Friday, July 31, 2009

What is coming to the world of airguns?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today being Friday, I want to give youse guys something to talk about all weekend. As for me, I'm in the Catskills, filming new episodes of American Airgunner.

Coming soon
Well, Crosman has a PCP pistol that's going to hit the market pretty soon, which I mean by Christmas. If not by then, certainly early next year. I shot it while in New York and it's both powerful and accurate. Imagine a 2240 with a longer barrel and reservoir tube. I was able to cut weed stems at 23 yards when shooting in the Creedmore position. Imagine this thing as an affordable air pistol! Look for 12 foot-pounds.

There's been an awakening among airgun manufacturers in the past three years. There's been more innovation in the past three years than in the 40 years before that. I don't think the trend has peaked yet, so I look for some surprises in the near future. The companies to watch are AirForce, Gamo, Crosman and FX.

I expect an affordable electric compressor capable of filling an air rifle to 3,000 psi by the SHOT Show of 2010. I expect it to run on both 110 house current and 12-volt car current, and it should take just a few minutes to fill a standard-sized PCP like a Hammerli Pneuma. Best of all, I expect the retail price to be at or below $500.

In a couple of years
There's a new type of powerplant on the horizon. I expect to see it in production within the next couple of years. Performance will be equal to certain centerfire firearms. It will revolutionize the world of sporting airguns when it comes to market.

The world of spring guns has not come to a standstill. With guns like the Chinese AR1000 and all of its derivatives on the market, I know we have not yet reached the end. I remember spring rifles that many of you have never seen. Rifles like those from Ivan Hancock. His powerful actions were as smooth as butter, yet they delivered the greatest power in their class. I expect to see another round of rifles just as nice but manufactured rather than hand-built.

On the far horizon
Many people think 10-meter airguns have gone as far as they can, technologically. I disagree. I believe there's room for a novel new type of sight for air pistols that makes them much easier to shoot. Remember the success of bicycling's world hour record holder, Graeme Obree (a.k.a. The Flying Scotsman), who set the racing world on edge with his homemade bicycles and the "Superman" riding style that has now been banned?

I believe that a novel new sighting system along the lines of the aperture system used on rifles could have a huge impact on air pistol competition.

There's no good reason that PCPs are as expensive as they are. When Crosman brought out the Benjamin Discovery, they shattered the PCP price barrier. Oh, the Chinese already had a cheap PCP, but it wasn't what I consider a credible gun. The Disco showed the world what can be done. Well, I know a secret. We haven't gone as far as it's possible to go, yet.

In the world of engineering, there's a process called a Pareto analysis in which you study a design to do more with less. This process is so successful that it is at the heart of "Japanese" management, which is nothing more than allowing the people closest to the operation (the worker bees) to have a large hand in the design. A Pareto analysis could be done on the Disco that could yield remarkable savings.

I think we have not yet discovered the best relationship of spring load to power and cocking effort in spring guns. I look for a 20-25 foot-pound rifle in the future that takes only 30 lbs. to cock.

We DEFINITELY haven't seen all the optimum pellet designs, yet. I believe there's a great long-range pellet on the horizon. In fact, I've been working on one, so I know that something is being done in this department.

So, that's my look at what I think is coming in airguns. Now, tell us what YOU think!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gamo Extreme CO2 - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I'm on the road again starting today. I'm heading to Crosman and then on to the American Airgunner studio. I should be back in the office next Friday, or perhaps on Thursday.

Today, we'll look at the accuracy of the Gamo Extreme CO2. Before we do that, though, I had to mount a scope. The BSA 2-7x scope that came with my Beeman C1 carbine wasn't doing anything at the moment, so I switched it to the Extreme CO2 and sighted-in at 10 feet. It took two shots to get on paper, and I was ready to move back to 25 yards. [I got distracted due to so many things happening at the same time & so many guns arriving for testing and review, that I completely spaced out the fact that the Extreme CO2 comes with a scope and one-piece mount!]

As I was doing that, however, it dawned on me what is different about this rifle. The circular clip doesn't stick up above the top of the receiver! That's a big deal, because it means you can mount a scope with a low profile. Almost every other circular clip on CO2 and PCP repeaters sticks up above the receiver, necessitating the use of two-piece scope mounts and often high mounts for clearance.

The circular clip doesn't stick up above the receiver!

At 25 yards, the first pellet was low and to the right, so I made a final adjustment that brought the pellets to the bullseye. Then I proceeded to shoot some groups. The first was 10 JSB Exact Jumbo 15.8-grain pellets.

JSB Exacts
15.8-grain JSB Exacts printed high on the bull at 25 yards. A group of ten measured 1.075". The wind was dead calm and there was nothing to disturb the pellet's flight. I stopped at 10 because that was a clip full and it seemed reasonable.

JSB Exact 15.8-grain pellets made this 10-shot group at 25 yards.

JSB Exact heavies
Next, I tried a group of 10 of the new 18-grain JSB Exact heavy pellets. They went into a tighter 0.974" group at 25 yards. You can see the performance in the pictures. While I was shooting these, the sliding forearm came off the gun three times, so a word of caution to shooters--don't pull it forward too hard!

JSB Exact 18-grain pellets made this 10-shot group. The elevation was adjusted down but nothing else was changed

Crosman Premier
The next pellet I tried was the Crosman Premier. It shifted the point of aim and was clearly not a good pellet in this rifle. The 10-shot group measures 1.538" and is way too open.

Crosman Premiers were obviously not the right pellets for the rifle.

RWS Superdome
Finally I tried 10 RWS Superdome pellets. They gave the smallest group of the day, at just 0.928."

RWS Superdomes were the best of the four pellets tested.

Shooting the rifle
The 88-gram CO2 cartridges are a real blessing when you just want to shoot and not be bothered with upkeep. All you have to do is load the clip and put it back in the receiver for the next 10 shots. The trigger has a long, somewhat creepy pull. Because this is a gas gun, I was able to lay it directly on a sandbag, which made sighting easier and the heavy trigger was not so much of a problem. The BSA scope that had been doubtful in the test of the C1 performed very well in this test. It isn't as clear as most Leapers scopes I use, but plenty clear on a sunny day. The focus was sharp and crisp.

So, the rifle comes through the test with good marks. It's not in the Benjamin Discovery class, but it's probably just as accurate as a Hammerli 850 Air Magnum, which many of you wondered about. And we know that it's also plenty powerful. A good repeater for not a lot of money.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gamo Lady Recon - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The .177 Lady Recon looks pretty in pink!

If you've read this blog for a long time, you know I'm constantly on the lookout for kids' guns. They have to be sized small, lightweight, easy to cock or operate, and accurate. I prefer them to have open sights because I think all kids should learn to use them before moving to optics.

Today's air rifle, the Gamo Lady Recon, has the small size, light weight and open sights I like to see. It barely squeaks by with a cocking effort of 18 lbs.--the maximum I want in a youth model. Yes, I read the specs on the PA website that say 19 lbs., but I also tested the test rifle. Accuracy we'll have to test later.

The rifle is short, at just over 37 inches overall and light at 4.63 lbs. That makes it a delight to hold for long periods. Not only do children enjoy that but a large percentage of oldsters do, as well. Gamo rates the trigger-pull at 3.3 lbs. That would be about 3 lbs., 6 oz., or so. The trigger on the test rifle breaks at 4 lbs., even, which is not too far off the spec.

It's pink!
But being the Lady Recon, this rifle has a pink stock. And not just a pink stock--according to my wife, it's mauve, which she tells me is a purpleish-pink, but I believe the makers were going after a shocking pink stock! To me, it looks right, but I'm red-green colorblind. Anyhow, the stock is colored for the pleasure of distaff shooters.

I remember at a SHOT Show several years ago seeing a pink Crosman 760 Pumpmaster and my wife remarking how good it looked. Since then, I've seen firearms follow suit and now this airgun. It'll be a hard sell to a young boy, but perfect for a girl who enjoys the color! I note on the Pyramyd Air website that the black Recon has 8 reviews while the Lady Recon has none as of this writing. Perhaps this coming holiday season will change that.

In case you are wondering, I did a 3-part review of the Gamo Recon in 2008. So, there are targets and velocities to check against. No, I don't think the pink stock will have any affect on the gun's performance, but as it so happens that other Recon was underpowered. So we'll have a second look at the powerplant with this one. The first Recon's trigger broke at 2 lbs., 9 ozs., so maybe this one will break-in over time.

The safety is manual, a feature that I must applaud. Automatic safeties are no safer than manual safeties--it all depends on the responsible habits of the shooter.

As it turns out, the Lady Recon has one thing the regular Recon doesn't have--open sights! And no fiberoptics means these are sights that can really be used for precision shooting! While the rear sight can be easily removed, the front is cast into the barrel casing and cannot come off without cutting.

The ambidextrous synthetic stock does not sound hollow except at the pistol grip. You can see that by looking up the pistol grip that is open on the bottom. Being fully ambidextrous and a breakbarrel, the rifle favors neither right- nor left-hand use. The length of pull is 12-3/4", the same as the black stock.

The barrel is the same thin steel unit as the black Recon. It's encased in an attractive, synthetic, fluted barrel that looks rather sharp.

The powerplant has the same buzz I noted in the earlier review. It's not excessive, but I'm not used to Gamo guns buzzing anymore.

This will be a quick little test and comparison to the other Recon. I just want to be able to refer back to it this coming Christmas.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

RWS Model LP8 Magnum - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The .177 RWS LP8 pistol is a big, beautiful spring pistol.

You knew I would get to the RWS Model LP8 Magnum because I'm also testing the Browning 800 Mag, and the two are related in many reader's minds. This pistol is made by Diana in Germany, but it bears a lot of resemblance to the Browning. It's big, at 3.2 lbs. and 18 inches long, it's black and it claims a velocity of 700 f.p.s. Like the Browning, the RWS LP8 is also a breakbarrel, but that's where the similarity ends.

This gun has very little in the way of synthetic parts. The fully adjustable fiberoptic sights have plastic fiberoptic tubes, of course, but even their mounts are made of metal. It is as if someone in Germany is listening to the world's airgunners.

The LP8 has no cocking aide, though a preliminary examination of the gun suggests that it could use one. Make no mistake that this is an adult air pistol and not suited to youngsters. I do know, however, that the cocking effort will get easier with time, and also the owner soon learns the exact geometry to make cocking possible with the least effort.

This is a new model for Diana, but a continuation of the line of breakbarrel pistols they've been making since 1907. The model immediately before this one was the P5 Magnum, another large breakbarrel pistol that was also rated at 700 f.p.s., but the gun I tested did not achieve that velocity.

The LP8 retails for $289.25 as of this report, which is slightly more than the last price for the P5 Magnum. Even so, those who have rated it give it high marks for accuracy and power, as well as for how well made they feel it is. Criticisms have been leveled at the non-adjustable trigger for being too stiff. In my experience, Diana triggers always need time to break in.

The two-stage trigger on the test gun is superb! It's one of the finest sporting spring air pistol triggers I've used--very light and crisp. And the firing behavior is solid with almost no vibration. I can see how an owner would grow to love this pistol.

The safety is automatic and also ambidextrous! The latter was a complete surprise. Other than the Beeman P1, I don't think I've seen an ambidextrous safety on another spring pistol. Like the safety on the P1, this one can be operated by the trigger finger, so there's no need to waste time shifting hands to take off the safety.

Scope rail
One novel feature is the presence of an 11mm dovetail rail set atop the receiver, making this pistol acceptable to optical sights. Indeed, at least one reviewer has mounted a scope on his gun. I doubt I'll do that, because I find pistol scopes to be incongruous; but I'll devote the time to make the iron sights do their job. Some of the reviewers rate it as being accurate, but one says it isn't. I suspect his problem stems from trying to shoot a spring gun directly off sandbags, which is an accuracy destroyer.

The grips are new from Diana. They feature finger grooves and a slight palm swell. There's also a vestigial thumbrest that serves as a trigger finger guide on the other side of the gun. The grips are fully ambidextrous.

General feel of the gun
Most shooters will like the feel of the LP8. Though it's a big, heavy pistol, the grip and trigger relationship is well designed, so the gun feels smaller than it really is. It sits heavy in the hand; and as long as you don't try to rest it on anything, it should be pretty accurate for you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Air Venturi HaleStorm - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The .22 caliber Air Venturi HaleStorm is a good-looking PCP repeater that's also testing very well. We may have a major winner in this rifle!

Today, we'll look at the accuracy of the .22 caliber Air Venturi HaleStorm. And now I'll let you in on a little secret. When I tested this rifle back in March of this year, it didn't yet have a name. I just called it the Hatsan repeater, because the decision to import it hadn't yet been made. In fact, my test was required input for that decision.

Is this a worthy air rifle? Well, we saw in the velocity test that it has a good string of useful shots at a whopping 30+ foot-pounds of energy when heavy pellets are used. So, if it's accurate as well, then, yes, it's worth considering.

March in Texas this year was windy. In fact it's almost always windy here in Texas, but it was especially so this spring. All the shooting was done in the wind, pausing between gusts. That made things harder, because at no time was the wind entirely calm. Nevertheless, the rifle shot through like a champion.

I used the same Leapers 3-9x50 scope that I used on the Hammerli Pneuma, because, except for the HaleStorm's 10-shot rotary clip and the stock, the rifles are essentially the same. I used the trick of folding the rear sight forward to mount the scope. All you have to do is remove the elevation wheel and spring underneath the sight, and the rear sight folds forward to take up half the height as before. Then, there's adequate clearance for a 50mm objective bell.

Loading and firing
The clip-loading mechanism on the rifle is easy to use and very positive. Just remember that each time the bolt goes forward, it pushes another pellet into the barrel. I also found the circular clip itself to be very easy to load.

JSB Exacts
I tried the 15.8-grain JSB Exacts and Air Arms domes that day because both have a good reputation for long-range accuracy. I was on a tight time schedule and wanted to cut to the chase. These pellets would do it, I figured.

Ten JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes went into this 1.632" group at 50 yards. While this group looks large, remember the wind was not cooperating that day. I was impressed.

Air Arms domes
The other pellet I tried was the 16-grain Air Arms dome that's also made by JSB. It looks like an Exact and it performs like one, too. However, it shot to a different point of aim.

Ten Air Arms 16-grain domes went into this 1.361" group at 50 yards.This pellet is essentially identical to the JSB Exact, but notice that it went to a completely different spot on the target with the same scope settings.

Final observations
The HaleStorm is a wonderful new PCP repeater. It's priced as a real bargain and delivers the features shooters and hunters want--power, shot count and accuracy. It's loud, but nowhere near as loud as a .22 rimfire rifle. You can't use it in a suburban backyard without drawing attention to yourself, but out in the woods and fields, it will be fine. This is a reliable 10-shot repeater. The airgun world has another good PCP buy for a reasonable price.

Friday, July 24, 2009

B.B. trusts his Taurus PT1911 - Part 8
Making lemonade

by B.B. Pelletier

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

This series has gone on longer (over 2 years) than any other I've written for this blog, and it isn't even about an airgun. However, the main reason I wrote this piece to begin with, was so I could share with you what I did when I bought something that turned out very differently than I supposed it would. Given my experience with airguns, it's hard for me to be surprised by them anymore, but I thought if I could give you a window into what I do when life hands me a lemon, you might be more encouraged the next time an airgun surprises you.

To briefly summarize, I bought the Taurus PT1911 firearm because it was advertised as such a great value. I handled one at the SHOT Show, but of course couldn't shoot one until I bought it. That's not unlike many of you who shop online for airguns, except you may not get the chance to handle before you buy.

When I shot the gun the first time, I was devastated to see it fail to feed 8 times in the first 84 shots! I was angry, disappointed and frustrated all at the same time. I wished the person who wrote that ad about the pistol could have been there to get an earful. After time passed, though, and I calmed down, I decided to make some lemonade from my lemon, so I documented the experience for you readers.

In the beginning of this project, I took one huge fork in the road by deciding to fix the gun myself instead of sending it back to Taurus. Many readers advised me to do that, but I kept it and did the work so I would know for certain all that was wrong with the gun, but even more because in the 1970s I had been a hobby gunsmith for the 1911 pistol. I knew the design pretty well--to the point of building a match pistol from GI parts with a few aftermarket such as a barrel bushing. I installed match bushings for others, did match trigger jobs and stippled the frames of many 1911s for a fee. I felt I knew the gun well enough to take this risky step.

I've documented things that happened to this pistol at every step along the way so you could see how things were proceeding. And the pistol did improve once I isolated the problems, which stemmed from a faulty extractor that made the gun fail to feed. That part made the Taurus magazines, which have weak springs, faulty in this gun. But after I installed a new extractor, those magazines performed very well. However for 100 percent reliability, I rely on a special set of Wilson Combat magazines that are truly 100 percent reliable. Or at least they have been for over 600 rounds.

I also cooked up a handload that functions reliably all the time. It has slightly more energy than a .45 ACP factory load. It uses a 200-grain lead bullet instead of a 230-grain full-metal jacketed bullet and it goes faster than the heavier bullet while delivering less recoil.

Cartridge on the left is a factory-loaded 230-grain hardball .45 ACP. It launches the bullet around 830 f.p.s. On the right is my handload that pushes the 200-grain flat-nosed lead bullet out the spout around 900 f.p.s. Factory ammo costs about $85/100 right now. I reload for about $8/100. That's a huge cost savings, plus my ammo is more accurate.

Based on the bullet I like, I bought a 6-gang bullet mold so I can cast my own lead bullets from now on. That cuts me free from everything but powder and primers which I buy in bulk. I can now shoot my pistol for about $8.00/100 instead of paying $80-90/100 for factory ammo. So, I shoot a lot more. In the approximately 1,500 rounds I've shot through just this pistol, the savings have amounted to no less than $1,050, or almost double what my reloading press, bullet mold and sizing press cost--combined. An airgun analogy would be buying the best pellets by the sleeve of 10 tins. One-time high cost brings huge savings downstream.

Six-gang Lee bullet mold makes bullet production go fast. After casting, the bullets are sized and lubricated in one step.

For Christmas my wife got me a Dillon reloading press that cranks out 400 rounds an hour, so now that my load is fixed and the bullet is fixed, I'm ready to crank out thousands of rounds of ammo for this gun. And the gun is ready to accept them.

All the problems I had seem to be in the past. The Taurus now seems to be as reliable as my Wilson Combat CQB I told you about in Part 4. It's not as accurate as that custom gun, though I've learned how to hold it for the best accuracy it can give. And the difference between the $500 for the Taurus and $2,200 for a new Wilson buys a lot of anything!

I received some negative comments while telling this story. People seemed mad because I was speaking against a gun they either owned or thought a lot of. They didn't understand that I was just pointing out the flaws that I encountered with my gun in the hopes that others would see them and know what could be done. For me, this was an educational journey, but some people thought I was out to crucify Taurus. Nothing of the kind! This is a success story, but we have to examine the failures to recognize it.

In fact, now that I've seen the project through to what I hope is a successful end I don't mind telling you that when I need a .45, the Taurus always gets the nod. I trust the gun implicitly because I was there to see the transformation. No, I made the gun transform, so I know exactly what it can do and where it came from. Out of the box it had faults but today I would put it up against any other reliable semiauto.

So, what's this got to do with you and airguns? Well, for starters, how about that next airgun you buy that doesn't live up to expectations? You can trade it away or send it back if you like, but I hope this report has shown you another less-travelled path. You can take your lemon and make lemonade!

And perhaps it's time to re-evaluate some of those old closet queens that you never shoot. Maybe with the right touches, they could become your favorite airguns. That's the real point of this entire report.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Browning 800 Mag - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The big Browning is powerful, but hard to cock.

Well, I learned a lot about the Browning 800 Mag in this test. First, it is powerful, as the owners point out, though not as powerful as advertised. It has very nearly the power of a Beeman P1, which is considerable for a spring pistol. But there is no way my test pistol will ever shoot pellets at 700 f.p.s. without a detonation.

I also learned that the pistol is very hard to cock. My example registers 47 lbs. on my bathroom scale. While my test isn't entirely scientific or even that accurate, I have tested all spring rifle cocking efforts on the same scale, so it is at least a standard. A Beeman Kodiak rifle (the one made in the UK) takes 50 lbs. to cock and we say it is hard, so a pistol that takes only three pounds less is formidable. I have a feeling that as the gun breaks in the effort will diminish some, but probably not below 40 lbs.

You have to use the cocking aid that slips over the muzzle to cock this pistol. That means you cannot go anywhere without it.

During the test, the pistol was dieseling in the beginning but stopped after about 15 shots. I could tell because the gun stopped smoking after each shot and the burning smell went away. After that, the velocities dropped to a lower level, where they stabilized. I wound up with two different velocity tests on the two credible lead pellets I shot, which I'll cover with you.

Gamo Match
On the first velocity test, the 7.5-grain Gamo Match pellets averaged 546 f.p.s. with a spread from 529 to 564. But on the second try, after the dieseling stopped, the average was 450 f.p.s., with a spread from 412 to 469. Notice that the spread of the second string is still quite large, so there's some dieseling still going on. I would expect the average to decrease a little more as the gun breaks in, but I don't think it will drop below 420 f.p.s. with this pellet.

RWS Basic
The .177 caliber RWS Basic is a 7-grain pellet like the Hobby but made to sell for a little less. In velocity tests, I use them interchangeably with Hobbys. On the first test they averaged 506 f.p.s. and ranged from 484 f.p.s. to 543 f.p.s. This was the string that alerted me to the end of the dieseling, so I ran it again and got an average of 455 f.p.s. with a spread from 434 to 471. Like the Gamo Match, I think there's still some dieseling going on and I expect the average to drop a little with this pellet, as well.

Gamo Raptors
I didn't have any of the RWS Hyper MAX lead-free pellets, so I used Gamo Raptors instead. They didn't do well in this gun. The average was 456 f.p.s., with a spread from 347 to 510. Some Raptors fit the bore extremely tight while others dropped in loose, so the uniformity was an issue. The tight ones also scored the lowest velocity.

The pistol gets high marks from owners for build quality. Many of them position it against the RWS LP8 Magnum, which sells for $140 more. They like its power but many note the heavy cocking effort I mentioned. Most of them find it to be accurate, so that should prove interesting.

Well, that's it for velocity. Next stop will be accuracy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Smith & Wesson 78G and 79G - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

S&W 78G has reached the status of icon among air pistols.

Today, I'll finish the report on the .22 caliber S&W 78G, covering both velocity and accuracy. You may remember that I sent my pistol to Dave Gunter to modify it to shoot faster, and today we'll see what that means. A standard 78G shoots Crosman Premiers at around 395 f.p.s. or so. Mine goes a bit faster.

I'll also tell you how many shots I get per CO2 cartridge. I don't have a standard 78G to test for you, but I remember getting about 35 good shots per cartridge. Perhaps some readers who own the gun can tell us what they get.

I told you before that the trigger is single-stage. I measured it with a gauge, and it lets off at variable weights that range from 3 lbs., 2 oz., to 3 lbs., 10 oz. I mentioned the creep in the first report, and perhaps that's why it's so inconsistent.

Crosman Premiers
Crosman Premiers averaged 486 f.p.s., with a spread from 484 to a high of 490. The average velocity gives an energy of 7.5 foot-pounds, which is quite a bit for an air pistol. It's certainly hotter than a Beeman P1, which is considered to be a powerful pistol. In factory trim, this same gun would produce about 4.96 foot-pounds, so this is half again as powerful.

RWS Hobbys
RWS Hobbys produced 7.15 foot-pounds, which is still rather impressive.

Shot count
Now for the bad news. The pistol gets only 15 shots in a reasonable power band at this level. There are another five shots afterwards that also sound good and if you are close enough they'll hit the target. After that, you're finished. Power takes gas, and this isn't a conservative pistol. I was told of this relationship before agreeing to the modification, yet I still opted for it. I don't shoot this gun often enough that it matters, but if I did, this would not be the way to go. I wanted to see just what the gun could do wide open, which is pretty much what I got. I could back off the power adjustment screw, but I'm not going to. That would be like owning a Ferrari and removing half the spark plugs.

My 78G isn't as accurate as a modern 2240 or my Crosman Mark I. However, as powerful as it is, it has more of the firearm feel and sound when it goes off. The experience is more like shooting a .22 LR pistol.

Best group of five Hobbys at 25 feet.

... and the worst group.

I think if the trigger were a little crisper I might do better, but it's difficult to say. However, I think the comparison to the 2240 is an eye-opener. I discovered that it was more accurate while writing a large article for Shotgun News.

Final impression
Accuracy aside, the S&W 78G is a blast to own and shoot. It harkens to a time when airguns in general were made of better stuff, though the current crop of lookalikes leaves little to be desired. I think I'm right about the 78G and 79G being too close to the Mark I and Mark II Crosman for them to be anything except close cousins.

This is an air pistol to put on your short list. Fortunately, they're still affordable.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Air Venturi HaleStorm - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The Air Venturi HaleStorm is a good-looking PCP repeater that is also testing very well. We may have a major winner in this rifle!

Today, we'll look at the performance of the Air Venturi HaleStorm. When I did the velocity testing of the Hammerli Pneuma, I got energy levels from .177 Beeman Kodiaks of 23.21 foot-pounds. I also got 24 shots that I considered close enough in velocity to be called the power band. At that time, I predicted 26 foot-pounds or more in .22 caliber for the same rifle.

The HaleStorm has the same action as the Pneuma, only made into a 10-shot repeater. Therefore, I expected its power to play out as predicted. But first I needed to establish the power band of the rifle. Remembering that the Pneuma liked no more than 200 bar, I started with a fill to that level. The following is the performance curve from that fill, shooting Crosman Premier pellets.

Shot...Velocity...Pressure (bar)

*Highest velocity

The way I read this chart, the rifle likes about 165 bar as a max fill with this pellet. Using that as a starting fill and taking the shots from 13 to 36, there are 24 "good" shots on my performance curve--the same as the Pneuma. However, this curve will vary with each pellet you shoot, because heavier pellets will keep the valve open longer. They'll respond better to a slightly higher fill level of perhaps 175 bar.

The thing to do is to find that one accurate pellet and forget the others. Then develop the optimum fill pressure and total number of shots for that pellet, alone. If you want to have several good pellets so there's a fallback in case you run out someday, develop a notebook for the rifle with pressure curves for each good pellet. This kind of analysis, by the way, is a demonstration of why Matthew Quigley COULD NOT have used a different bullet in his rifle, as portrayed in the movie, unless he had such a notebook for his gun. Blackpowder shooters know this from experience, and PCP shooters should become aware of it, as well.

The point is that it would be a useless waste of air to follow the manual to the letter and fill this rifle to 200 bar every time it needed air. And knowing this, I was able to proceed with testing by filling to far less pressure. Before we move on, though, let's consider the power of the Premier in the HaleStorm. If we use 930 f.p.s. as an average (I did not do the math, but I think that's close), the rifle is putting out 27.47 foot-pounds, or pretty close to my prediction. However, with a heavier pellet the energy should go up.

Beeman Kodiaks
Beeman Kodiaks delivered an average 832 f.p.s. in the HaleStorm. The low was 826 and the high 838, but I didn't test the entire string. At that average, they develop 32.29 foot-pounds, which is way beyond my estimate. Let's hope they're accurate!

RWS Hobbys
Hobbys delivered an average 996 f.p.s. for 26.22 foot-pounds. The spread was from 989 to 1005 f.p.s., and again, I didn't explore the entire shot string.

I said in part 1 that the HaleStorm is not quite 30 foot-pounds, but this test demonstrates that it is more powerful than that. So, it's a little more powerful than the Benjamin Marauder that I compared it to. Of course, it's a lot louder!

The HaleStorm has good power and a reasonable number of shots. I can also tell you that it feeds butter-smooth. Just cock the sidelever, let it go forward and the gun's ready to go. We're two-thirds through this test, and the rifle is looking very good, indeed. We know that the Pneuma is accurate, so there's no reason this rifle shouldn't be, as well. Time will tell!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Which is better - .22 or .25? - Part 2

by B.B.Pelletier

Part 1

Today, the prosecution begins presenting evidence in its case, contending that the .22 caliber pellet is superior to the .25 caliber pellet.

Point 1
John Whiscombe, the man who hand-built spring-piston air rifles of such excellence that most authorities agree they are among the finest, if not the absolute finest, springers to ever exist, stopped making his rifles in .25 caliber because they weren't as accurate as the other three calibers. This wasn't a financial decision; it was solely based on performance. For whatever reasons, Whiscombe felt that .25 wasn't a caliber he wanted to make. You can argue that the pellets aren't up to par or the barrels are substandard or whatever, he just didn't feel that he wanted to make that caliber anymore.

At one time, the JW75 could be bought with barrels in all 4 calibers - .177, .20, .22 and .25. I bought this one, so I can compare the accuracy of a .25 to that of a .22.

I own one of his rifles, and it came to me with barrels in all four calibers. One of the things I want to do is compare group sizes shot from the .22 barrel against the .25 barrel. My tests will not be conclusive, though, because there are far too many variables to consider. I can vary the velocity the rifle shoots, as each barrel has the Harmonically Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) attached. Add that to the great numbers of pellets I would have to test--each at multiple velocities and each of those with different HOTS adjustments--and this one test could last the rest of my life!

The HOTS weight is screwed in or out and locked in position to change the location of the vibration nodes.

Nobody has ever tested all these possibilities with a Whiscombe rifle, and the best I will be able to do is point to a possible inclination toward one caliber or another. And, since I have already told you what my feelings are, there's going to be bias in my testing. I'll give .25 caliber what I feel is a fair trial. Unless a miracle happens, I don't look for it to emerge the victor.

Point 2
Whiscombe rifles are no longer being made. Even if they did come with .25 caliber barrels right until the end, John has ceased production. And, among the rest of the air rifles in the world, .22 is by far the dominant caliber over .25. So, .22 caliber rifles have hundreds and perhaps thousands of times more chances of being more accurate than .25 caliber rifles, just because they exist in far greater numbers. The odds favor them.

Point 3
The most accurate rifles were not produced in .25 caliber, generally speaking. And even when a few of them were, like Daystate and Falcon, none of those .25 caliber rifles has the reputation of being as accurate as the same gun in .22. That's a simple fact that I cannot prove, but which my research has turned up. When shooters brag about their accurate rifles, I note that the .25s they brag about are only capable of producing larger groups than the equivalent rifle in .22. For example, they may brag about a certain Sam Yang .25 as giving one-inch groups at 50 yards, but others tell of half-inch groups with the same model in .22 caliber. While this is not factual evidence, I do note that it seems fairly consistent.

Point 4
There are few good .25 caliber pellets. Several years ago, RWS offered a Diana Magnum in .25. It was a lightweight that hovered around the 20-grain mark and was a great pellet--sometimes the best in a particular rifle. That pellet is now gone from the market, though I have managed to save a few tins against the possibility of finding a straight-shooting .25 someday. I will shoot some groups for you in my Whiscombe and show you the best that rifle can do in that caliber, because the Diana Magnum was always the best pellet in it. But the same rifle in .22 shooting good pellets can do better, and an AirForce Condor or a Benjamin Marauder in .22 can out-shoot it any day of the week.

Diana Magnum pellet, left, was a great .25 caliber pellet while it lasted. It weighed in the neighborhood of 20 grains, so it was a lightweight in .25. The Beeman Kodiak at left is the best .25 pellet on the market today.

Beeman Kodiak pellets are the tops in .25 today, and that's by default. No other pellet challenges them. That said, Crosman is talking about bringing out the Premier pellet in .25 caliber. If they do and if they also make a .25 Marauder, we may see a turnaround. Crosman choked rifle barrels are fully the equivalent of the best that Daystate, Falcon and FX offer. They're as good as Lothar Walther barrels. If they decide to take both of these steps (the rifle and the pellet), the world could get its first serious .25 caliber air rifle that has a chance of keeping up with a .22.

In the next report, I'll show some groups from good .22s and the best .25 I have.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Do pellets spiral?

Today's blog comes from the November 1995 issue of The Airgun Letter.

A conversation with another airgunner triggered the start of an investigation into pellet ballistic characteristics. He said he was getting some shifting groups, left to right, at different ranges. His rifle is a TX200 shooting 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. As you will see, velocity isn't an issue (although it could be a cause).

His question prompted me to examine some targets I shot with a Daystate Huntsman. The groups I got using 7.9-grain Premiers also shifted from left to right at different ranges. Additionally, the height of the groups centers differs from the expected trajectory for that pellet at the velocity I was shooting.

I can think of two reasons for what seems to be happening. Either the wind is moving the groups or else the pellet is traveling down range in a spiral path. I ruled out the wind because of the tightness of the groups and because the wind was under 3 mph on the day they were shot. That leaves spiraling as the most likely culprit--assuming I am right in my suspicions. For the sake of discussion, let's say I'm right and the pellets are spiraling.

The only thing I can think of that would cause spiraling is an unstable (yawing) pellet that precesses around its axis in the direction of the spin. If you have ever seen a washing machine become unbalanced on the the spin cycle and hop around the floor in a certain pattern, you have witnessed the phenomenon of precession.

That bullets can precess has been known for over a century. I believe it was discovered very shortly after elongated bullets were first used in rifled barrels, years ago, I read an article in The American Rifleman about a test on the brush-bucking ability of a .30 cal. bullet. Once stability was disturbed, the bullet began to precess in the direction of twist in an ever-increasing spiral. Of course, that test is not the same thing I'm discussing here, as the instability there was induced mechanically down range by the bullet striking a broomstick rather than yaw at the muzzle. But it does show that bullets can travel in a spiral path.

Bullets (and pellets) can be made unstable by their twist. Varmint shooters are aware that thin-jacketed bullets have been known to explode in flight from the centrifugal force of their spin. And tumbling, or more probably precession coupled with pronounced yawing, is well-known from the early days of the M-16's development. I remember that a rifleman had little chance of hitting a man-sized target at 300 yards with early M16 rifles. The bullet design/twist rate combination had not been worked out correctly during that time.

With a right-hand twist, the precession spiral would be clockwise. I would also expect the spiral to enlarge as the pellet gets further from the muzzle.

I'm not too concerned about what causes this thing, if it's happening. As a shooter, I'm more concerned about not using a pellet that does it. The causes for instability/precession are too numerous to discuss in just one blog. I have, however, drawn a picture of one thing that could cause precession to start. I don't say it's happening this way, but it might. The pellet could be yawing from instability as it leaves the barrel, causing an area of low pressure to form behind the skirt, where it sticks out in the the air stream. This low pressure causes uneven drag, which starts the pellet precessing about its axis. None of this is new, of course; it has been discussed in the literature for over a century.

What may be new, or at least a rethinking of an old problem, is the ease with which an airgun pellet might be induced to precess. The drag on an airfoil increases with the square of the velocity, I believe. That's why the "sound barrier" presents such a problem to powered flight. Unless the flight surfaces are correct for transonic airflow, the increase in drag can literally tear apart an airplane.

Of course, bullets and pellets don't tear as easily as airplanes, but they are affected by the increase in a drag. If a pellet were tilted on its axis, relative to the direction of travel, the drag on it would have to be uneven and the amount of uneven drag would grow quickly as velocity increases.

Okay--so what does all this toffee-nosed drivel mean to real airgunners? It means that even if you correctly adjust your scope for trajectory, there's still a big chance you won't hit that half-inch kill-zone at 15 yards. Not because you're too high or too low, but because you are too left or too right! If you're throwing a spiral and your pellet isn't centered on the line of sight at the range you expect it to be, you could miss.

All I'm doing here is reporting on a phenomenon, which may or may not be happening. I don't know if it is. I'm speculating, based on a small observation. Others I've talked to have either seen this same thing, or they think they may have read something about it somewhere. Do you think some pellets spiral?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Haenel model V repeater

This article is from the July 1997 issue of The Airgun Letter. You'll probably never see a gun like this, so I thought I'd share a glimpse at this rare German piece.

This report is a bit different than our regular fare. That's because our subject rifle is a bit different. Not only is it an example of a scarce and highly collectible spring gun in beautiful condition (with noted exceptions)--it's also one of the oddest airguns we've encountered because of some strange customization work.

Usually, we plunge in and tell you the ballistics and accuracy and so on. That isn't going to happen this time because the rifle is incomplete, making loading a real chore. Velocity of this .22 was in the low 400s with medium pellets, which means she could stand a look inside. Either that or the strange automatic tap built under the drum magazine leaks air. It doesn't matter, though, because this one is so strange you aren't likely to take it to a field target match, anyway.

18-rd drum mag

The 18-shot drum magazine is the rifle's most unusual feature--from the factory, anyway. It's a gravity-feed mechanism that rotates by means of a pawl attached to the underlever. When the rifle is cocked, the pawl advances the next pellet to drop straight down into a rotating tap that's now vertical. Returning the underlever realigns the tap with the barrel and transfer port; and the pawl is returned to catch the next ratchet. Our rifle is missing the pawl and the spring that keeps it bearing on the rotating magazine.

The magazine is loaded through an elongated slot shown in the two o'clock position in the above left photo. It's simple to drop a pellet nose-first into this slot. Unfortunately, with the pawl missing, it's tough to advance the magazine manually, so loading our test gun was a trial! Also, the pellets must be small enough to drop freely into the tap below when it aligns itself. This was the most difficult part of testing the gun.

The Haenel logo is an arrow with the name stylistically printed inside in block letters. Seen on the end cap of this rifle, it gives a real sense of pride in manufacturing. The rifle has nearly 100% of its original blue!

Above the forearm are the words Haenel Mod. V Rep. DRP. Just forward of the magazine is the caliber: CAL. 5.5 m/m (.22)*. The asterisk means this is a rifle, not a smoothbore. Note the lack of a rear sight. These are difficult to use with the repeating drum sticking so high above the top of the barrel. Still, I believe the rifle always came with one.

The front sight is a graceful towering bead. It has to be high for the shooter to see it over that magazine. The swept-back look is illusionary, caused by the leading edge of the sight. In back, the post is straight.

This is where things start to get strange! Someone chopped into the wrist to insert a peep sight.

A Lyman peep sight on a German air rifle? Will wonders never cease? This is where the strangeness starts with this rifle. Not that it's a bad idea. A pity the Germans didn't think of it first, though, so those nasty (and crude) inlet cuts didn't have to be made on such a fine and rare rifle. Sort of like putting a coat of Varathane on the Mona Lisa. Ah--but that's just where it begins!

Not exactly an elegant job on the pistol grip!

Note the different color wood that has been frenched into the pistol grip. The original grip was smooth and rounded. Whoever did the work did such a fine job on the joint and nonstandard checkering, that it seems strange to have selected such a mismatch on the color! Almost as though they wanted it to stand out. The rifle actually looks more complete this way, but very odd at the same time.

The underside view of the grip is even more revealing--and astounding! Apparently, the person who made such a tight joint was unable to wipe off all the wood putty after he finished! Either that or the piece fell off at some point and a person of my own skill level put it back on.

Who goes to the trouble of checkering a grip like this--and then leaves a dowel so visible? A steel grip cap would have hidden this completely. Maybe, this was a gun built by a committee.

The checkering was extended to the forearm's belly.

The custom checkering wraps completely around the fore end. Although it's not a masterpiece, it does show some skill, as those surfaces are hard to work around. The curved borders are no picnic, either! I would be proud to have this person's checkering on one of my airguns.

The latch for the cocking lever.

The cocking lever latch is an easy-to-release button on front of the lever. The rifle is very smooth to cock, though not as light as the lower velocity would indicate. Also, a hiss of air rushing into the tap makes me believe that the insides are airtight, as well. That makes the lower velocity a real mystery.

It appears to be retreaded.

The best was saved for last. After all the fine custom improvements we've seen, the rifle was sent to Goodyear, where someone retreaded the butt.

Actually, we don't know if this is a genuine Goodyear custom shop part or some Japanese radial aftermarket item. It does look like it will give miles of safe shooting, though.

A Rekord...not!

No Rekord, this! The trigger is a reminder that air rifles haven't always been graced with perfect releases. There was a time when 4 lbs. was considered normal. The sear engagement is adjusted by the single screw passing through the front of the triggerguard.

Notice, also, that the triggerguard is a machined piece of steel--not a casting or a formed piece of plate. In the days of this rifle, this was the standard of excellence.

Accuracy testing with this rifle was as frustrating as chronographing it. It never got better than two inches for five shots at 10 meters. German barrels of that day were certainly capable of far better accuracy; so, again, we must suspect the kaput magazine as the culprit.

Testing and examining this rare rifle was a special treat for us. Thanks to owner Marv Freund for the opportunity.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fanner 50 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

You learned how I came by my Crosman Single-Six pellet pistol in part 1. Today, I'll tell you about the gun, and some more about the boy who owned it.

The SA-6 is a CO2 revolver from the late 1950s. At the time it came out, Crosman was stuck by a patent that prevented them from producing Powerlets the way they wanted, so instead, they were capping them with a unique bottlecap-type top that (unfortunately) leaked. In a pack of five cartridges, you could count on at least one being empty and sometimes two! That was bad news for a shooter who counted his pennies! I not only had to buy pellets, but also these cartridge things that were a crapshoot. Without them, I was dead in the water! The concept of a spring-powered airgun would have been crystal clear to me after a week of ownership, but I couldn't afford the $30 for a Webley Senior.

So, I shot carefully.

Yeah, right! It's the late 1950s, cowboy shows are No. 1 on TV and I own a cowboy six-shooter...and you want me to be careful? I didn't own a holster, but your front jeans pocket is almost as good. At least it is until you snag the front sight on the hem of the pocket as the gun is coming out during a fast-draw and you touch one off inside your pocket!

I learned to shoot carefully.

I also learned to sew jeans pockets in one quick afternoon, so my mom never found out what I had done. A week later, all I had was a nasty long scab on my thigh that I got when my bike skidded off the road (wink, wink).

My friend's name was not Weird Ted Barnhart, the name I've been using in my stories for years, but it was close to that and he was weird. Anyhow, Weird Ted talked me into going on safari in the woods behind Isley's ice cream shop on West Kent road in Stow. The creek that ran through the woods was probably as polluted as the Cuyahoga River tributary into which it emptied, and that river is the one that burned out of control for three days in the early 1950s.

Weird and I suited up with a proper kit of stuff that sort of resembled camping gear. By "sort of," I mean that neither he nor I owned anything authentic or ourdoorsy. I had a Nazi cartridge belt and a Kabar sheath knife with a broken handle, and Ted had a combination hatchet and claw nail-puller. We each had a flashlight, but neither of us had any batteries. Besides, we were going in the middle of the day. I had to be home by 4:30 to deliver my papers.

Weird had a Daisy model 177 BB pistol that he carried cocked all the time, so the velocity was something under 100 f.p.s., if the BB came out at all. That made my .22 caliber SA-6 the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum of our partnership, as my gun could leave a deep dent in the soft pine clapboard siding of a garage--don't ask me how I know.

On a warm July morning, the intrepid pathfinders melted seamlessly into the verdant marge of shagbark hickory, elm and crabapples that had probably never before felt the tread of western man. The day ripened into humidity with an overture of cicadas as we clanked along the stream (our backpacks were too large for the meager gear and canned food we toted).

After about an hour, which is four days in the world of imaginary explorers, we came upon a strange array of mounds. I climbed up on one to survey the landscape and encountered an unusual rusty round plate the size of a manhole cover. There were raised characters in a strange foreign tongue on the outside of the plate, but the rust was too thick to make any sense of them. And then it happened.

A rabbit darted out of the weeds on the other side of the six-foot-high mounded ridge! I could actually see it from where I stood, but Ted was still on the ground on the wrong side of the ridge, so he saw nothing.

At first, I was flustered beyond action, but a few seconds after the rabbit disappeared I drew my piece (carefully!) and quickly fanned six pellets in the last direction I had seen that rabbit go. "Did you get him?" Weird asked, after the din of firing died away.

"No. I didn't get him," I answered blissfully.

And then Weird exploded in a huge guffaw that lasted for minutes, "You sounded like an anti-aircraft gun on a battleship! How could you have shot so much and not gotten him? Yer a regular Fanner 50!" He said that in reference to the Mattel cap gun that was popular at that time.

It was still ten years before Vietnam would burst into the news, and we would learn about statistics like the number of rounds per casualty inflicted. I think I still had a couple thousand to go before the odds favored me for a kill, but in the late 1950s nobody knew that. The cowboys ALWAYS got their man--especially when fanning. In the immortal words of Mr. Miyagi to the Karate Kid, "No can defense!"

Ten minutes later, Weird was still laughing when we stumbled on the reason for the ridge-like mounds. They were sewer pipes and the rusty plate I had seen was in fact a manhole cover. And they all lead to the sewage treatment plant, whose fragrant aroma made identification fast and easy. The stink shut up Weird for a long time; and I thought I'd heard the last of it, it resurfaced once we were back in breathable air.

We had many other adventures along the Cuyahoga river, but my friend never let me live down the Fanner 50 incident. Ten years later, when I was an outlaw at Frontier Village in San Jose, California, I revived my fanning to cover a glacier-slow fast draw. They called me other names then, but I always thought of myself as Fanner 50 and the Crosman Single-Six that started it all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Which is better - .22 or .25? - Part 1

by B.B.Pelletier

Reader Mike posed this question last Friday:

I'm going to pose a question to everyone for the weekend. What is your favorite small bore air gun caliber and why? I'm very interested to see what people prefer.

I'm currently trying to decide between .22 and .25  for my next rifle, so advice there would also be appreciated.

Mike's question inspired me to write this blog. I felt so passionate about my answer to Mike that I thought it was worth a lengthy explanation to every reader. Before I begin, I'd like to tell everyone that I do not dislike .25 caliber airguns. I'm simply stating what I believe to be facts that support the .22 as the better airgun caliber. By "better," I mean more accurate, more usable and more practical.

Years ago, Dr. Beeman favored the .177 caliber over .22 for airguns and I challenged his opinion in a Balderdash column in The Airgun Letter. I won't get into that here, but I'm telling you this because it started me thinking about whether he was right. Can one airgun caliber really be better than another, and what does better mean? I haven't been able to stop thinking about this question for the past 15 years, which is why I feel there's a definite answer to the .22/.25 caliber question.

While studying the .177 pellet, it became clear to me that a few of the top pellet manufacturers were taking greater pains to produce some of their .177 pellets than they were taking with pellets of any other caliber. I'm referring to target pellets made for target airguns. From many past blog reports, you've learned that in the world of formal airgun target shooting, only .177 caliber is permitted. There are no real Olympic or world-class target airguns in any caliber other than .177.

You will find true target pellets only in .177 caliber, and even then not all .177 pellets with "target" in their names are actually qualified to be called target pellets. But there are special pellets like RWS R-10, H&N Match, Vogel and some others that go through extremely careful steps to ensure uniformity and precision. Head diameter, for example, is held to the hundredth of a millimeter for target pellets. But be careful. Just because there's a sticker on the outside of the tin that gives the pellet head diameter to the hundredth of a millimeter doesn't mean that all the pellets inside actually measure that width. Paper stickers are cheap; manufacturing controls that actually give you that level of precision are not.

JSB, for instance, hand-sorts many of their pellets for uniformity. I think they sort pellets just for weight, but that still adds a level of control and cost that mass-produced pellets do not have. I used to compete in 10-meter pistol matches shooting a Chinese target pellet that was hand-sorted for weight the same way, and in my target pistol that pellet out-shot everything else.

Many people think that all manufactured items are identical, but anyone who has worked in production knows different. Almost nothing that rolls off the production line is the same as anything else, unless the manufacturer takes extra steps to ensure that it is. These steps can include inspection, like the sorted JSB pellets, or higher-tolerance tools that produce to tighter specifications or any of a number of other things. They can also include attention given after the item is made, to bring it to a certain specification. That would be like lathe-turning a rifle barrel after it's rifled, to align the outside of the barrel with the axis of the bore.

Well, target .177 pellets receive such attention and as a result, they are more accurate than other pellets in any caliber. Since .177 is the only caliber permitted in airgun target shooting, only that caliber warrants such extra attention. Dr. Beeman was right in a way. However, that doesn't apply to the rest of the .177 pellets that are not made specifically for target shooting. JSB does weight-sort many of their non-target pellet styles, so there are a few other non-target pellets (such as Exacts) that have an extra margin of excellence, but this is the exception to the general practice.

If you understand what I just said, then know that good .22 caliber pellets are made just as well as the bulk of .177 pellets, so they're just as accurate. But there are no .22 caliber target pellets to compete with those special .177 target pellets I just discussed. [Yes, there are .22 caliber pellets that have the word "target" in their name or plastered on their tin, but they are not actual target pellets like I am describing here.] However, that fact doesn't eliminate .22 caliber as the sometimes-dominant pellet.

In long-range shooting, for example, where the pellet's weight matters almost as much as how well it is made, the heavier .22 is superior to the .177 of the same design. Once again, JSB weight-sorts their domed Exact pellets in .22 caliber. So, the .22 pellet is made just as well as the .177, and the extra weight of the larger-caliber pellet puts it in the leadership position for long-range shooting. For long-range accuracy, which means everything beyond about 50 yards, the .22 pellet is better than .177 if all other things are equal.

The same cannot be said for .25 caliber pellets, however, which is the crux of today's report. Twenty-five caliber, or 6.35 mm as it is known throughout most of the airgunning world, has never been as popular as .22 caliber. For every 100 .22 airguns made, there is not even one .25-caliber gun produced. In fact, I would bet the ratio isn't even one-thousand to one! I may be wrong, but I don't think by much.

Because the guns are fewer, the demand for pellets is equally low. Even lower, actually, because there is another factor that limits the number of .25 pellets made. Cost!  The .25-caliber pellet is expensive because of how much costly lead is used for each one. Airgunners, being a cost-conscious group to begin with, are very unlikely to plink with a .25. In fact, the popularity of the .177 over the .22 has more to do with the cost than with anything else.

This cost relationship doesn't always play out the way I'm describing it. At any one moment in time, you could find some .25 caliber pellets that are cheaper than .22 pellets. The reason for that anomaly could be because the slower-selling .25s were purchased at a time when the Euro was lower against the dollar than faster-selling .22 pellets purchased more recently. But over time, .25 caliber pellets do cost more than .22 caliber pellets.

However, cost isn't the major reason I say the .22 is superior to the .25. I'm more interested in performance. As a result of the lower market demand, pellet manufacturers are less inclined to put as much effort into the quality control of their .25 caliber pellets. They produce adequate pellets, but where are the weight-sorted .25s? They don't exist! There is no such thing as a JSB Exact dome in .25 caliber. The .25-caliber Beeman Kodiak made by H&N is perhaps the best all-around .25-caliber pellet, and it earns that title more by default than anything else. There are no challengers. There's no .25 caliber Crosman Premier. [This statement is true as of July 14, 2009. If yo're reading this report on a later date, things may have changed.]

Which leads me to the real reason I rate the .22 much higher than the .25--because there aren't any world-class pellets in .25 caliber! Now that I've said that, I'm prepared to defend my position. However, you'll have to wait until Part 2.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fanner 50 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This is the story of a boy who loved guns. He really loved airguns, but he wouldn't find that out for many more years to come. This is a long story, so I'll make it two parts. Even then, it will seem long. But I know this kind of stuff is right down the alley for many of you more mature airgunners, so no apologies.

When I was a boy, I owned a Benjamin 107 pistol that barely worked and I struggled to buy a B.B. gun against my mother's fears that I would break all the windows in the house. She also used the phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out," but her real concern was based in events that happened a few years before I was born. According to her, our house was terrorized by neighbor boys shooting BB guns. Apparently windows were shot out, or at least windows were threatened. All I know is my mother's retelling of the experience countless times put me off Windows for the rest of my life.

When I was 12, I got a paper route, and real money started flowing my way. I delivered the Akron Beacon Journal and pocketed close to $10 each month, so life was good. My mother finally relented, and I bought my first real BB gun--a Daisy No. 25 pump that I didn't know how to oil. In less than a week, the gun wasn't shooting, so I took it apart, couldn't fix it and sold the parts for a quarter to a kid whose father got it running again in a few hours.

After that I hated BB guns and decided that, as a man of the world, I needed a "real" airgun. I'd been drooling over the Sheridan Blue Streak for several years. My Boy's Life ran enticing ads that made me yearn for the powerful pellet rifle the way I yearn to own a Rolex Submariner wristwatch today. But the Blue Streak cost $19.95, as I recall. And I pocketed just under $10 a month. Even at 12 I could do the math and calculate that, at the rate money was coming in, it would take just over two months to accumulate enough to buy that Blue Streak. But there were two problems. The first was that even though money came IN, it never seemed to STAY. By the time the next month rolled around, all of the money was gone, and I was waiting for collection day. Perhaps you know what I mean.

The other problem was that in the 1950s, time moved much slower than it does today. A month in the '50 is equivalent to half a year in today's time. I guess it's due to inflation or something. Anyway, there was no way I was going to wait that long to get what I so desperately wanted! So, I devised a scheme.

After the next collection day, I put aside five dollars that I resolved not to spend. The impact on my life from this bold move was sudden and furious. One week into the new month I could no longer afford to buy Pepsis, comic books or candy bars. I was flat broke. Busted! This is the place in all those sappy boys' stories we used to read where a wonderful thing is supposed to happen. The hero develops resolve and matures into a young man through a heart-wrenching life struggle that seems bleak for a time but has a happy ending. It takes about 40 pages to read, but the Boxcar Children live happily ever after.

I would love to tell you that at this juncture I set my jaw firmly and made it to the end of that month with five dollars in my pocket, but it isn't true. I made it with about two dollars and the worst case of Pepsi withdrawal ever seen outside the Betty Ford clinic! And I also inaugurated our nation's first roadside cleanup campaign by picking up all the deposit bottles along Route 91 in Stow, Ohio. They never gave me credit for that, of course. I guess I should have picked up all the beer cans, too, but cans were made of steel in those days and no one wanted them.

At any rate, I made it to collection day and with the new cash influx was able to put almost $12 together. That was my stake for a real pellet gun. My mom then drove me to a discount store in Cuyahoga Falls. We didn't have Wal-Mart in those days, and I'm sure the store I visited would be an embarrassment today, but at the time it was like being in a big PX. That's short for Post Exchange, a store on Army installations where you can buy almost anything, and also slang for a shoppers' heaven.

There were three pellet guns at that store. Don't think in today's terms, where if you don't find what you want you go somewhere else. In 1958, there was nowhere else to go! At least it seemed that way to me. My choices were a Crosman Single-Action Six for $12.95, a Crosman 600 Rocket Pistol for $19.95 and a Webley Senior for $29.95.

Crosman Single-Action Six was a realistic .22 pellet revolver.
The whole cylinder revolved when the hammer was cocked.

A nice early Crosman 600 in a "rocket box."

The Webley Senior was all-steel and beautifully made. No one could miss the quality.

If I have properly established the mood for you, you can now appreciate that there was no choice at all. I had only enough money to almost cover the Single-Action Six. My mom graciously agreed to float me the difference and pay the tax, but that was as far as she would go. And then she asked me the stupidest question. "Is this what you really want?"

No, it wasn't what I really wanted. Even as a 12-year-old punk I could see the quality difference between the SA-6 and the Webley! One gun was painted potmetal with hollow plastic grips and the other was a beautifully blued steel handgun that was made in the same fashion as a fine firearm.

But you don't tell your mother that you are settling when you have worked for years to get her to say, "Yes." You don't open the floor for renegotiation! I may have been 12 and a punk, but I wasn't completely naive. So I bought the Single-Action Six.

I don't mean to slight the SA-6. Just because it was forced on me by my impecunious lifestyle doesn't detract from the gun itself. The SA-6 is a .22-caliber, CO2-powered, single-action revolver that holds 6 pellets in a full-sized rotating cylinder. It's a life-sized replica of the Colt 1873 Single-Action Army revolver that's known to the world as the cowboy gun.

The CO2 cartridge is held under the barrel, hidden by a black plastic sleeve that disguises it as a slightly larger cartridge ejector. The pellets are loaded at the front of the cylinder that revolves just like the firearm. Many other single-action pellet and BB guns came after this one, but they mostly avoided this realistic feature that made me love the gun all the more.

Next time, I'll complete the story and tell you about the "Fanner 50" title.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How a precharged pneumatic airgun works

by B.B. Pelletier

This report is specifically for Mannish, a reader from Mumbai. But I imagine we have many readers who might like to know the same things. How does a precharged pneumatic (PCP) airgun work?

First, let's describe the differences between a PCP and a multi-pump pneumatic. A multi-pump is a gun that one pumps full of compressed air before taking a shot. The compressed air is mainly stored inside the gun's firing valve. When you shoot, the valve exhausts all the air inside--if it is able.

Sometimes, we over-pump a gun, and the valve cannot open far enough or stay open long enough to exhaust all the air. That's called valve lock, but you might think of that gun as a precharged pneumatic, because we charged the rifle and then shot it more than once before charging again. After that first shot, the gun was still charged with pressurized air for another shot, so, for that shot, the gun was pre-charged. See where the name came from?

All you have to do is add a larger reservoir to this gun and you can store more compressed air. Instead of shooting just one extra shot, we might be able to get about 20 shots. And most of them will be at approximately the same velocity.

So, do we call that gun a precharged pneumatic? No, we don't. By convention, we call all guns that have air pumps attached "multi-pumps," unless they're single-stroke pneumatics, which I don't want to get into here.

Precharged pneumatics or PCPs are, by accepted convention, those guns into which pressurized air has been added from a separate device like a scuba tank or hand pump. That air is stored in a reservoir in the gun until the firing valve allows some of it to exhaust during a shot. Their valves work just like those found in multi-pump pneumatics. And, since there is too much air in the PCP reservoir for the valve to exhaust all at once, the gun gets many shots per charge.

Too much air to exhaust. How does that work?
Well, there are many factors that determine the efficiency of a firing valve, and I only want to discuss two of them. A firing valve's efficiency is controlled by the pressure in the reservoir behind the valve and by the amount of time the valve remains open. Now, I could go on for pages discussing things that control the amount of time that a firing valve remains open, because there are a lot of them. But for the sake of brevity, I will limit this discussion to just two things--the size of the valve and the strength of the hammer blow that opens it.

Size matters
If one person holds a door closed against you trying to open it, you may be able to get it open. Of course, the stronger the other person is, the harder it will be. So let's make him a five-year-old, so that most of us will be able to open the door easily. Now, if we add a second child, the door will be a little harder to open, but no sweat, right? But what if there were 15 kids holding the door shut against you? Maybe then you'd find it difficult to open?

You can probably open the door against little kids.

A lot of little kids presents a problem!

So does one big man!

But 15 kids couldn't push against a door unless it was very big. So let's say that it's now 10 feet wide. Maybe with a door that big 15 kids could all push against it at the same time. And if they could, you would have a hard time opening it.

In my analogy the kids are pressurized air. And the door is a valve. If the door is only three feet wide maybe only four or five kids could push against it at one time and you would find it easier to open than with all 15 kids pushing.

If kids run through the opening while the door is open, eventually there won't be enough kids behind the door to matter to you. You'll be able to push the door open and hold it there and they will all run out. When that happens, the size of the door ceases to matter.

As the number of kids behind the door decreases (because some are escaping every time it opens), you'll eventually get to the point that no matter how large the door, there isn't enough resistance to keep it closed against your push. That's the point at which the valve drops off the power curve, more-or-less.

More pressure!
Let's remove the kids and put people as strong as you behind that 10-foot door. It's not going to open, is it? Nope, that door is valve-locked. So, putting more pressure inside the reservoir isn't going to boost your gun's power if the valve isn't sized correctly for it.

When the Benjamin Discovery was designed, it was determined that lower air pressure (smaller kids) could do the same work, as long as enough of them made it through the firing valve. With a long barrel there was plenty of time for the lower-pressure air to push on the pellet. Sure, five-year-olds aren't very strong, but get enough of them pushing and they can do the same work as a couple of strongmen.

A bigger hammer!
The other thing we can do to change the valve's efficiency is to swap you for a real strong man to open the door. Then maybe he can open a 10-foot door with 15 kids pushing against the other side. And, we can make the room on the kids' side large enough to hold hundreds of them, so now we have a more powerful "gun." But we lose a lot more kids every time we open the door, so we don't get as many "shots." But our big "hammer" lets us open the door farther than if we used a wimpier hammer.

All we have to do is design a really big room for the kids to be in. Oh, but that makes the entire building bigger, doesn't it? Well, what if we make the door smaller and fill a smaller room with stronger people? That would work, wouldn't it? Maybe the strongman (bigger hammer) could open a three-foot door with a few grown men pushing against it. The few grown men that escaped through the door while it was open would be able to do a lot of work on the other side, wouldn't they? Maybe as much as a lot of five-year-olds. We could have a smaller room for the grown men, yet we could get a lot of powerful "shots" from them this way.

Two things that can affect our valve are its size and the time it remains open. If we change the pressure inside the reservoir, that will also change the power of the gun, but very quickly it might get to the point where the valve doesn't work very well. That's because it was designed with a different hammer strength and a different valve/door size.

A PCP works by a balancing act of the valve size, hammer strength and the pressure inside the reservoir. As long as the pressure is within the design parameters of the valve, it works well. Once it goes outside those boundaries, the valve doesn't work as well.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

H&K USP CO2 BB pistol - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

H&K's big USP BB pistol is a heavyweight.

Here is another BB pistol that copies a firearm design, only this one is branded by the manufacturer. The H&K USP BB pistol is a BB-caliber version of the firearm--not just a copy. That means if you collect H&K pistols, this one belongs in your collection.

First, I want to set the record straight. The gun says "cal. 4.5mm (.177)" on the left side of the slide and again on the magazine. That is incorrect. This is not a 4.5mm pistol--it's a BB pistol and BB is a caliber in its own right. If you measure it, it's 4.3mm, which is .173 caliber, but BB is the correct term for this caliber.

The problem is people unfamiliar with these guns will see 4.5mm and may mistakenly try to load it with pellets. Clerks at stores will be equally confused by the markings and may direct customers to the wrong ammunition. These markings need to be clarified to avoid this confusion. This is a BB gun, pure and simple.

General description
This is a CO2-powered pistol that fires in the double-action-only mode. As a quick review, DAO means that the trigger cocks the hammer before firing. The slide doesn't do it, so the trigger pull is always equally hard. Many U.S. law enforcement agencies favor DAO actions because they feel they offer added safety, since the trigger is so hard to pull. So, this BB pistol is actually a USP model with the LEM (Law Enforcement Modification), which is the DAO trigger.

This is another heavy BB pistol, so if realism is your game, this one's for you. Loaded with a CO2 cartridge but no BBs, the gun weighs 1.963 lbs. (1 lb., 15.4 oz.) or 890 grams, making it heavier than any variant of the H&K firearm it copies. Like the USP firearm, the BB pistol has a synthetic frame.

The magazine, which also contains the CO2 cartridge, does not drop free. You must press down on the release located at the rear of the triggerguard and pull out the bottom of the mag at the same time. The magazine holds 22 steel BBs. A speedloader comes packed with the gun, so loading isn't hard. Simply pull down on the follower at the front of the magazine and install the speedloader over the top of the mag. It simultaneously holds the follower down and offers a funnel for the BBs.

The Mag holds both the CO2 cartridge and the BBs. The cartridge is held in by a large synthetic plug.

Speedloader fits over the magazine, providing a funnel for the BBs. Mag holds 22.

No blowback
This is an important feature that customers want to know about. This pistol doesn't have blowback. It makes good sense not to in this case, because with DAO operation, a slide that blows back isn't doing much more than faking recoil.

The sights are non-adjustable combat sights. The front has a single white dot and the rear has two dots. Line them up horizontally on the target and put the front dot on what you expect to hit.

Besides the magazine release, the safety switch on the left rear of the pistol is the only other control that works as designed.

Safety switch is at the left rear of the slide. It can be worked by the thumb of the firing hand.

This is supposed to be a fairly fast BB gun--in the 360 f.p.s. range. That seems to be what a lot of shooters are looking for, so we shall see what this one really has to offer.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Browning 800 Mag - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

A big powerful air pistol may be just the thing to get your juices flowing.

Good morning everyone. I'm flying to New York today for another week of filming for the new TV show. I'll be back next Thursday. Edith will watch the blog, and we'd sure appreciate any help you guys can give. I will look in while I'm on the road, but I can only do that late at night and in the morning.

I saw the Browning 800 Mag at the 2009 SHOT Show and told you it was coming. It already has several product reviews on the Pyramyd Air website, so they have been selling for a while.

Let's first consider the specifications. This .177 pistol is claimed to attain 700 f.p.s., which is very fast for a spring-air pistol. I will test it with Gamo Raptors and some Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoints I've been saving for this occasion. I don't expect it to go that fast with lead pellets, but it should be able to produce some remarkable velocities compared to other spring-piston air pistols. The manual recommends the use of lead pellets, only, so I will confine my testing with these non-lead pellets to velocity, only. Of course, I'll also test the pistol with RWS Hobbys.

The gun comes only in .177 at this time. But as powerful as it is, I would imagine it coming out in .22 some time in the future.

The pistol has an anti-recoil power system. Although the owner's manual doesn't explain what it is, it seems to be a sledge-type action in which the action of the gun moves in the grip when the gun fires. I tried the pistol a few times just to see the effect. What's felt by the shooter is a pulse without a harsh recoil. I wouldn't say that all the recoil is gone, but most of it seems to be.

Upon closer examination, I see that this isn't just a simple sledge system after all. Apparently with this system the action is allowed to float back and forth on rails as the recoil is tamed instead of moving to one position and locking up. It's unique in my experience.

The grip on this pistol is like the stock on a rifle, in that it entirely contains the action, along with those rails I mentioned. It's made of a dark black are the trigger, rear sight base (but not the front) and separate cocking aid.

The safety is automatic and must be pressed forward to take it off before firing. The trigger is adjustable for the length of the first-stage pull.

The rear sight adjusts in both directions and both front and rear are fiberoptic. I like the fact that the rear sight is clearly marked with directions for adjustments. There's also an 11mm scope rail on top of the receiver, but it lacks a recoil stop. Perhaps with the recoil damping, it isn't required.

This is a large air pistol, make no mistake. Though the pistol grip is sized well for an average adult hand, the big gun weighs just under 4 lbs., which is heavy for most shooters. However, the weight will help with stability.

The manual says the cocking effort is 32 lbs., and I checked that on my bathroom scale. Our test pistol requires 45-50 lbs. with the cocking aid being used. The first few cocks took 60 lbs., so it may decrease as the gun breaks in. I'll test it again in Part 3 of this report.

One of the customer reviews praises the gun for its accuracy, so I have my work cut out for me. However, another customer asked if Browning would please put a metal receiver on the gun--yet the one on it right now is made of steel! I think he was confused by the large synthetic grip unit.

Essentially, the Browning 800 Mag is a small breakbarrel pellet rifle in a pistol stock. So, we may see some surprises as we test it!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Crosman's new Nitro Piston Short Stroke - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

This .22 NPSS finished well in the accuracy test.

Part 1
Part 2

Well, the results are in! The Crosman Nitro Piston Short Stroke is a winner! But there are some things you need to know.

First, The scope we all wondered about performed fine. It proved to be clear, sharp and easy to adjust. I shot at 25 yards and the scope bisected the bullseye very clearly. I don't think you need to upgrade from this glass.

I didn't appreciate the one-piece mount packed with the rifle, though. It forced me to position the scope slightly too far forward for benchrest shooting. It probably makes good sales sense, because so many people find one-piece mounts easier to install than two-piece mounts. I don't look for Crosman to change their strategy. And for offhand shooting this mount is fine.

A reader named Jay mentioned that this rifle is sensitive to hold, and he posted a link to a forum where he posted a lengthy report on his attempts to overcome the hold sensitivity. Jay shoots a .177 and I'm testing a .22, so of course we cannot compare things exactly, but I do agree with his observation that the NPSS is hold-sensitive. However, it is only sensitive in one way, I discovered, and the rifle will shoot very well if you overcome this issue.

The artillery hold has a component that I don't normally discuss, but which with some guns like the NPSS is very critical. That is something I will call "hold deadness." What it means is the tendency of the rifle to move when you relax your hold.

I discussed this in great detail in the R1 book. I said that after you align the sights on the target, you should close your eyes and relax. When you open your eyes again, the crosshairs should still be on target. If they aren't, a shot from that hold will be thrown in the direction the scope or sights move when you relax. Most rifles are not this sensitive, but when you have trouble getting one to shoot, try this and see what happens.

The simple name for this procedure is follow-through, only I've never seen or heard anyone explain it this way. The usual explanation for follow-through is that you don't move the gun after the shot. But true follow-through requires a gun that cannot move because the hold is completely neutral. Few shooters know that and fewer still practice it because it takes a lot of discipline. But that's what you have to do to allow the Crosman NPSS to group. That and the right pellets, of course.

A word about the test
This test is to judge the accuracy potential of the rifle. I don't want the pellets to hit the target where I aim because they will soon make it difficult to acquire the target when it's blown away. So, I'll purposely not let the pellets hit near the center of a bullseye. Once the're impacting in a safe place, I will start the group and run it for 20 shots. The size of the group and the number of flyers will tell us how accurate the rifle is.

Sight-in was fast and quick. The scope was on-target at 25 yards after a single shot at 10 feet. Of course, more fine adjustment was required, but at least it was on the target paper.

Crosman Premiers
Crosman Premiers are not the right pellets! The groups they shot resembled shotgun patterns at 25 yards. And no amount of follow-through made any difference. The group was over three inches in size after seven shots, so I stopped shooting.

Air Arms domes
Air Arms domes were a different story. They grouped very well!

Twenty Air Arms domes grouped relatively well at 25 yards. The shots that appear to be flyers are mainly caused by improper follow-through.

RWS Hobbys
Because they did well in velocity testing, I decided to try RWS Hobby pellets in the accuracy test as well. They did not disappoint.

RWS Hobbys also grouped well for 20 shots. The two that appear to be flyers were definitely caused by a lack of follow-through, but I had better form for more of the shots on this target than on the other. Hobbys just don't group quite as tight as Air Arms domes.

Crosman's Nitro Piston Short Stroke is a winning combination spring-piston airgun. The gas spring is very quiet, the rifle has good power and, as we see in today's report, it's also very accurate. The trigger is quite pleasant and the scope is a keeper. Just keep in mind that the cocking effort of this rifle is on the high side. This is one for adults and for those who don't mind using their muscles.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gamo Extreme CO2 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today, I'll test the velocity of the Gamo Extreme CO2. Remember, this is a .22 caliber repeater, and Gamo lists it as a 700 f.p.s. gun. Of course, that velocity represents the fastest they expect it to go, and it will only do that with lightweight pellets.

I installed the 88-gram CO2 cartridge with no problem except the room to grasp the cartridge is small. So, I found myself turning it in small increments. Naturally I put three drops of Crosman Pellgunoil on the spot where the cartridge would bear when screwed in, so the oil would be blown all around the inside of the valve.

To load the 10-shot clip, you first pull the sliding forearm all the way back. Then, a second lever on the right side of the receiver is retracted. The clip can then be picked out of its notch in the right side of the receiver.

The 10-shot clip fits in a notch in the right side of the receiver. Pull the sliding forearm back and pull back the button behind the clip that says PRESS.

The clip is easy to load. An o-ring around the outside keeps all the pellets in place.

The sliding forearm operates this slide-action repeater, or "pump gun," to use the slang term. The only other gun I have to compare this one to is the .22-caliber Shark from Argentina. That rifle is relatively hard to pump, while this one is quite easy by comparison. You cannot hold the trigger down and work the action, because the mechanism is not designed to work that way. But it's still a very fast repeater.

Crosman Premiers
Crosman Premiers weigh 14.3 grains in .22 caliber, which is a medium weight for a .22. In the Extreme CO2, they averaged 630 f.p.s. with a high of 650 and a low of 599. The average speed produces a muzzle energy of 12.61 foot-pounds.

The trigger-pull is two-stage, but the start of stage two is quite vague. You really have to feel for the second-stage pause. The one I'm testing varies between 5 lbs., 2 oz., and 5 lbs., 9 oz.

The trigger is two-stage and heavy, at 5.5 lbs. average. The safety is manual.

RWS Hobbys
RWS Hobbys, at 11.9 grains, are the lightest lead pellets available, so I try to use them for the velocity testing of most airguns. In the Extreme CO2 they averaged 655 f.p.s. with a spread from 646 to 667. At the average velocity, they're churning out 11.34 foot-pounds. We know from experience that light pellets don't usually produce as much energy as heavier pellets in gas and pneumatic guns. So, I'll also shoot a heavyweight pellet at the end of this test to demonstrate that pattern.

Gamo Hunters
Gamo Hunter pellets weigh 15.3 grains and are a pure lead pellet, as opposed to the hard alloy Crosman Premier. They averaged 626 f.p.s. in the Extreme CO2 and the spread went from 616 up to 634. At the average speed, they're cranking out 13.32 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Super heavyweight pellets
For this test I used some obsolete RWS Ultra Mags I had on hand. They weigh 28 grains and just barely fit in the clip. I could feel them bumping around as I worked the sliding forearm. They averaged 500 f.p.s., with a large spread from 464 to 513. The average speed gives an energy of 15.55 foot-pounds at the muzzle. So, the relationship of weight to efficiency in gas guns has been demonstrated. Not velocity, you understand, just power.

Three times during testing the forearm came off the gun when I slid it forward. I think the cause was that I had one of the dismounting buttons depressed with my hand, but they're in a natural place for my hands to hold, so I have to guard against doing that.

The bottom line at this point is that the rifle has demonstrated the advertised power. Yes, it didn't quite get to 700 f.p.s., but with non-lead pellets it would so so quite easily. I know there are those who are watching to see how this rifle stacks up against the Hammerli 850 AirMagnum, so this is your first indication.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Smith & Wesson 78G and 79G - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I know I've mentioned these pistols before, but I cannot find any report on them. The other day, I wanted to send a link to a reader who asked about them, and was surprised to see I hadn't done a full report. Then, before I could even say that in a reply, several other readers chimed in to mention they love their pistols as well. So, I knew I had to do this one.

This is part one, and I will try to finish in part two, so velocity and accuracy will be in the same report. I have a 78G today, but I've owned several of these in both calibers over the years. The 79G is the .177. They used to show up at airgun shows new in the box for $100, which is where my first one came from. And that one was different from the norm, so I'd like to mention the differences now.

That 78G was a very early one--made in Springfield, Mass., before S&W moved production of the pistol to Tampa, Fla. Production lasted from 1970 to 1978, according to S&W historian, Roy Jenks. The Blue Book of Airguns differs just a little. The box and literature is where you will see the different addresses. All the guns say Springfield, I believe.

The early guns had some distinctive points. First, they were finished matte black. Later guns had a shiny black paint. Second, the early guns have an adjustable trigger. Reader Twotalon was kind enough to forward pictures of his gun so you can see these things.

Twotalon's early 78G has a matte finish.

Early 78G and 79G pistols have an adjustable trigger.

The other feature those early guns had was one I reported in Airgun Revue 3 but caught considerable flack for it. They had two stages of power--controlled when the gun was cocked. Stop at the first click for low power. Two clicks were high power--the same as for the Crosman Mark I and II pistols, which the S&W pistols functionally resemble more than a little. People told me their guns had only one power level, and I must be mistaken. Well, I no longer owned an early pistol when I wrote that report, so I figured I had made a mistake, but Twotalon reported yesterday that his early pistol does have two power levels. So, the early guns have it and the later guns, which are the most numerous, do not.

Pull the two triangular knobs forward (left) to cock the gun.

All the guns have adjustable power. A screw under the barrel at the front of the gun controls the tension on the hammer spring and can move the power up or down by screwing in or out.

The power adjustment screw is under the barrel.

My current 78G is one that the former owner had to repair. He did a wonderful job, fixing the loading bolt lock on a potmetal gun. It wasn't holding gas when I got it, so I sent it off to Dave Gunter, a custom airgunsmith in Oregon. Dave specializes in power tunes for CO2 guns and pneumatics. Where a normal 78G might get 390 f.p.s. with a .22-caliber Crosman Premier on high power and 290 on low, my gun now gets over 500 f.p.s. Or at least that's what it got when I first tested it years ago. We shall see!

Dave does some non-standard things when he tunes one of these pistols. One thing he does is thin the bolt probe for better gas flow. His full-time job is setting up racing engines for performance sports cars, so efficient gas flow is something he knows well. You can contact Dave here.

With the bolt back for loading, you can see how Dave Gunter thinned the bolt probe for better gas flow. This is just the loading bolt. It doesn't cock the gun.

The 78G is the .22 caliber version and the 79G is the .177. After S&W stopped production, they sold the tooling to Daisy. They continued making the guns for several years as models 780 and 790. Their triggers were much worse than even the later Smith pistols. Later, Daisy changed the designation to model 41 and further cheapened the gun in every imaginable way.

Physical description
The 78G is a very realistic copy of the S&W model 41 target pistol in .22 rimfire caliber. The weight and dimensions are very close, with the air pistol's 43.5 oz. being slightly heavier than the rimfire pistol's 42 oz. with the 7.5" barrel. The external dimensions are very close, and the wood grips on the firearm are faithfully reproduced in plastic on the airgun. But it's the realistic kind of plastic that fools people!

My current pistol came in a factory box with five S&W powerlets and a tin of 250 pellets. This is the most common presentation I have seen of this pistol in the years I've been in airgunning. At some airguns shows, I've seen 50 of these boxes stacked up at a show awaiting a sale. Today, though, people are starting to pay good money for one, even without the box and papers.

This is how it came from the factory.

The trigger on this example is a single stage with some creep, but it's not too bad. Many of my firearm handguns are not as nice. And I will report on accuracy next time, but I know from past experience that this is an accurate airgun. There's more to come!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Knowing what to do - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before we begin, Pyramyd Air is running a new video contest.

Well, the last time I wrote on this subject I failed to take into account the television schedule that has me running all the time. So, I haven't done anything yet with the two Czech rifles I talked about last time. They're still on hold, so I'll keep the series alive with other nuggets of airgun information.

Starting with pneumatics
Remember the rule of keeping a pump of air in every pneumatic rifle? About 0.05 percent of the airgunners know to do that--maybe less. So, it isn't getting done. Consequently, most vintage pneumatics you encounter are suspect as leakers. But not all of them leak.

A Crosman model 101 may not leak, but it also may not shoot. That's because its owner has overpumped it beyond the point of valve lock and doesn't know what's going on. The gun will never shoot, but every so often he puts in another pump, just to see if it has healed.

A rifle like that needs to be partially disassembled and the valve stem needs to be rapped with a hammer to exhaust the excess air. It's a common fix, but only to those who know airguns.

And on the 101, I unscrew the hammer weight, which is at the back of the gun, to keep pressure off the valve stem. My gun holds a pump of air for years at a time.

A Sheridan Supergrade (officially called Model A) will not pump from empty unless you cock it first. To store this rifle with air, you must cock it first, then pump, then ride the bolt down slowly so the hammer doesn't hit the valve stem.

Many people have seen CO2 leave a vapor trail from the muzzle on a warm day, but pneumatics can do it, too.

And then CO2
A Walther PPK/S may lose its charge over a period of two weeks. But if you put several drops of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of the next cartridge you pierce, it may hold for the next 12 months.

Vintage CO2 o-rings may swell in the presence of CO2 gas. They will look huge and the end caps are difficult to remove right after a fill or when the cartridge is exhausted. You can tear a vintage o-ring by being too aggressive when it's swollen this way. That corrects itself in a few hours, and they'll be back to normal in all ways.

Many barrels on CO2 guns are brass to avoid corrosion when the chilled gas condenses water vapor while shooting. You don't have to do anything about them. No cleaning. In fact, they're easy to damage when being cleaned.

Don't leave CO2 guns or tanks in a hot car in the summer. They can build pressure to dangerous levels and blow up, damaging the car.

Spring forward
The stroke length of a spring-piston gun is important to its power. Stronger springs often don't increase power, while guns with long strokes are difficult to tune down.

Oiling a mainspring is an infrequent job. Most spring guns never need it. If the coils bunch and spring during cocking, the mainspring may need some oil. Spring gun oil is good for this. Silicone chamber oil isn't good because it's too thin to protect the inside of the powerplant from galling (metal-to-metal scraping).

Oil a gun with a leather piston seal every month or 500 shots, whichever comes first. Oil a gun with a synthetic piston seal every 3,000 shots or whenever the piston honks like a goose when the gun is cocked.

Cleaning your airguns
The barrel is the part most people want to clean, and it isn't required most of the time. As long as the gun shoots accurately, leave the barrel alone.

Wipe outside blued steel parts with Sheath or Barracade or something that neutralizes fingerprints. When a gun gets wet, be sure to wipe it dry before storing it.

A cloth impregnated with silicone is good for wiping metal parts.

"We have met the enemy, and it is us!"
The following is made-up, but based on things I have actually witnessed over the years.

Sharky is hot for a Flabbengaster 190W from all he has heard on the internet. So, he springs for one.

His initial report:

I bought the Flabbengaster 190 from Plumbum Pushers, and I had it drop-shipped to Idaho Ike whose tunes everyone says are the best. I wanted screamin' power, so I had him put in the Red-Butt Baboon seal with the Kooky Kangaroo mainspring. Based on the advice of Dreadful Doug on this forum, I had him clip three coils off the spring and install a stack of five power washers. I also opted for Snail Snot on the mainspring.

When Ike finished, I had him send the rifle to Robert Bobbet to have the barrel cut back to 10 inches. Then I had him silver-solder one of his Hush-A-Boom moderators on the end, so the gun will be super-quiet. I live in an apartment, and I set up field targets next to the dumpster in the parking lot. I live on the third floor and shoot out my bathroom window, so I rigged a remote control reset for the targets, because I don't want my neighbors seeing the reset string.

Report number two:

This thing is a bear to cock! How do you guys do it? I figured the 19-inch factory barrel was overkill and that the three-inch can I installed would make up for it, but it doesn't. Also, the trigger is way too stiff, so I disassembled it to stone all the surfaces and put moly on everything. Now I can't get the gun to close without firing unless I block the safety lever with my finger, so that's how I shoot it. I put my finger between the trigger and the safety lever and just slip it out when I want to shoot.

By the way, my Red Star scope is shifting something bad! Any recommendations?

Post three:

This Flabbengaster 190 is a P*S! I don't see what all the good reports are about. Mine didn't shoot from the start! I'll sell it with a Red Star scope for $100, shipped.

Poor Sharky never even shot a Flabbengaster 190, did he? He shot a butchered mess that he created and then sold when it didn't work.

Like I said, I've seen every one of those things before. Just not all on one gun.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Gamo Extreme CO2 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

As I go through all the airguns on hand and get ready to report on new ones, you readers are generally ahead of me, urging me to test this one and that one. I thought I was going to surprise you with the Gamo Extreme CO2, but just yesterday, Dallas from Australia asked for it. How strange, because it was slated for today a week ago.

How many of you remember that Gamo had a CO2 rifle back in the 1990s? The G1200 was a pump-action (slide action, actually) repeater powered by 12-gram CO2 cartridges. The Blue Book of Airguns has precious little information on that rifle, but I was around when it was new. I don't know how well it sold here in the U.S., but the advertised velocity in .177 was 560 f.p.s., which is pretty reasonable. I would expect a velocity of not above 620 f.p.s. from a hot .177 CO2 rifle with any size cartridge or reservoir. But the Extreme CO2 is not a .177. It's a .22! So I find Gamo's claim of 700 f.p.s. to be extremely interesting. I will be certain to explore it for you.

Of course, it's summer now and CO2 guns are summer guns, so this is an appropriate rifle to test and use. The Extreme CO2 uses an 88-gram cartridge that gives the rifle the potential for a great number of shots. They will not be more powerful than those from a 12-gram cartridge, of course, because the size of the container has no bearing on the pressure of the gas. But this is a plinking gun and more gas is very desirable for lots of continuous shooting.

This "thousand-word" picture shows where the 88-gram gas cartridge goes, which is under the sliding forearm. The long, sloped rear sight is also visible.

This is a repeater, too, and not just a repeater--it's a slide-action repeater or what is best known in the firearms world as a pump gun. I use that term with care because I find that it confuses new airgunners, who equate the word pump with a multi-pump pneumatic. The Extreme CO2 runs on CO2, only. The term pump in this case refers to how the circular clip is advanced and how the rifle is cocked. The synthetic forearm slides straight backward, advancing the clip and cocking the hammer. Then it returns forward again in preparation for the shot. Once you get accustomed to the movement of the forearm, a pump gun is almost as fast to shoot as a semiautomatic.

Okay, 700 f.p.s. and .22 caliber. What does that tell you about the sound? This rifle will be LOUD, make no mistake. It has to be, with that volume of gas being exhausted from the muzzle. Even if it doesn't reach 700, it's still clear that Gamo intends for this to be a powerful rifle--and power in a gas gun means noise, as a rule.

This is a 10-shot repeater and comes with two rotary clips. To load, you have to pull the forearm back, then pull back on a locking lever to unlock the clip.

The forearm removes by pressing two buttons--one on either side, and pulling it straight forward and off the gun. It must be removed to install an 88-gram CO2 cartridge. Both the forearm and the piece it attaches to that remains on the gun are made of plastic. I will watch them both for signs of stress, because they operate the action. The safety is a crossblock type that runs through the bottom forward part of the triggerguard.

Most of what you touch on the gun--butt, forearm, barrel casing--is plastic. But the receiver is annodized aluminum with a black finish over a heavily bead-blasted surface. Therefore, the Extreme CO2 is not a light airgun. It is both large and heavy--at least for a CO2 rifle. The length of 43.3" overall and weight of 7.7 lbs. don't convey the sense of largeness felt when the rifle is in your hands. The CO2 cartridge and scope that come with the gun boost the weight to over 9 lbs.

The stock is fully ambidextrous, and so, of course, is the pump action. Lefties should really enjoy this one. The synthetic stock is hollow, so many of you will want to fill it with foam to deaden any vibration.

The open sights are quite unique. The front is a red fiberoptic bead, which is not uncommon, but the rear is a long, sloped ramp with a yellow arrow to align with the front. It looks like it will be quick to acquire. Of course the scope that comes with the rifle will probably be mounted in the preponderance of cases. It's a 3-9x40 scope that appears clear enough after the first examination. It comes with a one-piece mount already on the scope, so all you have to do is clamp it to the receiver dovetail.

The rear sight is a long, gentle slope. The yellow arrow points to the red bead front sight when you sight over the receiver. It looks like a landing pattern when you see it in person!

This has been a boom year for new airguns, and this would appear to be one more to add to the mix. Of course, we have to test it to be sure, but I like this rifle already--just from the feel.