probably produced earlier than that. By 1956, I believe, the engraving had ceased, and in 1958 Daisy moved to Rogers, Arkansas, so the guns marked Plymouth, MI, stopped being built. I found this gun at a flea market and got it for a great price, considering that it's in 98 percent condition.

This painted and engraved No. 25 was the first to wear a plastic stock. It was still made in Plymouth, Michigan, and, as far as I know, Daisy still used their stiffer spring wire in the spring. This one is in extremely fine condition.

The 1954 variation, which may have a leather piston seal or it may be synthetic, averages 344 f.p.s. with a velocity variation of less than 20 f.p.s. So neither this gun nor the older one are quite as powerful as I've seen, but both are still pretty hot for BB guns.

Daisy target trap
Talk about your liability potential! The all-steel Daisy target trap that comes in the 325 outfit is a lawsuit waiting to happen! It was probably fine back in the days of lead air rifle shot, but when the steel BB came out in the late 1920s, the phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out!" was born.

The blued-steel Daisy BB trap was made to hang on a nail (the hole in back). Shoot through the hole in front and you hit the bell inside. Note the folded lips on either side of the front. They accept Daisy red and white pasteboard targets.

Daisy's name on the front of the trap is what makes it collectible. Notice the several BB dents on the thick steel target face.

The trap has a bell inside the small hole and the BB that strikes it provides the clapper. A red and white Daisy target was dropped into the target holder and the bell signified when the red bullseye was hit. My trap has small dimples on the face and larger dents in the back, signifying some use. This trap was also sold separately in a red and white pasteboard box, and I've seen them going for $100 in the box by themselves. A trap without the box should be worth something less, I would think, and the amount of use would dictate the price, as well.

The BBs that got through the front hole and missed the bell hit the thin back, leaving these dents.

Whatever you do--NEVER shoot a steel BB at this trap! The steel construction guarantees that BBs will come straight back at the shooter with force.

I hope you've enjoyed this stroll down memory lane with me. For some reason, I have always been a sucker for pump guns and Daisy No. 25s are my special weakness.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pro-Guide spring retainer system for RWS Diana rifles
Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today, I tested the Air Venturi Pro-Guide spring retainer in the .22 caliber RWS Diana 48 using a washer spacer to increase velocity. However, as sometimes happens, fate stepped in and changed the test. I had been testing with .22-caliber Crosman Premiers, and you may remember that I mentioned the gun was still more variable than I would like. Well, that turned out to be the pellet fitting too loosely in the breech, so I was unable to continue the test with Premiers.

That being the case, I installed the factory mainspring and spring guide and tested it with a pellet that fits the bore tight enough for credibility. It turned out to be the Gamo Hunter, a 15.3-grain domed pellet.

The washer
As long as I was inside the gun, I decided to add the washer to the factory spring, as well, so we would have a good comparison between both systems. It turns out that we need a 5/16" plain steel washer for the Diana piston rod. The hole in the washer has to be enlarged a few thousandths, which a Dremel tool can do in about five minutes. One washer is 0.079" thick; since I was advised that there might only be 0.10" remaining clearance in the mainspring, I went with just one. I smeared it with lithium grease on both sides and dropped it over the piston rod, then installed the mainspring and guide in the normal fashion.

Plain 5/16" steel washers worked fine for spring spacers, once the hole was slightly enlarged.

Factory spring test
I had forgotten about the vibration of the factory mainspring. It isn't bad, but you do notice it after having used the Pro-Guide system. The velocity range for the 15.3-grain Hunter was 774 to 801 f.p.s., with an average of 791 f.p.s. That works out to 21.26 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, which is right where an RWS Diana 48 belongs.

I removed the factory spring and guide and replaced them with the Pro-Guide system. The washer was still in place, so testing began immediately.

Pro-Guide test
The vibration was gone again with the Pro-Guide. I have to say that it's a nice feeling in a gun this powerful. The cocking effort does feel a pound or two heavier, but not that bad, because the sidelever linkage offers so much advantage.

With the Pro-Guide, the velocity ranged from 792 to 800 f.p.s., with an average of 796. That computes to 21.53 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Not much more than factory; just like we saw in the original test with Premiers and no washer.

I've had this rifle apart so many times that it's getting to be as easy as stripping a Weihrauch. The T05 trigger deserves the credit for that, but don't forget to pull the trigger before you assemble the rifle and make sure that the safety doesn't slip into lockup as the trigger unit goes in. That happened to me and required another strip-down to correct.

The next step is to install the Pro-Guide in the .177 RWS Diana 34 Panther to see what it does.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Daisy 325 2-Way Target Outfit - Part 1
A different pump BB gun!

by B.B. Pelletier

Just a reminder for all of you within striking distance of Fredrick, Maryland, don't forget the combined firearm/arign show to be held on September 14th and 15th. Here is the info.

Going to kick back and enjoy myself today after all the testing I've done over the past several weeks. Today, I'm going to share with you a very special version of Daisy's popular No. 25 pump gun.

What do you mean "pump" gun?
Let me first clear up any confusion about that label "pump" gun. The No. 25 is not a pneumatic airgun. It's powered by a BB gun mechanism that's a combination of a catapult and a spring-piston. The air tube on the end of the piston actually pushes the BB off its seat and accelerates it to 50-80 f.p.s., then a blast of compressed air from the piston exits the tube, pushing it up to the final velocity - which in a No. 25 can be as much as 375 f.p.s.! It's generally accepted as the most powerful of the common BB guns.

In this case, the term "pump" refers to the gun's action. You pull a pump handle straight back, then push it forward to cock the gun. I already reported on the No. 25 pump in November 2005, and you can read that report for more historical information. But know this - the No. 25 is probably one of the two most popular BB guns of all time, with 20 million being made from 1914 to 1993 (the 25 production ended with the commemorative model in 1986, but the model 225, a variant, continued until 1993).

1936 - the most beautiful model
The most popular No. 25 is the 1936 model that continued until 1952. It's blued steel and stocked with a gumwood butt and pump handle. The reason for the popularity is the engraving on both sides of the receiver. Unlike later guns, this engraving is real - not just painted on. There are several variations of the actual engraving style, but most guys just notice that it's there. And the 1936 gun always uses steel BBs, unless the shot tube was swapped for a lead BB tube at some point. So, there's never a fear of ruining the gun by shooting steel BBs.

The Daisy No. 300 scope
A more special version of the 1936 varaition comes with the Daisy No. 300 telescopic sight - a huge scope in the style of the buffalo guns of the 1870s. Just the 2x scope, by itself, will command about $150 at an airgun show. However, there's one more version of the 1936 No. 25 that collectors really search for: the No. 325 2-Way Target Outfit that's the subject of today's blog. It comes in a box with the No. 300 scope, a Daisy steel (!) BB trap and a second shot tube for elastic (cork) balls. In other words, an indoor/outdoor gun.

Outfit includes a special shot tube made just for large cork balls. They are muzzle-loaded one at a time and the tiny puff of air blasts them out.

The 325 outfit came in a blue cardboard box. Inside was a Daisy 1936 version of the No. 25 pump gun, a separate cork-ball shot tube, Daisy No. 300 telescopic sight, a Daisy steel BB trap, ammo for both shot tubes, Daisy "Scope Dope" manual and an instruction manual for the BB gun.

Daisy's No. 325 2-Way Target Outfit
I searched for several years before locating my 325, and the only reason I got it is because the owner had just purchased a slightly better one. I'd seen a partial outfit (gun with target trap and nothing else) in a ratty box for $350 at the big flea market in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the mid-1990s; but, by then, I'd attended enough airgun shows to know that was too much. Even today, I think it would be too much because you can buy a nice working 1936 No. 25 for about $100 at any good show.

A nice 325 outfit like mine is worth $400 or more. The box, alone, is worth a lot because they're flimsy and don't last. The Daisy target trap will sell for $75, alone, and I've never seen a shot tube for the big cork balls even offered. If it was, they would want at least $75.

Removing rust
My gun has good bluing coverage, but it also has the freckling of rust that's so common to blued BB guns of this era. So, in this report, I'm going to try to remove some of that rust with a cotton cloth and Ballistol. I had good success using Ballistol on a nickel-plated Daisy Buzz Barton some time back, so I'm going to try it again on this gun, and this time you'll get to watch.

The receiver is freckled with rust. A long exposure faded the blue to gray, but this receiver actually has a lot of deep blue.

Look what 10 minutes of Ballistol on a soft cotton cloth has done! Some of the freckles still show as a dull patch, but the rust is gone!

Using just a single finger to rub the Ballistol around the receiver produced this rust stain in 10 minutes.

More on the scope
The No. 300 scope was made for both the No. 25 pump gun and the Red Ryder. There are, however, two different rear scope mounts - one for each type of gun. The correct rear mount for the No. 25 has a strap to fit over the gun's backstrap--a la shotgun-style. The scope has a unique elevation adjustment via a cam at the rear. Since the front mount is on a swivel, no stress is passed to the scope tube. And, the 2x magnification really does work!

The scope adjustment cam is down for a close shot.

Cam is up for a distant shot. Isn't that cool?

The scope is free to tilt up and down because the front mount is a swivel.

Airgun makers often ask me what kind of new guns they should think about making. As I try to explain the neat things from the past, like this scope, they usually default to other considerations like maximum velocity and camouflage stocks. Did no one besides me actually PLAY with these things when they were kids?

As I examined the gun in the kit I discovered a couple of faults. The trigger return spring is broken and so is the air tube--common faults among vintage No. 25s. Fortunately, I have a second No. 25 with a 300 scope mounted, and that one works perfectly. It has even more deep blue finish than the one from the box, so I simply swapped them. The broken gun will go off to Jim Coplen in Minnesota for some work. Jim is also a collector, so I can trust that he won't do anything stupid like refinish my fine BB gun. For those who have need of his services, Jim can be reached at 507-281-2314.

Next time, we'll shoot the gun and see what a 25 can do.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Evanix Renegade double-action rifle
Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I'm still testing the velocity of the Evanix Renegade rifle. I'm doing such a thorough job because this rifle is very different than the PCPs we've seen to-date. The double-action trigger feature makes the Renegade stand on its own as a powerful repeater - something that, until now, has been very expensive.

Today, I'll finish those questions I'd asked about velocity in the last report..namely what do Beeman Kodiaks do on double-action and how do Eun Jins perform?

Test 5: double-action string with Beeman Kodiaks

Shots 1-6

Shots 7-12

Shots 13-18

Shots 19-24 (first acceptable string)

Shots 25-30

Shots 31-36

Shots 37-42

Shots 43-48

Shots 49-54

If we weren't convinced before that this rifle won't tolerate a 3,000 psi fill for double-action firing, this test certainly proves it! Sticking with my criteria that a 50 f.p.s. velocity spread is the most we'll tolerate, the first 3 strings have to be discarded. Yes, shot 18 was at 811 f.p.s., but shot 20 was back down to 789. The high was 839, so 789 just barely squeaks by. However, if we consider shot 18 as the start, we do get 37 good shots within the maximum spread criteria, but I would lop that back to 36 shots, because that's 6 full cylinders.

The average of the 36 shots I'm counting is 817.42 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 31.16 foot-pounds shooting double-action. My estimate was high by 0.84 foot-pounds.

If you're shooting squirrels in the bird feeder at 25 yards, forget the 50 f.p.s. spread criteria and use everything from the second string on, giving yourself an incredible 48 shots per fill! If you want small groups at 50 yards, better keep the velocity under tighter control. Remember how to control that by determining the correct maximum fill pressure for YOUR RIFLE! Don't be a slave to a number!

Test 6: single-action string with Eun Jins
The AR-6 rifle was made for Eun Jin pellets, so the Renegade cylinder accepts them too. In fact, they load easier than Kodiaks because of a narrower skirt.

Shots 1-6

Shots 7-12

Shots 13-18

Shots 19-24

Shots 25-30

Shots 31-36

I stopped recording here, for the purpose of calculating the average, but I also fired another string of 6 to demonstrate what happens when the gun falls off the power curve.

Shots 37-42

The average velocity for the first 36 shots was 776 f.p.s. That calculates to 37.98 foot-pounds. So, the Renegade is capable of 38 foot-pounds with 28.4-grain Eun Jins. That's pretty much the maximum you'll get from this rifle. Yes, even heavier pellets will extract a little more power, but notice that the 21-grain Beeman Kodiak isn't that far behind the 28.4-grain Eun Jin. About 2 foot-pounds is all that separates them. And, the Kodiak is 100 f.p.s. faster. It'll be interesting to see what kind of accuracy these two pellets deliver.

You can also see that the velocity drops off rapidly when it starts to decline, which is why it isn't a good idea to squeeze the last possible shot from every fill. Thirty-six shots is an unbelievable number for any PCP shooting at the 38 foot-pound range, and the maximum variation for those 36 shots was just 41 f.p.s. If you're paranoid about tight velocity spreads, you could knock off the first and last strings by adjusting the starting fill pressure and still have 24 powerful shots with just 29 f.p.s. maximum spread and a slightly higher power average.

There's a puff of air coming from around the cylinder with every shot; given how the rifle is made, I don't see any way around it.

Test 7: double-action string with Eun Jins
By now, you're getting a good grasp of how the Renegade performs. You've learned how to estimate the energy increase when heavier pellets are used, and, of course, you know how to convert energy back into muzzle velocity using the same muzzle energy article with interactive formulae. Knowing all this, forgive me for not shooting a complete string of double-action shots with the rifle. These tests are burning up pellets fast, and Eun Jins don't come that many to a tin to begin with, but we don't have to forgo knowing how the gun performs altogether.

Since you're now very savvy about how the Renegade operates, I don't have to shoot an entire string of shots to get a good picture of performance. I can shoot just a single string of 6 shots and get the same picture. We know the rifle doesn't perform well on high pressure, so I'll fill it to only 2400 psi. It should be very powerful there. We can tell from the Kodiak double-action test that Eun Jins will get as many or slightly more shots from a fill, so there's nothing more to be learned by shooting a huge string of shots.

Here we go. Rifle is filled to 2400 psi.

Shots 1-6

That string should be somewhere in the middle of the larger sting of double-action shots we know are in the rifle. The average of the string is 707.17 f.p.s., giving an average muzzle energy of 31.54 foot-pounds. Compared to the 31.16 foot-pounds we got from the Beeman Kodiaks, it seems a trifle on the low side to me. I would have expected 32 foot-pounds. But, you can see we're very close to the exact performance of this pellet in double-action. This is a good way to conserve expensive pellets.

Enough velocity testing. Next time, we'll shoot at some targets!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Crosman 1377 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

We sure heard from a lot of readers on the first report of the Crosman 1377. Of all who responded, only one didn't like the gun, and he was a Canadian who later learned that we have a more powerful version in the U.S. The rest of you seem to be split 70/30 in favor of customizing the pistol vs leaving it stock. The No. 1 custom feature is a pair of wood grips, and Ralph Brown's name came up more than once. Several said that grips are easy to make, and I agree.

Some of you also mentioned the steel breech that Crosman sells out of the Custom Shop. This is a DIY project that I've been assured is not beyond most of you. I've done the job with other Crosman CO2 guns that are quite similar, and I'll add my vote that a breech swap is pretty easy.

Today, I'll do the velocity testing. I learned some very interesting things about this pistol as I shot it, and I'll pass them along as we go.

Test 1. Velocity as it relates to the number of pump strokes
For this test, I used Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. The purpose is to show the relationship between the number of pump strokes and the velocity.

10...515 (No air remaining after shot)
11...520 (No air remaining after shot)
12...515 (No air remaining after shot)

We can learn several things from this chart. First, the velocity increase with each successive pump stroke diminishes. From 3 pumps to 4, the additional stroke raises the velocity 48 f.p.s.; but, from 9 pumps to 10, the increase is just 16 f.p.s., or one-third as much. Also, while 11 pumps did produce greater velocity than 10, pumping once more actually slowed the gun. So, 10 pump strokes should be considered maximum.

I also noted that the pistol warmed up considerably during this test. A second test revealed some interesting numbers.

Test 2. Velocity as it relates to the number of pump strokes after the gun became warm

10...474 (No air remaining after shot)
11...486 (Some air remaining after shot)

Some velocity was lost between this test and the first. I thought this was due to the gun being warm, but later testing revealed that wasn't the case.

Test 3. Velocity after waiting 3 hours for gun to cool


I shot only three times because we know the other shots will lie at their respective places in the string. Obviously, the gun has settled into a slightly lower velocity after a short break-in. Did the over-pumped shots have anything to do with it?

Test 4. Velocity with other pellets
The surprise was that Hobbys weren't much faster than Crosman Premiers were on the second test.

RWS Hobby

RWS Superdome

JSB Exact 8.4-grain domed

Test 5. Velocity with other pellets, after oiling
In this test, I oiled the pump head with Crosman Pellgunoil before starting. I put in 9 drops and worked it into the pump chamber after every 3 drops by partially pumping the handle without completing the pump stroke.

RWS Hobby

RWS Superdome

JSB Exact 8.4-grain domed

Oiling increased velocity a little by helping to seal the pump head. It also goes through the gun and gets on every seal along the way. This is a real health tonic for a pneumatic airgun.

Well, the 1377 is certainly not 600 f.p.s. with any pellets I would use. However, in the interest of fairness, I did try the gun on 10 pumps with Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoints. They averaged 604 f.p.s., so this pistol met spec.

Pumping not difficult
Unlike a pneumatic rifle, the pump strokes don't seem to get much harder as you approach 10. That's always been true of multi-pump pistols. I suppose it has to do with a smaller compression chamber, but I'm not sure.

Next time, we'll try her on targets and see how accurate a 1377 is.