Friday, October 31, 2008

Benyamin air rifle
A rare gun emerges at Roanoke

by B.B. Pelletier

So I was just standing there looking at a table when this man walked up and introduced himself. Said he had a Benyamin pump rifle and would I like to see it? Would I?

This Benyamin multi-pump is a sharp-looking air rifle - from a distance. The image breaks down with examination.

What he had is indeed a Benyamin - not a Benjamin - though in one place on the gun the name is spelled that way. The black rubber recoil pad, which is held to the stock by two nails (!), says Benyamin, and the steel receiver says Benjamin. The gun is .177 caliber, or .177 call. as it says on the receiver.

This is how it's spelled on the recoil pad. The horse also appears on Beeman's example. Notice the two nails that hold the recoil pad to the gun!

On the receiver BENJAMIN is spelled with a J. After that are the letters FR. (France - as in French Indochina?). Under that is "MOD. TONKI AIR RIFLE"

The caliber on the receiver. All letters appear hand-stamped.

Think you don't know what a Benyamin is? If you own the Blue Book of Airguns 7th Edition, think again. You'll find it at the bottom of page 124, just after the Benjamin listings. Robert Beeman wrote the single paragraph description that begins "Maker unknown..."

But I like the last sentence the best. It reads, "Extreme rarity precludes accurate pricing on this model." That's what I'm talking about! I showed that passage to the gun's owner before we continued our talk.

Beeman speculates the gun might possibly be of Philippine or even U.S. origins, but at the show I got a different opinion. Davis Schwesinger, the former owner of Air Rifle Specialists, who lived in the Philippines, said he thinks it might be an Indonesian gun. And a friend of mine who was born and raised in the Philippines looked at it and said the same thing.

My wife researched the Benyamin name and found that it could have originated in French Indochina (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before 1954). They spell Benjamin with a Y.

The fact is, however, we do not know for sure where this rifle was made. Maybe a reader from that part of the world can help.

The gun is larger than any American Benjamin multi-pump. It seems 20 percent bigger in every way. The steel barrel is about 23" and the length overall is 40.25". Length of pull is 13-15/16". The rifle weighs 6 lbs. on the nose. Compare that to a Benjamin 392 that weighs 5.5 lbs. and has a 19.25" barrel on a 36.25" rifle.

The strangest feature, from a host of strange ones, is the sheet steel triggerguard that has been fashioned into a finger lever shape. The rifle is a bolt-action single-shot, but it has this deceptive lever-looking guard that, although immobile, looks ready for action.

Here you can see the sheetmetal triggerguard that's formed into a finger lever. It doesn't move. This is a bolt-action single-shot. One of the stock rivets is seen at the upper left.

The barrel appears unrifled. It's too dark inside to see any detail, but a pellet run down the bore emerged without the characteristic land marks of rifling. However, the pellet was squeezed down quite a bit, so the bore is tight. From the feel of the pellet's traverse, the bore is as rough as a city sewer pipe.

The stock is strangely shaped with angles and flat spots not found anywhere else. The cheekrest is scalloped slightly, like a subtle Tyrolean. The pistol grip is stippled with a striped pattern of large dots. The pump lever wood is held on by four crude rivets. Two more rivets sit just above the triggerguard on the buttstock.

The cheekrest is slightly scalloped - a nice touch.

The steel sleeve that holds the rear sight leaf has what would be called filework on a handmade knife. The top of the rear sight leaf is also filed in a coarse crosshatch pattern. All the steel is blued, but patina and some rust have replaced about half of it. The pump tube is brass with no finish.

File work on the rear sight is hand done.

This rifle does not pump and will not cock. It would probably be simple to restore to operation given the overall simplicity of the design, but there's little point. As rare as Dr. Beeman says it is, this rifle is for collecting, not shooting. Uncharacteristically, I won't be doing a test-fire for you.

I saved the best for last. This is not the same gun Beeman shows in the Blue Book. It's a completely different model. So, Benyamin comes in at least two separate models.

I imagine that in this rifle's country of origin, it may not be that rare. But here in the U.S., it's very uncommon. Are these the only two in the U.S.? I doubt it. Talking about the gun may reveal many things we didn't know before, and more guns may yet pop up in collectors' hands.

Yes, I bought the gun. It practically jumped into my hands at the show. Like I said, the 2008 Roanoke Airgun Expo was the best airgun show I've ever attended.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roanoke 2008 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The next deal I got at the show was earth-shattering! It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing that seems to happen to me more and more the older I get. I was admiring some airguns at a table and a fellow walked up with a strange airgun in his hands. He wanted me to examine it. On the rubber recoil pad it says it's a Benyamin, but on the receiver, it says Benjamin. This maker is listed in the Blue Book of Airguns, right after the Benjamin listings. I won't get into the specifics now, because I'm going to do a separate report on the gun for you, but listen to what Robert Beeman says about the price.

"Extreme rarity precludes accurate pricing on this model."

Now that's music to any collector's ears! However, my Benyamin is a different model than the one Beeman owns, so what does that say about rarity? Almost nothing is known about these multi-pump pneumatics, so I am going to do a report in my Shotgun News column to try to publicize it. If anyone has another gun like this, they may see that article or this blog and the learning will begin.

The seller was very motivated to sell the rifle, even though we showed him the passage about the value, so I could not refuse the deal. I'll show you the rifle tomorrow.

Another rare air rifle
At the table behind the one where the Benyamin came into my life, there lay a Parker-Hale Dragon single-stroke pneumatic sporting rifle. I didn't get a still photo of it, but you will see it in the first part of the video. For most of the show, I thought it was a Daystate Sportsman Mark II, and so did Davis Schwesinger, the owner of Air Rifle Specialists. However, while we were both examining it at the end of day one, we asked the seller what it was and he told us. You will remember that I made a special report on the Dragon from the 2008 Little Rock airgun show. Well, you don't often see a rifle like this for sale (only about 100 were made) and for only $750, to boot! I told you the dealers were making sweet deals at this show.

Field targets
Dick Otten had several tables for his field targets and action targets. He has a new tree mount that works sideways. Field target clubs will want to get several. Dick also showed a challenge-type target that pits one shooter against another in a timed match. And his standard field targets are now the tops in the industry.

After Hours field targets by Dick Otten of Florida.

BB guns
If there's one thing Roanoke is famous for it's collectible BB guns. This is the show where they all come out of the woodwork. It's also the show where more than one first model Daisy wire-stock gun has walked in the door, though I don't think that happened this year. If you like cast iron and tinplate BB guns, you really should attend this show.

One of many tables of collectible Daisys.

Roanoke is one of the few places where you can find specialty parts for antique and vintage BB guns. You won't find these things anywhere else.

Custom guns
One of our readers walked up to my table and showed me a Sheridan he had modified for easier pumping. He extended the pump handle backward for better leverage, so he could run a large scope on his blue Streak and still be able to pump the gun.

Look at the pump handle on this Sheridan Blue Streak. It comes all the way back to the triggerguard, so the gun can be held at the wrist while pumping. The owner is a blog reader, as is Lloyd, to his right.

Scarce modern guns
There are some very modern collectibles, too. The Kalashnikov BB gun is one example. BATF has stopped importation into the U.S., so the handful that made it through the first time are all there are. Though the gun is still being manufactured, it's very hard to find one for sale in the U.S.

This blog reader was thrilled to find this rare Kalashnikov BB gun at the show.

Back when the war in Vietnam was still going on, the Defense Department was hot on instinct shooting. Daisy supplied the guns to the Army, but Crosman was invited to bid on the contract. They converted a few of their V350 guns for instinct shooting and there was one at the show. It's just the second example I have seen.

Crosman made up a handful of these special V350s to compete on the Army's Instinct Shooting contract.

The auction
At the end of the day on Friday, the show held an auction. Dealers may enter guns for auction and they split the proceeds with the show. You might think that the only guns they sell are junk, but that's not the case. Knowing that this crowd has money, dealers will auction off some very nice specimens.

Show host Fred Liady ran the auction. This looks like a 250-series Benjamin pistol - which is definitely not junk!

Day two
On day two the locals come out in droves. They're mostly interested in new and modern airguns, so this is the day those things sell well. The attendees often bring in guns of their own to sell.

Day two is also the day the gun show opened upstairs. Show dealers are admitted free, so I ran up there and bought some reloading supplies and some World War II-vintage magazines for my M1 Carbine. I ALMOST bought an 8-bore (about .90 caliber) muzzleloader that stood about 74" tall. It would have been a bragging rights gun, because at just 17 lbs. the thing would have kicked my head off. I was also severely tempted to buy a TM Dowell hunting knife. Ted Dowell was a contemporary of Lovelace, but his knives have not risen in value as fast. You can still buy one for under $500 if you shop, while a Lovelace goes for over $5,000.

Day two, before the show opened at 9. This is the day the local public comes in force.

Want to buy new guns? Pyramyd Air had them in pallet loads!

Once the show opened on day two, the Pyramyd booth filled up fast. And, yes, their 4 tins of pellets for the price of 3 was available, but the tins were prepackaged in sets.

For those looking for tunes on their spring guns, Paul Watts had several tables and was selling guns he'd already tuned. Watch the video to see more on this. I'll have it up pretty soon.

So - whadda ya think?
As much as I've told you, there is still more to this show. I thought it was the best show ever, but I managed to sell a lot and to find some really super deals. I guess if you didn't do the same, you might not have felt the same about the show. This year I had deals already made; so when I arrived, the show was already a success. But the deals I made while the show was open were as sweet as the ones I'd arranged. I know it's difficult for some of you to make an airgun show, but if you can only make one, this is probably the one to attend.

Many who flew in had arranged to FedEx their buys back home before they left, so travel didn't prove to be a problem. Maybe you'll want to pencil in this time next year for the biggest and best airgun show in the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Roanoke 2008 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Lots of interest in this show, so I'll do a multi-part report and a long video, to boot. Give me a few days for the video, because that's a whole different editing process.

The first thing I want to say about this show was that it was both the best show ever and a huge disappointment. It just depends on who you listen to. This time I listened to many of the attendees talk about the show in progress, and I could hear whether they were going to make a good report or not. I guess this is human nature at work; and since I'm a positive person, I'm warning you right now that I think this was the best show ever.

A good show is one where you sell most of what you want to sell and find interesting things to buy. I did both. Since my interests are not necessarily universal, I'll describe everything I saw.

For starters, this is the largest airgun show in the U.S.--and probably the world. There were over 100 tables of airguns. If you're a collector, you can find pretty much anything. The setup began before 7 a.m. on opening day and lasted until noon, though most tables were set up by 9:30. Then the dealers, who are the biggest buyers of expensive guns, began making the rounds. In many cases, guns that were priced very low were purchased and relocated to other tables with an appropriate markup. For example, an FWB 300 Universal sold for $425 and landed on another table at $650. That's the way things go at shows. A couple of my guns wound up that way on other tables.

The doors opened at noon and the public came in, but not in the numbers I've seen in recent years. Attendance was off a bit from last year. The buyers who had money seemed less willing to part with it this year, but the dealers had bargains galore. Both things seem based on the perception that the economy is in trouble, though I find it difficult to follow how a man who drives a 2008 Ford F-350 truck and pulls a 28' fifth-wheel trailer can think the economy is bad! He ought to be dancing in the streets if he can afford the gas for a 10 mpg rig like that!

Honored airgunner
At each show, an airgunner who has done a lot for the hobby is honored before the show opens. This time the recipient was Fred Liady, the host of the Roanoke show. Dennis Quackenbush puts this award together and makes the presentation every year.

Dennis Quackenbust, left, presents the Honored Airgunner award to show host Fred Liady.

First buy
I had already made some prearranged deals before the show opened, but the first buy AT the show was a Diana 27. I talked to Richard Schmidt, from whom I'd bought my other Diana 27 at my first International Airgun Expo 1993 (in Winston-Salem, NC), and told him I was on the lookout for some nice 27s. He came over to my table a minute later with this rifle. It was made in March 1967 and is in slightly better condition than my other one. This one is a .177, which gives me one of each. Since there's so much interest in this rifle, I thought I might tune it here in the blog and give you guys a look at a vintage gun's guts. I'll also learn how healthy it is. That was such a major buy for me that it could have made the show by itself. But there was much more!

Reader Randy in VA holds the Diana 27, which was my first buy at the show.

First reader
The first reader to introduce himself was Randy in VA. He came right up to the table and shook my hand. For the rest of the show, he was often at my table, where I'm sure he got to see the show from a different perspective than most attendees. I was so glad to meet him and to introduce him to the other readers who stopped by. There was Lloyd and Fred and JDK from New York and several others whose names, unfortunately, escape me. It was a real pleasure meeting all you guys.

There's old B.B., waiting for the next good deal.

Buy the pound!
Crosman collector Ted Summers had a unique twist at his table. He sold Crosman 140 and 1400 pneumatic rifles by the pound! There was a scale on his table where you weighed your treasures for checkout. It was a clever idea that had a lot of people talking.

Airguns by the pound! A great way to stimulate a slow economy (and a sluggish show).

And here are the guns he's selling by the pound.

The theme of the show
Every airgun show has one or more themes, and this one was no different. For starters, this was the Hammerli show. I mean the real Hammerli airguns made in Switzerland. They were everywhere--rifles and pistols. If you were in the market for a nice one, this was the show to get it.

What was different at this show was a lack of bargains on FWB 124s. There were plenty of excellent and nice 124s present, but nothing was priced under $300. I think airgunners are now fully aware of the 124 and are driving the price up.

This 124 Deluxe is in nice shape, but it needs a piston seal and lacks a front sight. At $395, I felt it was a little pricey. I misread the tag and thought it was selling for $325, which would be about right. I was ready to buy, but the seller wanted at least $350.

Next big buy
My next big buy was a really large one for me. It was an electric air compressor from an M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborn Assault Vehicle. You might call it a tank, but it really isn't one. However, the point is that if this compressor can survive in a Sheridan, it will last for decades in a shop like mine. I used the compressor that AirForce has that came from a B25 bomber, and it's lasted for a decade of hard use so far.

A mil-spec compressor for $1600 is a real bargain.

The compressor lived in this little tank.

The reason I'm telling you this is because this compressor cost $1,600. That seems like a lot of money, but compare it to the Swedish model that sells for $1900. The ruggedness of this one will prolong the life cycle many times longer.

There's a lot more show to come, and a video, but that'll have to wait.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reading targets - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

6: Pinwheels
A pinwheel is the perfect removal of the exact center of the bull. It's most dramatic on a 10-meter air rifle target shot with a .177 wadcutter because the hole is exactly framed by the 9-ring.

7: Flyers
A flyer is a hole that is clearly apart from the central group. There are many reasons for flyers, but they always represent a fly in the ointment of good target shooting--so they aren't welcome.

8: Stringing
Stringing is when the group resembles a line, rather than a circular dispersion. It's caused by many different things, but it's always an indication of something going wrong.

9: One-hole groups
A "one-hole" group is just that--a group in which there is only a single hole. Some interpret this to mean that the hole is the same size as a single pellet, but that's not always the case. Since caliber-sized groups are more theoretical than possible, they should be explained with additional terms. One hole means one hole--regardless of the size.

Calling your shots
We "call our shots" by referring to the target as if it were the face of a clock. This is a standard form of communication that all shooters use.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reading targets - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm driving back from the airgun show in Roanoke, Virginia, and am reprinting this article from Airgun Revue #1. It was just a filler when I wrote it for that magazine, but it turned out to be very popular with readers. Apparently, shooters new to airguns and even seasoned shooters don't always fully understand terms many of us use every day. I hope you find this two-parter helpful.

1: Center-to-center
The most popular way to state group size these days is a measurement of the extreme spread of the group, measured from the centers of the two most distant holes. The measurement is called center-to-center. As with many measurements, this requires some explanation.

Different sized pellets (calibers) will produce different sized groups, all measuring the same extreme distance center-to-center! In other words, a quarter-inch, 5-shot group made by a .25-caliber pellet will be larger than a quarter-inch group made by a .177 pellet.

Using this method, a group size of 0.0" is theoretically possible.

Although the measuring process requires one additional step (see No. 3), this is the most widely used method because it gives the smallest-sounding group size.

2: Extreme size
Another method for measuring group size is to measure the extreme spread of the group across the widest dimension of the hole. Doing it this way, all groups of a certain size (e.g., 1/2") will be the same size, regardless of the caliber of the pellets.

It is impossible for group size to be smaller than caliber when this method is used. The method is not as popular as the first method because group sizes will always measure larger.

3: Center-to-center measurement
To measure group size using the center-to-center method, measure the length across the widest group dimension and subtract a pellet diameter. See the above graphic for details.

4: Boxing the target
An archaic measurement method is to give the outside diameter of a rectangle in which the group fits. This was used in the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, but it has fallen out of favor. It was useful in the regulation of both barrels of a double rifle, but no one uses it for anything today.

5: Cloverleaf
A cloverleaf is a specific type of one-hole shot group in which the shots overlay one another, yet the diameters of each pellet (or most pellets) can still be seen. This is best seen when using wadcutters.

I'll finish up on Tuesday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Time-capsule airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

Reminder: Pyramyd Air's tech support department will be closed until Monday, Oct. 27, when they'll return from the International Airgun Expo in Roanoke, Virginia.

Kevin asked for this report. He was interested in all the vintage guns I report on and wondered if there are any airguns offered today that I consider to be time-capsules...classics that capture the present age of airguns and guns that will hold their value in the coming years.

As an example, a Feinwerkbau 124 was such a gun in the 1970s through the '90s, and we knew it at the time. You can still get used 124s, of course, but I sensed what Kevin wanted to know is if there are any guns being sold TODAY that belong in the classic category. Here goes.

The Beeman R-series guns are all classics, but two stand out. They're the R7 and the R1. Both rifles are probably in their last decade of production (just a guess...I have no inside information), and either one will become a treasured collectible after they stop being made. The R7 is probably the most desirable of the two simply because it's so petite and fun to shoot.

These Weihrauch breakbarrels have the desirable Rekord trigger and the American-style stock, making them the most western-style classics in the Weihrauch line.

The Beeman P1, which is also the Weihrauch HW45, is a classic air pistol. I have no idea how much longer it'll be made, but it's never been cheapened, so the gun you buy today is the same as the gun bought in the 1990s.

The Beeman HW77 is another Weihrauch classic. It was originally supposed to have become the R1; but with the power Robert Beeman wanted, the weight shot up to 11 lbs., like Steve Vissage's rifle, so Weihrauch had to scale it back to the smaller rifle you see today. It was the king of all springers until the TX200 came on the scene.

The TX200 in any configuration is a classic. Whether you have a first model, a Mark II or the current Mark III, you'll never make a mistake owning a TX200.

Any model Whiscombe air rifle is money in the bank. Right now, it's in the high interest-producing category. I paid $2,300 for my four-caliber outfit a decade ago, and today I wouldn't sell it for $5,000. John Whiscombe has ended production, but there are still a few guns being delivered, so there's a slim chance of getting one.

A Quackenbush Outlaw Long-Action big bore rifle is a sure bet to double your money at the present time. Dennis will never cheapen the product, and, when his order book opened last Saturday, he filled his 50 orders in two hours. I know a guy who buys one for $700 each time the book opens and resells it for $1200-1500. Dennis may bring one or two speculative rifles to the Roanoke airgun expo that starts today, but they'll be gone in a few hours.

Examining a Quackenbush .457 long-action with a special-order long barrel.

The .457 Quackenbush is a PCP, so where are all the smallbore PCP classics? Are there classic PCPs among the vintage guns? Those who own certain models will argue that they deserve classic status, but the truth is that there aren't very many true classic precharged pneumatics. I believe the reason for that is the simplicity of the design.

A PCP is just a hollow tube with a valve connected to a barrel. One gun is a lot like all the others. To argue that a Daystate is better than an FX is to argue Chevys and Fords. Yes, Daystate has an electronic firing module, but that keeps it from becoming a classic in my opinion. Any rifle whose future depends on a reliable source of electronic boards is doomed to early obsolescence. If I were forced to nominate one PCP to the status of a classic, it would be the Falcon FN-19 rifle because of its rock-simple technology and utter reliability.

B.B. picks the Falcon FN-19 as the current classic smallbore PCP.

In January, Daisy will offer 1,000 replicas of their first 1888 BB gun. An original wire-framed Daisy BB gun sells for $3,000 and up. The replica's price hasn't been announced, but I expect it will be under $400. They will sell out in about 2-3 weeks, then the price will immediately double. After that, it should climb to a thousand pretty fast.

Remember, this is just my opinion. I'm not advising anyone to make any investments. While I don't own an R7 that I say is the top breakbarrel classic, I do own and enjoy a CZ 631 that I didn't include. It's the same for the PCPs. I don't own a Falcon FN-19, but I do have a prototype Benjamin Discovery in .22 caliber that I treasure, along with a Talon SS and a Condor. So, the list is not just the guns I own.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

B.B.'s observations of Volvo's first PCP

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Pyramyd Air's tech support department will be closed until Monday, Oct. 27, when they'll return from the International Airgun Expo in Roanoke, Virginia.

Now, let's get to today's blog.

Volvo's experiences with his new Webley Raider are useful for everyone who's contemplating getting a precharged airgun. There are things you don't yet know and other things you're not even aware of. Now that Volvo has given us his experiences, I would like to reflect on them.

How will you fill it?
First, the problem of compatibility between your intended source of air and the gun you get. I don't care whether it's a brand-new gun or a used one. I don't care whether you get it from a dealer or from the last owner. There's always a great chance for a screwup--leaving you with a gun that can't be filled.

When I worked on developing the Benjamin Discovery with Crosman, I was adamant that the pump be included with the gun. At least until I realized that if a guy ever bought a second gun there was no reason he would also want to buy a second pump, too. We had to give him the option of not buying the pump.

And that was when Pandora opened the box! Because some brand-new buyers, not wanting to wait for the Benjamin pumps to be in stock when the Discovery was new, bought their guns without pumps. And then the forums lit up with distress calls--"What do I do?"

You'd think that anyone who buys a precharged pneumatic air rifle without a means of filling it would have worked out the solution beforehand. At least that's how the conversation goes in the conference room when everyone is sitting around trying to make a decision.

However, on the buyer's side of the fence, you'd think a gun manufacturer wouldn't sell a gun without a means to fill it. That seems reasonable, too.

So, who's right? The answer? It's the dealer's responsibility to question the buyer to ensure he'll be able to fill his gun the moment he unpacks it. But there's a problem with that. Some buyers dislike being questioned about things they think are trivial, and they fail to grasp the gravity of the topic until they come face-to-face with it. I call it the landmine syndrome.

Learning how to disarm a landmine in the classroom is boring. BUT, put someone in the middle of an open demolitions pit with a real mine and an instructor offering words of encouragement from a distant bunker over a loudspeaker, and the subject suddenly snaps into sharp focus. I've been there and got the t-shirt.

You don't appreciate the problems of filling a PCP until it's YOUR PCP that arrives on a Friday before a long weekend.

So, here's what we're going to do. Whenever YOU buy a PCP, you are going to ask the seller to guarantee that you can fill the thing the moment it comes out of the package. You want their assurances, on the promise of severe penalty, that YOUR PCP will be able to be filled by YOU. Do that, and I will be happy.

PCPs are noisy
Next, precharged airguns are loud. Well, EXCUSE ME! So are firecrackers! Do you know that someone actually RETURNED an AirForce Condor because it was too loud?

HELLO! Hot coffee is HOT. You shouldn't pick up a running lawnmower by the deck. And, it's not a good idea to skydive in a straightjacket.

Do you know why I don't do sound testing over the internet? Because an atomic bomb sounds no louder than a car backfiring over your cheap computer speakers. However, if you're ever able to witness an actual atomic bomb detonating, I have a sneaking suspicion it really is louder.

Angelina Jolie shoots two Desert Eagle pistols in all her Lara Croft movies. I wonder what she would think about shooting just ONE SHOT from a real Desert Eagle .50 AE?

I cannot make my analogies any stronger. Print is limited that way. Which is why we take our soldiers into the gas chamber periodically--so they can experience it for real.

Precharged airguns are loud. No, they absolutely are not as loud as a .22 long rifle, but your ears usually can't tell the difference.

Oh, yeah, I forgot one. Never drive a golf ball in a tile bathroom. I saw something very similar on TV just last week.

Suddenly, you're a good shot!
Precharged airguns are usually very accurate. Phenomenally accurate to those of you who have convinced yourselves that a $150 breakbarrel is a good thing. And PCPs don't require any special technique. Springers do, though to listen to people talk you wouldn't think so. You can sit down and shoot amazing groups with most PCPs.

Filling a PCP from a hand pump isn't difficult, but it is labor. Everyone feels differently about labor. Up to 2,000 psi, just about any healthy adult can pump a pump. I can do it sitting down and using one hand, though the last few hundred psi are a strain. After 2,000, pumping starts getting stiffer, and after 2,500 it gets real stiff. That's when the effort starts annoying some people. Smaller adults (under 140 lbs.) will have difficulty pumping past 2500 psi.

Please don't take these comments as criticism of anything Volvo said. What I'm doing is reinforcing his remarks, because they're on the money. Everyone who goes to a PCP has these experiences, and they usually line up just like his did. The one thing that may not be universal is the noise comment, because firearm shooters will have an entirely different perspective than spring gunners. They will be happy they don't have to wear hearing protection to shoot these least not outdoors.

I avoided the world of precharged guns for 15 years; but when I realized they were the coming trend, I decided to get my feet wet. I never looked back.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Volvo gets a PCP! - Part 2

Part 1

PCP No. 1, day 3 - Wednesday
The pump has arrived. In my search for a hand pump to fill the PCP, I learned the following.
Limited selections are available, which is further reduced by what is actually in stock. I ended up ordering an FX 4-stage pump that claims to lower the effort needed to fill the rifle. Additionally, I based my decision on not much more than I recognize the FX brand name and the unit is available immediately. Sold.
When I open the shipping box, I quickly surmise that my request for “the piece that connects the rifle to the pump” has been denied. My disappointment is furthered by a non-specific, one-page sheet for assembly and use. I have to thank the yellow forum members as they explain the seemingly extra part is a moisture filter and actually post a link to Pyramid Air with the fill probe I'll need along with a picture of it.

I ordered the last piece of the puzzle just before midnight.
I picture B.B. holding the all-in-one-box Discovery and shaking his head.
Earlier in the evening, I replaced the malfunctioning Bushnell Trophy 6-18x with a lesser Bushnell 3-9x that did light duty on a Beeman R7. The first shot is close, and I'm spot on in about 5 shots.
I start with Crow Magnums. As they drop an inch below the aimpoint, I switch to JSB Exact Jumbo Express, which puts me back on target. Finally, I put H&N Match in the rifle and shoot them, starting at an inch high to more than an inch below the bullseye.
Even with hearing protection, I realize the discharge noise is greatly reduced. I take off my earmuffs, and the rifle now sounds like my Daisy 922. A quick check shows the H&N Match are down to 497 fps. I'm done until I can charge the rifle.
I shoot an HW30S as if to show the Raider the beauty of self-sufficiency.
PCP No. 1, day 4 - Thursday
Until the fill probe arrives, I'm at a standstill. I add a board to the bottom of the pump to increase stability. It's an old drawer front sample finished in maple toffee, and I attach it with antique bronze hinges. Any scrap of lumber would work, but I fuss with it like an expectant mother in the nursery.

This base holds the pump steady.

Since this is downtime, I would like to at least partially explain my purchase of the Webley. The power level is attractive, along with what appears to be a very simple design, so my assumption is that not much can go wrong. The size and weight are also close to my ideals.
My first adult spring airgun was a Webley that I ordered directly from England in the '70s. Given the demise of Webley's UK operation, I assume the opportunity for UK-made Webleys will become increasing difficult. Finally, I had two offers to purchase it at the price I paid before I even received it.

PCP No. 1, day 5 - Friday
The fill probe is here. The rifle has 50 bar in it and needs to go to 190 bar. It's apparent that shooting the rifle down so low has its disadvantages. I add air in groups of 20 strokes and find it to not be overly strenuous.
At 150 bar, a knob is turned on the pump to keep the final strokes on par with the first. It seems to work. It takes 103 strokes total before the rifle is fully charged. Eureka! I think many adults would be able to fill a PCP at their own pace with a hand pump. My guess is the scuba tank option probably allows anyone capable of just holding a rifle to shoot.
I check the scope settings by shooting a group at a little over 10 meters. This is the longest indoor range I can accommodate. The 5 shots are fired quickly, and the result is ok but nothing noteworthy. The big up side is that once the rifle is filled, the rest of the procedure is effortless.
Since the Raider is no longer available, I don’t think tons of statistics will be that beneficial, but here are a few.
The manual states that the non-FAC version will provide about 60 12-foot-pound shots. I get 30 shots that range from 21.4 to 23.8 ft lbs with 14.3-grain JSB Exacts.
Each shot requires about 2.7 pumps. That's not too bad, considering the power is at the level of a tuned Beeman R1. For lack of an onboard gauge, I simply count 30 pellets out and put them on deck in the lid of the tin. When they're gone, I know it's time to start pumping. It takes about 81 strokes. I was concerned about variation in velocity, but POI does not seem to change much with a spread of 32 fps.

The results of one of the 30-shot strings with .22 caliber JSB Exact Jumbo Express:
Shot 1...839
Shot 10...844
Shot 20...849
Shot 30...806
And just for fun, shot 40 is 742 fps.

Five JSB Exacts at 36 feet.

I try some Gamo Hunter pellets. At the 36 feet I am shooting, 3 pellets make a single oversized hole. That is better then some of the "quality" pellets I tried. The Gamos are not very pretty, but often give acceptable results. Once again, the scope is an older, inexpensive 3-9s set on 6x.

Not too shabby for 36 feet--3 Gamo Hunter pellets.

The 2-shot clip would be appreciated in the field; but from a bench, using it as single shot is actually more efficient.
This may seem odd, but working the bolt is one of my favorite parts. It's very satisfying and something spring rifles don’t offer. Once, toward the end of the session, I instinctively smacked the end of the barrel to break the rifle open. Old habits die hard.

Final thoughts
I think a PCP would be the best way to convert a firearm shooter to airguns. The ability to bench the rifle, not worry about hold, mount a scope with no more difficulty than mounting one on a rimfire and the lack of recoil make for a user-friendly platform. Once you become acquainted with the process, a PCP is not as daunting as many make it sound.
If I could design my own PCP, my priorities in the order of importance would be quiet operation, adjustable power, onboard gauge, multiple shots, less than 7 lbs. weight, under 40" long & easy to refill.  
If you want an air rifle with the power of the magnum spring guns, the feel of a recoilless match rifle, and handy size, it seems a PCP would be hard to beat.
My final conclusion: I would recommend one to a friend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A harmonic-tuning muzzlebrake

by B.B. Pelletier

These seems to be a lot of interest in spring gun harmonics. The report on the B26-2 brought it out. Thinking back, my 5-part report about the Whiscombe JW-75 centered on accuracy based on adjusting the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS). I demonstrated how a harmonic tuner on the barrel of a spring rifle can tighten groups. Maybe you haven't read that report yet, so the link I provided will take you to the last part, where you'll find links to the previous 4 parts. Read that entire report to understand how this vibration tuner works.

Many of you want to know more. Back in my Airgun Letter days, I tested both a harmonic tuner from Vortek, which was commercially available for several years, as well as a custom one made for me by Dennis Quackenbush. I mounted the Vortek brake on my Beeman R1 and tested the Quackenbush prototype on a Webley Patriot. Both guns showed improvement, with the Patriot showing the most dramatic results. I thought I'd share that data with you today.

Vortek harmonic tuner
Vortek's tuner is a muzzlebrake that fits a variety of breakbarrel spring rifles including the Beeman R1 that had the Vortek. It's a slip fit over the muzzle of the gun and three Allen screws snug it to the barrel. It's very important to make this device snug; if it isn't, it can't do its job. It has to act as an integral part of the barrel.

Vortek adjustable muzzlebrake has three screws holding it to barrel and one lock screw for the adjustment. Unit is 5" long.

At the muzzle end of the brake is a knurled wheel that screws in either direction, adjusting up and down an interior weight in the brake. The wheel has a ratchet mechanism, so you can feel when it turns. Where this weight is positioned determines how the brake vibrates, thereby affecting the vibration of the barrel to which it's attached. The weight that moves is not a heavy one. An Allen screw locks the wheel in place once you have it where you want it.

I had to adjust the wheel a lot to see a small change in the group size. At the time I tested this device, the best .22 caliber pellet for my R1 was the Crosman Premier. I would imagine that has changed with the arrival of the JSB Exact 14.8-grain pellet, but I haven't tested them in this gun.

With the tuner adjusted in a bad spot, this is the result of 5 Premiers at 20 yards.

When the tuner is adjusted properly, the same 5 shots look like this.

The Vortek is 5" long and brightly polished and blued. All parts are made of steel.

As I recall, the Vortek device sold for about $20. It may have been a little higher. In those days (the late 1990s), airgunners were not as fond of breakbarrels as they are today. The TX200 and HW77 were the biggest sellers, and since they couldn't use this device, the sales were never that great. It was commercially available for many years in the late 1990s, but the demand just wasn't there. I don't remember exactly when it stopped selling, but it must have been before 2002.

The other vibration tuner I tested was made for me by Dennis Quackenbush. It screwed into the muzzle threads of a Webley Patriot, where the Brits would attach a silencer. It adjusted via a large, hollow Allen screw that was also the muzzle of the brake. The weight that moved was very heavy - several ounces. It made dramatic changes in group size with Beeman Kodiak pellets. If memory serves, groups were reduced by half at 25 yards.

I no longer have this brake or any photos of it. It was about 7" long and the weight was a knurled section about an inch long at the end. The brake was blued, but the weight was left in the white.

Dennis made the brake to test the effectiveness of the theory. He may have made more than just one, but he never made them for production.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Volvo gets a PCP! - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I will be leaving for the Roanoke Airgun Expo on Wednesday morning and will not be back until the following Tuesday. I'm asking all you old-timers to step in and answer questions for me while I'm on the road. There are 951 different blog reports as of today, and I get questions on all of them, so while the most recent two or three days always look busy, I have to answer questions that arise from reports I wrote as far back as March of 2005. I don't expect you to even know those questions have been asked, but any help you can give me with the current reports frees up a lot of time for me. Thank you.

And this is a final reminder for all of you about the Roanoke show. I'm driving 1,200 miles one way to be there, and Tim McMurray flies in from California. Many years we have visitors from England and Europe, and there have been more than a few Hawaiians - so don't cry about the price of gas. If you want to be immersed in airguns, this is the best possible place to do it.

One last note. Dennis Quackenbush opened his order book for big bore air rifles this past Saturday and filled it in two hours. That's 50 orders. He anticipates deliveries starting in December of this year.

On to today's blog!

Many of you are sitting on the sidelines wondering if the world of precharged airguns is for you. Some of you have begun saving for a PCP and are still researching the best deal. And many are looking to buy used, as I did with my first Daystate Huntsman. You want a top-quality rifle and one that hopefully has all the bugs shaken out, but you don't mind buying a generation or two older model to get what you want at a good price. That's the same path I followed on several purchases, and I think it's a solid one.

Reader Volvo has most recently taken this path and bought a 2-shot Webley Raider, a rifle that was available several years ago. He bought the rifle without any way to fill it, so his first challenge was to find a way to do that.

When his report is finished, I'll post my observation of his experiences. You fence-sitters will do well to read what he says, because he's doing the same things you're now contemplating. Here's Volvo's report....

My first PCP

by Volvo

This is for Kevin because he wants to know; for Wayne because he's my major justification. Yeah, honey, I buy a lot of airguns, but nothing compared to this Wayne guy; and last but not least, for B.B., as I’ll need his advice.

PCP No. 1, day 1 - Monday
A late appointment meant I did not get home until about 8:00 pm. I saw the box still on the front stoop. The wife and kids have learned the long boxes are for dad, so they seldom bother to bring one in, much to my chagrin.

After dinner, I opened it up, my wife commented it was different and she liked the looks of it. My youngest said I better not be spending their Christmas present money. (No, I’m not).

My wife thinks this rifle looks better than most.

BG_Farmer, I would guess you would not approve. It has gold on the triggerguard and fill plug. Also, Webley Raider in gold on the side. I’m guessing that's what attracted the wife to it. I prefer blued, but I ordered it sight-unseen for $395.

An attached 2-shot magazine means you can't check to see if a pellet is loaded, so I fired it to make sure is was empty. "Dad, that's too loud. Go downstairs."

In the confines of the basement, it was even louder. So, a PCP with no shroud means getting the hearing protection out of your range bag. 

This rifle won't work like the spring guns for late night shooting or suburban backyard critter protection. I guess the Benjamin Discovery would sound the same--very, very loud.

Here's the left side of the action.

And here's the right side. Pretty, no?

Pyramyd Air carries the Tibet Almond stick that I apply to the stocks of used guns. A heavy application hides most scratches. I put it on the entire stock and let it sit overnight. The rifle has nice blue/black on the metal and a wide, flat forearm similar to a centerfire varmint rig. Little over 7 lbs. without a scope and 37" long. 

Other then “new old stock” this Webley is no longer available. PA is sold out. Best I can tell it was offered for about 7 years.

PCP No. 1, day 2 - Tuesday
In the morning, I put a quick coat of wax on the stock. With the 2-shot magazine, I can't run a couple patches down the barrel. I give it a generous rub down with Beeman MP-5 on the outside metal. A quick wipe with an old white t-shirt reveals no rust, so I'm happy. That evening, I decide to put a few shots over a Chrony.

The rifle has no fill gauge, which means one less part to fail, but it also means I have no clue how much air is in it. The Discovery has a gauge. The Webley manual says the maximum fill is 200 bar, but they recommend 190 bar. It really doesn’t matter, as I have no hand pump for it yet. You can get the Discovery with a pump included for less than what I paid for just this rifle.

I took a .22 pellet (14.5 grains according to my scale), and it averages 850 fps. My Chrony lacks the printer, so I just shoot a short string to get an idea of the charge in the rifle and its performance. The basement PC takes me to the energy calculator in the Pyramyd Air articles, where I learned that the energy with this pellet is 23.27 foot-pounds.

I picked a 6-18x Bushnell Trophy scope that's too long for most of my current spring rifles but will fit fine on the Webley. It was originally on a Beeman R1, and then moved to an RWS 850. My first shot at about 36' misses the Gamo trap altogether, as does the second.

I go to plan "B" old, larger Beeman quiet trap at 24". The round strikes low and left. I dial in as much up and right as I can. No use. It's at the limit of its adjustable range. Maybe I owe the 850 an apology. It was late, so I’ll try again this evening.

Friday, October 17, 2008

BAM B26-2 thumbhole
Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, I'll test the accuracy of the BAM B26-2, and I earned my keep on this one! The .22-caliber B26 had been an easy shooter, and I was expecting the same from this .177 thumbhole B26-2, but it didn't turn out that way.

Accuracy testing took place on two separate days, as a thunderstorm abruptly ended day one. However, I did learn some interesting things.

Loosey goosey!
For starters, all the screws on the rifle and one on the scope mount were loose! I tightened the four stock screws, the barrel pivot bolt and locknut and a windage screw on the B-Square ultra-high mount I had to use. Speaking of that ultra-high mount, I had to use them because the rifle's high cheekpiece made it impossible for me to see the scope when it was mounted in a medium-high mount. I can usually adapt to just about any stock, but not this time! Remember that if you plan to buy one of these.

Firing behavior
The shooting behavior is very smooth with just a trace of vibration. This is a pleasant gun to shoot. The trigger lets off light, but not as crisp as I'd like.

Let's shoot
So, use high mounts and check all the screws. Okay, I was ready to shoot. But the rifle wasn't. At 25 yards, my first group of Crosman Premier lites went into a 3" group! I noticed that they dropped deep into the breech, so I figured the barrel is overbore, like some of the old Chinese rifles used to be. I started searching for fatter pellets.

Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets didn't fix the problem. They were just as scattered as the Premiers. So I tried RWS Superdomes. Surprisingly, the groups tightened to maybe 1.5". No prize, but it's moving in the right direction. Beeman Kodiaks grouped about the same as the Superdomes, so I didn't pursue them. Then the storm hit, and I took a break for a day.

The next day
I started the next day apprehensive, because the rifle hadn't revealed any secrets. I started with RWS SuperMags and did get a 1" group. Now I was getting somewhere, but those groups alerted me to something else. If you notice, the pellets are grouped around two centers.

Five RWS SuperMag pellets are distributed three and two on the target.

JSB Exacts are also grouped around two centers.

Next I tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets. They were about the same as the SuperMags, and still gave me the mysterious two groups for five shots. And that's when it hit me! I was dealing with a harmonic! The gun has some kind of vibration pattern that the artillery hold cannot resolve. Whenever that happens, and it doesn't happen that often, you try shooting directly from the sandbag rest. Of course, it worked. Almost.

Resting the forearm directly on the sandbag gave me this group of JSB Exacts at 25 yards. There are four pellets in the top hole.

Here's another group of of JSB Exacts. They're grouped three and two. There's a harmonic that needs to be dealt with, but all these shots fall on a dime.

The groups I got were now pleasingly tight for 25 yards, but they still exhibited two different centers. So, something is not quite right, but at least we now know the B26-2 has an accurate barrel. I bet if I went back through all those other pellets I'd get better groups now that I know this.

There's still improvement to be made, but I've taken this rifle as far as I want. If I spent a lot more time refining the pellet and hold, I'm sure I could get all those pellets into one tight group. In case you're wondering, I checked all the screws at the end of the test and found them all still tight.

Overall evaluation
I find the BAM B26-2 to be a very nice airgun for the money. It's sensitive to hold and I don't care for thumbhole stocks, though this one isn't too bad. The trigger is nice, but not as crisp as a Rekord. I like the .22 caliber standard B26 better than the .177 -2.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hw 55 Tyrolean - Part 5
How to measure a spring

by B.B. Pelletier

Annoucement: There's a new article on Pyramyd Air's website. "How to mount a scope" includes a short intro and avery comprehensive video guide for mounting scopes on just about any airgun.

On to today's blog.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

With all the interest you guys have in tuning springers, I thought this would help. BG_Farmer has expressed curiosity about the spring selection process. Actually, there are aftermarket springs that are much higher quality than factory springs, and I would use good ones whenever I could, but you have to know if they fit.

So, although I'm writing this about the HW 55T, it applies to any mainspring in any gun.

Step 1. The spring guide
The mainspring must fit the spring guide as close as possible to reduce vibration and to lengthen spring life. When the gun's cocked, the coils compress around the guide, which prevents them from kinking. The piston rod fits inside the guide and passes through (usually) to contact the sear.

If you have your new spring on hand, you can just try the fit; if not, you must measure the inside of the old spring with a caliper. It takes practice, but many calipers have the ability to measure both outside and inside diameters. Measure the spring at both ends, because the dimensions will seldom be the same. If the factory mainspring fits the guide loosely, as many do, you'll have to make an educated guess how much smaller you can go. Remember, as a coiled spring is compressed, both the inside and the outside diameters increase a little.

The inside diameter of the mainspring must be larger than the outside diameter of the spring guide. The inside diameter of the spring will increase when the mainspring is compressed.

Step 2. Inside the piston
As the piston compresses the spring, it begins to fill the inside of the piston. The spring guide is also entering the bottom of the piston and traveling toward the top as the piston goes to the rear. So the mainspring ends up sandwiched between the spring guide and the inner wall of the piston. And it expands slightly as it compresses. Do not fit the spring to the piston tightly while it is not compressed or it will not fit well when the gun is cocked.

Step 3. Compressed spring length
Determining the length of the fully compressed mainspring takes only simple arithmetic. First, count the number of coils in the spring. Start at the top where the spring begins and go straight down the side to the bottom. Don't be surprised if there's a fraction of a coil remaining after all complete coils have been counted (include that fraction in your count).

Next, with your calipers, measure the wire diameter of the mainspring. Again, this takes a little practice, so do it several times until you get the smallest diameter.

The diameter of the wire is also measured.

Now, multiply the number of coils by the wire diameter to get the length of a fully compressed spring.

Wayne's HW 55T mainspring has 31.75 coils with a wire diameter of 0.109". Multiply those numbers and you get a compressed length of 3.46". The spring I hope to use for the tune has just less than 32 coils of wire with 0.118" diameter. That works out to a compressed length of 3.776". The new spring is 0.316" longer than the spring that was in the gun when it's fully compressed. Will there be enough room for it? Perhaps not, but I can always cut off a coil to make it fit. I would have to flatten the end of the spring at the cut, but that would reduce the length even more.

Now, both ends of the spring are ground flat, and my methods didn't take that into account, so both springs are a little shorter than calculated. That may be handy to know in just a moment.

Step 4. How long can the spring be?
Determining the total possible length that's available for the mainspring is easy with a Weihrauch rifle. Install the trigger in the end cap and slide the piston through the end cap until it cocks the trigger. The maximum spring length is the distance from the face of the end cap to the inside top of the piston, minus the thickness of the spring guide base and the base of any top hat guide, if there is one. In our case, there's a top hat, so its base thickness is also subtracted from the total.

The mainspring has to fit in the space between the end cap and the top of the piston, minus anything in between, like a spring-guide rim. A caliper is needed for precise measurements.

The rim of the spring guide will be subtracted from the space the spring has to fit.

I measured the total available length at 3.947". The spring guide rim is 0.10" thick and the rim of the top hat is 0.120" thick so the total space available is 3.947" minus 0.220", which leaves 3.727" The new spring is probably too long to allow the gun to cock. I'll have to cut off one coil for the fit.

Is this method exact? No. It can be off several thousandths for each measurement. Because the measurements are so close and also because I said the springs are really a trifle shorter than I calculated, I will try the spring as it is. I don't think it will allow the gun to cock, but testing will tell for sure. If I have to, I'll remove one coil. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Evanix Renegade double-action pistol
Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, we'll finish the report of the Evanix Renegade pistol with the accuracy test. Thanks for being so patient. The weather and some other duties made me postpone the test until yesterday. The day was near-perfect, with only a slight breeze that didn't get above 5 m.p.h.

While the day was perfect, I wasn't! I left my shooting table at home, so I had to improvise a rest. I put the sandbag over the back of a chair and rested the gun on that. It worked fine and was as steady as it gets, but it sure looks odd!

This may not look comfy, but it was actually a very solid rest. Note how far back my sighting eye is from the eyepiece. That's the long eye relief scope at work.

The scope I mounted is a Leapers UTG 4x40 Tactedge with long eye relief. That allows me to hold the pistol somewhat forward instead of putting my eye up to the screen. Of course, I had to get used to only 4x magnification; once I did, it seemed to do the job. Remember, deer hunters shot at 100 yards with nothing more than 4x for decades! And, this scope is one of the clearest, most parallax-free you can find. While I would be happier with double the power, this is a fairly good match for the pistol.

Leapers Tactedge 4x40 scope fits the pistol well and provides some eye relief.

Eun Jins were first
The first pellets I tried were Eun Jins, based on their performance in the velocity test (part 2). I would have thought they would have been okay, because they gave an average of 610 f.p.s.--but they weren't.

Not only is this a large group for only 25 yards, several of the pellets appear to be tipping as they pass through the paper. The pellet on top is the most evident. That's an oval hole if ever there was one.

The Eun Jins were not fully stabilized, as evidenced by the oval holes they cut in the target. They also grouped around 2" at 25 yards! Time to look elsewhere.

Next came Kodiaks
Beeman Kodiaks were next. They developed an average 692 f.p.s. for an average muzzle energy of 22.34 foot-pounds--about what we expect from a really great-shooting RWS Diana 48 in .22 caliber. I knew from the first group that this is the pellet for the Renegade pistol.

Beeman Kodiaks grouped very well at 25 yards. This group of 4 is about a half-inch. That's with an air PISTOL, folks!

Naturally, the lighter Kodiaks didn't shoot to the same point of aim as the Eun Jins. They had to be adjusted up just a bit to get on target. Once there, they did the job in a workmanlike manner.

This group of 5 Kodiaks represents an average group at 25 yards. It's 0.925" between centers of the two widest shots.

One thing I noticed with both Eun Jins and Kodiaks was that there are only 6 usable shots in the single-action mode. After that, the pellets start falling lower...even at 25 yards. Since double-action is reserved for followup shots only, plan on filling the gun after every cylinder.

Overall observations
The Renegade pistol is very powerful and quite accurate for a pistol. It can definitely be used for hunting game up to the size of a raccoon. While it's not a small handgun, it's much more compact than even a short carbine. If you're looking for something small to carry into the woods, this could be it. Personally, I'd shoot single-action most of the time and use double-action when I needed a quick follow-up shot.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

HW 55 Tyrolean - Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today, I'll finish the disassembly we started in the last report. I stopped at the point where all the parts were free to come out. Now, we'll remove the barrel to get the piston out because the two are connected by the cocking link. The link cannot be removed from the baseblock easily, so the barrel has to come out to allow the other end to be disconnected at the piston.

Remove the pivot bolt
To take the barrel off, first remove the pivot bolt. Remove the locknut on the right side of the gun, then the bolt can be removed. I found a lot of tension on the bolt from the locking latch, so I'm looking into whether that is normal or not. In my experience, the latches have worked a little easier on other guns, but those were all older models that were well broken-in.

The pivot nut and lockwasher are removed from the right side of the gun.

Next, the pivot bolt is removed. In this case, I unlocked the barrel latch to ease the tension on the pivot bolt. There's telltale moly visible from a tuneup.

Once the pivot bolt was out, there was no longer any doubt that this rifle has been tuned after it left the factory. The baseblock and pivot bolt are covered with what looks like Beeman M-2-M moly grease.

The barrel comes off
The baseblock now easily slides out of the spring tube forks, which releases tension on the articulated cocking link. You can now slide the link, with its integral cocking shoe, up to a widening on the cocking slot, where the shoe can be removed from the mainspring tube. The barrel and spring tube are now separated.

See the thin thrust washer that fits between the baseblock and the mainspring forks on both side of the gun? It's been greased with moly which is proper for a tuneup.

The cocking link is removed from the mainspring tube at the opening at the end of the cocking slot. The 55 does not have a separate sliding shoe to fit to the piston. It uses a widened end of the cocking link, which is seen in the lower right corner of this picture.

The piston has a new type parachute seal. That I expected. The mainspring has what looks like a Delrin rear guide--also expected, as well as a short "top-hat" front guide made of Delrin. That was unexpected and a new one for me. It looks like a factory part, but I've not seen another like it. Now that I see the inside of the gun, I can say that whoever did the tuning knew his stuff. Maybe the mainspring kinked after he closed her up. However, the failure to adjust the trigger to even standard Rekord performance, to say nothing of what it is capable of, still seems strange for someone who knows what he's doing.

The piston has a new parachute seal as expected and a Delrin front spring guide that wasn't expected.

The gun is now fully disassembled. The job took about 10 minutes, start to finish, though I spread it over two reports to show the details. I'll now do the following:

1. Clean and adjust the trigger.
2. Select a new mainspring and fit it to the gun.
3. Adjust the locking lever for less tension.
4. Lubricate all parts and assemble the rifle.

When the job is done, the shooting behavior should feel very different.

Monday, October 13, 2008

B.B. works it out - Part 5
The Taurus PT 1911

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

B.B. is testing a firearm?
I bet many of you had forgotten this report existed. I changed the title from B.B. gets disappointed to B.B. works it out, because I'm now on the upswing with this gun. This is a report on a firearm: a Taurus PT 1911. I'm doing this as an analog of a new airgunner encountering a gun that fails to live up to its advertising. The .45 ACP Taurus PT 1911 sells for under $700 and is supposed to have the same features as a $2,100 1911 pistol. Well, the one I bought had a lot of feeding problems from the start, so I've reported how I dealt with them to show new airgunners how to deal with their problems.

Ammo is important
Many things have happened since my last report back in January. I discovered, for example, that some of my reloads do not work reliably even in a Wilson CQB pistol, a .45 automatic that really does cost $2,300 and is considered the gold standard for pistol reliability. So, if they don't work in that gun - which is the TX200 of sidearms - they're hardly going to work in a cheaper pistol with known faults. The analogy here is that pellets are very important to the operation of your gun. Never overlook that! Don't limit what you shoot to whatever is available at the discount store or sporting goods dealer. Buy the best pellets, which are generally available only from online sources.

The principal fault of the Taurus has been feeding the ammunition. It has a failure to feed that is symptomatic of a faulty extractor. A qualified 1911 gunsmith would have known this pretty quick, but it took me about 400 rounds to narrow it down. That's my analogy to a new airgunner who would encounter the same difficulty finding out what is wrong with his airgun.

This jam is indicative of a faulty extractor. This is an old picture. The slide now closes to within a quarter-inch.

After pinning the fault on the extractor, I went to work on it. I got the reliability up from 8 failures to feed in 84 rounds to less than one failure per 100 rounds. That's certainly moving in the right direction, but for a defensive pistol, it's still unacceptable. I want less than one failure per 1,000 rounds, a level that can easily be reached with top custom guns like the Wilson CQB.

Another problem I thought I had was with the two Taurus magazines that came with the gun. They continued to cause failures to feed, while the Wilson Combat magazines seemed to work perfectly after the extractor had been reworked. I was ready to toss the Taurus mags, but then I read several reports that said they work just fine in other PT 1911s. Apparently, the corrections I'd made to my pistol were good, but not good enough. If I use just the Wilson Combat mags in it, the feeding problem seems to be fixed, but I think the Taurus mags reveal a latent tendency for feeding problems. I'll feel more comfortable fixing those problems, because this gun is meant for self defense.

I cooked up another handload with a bullet that has a great reputation for feeding well in a 1911, and I switched gunpowder to a type that has a splendid reputation for accuracy. I went back to the range several more times. I've now run about 1,200 rounds through the Taurus. That counts the 100 rounds I shot this past weekend. There were only two failures to feed in those 100, and I was using only the Taurus magazines. I think I've narrowed the problem to just one faulty part - the extractor. The failure is even less than ever before, with just a quarter-inch of the slide out of battery instead of the three-quarters of an inch I had before I adjusted the extractor.

That brings me to a decision point. I can continue to work on the Taurus extractor or I can buy a new one from a reputable third party vendor. Wilson Combat sells one that is a drop-in, and up to this point everything I've tried from them works as advertised. That's the way I've decided to go.

The pistol is now completely reliable with Wilson magazines and somewhat reliable with Taurus magazines. My goal is to make it completely reliable with the Taurus mags, as well.

Don't forget accuracy
Reliability is just one component of a defense pistol. Accuracy is another. The Wilson CQB can shoot tighter groups than the Taurus, but the Taurus has sights that are quicker and easier to align. At 25 yards, I am shooting an 8" group at the aimpoint for 35 shots, shooting one-handed timed fire. Timed fire means about three shots every ten seconds. That is center-of-bad-guy accuracy, so I've decided to keep the Taurus and continue to work on it.

This is my qualifying target from a concealed carry course I took last month. I shot the Wilson CQB. There are 50 timed-fire rounds in the target from 3, 7 and 15 yards. My wife calls this the Blue Man group. She also qualified...with the same gun.

What lessons have been learned?
When I started this report with a brand-new gun, I faced a decision to either send it back to Taurus for warranty repairs or to fix it myself. I decided to do the latter, and I got a 1911 gunsmithing course on DVD. From that course, I was able to narrow the fault down to the extractor, which I then adjusted to near-perfect operation. However, I feel I've taken the factory extractor about as far as it can go reliably. It is made from a metal injection molding (MIM) process, and gunsmiths everywhere, including the one in the video course, warn that certain parts made by MIM - like extractors - cannot ever be considered 100 percent reliable because they lack the ability to hold the correct spring tension.

The replacement extractor I'm buying is machined from bar stock steel, because Wilson Combat believes that is the only way to make a reliable extractor. Wilson Combat makes the gold standard of reliable 1911s like my CQB, so I think I'll trust them on this point.

Like any new airgunner having a gun with which they are not familiar, I don't know if my decision is right or not, but my research shows that Wilson Combat parts have been reliable up to this point. I'll take the risk. This report is not over.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The air transfer port
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

First, an announcement. The 2008 International Airgun Expo is coming up in just a few weeks (Oct. 24 & 25). I make it a point to drive out from Texas every year to attend the show. It's THAT good! Pyramyd Air will be there again this year. Like last year, they'll have loads of new and used guns, scopes, accessories, a boatload of pellets and just about anything else an airgunner would want. If you didn't go to the Pyramyd Air garage sale last month, then here's another chance to get in on some good deals. Go to the show's web page for time, location, a map and a list of hotels.

Now, on to today's blog.

Part 1

There's a lot of interest in this subject. More than I would have guessed. So I'm running this second part today to give you something to talk about this weekend. Let's look at the shape of the transfer port as it relates to efficiency.

Many air transfer ports are simply straight holes bored through the end of the compression chamber. I'll discuss the size of those holes in the next and final report, but it's surprisingly similar across a wide variety of air rifles. Today, we'll look at transfer port holes that are not just straight tunnels.

Stay away from mirror-smooth
In a discussion I had with Jim Maccari, I was cautioned to not polish a transfer port to a mirror finish (assuming I could have done so). Jim told me his experience was that super-smooth transfer ports are not as effective as those that break up the airflow to some degree. In fact, he shared one of his tuning secrets - a transfer port shape he likes to use on lower-powered air rifles like the FWB 150 and 300, which are both target rifles. Both have a concentric transfer port, so this tip may work best for them and not as well for guns that have slanted transfer ports.

Jim's tip is to bore several graduated sizes of holes on the compression side of the transfer port - making a sort of bizzaro funnel, if you understand the Superman reference. A stepped funnel if you don't.

Seen in cross-section, a stepped port is cut from the compression side only.

According to Jim, this makes the rifle shoot smoother. I presume it's breaking up the airflow by creating eddies and swirls at each of the corners of the steps. I have no personal experience with guns using this kind of transfer port.

The changeable transfer port
I wanted to test several theories about transfer ports, and Dennis Quackenbush was kind enough to make up several ports that I could install in an R1 compression tube that Jim Maccari donated. Ironically, Jim donated this tube because it was ruined by an airgunner who drilled out his transfer port for more power. Of course, that didn't work and his rifle was ruined, so he went to Jim for repairs.

Dennis drilled out the port even larger and made up several transfer port inserts that could be installed from the outside of the gun in less than a minute. I had an excellent testbed for testing transfer port sizes and shapes.

Dennis Quackenbush made this set of removable air transfer ports so I could test various sizes and shapes for the R1 book. The port in the center actually has a Venturi shape.

Jim Maccari donated this compression/spring tube, and Dennis Quackenbush machined it to accept his quick-change transfer ports. When built into a rifle, it is a great testing tool!

What about a Venturi shape?
This question always comes up because we know the Venturi shape increases the speed of the air flowing through the port. When I did the transfer port test on the R1, I asked Quackenbush to make some ports that approximate a Venturi shape. The shape he made is shown below.

Seen in cross-section, this Venturi port has a bevel on both ends of the port.

I copied the shape after the port on a Webley Patriot, which is similarly beveled at both ends. I figured if it worked for the Patriot, it might also work for my R1. However, I saw no increase in speed with this shape. It may have been too large and may have reduced the compression by adding too much additional volume, like a slanted port. I don't know. I do know is that there was no increase when using the Venturi port when compared to a straight port of the same diameter.

Webley Patriot port is beveled like a Venturi, but the bevel is very shallow.

A shape that might be worth trying
Here's a shape I never tried, but one that I think might hold some promise for airspeed improvement. The trick will be to get the angle correct, so the total volume doesn't drop compression too low and offset any potential gain.

An interesting transfer port shape that I've never tried.

I bet you never thought there was so much to a simple thing like a transfer port, eh? It's not just where it's located, but also how it's shaped and even how much volume it contains. Next time, we'll look at the diameter of the port, which was the question that started this report in the first place.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Starting your own field target club

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Scoring field target is really what the game is all about, because every shooter is in it for the score. And, all of you know by now that successfully knocking down a target gives the shooter a point, just as leaving it standing earns no point. What could be simpler than that?

What if the target falls halfway back, or not even halfway, but the paddle moves out of the kill zone? What if the paddle falls all the way back, but the target continues to stand? What if the paddle goes back as if to fall, then comes right back to where it started? I've seen all of these things in a match and had to make a decision or ruling about them so the match could continue.

The alibi
When a target doesn't behave as it's designed to, or whenever a shooter thinks it isn't behaving as it ought to, he can call the shot an alibi. He marks his scorecard with an alibi for that target and, if possible, tells the match director so he can get a ruling and possibly a fix. If he's shooting twice at every target, he can mark the number of times the target misbehaved. It may have been fine for one shot but an alibi for the other.

When there's an alibi, the match director must decide what to do about it. If the target seems to be malfunctioning and there's a replacement available, he can stop the match and swap targets; but that slows the match, and the people who shot before the swap will feel slighted if they didn't get a perfect score. Or, the match director can declare that target to be out of the match and nobody will get credit for shooting it. That's the best way to handle it in most cases. However, beware of "Alibi Ike."

Alibi Ike
Alibi Ike is an age-old shooting nickname for that shooter who seems to have more problems than anyone else. Run a few matches, and you'll meet him. He takes longer to shoot, has problems with just about everything and will always have the most alibis in a match. Once I figured this out, I learned to let other good shooters have a go at the "bad" target before knocking it out of the match. I was lucky in having a half-dozen nationally-ranked shooters at my club, any one of whom could prove or disprove the alibi with one shot.

Beware of the intermittent alibi
When a target is emplaced poorly, it may have marginal performance. This is especially true for targets that use gravity to operate. A 20 foot-pound gun may smack it down, while a 12 foot-pounder may not. I test every target with a 3 foot-pound air pistol after emplacement, but constant tugging on the reset string can move them around after awhile.

The scorecard has a place at the top to record the shooter's name, his rifle, scope and pellet (people always want to know this after the match) the date and the lane his squad starts on.

The scoring section has a place to register hits and misses for every target and lane, as well as the total hits for that lane. At the bottom of the card or sheet is a place for all the lane scores to be totaled. I had shooters mark their alibis with a note in the margin on the same line as the lane where it happened.

This is what my scorecard looked like. We had 12 lanes with three targets on most of them and two shots per target, so each had a row like this. This is lane 11, which is worth as much as 6 points.  Near, middle and far refer to the targets on each lane. An X means a hit and an O means a miss.

We put the three scorecards for each squad on a clipboard with a pencil for scoring. They received the clipboard at the match director's briefing. It was up to them to keep their own scores. At the end of the match, they turned in the clipboard and the scorecard was checked by the match scorer (usually my wife). She would count all the hits for each lane and found a surprising number of errors in every match. Once they were confirmed, the scores were entered on a tally sheet for the match and then prizes were awarded.

I found that shooters around the country were very interested in the results of our match, because they wanted to track certain shooters. Getting the scores up on our website was another important task. I tried to get them up within a few days of the match. If I didn't, the phone started ringing.

That's about it for running a club. There's a lot more, of course, but they're the kinds of things you learn by doing. Next, I'll discuss the use of scopes in field target and the pros and cons of adjusting the elevation for every shot versus holding over.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The air transfer port
Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

When I was writing the R1 Homebrew series of articles for The Airgun Letter, I did lots of side experiments and research to discover what tuning tips did and didn't work. In the area of air transfer ports, I discovered a lot that wasn't documented at all, and more that was known to only a few people. Apparently, the air transfer port is one of the most modified areas of a spring gun, yet very few people are doing any research on the effects of modification.

What is an air transfer port?
At the end of the compression chamber, there's a small hole that the compressed air passes through after being compressed by the piston. That's the air transfer port. In a spring gun, the amount of compressed air is extremely small when compared to a pneumatic. As early as 1948, the gunsmith and pistol competitor Walther F. Roper surmised that it wasn't the volume of compressed air that makes a spring gun work but the speed at which the air is compressed and released. Three decades later, the Cardews of airgun experiment fame agreed with his observation.

When seen in cross-section, the air transfer port is actually a tunnel that runs from the compression chamber to a point immediately behind the breech, where the pellet sits. The compressed air rushes through this tunnel and blasts into the skirt of the pellet, sending it on its journey down the barrel. How this port or tunnel is made and where it's positioned play a large part in the efficiency of the air blast, which determines the rifle's efficiency.

Seen in cross-section, the pellet seals the front of the air space and the piston seals the rear (piston is to your right and not shown in this drawing). This is the air volume that gets compressed when a spring gun fires.

Don't think for one minute that this design is easily understood, despite being so dirt-simple. Jack Lewis, a famous gun writer and editor of the 1950s and '60s, saw a cutaway like this and thought the empty space he was looking at was a valve. He described that phantom valve in detail in a 1960s article about spring-piston rifles--not unlike the amateur astronomer Percival Lowell describing the canals on Mars. But now you know what it is--the space between the piston seal and the pellet. It's the part that's the air transfer port that interests us.

Air transfer ports are placed where they have to be because of the gun's design and also in order to do their job. Their job is simple--pass the compressed air from the piston to the pellet. Since they're open all the time (being nothing more than passageways), they form a part of the total volume of the compression chamber, even though they're not inside the chamber. Understanding that is important to understanding what comes next.

Concentric ports versus offset ports
The piston is a large hollow slug of metal that's pushed by either a coiled steel spring or by a charge of compressed gas in the case of a gas spring. In front of the piston is a seal that keeps the air from escaping. The compression chamber is in front of the piston, with the air transfer port forward of it. At the end of the air transfer port is the breech of the barrel, which is sealed by a lead pellet. The volume of air behind the pellet and in front of the piston gets compressed when the piston rushes forward.

Where the hole is located plays a large part in the efficiency of the transfer port. If the hole is in the center of the compression chamber, the air flows evenly from all around the chamber and into the port. If the hole is offset, some of the air has farther to go, resulting in a decrease in the intensity of the air blast behind the pellet. That's because some of the air is still flowing through the port after the initial shock wave has hit the pellet skirt and started the pellet on its way.

The central transfer port is more efficient than the offset port. Pardon the distortion in this image. It was scanned from the Beeman R1 book.

Some air transfer ports are offset rather than centered or concentric because the barrel is a smaller diameter tube than the compression tube. It sits atop the compression tube, making the transfer port offset. The Feinwerkbau 124 (and other spring guns) has a transfer port opening in the center of the compression chamber, but it also aligns with the center of the breech. To do that, the port is cut on an angle.

An angled transfer port centers the port in both the barrel and the compression chamber. To be angled, it must be longer and, therefore, loses efficiency.

Unfortunately, when the port is cut on an angle, it has to be longer, and the extra length adds volume to the compression chamber--remember that? Extra volume means the air cannot be compressed to the same degree, and, if we are correct about the intensity of the air blast being more important than the amount of air compressed, well, then it becomes a very big deal.

The TX200 has a curious humpbacked appearance, because the barrel is lowered to align with the center of the compression chamber. Hence, a light spring can produce great power with less effort. The RWS Diana 48/52/54 is designed the same way and produces similar results. The majority of airguns are not designed this way, so their transfer ports either have to be offset or longer to carry the air where it has to go.

This was just our first look at the subject. Before you can appreciate how the size of the transfer port affects things, you have to understand the design of the transfer port.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

BAM B26-2 thumbhole
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

We saw a lot of emotion over this gun in the remarks after the first report. Some of you seemed to be against it because of where it's made, and others had read criticism into my report that I didn't put there. I'm only here to report what I see and experience when I test these airguns, and the BAM B26-2 is a very nicely-made gun. If I gave any other impression, please forgive me. Yes, I did comment that the trigger is not a Rekord, but two readers advised me how they got a first stage from theirs, so there are definite possibilities.

Today, I'll look at velocity. You'll recall that I tested the cocking effort at just 24 lbs. If the rifle turns out to deliver 900 fps velocities, it will be very significant.

Clean the barrel
The first step is to clean the barrel with J-B Non-Embedding Bore-Cleaning Compound. By this time, you know the drill. I like to clean the barrel of all new air rifles if possible, to remove latent bluing salts, rust and factory dirt. However, I'll clean only those guns that lend themselves to it. I don't clean guns with sliding compression chambers and most PCPs, because I can't clean them with a solid rod from the breech. Those guns I just shoot until they're clean.

I removed the muzzlebrake before cleaning the barrel, simply because it's less of a hassle off the gun. JB paste can get stuck inside if you leave it on. The barrel proved to be very smooth and had no choke. There was some dirt inside the bore, but nothing nasty like rust. Once clean, the rifle was ready to be tested.

Velocity with Air Arms Diabolo Field domes
Air Arms Diabolo Field domes are made by JSB, so you know the quality is there. Once the rifle settled down, they averaged 709 f.p.s., with a spread from 694 f.p.s. to 723 f.p.s. That works out to an average muzzle energy of 9.42 foot-pounds for this 8.44-grain pellet.

Velocity with Crosman Premier lite pellets
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets averaged 750 f.p.s. with a spread from 744 f.p.s. to 759 f.p.s. They seemed to fit the breech very well, which may be a hint of accuracy to come. The average energy was 9.87 foot-pounds.

Velocity with RWS Club 10 pellets
RWS Club 10 pellets are 7.0 grains, the same weight as RWS Hobbys, so I used them as my 1990s-era lightweight pellet. Once the rifle settled down, they averaged 854 f.p.s., with a spread from 839 f.p.s. to 869 f.p.s. That works out to an average energy of 11.34 foot-pounds.

Velocity with Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoint pellets
Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoint pellets weigh just 4.8 grains, and will usually give the highest velocity of any metal pellet. They averaged 1110 f.p.s., with a huge spread from 1009 f.p.s. to 1151 f.p.s. Only two shots out of 10 registered under 1100 f.p.s. The average energy was 13.14 foot-pounds, a number that is very interesting.

It straddles the fence!
By UK law, this pellet would make the B26-2 a firearm, since the energy is greater than 12 foot-pounds at the muzzle. And that should open your eyes to the precarious position airgun manufacturers find themselves in when trading in the UK market, since any new lightweight pellet has the potential to do this. Once a model tests above 12 foot-pounds, it's always and forever considered a firearm. Not just one specific gun, mind you--every gun made under that model number. If you bought it as an airgun and a new pellet pushes it over the limit, that's your bad luck! Spring guns are especially vulnerable to this because precharged guns don't normally vary quite as much.

What a spread of performance! From a low of just 9.42 foot-pounds to a high of over 13. That illustrates just how much it matters when choosing a pellet for an air rifle. U.S. shooters don't have to concern themselves with velocity or power, of course, so they can concentrate on accuracy and choose the best pellet they can. Next time, we'll find out what sort of capabilities this rifle can deliver. The .22 caliber B26 was pretty accurate, so I'm hoping this one will be, as well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

HW 55 Tyrolean - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today, I'll start disassembling Wayne's HW 55 Tyrolean rifle to see what it looks like on the inside. Wayne bought this rifle on my recommendation and at a price that guaranteed a good investment from the start. From the firing behavior and other visual clues, the rifle seems to have been recently tuned. We will discover whether that assessment is true once we get inside. Also, there were a couple of concerns with the rifle. The Rekord trigger, which in the 55 is a special target version capable of extraordinary lightnesss with positive safety, has been adjusted rather heavy. It's not even as light as a sporting Rekord, which is nowhere near as fine as a target Rekord can be. So, I'll look into adjusting it and anything else it may need. Additionally, the cocking link drags over the mainspring when the barrel is closed after cocking. I've felt this before in other spring guns, but I'm going to have a close look to see if anything can be done.

A little R1
This rifle is constructed like many classic Weihrauchs, so there's a lot of similarity between it and the Beeman R1. Of course, the HW 55 is nearly three decades older than the R1, so perhaps it's more correct to say the reverse--that the R1 is a big HW 55. The point I'm making is that the 13-part blog I did on tuning a spring gun, which was based on an R1, holds true for this rifle, as well. There are some subtle differences besides the scale of the two rifles, and I'll cover those as we come to them. You might want to review that tuning report, as I may have touched on a few things that I'll not put into this report.

No safety
Step one is to remove the rifle's action from the stock. Before doing that, let's look at the first significant difference between an HW 55 and most other Weihrauch spring rifles. The 55 has no safety! The automatic safety was added to the line, model by model. At one time, none of them had it. I guess it seemed right for the sporting models, because that's where it ended up; but, since target guns seldom have safeties, it never made it to the 55 model, as far as I know. If anyone knows differently, I would be happy to be enlightened.

As far as I know, the HW 55 never had a safety.

This Beeman R1 has a safety button. Incidentally, this is the R1 that was the star of the book.

The Weihrauch safety is a spring-loaded pin that jumps into position when the rifle is cocked. If you want to reapply it after taking it off you have to break the barrel again--on the cocked rifle--so the piston rod can press the trigger parts out of the way, once more. Eliminating the safety does nothing to the function of the trigger, which remains a modular unit. But what it does do is remove one additional step a competitor has to remember while shooting a match. However, the 55 adds another step of its own, in the form of the breech lock lever, so it's really a wash. R1 owners get so used to releasing the safety that they never give it a second thought, anyhow.

Separate the action from the stock
The 55 has an articulated 2-piece cocking linkage, which means there is a steel bridge under the spring tube that the linkage passes through. That also means that instead of 2 forearm screws--one of either side of the gun--there's just a single screw in the bottom of the forearm that screws into a threaded bushing in the steel receiver bridge. HOWEVER--important tip--instead of just the front triggerguard screw holding the triggerguard and therefore the stock to the action - BOTH the front and rear screws hold the rifle together. The rear triggerguard screw actually threads into a nut held captive by the trigger housing. So, it still takes the removal of three screws to separate the stock and action.

Only a single forearm screw and a short cocking slot are features of an articulated cocking link.

On the 55, both triggerguard screws hold the rifle in the stock. The front screw fits into a boss on the spring tube. The rear screw fits into the rear of the trigger housing. That's the last hole on the right in this picture.

Remove the trigger
To remove the Rekord trigger, drift the two crosspins from left to right. Drift the front pin first and install it last during assembly. I will explain the special assembly procedure when we get to it. Once the trigger was out, I saw a strange and somewhat disturbing thing. It was still greased from the Weihrauch factory with what I call "tractor grease." Once you've seen this stuff, you'll never forget it. It's a clear sign the trigger has never been touched, but the mainspring that I can now see is coated with black tar. Who removes a mainspring and coats it with tar but fails to clean and adjust a Rekord trigger? There's an obvious answer to that, but I held my opinion until the mainspring was out.

Drift out the 2 crosspins that hold the trigger to the rifle.

The thick transparent brown grease that covers the trigger parts is a telltail factory sign. This trigger has never been cleaned or adjusted since new.

Remove the end cap
Once the trigger has been removed, there is a huge hole in the end cap. To get the threads started I insert the smooth end of a medium-sized crescent wrench into the hole and strike it on the the other end with a hammer to start the threads turning. It only takes two or three strikes on the wrench before the end cap can be unscrewed by hand. The smooth rounded end of the wrench ensures there will be no marks left on the sharp edges of the trigger slot.

Once the trigger is out, there is a deep slot where it was housed. The smooth rounded end of a 10-12-inch crescent wrench can be inserted in this slot and used as leverage to turn the end cap.

The end cap is threaded into the spring tube.

As you can see, the end cap simply unscrews from the spring tube. When the threads get near the end, I place the muzzle on a piece of wide leather (the inside of my sandal works for this) so the whole rifle can rotate while I hold the end cap still and exert downward pressure. When the threads end, the cap springs up with about one inch of spring tension, which is 30-40 lbs. of effort. I'm not using a mainspring compressor with this gun. I've always done it this way with the smaller Weihrauchs, and I know that other airgunsmiths do the same. If you don't know what you're doing, use a compressor.

The mainspring will now pull out. Once I have it in hand, my suspicions are confirmed. It's canted. That means this gun was not tuned by a professional. It has what is known as a redneck tune. Someone put black tar on the bent spring to calm the gun. It's like a politician paying hush money to cover his tracks instead of solving the problem. This spring will not be going back into this rifle.

This is the correct amount of black tar for a mainspring.

And there's a problem. A canted mainspring will make the gun buzz and produce less power. The last person inside the gun used black tar to quiet the buzz instead of replacing the spring with a good one. That may be where the dragging cocking link came from.

I'm going to stop here because this has become a lengthy process. Next time, I'll complete the teardown.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Steel Dreams - Part 2
Building a more powerful spring-piston gun

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Lots of interest in this story! I should have told it long ago. One of our readers may have actually seen the rifle at the recent airgun and firearm show in Frederick, Maryland.

With the last report, we left off with an external examination of the rifle. Naturally, as a red-blooded airgunner, I put it through the chronograph first thing. The cocking effort was 53 lbs., compared to a Beeman R1 that cocks with 36-41 lbs. of force. So, while the rifle isn't the heaviest-cocking springer I've ever tested (that distinction belongs to a Hatsan 135 that took 75 lbs. to cock), it certainly wasn't built for casual plinking.

The firing behavior was harsh. There was a huge lunge forward plus lots of vibration. The big lunge means a heavy piston, and the vibration usually means a canted mainspring. I said last time that the barrel was an Anschutz, but I found that Steve Vissage told me he thought he remembered putting a Webley Ospry barrel on the gun.That would have had the proper dimensions for a .22 caliber pellet.

The velocity I got with 14.5-grain Eley Wasp pellets was 755 f.p.s. I checked with the two .22 caliber R1 rifles I used in the R1 book, and they averaged 725 f.p.s. and 751 f.p.s. after 1,000-round break-ins. Steve Vissage remembered a velocity of around 800 f.p.s. with this gun, but that could have been with a different pellet.

Then, I disassembled the rifle. I was all set to use a mainspring compressor, but Steve told me the mainspring was under about a half-inch of preload. So, I removed those three machine screws and the one triggerguard screw, and the end cap popped up by less than a quarter-inch. I guess over time the spring had scragged (taken a set length from which it will never diminish until it wears out).

Not a lot of spring preload. Vissage saved some money by not threading the end cap like a Weihrauch.

With the end cap off, the mainspring came out, and it's a monster! Its 32.5 coils are made from 0.190" ASTMA 410 silicone chrome wire. The compressed length is 6.175", which must be a record for spring rifles. The mainspring weighs 12.2 oz.

An R1 mainspring weighs 6.3 ounces, in comparison, or just over half what this one weighs. Look at the photo for a comparison.

Guess which spring goes in the Vissage rifle? The R1 spring on the left is worn-out and canted. The Vissage spring is also canted, although this picture doesn't show it.

The piston came out next. It weighs 18.2 oz. and is 1.30" in diameter, while an R1 piston weighs 12.6 oz. and is 1.147" in diameter. Vissage had the piston tempered and shot-peened to relieve stress. The piston rod was hardened and drawn to a dark straw color. That should make it file-hard. The spring guide is also proportionately larger than the R1 guide.

Vissage's piston weighs over a pound and dwarfs the R1 piston beside it.

A close examination of the piston seal revealed several flat spots, which are burn marks from excessive friction. Vissage told me he put a lot of effort into the selection of material for the piston seal. He was looking for high-lubricity and tolerance for high-temperatures from the heat of compression. Those flat spots told me the seal was too dry and was wearing from the friction with the chamber.

See the flat spot that's facing you? That's a burn due to friction.

After seeing the massiveness of these parts, I felt that some velocity was lost by a slowdown in acceleration of the piston. The weight of the piston told me where the rifle's powerful forward lunge was coming from. However, before you start criticizing Vissage, let me tell you that Jim Maccari once made a plastic piston for a TX200 to accomplish just the opposite - faster acceleration from lighter weight. That gun vibrated like a jar full of mad hornets, so you can go too far either way.

The piston seal is not a parachute design. Perhaps there's some loss of pressure around the sides, where the high-pressure air has nothing to confine it. A parachute seal would inflate and push its sealing edges against the cylinder walls, but this seal can't do that.

I lubricated the piston seal with Beeman M-2-M moly grease before installing it again. The mainspring received a coat of Maccari's black tar to cut the vibration. All friction points received a coat of M-2-M grease. The thin washers at the pivot point had never been lubricated. Steve counted on the Armaloy plating to self-lubricate, but I found it mostly scraped away when I disassembled the rifle. So, I used moly paste on the washers, and the cocking got smoother.

When the gun was back together, it felt like the cocking effort had diminished, when in fact it had actually increased by 2 lbs.! It was smoother but also a little harder to cock. The velocity with Wasps averaged 776 f.p.s., but that dropped to 767 pretty fast. I imagine the rifle will sink back to 755 in time. It vibrated much less this time, though there was still some present.

Sorry to say that I never shot the Vissage rifle for accuracy. I was more interested in how the powerplant performed; and, as we saw, it was about like a factory R1.

When I tuned a standard Beeman R1 with a Venom Mag 80 Laza kit, the average velocity with Eley Wasps jumped to 840.8 f.p.s., and the firing behavior was as smooth as glass. The Venom kit was the first to offer Delrin button bearings to float the piston in the spring tube. It took 50 lbs. of effort to cock, but the return was a much more powerful air rifle.

That's the tale of a man and his quest for speed. The other two rifles he built were a .177 and a rifle with both .177 and .22 barrels, which he kept for himself. Vissage never went supersonic in .22 caliber, but I bet he knew a lot more about what goes into a powerful spring rifle after this project was over! And, now, we all know a little more.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

BAM B26-2 thumbhole
Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

BAM B26 is a well-done copy of the Beeman R9.

Before I begin, I received a packet of vintage Daisy BBs yesterday. I remember that one of you said he was sending them, but I don't remember who I am to thank. These will find their way into a vintage Daisy gun box somewhere.

This is actually my second look at BAM's B26-2. The first was back in 2006, when I tested a .22 caliber B26 with a standard stock. Today, I'll start looking at the same gun in .177, and this one sits in a thumbhole stock.

The B26 is BAM's second attempt at copying the Weihrauch HW95, which we all know as the Beeman R9. The B20 was their first try, and even that rifle was pretty impressive, but in the B26 has a copy of the Rekord trigger that was refined through more attention to finishing the parts.

For those who are not familiar with the R9, it's a classic breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle. It was developed from the BSF 55 action that Weihrauch acquired when they purchased the BSF company back at the end of the 1980s. The rifle went through several design iterations, first as the Marksman 55, then the Beeman R10 and finally becoming the R9. The R9 is a lightweight spring rifle with all the power of the Beeman R1 but at a lower weight and bulk. It has the famous Rekord trigger that gets airgunners so excited, so it was a natural to be copied.

I talked with the BAM representatives at the SHOT Show when the B26 first came out, which is how I know that the trigger was the major upgrade. They were really impressed with all the finishing Weihrauch put into the trigger, and they knew they would have to do more work if they really wanted to compete. That work was going to take their rifle from a retail price below $100 to significantly more, and in those days the Chinese competed on price, alone. So, BAM took a real leap of faith that the airgunning world was ready to pay more for a higher quality level. Of course, the fact that many were already buying the R9 helped them make the decision.

The rifle
The B26 thumbhole comes without sights, so plan on mounting a scope. The thumbhole stock is made from medium-brown wood that resembles beech. In typical Chinese fashion, the stock on my test rifle has several ares where wood putty was used to fill in gouges. There's no checkering, and the wood is finished very smooth. The raised cheekpiece is sharply defined around the border and looks very European. The butt drops very little, so medium or high mounts are what you want to use, because your cheek will already be quite high. Also, you might want to install an adjustable butt to lengthen the distance between your shoulder and cheek. Otherwise, the rifle will be difficult to fit to most people's hold.

Dark oval is wood putty. This rifle has three areas like this one. Most Chinese wood stocks will have this, though sometimes it isn't stained dark and can be harder to locate.

I have never been fond of thumbhole stocks because they don't fit my style of hold, but this one isn't that objectionable. It does make the rifle unfit for southpaws, however.

The metal is finished a little shinier than matte and is even all around. Markings are lasered on the metal, where they appear silver.

Rifle's nomenclature is lasered on the left side of the baseblock.

The trigger
BAM didn't copy the Rekord exactly and in so doing, they missed the boat. What you get is a delightful single-stage trigger with adjustable pull weight. If you can work with a single-stage trigger, this is a very good one. Light and relatively creep-free, but it isn't a Rekord.

A crisp single-stage trigger that's unlike a Rekord in operation. It still beats many popular sporting triggers found on air rifles today.

The rifle is 44.5" long and weighs a light 7.5 lbs. That's 1.5 lbs. less than an R1 of the equivalent power. The barrel is 16" long, but the muzzlebrake adds another 1.5" to that. The pull length is 14-1/8".

Cocking and trigger-pull
The rifle cocks at a surprisingly low 24 lbs. of force, which is amazing considering the advertised power. The piston seal is honking like a goose--a sure sign that things are too dry inside. That leads me to wonder if I shouldn't try to tune the rifle to see if I might knock off another pound of effort. The trigger lets go at 3 lbs., 2 oz. of pull. Because it's a single-stage, I don't want to adjust it too light or it could slip off by itself. The release is crisp and repeatable. And the safety, which is a weakness with Rekord triggers, is very crisp and positive. One negative observation is that the baseblock is under far too little tension. Once cocked, the barrel flops around freely instead of remaining in any position. A tune would fix that, as well.

A very nice air rifle
The B26 needs to make no apologies. It seems to hold its own with the R9. Apart from not having the Rekord trigger and the wood putty, the B26 is quite the air rifle--especially for less than $200. That's $300 less than the rifle it copies.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Jacob's conundrum
The relationship of power to accuracy

by B.B. Pelletier

I received this question from Jacob this past week.

I have a question about the relationship of power to accuracy. Consider the Daisy 953 with about 500 fps and the Gamo Nitro 17 with about 900 fps. The Daisy shoots much smaller groups at close ranges. Since the Gamo will shoot a much straighter trajectory, will there be a distance at which the accuracies of the two guns become equal and then from longer distances the Gamo will be more accurate? Or will the Daisy always be more accurate regardless of range? I used these two guns as examples, but would like to know if the answer would apply to other air rifles as well.

The ballistic cone
Ballistic projectiles travel in an arc; that, we all understand. The arc a projectile follows is actually a drop from the instant the projectile leaves the muzzle. At that point, all the "push" ends and gravity takes over. Where the projectile strikes the earth depends on its velocity, which starts diminishing at the muzzle, too. The angle of the bore to the plane of the earth is another factor that determines where the projectile lands. Also, bullets radiate from the straight-line trajectory in all directions, landing in a circular pattern--a so-called cone of fire.

Farther than you think!
Several years ago, the U.S. Army used millimeter-wave radar to track the flight of various black powder bullets to settle an age-old argument. Some said that if a bullet leaves the muzzle at 1,200 f.p.s., there is no way it could travel as far as a mile (1,760 yards) before striking the earth. In fact, those bullets were monitored by radar and traveled anywhere from 2,800 yards to 3,900 yards before striking the earth when their bores were inclined 30 degrees above the horizon upon firing. That test settled the argument of how far bullets can go, but it overlooked all the other things a bullet does while in flight.

Pellets don't travel as far because of their high aerodynamic drag. But they do travel 400-500 yards.

A bullet or pellet spirals around its own center of mass as it flies. The direction of spin determines the direction of the spiral. If the bullet or pellet is made very uniform, this spiral may be very small. So small that it isn't readily apparent for a long distance from the muzzle. However at some point in its flight, the bullet will begin to spiral as a result of destabilizing. Here's an interesting fact. If the range at which the bullet performs (such as the distance to the target) is shorter than the range at which it destabilizes, that bullet (or pellet) will be accurate! If, however, the range to the target is farther than where the bullet destabilizes, it'll be inaccurate.

More instability
An unstable bullet or pellet may also yaw in flight. I see this all the time in my testing. A yaw is when the axis of the pellet is not parallel to the line of flight. It is seen in targets as an oval hole. Like a spinning top, the yaw will sometimes correct itself and the bullet/pellet will become stable again. There is far more chance for a pellet to stabilize than a bullet, because a pellet has high drag that tends to stabilize it all the time.

Once off track, the problem always gets worse
However, if the bullet/pellet is spinning too slow to stabilize, it'll never recover from the yaw. A yawing bullet/pellet has even higher drag than a straight-flying bullet/pellet, and the high air pressure on the side of the yawing bullet/pellet will continue to push it off course over time (which means over distance).

The extreme yaw condition is called a keyhole, and represents the bullet passing through the target sideways. I have seen that with pellets a few times, but I can't lay my hands on any pictures right now. However, during some testing of a reduced power load in my trapdoor Springfield .45-70, I captured a perfect keyhole at 50 yards. The bullet is tumbling end over end in flight, and the farther it gets from the muzzle, the less likely it will land near any other bullets fired from the same rifle.

Four bullets from a .45-70 rifle landed in this pattern, several inches up and right from the aim point at 50 yards. Three of the bullets were yawing badly, but the fourth one was a perfect keyhole.

So your question boils down to two things. First, is the pellet accurate at any range? Because an inaccurate pellet is not going to suddenly reverse its tendency in flight and become accurate. That is what the term ballistic means: a projectile that is unguided during its flight.

The second part of the question is this: the farther you go from the muzzle, the more likely it becomes that the pellet will destabilize. So, your Daisy 953, which is such a tackdriver at 10 yards, may not be able to stay on paper at 100 yards. Your Gamo Nitro that can't keep up with the 953 at 10 yards may be able to shoot a 12" group at 100 yards. So, the answer is "yes," there is a point at which the Nitro becomes more accurate than the 953 simply because of its greater velocity.

The magic range may not be 100 yards. I just used that distance to make a point. What if the real distance at which the Nitro passes the 953 for accuracy is 157 yards? Then, it would make no practical difference to you, because you're never going to intentionally shoot either rifle that far.

Jacob, I saved the best for last. Is it your Nitro that is less accurate, or could it be a flaw in your hold that renders the rifle less accurate? Breakbarrel spring-piston airguns are the absolute most difficult shooting implements to master, while a single-stroke pneumatic like your 953 is one of the easiest. I haven't tested the Nitro, but I have tested the Gamo Whisper, whose barrel should be very similar to the Nitro. I got many groups well under a half-inch at 25 yards. Can your 953 do as well?

This 5-shot group from a .177 Gamo Whisper with H&N Match pellets went into a 0.325" group at 25 yards.