Friday, October 30, 2009

Healthways Plainsman BB gun - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I wanted to title this report Americana, because that's what it really is. But when someone on the internet wants to research their gun, the model is the only thing they are interested in. Make no mistake, though--the Healthways Plainsman is Americana, as much as Dad's Root Beer and Buster Brown shoes.

Unlike the Daisy Red Ryder that everyone knows by name, the Healthways Plainsman is the BB pistol that almost everybody knows on sight, without knowing what it is. It's about as ubiquitous as the Marksman 1010 BB pistol, but most of you may have to think about it for awhile. And showing you a period ad may stimulate your memories.

A Plainsman ad from 1965. They called the gun semiautomatic because you just keep pulling the trigger to fire. Actually it's double-action.

I DID NOT go to Roanoke to buy a Plainsman! In fact, I have assiduously avoided the Plainsman for the past 20 years. Before that, I wasn't a writer, so my avoidance was private and didn't count. I have blogged Chinese spring guns. I have blogged Marksman BB pistols. I have even blogged Wamo cap-firing BB guns that have less power than thrown BBs. So, why was I avoiding the Plainsman? No good reason. I just was.

In fact, this is a great little BB gun that I actually shot in my youth. My favorite relative was Uncle Don. He was a man's man. Whenever we got together, he got out his guns and let me shoot. One summer I spent a couple weeks with him and Aunt Gert on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. There, he introduced me to his Plainsman. It shot fast and hard--two things a 12-year-old boy likes. I went through so much of his CO2 that he had to put the brakes on and get me fishing to slow me down.

But I never owned one of these pistols myself; and when the time came to get airguns, I went other ways. In this report, I want to discover what I missed--right along with you.

I stumbled across this pistol on Mike Ahuna's table at the Roanoke airgun show last weekend. It was in the box and included an owner's manual, sales receipt (without the year of sale, unfortunately) and several other papers associated with both the gun and with Numrich Arms (the former name of Gun Parts Corporation), where it was sold. I've seen plenty of other boxed Plainsmans--there was even one at this show--but the condition of this box and papers caught my attention. The gun sang to me!

The Plainsman box looks like a big smile to me. It looks happy, and it makes me feel happy to look at it.

The timeframe
I've found ads for the Plainsman pistol as early as 1960 and as late as 1969. With just a quick check, let's assume I missed some and extend that by a couple years on both ends. The owner's manual that came with the gun is dated 1957, which may be the first year of release. The earliest price I've seen in 1960 is $14.95.

On the late end of the run, there would have been new-old-stock guns for sale for several years after they stopped making them, so they no doubt were sold well into the 1970s. But companies like Daisy were putting pressure on the market with newer guns made of plastic and having the same features and more modern profiles. The final price I saw in 1969 was $18.95.

Pat Pending must have been a prolific airgun designer, because we see his name on so many guns from the 1950s and '60s. Seriously, that was a dodge used by many companies to avoid the costly fees and time spent in getting patents. Many of the guns that say Pat. Pending have nothing patentable in them. I'm not saying that's the case for the Plainsman, but I sure am hinting at it!

The pistol is all metal with plastic grips. It resembles a Colt Woodsman in shape, though its grip is larger than a Woodsman grip. The trigger works with or without CO2 in the gun and has a smooth, light two-stage pull, though stage two is somewhat long. The gun weighs 29.3 oz. The smoothbore barrel is six inches long.

Plainsman on top and Colt Woodsman on the bottom. The Plainsman is a little beefier than the firearm.

The Plainsman uses 8-gram CO2 cartridges instead of the 12-gram cartridges of today. In its day, more guns used the smaller cartridge, so it didn't seem so strange. Today, however, you can buy these vintage small cartridges here at Pyramyd Air, so there's no reason not to shoot your vintage gun.

Adjustable power
The Plainsman comes with adjustable power. There are three power settings. A coin-operated screw at the bottom of the grip selects each setting, and the detents are stiff enough that there's no question where you are. Healthways didn't use velocity figures for their gun because at this time nobody had access to a chronograph. So, they stated power by what a BB would do to a tin can. Remember, when this gun was made, tin cans were actually made of steel. Don't confuse them with the soft soda cans of today. Think more of a stout soup can or a coffee can. On low power, where you got up to 100 shots, a BB would dent one side of a can at 15 feet. On medium power, you got 55 shots and the BB would deeply dent or pierce one side of a tin can at 15 feet. On high power, you got about 45 shots, and a BB would almost go through both sides of a tin coffee can at 15 feet.

Turn the screw at the top to the left (located at the bottom rear of the pistol grip) with a coin to increase power. There are three settings.

Healthways claimed an accuracy of 50 shots through a one-inch group (they say pattern in the manual) at 25 feet. That seems reasonable, and places it among the most accurate BB guns. I've seen accuracy like that from the Umarex Makarov, so I know it's possible.

The barrel is a thin steel tube, but it's encased in a metal housing that looks more substantial. In fact, everything about this gun looks and feels substantial.

When I researched this pistol, I learned that Healthways put out many different models. This pistol, for example, has a rifled counterpart that looks the same but uses nickelplated lead balls for ammo. And there's a single-action western model I admit to never having seen before, though I might have seen one and thought it was something else. It, too, had a rifled-barrel counterpart that shot lead balls. Finally, there's the Topscore spring-piston model that's fairly well-known, though I admit that I never shot one.

Healthways also offered this Western-style revolver at the same time as the Plainsman.

Lift this gate and drop 100 BBs into the gun. Feeding is handled by the mechanism inside.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crosman 114 - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, I'm back, and today I'll resume testing the Crosman 114, but before I do I must comment on how relaxed I was at this year's Roanoke show. Taking three days to drive there and three to drive back made all the difference in the world. I got home without being exhausted. Maybe this gallbladder diet is beginning to work its magic.

Part 1
Part 2

Crosman's 114 is what little boys' dreams are made of. Read this report to learn just how true that is!

114 Man
I know I told you the story of the man at the show who discovered that he wasn't alone in owning a Crosman 114. I spoke to him at the Roanoke show, and, if I was persuasive enough, he is now reading this blog. I hope so, because the look in his eye when he discovered the world of airguns was priceless. I've been in the same position as he was several times, and I know what a joy it can be to finally connect with the right people over an area of common interest. So, 114 Man, I hope you're now with us. This is your gun.

I also must comment that I didn't see a 114 or a 113 at Roanoke this year. There might have been one, or even more than one, but I was looking and didn't see any.

What do we know about the 114?
We know the gun runs on CO2, and I will tell you now that it has a 22-inch, .22-caliber brass barrel. So, expect 14.3-grain Crosman Premiers to go in the range of 575 f.p.s. to 610 f.p.s., if the rifle has a factory tune. That would be at 70 deg., F. My office temp was 80 degrees when I did the velocity test for you, so I'll get right to the Premiers.

I knew from the first shot that something was wrong with the rifle. There was a tremendous outgassing at the breech every time the rifle fired--something these rifles and pistols never do when they're working right. The blast of gas told me the gun has a serious leak in the firing system, which was evident in two different ways as I shot the Crosman Premier pellets. First, the average velocity was only 536 f.p.s.--well below what I expected to see. Second, the velocity dropped with almost every shot--something that does not happen with CO2 at 80 degrees. Look at the shot string below:


This isn't typical of a filled CO2 gun that gets 70 shots per fill. Something's wrong, and the blast of gas coming from around the action is a clear indication that repairs are in order.

RWS Superpoints
I started to shoot a string of RWS Superpoints, but stopped after just four shots. Look at the velocity:


If this were a PCP, I would think it had dropped off the power curve, but CO2 guns don't drop off like this until the end, when their liquid runs out. That should be after at least 50 good shots, if not more. Certainly not after the first five!

So, my 114 needs some attention. Maybe if it were made modular, like the 2260, I might even tackle the repairs myself, but it's not. It's all integrated into a whole, so I think I will send it off to a repair station. Only the metal action has to go, so the package can be small and light. I just have to exhaust all the CO2 before I pack it.

I could check accuracy now, but with the wide velocity variation, I don't think we would be doing the rifle any favors. I know this hasn't gone the normal way of a blog report, but sometimes this is what happens--especially with vintage airguns. We'll stay on top of it and see how it comes out on the other side.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shooting the breeze - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Just a reminder that the "Shooting the breeze" series is meant as humor. I made up everything just to entertain you. All names, businesses and locations are fictitious. Enjoy!

August 1995
Paper moon
The Billabong Air Gun Company announced today a departure from wasteful manufacturing practices of the past. After years-long search for a less costly material to replace the expensive synthetics and plastics now used in airguns, the company believes they have found at least a partial answer in paper. That's right--paper!

Billabong production engineers propose to begin manufacture of a brand new design of CO2 rifle targeted at their brisk discount store trade. Many of the structural components will be made from a proprietary paper-based product that company researches say is as strong and workable as plastic. Parts like valve bodies and receivers, once made of costly resin-based materials, can now be fabricated from what is essentially a modern derivative of that old grade-school favorite--paper mache. Where additional strength is required, the parts will be lined with inexpensive stamped foil sleeves and reinforcements; but the structural members will be entirely comprised of the remarkable new cellulose material. "Our new paper buttstocks are virtually indistinguishable from genuine plastic," company officials reported. "They even warp and separate in warm weather--just like the real thing! Kids won't be able to tell the difference."

Billabong President Harleigh Werthit said that the new material solves another problem the company has long struggled with--obsolescence. The new gun, when abandoned for a month in the back yard by young owners, rapidly assumes the appearance of the environment, leaving only the tiniest handful of non-bio-degradable parts to mark its one-time existence. One pass with a lawnmower and the gun is history. He concluded, "Billabong is committed to making concerns about quality a thing of the past."

October 1995
Phargone's aural chronograph
How many of you determine your airgun's velocity by the sound of the shot? This is a very common practice among airgunners, because it eliminates the need for an expensive chronograph that nobody knows how to use, anyway.

Professor Elvis B. Phargone has just released a CD of typical airgun shot sounds accompanied by a table of corresponding velocities. Now, you can fine-tune your ears to real precision.

"The human ear can distinguish velocity differences as small as 25 f.p.s.," noted the famous researcher from his Breakwynd, Indiana, laboratory. "With my CD a-helpin' them, they'll be able to get it down to 10. I personally calibrated each shot with my own ears, which are especially sensitive. I never had a chrono 'cause I don't need one.

Included on the new release are Phargone's back-door-to-hickory-tree velocity tables, his "hiss-bang" CO2 pressure gauge and a new method he calls the "garbage can" system. "You'd be surprised how good you can tell sounds when your head is stuck halfway down an empty metal can."

When questioned about the accuracy of aural chronographing, professor Phargone replied, "Heck, it's no big deal. Doctors have been putting thermometers there for years."

December 1995
How to turn your valuable firearms into quality pellet guns in four easy steps!
Did you know that you may have a valuable air rifle lurking in your gun collection? Elvis B. Phargone tells our readers that almost every quality-made .22 rifle can easily be turned into an accurate pellet shooter with just a little diligent work.

"I take a Winchester model 63 automatic, and I make an insert for the breech to hold a shotgun primer. All I have to do is insert a pellet up the barrel, slide in the insert with a fresh primer, close the action and shoot. The whole operation takes less than a minute, and I get real good power from the pellet, too. With hot primers, I can get a .22 Crosman Premier pellet goin' 475 f.p.s. with no sweat.

"Of course, getting the insert out of the breech is a bother, but I made a thin ramrod that does the trick in nothin' flat. You bang it out of the gun with the ramrod, pick it up and just pry out the old primer with a jackknife, clean the insert with a brass brush, put in a new primer and she's ready to go again. I can put two shots downrange in less than five minutes, and I don't have to buy an expensive pellet rifle!"

With the holidays approaching, readers will want to scout for Winchester 63s and Remington 141s they can convert to pellet shooters. Professor Phargone even thinks the Belgian-made Browning .22 automatic would work, though he cautions not to convert a grade IV. The conversion could lower the gun's intrinsic value a bit.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2009 Roanoke Airgun Show

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, it was a good one! In fact, it was the best one I have ever been to! Let me describe it for you and tell you why I liked it. But let me also tell you what wasn't so nice.

Pyramyd Air was not there. They usually send their techs and top sales persons to man the tables, but this year they are so swamped with they couldn't spare the people. A few people lamented the loss--especially one man who wanted to buy a Crosman NPSS. There were none there, so for him the show didn't pan out. Several other people mentioned wanting to see a Marauder, so I guess Crosman Corporation should team with Pyramyd Air to man a smaller sales booth in the future. I don't know if that's possible, but they were missed.

The show opened to dealers before 7 a.m. on Friday and to the public at noon. By 10 a.m., there was a brisk business going on among the dealers. That's normal for a show. Dealers are buyers, too. Because they're there before the doors open, they get to see the buys first.

Mike Driskill (left) was recognized as an outstanding airgunner for his selfless service to other collectors. Mike is pictured with award presenter Dennis Quackenbush (right) and show organizer Fred Liady.

Mike holds a Benjamin 392 that's been modified to shoot .320 caliber ammo! This unique rifle was built by James Perotti of NC. It generates 70 ft-lbs of muzzle energy with 12 pumps, which is 3x the power of a 392.

Blog reader Fred Nemiroff found this Crosman 99 lever-action at a garage sale for $25.

Collector/shooter Joe Giunti found this FWB C10 at the show for a song.

Blog reader Mike White brought this Walther LGR Universal to sell.

But don't think for a moment they bought it all, or that there weren't plenty of great buys left for the public. Let me just list a few and you be the judge.

1. A 99 percent BSF 55 in the Air Rifle Headquarters box with all the shipping material and paperwork for $250! Suddenly, it was 1974 all over again. When I pointed out to the man who was examining it ON DAY TWO OF THE SHOW...that it came in the box...he didn't believe it. The dealer had to convince him that it was included. He then sprained his wrist getting his wallet out!

2. A Working Crosman 116 pistol with a Working 10-oz. tank IN THE FREAKIN' BOX for $100. I know it's a shooter because I used to own it, though it wasn't mine at this show. And here's an anecdote that will bring a tear to your eye. A man about my age asked if I would remove the pistol's end cap so he could try one he had that was just like it. I knew what was about to happen, and I couldn't stop smiling. His cap fit the gun, of course, and he proceeded to tell me the story of how he had been given a Crosman rifle just like this pistol when he was a little boy. I told him he had a Crosman 114, and he was amazed that I knew. So, I pointed him to this blog and airgunning grew by one more little boy. He then bought that boxed pistol, which was a great deal.

I used to own this 112. It didn't sell at the show.

3. Across the aisle, a Working Crosman 112 pistol in the box with a Working 10-oz. tank and all the papers. Also a gun I used to own! The price? $115.

4. A new-in-the-box Erma ELG-10 lever-action spring rifle owned by Toshiko Beeman for $615. I don't know where you can get ANY ELG-10 in like-new condition for any price, so this was a good one.

5. A Beeman R7 in like-new condition for $300. Suddenly, it's 1997 again. Plenty of used R7s priced at $400, but this was the only one for $300.The blog reader who wondered whether Roanoke was worth attending bought it.

6. A Weihrauch HW35 with the thumbhole stock, new-in-the-box! They didn't even import that model into the U.S. When I told a show attendee about it (after listening to how nice the others in the room were), he found himself standing three feet from the very airgun he had come to the show to find.

7. Not ONE but TWO working Crosman 451 semiautos for under $250 each. The 600 gets all the attention, but the 451 is the real prize. Trouble is, nobody can ever find one.

8. A complete Daisy 325 2-Way Target Outfit for $200! I asked the buyer if he reported the theft after buying it, and he asked me if I did the same, which shut me up. Seconds later, a dealer presented me with a Red Ryder target set in the box, minus the scope for $100! This is the same set as the 325, only with the Red Ryder as the gun. The boxed Daisy Quick Skill set he sold me cost $5. Yes, I am not making this up. This really happened!

9. A fine working Diana model 60 recoilless target rifle for $325. I missed it by five minutes, though I did have my hands on it earlier. Too many guns, too little money!

10. An entire 40-year collection of cast-iron and folded metal BB guns, dating back to the first model Daisy. The advanced collectors in the room went berserk and spent tens of thousands of dollars in just a few hours. I watched it happen, because my table was across the aisle.

Oh, there was much, much more, but this gives you a quick taste of what went on. I traded for a SAM 10-meter pistol (made by Anschutz and designed by Cesare Morini). This is the first PCP 10-meter pistol I have ever owned and I will now try to get back into form. The trigger on this pistol is beautiful, which will help me immeasurably. I will blog it for you some time.

Yes, there were some new guns in the hall. Yes, there were some PCPs. Scott Pilkington sold 10-meter rifles and pistols, plus the accessories as well as his own Vogel pellets (he makes them in Tennessee).

A great many blog readers came up and introduced themselves, though not some of the ones I was expecting. But I got to meet many who just read the blog. I hope they'll write some comments someday soon.

Everybody at the show talked about how the economy is in the tank. Two people told me they are out of work. Yet I saw people spending money without reserve at this show. Perhaps the prices were that much better this year, but you could not tell that the times are tough from what went on in that room. I don't think I'll every forget Roanoke 2009.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shooting the breeze - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm still on the road, traveling back from the airgun show in Roanoke, VA. The following short articles come from The Airgun Letter archives. These are meant to humor and entertain...they're not serious. Some Airgun Letter subscribers thought these were serious pieces and called me to get more details and contact info for the individuals mentioned. All names, businesses and locations are fictitious. Enjoy!

February 1995
Readers will be pleased to learn that noted airgun experimenter Elvis B. Phargone of Breakwynd, Indiana, is recovering nicely after his recent test of the dynamite-ram air rifle. Though the gun fired only a single shot, inventor Phargone reports, "She was a doozie. I only wish the chronograph had survived, so we'd know for sure how fast that li'l hummer was a-goin'."

Patterning his experiment after the dynamite cannons used by American forces in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, Phargone now believes that the dynamite should probably not be used to power the gun's piston but to be the projectile, instead. "Them reports wasn't too clear on that," the convalescing scientist noted from his hospital bed.

The Airgun Letter wishes a speedy and complete recovery to the man who is the living embodiment of his own motto: "I find the solution before others find the problem."

March 1995
The 1995 Arctic Circle Invitational Field Target Match
Distinguished airgun designer Elvis B. Phargone has done it again--or so says Alaskan field target champion Gelbert Schnee. Readers will recall that Mr. Schnee won last year's Arctic Circle Field Target Invitational held at Point Barrow on December 26.

According to Gelb, the newest Phargone invention is a single-stroke pneumatic rifle producing approximately 40 ft-lbs of energy--not at the muzzle, but at the target! "We really need this kind of performance in polar competition," said the three-time Arctic Circle champion, "because the crosswind is seldom less than 20 mph on clam [sic] days."

Constructed from an M79 grenade launcher, the new gun propels a two-inch, 454-gram round ball at 30 f.p.s. It is ideally suited to the unique requirement of the northern competition. The Point Barrow range is completely vertical, with firing points on the catwalk of the town's communications tower, where Schnee is employed as an antenna cleaner. Gravity boosts the ponderous projectile to about 200 f.p.s. by the time it reaches the highly modified targets below.

The new gun also has a broader attachment point for sights, which Schnee praises. "In the Arctic Circle/Tundra Airgun Association (ACTAA), we mount surplus Norden bomb sights on our guns instead of scopes. The new rifle accommodates them perfectly. Now, all we need is to get some shooters from the lower 48 to come up here and compete with us."

Readers who are interested in competing in this year's festivities should contact Gelb Schnee through the newsletter. Entrants must submit a court certificate of competency and pay a non-refundable $1,500.00 entry fee. Accommodations at Point Barrow this year will consist of separate cots in a heated U.S. Army GP Medium tent. Travel arrangements must be booked through Whiteout Tours, which operates a weekly supply/mail service into Barrow, weather permitting.

May 1995
The screw-ram air rifle
The threshold of airgun technology rolled a back a bit further, recently, when Professor Elvis B. Phargone announced that he has finally perfected the screw-ram air rifle. The well-known inventor has secretly been working for more than a decade on his creation, which he now says is almost ready for market. The heart of the Phargone idea is the replacement of the conventional coil mainspring with a piston driven by a worm screw. "It was a mite slow at first," admitted the Wizard of Breakwynd, Indiana, in his converted chicken coop/laboratory.

"I was usin' the screw offa my bench vice, and the motor took a couple seconds to drive the piston home. Then, I hit on the idea of usin' one of them Army surplus Gatling gun motors. They're real fast! That piston slams home like a bear trap. There's a little problem with the screw not stoppin' in the right place an' extrudin' the piston crown out the transfer port, but I'll get to that next. I've just about got it." Phargone's ever-present gallery of well-wishers agrees that he does, indeed, seem to "have it."

The next step is finding a backer for the invention. That may prove difficult, since, with its ancillary gear, the rifle weighs 55 lbs. and requires a tractor battery for power. In the scientist's own words, "It shore [sic] don't recoil as much as it used to!"

June 1995
The Billabong Screw-Shooter
The Billabong Air Gun Company of Laleche, Wisconsin, announced today their latest sporting air rifle--the Screw-Shooter. Long plagued by the rising cost of quality barrels, Billabong President Harleigh Werthit revealed that his company's latest creation isn't rifled at all! In fact, it doesn't really have a barrel in the traditional sense. Although the new design is closely protected by patents, The Airgun Letter was able to learn that the revolutionary Screw-Shooter is based on studies recently completed by famous airgun researcher Elvis B. Phargone, in which some of the functions of the barrel and projectile are exchanged. In Phargone's latest triumph, the barrel is a hollow tube of soft lead encased in a plastic pipe, and the pellet is made of hardened steel with a reverse rifling pattern machined on the outside. When the pellet travels down the bore, its spiral "rifling" grabs the soft lead walls of the barrel and literally screws its way out of the gun. "Concerns over barrel quality have become a relic of the past," said the Billabong chief.

The company expects sales of the new gun to boom once thrifty airgunners realize they can reuse the same pellet hundreds of times. The need for frequent barrel changes offsets the savings a bit, but optimistic company officials see a day when shooters will buy replacements like they once bought tins of ammunition.

From the company that gave the world its only commercial cow-patty launcher, now comes the Billabong Screw-Shooter--an honest attempt at ending the airgun quality race, forever.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Something from nothing - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I'm actually at the Roanoke Airgun Expo today, and writing this report has really started my juices flowing! I wanted to tell you about strategies to use on airgun dealers in this part, but while I was driving here I got inspired to write something else for today.

I got a question from a new reader that went like this,"I'm going to a gun show, and I'm a novice collector. What should I look for?" I wrote him some half-hearted reply, because how can I really help that guy? I have no idea what will be at that gun show. And then it hit me--the subject of today's report.

I never know what's going to turn up at ANY show!
And that's the real answer. Since no one can predict what will show up, don't plan on anything. Just be there and have cash or trade goods or both.

When the show opens at about 6:30 a.m. for the dealers to start bringing in all their guns, the buying and selling starts. Advanced collectors will pay for the price for a table just to get in the door at this time. They won't actually have a table, but many of they're ready to spend.

Some deals will have been made before the show and all that's taking place is inspection, payment and delivery. It breaks your heart when this happens in front of you, and a gun you really wanted is sold under your nose without a word being spoken.The solution is to get to know the dealers of the kind of guns you want; next time, you'll be the lucky guy.

But what I like to do is peruse all the tables in search of great bargains. That sounds so simple and straightforward that you probably think everybody is doing the same thing, and maybe they are--but when one guy wants a Nightforce scope and another wants a Crosman 120 multi-pump, there's a lot of latitude! As an airgun writer, I try to keep my mind open to the good deals in all categories, even those that I personally am not interested in. For example, I don't care much for action pistols, but when I see someone willing to sell a Colt 1911A1 for $80, I know it's a good deal.

But something like that is just run-of-the-mill. A GREAT deal is when a local doctor backs his car up to the front door and starts offloading the like-new spring guns he has been buying since the 1980s. He has all the paper and the boxes for each gun (I love anal people when I'm buying something from them, don't you?), and he wants exactly what he paid for each gun. So, someone goes home with a 1983 Beeman R1 for less than $300. THAT is a great deal, in my book. That scenario actually happened at the an airgun show and I mentioned it in my report on the2007 Airgun Expo in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Another thing that always happens is several people will walk the floor searching for someone to give them cash for their airguns. Again at Little Rock, this happened to me about 12 years back. A guy brought me three Daisy .118 Targeteers and six tin containers of the steel shot for them. The containers were commonly selling for $10 each at that time, but the guy asked for $100 for the whole bunch. There was at least $300 worth in that bunch. I knew he really needed the money, so I bought it. I spent my trip food money to get it, so I turned around and sold two guns and four tins of shot for $100--giving someone else a chance to get a good deal, too.

At one Winston-Salem show, the forerunner of Roanoke, a man walked in with a genuine Girandoni Austrian military repeater. A well-known American collector low-balled him with an $1,800 offer, so he stormed away and sold it to a British collector five minutes later for $3,500 cash! I know because the sale took place in front of my table! That rifle is worth over $50,000 today, and even back then it was worth about $15,000. The collector who low-balled the guy kicked himself, but that's how the cookie crumbles. It's assumed that everybody is a big boy at these shows.

I remember a show at which a husband and wife in the business had a pile of Johnson Target Guns in their original boxes with all the parts and paperwork. They were asking $100 for each of the approximately 20 boxes they had. Now, when something like that happens, it's just wrong to be so focused on finding an R9 in .20 caliber that you miss the opportunity of a lifetime. I remember another show where a guy had well over 50 new-in-the-box S&W 78G and 79G pistols. He was also asking $100 each. That is not the time to try to complete your Diana model 27 collection. If the deal presents itself and you're at all interested or if you're just smart enough to know that you can triple your money in a couple years--TAKE THE DEAL.

I once located a second-model Crosman pump rifle left over from the Crosman morgue. The rifle didn't work. I tried to be as honest as I could, since I was buying it from the wife of an airgun dealer close by. I offered her $150 cash money and she accepted readily. Inside one month I resold it for $600, because I knew who really wanted it. Had I wanted to, I could have dragged my feet and gotten $1,500, by talking it up and pitting one collector against another, but that's not my style.

My wife bought an 1800s BB pistol for $5 at a local flea market. At the Damascus airgun show about a year later she sold it to a collector for $400. He restored it (refinished with paint) and sold it for $1,100 to another collector who knew it was restored. An original with the same finish is worth about $7,500.

One more dynamic that I see at almost every show is the guy with that one gun you really want. He has priced it at the high end of what's acceptable, and it sat on his table throughout the show. Lots of lookers and failed trades, but at the end, it's still there. Now, he would much rather go home with cash in his pocket than drag that gun back and store it for another year. So, a good offer right as he is starting to pack up often wins the day. To do this one, you have to be there for the whole show, and this is one of the benefits of doing that.

Speaking of packing, know that airgun shows keep strange hours. The dealers all wait for the show and dream about it all year long, yet when they get there they immediately start making plans to leave. Airgun shows always break up before they're supposed to. And by always, I mean 100 percent--no exceptions. So, don't arrive late on the last day!

I got a million stories like these, but this will do for now. I'm at the Roanoke show today, along with a few hundred other avid airgunners. Let's see what treasures I find this year! The point of this report is that no amount of searching at a show can help you do what I have just reported. You have to go, look around and listen, too, and the deals will make themselves known.

I'll finish with an anecdote I use to illustrate the new airgunner with the attention deficit problem. Years ago, I took my young sons to see the Harlem Globetrotters play a game at a local high school gym. Some of the players were standing at the entrance to greet the audience. My two sons were about 8 and 4 at the time, so they weren't very tall. As we were walking past the Globetrotter center, who stood 7'1", my oldest boy asked me in a loud voice, "Dad, do you think we will get to see any of the players close up?" When he asked that question, his head was nearly touching the knee of the Globetrotter center. I looked up at the player and we both smiled, because the crowd was pushing us past one another. Ships that pass in the night! Don't be like that when you look for airguns.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crosman 114 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I made the picture big, so you can really see it. Crosman's 114 is what little boy's dreams are made of.

Back to the 114 today. As I mentioned last time, this is a bulk-fill CO2 rifle. What that means is that it doesn't use any kind of disposable CO2 cartridge, as many CO2 guns do. Instead, a separate tank of CO2 liquid and gas is connected to the rifle, and CO2 is introduced from that tank. So, a short refresher on how CO2 works is now in order.

To fill the rifle, a separate CO2 tank is used. Every rifle was initially sold with a tank, plus spares were also sold. This tank holds about 10 oz. of liquid CO2, so it is called a 10-ounce tank.

How CO2 works
Carbon dioxide is a strange gas. At room temperature when liquid carbon dioxide (or solid carbon dioxide--which is also called dry ice) is confined in a pressure vessel like an airgun reservoir or a separate tank, it will evaporate until it reaches a pressure around 900 psi. Actually, at 70 deg. F. it attains the pressure of 853 psi when confined. At that point, no more gas will evaporate and the pressure will stay constant, as long as the temperature doesn't fluctuate. The remaining liquid or solid will stay as it is, with the solid turning to liquid at this temperature.

If some of the gas is released, such as through a valve when an airgun fires, the pressure inside the vessel will drop and immediately more of the liquid will turn to gas. As long as liquid remains in the pressure vessel, the pressure of the gas remains more or less constant--except for one thing. As the gas is exhausted, it carries some latent heat with it. That lowers the temperature of the pressure vessel and the firing valve in the gun. In turn, that cooling effect lowers the pressure of the remaining gas to some extent. On a hot day, the temperature returns to normal relatively fast. But on a cooler day, the temperature takes longer to cycle back. When the ambient temperature drops below about 50 deg. F., the temperature of the gun takes a very long time to recover, and the pressure of the gas continues to drop as the gun is fired.

You can learn two things from this. First, CO2 regulates its own pressure. Nobody compresses it, in the traditional sense of the word. At least airgunners don't. They rely on that high-vapor pressure to operate their guns. While the pressure is limited, it's also self-sustaining, so it's possible to get a lot of shots at a very consistent velocity--except in cold weather.

When the temperature is below about 50-60 deg. F., CO2 will chill the gun as it fires, causing the gas pressure to drop. It's a warm-weather gas. Knowing that, you will be able to use it without many problems. As long as there's some liquid remaining, the gas will maintain the same pressure. Once the last of the liquid is gone, the pressure of the gas drops straight off and the shots quickly become slow and unusable.

Now, apply the knowledge
CO2 liquid maintains pressure by evaporation to gas. CO2 gas does not maintain pressure and drops pressure rapidly. Knowing that, you understand that you want to have liquid CO2 in your gun. How much you have determines how many shots you can get at a sustained velocity. So, bulk-fill guns are designed to introduce liquid CO2 into the gun during a fill. With the 114, it's very easy to do.

First, unscrew the protective cap at the end of the reservoir. If you have a gun that doesn't have a cap, do something to protect this area, because any dirt that gets into the fill port can be blown into the gun during a fill. Many CO2 guns have a fine mesh screen to catch dirt particles, but don't rely on that. Make sure no dirt is present to begin with.

The end cap is a screw that protects the fill port from dirt. Remove it to attach the CO2 tank.

Next, screw the separate CO2 tank to the gun. Now, hold the gun so it's pointing straight up and the tank is pointing straight down. That lets the liquid CO2 gather in what is now the bottom of the tank (it's being held upside-down), where it will be blown into the airgun. Hold onto the wheel on the tank and rotate the tank body so the valve will open. You will both hear and feel the liquid CO2 flow into the gun (the gun's reservoir gets noticeably colder). The gas and liquid will stop flowing when equilibrium is reached, so you don't have to do anything special. Today, some guns require the owner to weigh the reservoir before and after the fill to ensure that too much liquid did not get into the reservoir. The older Crosman guns didn't have such a requirement. Under normal conditions (room temperature or higher), it's nearly impossible to overfill the gun.

The tank is screwed to the end of the gun for filling.

Once the gun is filled--it only takes a few seconds--close the tank's valve and unscrew the tank from the gun. If you got a good fill (the right amount of liquid), your gun will shoot for many shots before velocity drops off. This is the point at which the 114 starts to resemble a PCP. In fact, in a curious twist of irony, Crosman designed the Benjamin Discovery to use either CO2 or high-pressure air. Many confirmed CO2 shooters who had sworn they would never go over to "the dark side" and use air have discovered (pun intended) that filling with air to 2,000 psi isn't much different than filling with CO2. You just get fewer shots and much higher velocity. They became reluctant converts to air power!

The modern way to full
If you don't have a 10-oz. tank or you don't want to invest in a 20-lb. tank to fill it when it gets empty, you can buy an adapter to fill these guns from paintball tanks that are easy to get filled at paintball shops. The adapters are available from those companies specializing in CO2 guns.

So, now we have a good idea of what a 114 is and how to fill it. Next time, we'll look at the rifle's performance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Something from nothing - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we move on to today's blog, here's a link to a recent interview with Josh Ungier, founder and owner of Pyramyd Air. It was published in the October issue of Smart Business Cleveland.

Just a reminder that I'm on my way to the airgun show in Roanoke and not able to answer most blog questions. Edith is monitoring the comments, but I'd appreciate any help answering questions.

It's been a while since I wrote a report like this. Our readers have discussed it, but it doesn't get nearly enough exposure, so here it goes. Notice that I made it a multi-parter, because each of you has a different set of circumstances, and I have more than just a little to say. What prompted it was a message I received on Monday from a reader named Jay. It went like this, "I see the sign up for the airgun show here in Roanoke. Is it worth attending?"

That reminds me of the farmer who sold his farm to finance a worldwide search for diamonds. He supposedly ended his life at the Straits of Gibraltar after a long and disappointing search. Then diamonds were discovered on the farm he sold. His land became the Golconda diamond mine, one of the richest diamond mines ever and the source of many of the crown jewels on Europe. Whether or not the story is true doesn't matter. It illustrates a powerful lesson in life that applies to us all.

So, right now there is a guy driving past the Roanoke Expo Center every day, wondering if he should waste his time and money to attend. And, then, there is Joe B., paying paradise tax out on Maui, who would probably be willing to drive 200 miles--if it were possible to drive 200 miles in Hawaii--just to see a show like Roanoke!

My point is that Roanoke is the largest airgun show in the world, and it's held this coming Friday and Saturday. I don't have any problem convincing those who have already been to attend again--they know what awaits them. But some airgunners will say, "My gosh, Roanoke is a 400-mile drive! No way am I going to do that." Then I will get a question two weeks after the show, asking where someone can buy an FWB 124.

Roanoke is 1,150 miles for me, but I drive it every year. I almost can't afford to miss it, because it is a large part of what I do and even who I am. Besides all the guns and the old friends, I get a post-graduate course in airguns at every show. So, that's why I think it's important to go.

Get a route...
But what about the guy who lives in Keokuk, Iowa, or even in Kennewick, Washington? For them, Roanoke really is too far. But there are alternatives. Start with pawn shops. I have a route I run periodically here in Texas, and it's really paid off over the past five years. Not just for airguns--I have also found some nicer firearms. As the economy gets ever tighter, more will appear in the pawn shop and the pawnbroker will be more willing to deal. I watch Pawn Stars on TV, which is a look at a Las Vegas pawn shop that gets really nice stuff. From the episodes, I can tell that the pawnbrokers are very willing to make deals these days. I know that's how it's been around here. My route is local, with no store being more than five miles from my house, but that doesn't stop me from checking out a pawn shop in a distant place if I happen to be there.

Gun stores
Yes, I said gun stores! I don't mean the gun stores that also carry airguns, either. I mean the narrow-minded gun stores that laugh at us and call all airguns BB guns.

Where does everyone go when they have a "gun" to sell? A gun store! So, old widow Smith bundles up her late husband's guns, including the Browning shotguns, Mauser rifles and Colt revolvers. She also takes along a Feinwerkbau 300, because it looks like a gun and she knows they will know what to do with it.

Well, they don't know what to do with it, but it's no big deal. They got the Brownings. The store owner dry-fires it a couple times because he's too cheap to buy a tin of pellets at Wal-Mart, and then he leans it in the corner and forgets it for the next eleven years. Then, you walk in one day and ask him if he has any old airguns, and he remembers the gun in the corner. He knows it's well made but he accepts that $150 cash offer you make because it's green cash money and because this rifle isn't in his book. He can take his wife out to a nice dinner, and you get a great buy. Everyone wins.

Here is a fact. I don't think I have ever been in an established gun store that didn't have a couple airguns laying around somewhere. Yes, some of them might be Chinese guns, but I've also bought Benjamins, vintage Crosmans, a Diana 27 and the list goes on. Gun stores. Even small, hole-in-the-wall gun stores. In fact, especially hole-in-the-wall gun stores!

Gun shows
I used to walk around gun shows with a big sign stuck in the hatband of my Stetson--(I BUY AIRGUNS). At one show I was with my wife and my best buddy, Mac, plus another Airgun Letter reader. I told them I was going to buy an airgun and turn around and sell it to get material for an article. I walked down ONE AISLE and a guy almost jumped over his table at me. "I've got an airgun you'll like." Long story short, I gave $200 for a 1920 BSA underlever rifle made up for a shooting club. It had a flip-up tang peep sight and a number on the stock, which are two telltale signs of British club guns.

In the VERY NEXT AISLE, a man pulled the rifle away from me and bought it for $250. I had what I needed for my story inside five minutes, though I never made it out of the building, nor did I get a picture of that rifle. So, wear a sign to the gun show and bring cash. You will be amazed at what happens!

Newspaper ads
This isn't my tip; it belongs to one or more of our readers. You place an ad to buy airguns in your newspaper, Thrifty Nickel or whatever you have that will take your ad. Then, you start answering ads and buying airguns. I now ask those readers who have done or are doing this to tell us their stories in the comments.

Cleaning crews
This technique belongs to one of the most successful airgun dealers of vintage guns that I know. He tells a cleaning crew that he will buy all the airguns they find. He may actually buy other eBay stuff, too, I don't know. Cleaning crews find lots of stuff in the apartments and houses they clean. Sometimes, they're asked to remove all the stuff in a house and it's theirs to do with as they wish. They still get paid for cleaning the building. too.

Most of the time, they sell him modern crap guns and airsoft or paintball. But a couple times each year he scores something fantastic to make up for all the disappointments. The trick here is to buy everything they bring you. Pay very low and bring the stuff you don't want to airguns shows.

Those are my tips for today, but there is at least one more part to this report. How can you buy airguns among airgunners and still get great deals? Next time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crosman 114 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm on the road driving to the Roanoke Airgun Expo today, so I'm asking the old hands to help me with the comments. I'm taking an extra travel day both ways to ease the strain. Naturally, I'll give you a report of this year's show.

I made the picture big so you can really see the rifle. Crosman's 114 is what little boys' dreams are made of.

Crosman's 114 pellet rifle may have been the precursor to the modern precharged rifle. It's a single-shot. It stores bulk CO2 gas and liquid in a reservoir under the barrel, and it has the same general look of the Benjamin Discovery. It also has a simple rear aperture sight.

Wacky Wayne saw this 114 and asked me how it shot. To tell the truth, I never shot this one before now, but the last 114 I owned shot just like a PCP.

The 114 was the .22-caliber companion to the 113, a .177 caliber bulk-fill CO2 rifle made between 1950 and 1955. Crosman had limited success with their first CO2 rifle, the CG that launched league shooting in the late 1940s. Oh, there was an earlier version of the bolt-action repeating model 118 (model 117) that existed in the 1930s, before the war, but it never went anyplace. So, the 113/114 rifles were really Crosman's first successful foray into the world of commercial CO2 air rifles. The repeating 118 came out two years later.

At the same time these rifles were selling, Crosman also made four CO2 pistols--the 111 and 112 that have 8-inch barrels and the shorter 115 and 116 with 6-inch barrels. With all of the Crosman guns from this era, the lower number is the .177 and the higher is the .22.

The bulk-fill guns came with a CO2 tank that holds 10 oz. of liquid and gaseous CO2. The tank connects to the guns at the front of the reservoir (under the muzzle) and opens to fill the gun. I've recorded about 70 shots on my other 114 and 50 shots from a 111 I used to own, so I would expect this one to do about the same.

Back when these rifles were new, an owner was expected to send his CO2 tank through the Postal Service (those were simpler days) to get it refilled. Today, most serious airgunners fill their own CO2 tanks from a 20-pound bulk tank they have on hand. That large tank is sometimes used as a fire extinguisher, and I once used one of the three bulk tanks I own to put out a fire in a stolen Mustang that the thief abandoned in front of my house.

There's another, even easier way to fill bulk-fill guns that I'll discuss in Part 2.

The 114 is simplicity itself. A small brass receiver is attached to a brass tube that houses both the action and the reservoir. The valve is a straightforward, knock-open type, and the barrel can be made of brass or steel, with brass preferred because of condensation.

The breech is sealed at the rear, not by an o-ring, but by a metal bulge on the bolt that's pushed into a mating flare at the rear of the barrel. That's all that keeps the pressurized gas from coming back at your face like a supercharged glaucoma test. It does work, as long as the shooter remembers to engage the locking slot for the bolt.

The trigger couldn't be simpler. Just a lever that gets out of the way of the hammer. The safety is equally simple--a crossbolt that blocks the trigger.

The finish is black paint on the metal and a thin shellac finish on the wood. Most of these guns have been refinished numerous times by now, so original finish on a gun is always a plus. The Blue Book of Airguns has a lot of special things to look for on these models--things that can boost the value because of rarity, so don't start carving on the stock before you check to see if you have something special.

The rifle is just over 38 inches long with a 21.5-inch barrel. It weighs 4.75 lbs., which makes it a light, handy rifle. The stock is without comb or cheekpiece, so it's quite ambidextrous, though the cocking-bolt handle is on the right side of the receiver.

One neat tidbit is that all three CO2 guns came with power adjusters. Even back in 1950, Crosman engineers knew what shooters wanted. Imagine a power adjuster two decades before the first affordable chronographs!

The rear sight is an aperture that adjusts via an oval slot for windage; and for elevation, the eyepiece loosens to slide up and down. It couldn't be simpler, and it mimics the inexpensive peep sights seen on single-shot youth rimfires of the day.

This is action central. The bolt works conventionally. The knob just below adjusts the power through tension on the hammer spring. The peep sight is held in place by friction screws. And the safety is a crossbolt through the stock.

When we come to Part 2, I'll show you how this little rifle is filled.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Evanix Blizzard S10-Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today, I'll show you the results of testing the Evanix Blizzard S10 with the barrel shroud removed. I tested it against the CB cap-firing Winchester Winder musket and will show you those results, as well.

You may remember that in Part 3 I was disappointed with the accuracy of the rifle and thought that the baffles in the shroud might be touching the pellets on their way out. In fact, I implied that rather strongly. Today, I'm not so sure. I think I have discovered what was wrong--because when I fixed it, the rifle suddenly became much more accurate.

So, we have a lot in store for today's report. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

Pride goeth before a fall...
I was SO CERTAIN that the pellets were touching one or more baffles on the way out of the shroud that I couldn't think of anything else. I fully expected the first group at 50 yards from the unshrouded barrel to be a pleasant surprise and a welcome relief to this problem. I selected the new 18-grain JSB Exacts because I also "knew" that they would be the most accurate pellets in this rifle.

With the barrel shroud removed, the Blizzard S10 barrel is free-floating.

The machine worked fine until we turned it on!
The day was breezy, but the breeze came in gusts and it was possible to wait them out. I took great care to shoot only when the wind was calm. But even with all that care, my first group of 10 with the JSBs measured 1.658". That's only a little better than the last time I tested it, which surprised me a lot. I expected a sub-inch group.

Beeman Kodiaks
Switching to Beeman Kodiaks, the groups got larger. Ten shots went into 2.25". Sorry, Kevin, but that's the truth.

Eun Jin
The big Eun Jin dome shrank the group back to 1.716", but that's not what I was hoping to see. After that, I just sat for awhile and examined the rifle. Was the scope tight? Yes, it was. Was the barrel well-anchored in the receiver? Yes, it was, but when I checked that I felt a bump of something else shifting.

The action was loose in the stock! I felt like such a rookie for not checking the stock screws--except that's a problem you normally associate with spring guns, not PCPs. And, when I tried to tighten the stock screw, it was already tight. But the action was definitely rocking in the stock.

There was no way to tighten the action, so I reverted to an old-time standby--shimming! I folded a foot-long length of duct tape into a two-inch pad and stuck it between the front of the forearm and the reservoir tube. It went in and stopped when there was no more room. Now, the action and stock were tight--no rocking movement.

As you can see, my shim was not a precision fix. But it worked, and that's the lesson to take from this.

The next group of 10 JSBs went into a group measuring 0.862." That was exactly the level of accuracy I had been expecting from the Blizzard S10. Remember, these are 10-shot groups and will be larger than a 5-shot group from the same gun.

Unshimmed group of 10 18-grain JSBs on the left. Shimmed group on the right. Pretty conclusive evidence that the action needs to be tight in the stock.

Before and after
The difference before and after the field fix is obvious. From 1.658" down to 0.862" for the JSBs is nearly a 50 percent reduction in size! The Eun Jins dropped from 1.716" down to 1.106," another significant reduction. Kodiaks and Air Arms domes had reductions as well, though not as large. Kodiaks went from 2.224" to 1.735" and Air Arms pellets dropped from 1.125" to 0.973."

Unshimmed group of 10 Eun Jins on the left. Shimmed group on the right. Could the results be any clearer?

These reductions in 10-shot group sizes are both immediate and quite dramatic. And this is just with my quickie field fix. If I bed the action correctly, we could expect at least this and maybe even more.

I contacted Pyramyd Air. After they researched it, we learned that they had received an initial lot of guns that were missing a washer for the stock screw. All were loose in their stocks. The Pyramyd Air technicians added the necessary washers and the rifles tightened up just as mine did. So, I went to the hardware store and bought some washers to fix my rifle permanently.

This has been an interesting test for me. First, I was surprised by how quiet the Blizzard is, even though it puts out a lot of power. Second, the accuracy thing was a learning experience. I always default to my experience--which in this case was with baffles that nick the pellets on their way out. This strange turn of events really surprised me, which is a good cure for hardening of the attitudes.

Lest I forget--the Winder musket and CB caps
I also had the Winder musket at the range to test the accuracy of CB caps against the Blizzard. I wasn't able to fool you guys about CB caps. Most of you already knew their capabilities and their shortcomings. And this is not a report on them--just an update as they play against the Blizzard S10, since I introduced that topic last time.

At 50 yards, the CB cap bullet drops a lot more than a pellet from the Blizzard--even a heavy one. While the advertised velocity is 710 f.p.s., that has to be with a short barrel. The Winder has a 28" barrel, so it should rob some velocity from that bullet. CB caps are so low-powered that I can test them in my office, just like pellets from a powerful rifle, so that's what I did.

They averaged 696 f.p.s., with a spread from 659 to 720. They were faster than I thought they'd be, so apparently the long barrel doesn't slow them down much. But they're also quieter than most PCPs. The impact of the 29-grain bullet makes more noise than the muzzle blast.

CB caps are not a match for an accurate air rifle like the Blizzard. They're lower in power and far less accurate, plus they cost a lot for anyone with access to a powerful air rifle. I suppose that if all you own is a .22 rimfire, they make sense as long as thousands of shots aren't in order. However, with the huge difference in price over pellets, you could buy a Discovery and soon make up the difference.

Ten short CB caps from the Winder musket went into this group at 50 yards that measures 1.837" between the centers of the two widest shots. It's not bad for CB caps, but don't even think of competing with an accurate PCP!

CB caps did pretty much what I expected at 50 yards, but that's not the end of testing them. I'm going to try them in a number of accurate .22 rifles, including the CB longs that fit long rifle chambers. When I'm finished, we should have a pretty good idea of where CB caps fit into the big picture.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How and when PA get started - Part 2

Announcement: Pyramyd Air has lowered the price of the Walther Lever Action rifle with scope...from $499 to $375. The combo is being discontinued by the manufacturer, so they're trying to quickly move the remaining stock. The rifle without scope will continue to be available.

Part 1

Josh is concerned that he may be boring some readers with all the details he's putting into his Russian trip to find marble and wood for his Japanese friend. This trip was where he got the idea to export American-made shotguns to Russia, and that was the business that ultimately started Pyramyd Air, so there's a tie-in. Please tell him with your comments whether he is being too detailed about the trip.

How and when PA get started - Part 2

by Joshua Ungier

I had the pleasure to travel to Russia thirteen times in a span of one year. This trip by far was the most memorable. I spent a month traveling through Siberia's forests, marble quarries in Uzbekistan and the Ukraine for its granite. The people were the most unforgettable part of the trip, but I also got really homesick.

The flying dumptruck
After arriving at the headquarters of LesProm, the company in charge of the territory where we wanted to do business, we were flown to the forests and marble quarry by helicopter. The MI-17 is a medium-size Russian helicopter. It's widely used in Soviet Bloc countries for transporting goods over harsh terrain. It's a tireless workhorse, was not designed with any comfort in mind and is definitely not for tourists. It's for transporting bulk goods or, if necessary, cattle.

This MI-17 is outfitted for passengers. No doubt it has seats, a heater and sound-deadening material. I wasn't as lucky with mine!

The one we chartered was bare bones. It was obviously used for cargo, not people. It should have said on the door "bring your own chair." The pilot and co-pilot had the only two seats. The four of us in back were trying to sit anywhere we could. I sat on a fuel tank by a window and took hundreds of photographs.

Apart from the deafening engine noise, the unheated "passenger" compartment, terrible vibration, and the growing need for a bathroom they didn't have, the morning was uneventful. We were flying at a good clip for several hours when the pilot announced that he was in a landing pattern and we would be touching down very soon. Below us was a village of about two dozen log homes. On the outskirts of the village was a large prefabricated building. Apparently, it was a sawmill. Scattered for acres in every direction were mountains of timber. Each pile was at least big enough to fill a railroad car. Some piles were large enough to load a train of a hundred cars.

A warm reception
We were greeted by a village elder, who ushered us into a small hall. It was WARM! A wood-burning stove the size of a VW was blazing hot. All four of us smiled at that. The walls were plastered with propaganda posters. Some very old WWII posters hung among flags and photos of the Stalin and Lenin eras. Slogans defending the communist ideology were tucked into a corner behind a coat rack.

A breakfast consisting of a large loaf of bread, a dish of salt and, of course, a bottle of vodka (coffee was to hard to find) graced the breakfast table. When I timidly protested the early hour to start imbibing what amounts to government-sponsored moonshine with a label "Sibirskaya Vodka," the village elder replied: "It's okay. Siberia is timeless. She will not be angry. She is your mistress, not your wife." He was right. It was already 7:30 a.m. and no one was angry.

You'll freeze your *&%#@ off!
Preliminary talks were concluded inside a few hours, and by noon we were in a Toyota SUV driving toward an old forest. We drove across a large lake. A clearly marked ice road emptied into a deep valley. We were surrounded by pines four and five feet in diameter. Enormous birch trees straddled steep ridges. The car stopped. "If you want to relieve yourself, this would be a good place. No wind."

The driver said, "What does he mean by that?" So, I asked the elder. "No windchill factor injuries, you know." He grinned. I shuddered. It was warmer in the forest. A balmy -29C (-20.2 degrees F).

According to Jethro, my forest expert from Virginia, the wood was at its peak for selective harvesting. Russians, at least those days, did not practice selective harvesting. Clear cutting was more profitable. We spent several hours in the forest looking at the grove and went back to the village. It was getting late. We had one more stop to make that day. We gathered inside the hut and signed paperwork. Brief goodbyes were accentuated by shots of vodka with words, "Eto wam na pasashok." It translates, crudely, "To healthy passages you face ahead." Great people!

The MI-17 turbines whined to life. The helicopter was warming up. Rotors were engaged. Our suitcases were packed and delivered to the chopper. We were on the way to another wood-processing facility only 10 air miles away. We were to observe their process and possibly purchase their product for export to Japan. Basically, they shredded whole trees to make plywood using the bark and all. The tree goes in at one end, and plywood comes out the other end.

By this time, it was late in the evening, so we made plans to meet with the owners the next morning to talk business. The one and only "hotel" in the village was an 11-room refurbished army barracks. One shower, one bathroom, one stove. Army cots substituted for beds. Nevertheless, I was out before my head hit the pillow. We were up the next morning at 5 a.m. Outside, it was -36C (-32.8 degrees, F). Hot tea and perozki were enough to wake me up. On top of it, some joker put salt in my tea. That definitely woke me up.

But now the owners were nowhere to be found. They had left in the middle of the night and were not coming back for a while. Strange! No contract was signed there. We were done. Time to move on to the marble quarry.

The duty-free store
We were then airborne and on our way. A couple of hours by helicopter and a few hundred miles later, we landed in the middle of nowhere--right on a frozen river. The powerful prop wash revealed solid grayish-blue ice three to four feet thick beneath us. "What are we doing here?" I asked.

"We are going fishing," the pilot replied. "It is perfect weather," he continued. "There is no wind." He proceeded to extract an auger from the helicopter and, about a hundred feet from the chopper, he drilled a two-foot hole.

"You can snag a ten-kilo pike here," the co-pilot said. And he was right. No sooner was the line in the water (he used chunks of bear meat on a hook) than we had a fish. Fish after fish was hauled out and lay frozen on the ice. At -30C, fish freezes instantly. After an hour or so, we took off again, laden with a dozen trophy-sized pikes in an ice chest. "It is not good to arrive empty-handed where we are going," he said. "Food warms up negotiations."

The river was several hundred feet wide where we landed to fish. It was cradled on both sides by tall mountains. The pilot handed me a pair of binoculars and said to look around. "There is a lot of bad history here," he said. "A lot of people died here."

A very bad place
Partially denuded of trees, the steep banks were dotted by caves. Some caves were very large with gaping entrances facing directly onto the river. High above the caves there were remnants of a castle-like building. "During the reign of Jozef Stalin, people were sent into that building for interrogation," he pointed. "Thousands of prisoners went in and were never seen alive again." He continued, "There was a trap door in the floor right behind a chair. When the interrogation was over, the prisoners were shot with a .22 behind the ear and then dumped through the trap door, which lead down to the caves below. Dry conditions mummified tens of thousands of bodies in the caves.

"A huge flood a while back washed away half of the mountain and the bodies were floating down the river by the thousands. Locals and soldiers stationed near the town were called to dig mass-burials graves, but they couldn't keep up. When that did not work, the government sent a train loaded with bricks and a thousand miles of strong twine. Twine was attached to the bricks and then to each corpse. The remains then sank to the bottom of the river. Bad, bad history," he said.

We landed at the airport of a small settlement. I don't recall its name. There were several old biplanes with their motors running 24/7 down the tarmac aways. An attendant, a young girl, asked for our passports, and, after completing her duty, ushered us to the office of the chief. That guy could have wrestled a T-Rex! "Welcome, welcome!" he shouted. "Americans! I saw you only on TV. What a great treat. Sit!" And out came ever-present local moonshine he called vodka. Who needs an embalmer? It was just past 10 a.m.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Norica Massimo - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Wacky Wayne heads to the Nationals
Before we begin, Wacky Wayne stopped by my house on the way to the 2009 Field Target Nationals in Somerville, Texas, and we visited for a few hours.

Wayne Burns and his USFT field target rifle head for the U.S. National Field Target Championships in south Texas.

Part 1

Norica Massimo has real style! The raised ventilated rib does nothing functional, but it looks good.

It's raining today, so I'm doing an inside job. Besides, we wanted to know how this Norica Massimo stacks up because there's been a lot of interest in it.

The trigger
As I reported in Part 1, the Massimo trigger feels both light and crisp, plus it does have provisions for adjusting the spot at which the second stage engages. I tried adjusting it, but in the end I decided that it was best where the factory had it, which is with the least amount of first stage travel. I now notice some creep in stage two.

The first shot...
...went 1,324 f.p.s. It was a detonation. After that, I had to shoot 10 more shots to get the rifle to calm down. Even then, I think it's still burning oil. This rifle probably needs a thousand-shot break-in.

RWS Basic
The first pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS Basic. The average velocity was 933 f.p.s., and the spread went from 921 to 945. The pellets fit the breech well, and a little on the loose side. The average energy calculates to 13.53 foot-pounds.

Beeman Kodiak
Next, I tried the Beeman Kodiak. It's a heavy pellet for a spring-piston rifle, but it fits the bore of the Massimo very well. They averaged 741 f.p.s., and the spread was a tight 736 to 747. The muzzle energy works out to 12.93 foot-pounds.

Norica wadcutters
Remember--I found a tin of 7.5-grain Norica wadcutters packed in the box with the Massimo? I tested them, too, because I'm going to test them for accuracy. They average 890 f.p.s. so the average muzzle energy is 13.19 foot-pounds. The spread went from 879 to 919, so it's pretty broad.

Cocking effort
The Massimo cocks with 43 lbs. of effort. The ball-bearing detent pops open easily and the barrel begins to cock with light force, but just past halfway the effort builds quickly, making the rifle harder to cock than a Beeman R1. That, coupled with the large size of the rifle makes it an adult-only proposition.

The trigger breaks at exactly 2 lbs., fulfilling my prophecy of a light, crisp unit. Though that weight isn't adjustable and there are no known aftermarket mods at this time, I think most shooters will find this trigger quite usable.

Firing behavior
The rifle fires with little vibration, though there is some. The forward lunge is quite pronounced. If you hold the stock lightly (artillery hold), it's very pleasant to shoot.

Well, looks don't tell all! I used to park cars at a fancy restaurant while I was in college, and I can tell you that all Corvettes do not drive alike! The Massimo is a bigger air rifle than I had thought at first glance. With 43 lbs. cocking effort, it will most likely be a hunter rather than a plinker. The scope rail does have a proper stop, so no problem there, though with the new BKL mounts on the market that will soon cease to be an excuse.

The styling still excites me, so we will see how the rifle feels when it's actually being shot. Next, I'll test accuracy, including a round with the open sights.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haenel 303-8 Super - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Haenel's 303 Super is a large breakbarrel target rifle from East Germany.

Before I begin, I have to tell you that my illness and the bad weather we have had here in Texas (rain for two straight weeks!) has kept me from getting out to the range to finish the Blizzard test. I'm really anxious to see if I'm right about the baffles being the cause of the inaccurate shooting. But I can't go in the rain, because the range won't support it.

It's been close to two months since we last visited this curious target rifle from East Germany. Today, I'll look at accuracy and throw in a couple surprises to boot!

A funny thing happened...
I guess getting to know this Haenel has been a voyage of discovery for me. Remember that I mistakenly listed the model as the 303-8 Super and then I found the model number stamped on top of the spring tube? It's really a model 303 Super, which must have preceded the 303-8 Super.

Well, the funny things keep right on happening. This time it's the front sight. One of our readers suggested that it was mounted backwards on the rifle, so I obligingly turned it around. As it turns out, though, it shoots too far to the left in that configuration, so I had to mount it the way it originally came to get in the bull at 10 meters. There's an old saying, "If it ain't broke--don't fix it." I guess that applies here.

While trying to sight in, I discovered that the rear peep sight has an extremely limited range of windage adjustment. There's also the provision of moving the entire rear aperture mechanism to the right or left, but even that turned out not to be enough adjustment for the rifle, so I reversed the front sight and got on target after that.

And then it came to me...
Much later, after the shooting was finished, I learned that the rear sight isn't as range-limited as I initially thought. It's just a very simple design that has gotten dirty over the years, so I took it apart and cleaned all the mating surfaces. The sight is so simple inside that, once it was clean and lubricated with Break Free, it went back together and works perfectly. I wish I had known how easy it is to clean this sight before the test.

I decided not to shoot 10-shot groups with this rifle. In the end that turned out well because I shot more targets than I normally would.

Round one - Chinese wadcutters
Okay, you can't buy these anymore, but I still have a few tins and they often shoot very well in certain real target airguns. In the case of the 303 Super, they were the best--at least on the first round.

Five Chinese wadcutter target pellets made this group at 10 meters. It was the tightest group of the first round. In fact, if the others hadn't done any worse, this would have been the only round.

Round one - JSB Match
This was my first time trying JSB Match pellets in a target rifle. I expected them to equal H&N and RWS target pellets.

Well, this was a surprise. I expected a better group from these JSBs.

Round one - RWS R-10
I expected RWS R-10 pellets to be the best of all. Usually, they're either first or tied for first when shot from a target air rifle.

RWS R-10 pellets at 10 meters. Given the first target, something is wrong with the rifle.

Another funny thing...
The JSB group was uncertain, but the RWS R-10 group told me something was wrong with the rifle. Not that every rifle should shoot R-10s accurately, but no rifle should group like this one did with the Chinese wadcutters and then spray R-10s all over the bull. I had noticed that the barrel wasn't holding itself in position after it was cocked, so the pivot joint was loose, and this group confirmed it. So, out came the screwdrivers and all the stock screws plus the pivot joint screw were tightened. They were all loose. Now you understand why there had to be a round two.

Round two - Chinese wadcutters
On this go-around I sighted with the greatest precision. The rifle was rested on the backs of my fingers and the flat bottom of the forearm assisted in getting the same hold, shot after shot.

Another good group of Chinese wadcutters, only this one has a flyer that wasn't called. It could have been a damaged pellet. Note the point of impact has changed since the first group, yet no sight adjustment was made.

Round two - JSB Match
This time, I got what I expected from JSB Match pellets. In fact, that was the best group of the session.

This cloverleaf was made by five JSB Match pellets at 10 meters. This is what I expected the rifle to do.

Round two - RWS R-10
I fully expected the RWS R-10 pellets to out-shoot the other two. But I was wrong.

Imagine my surprise to see this open group from RWS R-10 pellets. This just illustrates that every gun will shoot different pellets differently.

The Haenel 303 Super isn't quite the target rifle that an HW 55 is. The reason for that may be because this rifle has been tuned by someone. I found moly grease on the baseblock and the automatic safety wasn't working--two good clues that someone has been inside. The 303 trigger has a lot of creep in the second stage, though it releases light enough. But it's not a Rekord, and you can easily tell the difference. Also, the stock is much blockier and doesn't hold as nice as a 55. But the main difference is that the 303 isn't quite as accurate as a 55, and that's the one thing that really counts with a target rifle.

Five RWS Hobbys grouped like this at 10 meters from a rest with the HW 55SF.

On the other hand, the chief attraction of the 303 is its price. You're only going to find it used, and it costs quite a bit less than a used HW 55 of any configuration. That makes a big difference to shooters on a budget. For everyone in that category and anyone who just wants something a little different, the 303 Super is a great rifle to find.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blue Wonder cold blue - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I will start this report with an assessment of my personal skill at refinishing. I have very little skill. I wouldn't say that I have none, because somewhere there must be some poor soul with less ability than I, but I pity him or her (probably him, don't you think?).

I am the type of craftsman who makes basket-case projects for others with real skills. I'm the guy you want to know if you are a careful worker, because I will output loads of projects that require your skilled hands to put right. While this may sound like a humorous introduction, laced with humility, it's also possible that I'm just being honest.

Some men build ships in bottles. I break bottles. Some men install cabinets in their wives' kitchens. I hire them and go to the movies.

Now, I do know a few things about airguns, which is why I write about them. Years ago, when I began writing, some people took offense that a complete unknown would dare to write about a subject they had pursued for many decades. That resentment has sort of died away, now that people know that I not only make mistakes when I write, I actually draw attention to them when I find out!

So, I get to write about airguns. I even get to write about how to tune up certain airguns because I've done it many times, made most of the mistakes that can be made and tell my readers about them as I go.

But I'm about the last person you would seek when you need help refinishing your gun! I hope you believe that, because it has everything to do with the report you are about to read.

Volvo was discussing the use of cold bluing solutions and several readers chimed in with their personal experiences. I did, as well, though being the hack that I am, I was offering the advice of a blind guide. However, the discussion did stir my curiosity regarding one cold bluing process--Blue Wonder. I have seen this process demonstrated in person both at the German IWA show and also at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. The man who demonstrated it both times was the founder of the company and very smooth at doing what he did--which was to refinish a piece of gun steel in public. I remember standing there watching him work and marveling at the results, like a farm boy at a county fair.

Of course, the hype on the clamshell package says, "No special skills required!" but after learning years ago that, indeed, girls DO care about certain things (let the reader understand), I don't believe everything I read or hear. However, in this situation, I bring to the table an all-important quality that is certified by decades of demonstrated results. I have absolutely NO special skills.

Who better to demonstrate this "marvel" cold-bluing process than me? Heck--even I'm interested to see how this will turn out!

Blue Wonder cold blue system comes as a three-part package. You get cleaner, bluing solution and developer.

I followed the directions
More-or-less, I followed the directions. I didn't want lectures from those more skilled than I, so I tried to do things exactly the way Blue Wonder said to do them. Where I departed from the directions, I'll tell you.

Shall we begin?
I have a Daisy No. 25 pump gun receiver that's red with rust. I've been saving it for years, just for this experiment. You know how people are. Out behind the shed is a pile of rusty iron that Bubba is saving for a rainy day. Only it never rains and Bubba's relatives sell off a $10 million 1920 Hispano Suisa cabriolet for scrap at the estate sale. I haven't got one of those, but I sure do have this rusty old Daisy pump.

An overview of my rusty Daisy No. 25, which my wife correctly identified when I handed it to her! Eat your hearts out!

I'd call this a rusty BB gun, wouldn't you?

Success is in the prep
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Okay, so I rubbed the rust with OOOO steel wool for about 30 minutes. To placate the folks from Blue Wonder, I saturated the metal with Blue Wonder cleaner. The rust went away entirely, but it left the metal with an etched surface that didn't shine very much. If I had wanted the metal to shine, I would have rubbed it with car polishing compound. But I didn't do that, and that's important to keep in mind.

Clean the surface
This is where I deviated from the Blue Wonder instructions, but I can't see how I did anything bad. After getting all the rust off, I cleaned the surface to be blued with acetone several times before moving on to bluing. That was to get rid of all oil and grease.

Applying the Blue Wonder blue
To apply the bluing solution, which must be shaken in the bottle before every application, you first heat the metal with a propane torch. The metal must be hot to the touch, but not hot enough to burn you. Good luck with that one! I just heated it up and guessed!

The bluing solution is deep blue/black in color, and, unlike other cold blue solutions, it goes on dark black and then gets lighter as it dries. The other cold blues go on clear and slowly color the metal darker as you repeat applications. Blue Wonder needs repeated applications, too, so I put on five coats of solution, leaving the final one wet for a minute. Then, I dried the surface and applied the developer. The instructions say to use between 5 and 15 applications.

Applying the Blue Wonder developer
The developer both fixes the color and deepens it over the course of 1.5 to 3 hours. I left it on the full three hours, then I dried off the surface and sprayed it with Ballistol. The directions call for a high-quality gun oil with good rust protection, and Ballistol is the best I know of.

The results
You're going to have a hard time believing this, because I have a hard time and I was there to see it happen. The system worked exactly as advertised and left me with a beautiful finish. No, it's not perfect, because I didn't polish the metal perfectly. Remember? But the finish is better than I have a right to expect considering how easy it went on.

Here is a detail of the area I was working on. There are no lighting tricks or Photoshop tricks used with this picture or the next. The lighting was the same for both pictures.

And this is how it looked after I was done!

So, does Blue Wonder work? I'm not ready to say, yet. It sure looks like it does, but let me try some other tests before we get excited. However, I have to comment that, up to this point, this is the best cold bluing job I have ever done.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How and when Pyramyd Air got started - Part 1

Josh starts the story of the founding of Pyramyd Air today. He wants you all to know that he didn't forget you, but the demands of setting up a new building and the move have kept him pretty busy this summer.

How and when PA got started - Part 1

by Joshua Ungier

Actually, the question should be why I started Pyramyd Air. But I suppose you will understand how it all came together when I tell you the convoluted tale.

I can trace my first activities in this direction to about fifteen years ago. The original name of my company was Pyramyd Stone. My close friend Joshi Furikawa, a Japanese businessman, asked me if I could secure a thousand cubic yards of well-defined, commercial-grade marble he needed for his hotel chain in Japan. He wanted to cover lobby floors, walls and some ceilings with marble. In addition, he needed wood. Lots of good wood. Russia came to my mind and he agreed. Since I speak that language quite well, I agreed.

I recruited a timber specialist from Virginia, an investor from Alaska and, along with my former partner, we all took off for Russia. A Russian company interested in selling us the goods took us from Moscow to Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railway toward Altai region to the city of Barnaul. The ride lasted a few days. Lucky for us, we brought enough food and drink. Unlucky for us, we did not bring toilet paper. When I asked the lady conductor what we could use instead (at this point I was hoping for old newspaper), she extended her palm and said that they do not provide this luxury. That was something we should have thought of before we boarded the train.

Presidential suite
While in Barnaul, we stayed in Boris Yeltsin's Siberian dacha. I was told to sleep in his bed. He was president and I was the president of Pyramyd Stone, so it seemed fitting to them. While there, we had the best food I had in all of Russia!

To reach the headquarters of LesProm (the company in charge of the territory) was a twelve-hour trek from Barnaul. We were picked up by a small bus, then transferred to a modified army six-wheeler called a Kamaz, and then back to a bus. If not for Vodka, I do not think we would have made it to Biysk--the marble and forest region of Siberia.

Russian Kamaz 6-wheel truck is not built for comfort!

Siberia in November is miles and miles of miles and miles!

The next morning was absolutely glorious. Two feet of snow overnight blanketed the area like a white feather quilt. Voices outside of my dorm room door were talking about a hunt coming up to secure breakfast. I ignored them. But soon the knock on my door reaffirmed my worry. "It is time to get up, Yurij" (my Russian name). "It is time to get breakfast." The thermometer showed -38 deg. C (-36.4 deg. F). Not too bad for November in Siberia.

No Starbucks?
I am used to getting my breakfast by going to a refrigerator or at least to a bagel shop. However, there are no bagel shops in Siberia, and the refrigerator is located outside, according to the thermometer. A man who looked more like a bear in overalls handed me a shotgun and said "You hunt, you eat."

I am not a hunter. I suppose, if I had to, I would kill to eat. I have dispatched many injured deer that have wandered onto my Ohio farm after encountering a car or a truck on the highway. I then had the meat prepared for me by pros. But Siberia is apparently a self-serve restaurant. And first you have to provide your own food.

The shotgun he gave me was a side-by-side whose barrels looked very old. Probably turn of the 20th century. To call it rickety would be an understatement. The action was held to the breech by a thick carpentry nail bent at the end so it would not fall out. As beautiful as the Damascus-twist barrels were, I was not sure the shotgun would survive a shot from a modern shell. Lucky for me, the mayor of the village then pulled up in an old truck loaded with our breakfast. No hunting today! We had bear meat and eggs and coffee...hmmm... never had this kind of "Breakfast of Champions" before! Definitely not McDonald's.

Light bulb!
That is when an idea came to me to supply Russian hunters with American-made shotguns. God knows we have great guns, here. Winchester, Mossberg, Remington.

It took over a year to get all the licenses I needed. And Pyramyd Stone started exporting shotguns to Russia.

Back to our trip. After breakfast, we were picked up by a helicopter and flown over the quarries and forest that we were going to explore the next day for a closer look-and-touch. At this point, the trip only got colder.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Norica Massimo - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Norica Massimo has real style! The raised, ventilated rib does nothing functional, but it looks good.

Today is just for me and Josh Ungier, because we both like the looks of this new airgun. Josh likes it so much, in fact, that he called me while I was writing this report to ask when I was going to review the gun. The Norica Massimo has the most upscale look of any breakbarrel I've ever seen. Now, don't get me wrong--I love the look of a fine HW55 Tyrolean or perhaps a vintage ball-flask rifle, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the Massimo looks sharp! It looks like a Browning Automatic Rifle to me, and I'm referring to the modern BAR sporter, not the 1918 full-auto military arm.

Browning Automatic Rifle styling is very similar to the Massimo's.

I am not easily influenced by style. In fact, when it comes to shooters, it ranks at the bottom on my index of important things. In this case, it does come into play.

The Massimo is rated to 1,000 f.p.s., but I really don't care about that. I would be happy with 800 f.p.s., if the rifle can shoot. Yes, pretty as I think it is, it either shoots or I walk away. However, I will make a prediction about this one. I predict that it will be the prime target for airgun tuners, and the one who lightens the cocking effort will get my vote. I can even envision a light-cocking gas spring conversion. The great feel of this rifle would do well with a butter-smooth, 20-lb. cocking effort and a shot cycle that feels neutral, like a PCP.

The two-piece stock is different-- a butt and a separate forearm. I don't usually care for that style, but on this gun it looks and feels right. It's that styling thing, again. The forearm is tall and blocky, but thin enough to fit well in your off hand. And the pistol grip is on the slender side, so you feel like you're in control. Both pieces of wood are roughened by a combination of reverse checkering (the diamonds are pressed in, rather than sticking out) and stippling. The overly generous 15-inch pull, combined with the beefy wood pieces, gives the rifle an overall feeling of substantial size.

Grip and forearm are roughened by a combination of reverse checkering and stippling.

The weight is seven and one-half pounds, about a full pound less than I would have guessed. The length overall is a very shotgun-like 47 inches, or nearly two inches longer than Beeman's big R1 Supermagnum air rifle.

The barrel is shrouded (for looks, only) with a fat synthetic tube that looks for all the world like a 20-gauge shotgun barrel at the muzzle. That's because the real muzzle of the 16.5-inch barrel is located about two inches down the shroud. This is done for style, only, and has nothing to do with the discharge sound. The barrel is finished in a matte dark charcoal that matches the flat sides of what looks like the receiver, back above the triggerguard. The real receiver is the spring tube, of course, which Norica left with a low polished blue finish. I think a deep high polish would look better on this part, because of the contrast with the matte parts.

The raised, ventilated rib does nothing for the rifle but look good. Vent ribs belong on shotguns--not rifles, but we'll forgive the faux pas because it fits the styling so well.

Barrel shroud or jacket extends beyond the real barrel by several inches, giving the look of a shotgun muzzle, but one with rifle sights.

The trigger is two-stage and adjustable for the location of the second-stage engagement. It seems to release pretty easy, but these Norica triggers are so crisp that I've been fooled before. Let's wait for the scale to tell us the whole story.

The adjustable sights are fiberoptic, front and rear. The front sight is protected by a hood that can be removed. They look good enough to use, so I plan to. Of course, there's an 11mm scope rail cut directly into the top of the spring tube and a proper scope stop at the back.

One more surprise
A tin of Norica wadcutter pellets was included in my test Massimo box. They look well-formed and weigh between 7.5 and 7.7 grains, according to the small sample I checked. That puts them at the same quality as the Gamo Match pellet. I'll use them in the accuracy test, just for fun.

A tin of Norica wadcutters was in the Massimo box. I will use them in the accuracy test.

Shooting impression
I couldn't wait! The rifle cocks more easily than the last two Noricas I have tested. I'll weigh it for you next time. The trigger breaks cleanly and VERY light compared to the other two rifles! And the firing behavior is quick and without vibration. You can feel the forward thump, but that's as far as it goes. This is a smooth shooter.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Norica Quick - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Norica Quick is a big, robust-looking underlever.

Today, we'll look at the velocity of the Norica Quick. Remember my prediction that because of the long transfer port in the flip-up breech cap the Quick would probably not be much faster than its advertised 1,000 f.p.s., even though it takes 56 lbs. of force to cock.

Gamo Match
The first pellet I tried was the Gamo Match 7.5-grain wadcutter. They fit the breech loosely and dieseled several times before calming down. The average was 893 f.p.s. with a spread from 885 to 899. Fourteen feet per second is a tight distribution for a brand new springer. The average energy is 13.28 foot-pounds.

RWS Club
The seven-grain RWS Club 10 averaged 920 f.p.s. with a spread from 911 to 930. At the average velocity, the pellet produces 13.16 foot-pounds. These pellets also fit the breech loosely.

H&N Baracuda Match
These are the same as Beeman Kodiak Match pellets. They averaged 744 f.p.s. with a super-tight spread from 742 to 747 f.p.s. That's what a PCP with a regulator is supposed to do. I was most impressed! These pellets fit the breech just about right, which no doubt helps with the consistency. They produce 13.03 foot-pounds, on average.

Trigger pull
The two-stage trigger varied between 5.5 and 7.1 lbs. While that sounds quite heavy, once again, it's pretty crisp, so it doesn't feel like as much as it is. There's no provision for adjustment. The safety engages automatically with cocking and can be taken off by the trigger finger.

Because the rifle was broken in a little during this test, I decided to try the cocking effort again. It remained exactly where it was before.

General observations
Someone, I think it was Matt, wondered how troublesome the underlever is to pop out for cocking. The answer is that it's not troublesome at all. It pops out easily, yet it stays put all other times. The firing behavior is quick and somewhat harsh. There's moderate forward recoil and also a tiny bit of buzz at the instant of firing, but it's over quickly.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Are CB caps as good as pellets? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

An announcement from Pyramyd Air: On Tuesday, Oct. 12, they'll give you a 5% discount off your purchase (some products are excepted) AND let you use their free shipping offer! Get the discount code on their website on 10/12 (coupon is good only on 10/12/09...til midnight Eastern time). Why are they doing this? Because that's also the day they'll reveal their new logo, and they want to show it off. Plus, starting on 10/12, they're changing their shipping policy. Visit their web site on 10/12 to find out about this exciting new change!

Another announcement: There are two new articles online. See It's only a pellet and The right pellet makes a difference. Now, on to today's report.

How many times have I heard a firearm shooter say, "If I want to shoot something less powerful than a .22, I use CB caps. They're accurate and super-quiet and have all the power I need for close shooting. Who needs an airgun?"

I hear that all the time when someone at the range sees me with an air rifle. So, I thought I would test that statement, to see if there's any truth to it. The rifle some of you drooled over a couple days ago is my Winchester low-wall .22 target rifle, chambered in .22 short. Matt said he wasn't aware of the short cartridge, but it's the granddaddy of all modern self-contained cartridges, being first used in Smith & Wesson's model 1 revolver, which debuted in 1857.

My rifle is called the Winder Musket. It's named after Col. C.B. Winder, an Army officer who recommended a rimfire training rifle of service-rifle size and weight for marksmanship training in the early part of the 20th century. It's a target version of Winchester's 1885 low-wall single-shot rifle. Mine was probably made shortly before 1920, but since Winchester didn't keep serial number records of this model between 1913 and 1923, we'll never know for sure. It's chambered for .22 short, which also means that the rifling twist rate should be one turn in 22 inches instead of one turn in 16 inches for the long rifle bullet. The 29-grain short bullet requires less spin to stabilize.

Winder Musket is a classic Winchester low-wall chambered for .22 short.

Shooting a single-shot rimfire is as slow as shooting a single-shot air rifle. And just as satisfying!

At one time, .22 shorts were considerably cheaper than .22 long rifle cartridges, so shooters favored the smaller round. As several people have pointed out already, the short has enough power to dispatch small game. It's about as powerful as a hot AirForce Condor running on full steam.

Today, though, the short cartridge offers no price advantage over the long rifle. Factories continue to make the round because of the millions of guns chambered for it, but the long rifle cartridge is by far the favorite, so economies of scale make it cheaper to produce. And, finding standard speed short ammo is very problematic. Everybody seems to want the high-speed stuff. But, when feeding collectible old rifles like this Winder, a standard speed round is better because it doesn't put as much strain on the gun. Those old steel alloys used in vintage barrels were not as tough as modern gun steels. Because I can't find standard speed ammo when I want it, I often use .22 short CB caps.

CB caps?
A little history lesson. About a decade before the first .22 rimfire cartridge came about, the French were producing a small rimfire cartridge that used just priming compound to drive a round lead ball. Before that, the Germans used a separate percussion cap to power a small lead ball, but the French round was the first to have the cap and ball combined into one self-contained cartridge. They called it a Flobert cartridge, after the name of the single-shot action it was used in.

Their round was nominally 6mm and is still produced today. Six millimeters is so close to 5.5mm that many guns chambered for the .22 round will accept and fire the 6mm Flobert cartridge. Being lead, the bullet will go through the bore, resizing itself as it goes.

Americans call the Flobert cartridge a BB cap, possibly because the lead ball reminds them of the BBs that are used in air rifles. Or at least that is the best guess I have heard as to where the name came from. Frank Barnes, the author of Cartridges of the World, tried to convince everyone that BB was short for "bulleted breech," but that name hasn't become popular. I suppose "ball breech" would be another possible guess.

Well, the CB cap is the same idea as the BB cap, only loaded with a conical bullet instead of a round ball. Conical bullet cap is shortened to CB cap, and that name is more certain. So the CB cap is a cartridge that contains a conical lead bullet and a priming charge but no powder. The first CB caps came in the .22 short cartridge size. That causes problems when they're used in chambers made for long rifle cartridges, because after many shots the hot gasses will erode a small ring in the chamber, just ahead of the end of the brass cartridge case. That ring starts out as nothing more than frosted-looking metal; but as it grows, it starts grabbing the side of the longer long rifle cases when they're fired, making extraction difficult. So, it's best to use shorts and CB cap shorts in rifles chambered for the .22 short cartridge, and CB cap longs in rifles chambered for the long rifle cartridge.

Yes, there are also CB caps with longer cartridge cases that fit the .22 long rifle chamber. But they also have the lighter 29-grain lead bullets powered by nothing but priming compound, so they shoot no faster than the shorter caps. The faster twist rate of a long rifle barrel should be a little fast for them, but it's probably offset by their considerably slower velocity.

CB long has the same power as CB short. It preserves the chambers of guns chambered for the .22 long and .22 long rifle cartridge.

Whatever the size of the cartridge, these low-powered, self-contained cartridges feed through bolt-action, slide-action and lever-action mechanisms and drive a 29-grain lead bullet at slower speed than a .22 short. They also make less noise. They do not have the energy to power a semiautomatic mechanism, though many semiautos can cycle them manually. After each shot, the shooter has to work the bolt by hand. And, they're ideal in single-shot guns.

My idea
What I wanted to find out is where do CB caps fit in relation to pellets? Are they really quieter, like some people think? Are they as accurate as pellet guns? More accurate? And what kind of power do they generate? Finally, where do they fit in the cost structure?

As you must know, there are no simple answers to these questions. Nothing is straightforward. So, I posed my little puzzle to all of you in the blog to get your reactions as a means of letting you do some thinking for me. What had I overlooked?

Because I posed the question at the end of the Blizzard report, many of you made a connection between the two. I never intended that, but as someone pointed out, the two do have similar power. The CB caps are advertised to have a velocity of 710 f.p.s. and shoot a 29-grain bullet. That would be a muzzle energy of 32.47 foot-pounds. The Blizzard is roughly 10 foot-pounds more powerful, so it isn't quite an even contest, just an approximate one. A .22 short standard-speed cartridge drives its 29-grain bullet out the spout at 1,050 f.p.s., producing about 71 foot-pounds, so the CB cap is less than half the power.

Noise is relative, but when I was on the range with both my Winder and the Blizzard I was able to tell that the Winder is noticeably quieter. That 28-inch barrel is much longer than what is needed to accelerate the bullet. So, just like a pneumatic, the pressure of the gas behind the bullet has diminished by the time the bullet exits the muzzle. Longer barrels equal quieter shooting!

There was also a .22 Czech bolt-action on the range that day, and it was considerably louder with CB caps than the Blizzard. The CZ has a 16-inch barrel. When a legal silencer was screwed on the CZ, it became about as quiet as the Blizzard. So, there you go. Barrel length makes all the difference--just as it does with pneumatics.

The single target I posted on Monday is not the final word for the accuracy of the CB cap. In fact, I need to do a lot more testing to see what it really can do--including shooting the longer CB caps in rifles chambered for the .22 long rifle cartridge. I'll do all of that, of course, but I already know that the CB cap has an uphill battle if it wants to compete with an accurate pellet rifle. In fact, the question isn't whether or not the CB cap is as accurate as an accurate air rifle, because I don't think that it is. Rather, the question is, "How accurate is the CB cap?"

The first group of CB caps I shot at 20 yards was tight, but about four inches to the right.

The second group moved a little to the left, but was still more than three inches to the right.

Group three was close to where I wanted it.

Cost effectiveness
This may be the thorniest question of all. The firearm guy will say that a $10 box of CB caps may be all he ever has to buy, so of course it's cheaper than investing in a good pellet rifle. The pellet-gunner will respond that he gets to shoot a lot more than the firearm guy because he doesn't have to travel to a range to shoot. And with a quiet rifle like the Blizzard or even a lower-powered Marauder, that is entirely correct. So, the pellet-gun guy considers his "expensive" pellet gun to be more than just a cheap pest eliminator. It's his primary shooter.

I have no desire to force people to shoot pellet guns, or even to try to convince them that pellet guns are somehow better than firearms. Because I don't know what "better" means. I shoot firearms, too, and I really enjoy them. But I probably shoot 20-40 times more with pellet guns--partly because of my writing, but also because it is so much easier to do.

However, the statements made about CB caps deserve to be challenged. Today's air rifles are so capable of accuracy and power that I wonder if these cartridges are a viable alternative anymore.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Norica Goliath 88 Classic Carbine - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Norica Goliath 88 Classic Carbine is a bullpup springer.

Today, I'll test the Norica Goliath 88 Classic Carbine for accuracy. We already know that the scope will be high above the centerline of the barrel, which bothers some shooters because of the parallax at close range. I'll monitor the situation to see if I notice a problem.

The scope
The Goliath Pyramyd Air is selling will come with a dot sight. The test version I was sent didn't have any optics. However, I happened to have a nice scope on hand for a different test I just completed, and it was still mounted in Weaver rings, so it was easy to install it on the Goliath. The Osprey International Tactical scope is a 2.5-10x40 with a 30mm tube. It has a coarse duplex reticle with mil-dots on the thin inner lines. The centerline of the mounted scope is approximately 3-5/8" (9 cm) above the centerline of the barrel, so this should be an interesting exercise!

Scope sits high above the centerline of the bore.

I will say this: you'll need some SERIOUS elevation on the rear ring to bring the pellet up to the aim point. Think about using B-Square adjustables or some other rugged adjustable mount, because the rifle will shoot very low if you don't.

The pellets
I decided to try Gamo Match, Crosman wadcutters and RWS Superdomes for accuracy. The Crosman pellets gave the tightest spread during the velocity test, and the Gamo Match are just on my good side ever since they did so well in the Crosman Challenger 2009.

However, I'm not going to show you any of the groups from those pellets because they sprayed all over the place! So, I tried Baracuda Match, which is the same as Beeman Kodiak Match, RWS Supermag and JSB Match Diabolo. Both the Baracudas and the RWS Supermags changed the firing sound from a buzzy snap to a hollow crack, so obviously they were creating different firing characteristics. More than likely, the piston was bouncing.

The RWS Supermag shot okay, but it was nothing special. At 25 yards, they grouped 10 in about 1.5 inches. Normally, that's nothing to get excited about, but compared to the three-inch groups the other pellets gave, it was something. By this time, I'd fired close to 80 shots and was pretty discouraged.

Several variations of the artillery hold
The Goliath stock isn't shaped like conventional rifle stocks; so when you try to use the artillery hold, it responds differently. At first, I was cradling the gun, with my off hand touching the triggerguard; but when that clearly didn't work, I moved my hand all the way to the end of the forearm. No dice there, either. I thought this was going to turn out bad for the Goliath, but then I tried the JSB Match. Actually, I changed the hold with the JSB, too. Instead of resting the gun on my hand, I rested it directly on the bag.

The one good group I got was with the JSB target wadcutter pellet and with the gun rested directly on the bag. In fact, it wasn't just rested, it was pushed into the bag where the triggerguard swoops up to meet the forearm. And it worked!

Ten JSB target pellets grouped in this 1.134" group at 25 yards.

What this tells us is not that this is the best pellet for the rifle, but that you have to experiment with the hold when shooting the Goliath. Just to check it out, I went back to some of the pellets I had tried earlier, but they were still as bad as before. So, you'll have to try a lot of different pellets as well as learn hold to hold the gun for best accuracy.

I have the impression that this gun doesn't like to be shot rested and will do its best when handheld. As poor a shot as I am, there's no way to show that, but if you are thinking of buying one, keep it in mind.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Evanix Blizzard S10 - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Quick announcement: Pyramyd Air has told me that Norica is aware of the need for a more robust muzzlebrake on their Goliath carbine, and all Goliaths shipped to Pyramyd Air will have stronger ones than the one on the pre-production model shipped to me for testing.

Now, on to today's blog.

Part 1
Part 2

Today, we'll look at the accuracy of the Evanix Blizzard S10--a report some people have been awaiting for a long time. And I have some interesting news to share.

The Blizzard is a quiet gun. I was reminded of that when I shot it. It's louder than a Marauder, but it also has a lot more power. It also has a very nice trigger. And the stock, which is made in the best European fashion, leaves nothing to be desired. But what about the accuracy? Well, let's see.

As you examine the 10-shot groups that follow, know that I was adjusting the sights as I went. And some groups were shot without adjustment, which explains why they are so far from the bull. All shooting was done from a rest at 50 yards. I waited out the wind and shot between gusts. I shot 20 shots (two groups) before refilling, because that seems to be best for this rifle. There are more good shots available from a charge, but not another 10, which is what the circular clip holds.

JSB Exacts
I started out with the 18-grain JSB Exact, because the Air Arms domes I was also going to use are the same as 15.8-grain JSB Exacts. The groups were surprising, as they were reasonably good for 50 yards with several awful wild shots. I was shocked to see what I had thought would be the best pellet of all come out so bad. More puzzling was the tight group within the 10-shot group that suggested something else was wrong.

18-grain JSBs look promising at 50 yards, then they throw a curve ball to the right. There was no wind when that shot was taken. What's going on?

Eun Jin
The single 50-yard 10-shot group I fired with Eun Jin domes was horrible. It measured 2.68 inches. So, I quit shooting that pellet. Then, the very next group, shot with Air Arms 16-grain domes, turned out to be the second-best group of the day.

Eun Jin pellets were not going to shoot on this day!

Air Arms Domes
Ten Air Arms domes, which are the 15.8-grain JSB Exact, went into a 1.087" group at 50 yards. That was followed by another group with the same pellets that measured 2.09". Yes, there was wind on the day I shot, but I was pausing for windless spells. My groups should have been within a couple tenths of one another when shooting with the same pellet.

Immediately following the Eun Jin group, I shot this group of 10 Air Arms domes that measures 1.087". Clearly this rifle wants to shoot.

Then I shot a 1.056" 10-shot group of Air Arms pellets, the best group of the day, followed two groups later by one measuring 2.88". Now, I was pretty certain that I knew what was wrong. Do you know what it is?

Nice group of 10 Air Arms pellets measures 1.056" at 50 yards.

Two groups later I got this 2.88" group with the same Air Arms pellets. This isn't right!

Whenever a baffled rifle shoots inconsistently like this, there's usually just one cause. Some of the pellets are touching one of the baffles on the way out, destabilizing them. Some Daystate rifles used to have this problem, because they had very small holes in their silencers. The solution was to enlarge the hole through the baffles. The funny thing is that doing that doesn't increase the sound! I don't know why manufacturers make these holes so small.

And the pellets were completing the story with the Blizzard, because the biggest Eun Jin pellets wouldn't shoot at all, while the smallest Air Arms pellets wanted to group, but were sometimes inconsistent. So the larger the pellets are, the less likely they will shoot well in this rifle.

Because the barrel shroud simply unscrews, it will be easy to test my theory. I'm going to re-run this test without the barrel shroud installed, and we'll see if there's a difference in accuracy and consistency. My instinct tells me that this is a very accurate rifle, if it's given half a chance.

In fact, Edith just brought to my attention that a recent customer review for the Blizzard states the same thing...a customer experienced the same problem of pellets getting clipped. He drilled out the hole of of one of the tubes in the baffles, and that solved the issue. He also mentioned that there was no change in sound from the larger hole.

And now for something capricious and wonderful!

We shall play a guessing game. I will show you three photos and you will tell me what they mean. There is no prize for guessing right except the satisfaction of being first to uncover a mystery.

Five shots at 20 yards, But from what?

The shooter. What in the world?

The ammo. Does it start to make sense?

So, what am I showing you and why? That's our game. When someone guesses close, I will reveal the whole plan.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Norica Quick - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Norica Quick is a big, robust-looking underlever.

Well, here's another new one! The Norica Quick is a man-sized underlever spring rifle that I'll test for you next. The rifle should arrive in inventory later this month, but there are many new models, and I wanted to get started on them. The entire Norica line looks interesting, and the build quality seems to be on the plus side of good.

The Quick is certainly a big air rifle! It's a shade under 46" long and a hair over 8 lbs. Just holding it to my shoulder tells me this one is meant for adults, only, and those wanting a large hunting rifle. The length biases the weight toward the muzzle, so the rifle feels muzzle-heavy. The addition of a scope will take some of this back, but I think this rifle will always have a forward bias.

The stock is an evenly stained, medium brown beech with checkering on both sides of the forearm and grip. There's a low raised cheekpiece on the left side, but besides that and the breech cover the rifle is ambidextrous. The butt has a soft black rubber pad with grippy horizontal lines to grip shoulders. The overall fit of wood to metal is exact.

The metal is finished a matte black. Plastic on the outside is minimal, limited to the end cap, triggerguard and rotating breech cover.

The sights are fiberoptic front and rear. The rear sight has adjustments for both elevation and windage. And the 11mm scope dovetail is cut directly into the spring tube with a scope stop plate screwed to the rear.

Rear sight is fully adjustable. Those who use open sights should like this one.

Rotating breech
The Quick has a breech cover that rotates up and to the left to gain access to the rear of the barrel. This is similar to the flip-up breech cover found on the RWS Diana 46 and the rotating breech found on the Gamo CFX. Like the Diana and unlike the CFX, this cover is not in contact with the piston, so it's free to open at any time, regardless of whether or not the rifle is cocked. Once up, it allows generous access to the breech, though lefties will find it less convenient.

To open the breech, a knob on the right side is pulled back, then the whole cover is free to swing up and to the left. The cover has o-rings on both ends of the transfer port that runs through its length. After a pellet is loaded, the cover can just be pressed closed and the latch will lock by itself.

Breech cover flips up and to the left like this. Access to the breech is generous. Though the latch is pulled back to open the cover, it closes with just a push.

Cocking lever
The cocking lever is retained by a ball bearing detent located at the end of the cocking arm. It nests in a socket located under the muzzle at the end of the barrel. I can see no adjustment, but lockup is absolutely tight, yet the arm pops away easily when you want it.

The metal trigger appears to have no adjustments. It's a two-stage unit that breaks cleanly. I will weigh it during the velocity test. The safety is automatic and the rifle does have an anti-beartrap mechanism, so there's no manual way to uncock the rifle.

I could tell from the start that this one meant business, so I went right to the bathroom scale to measure the cocking effort. I cannot comfortably cock the rifle with one arm, and the 56 lbs. of effort needed to get the piston locked back is the reason why. Yes, you read that right. The effort goes up to 46 lbs. until the end of the stroke, then it jumps to about 56 lbs. as the sear engages. I even asked Edith to watch the scale as I cocked the rifle, because I didn't want to get the scale out a second time. The specs say the rifle is rated to 1,000 f.p.s., and despite the powerful mainspring that may be correct because of the long air transfer port. It's a medium-stroke piston, and a one-piece cocking link means a long cocking slot in the forearm. Still, vibration upon firing is minimal.

The Quick is a large air rifle, and the heavy cocking effort means it's best-suited to hunting. It's certainly no plinker. The quality looks and feels good. We should have some fun with this one.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Crosman Challenger 2009 target rifle - Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today, we'll test accuracy! Always fun, when you know the rifle is going to perform.

First, I had to sight in, and now I'll comment on the aperture sights. They're made in Spain. From the adjusting I did during sight-in, they adjust crisply and positively in all directions. The knobs are marked clearly with which way to turn to move the pellet, and the adjustments are agreeably small.

Front and rear aperture sights are first class for budget sights!

During the sight-in and accuracy test, I had the opportunity to test that trigger many times. I'm very familiar with the other Sporter-class rifle triggers out there, and this one has them all beat. It isn't a Precision-class trigger by any stretch, because Sporter-class triggers have to break at 1.5 lbs. or more. So, you'll never get a 20-gram pull. But, after trying everything else on the market, I think everyone will have to agree, this is the best by far.

First pass
After sight-in, I had the rifle printing close to the bull. I wasn't interested in being exactly "on" at this point. What I wanted to see was what the groups looked like. I shot five shots at each target; and because I was shooting aperture sights instead of a scope, the aim point didn't change as I shot. The first pass was to eliminate any "weak sister" pellets that didn't deserve a closer look.

Looking at this target, which pellet(s) would you eliminate?

Crosman Supermatch--out
Is it any surprise that Crosman Supermatch pellets (upper right bull) didn't keep up with the rest? I'm showing you this target because some new buyers are fooled by the name on the box. Clearly, these are not match pellets. But I have met coaches who used them for their team because they said they are good enough for what they're doing. I don't suppose many of those teams or shooters ever made it to the Nationals.

Next pass--get serious!
I knew I had four pellets that were worth a second chance. This time, the aiming was more precise, as another five shots were fired.

H&N Finale Match pellets were contenders.

Chinese Match pellets are okay, but nothing special. I would not continue with them.

RWS R-10 pellets were equal to the H&Ns in this test. Include them but don't quit testing yet.

This group earned Gamo Match pellets a spot in future testing. This sometimes happens, and I don't ask questions when it does.

Three pellets to test further
From this limited test, conducted off a rest at the regulation 10 meters, it appears that three pellets are worth further testing. H&N Finale Match are often among the final finishers. Only many more groups will tell.

RWS R10 8.2-grain pellets are always hard to beat. So far, it seems like a dead heat between them and the H&Ns.

But the big surprise were the Gamo Match 7.5-grain pellets that shot as well as the other two world-class target pellets. This sometimes happens, and they're worthy of a further look. But remember that these are bulk-packed in tins, while both the others come sorted by dies and lot numbers and are packed in individual trays. While that does add a lot to the cost, what is a championship worth?

Bottom line to this point
I've seen great accuracy with the Crosman Challenger 2009, but I'm not done yet. I will now select just one of the three most accurate pellets, and I will adjust the powerplant to get the maximum number of shots out of the gun for that specific pellet. That way we'll get to see how the adjustments work, and also if there are 100 good shots in this gun, as Crosman claims. I think there are.

If I were a parent of a good and interested young shooter and I could afford it, I would think seriously about buying this rifle for my child. If I were an adult shooter who has always wanted a precision 10-meter rifle but cannot afford the $1,000 price of a good used gun, I might also consider this rifle. And if I just wanted to own a nice a modern air rifle, this would be on my short list. The holidays are coming!