Friday, January 29, 2010

Hy Score 801 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before I start this report, here's an interesting tidbit. I heard something interesting about the Edge target rifle at the SHOT Show, so yesterday I did a special test. The results were dramatic enough that I will make another report on the Edge on Monday. If you own an Edge or are considering buying one, you won't want to miss this!

Now, let's get on with today's report.

Hy Score model 801 is a handsome vintage spring rifle. Note the walnut stain on the beechwood stock. Beautiful!

Some interesting feedback on the first report of the Hy Score 801. One of our readers from Belgium says he's never heard of nor seen this rifle in his country, so it may be scarce even there. And several readers commented on how lovely the rifle is. That's my own assessment, as well. I'm so glad I'm able to bring your attention to this little-known classic springer from the 1940s.

Today, we'll test the velocity of this rifle, and I'll do two separate tests, because this unique breakbarrel spring rifle has a pellet seater built-in. Each pellet will be tested by using the pellet seater and, again, seating flush with the back of the breech.

Gamo Match
The first pellet I tried was the old standby, Gamo Match. These were the light 7.5-grain pellets. Seated flush with the back of the breech, they averaged 438 f.p.s., with a spread from 384 f.p.s. to 464 f.p.s. That's a pretty big spread. When I load pellets, I always press them hard into the breech so they don't fall back out as the barrel is closed. That may have been the reason there was such a large velocity spread--I theorize that some pellets were popping completely into the barrel while the ends of the skirts of others were remaining outside. The average muzzle energy was 3.2 foot-pounds.

Next, I used the pellet seater mounted on the rifle. It stops at the same depth every time you use it, so the pellet is a uniform distance into the breech. With the seater, the average velocity was 469 f.p.s., and the spread went from 464 f.p.s , to 474 f.p.s. That's both a higher average velocity and a much tighter velocity spread. The average muzzle energy with the pellet seater was 3.66 foot-pounds.

The pellet seater sits atop the breech, waiting to spring into action.

This pellet is seated flush with the breech. The pellet seater shown here flips back up out of the way when the barrel is closed.

Pushing forward on the spring-loaded pellet seater seats each pellet a uniform depth into the barrel.

RWS Hobbys
RWS Hobby pellets were next. Seated flush with the end of the breech, they averaged 384 f.p.s., with a spread from 351 f.p.s. to 411 f.p.s. That works out to an average 2.29 foot-pounds. That's a large drop from the energy of the heavier flush-seated Gamo Match. And the pellet seater revealed the reason why.

Using the pellet seater, Hobbys averaged 484 f.p.s. with a spread from 482 to 490 f.p.s. Once again we see an increase in the average velocity, and this time a huge one of 100 f.p.s. At the same time, the velocity spread drops from 60 f.p.s. to just 8 f.p.s. From this we can learn two important things: (1) Deep-seated pellets are both faster and more uniform than flush-seated pellets in the 801 and (2) that RWS Hobby pellets have very large skirts. That was the reason they didn't go faster when seated flush with the end of the barrel, even though I pressed them in hard. All of you who shoot rifles with weaker springs will want to pay attention to this.

JSB Exacts
The next pellets I tried were the JSB Exact domes that weigh 8.4 grains. I would normally expect a pellet this heavy to shoot slower than the Hobbys that are 1.4 grains lighter except for one thing. When I seated these pellets flush with the breech, I could feel each of them pop past the breech and into the barrel. All it took was my thumb pressure. So, the diameter of the skirt on this pellet must be very close to the 801's breech diameter. That's just a coincidence, but look what it does to the performance.

The flush-seated Exacts averaged 436 f.p.s. The spread went from 430 f.p.s. to 444 f.p.s., a spread of just 14 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 3.55 foot-pounds, which is more than one full foot-pound greater than the RWS Hobbys that were seated flush. I know these energy levels are low, but this is an energy increase of greater than 25 percent! That's very significant.

When the Exacts were seated deep with the seating tool, the average was only 437 f.p.s. And the spread went from 432 f.p.s. to 444 f.p.s. Those values are practically identical to the first set, which means that the act of "breaking" each pellet past the breech is the most important step toward higher and more uniform velocities. I think we've learned something from this test! I'll come back to it in a moment.

RWS R10 Heavy pellets
The final pellet I tried was the RWS R10 Match heavy pellet that weighs 8.2 grains. They gave an average 334 f.p.s. with a spread from 320 f.p.s. up to 339 f.p.s. These were all seated flush with the end of the breech. This was also the most uniform result I got from flush-seating, which tells me the skirts on this pellet are uniformly large and do not "break" past the breech to enter the bore with finger pressure, alone. At this speed, they deliver an average 2.03 foot-pounds--the lowest energy of this test.

When the pellet seater was used, the average velocity climbed to 416 f.p.s. and the spread went down just 4 f.p.s.--from 414 f.p.s. to 418 f.p.s. That's remarkable uniformity, which you expect from a premium target pellet like this. The average muzzle energy was 3.15 foot pounds--another dramatic increase.

This test was just supposed to be a quiet little velocity test of this unique old breakbarrel rifle, but using the built-in pellet seater has opened my eyes to a unique situation. It seems that a low-powered spring rifle may do better when the pellets are seated deeper into the bore. That's something I need to explore more.

I also need to find out if this same relationship extends to the higher-powered springers. In other words, at what point does pellet seating cease to be an advantage. Or is there no point at which it does, and should we all be seating our pellets deeply?

Now, I'm not the H.P. White Labs nor the Shell Answer Man, so I'm not planning on doing a doctoral dissertation on this, though I won't discourage any of you from doing one. So, don't start wondering about group sizes with seated versus unseated pellets, seating depths correlating to velocities and groups sizes and stuff like that. I gotta blog to do here and plenty of products to look at as it is.

Still, I don't suppose it would hurt to run a few tests as we go.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daisy Powerline 953 Targetpro - Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 5? What more can I do with the 953?

Well, one of you asked to see the AirForce target sight set mounted on the Daisy 953, and in a moment of weakness I said I'd do it. Forget the fact that I have already tested the rifle with a scope, which is potentially more accurate. They wanted to see what it would do with these sights and I agreed. Today's the day.

Installation of the sights
Installation was easy. The front sight could be installed on either side of the muzzle, and I chose the right side for no particular reason. Of course, that sight can also be installed at a wide range of heights. Since the 953 doesn't let you look through the barrel, I guessed what the right height might be and put it there. That guess was based on where the rear sight was, of course.

Front sight was installed in a low position. It's using a clear aperture, the same as modern Precision-class rifles.

The rear sight installs on the left side of the receiver, and once again has a wide range of heights at which it can be locked. After that, all vertical adjustments are made with the adjustment knobs.

Rear sight has plenty of internal adjustability. When that's not enough, it goes up and down on a stalk.

Change to the test plan
Since this is a fifth report on this gun and the third accuracy test, I decided to forego the 10-shot groups. Actually, there were both 10- and 20-shot groups for the 953 since I last tested it so long ago. Today, I'm doing just five per pellet.

I also now know which pellets work best in the gun, so those are the ones I'm shooting. And I'm adding one domed pellet because someone asked me to test it.

Today's shooting is from a rested rifle at 10 meters using an MTM rifle rest. And before anyone asks, yes, I did notice that the rifle jumps slightly to the left when it fires. When I say "slightly," I mean that the front aperture shifts about half a bullseye to the left.

RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets
RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets were fired before the rear sight was adjusted, so the group was low in the bull. As in all previous tests of the 953, the R10s continued to group well, though you must bear in mind that these are only 5-shot groups, so they will look much smaller than the 10- and 20-shot groups I fired last year.

The group is low on the bull because the sights were not adjusted. But the R10s still shoot well in the 953.

JSB Exact lites
JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets were tried next because another reader suggested them to me. Since I had an easily adjustable rear sight on the gun, I clicked up 12 clicks to bring the group closer to the center of the bull.

This group of JSB Exact lites climbed on the bull from the adjustment put into the rear sight. They group okay but not as good as the R10s at this distance. At longer range--say 25 yards--domed pellets like these will overtake and pass the non-aerodynamic wadcutters.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
I put another 12 clicks of elevation into the rear sight and proceeded to shoot five H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. These turned in the smallest group of the session, and of course they were even closer to the center of the bull.

H&N Finale Match pistol pellets gave the tightest group of this test.

There you have it. The 953 accepted the AirForce target sights without a problem, and they turned in great results on target. This test demonstrates that the adjustments on the rear sight do work as advertised.

Although I doubt that too many shooters will mount this sight set on a 953, you can consider this test was also for an 853 and a 753, because their receivers are very close to the 953's receiver. The rear sight works precisely as you might expect and there seems to be no backlash in the adjustments.

Finally, remember I shot only five shots at each target. That and that, alone, was the difference between this test and the targets in Parts 3 and 4.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 2010 SHOT Show - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today, I'll tell you more about the 2010 SHOT Show, plus I'll tell you about the Pawn Stars pawn shop I visited. I'll even throw in a bit about the car museum I saw at the Imperial Palace. But the SHOT Show is first.

Before I begin, I want to thank my pal Earl (Mac) McDonald for taking all the pictures you are about to see, as well as those shown in Part 1. Mac makes my SHOT Show go much faster and smoother than if I did it alone.

Air Arms in the Pyramyd Air booth
At the Air Arms section inside Pyramyd Air's booth I was shown the new MPR rifle. It has undergone some changes to make it acceptable in NRA Sporter-class matches, according to Air Arms' Bill Saunders.

New Air Arms MPR is set up for NRA Sporter-class competition.

Remaining in the Pyramyd Air booth a little longer, I found a remarkable new kind of folding knife at the show, and I showed it to Josh Ungier, who immediately placed an order. The blade locks in 35 different positions, so difficult cuts of tubing, rope and carpet become easy. It can also become a formidable close combat weapon when the blade is locked at a 90-deg. angle. I didn't take a picture because I hope to test it for you very soon.

Back to Crosman
I returned to the Crosman booth several times during the show; and on the last visit, I learned that the Super Streak model will be replaced by the Benjamin Trail. While the Trail is the same size and shape of the Super Streak, it has the Nitro Piston plus a barrel shroud that the Super Streak didn't have, so this is really a brand new model.

I also saw their new Marlin BB gun that has a pronounced western look. They call it the Cowboy, and it looks like a real Western rifle. I'll test one as soon as possible.

The new Marlin Cowboy looks very Western. It's a BB gun.

Back to Umarex
Umarex is now branding guns under their own name, and one of them is the new Steel Storm BB repeater. It shoots 6-round bursts or semiautomatic shots one at a time, runs on CO2 and has blowback action. The power for shooting comes from two 12-gram CO2 cartridges. It looks a lot like a Drozd, but expect it to sell for less.

Umarex Steel Storm is a BB submachine gun. Burst-fire and semi-auto, as well. Remind you of anything?

Gamo again
On day four, I ran into Norvin Hornberger at Gamo, who walked me through all their new products. And they had quite a few. I first told him how delighted I was to see three .25 caliber pellets in the booth and he immediately called over the Gamo USA CEO to hear me. I told them both that the Hunter Extreme in .25 and their three new pellets were going to help revive the quarter-inch bore--something I told you guys in the first report. Norvin told me the company was so entrenched in .177 sales that even making .22 caliber guns was a stretch, and that the .25 seemed like a miracle. I responded that I think they may be surprised by the sales, since there are a number of .25 caliber enthusiasts here in the U.S. Especially, the hunters will love the extra smashing power.

Gamo SOCOM Extreme is another hypervelocity spring rifle that joins the Hunter Extreme this year.

Two of the three new Gamo pellets that will be offered in .25 caliber.

Norvin told me that the new Gamo SOCOM Extreme, another 1,600 f.p.s. springer, will probably also be converted to .25 if sales are good for the Hunter Extreme. Of course, the .22 version will be available even sooner this year.

Another big reason to be in the Gamo booth are the new ND3 and ND5 laser illuminators. These are not flashlights. They're actual lasers that can be focused to have larger beams at distance. They make it possible to see game through a standard telescopic sight without night vision. For hunters, they'll soon become essential, since you will be able to see game at night a half-mile away without spooking anything.

The light clamped to the scope is a Gamo ND3 laser illuminator. It can be aligned with your scope to allow you to see game beyond the range at which you can shoot.

Fun times
The show ended on a Friday, so that evening Mac and I saw Terry Fator, the impersonating ventriloquist at the Mirage. I've seen a few Vegas shows, but this was the best of all. Fator told the audience to take all the pictures they wanted and to video the portions of the show they liked best.

At the end of the show, he went into his souvenir store and stayed until the last guest had a chance to get his autograph and get their picture taken with him. The profits from all the sales are turned over to the armed forces for the benefit of troops stationed overseas. No Vegas headliner has ever done these things before, which tells you a lot about the man who won America's Got Talent.

The next morning, we hopped in a cab and went downtown to the Gold and Silver pawn shop--home of the History Channel's Pawn Stars. Chumlee was the only member of the cast in the store when I was there, and I asked him where all the old guns were. He told me that about 100 people a day of the 700 that come into the store ask the same thing, so the old guns never stay long. Ten minutes later I heard him explaining the same thing to another tourist/customer.

Pawn Stars pawn shop has two employees dedicated to crowd control during the day.

Poor Chumlee has to answer the same questions from hundreds of customers every day. He takes photos with about every fifth customer. Those are Pawn Stars souvenir shirts on the wall behind him.

These are the championship rings they have on display. The 2001 Super Bowl ring in the center is priced at $100,000.

As you might expect, a lot of the neat stuff you see them buy on the show is already gone, but I did see a few things from the show. Rick's refurbished barber chair is on sale, and the wooden airplane propeller that might be linked to Charles Lindberg was mounted on the wall. No prices were seen for these items. The Coke vending machine was there (or another one that looked just like it), and I think Chumlee's Harley is for sale for $20,000. It sure looked like the bike he bought from them in 2009.

The hot-air balloon Cory bought hasn't sold yet. The worked a deal to lease it back to the guy they bought it from, so at least they're making some money from it.

After the visit, we went over to the Imperial Palace to see their car museum. Many of the cars were for sale, and they apparently buy and sell from there all the time. Over 300 restored cars were on display, with the cheapest selling for $14,000 and the most expensive at $1.5 million.

Three-wheel car with a two-cylinder JAP motorcycle engine hung out in front was one of the quirky cars at the Imperial Palace car museum.

This was definitely the best SHOT Show I ever attended. It had tons of new products, and this year I stayed an extra day to depressurize after the show closed. The coming year should be an exciting one for all airgunners.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Bronco from Air Venturi - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The results are in today. The new Air Venturi Bronco is a superior plinker!

I'm back in my office following the 2010 SHOT Show. The SHOT Show report will have several more parts, as there was just too much to get into the first report, and it's hard to write a blog in a hotel room with only a couple hours of time. In Part 2 of the SHOT Show report, I'll tell you about my visit to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop--home of the History Channel's Pawn Stars! But, today, I'll get back on track with the first of two accuracy reports on the new Air Venturi Bronco.

Several readers have said the Bronco seems to offer the features they've been looking for. I hope that's the case, because I tried to put together a rifle that addresses as many of our desires as possible. I know I got the light cocking effort, ease of holding, great trigger and general look I was after; so, let's see how it does on paper.

Before we do that, though, let's talk about the blonde stock for a minute. I thought the Bronco would be unique at the SHOT Show, so imagine my surprise to see an Air Arms S410 with two versions of a blonde stock! Bill Saunders told me they were looking for ways of reducing the weight of their new MPR Sporter-class target rifle (more on that in a later report) and they discovered poplar wood.

A popular blonde
Poplar (not popular) is a fast-growing hardwood species. It's apparently strong enough for gun stocks but still lightweight. It's a favorite in the furniture trade as a secondary wood. Generally, the grain is straight without a lot of figure, and it takes a stain like a white cotton shirt at a blueberry-eating festival. Weight plus the possible color spectrum were what brought it to the attention of Air Arms. And, as I noted, they showed their very popular S410 in a blonde poplar stock at the show. So, if it's good enough for them....

Therefore, we know that the Bronco is not the only blonde at the party. But it's still one of the prettiest, in my opinion. Every veteran airgunner who saw it at the show saw the C1 similarity right away.

Today, I'm going to test it for accuracy with the open sights it comes with. A right-out-of-the-box test, if you will. And I'm not going to clean the barrel, because I don't expect most customers to do so, either. In fact, I'm going to split this test in two parts. The first will be shot with discount store pellets, like I would expect many buyers to use. Then I'll use the premium pellets that I would recommend. So, today you'll be getting a second test within a test as we compare the results of discount pellets to premium pellets.

The shooting was at 10 meters, off a bag rest and artillery hold with the rifle on the backs of my fingers. As light as it is, it is very easy to shoot this way.

In this corner...Daisy Precision Max
Bargain pellets first. First up were Daisy Precision Max wadcutters. That's a pellet you always find at the big box stores like Wal-Mart. They're pure lead and made in China.

Daisy Precision Max wadcutters were mediocre at 10 meters. Though the sighting was careful, they went into this open group.

I didn't have a lot of hope for the Daisys. They were more accurate when they were made in Spain, but even then they were not among the top bargain pellets.

Crosman Copperhead wadcutters
Next up were Crosman wadcutters. They gave a much better group, with three of the five going into a very small hole. Remember, I am a 62-year-old man who wears bifocals shooting open sights without his glasses on.

Crosman wadcutters showed a lot of promise, with three going into a very small hole at the top. This gave me the idea to try Premiers

The Crosman group was also well-rounded, giving me a lot more confidence in the gun. Remember, these are economy pellets I'm shooting.

Gamo Match wadcutters
Gamo Match wadcutters were next. Though you can find them at Wally World, they're really a very good pellet in a lot of guns. In fact, I heard they work quite well in the Edge. If I get some time, I will try them.

Best group thus far. Gamo Match are worth shooting in the Bronco.

Well, the group speaks for itself. With my old tired eyes, I shot a dime-sized group. They're both inexpensive and accurate; two of the best things a pellet can be.

And in this corner...RWS Hobby
Now it was time to move into the premium pellets. While RWS Hobbys are not really a premium pellet, they're often very accurate in some guns, so I lumped them in this test.

Hobbys didn't fare well in the Bronco.

The results are obvious. The Bronco I'm testing doesn't like them.

RWS Meisterkugeln
Next up were RWS Meisterkugeln heavy (8.2 grains) pellets. They were better than the Hobbys, but still only average. If I had them, I'd shoot them--but Crosman wadcutters did better.

Meisterkugeln tightened up from Hobbys, as expected.

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets
The next pellet to be tested were H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. They tightened up even more, and were quite acceptable.

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets shot very well in the Bronco.

What about pellets other than wadcutters?
I tried wadcutters first, because of the cleaner holes they cut in target paper. But domed pellets are probably what most people will shoot in a plinker. I tried both RWS Superdomes and H&N Field Target, but they were only average in this rifle. However, do you remember those Crosman wadcutters that were so good? Well, they gave me the idea to try Crosman Permier 7.9-grain domes.

Drum roll, please...

Crosman Premier lites
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets turned in the best performance of the test. I put a U.S. dime next to the target, so you can see for yourself. Four of the five shots stayed inside Roosevelt's head on the dime, and the group of five can be completely covered by the coin.

The Bronco isn't just accurate. It's dead-nuts accurate! Wonder what it can do with a scope?

I never adjusted the sights during the test. The movement of the groups is entirely due to their performance in the Bronco's barrel. That is a report within a report.

Notice, also, that the cheap pellets did remarkably well in this test. No need to spend a bundle to shoot the Bronco.

The firing behavior was remarkably smooth and quick. The second stage of the trigger was crisp in this test, but I was able to feel it move as I squeezed.

Some people have asked about the expected longevity of this rifle. I think it should be nearly forever, given the light, smooth firing cycle.

The straight line of the stock works well for sighting, and I can tell it will also work with a scope mounted at medium height. I'm glad we went with the western lines of the butt.

Most pellets fit the breech very well. Only the Daisy Precision Match were a bit loose. The Crosman pellets fit quite well.

At the slower velocity of this rifle, follow-through is very important. The artillery hold is mandatory, though the rifle is not hold-sensitive at all.

Next, I'll test the Bronco with a scope. Given the small size of the gun I'll use a smaller scope--probably one with a long eye relief.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The 2010 SHOT Show - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The year 2010 started out different than predicted. We do not have a colony on the moon and there's no manned mission to Jupiter to see what went wrong back in 2001. I guess that also means Jupiter will not turn into a second sun, and Europa will not harbor life 20,000 years from now.

Big change at Beeman
And there have been some interesting differences in the airgun world, as well. For starters, the Beeman company is now owned by the Shanghai Airgun Company, who will continue to import the Chinese Beeman-labeled guns and sell them under the Beeman name. Pyramyd Air has been selected as the distributor for the Beeman R-series airguns, so the R1, R9 and R 7 will still be with us; and the HW guns that are their counterparts will continue as separate models.

The CEO of Shanghai told me that the Shanghai presence will diminish now in the U.S. They will be concentrating on the Chinese versions of Beeman guns in the future. What all this entails is anybody's guess, since I think Shanghai is still figuring it out.

Where was Daisy?
Daisy failed to attend the SHOT Show this year. That's the airgun equivalent of General Motors failing to attend the Detroit Auto Show, which, given their current situation, is not entirely out of the question. There was some talk and speculation about what it could mean for Daisy, but nobody seems to know the real story. It wasn't a good thing.

Crosman had a huge number of new products at the show. The two new PCP pistols were big news, as were the new lines of Nitro Piston guns for Remington and Benjamin. Crosman will no longer carry the Nitro Piston under its own name. The Benjamin Super Streaks are turning into the Benjamin Trail, which will have the Nitro Piston.

The Crosman booth was larger than ever this year.

They also had a 6mm paintball for airsoft games. And I got to shoot it in their booth in a captive plexiglass gallery. It fired perfectly through an automatic electric gun (AEG) M4 on both semi- and full-auto. In the past, paintballs in 6mm have had uniformity and breakage problems in the feeding mechanisms of AEGs, so let's hope the good showing means the problems have been solved.

Crosman is now putting Weaver scope bases on their spring guns, so finally someone has listened to our pleas. Buy Weaver mounts for any future Crosman or Crosman-made spring guns.

In a move toward total understanding of their product, Crosman is giving us scope bases that really work on their spring guns.

I saw the new Marauder and Silhouette pistols. I'll go into the details when I get both guns to test for you. But believe me when I say that you'll be pleased.

Coming around the middle of this year. The new Marauder pistol has an even better trigger than the rifle. It's just as adjustable and now has a positive, adjustable trigger stop. It's everything you hoped for. Three thousand psi air pressure gives about 24 good shots (three magazines of .22 caliber pellets).

The single-shot Silhouette PCP pistol is based on the 2240 frame, which had to be updated to accept the reservoir. Trigger is standard but improved. Should be available in a couple months.

But the biggest news was something Crosman didn't show, but which is under development for release in 2010. It's a .25 caliber Premier pellet. They took the .20 caliber Premier as the model for the new .25, so it should have a super-good ballistic coefficient. Expect it to weigh in the 27-grain range, which will allow use in powerful springers as well as PCPs.

With that pellet on the market, perhaps the first really accurate .25 caliber pellet since the end of the Diana Magnum a decade ago, Crosman has ample justification for the .25 caliber versions of the Marauder rifle and the Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston rifle. Happy days are here for fans of the quarter-inch bore.

Speaking of .25 caliber, Gamo showed a .25 caliber version of their Hunter Extreme rifle. This is another good reason why an accurate pellet is needed for this largest of the smallbore pellet calibers. The Hunter Extreme is the most powerful spring rifle generally available, and the addition of a .25 caliber version makes perfect sense. This will be something to test in the coming months.

Gamo has added .25 caliber to their Hunter Extreme stable of guns!

Gamo also has three new .25 caliber pellets. One is their PBA series and another is also lead-free, I believe, but they also have a lead pellet, as well. More fuel for the quarter-inch-bore fire.

Besides the Hunter Extreme, the new SOCOM Extreme has the same velocity in a shrouded barrel gun. It's coming out in .177 and .22; but if the .22 is well-received, they'll also bring it out in a .25.

Big news was the laser designator and illuminator (I was told not to call it a flashlight) they've brought out. Imagine being able to focus a green laser like a flashlight over three to five miles! Mount one on your scope and you will be able to take varmints at night through your daytime scope. Critters are not spooked by the green light.

Like Crosman, Umarex is another major manufacturer that had a lot of new products to show. Some of them, like the Colt Defender, we were fortunate to receive early enough that it was tested by the time SHOT opened.

I also saw a remarkable new select-fire H&K carbine that runs on green gas. It's all-metal and very heavy. Most impressive looking and feeling. Justin Biddle of Umarex USA told me it's the one gun airsoft shooters were looking for in their booth. I hope to do a report on it later this year.

I predict this green gas HK model will create a big stir in the airsoft world.

RWS will now offer a .25 caliber Superdome pellet. I asked for some samples to test for you. I don't know when they'll be available, but it'll be this year. One more plus for .25 caliber.

The news that will interest most of you has to do with parts for RWS guns. I spoke with Glen Seiter of Umarex USA, who told me that target aperture front sight globes are available for the front ramps on sidelever sporting rifles. That lead me to ask about the Diana rear target sight that will also fit those guns--as well as most of the breakbarrels. Glen said he would check into its availability. I'm going to stay on top of this and see if we can't get some new sights for the rifles many of you already own.

I also asked Glen if he could offer us a package of ten steel breech shims for the breakbarrels. He says he has them on hand but never thought of offering them for sale before. So, we'll also look into that possibility.

The Edge was the big news in the AirForce booth this year. Shooters, dealers and coaches were stopping by to tell AirForce about the success that rifle has created in their clubs. And the dealers were clamoring for more guns!

The AirForce booth was full of customers for the entire show.
The BKL line of scope mounts was also receiving some attention. Word is getting out that these fine mounts are available again, and AirForce is gearing up production to handle the demand that's already there.

Pyramyd Air
Pyramyd Air had an expanded booth this year that included Air Arms, as well. And the American Airgunner crew used the booth as a base of operations as they filmed the SHOT Show. In the Pyramyd booth, an expanded Air Venturi line of guns was displayed, headed by the new Bronco. They were offering show specials on the Bronco to their dealers to get them out into the system.

The Pyramyd booth was one of the airgunning central stations at SHOT 2010. More to come in a future report.

I spoke with Bill Saunders of Air Arms and am delighted to report that the wonderful 10-meter Sporter-class target rifle I told you about a week ago is not dead. They've scaled back the features to become acceptable to the NRA and CMP, and we should be seeing yet another wonderful 10-meter target rifle soon.

I was always scanning the horizon at the show for new airgun products.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Micro Desert Eagle concealed carry gun - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Micro Desert Eagle is an all-metal, pocket-sized .380 ACP.

Today, I'll show you how my Micro Desert Eagle performs on the range. In Part one of this report, I outlined all the other concealed carry guns I had looked at and even tested before settling on this one. Of course, I hadn't tested everything on the market, but I had tested a lot of guns that people consider good carry guns.

Most were too large, and that includes an S&W model 37 Airweight snubnose in .38 Special. It also stung like a cracked bat hitting a fastball. I needed something extremely reliable, accurate and with adequate power.

So, I bought a Micro Desert Eagle in .380 ACP. Yes, it's weak, but so is a 9x19mm Luger round in one of these pocket automatics. My rationale is that a gun I will carry all the time is better than a more powerful one I'll leave at home. I'm not a cop. I don't have to carry a gun. I do so by choice, and I choose to carry one that's comfortable.

Someone asked me about carrying a .25 ACP. There are certainly a large number of them that are even smaller and lighter than this Micro Desert Eagle. I had a Colt that was beautifully small. But the state of Texas has a law that your carry gun has to be larger than .25 ACP. I agree with that law, because a .25 pocket automatic hasn't even got the same power as a .22 short fired from a rifle. I once owned a .25 Baby Bernadelli auto that was curiously accurate beyond belief. It could hold a one-inch group at 10 meters, as long as the miniscule front sight was visible to the shooter, which it wasn't in most light. But that gun, as small and accurate as it was, would not be appropriate for concealed carry, even if it was legal.

I took the Micro Desert Eagle to the range to shoot some targets at representative ranges, so those who are interested could evaluate the performance. I also took a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in 9x19mm Luger as a test standard. You can compare my shooting with that gun to the results of the Micro.

I started with what I had in my pocket. The gun I had been carrying every day since the last time I was at the range in early December. No attempt was made to clean the bore of lint or debris. That was the gun as it comes to the fight, loaded with seven Winchester white box .380 ACP rounds--a 95-grain full metal jacket slug of medium velocity. I had hoped to recover most of the brass on this public indoor range, but the Micro threw each case violently to the right, where the lane divider kicked it forward out of my reach.

The first six shots were taken at a silhouette target positioned at seven yards, which is 21 feet. Five were good and one was way off to the left, meaning I pulled the trigger too hard, which moved the gun off target. I reloaded and fired five more to the same point of aim. You can see the results. I'm shooting with silver sights front and rear, which are the absolute worst for accuracy and I still kept 10 of 11 rounds in a five-inch circle. Naturally this was all one-handed with no brace--the way I would shoot in a defensive situation. The center of the target was the aim point, so the gun hits about 3 inches high at 20 feet. I'll accept that.

Eleven rounds, 10 inside a 5-inch circle. Not bad!

Next, I put up a bullseye target at 21 feet and loaded six defense hollowpoints that advertise reduced recoil. Of course, with a .380 there isn't much recoil to begin with, so these rounds are positively a delight to shoot. They shot to almost the same point of aim, but this time they stayed in a 2.25-inch group, despite the almost impossible sights. In fact, a word needs to be said about those sights, because they really are difficult to see. I believe the Micro is as natural-pointing a handgun as I could hope for, because I sure wasn't getting any help from those bright sights. My Baby Bernadelli was a natural shooter, the Micro is a natural pointer--along the lines of a Luger, only better.

Six shots in 2.25 inches at 21 feet. Not bad for a pocket gun.

Next, I shot seven FMJs at the same kind of target at 21 feet. The group opened up just a bit, and shifted slightly to the left.

Seven FMJs were a little larger, but still just over 3 inches at 21 feet.

The control
I had a Ruger Blackhawk convertible along as a control gun. It has a cylinder for .357 Magnum and a second one for 9x19mm Luger rounds. Using the Luger cylinder, I loaded 6 Winchester 115-grain FMJ rounds and proceeded to unload them into a target at 15 yards, or 45 feet. They grouped okay, I suppose, but the light right over my position was reflecting off the ramped front blade and I was losing it on target.

Six shots from a 9x19 Ruger Blackhawk at 15 yards. Okay, but not great

Next, I moved the target out to 20 yards and paid more attention to the front sight. This time the group was more acceptable. And with the little 9mm Luger round, the Blackhawk barely moved in recoil with each shot. It's a wonderful practice round, because it just doesn't move the gun that far.

Six more 9mm rounds from the Ruger at 20 yards. This is good performance and shows a marked improvement over the concealed carry gun at three times the distance. All shots were fired with a one-hand unsupported hold.

Just for comparison, I will also show the 50-shot target I fired for my concealed carry lisence. That was shot with a Wilson Combat CQB Light Rail at 3, 7 and 15 yards in slow, timed and rapid fire scenarios. Edith calls it my Blue Man group, and I'm proud of it.

This is my qualifying target from a concealed carry course. I shot the Wilson CQB. There are 50 rounds in the target from 3, 7 and 15 yards. Edith calls this the Blue Man group. She qualified with the same gun.

My opinion
I'm very satisfied with the performance of the Micro Desert Eagle. Not only is it sized right for concealed carry, it's also accurate. Now that the factory has fixed the feed problem, it's reliable as well. This is a true DAO gun--unlike so many that only allow one pull of the trigger. If those guns don't go off with the first trigger-pull, the slide has to be racked before another shot can be fired. I don't want that in a defense handgun, so I'm recommending this one to everyone I know.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hy Score 801 - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Thanks to blog reader David Enoch, who signs in as woguph, for today's report. Perhaps you're familiar with how it works. You go along in life, blissfully ignorant of something until someone brings it to your attention. Then, suddenly your life has a huge hole in it until you possess the object with which you were so recently unfamiliar. That's what David did to me when he introduced me to the Hy Score 801, and I'm passing it along.

Hy Score was an American company that sold airguns from the 1940s through to about 1982. They made a unique design of air pistol, but they also rebadged a number of airguns, both rifles and pistols, under the Hy Score name. And, as sometimes happens, they were careless in naming their models, because there are at least two distinctly different Hy Score model 801 rifles. Although there's next to no information about them in the Blue Book of Airguns, one of the Hy Score 801 breakbarrels was a Diana 25 (that one they do identify), and the other was made in Belgium. Today's report is about the Belgian gun.

Diana 27 on the left, 801 on the right. Note the walnut stain on the beechwood stock. Beautiful!

There's a LOT of confusion about the 801 because of the two different guns using the same number. Many people know about the Diana model 25 but are completely unaware of the Belgian gun.

I learned on the Vintage Airgun Forum that it was made by Peipers in Belgium in the late 1940s. It's a small breakbarrel with some remarkable design/style features that I'll show you today. The thing that captivated me most was the appearance. Where a contemporary Diana model 25/27 looks plain-vanilla, the Belgian 801 is a hot fudge sundae.

David showed me his two 801s at Little Rock, thus creating the hole I had to fill. After I show you the gun, I'm sure you'll understand why. A couple weeks ago on the Yellow Forum classified ads, I saw one for sale. Brad was selling it at a great price and the shipping was included. Whenever I come across something nice like this, I ask myself, "If I stumbled across this gun at an airgun show and had the money, would I buy it?" When the answer is a resounding "yes," as it was in this case, I move quickly.

The Belgian 801 is a gorgeous little breakbarrel. It sits in a beech stock that's stained the most beautiful walnut brown that you could ask for. There's not a hint of redness in the finish. And the metal parts are all highly polished and blued to a deep, rich black color. A comparison embarrasses any modern breakbarrel short of an Air Arms rifle.

Then, there's the checkering. What can I say about the generous flat-topped diamonds that wrap around the ultra-slim forearm and also decorate the pistol grip? Each panel abounds with overruns, as if on purpose, which they must be, to be that obvious. But the overall look is spectacular. It even feels good to the touch. And then you see the checkered butt and think you're in heaven. No, it's only Iowa, but still, who does that kind of work on anything less than a full-blown sporter that we common folk can't even afford to look at?

The wraparound checkering under the forearm is impressive. Overruns are everywhere.

Left side of the forearm shows both the checkering and the finger grooves.

Pistol grip is beautiful, too.

The butt is over the top! Who does work like this on a production airgun?

The .177 caliber rifle is small. It's 40.5 inches overall, with an 18.5-inch barrel and a 13.88-inch pull. It weighs 5 lbs. even. When put alongside a Diana 27, it comes out as the smaller gun.

Atop the breech where the barrel breaks is a unique device--a pellet loader. It automatically flips down and aligns with the bore. It hints--no it shouts--at the care and thought that went into building this little rifle.

The rifle breaks open easily. We've forgotten, in this era of magnum springers, that it used to be possible to open a breakbarrel without slapping the muzzle. The 801 is a reminder of a gentler time.

Brad said the gun has been lube-tuned recently, and I know from taking a few curious shots that it's very smooth. The trigger seems to be placed too far forward; but when the gun is cocked, it moves back in the small triggerguard just enough for my average fingers to fit. For ham-handed folks, this would be a problem.

The sights are adjustable after a fashion, but there are no knobs to click. Everything seems to be done by drifting the sights from side to side, and possibly by elevating and lowering a separate rear sight blade, though I'm not fully aware of how it works at this time.

The trigger doesn't appear to adjust from the outside of the rifle. At this time, I would assume that it is what it is. It has a reasonably light single-stage pull that's well suited to this type of small plinking rifle.

I will know more after I return from the SHOT Show and have some time to play with this little treasure, but I think this one is here to stay. Like a Diana 27, when you finally do get one, you won't want to let go.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Bronco from Air Venturi - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Air Venturi Bronco is a delightful new all-day plinking carbine.

Today, we'll look at the velocity/power the new Air Venturi Bronco produces. Remember that I was after a classic plinking air rifle that can be shot all day without fatigue. My inspiration was the Diana 27, though the Beeman R7 really kicked off the project. The R7 got me started thinking, and the Diana 27 really focused my thoughts on a small, lightweight, easy-to-cock pellet rifle that's accurate, calm and doesn't hurt your wallet.

The Beeman C1 carbine was also thrown into the mix, because the Bronco's name reminded me of a western theme. And the C1 is the best-known spring rifle with a Western-style stock. The C1 was too powerful for this project, so don't be fooled by the similarity with the Bronco. I was definitely looking for plinking power in a quality rifle that would be comfortable to hold and shoot.

The cocking effort for the Bronco is just 19 lbs., which puts it into the youth category. The short 12.75-inch pull means it's scaled for older kids, teenagers and even adults. But there's something else. Not only does the Bronco cock with just 19 lbs., but the barrel also moves through only about a 90-deg. arc for the complete cocking cycle. The first time you do it you'll be done before you really get started. That translates to even less stress on the shooter, because they aren't trying to bend the bow of Hercules through a 140-deg. arc.

Cocking stroke is very short.

Once cocked, the breech accepts pellets freely. The three types I used in this test all loaded easily, yet did not fall into the barrel. There's adequate constriction there.

RWS Hobbys
Seven-grain RWS Hobby pellets were first. They're pure lead and perfect for the power of this rifle. They averaged 558 f.p.s., with a spread from 538 to 566. All but two shots were above 550 f.p.s. That works out to an average power of 4.84 foot-pounds. While too low for most critters, it's 50-75 f.p.s. faster than the Daisy 953 and it's delivered by an all-wood and metal gun with classic lines. This is exactly what I was after.

Gamo Match
Gamo Match pellets come in two weights. I shot the 7.5-grain pellets at an average of 537 f.p.s., with a range from 534 to 541. So, the range was much tighter than for the Hobbys. The average muzzle energy was 4.80 foot-pounds. Again, this is a perfect velocity.

Crosman Premiers
The 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers averaged 528 f.p.s. in the Bronco. The range went from 526 to 533, so another very tight spread. The average muzzle energy was 4.89 foot-pounds. Again, a super performance for a plinker.

The two-bladed trigger on the Bronco operates both stages of the trigger-pull. The blade that's in front contacts the trigger finger first and represents the first stage of the pull. When it comes level with the second blade, stage two kicks in. The trigger on my test rifle breaks at 1 lb., 14 oz. That's correct--just 30 oz.! It's very crisp, with no hint of the release before it breaks. Try to find another plinking air rifle with a trigger that good! I think I'll have to add this rifle to my testbed arsenal instead of returning it to Pyramyd Air when I'm done with my report.

Firing behavior
The Bronco's a smooth shooter. Not smooth in the same sense as a magnum rifle that's been slathered with black tar, but more like smooth in the sense that it has all the power needed for the job with nothing wasted. It's quick and very calm, which you'd expect from a gun of this power. You expect it, but you don't always get it when corners have been cut. No corners were cut with the Bronco. You're getting everything you pay for in a compact, easy-to-handle package.

Aftermarket possibilities
Don't buy a Bronco thinking that it can be magnum-ized. It has a short-stroke piston that will keep it in the mid-500 f.p.s. ballpark no matter what mainspring you put in. Don't look for a .22 version, because at this power level, a .22 really wouldn't be worth it. This is one time when the .177 caliber will rule. Instead, savor the 19-lb. cocking effort shot after shot and the trigger that breaks cleanly at less than 2 lbs. Savor the straight Western stock that fits like a glove and will accept a scope without frustration.

So far...
So far, I'm impressed with the Bronco's performance. It does what a good plinker is supposed to do, and it has the build quality to last for generations. This is the rifle to grab when you just want to shoot without doing anything else. You can clip dandelion heads, eliminate wasps and pick off acorns from the highest branches

The accuracy test is next, and I'm eager to get to it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AirForce Edge - Part 6

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

AirForce Edge 10-meter sporter-class target rifle.

Okay, important day here. This is the day we find out if the Edge I'm testing really is accurate. If you recall, in Part 4 I shocked many of you by showing you all the groups I shot, both good and bad. Apparently, the bad groups overwhelmed the senses of many readers who promptly told me so in no uncertain terms.

And then some other results from other shooters came in that contradicted my findings. Ron, our reader who just bought an Edge, reported much better groups than I and told of someone breaking many aspirins successively at a shooting range. And Mike Reames posted a great bunch of groups over on the Yellow Forum.

I had to rethink my test, and so I did. I remembered the trick of cleaning the bore with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, so I cleaned my barrel. In fact, I cleaned all three barrels, the 12-inch barrel that came with the rifle, an 18-inch Talon barrel and a 24-inch Condor barrel that I borrowed from AirForce for those velocity tests. All of these barrels are in .177 caliber, because .177 is the only caliber that's permitted in 10-meter matches. Besides, at the low velocity of a 10-meter rifle, .22 caliber isn't really practical.

I knew that if I did the velocity tests on all three barrels that you guys would also want me to test accuracy as well, so I did it. And I finally buckled to the pressure to stick the gun in a vise, though personally I don't see the attraction. I chucked the rifle in a vice for these tests, so no part of B.B. Pelletier will influence the outcome.

The Edge held in a vice. Every shot was taken this way. The target paper downrange was moved for each new group.

Most informative!
I actually learned a lot about the Edge in this test, because I wasn't concentrating on the shooting so much. So, maybe the vice was not a bad idea, after all. I just don't want to hear it suggested for future testing, say with a breakbarrel or an underlever. But for this test, it worked well.

What did I learn? Well, as I shot the different length barrels there was the occasional cleaning done to keep things moving along. As the barrels were cleaned and fired, I began to remember the break-in regime for a world-class .22 target rifle. You shoot it for X number of shots, then clean the barrel. Shoot and clean. Shoot and clean. This "seasons" the barrel, making it smoother and smoother. In fact, when I did an article for Shotgun News on the accuracy of a Butler Creek barrel in a Ruger 10-22, their instructions specified the exact same thing. Shoot and clean. Don't even expect accuracy until after the first 200-300 shots.

Since the gun was in a vice, it was easy to shoot and clean. That's how it went. And you know what? There was a definite improvement in the accuracy of each barrel as things progressed. Even though I'd cleaned all three barrels before the start of the test, and despite the fact that the 12-inch barrel had at least 300 of my own shots on it when I began, accuracy continued to improve as I shot and cleaned. That's not to say that you can't just take the rifle out of the box and shoot it, but in the first thousand shots you would be advised to clean the barrel after every 50 shots or so.

All I mean by cleaning is to remove the reservoir (10 seconds) and run a patch moistened with Hoppes Number Nine through the bore. Yes, I said Hoppes Number Nine. That's what cleaned all three of the barrels in this test and there were no bad effects. After the one wet patch, run dry patches through, breech to muzzle only, until they come out clean. It takes all of two minutes to do. If you owned a new major .22 rimfire target rifle this is the same thing you would be advised to do.

I had a large variety of target pellets on hand for this test, and as it turned out, that was a good thing. Because I learned a ton about the rifle, and more specifically, about each barrel. Each barrel performs so vastly different with different pellets that no assumptions can be made. Forget the fact that they're all made by Lothar Walther, because each one has it's own favorites and it's own group of pellets that it dislikes.

Here's a list of all the pellets I tested in these three barrels:

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets
H&N Match Pistol pellets (yes, they are different that Finale Match -- check them out)
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
Meisterkugeln Pistol (7 grains)
RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle (8.2 grains) pellets
RWS R10 Rifle Match pellets
RWS Basic pellets
Vogel match pellets with a 4.50mm head - 8.2 grains
Vogel match pellets with a 4.495mm head 8.2 grains
Vogel match pellets with a 4.90mm head - 8.2 grains
Chinese target pellets with a blue label - 7.6 grains

Although that's a long list, and I did check every barrel with almost every pellet, the list is nowhere near inclusive. There are still plenty of target pellets to check, as well as plenty of other wadcutters. You must use wadcutter pellets in 10-meter matches because of scoring. The scoring equipment needs the clean holes that wadcutters cut in the target paper, which, by the way, is also mandatory. You must use approved targets. I used Edelmann targets from Germany, which are the equal of any target on the planet. They are made of very heavy paper that cuts absolutely clean holes.

I didn't bother shooting at bulls, because the gun was in the vice. So the target paper was turned around so its back faced the firing point 10 meters away, and, as I advanced, the target was simply slid over for the next group. That speeded up the test considerably, though it still took 3.5 hours to complete with all the pellets and barrels in the mix.

24-inch barrel
The 24-inch barrel was in the rifle at the start, so I tested it first. I shot group after group, as you can see from the long list of pellets. The H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets were best, in general. They consistently gave superior results.

After the H&Ns came the Vogels with the 4.49mm head as a close second. Remember, these are heavier rifle-type pellets and that the Edge gets its highest velocity with the 24-inch barrel.

H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets were best in the 24-inch barrel

Vogel target pellets with the 4.49mm head were a very close second, as you can see.

I didn't shoot just one group with each pellet. If a pellet showed promise, I shot several groups--sometimes as many as six. With all that shooting, I discovered that the barrel likes to be cleaned. Even though I'd cleaned it with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound before the test began, I still used the additional cleaning method described above, which is how I began noticing the improvement. Naturally I made cleaning a part of testing the other two barrels, to keep things consistent.

18-inch barrel
You would think after testing the 24-inch barrel for so long that the 18-inch barrel test would be a walk in the park, but it wasn't. This barrel exhibited completely different likes, and I had to start from the beginning again.

The 18-inch barrel proved to be more selective than the 24-inch barrel. It liked the Vogel target pellet with the 4.5mm head best of all and all other pellets were about the same. But when I say the Vogel was the best, I really mean it, because it gave superb groups, including one that was the best single group of the entire session! A group that is actually sized like all those Daisy 853 groups everybody claims they shoot offhand. This one would look at home as the test target of an FWB P700 target rifle!

Vogel target pellet with the 4.50mm head gave stunning groups, including this one-hole screamer.

The 18-inch barrel was cleaned during the shooting session, just as described above. Immediately after the cleaning is when it settled down with the Vogel 4.50mm pellets and started to shoot well.

But this test was really never about the 18-inch barrel or the 24-inch barrel. It was always about the 12-inch barrel that comes with the rifle. So let's go there now.

12-inch barrel
Bottom line first--the 12-inch barrel was the most accommodating of the three lengths tested. It likes more different pellets than either the 18-inch or 24-inch. Perhaps that's because I shot more groups with it than with the other two. It was cleaned beforehand with JB Paste, the same as the others, and it was also cleaned during this test in the same way I describe above.

In the beginning, it was harder to find a great pellet, but after the cleaning things seemed to change. But they didn't change as fast as with the other two barrels. In a curious twist of events, there are two best groups that seem to be the exact same size, yet they were created with two different pellets. I actually had to measure about eight separate groups with calipers while wearing a magnifying hood to find these two, because the ones that are larger are only so by a few thousandths of an inch! An embarrassment of riches!

One of two best groups with the 12-inch barrel. This one was made with the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet.

The other best group with the 12-inch barrel. This one is rounder in appearance and was made with the Vogel 4.95mm pellet.

Another super group, but one that measures a few thousandths of an inch larger than the other two. Also made with the Vogel 4.50mm pellet.

And another great group, also made with the Vogel 4.50mm pellet. That pellet shot the most consistently in the 12-inch barrel, though H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets was its equal for the best group.

I shot many, MANY more great groups with the 12-inch barrel, which proved that it was the most flexible of the three barrels I tested in this Edge. The H&N Finale Match Rifle and the Vogel 4.50mm and 4.495mm pellets were the three best--hands down.

I hope this has demonstrated the accuracy potential of the Edge rifle for all of you. In fairness to Crosman, I believe that if I were to run this same exhaustive test on their Crosman Challenger PCP I would get similar results. I'm not going to do that, but I strongly recommend that those who own that rifle consider cleaning their barrels as I have done here. I would not recommend using Hoppes Number Nine solvent on the Crosman rifle, though, because of its design. I would use Birchwood Casey's Gun Scrubber for synthetic guns instead. Even Daisy Avanti 853 owners could benefit from this cleaning, because your barrels are Lothar Walther, as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Bronco from Air Venturi - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Starting today, I'll be in Las Vegas for the SHOT Show. I'll be returning Sunday night, so I'd appreciate any help you can give in answering blog questions. Edith will be monitoring the blog, too.

Air Venturi Bronco is a delightful all-day plinking carbine.

The Air Venturi Bronco is a report I've been waiting to do for over 10 months. The new rifle is my own creation, and the execution by Mendoza has been fabulous. I got just what I asked for. I want to take a little time to tell you what I was going for, because it impacts this new model so much.

A year ago, I was musing about the Beeman R7. Anyone who's into airgunning probably knows that the R7 is a highly stylized version of the Weihrauch HW 30S. It has the famous Rekord trigger and all the ease of cocking and soft firing behavior of the Weihrauch rifle, but it's stocked in wood that Robert Beeman designed. It was important enough to become one of his famous R-series rifles, which are the guns that made the Beeman name world famous.

The one drawback of an R7 is the price. It's just too high for everyone to afford. I don't mean that as a criticism, either. Nice things cost money, and, in this case, the rifle is a very nice thing.

I wondered what could be done. Could an R7 be taken to China with any hope of returning in the same condition? No, I don't think so. No slight to the Chinese, but their manufacturing processes are different enough that when they copied the Rekord trigger for other models--such as the B20 and B26--they didn't get it quite right. So, no hope for a Chinese R7.

As for the Turks--are you kidding? They would want to put a 500-pound spring in it to get the pellet to come out at 1,300 f.p.s. They could do the wood, but forget the Rekord trigger. It just wouldn't work.

Okay, so the R7 cannot be duplicated for a reasonable price. That started me thinking of other classic airguns and of course the one I settled on was the Diana model 27. That was an inexpensive rifle for its day, and even for today it still would be. The ball bearing trigger couldn't be duplicated today, but why would it have to be? There are so many good triggers around that something else could be substituted.

That started me thinking about triggers. Who makes the best triggers for inexpensive spring air rifles? Well, we can probably argue that question for days, but one name has got to be on the short list -- Mendoza. Their quirky two-bladed trigger is one of the lightest, crispest airgun triggers around. There's only one problem with that reasoning. Mendoza already makes a bunch of fine models, so why would anyone want them to make anything else?

Mendoza's double-bladed, two-stage trigger is light and crisp.

I had an answer for that. The one rifle they don't make--at least the one we don't see much here in the U.S.--is a low-powered all-day plinker. Their RM-200 comes as close as they get, but it's still too powerful to fill my special need. It's no Diana 27. Yes, I'm aware of the RM-10 that some dealers carry. It's a great gun with a lousy stock, in my opinion.

Then, serendipity struck hard. Somehow I became aware that Mendoza had sent a youth model breakbarrel to Pyramyd Air for evaluation about a half year before. In fact, I had been asked what I thought of the gun. Well, I'll tell you what I thought. The stock had a big kidney-shaped cutout through the butt. I thought the Mexicans had lost their minds! It looked like Cindy Lou Who had been turned loose in their stock design studio.

That goofy-looking gun was based on the RM-10 and was called the Bronco, strangely enough. When I heard the name, my mind started thinking "Western."

Bronco is exclusive to Air Venturi.

I had recommended a "No Buy" to Pyramyd Air for the Bronco. Now, many months later, when I was looking for a nice youth model, someone at Pyramyd Air said to me, "What about the Bronco?" After playing 20 questions and seeing the gun for the second time, I had another flash of insight. It went like this:
  • I needed a good youth-model air rifle on which to base my updated Diana 27/fun plinking air rifle.
  • The Mendoza Bronco is such a gun, but it has a hideous stock.
  • If I could change the stock, the Bronco might be the gun I'm looking for.
  • Bronco...western. Western airgun...Beeman C1. Hmmm, I'm onto something.
I had the Bronco shipped to me and it was indeed close to what I wanted. It was a .22, but that was easy to fix. I found a stockmaker and sent him a photo of my C1, along with a list of stock specifications. What came back three months later wasn't just encouraging, it was spot-on, or so I thought at the time.

Beeman C1 was a neat little carbine with a unique western look.

The plot thickens
At this point in the project, a couple people from Pyramyd Air joined me in the design, and it's a good thing they did. They steered me toward more youth-sized dimentions. My original Bronco stock had a pull of 15 inches! I thank Pyramyd Air Sales Director Paul Milkovich for the 12.75-inch pull we now have. It's a trifle short for an adult, but it feels great. It makes the rifle feel like the carbine that it really is. And kids down to 12 are going to be able to hold it. Edith, who is often a big critic of air rifle stocks, found the Bronco stock fit her just right. A Goldilocks stock!

But the stock is white!
Yes I know the stock is blonde. I asked for that specifically. After all, half of our spring rifle wood stocks right now have reddish-colored wood and the other half are dark brown. It's time for a change. And the light color contrasts so well with Mendoza's deep black metal finish. It's a striking-looking air rifle.

I also asked for a rubber buttpad rather than a thick recoil pad. Mendoza supplied a beautiful black pad that matches the look of the rifle perfectly.

Another Pyramyd Air employee joined Paul in reminding me about the over-oiling problem many Mendozas have. Here was a chance to do away with that dastardly oil hole on the left side of the spring tube. If the gun needs oil, and they seldom ever do, then put a drop down the transfer port hole, the same as every other spring rifle on the market.

Then, the subject of sights arose. Paul and I are of one mind in disliking fiberoptics, so Mendoza accommodated us with a plain front post and a fully adjustable rear notch. Shades of the Diana 27! Finally, a basic spring rifle that can be sighted with some precision. Yes, there's an 11mm dovetail that accepts a scope; and, yes, there's also a scope stop hole, even though this is one rifle whose slight recoil probably won't require one. But it's there for you.

Rear sight adjusts in both directions.

There's the wonderful two-stage Mendoza trigger that looks and acts so much like the Savage Accu- Trigger. Though it isn't adjustable, it's so light and crisp that I doubt many owners will mind.

There's an anti-beartrap device installed; if you cock the rifle, you'll have to load and fire it. It cannot be uncocked manually. The safety is automatic, but it's ambidextrous and pushes off quickly with the thumb of your firing hand.

Speaking of ambidextrous qualities, the whole gun is 100 percent ambidextrous! I draw your attention to the high straight comb. No need for a Monte Carlo butt profile here. The straight line of the comb lifts your eye high enough to use a scope if you like. And no cheekpiece to spoil the Western lines. The C1 stock lives again!

This is really a carbine-length air rifle. Overall, it measures 39.5 inches. The barrel is 9 inches long, but the muzzlebrake, attached to a deep counterbore on the front of the barrel adds another 7.5 inches, so the overall length appears to be 16.5 inches. The weight is right at 6.5 lbs.

Notice the muzzlebrake. It's twice the length of any other Mendoza brake. I asked for that to give you a good handhold when cocking the gun.

I'm excited about the new Bronco. It's the all-day plinking air rifle I envisioned at the beginning of the project. But before I end today's report, a final word about this "development." I think it should be obvious to everyone that we did not start with a clean sheet of paper. We (I) started with a Mendoza RM-10. You can buy one of those right now, though the pull of the stock is way too short and it lacks all the features and design elements I have just shown you. But if you want one, they're available.

I started with a developed gun because, let's face it, it's the easiest, fastest thing to do--not to mention the least expensive and least risky. The only real risk is that everyone will not like the Western stock or the blonde wood finish or the plain sights I selected. I think there will be people who don't go for those features--either one of them or all of them. But I'm gambling that there will be thousands of airgunners who have been waiting for a small, lightweight spring rifle that's easy to cock, accurate and feels right in the hands. A modern rendition of the Diana model 27, if you will. Not a copy, but a gun that captures the essence of what the 27 is.

And just to put this new gun into context, it isn't a stripper-class Chinese bare-bones springer with lots of plastic. This is a fully developed air rifle with features carefully thought out. The barrel has a Mendoza pedigree, so it should be very accurate. The trigger is smooth and light right out of the box. There should be no need to take this one apart and smooth it up and relubricate it to make it something good to shoot. It comes that way. So, if the price seems on the high side, just remember that it's on the high side of low. This is a thoroughbred, built as a shooter. An heirloom gun.

I also believe there will be thousands of shooters who don't know Air Venturi from a can of Shinola, but who will like the idea of a Western-looking air rifle for their boy, rather than a harsh, buzzing 1,000 f.p.s. plastic clone. For them, and for you, I have a surprise. You see, this isn't the only airgun I've been developing. Later this year, there will be a second rifle, the "father" rifle in this father-son combo. Now, that's something we can all look forward to.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Daisy 25 dating information - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

If you're interested in getting a Daisy No. 25 BB gun, Pyramyd Air now sells the new version.

Part 1

The first look at Daisy No. 25 pump guns was an eye-opener for me, as I'm sure it was for a lot of readers. Most airgunners know the difference between the 5- and 6-groove wooden pump handles and that the engraved model was first made in 1936, but that's about it. We're looking way down in the details, to separate small manufacturing differences that can sometimes pinpoint a gun's date of manufacture to only one or two years.

Just a reminder that Daisy never threw away anything, so it's entirely possible to encounter a gun with what are certainly 1920s features, yet it also contains a 1915 item as well. And when it comes to things that can be taken off the gun, like stocks and shot tubes especially, it's all up for grabs. It's very similar to putting an M1 Carbine together with all matching parts, when the reality is that there probably aren't that many, if any, in existence because of arms-room parts swaps over the years. Show me a matching Carbine, and I'll show you a put-together project gun. And so it can be with the No. 25, so keep that in mind.

In Part 1, I concentrated on the very earliest No. 25s. Today, we'll jump forward and look at the guns made from 1916 to 1930. These are both the short- and long-throw levers, as well as the guns with the pump lever rod welded to the barrel.

I used to think that the guns with the squared-off triggerguards were made before 1925, but John Steed's research and subsequent pamphlet taught me that the rounded sheetmetal strap triggerguard didn't come into production until 1930.

The triggerguard was squared-off and made of folded metal from 1914 to about 1930.

In 1930, the triggerguard was rounded at the back and made of a flat sheetmetal strap.

You may think I'm being very detailed in my look at 25s, but the truth is that I'm only touching the high points. I could talk about the shapes of trigger blades, too, because that changed a lot over the years. In fact, if you look at the triggers in the two photos above, you'll see that they're different. I could also talk about rear sights, because they went through several transformations, as well. I'm not going to do that, though, because I want to keep this report manageable; but I do want you to know there's a whole other level of detail about these guns that I'm not giving you.

Receiver tang straps
The top rear of the receiver was squared-off until around 1930, when it got a tang strap with a wood screw that went into the top of the pistol grip. Until then, there was no pistol grip. The early stock grip was straight. But when the pistol grip was added to the buttstock, the tang was added to the receiver and the wood screw was moved from the top of the gun to the end of the tang strap.

Before 1930, the top of the receiver was squared off and a wood screw went through the rear of the receiver into the buttstock.

In 1930, the top of the receiver got a tang strap that extended down the top of the pistol grip. The wood screw was moved to the end of this strap.

Claw mounts and welded pump guide rods.
The claw-type pump guide rod lasted from 1914 until some time in 1931. Remember that 1930 changeover year, because a lot of important changes originated then. The welded-type pump guide rod began in 1930 and lasted through to the end of production.

However, I was once fooled by a claw-type mount advertised on an internet auction. You know the type--where the pictures are all long shots and all the closeups are out of focus. Sometimes, people don't know how to use their cameras, but other times they do it to deceive, which is what happened to me. I bought a post-1930s-type No. 25 with a claw-type mount for the pump rod. When I received the gun, it was obvious the welded mount had broken and someone had simply used a claw-type mount to make the repair. Because of the artful trickery of the photography, I always felt cheated by this deal.

That was the event that ended my collecting of the No. 25. I reckoned I had all the major types, and I was through trying to own one of everything ever produced. Since then, I have slowly been selling off my collection.

The claw-type mount for the pump guide rod lasted from 1914 until 1931. It was the only type mount for the short-throw pump levers.

The welded mount for the pump guide rod lasted from 1930 until the end of production.

Takedown screw heads
Oh my gosh! Am I going to get down to that detail? You betcha, because the takedown screw is a big deal with No. 25s. It's supposed to be a captive screw, but I've seen some that will come all the way out of the receiver. Back when I started collecting, there were only two types known--the so-called "penny head" screw--so-called because it was domed and about the size of an American penny--and the more common truncated cone. Well, John Steed managed to uncover a second (smaller) variation of the truncated cone, plus he reminded us of the special screw head on the camper model that has a saddle ring stuck through the head. He also showed us a Phillips head takedown screw that I never knew existed.

The early head on the takedown screw was the size and rough shape of a penny.

After the penny head screw came the truncated cone takedown screw--around 1927. The large head like this one came first, and was followed by a small-headed screw around 1933. There were many years of overlap on these screws between 1927 and 1938.

Stock shapes and wood
The subject of stocks on a No. 25 is confusing, to say the least. As far as wood types or species goes, Daisy tended to use walnut in the beginning, then they switched to poplar, which is also called gum. But there was also a period when they used oak, which is very striking looking. But you know what? Wood is ordered and shipped and they would use whatever they had on hand, as long as it fits. So, the straight grip versus pistol grip is more telling than the type of wood a stock is made of. Don't forget that stocks are easy to replicate at home, so what's on a gun is not very telling.

This is a straight grip stock made of walnut from the 1925-1930 timeframe.

This is a pistol grip stock made from poplar. It dates to the 1930-1953 timeframe, though the gun it's on dates to 1930-1935.

This is a pistol grip stock made of oak from the 1930-1935 timeframe. These are scarce and hard to find.

Well, that gets us up to 1935. In 1936, Daisy started engraving the receiver of the No. 25, so that's what I'll look at next.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daisy wire-stock first BB gun - Parts 2 & 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Well, the first part of this report generated real interest in this gun. That includes one person who could not understand why a "piece of crap gun" was worth so much money. I tried to address his question, which I think was really rhetorical, but I promised myself I'd have a second go at it when the subject came up again. So, it here goes.

First, I'm assuming he meant the original gun and not this one when he complained about the cost. If I'm wrong about that, then this answer doesn't work. But why should a toy BB gun from the late 1880s be worth over $10,000? And I call it a toy because, when it was made, that was the view people had. Yes, it shot something, but people in those days didn't have the same outlook that they do today. Young children were given BB guns and steam engines to play with. They carried sharp pocket knives to school and were allowed to have and use fireworks. The times have changed vastly from then to now.

So, why, then, is an 1888 toy worth a lot of money? To answer that I have to get all political for a moment. You see, not everybody has the same taste. It's true in food, in friends, mates, cars, etc. It's what keeps our world turning on its axis and it's one of the reasons that we don't all wear silver jumpsuits and eat in the same cafeteria--yet.

Personally, I cannot see the fascination with the feces of another human being. But London's Tate Museum apparently can, which is why in 2002 they paid $33,450 for a can of Italian artist Piero Manzoni's doo-doo, one of 90 such exhibits he canned in 1961, if it matters. They called it art.

Okie-dokie. But that's not for me. My taste doesn't run that way. See how it works?

So, a small BB gun made in 1888, of which fewer than 20 are known to exist, has a value of only about one-third that of used food from a mid 20th-century Italian artist. Believe it or not, there are fewer collectors of fine BB guns than there are fine art afficionados in the world. But as few as there are, there are many more than 20, and therefore there are not enough Iron Windmill guns to go around. These collectors do not share their things worth a darn, so when there aren't enough of something to go around, they sometimes offer a lot of money to clinch the deal on the one that is for sale, so that another wealthy collector doesn't have a chance to get the item first.

Okay, that's off my chest. On to the test.

Remember that I said I didn't want to shoot this gun a lot. The piston seal is made of candle wicking. Although Daisy recommends oiling it periodically, they cannot tell me what oil to use, so I dropped four drops of a light machine oil down the muzzle and stood the gun on its butt to let the oil run down the bore.

The gun is loaded by dropping a BB down the muzzle. It rolls down to a magnet at the rear, where it's held until it's fired. You can hear a BB rolling down a barrel, but I could not hear this one, so I took a brass .177 cleaning rod and rammed it down the bore. The BB was stopped by some excess nickel plating built up about three inches from the muzzle and again two inches later. The rod rammed it through the obstructions and it hit the magnetic seat.

Shooting was next, and all it took was a pull on the trigger. My trigger releases with between 15 and 20 lbs. of effort. I'm not really sure, nor do I care since this is probably the last time I'll shoot this gun. My experience with the Swivel Machine Corp. air rifle trigger taught me about heavy triggers, though this one is narrower and hurts more to pull.

Daisy's Randy Brown told me he'd had reports of guns shooting anywhere from 150 f.p.s. to 350. I expected 250 because that's what the 499 does. With Daisy zinc-plated BBs, this gun averaged 253 f.p.s. It ranged from a low of 249 to a high of 256.

With Avanti Precision Ground Shot, the average climbed to 260 f.p.s. and the range was from 253 to 266. I think the rough spots in the barrel were getting smoother with each BB that was fired, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the velocity inclease with use.

What the heck; after shooting a couple groups, I tested it again with Avanti shot and got an average of 253 f.p.s., so it's settled back. The BB was now rolling easily down the barrel at loading, so the obstructions were gone. And the trigger-pull was closer to 15 lbs. than 20.

Okay, you're pulling the cocking lever straight up and you know that the rear sight is cast into the front of the lever. How accurate does that sound to you?

I started at 10 feet and wondered if I'd hit the target paper. First shot was right on horizontally and just above my aim point, so I stepped back to 15 feet and finished the group. I used a 6 o'clock hold, and I'll be darned if the gun didn't shoot to the center of the target, just a little high.

The first BB from 10 feet back struck just under the 3. The rest were from 15 feet back. Magnified a lot for visibility. The group is about 1-3/8".

Final opinion
This was never about how well the gun shot. It was a chance for me to own a piece of history at an affordable price. When the hundred or so remaining guns are sold in a month or so, the price will begin to rise on this replica BB gun. It may never be as valuable as the original, but it may surprise a lot of people how quickly it rises.

I could care less about the value. I know what it's like to hold and shoot one of these vintage guns. That's enough for me. That and perhaps looking at it on my office wall in the years to come. After all, I may never be able to afford one of Piero Manzoni's doo-doo cans!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Healthways Plainsman BB gun - Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Healthways Plainsman

The Healthways Plainsman pistol has received a good amount of attention from readers. I was somewhat surprised to learn how many readers know of the gun. When it was sold, it was always on a much lower tier than Crosman and Daisy, yet the price was never much lower than any CO2 pistol on the market.

I think, however, that the price is justified for what the Plainsman is--a double-action-only air pistol that has a goodly number of shots and adjustable power. It's also very ergonomic. Today, we'll find out if it's also accurate.

BB pistols get tested at 5 meters or 15 feet. Being smoothbore, they're not expected to have much accuracy. Minute-of-pop-can seems to be the requirement, so I tested the Plainsman at 15 feet.

In order to see the BB holes, I had to enlarge the targets and enhance them greatly, which is why they look so grainy.

Avanti Precision Ground Shot
The first test was done with Avanti Precision Ground Shot. I knew it would probably be more accurate than regular BBs, but hey, I wanted the icing before the cake this time.

I set the power to low, only because I knew how very powerful the pistol can be on high. I was using a Crosman 850 BB trap, and I didn't want to wreck it any more than it already is. At an average 268 f.p.s., the gun should have plenty of power for 15 feet. And it did.

The first group was tight side-to-side but a little stretched vertically. That was due to the double-action pull, but I noticed that it stacked toward the end, so the next group was half as large.

The first group was tight sideways but too tall. This group is greatly magnified. It is actually about a half-inch in width. The top shot is in the 9-ring.

The second group was tight sideways and much shorter than the first. I had learned how to control the trigger. This group is also greatly magnified. It is less than a half-inch wide and about three-quarters of an inch tall.

I was using a six-o'clock hold; as you can see, the gun shoots to the point of aim at 15 feet. I tried holding for the center of the bull, but there wasn't much reference and the groups opened up.

Daisy zinc-plated BBs
Next I tried Daisy zinc-plated BBs. I didn't expect them to group as well, though I tried just as hard as I did with the Avantis. They shot a little lower on the target, but stayed in line with the center of the bull.

The better of two groups with Daisy zinc-plated BBs. Another magnified group. This one is about an inch-and-a-quarter wide but quite a bit taller. Two BBs went through the big hole. You can see where they impacted at the bottom of the hole.

Higher power?
I adjusted the power screw up to the middle level, but it just sprayed the BBs around the target. I was concerned they might miss the backstop, so I stopped shooting and went back to low power again.

Turn the screw (located at the bottom rear of the pistol grip) shown at the top of this picture to the left with a coin to increase or decrease power. There are three settings, and it's on low power here.

Overall assessment
The Healthways Plainsman is quite a BB pistol. It beats most modern guns for features and for accuracy. It's also somewhat quirky, by using an 8-gram CO2 cartridge and by not having a positive spring-loaded magazine. And the sights aren't adjustable. But if you have a hankering for a vintage BB gun, put this one on your short list and keep Doug Vorenkamp's address handy (read about him in Part 3).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How and when PA got started - Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier Facebook

Before we get started, you need to know about Pyramyd Air's new Weekly Specials. These are special markdowns on products. The sale lasts for only one week (or until the product us sold out). Check back every Monday to see what's on sale that week.

Part 1
Part 2

This is the story of how Pyramyd Air began. It is written by the company's owner and founder, Joshua Ungier.

If you'd like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We'll edit each submission, but we won't work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

How and when PA got started - Part 3

by Joshua Ungier

This story picks up at the point where I left you in Part 2 in October 2009.

In Part 2, my team had visited several Russian quarries and wood producers and had taken samples of their finds. At the end of Part 2, where we pick up the story today, we were ready to fly back to Moscow.

When we returned to Moscow, we hunkered down in the deep winter and tried to stay warm. The samples we collected were sent to our customer in Japan. About 10 days later, we heard back from the customer.

A telegram from Yoshi was delivered to my hotel room early in the morning. He was not happy. The samples of marble we sent him did not pan out. Although it was beautiful marble with good density, the Russian mining technique of using explosives created hairline cracks. Although it is a tough stone, marble cannot take the stress caused by blasting. In many cases, the fractures would prove impossible to work with. Core samples sent from other Russian quarries that used the same mining method were also not received well. Yoshi asked me to keep looking--but this time for granite, too. So, off we went again, this time to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Tashkent is a blend of modern and ancient culture.

Tashkent is a beautiful capital city with a mix of modern and ancient architecture and culture. Almost 2,000 miles from Moscow and further south, it was also much warmer this time of year.

My first impression after the plane door opened was the warm drizzle and incredible aroma of flowers. The airport is surrounded by flowering trees and the most aromatic flowering bushes.

One of the ever-present Lada taxis offered us a ride to the hotel located not far from the center of town. There, we were greeted by the mining officials and by their "security." After we settled into our rooms, we were invited to come downstairs. The most delicious breakfast was waiting for us. On a huge marble table, a pile of locally grown vegetables and fruits and still-hot flat bread were overflowing. Accompanying them were mind-boggling varieties of teas and cheeses, grapes and raisins, and melons of every color and aroma. There were also varieties of fruit I had never seen or eaten, and to this day I have no idea what they were--but they were very delicious.

By the time we finished, it was past noon. Our meeting with the geology expert was suppose to happen later that day, so we had a few hours to explore Tashkent. Jethro decided to stay and sleep in.

Our assigned taxi driver spoke fluent English and, being a lifelong resident of Tashkent, was an excellent guide. We drove by the palaces of great leaders from centuries past. We visited mosques, museums and sprawling parks. Our driver described how, in 1966, a powerful earthquake almost leveled the city. Most of the city was rebuilt, but the rubble of a few houses and other structures were left as a memorials to the quake and to those who perished.

We were getting hungry again. At the mere mention of food, our cab driver pulled over to the side of the road and produced local bread called lepioshki and some bryndza, or goat cheese, out of a compartment built into the trunk of the car. Olive oil, bread and homemade wine all were delicious. After eating, it was time to return to our hotel. The meeting with the mining and geological committees was very productive. After the meeting, it was decided that we would drive out to the quarries next morning. The rest of the evening we walked the main street and tasted the local food.

I was awakened by a knock at my door at five the next morning. It was our driver, and it was time to go. It was dark and cold outside, and some awful-tasting coffee did little to make me happy. There was not much talking as our minibus climbed into the mountains. We stopped only for gas and a too-brief nature call. Our security guy sat up front next to the driver.

Then, the minibus pulled off the road onto a makeshift picnic area. "Time to stretch our legs and have something to eat," declared our driver. Out came a portable table and chairs, a pretty tablecloth and plastic ware. Food and wine came out of an ancient carved wooden chest.

Following that stop, it was four more hours on the mountain road. Some of it was not much more than two parallel gravel paths. We trudged along at 25-30 mph. Somewhere along the way, not very far from our final destination, a man and his family appeared on the side of the road. A magnificent hand-cut stone house stood behind them. It had probably been built a century or two ago. Our minibus slowed down. The man picked up a black lamb by its legs and raised it over his head. The bus stopped and the driver got out and approached the man. A few words and a handful of currency were exchanged. Then, everyone waved and we were on our way again.

An hour later, we were at the quarry. It resembled a moonscape more than any place on Earth. In front of us were hundreds of acres of marble boulders, some the size of a one-car garage while others approached the size of a two-story building.

Marble quarry.

Their color was that of pistachio ice cream--pale, pale green. We got out of the bus, but it had rained all the previous night, which turned our walk into a trudge. The mud was, in some places, up to our knees. After hours of walking in that muck and taking hundreds of photographs, we were on our way back to the city. At just past 2 p.m., we were all starving when the minivan stopped in front of the stone house we had passed on the way in and our driver announced, "It's time to eat." We all eagerly agreed.

We were invited into the big stone house. The inside was as beautiful as the outside. Stone and wood were elegantly interlaced, creating a warm and comfortable feeling. We followed our host to the large balcony. A large irregular marble top rested on four white marble legs. "This table has history," said our host. "My great-grandfather constructed this table from scraps of marble thrown away by the quarry. He brought a slab of marble home and polished it for several months. His sons, one of them my grandfather, found a broken column by the side of the road. It was one of the columns ordered for Alexander the Great, to be put up in one of his many temples. It must have broken during transport, so it was tossed to the side of the road. My grandfather didn't do anything with the column, but many years later my oldest son did.

"He was out looking for firewood with his brothers when they rediscovered the column. It surprised them because it was so polished. Obviously it had been worked before, so why was it abandoned in the forest? My son brought the pieces home and, after chiseling them into three legs, we assembled this table here on the balcony. And this is where it remains. It never wobbles." That table was roughly hexagonal, but of course retained its original natural outer shape. It would easily seat 10 people.

The black lamb we had seen a few hours earlier was now on a large platter in the center of the table surrounded by fresh tomatoes, onions and fruit. There was lots of fruit and of course the ubiquitous lepioshki bread and wine. Not more than 50 feet from the balcony where we ate a waterfall plummeted straight down another 200 feet or more. "It is always cooler here during hot summers," our host explained. "We sleep here many nights when it is too hot in the front of the house." After an hour of wonderful food and wine, we thanked our host and left. Through it all, our driver never touched the wine.

It was past midnight when we arrived back in the hotel in Tashkent. We were to leave in the morning. Despite being super tired, I asked everyone to pack so we would not be late for our flight.

Tashkent International Airport was not too busy when we arrived, and we had an hour remaining after the authorities searched us and our luggage. One large kiosk sold everything from Uzbek hats to Playboy magazine. This eclectic collection had a special surprise for me all the way at the other end of the aisle--a black gun. I had never seen a gun like it before. I asked, in English, to see this very modern-looking rifle. I did not know that it was an air gun until I saw the 4.5mm caliber.

"What kind of rifle is this?" I asked.

"Eto vozdushka" he answered. Meaning, "It's an air gun." I examined it closer. It was the IZH 60. I took a photograph and promptly forgot about it.

Then, the loudspeaker announced that our flight to Moscow was ready to board. A few minutes later, we were airborne and on our way back to the winter.

Monday, January 11, 2010

AirForce Edge - Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

AirForce Edge 10-meter sporter-class target rifle.

Today we'll do something different and special with the Edge. This is the surprise I mentioned. I'll install both an 18-inch barrel and a 24-inch barrel to see what effect they'll have on the velocity.

Of course, this is possible only because all AirForce rifles use the same mounting system and all guns accept any barrel length in any of three calibers: .177, .20 and .22. Though the Edge is a little different than the sporting rifles they make, the barrels still interchange.

The 18-inch barrel can be installed and not show outside the frame of the rifle. It adds some weight to the gun, but it will still weigh under the 7.5-pound maximum of the sporter class. What I'm talking about is possible to do while staying within the rules.

I used the same pellets that were chronographed with the standard rifle that has a 12-inch barrel, so we'll be able to compare all three barrels using the same powerplant. This should be fun.

18-inch barrel

...with Meisterkugelns

I installed the 18-inch barrel and tested it with all four pellets that were chronographed with the 12-inch barrel. One of those was the 7-grain RWS Meisterkugeln lites. In the 18-inch barrel, the light Meisterkugelns fit very loose at the breech, and three pellets failed to fire out the barrel altogether. Instead, they were crushed sideways in the breech by high-pressure air getting around the pellet skirt before it could seal off the breech. So, I shot only a few of these pellets. The few shots that exited the muzzle averaged 616 f.p.s., with a spread from 612 to 621. I'll come back to that at the end of the report.

...with H&N Finale Match Pistol
The H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet averaged 605 f.p.s. in the 18-inch barrel. The spread was from 596 to 608. I'll compare them at the end.

...with RWS R10 Rifle pellets
RWS R10 Heavy Match pellets averaged 536 f.p.s. in the 18-inch barrel. They also fit the tightest of all the pellets I chronographed. The range was from 533 to 544. I'll compare them at the end.

...with H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets averaged 584 f.p.s. in the 18-inch barrel. The spread went from 574 to 593, for the largest total spread seen in this test (with the 18-inch barrel). I'll compare them at the end.

24-inch barrel

...with Meisterkugelns

Surprisingly, the light Meisterkugelns fit the 24-inch barrel much better than the 18-inch. The average velocity was 636 f.p.s., and the spread went from 632 to 641. Comparison at the end of the report.

...with H&N Finale Match Pistol
Finale Match Pistol pellets averaged 604 f.p.s., with a spread from 595 to 608 in the 24-inch barrel. Comparison at the end.

...with RWS R10 Rifle pellets
The heavy RWS R10s averaged 545 f.p.s. in the 24-inch barrel. The spread went from 539 to 551. Comparison at the end.

...with H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
Heavy H&N Finale Match pellets averaged 597 f.p.s. in the 24-inch barrel, with a spread from 589 to 606. That's the largest velocity spread for the 24-inch barrel. Comparison at the end.

How do velocities compare between the three barrels?
Meisterkugeln 7-grain pellets
12-inch average -- 563, spread 8 f.p.s.
18-inch average -- 616, spread 9 f.p.s.
24-inch average -- 636 f.p.s., spread 9 f.p.s.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
12-inch average -- 524, spread 12 f.p.s. (taken from a 100-shot string)
18-inch average -- 605, spread 12 f.p.s.
24-inch average -- 604 f.p.s., spread 13 f.p.s.

RWS R10 Rifle (Heavy)
12-inch average -- 487, spread 14 f.p.s. (taken from a 100-shot string)
18-inch average -- 536, spread 11 f.p.s.
24-inch average -- 545 f.p.s., spread 12 f.p.s.

H&N Finale Match Rifle (Heavy)
12-inch average -- Did not test
18-inch average -- 584, spread 19 f.p.s.
24-inch average -- 597 f.p.s., spread 17 f.p.s.

Here's what I take from this comparison. The Edge seems to benefit greatly from the 18-inch barrel. It gains significant velocity, and the velocity spread from the slowest to fastest pellet remains pretty much the same as with the 12-inch barrel. But moving to the 24-inch barrel doesn't seem to add much more speed, and in one case it made the pellet go slower. The max spreads remain the same.

I don't see an advantage to adding the 24-inch barrel, but adding the 18-inch barrel really perks up the performance. Also, the 24-inch barrel adds an additional half-pound of weight that may be unwelcome in the sporter class.

Here's what I see. If you install the 18-inch barrel, you get higher velocity. The heavier rifle match pellets may become more usable at higher velocity. Or AirForce could trim back the air a bit and add a few more shots to the total. In other words, get back to the same velocity the 12-inch barrel gave, which would take a little less air in the 18-inch barrel. But I think 100+ shots are enough for the gun. I like the idea of faster velocity, which means no changes are required beyond switching barrels.

Another observation I'd like to make is that the Lother Walther barrels seem to have a break-in period. After 500-1,000 shots, they seem to shoot tighter groups. That's just an observation of mine; I have nothing to back it up, but it does give me an idea.

If you recall, my groups with the Edge were criticized soundly, and other shooters around the country began posting much better results on the internet than the ones I shot. That reminded me--what do we do when a barrel doesn't perform to expectations in the accuracy department?

We clean the barrel with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. Benchrest firearm shooters swear by JB Paste, and I've learned over the years that it often brings out the best in a barrel, so I'm going to clean the 12-inch barrel and re-shoot the accuracy test.

And, yes, to answer your unasked question, I will also shoot for accuracy with both the 18-inch barrel and the 24-inch barrel.

That's it for now. I hope this revelation was worth the wait. I think it's a pretty dramatic illustration of how barrel length affects pneumatic operations, and we are fortunate that all AirForce guns allow for it. We don't have to just experiment; we can actually change the performance of the production rifle in a dramatic way.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sticking to the specs - a discussion on common sense

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin today, I want to give you a couple of updates. First, the AirForce Edge. Many shooters around the U.S. have gotten stunning results from their Edge rifles, so I suspect there must be something odd with mine. I'm going to look at the rifle very carefully and see what's what. I will report the results in a second accuracy test. And, don't worry, that will not eliminate the special surprise I have planned for you.

Next, the Benjamin Katana. I tested the rifle again, and it wasn't the scope that caused those wild groups. The rifle is back at Crosman for examination. As soon as it returns, I'll do another accuracy test, including the two long-range pellets I promised to try in Part 3.

Now, on to today's report.

My Aunt Linda once told me that common sense isn't that common. I had never heard that expression before, so I thought she was very wise, but I guess the expression has been around for a long time. The truth of it has been around even longer. And, in my capacity as a gross violator and complete disregarder of common sense, I feel I can talk about the value of sticking to the specifications with some credibility. Because nobody has done more damage than I by ignoring them in the past.

Crosman Pellgunoil
Nothing gets under my skin faster than someone who keeps asking what substitutes exist for Crosman Pellgunoil, after I have told them all I know about it. As veterans of this blog have learned, Pellgunoil is 20-weight non-detergent motor oil--or at least that's what we thought it was until last week, when a reader suggested something to the contrary. I don't really care what it is! What I know is this: if you lubricate your CO2 guns, multi-pumps and single-strokes with Pellgunoil, or 20-weight non-detergent motor oil, they won't have seal problems. Use anything else, and you're a test pilot.

Being a test pilot means you absolutely cannot radio me for help when you're in an inverted flat spin with a flamed-out engine over the Rocky Mountains. Or when your new CO2 gun starts leaking after you sprayed it with WD-40, Slick-50 or monosodium glutamate. Use Pellgunoil and I will alert Search and Rescue to look for your beacon, or at least I'll make sure they name a high-school gym after you. Crosman Pellgunoil.

Nitrogen capsules in place of CO2
When I was in the Army, I was the CBR/NBC officer for my armored cavalry troop. That's the guy who takes the blame when a gas mask is missing. The CBR/NBC NCO is the guy who does all the work. Anyway, I discovered that the Army makes use of nitrogen capsules for certain equipment in the nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) world, and, as an airgunner with a new Daisy 200 pistol, I decided to take advantage. Well, nitrogen is a very dry gas, in case you didn't know. And, while it is fairly inert, it doesn't like to be confined by o-rings to the same extent that CO2 does. So, to save 25 cents on a CO2 cartridge, I ruined a relatively new $19.95 BB pistol that, up to that point, had been a great shooter. There I was in Indian territory, hostiles all around and me with only my Randall fighting knife...

Using lead balls in guns made to shoot steel BBs
I get this one sometimes from the older blog reports. The guy wants to shoot lead balls in his BB gun because they will increase the striking energy. Well, they will if they come out of the muzzle. And the heck of it is, due to manufacturing tolerances, some of them will. Just enough to keep intrepid shooters trying long enough to jam their guns with certainty. It's just a matter of time.

And when they ask me, holding their jammed gun in their paws, it's obvious they don't know the difference between a 4.4mm ball and a .177 (4.5mm) ball. They just got some "BBs" from a friend and decided to have a go. Okay, here's the deal. You'll get away with it more if you use 4.4mm balls. Less with .177 balls. But if you want more power on target, why not just get a pellet gun and be done with it? I know the answer (impecunious youth), but that doesn't make me responsible for clearing your jammed barrel. "I can't find a .177 cleaning rod. Will a coathanger do? I can't find a coathanger, will a thin welding rod do? I can't find a thin welding rod, can I just take the barrel to my shop class and burn it out with the oxy-acetylene torch?"

The airgunner who buys pellets only at Wal-Mart
"I just spent $700 on a TX200 with a scope and now I can't get the thing to shoot worth a damn. My Wal-Mart doesn't carry Crosman Premiers in the cardboard box, so I just bought some of those gold Gamos in the little rockets (Gamo Raptors). Why isn't my gun shooting like you said it would?"

Well, here's another little tip for you. Don't buy a Porsche Turbo Cabriolet and expect it to run it on 87 octane gasohol from a truck stop. If you own something fine, spend a little money on what you feed it.

"Yeah, but I don't like to shop on the internet. They steal your credit card!"

So, where did you get the TX200?

"Oh, I got it on the Yellow Classified. But I checked the seller out on the BOI (Board of Inquiry--an archive of comments from buyers and sellers). And he said I could just send him a money order for the gun."

Okay, let me get this straight. You took a thousand-times BIGGER risk by sending actual money through the mail to someone you don't know, but you don't like to use credit cards on the internet because they might steal your identity. Is that right?

Well, here is a diet tip for you. You can eat at McDonald's for every meal if you want, but drink only diet soda and you won't gain weight.

Calling an air rifle a BB gun
Here's a sad but common tale.

Bubba No. 1 calls all airguns "BB guns."

Bubba No. 2 buys a Gamo Big Cat at a discount store. Bubba 1 is with him at the time.

Bubba 1 calls it a BB gun, so Bubba 2 buys Daisy BBs for it.

I never get this complaint on the blog, because neither Bubba 1 nor Bubba 2 will have anything to do with the internet. But I'm in a gun store where I overhear them talking about it. "I thought you were supposed to put the BBs down that hole in back of the barrel (the air transfer port), because when I put them in the barrel, they rolled right out. I put three in there, but I don't think they came out when I shot. I can't hear them rattling around anymore (they are embedded in the piston seal), so I don't know where they went."

Yeah, he doesn't know where to put the BBs in a pellet rifle, but I bet he knows which load to use in his nail gun when he's working with concrete!

A funny aside that makes me cry
Edith just read the specs from a manufacturer on a new repeating pellet gun they're bringing out. They claim that it comes with a "BB magazine." A PELLET gun comes with a BB magazine? I'm not making this up, folks! It's getting stupider and stupider out here!

There is a movie called Adaptation that is weird because as you watch it you realize that the principal characters are writing it as they go. I mean, they're writing a script in the movie that turns out to be the movie itself. Sort of like that famous Escher print in which two hands on a piece of paper are drawing one another. Now, try to stay with me, 'cause I'm not cracking up or anything. So, here I am in my office writing about people disregarding the specifications (okay, maybe "fundamentals" is a better term) of the airgun sport and while I am, along comes a manufacturer doing the exact thing I'm writing about --WHILE I'M WRITING IT!

What's wrong here is that, unlike Bubbas 1 and 2, the employees of an airgun company have a responsibility to know something about airguns. And the ones whose job it is to write about the guns their company makes (manuals, ad copy, things that go on the boxes, etc.) should either know what they're writing about or they should at least check their facts before signing off on their work. Because the next thing you know, some mom in Paramus, New Jersey, is going to buy that airgun, read what's on the outside of the box and act on it. If she reads that the gun has a BB magazine, she's going to think that it shoots BBs. BBs are what she'll buy, and BBs are what she'll try to help her kid load into it. She has every right in the world not to be amused upon learning that 20-something Cindy, who helped design the box, doesn't know the difference between a BB and a pellet.

Well, I have to stop writing now. Cowboy Star Dad just asked me if he could use lead balls in his Crosman Shiloh pellet pistol while I was writing the above paragraph about pellets and BBs. I'm afraid that if I write the name Rod Serling, I might wind up on The Twilight Zone--as the Printer's Devil.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Daisy wire-stock first BB gun - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

From time to time, I tell you about great buys. Sometimes, these are one-time opportunities, only. Today's gun is one of those, but apparently the opportunity is still available for awhile.

Daisy made their first BB gun when they were still the Iron Windmill Company of Plymouth, Michigan. The actual date of first production was 1888, but when Daisy bought the Markham company, another BB gun manufacturer that was both their neighbor in Plymouth and their competitor, they backed the date of their BB-gun manufacturing to 1886, the year when Markham first made their wooden BB gun. And 1886 has been the date Daisy has claimed as their beginning for well over half a century.

The first gun they made was a wire-stocked, single-shot that was loaded at the muzzle. It took BB-sized birdshot, which is nominally 0.180" in diameter. That was the same lead shot used by the Markham gun, so they had commonality, which was necessary in those early years. Customers could buy a large bag of birdshot for their guns at any gun store or hardware store; before long, Daisy began selling shot in smaller quantities, as well. It wasn't until after the beginning of the 20th century that Daisy reduced the size of the shot to 0.175" to save on lead and to increase the velocity. The name "Air Rifle Shot" was coined for that smaller shot.

Later still, they further reduced the size of their shot to 0.171"-0.173" and began making it out of steel, which was both faster and cheaper to produce. Of course, that move would have increased the velocity again, but Daisy reduced the thickness of their mainspring wire and held velocity at the same level. The name air rifle shot stuck to the new steel BBs, which is how it comes down to us today. Steel BBs also rebounded with force, unlike lead, which was how "You'll shoot your eye out" began.

The very first gun Daisy produced was marked Manufactured by the Iron Windmill Company and is called an Iron Windmill gun by collectors today. It has a cast-iron frame that was very fragile. It is an extremely rare BB gun with, perhaps, fewer than 20 known to exist. I'm waffling on the number because there are several major collectors who do not publicize the fact that they own an Iron Windmill gun. There's no solid price information, but a complete example would probably sell for something more than $10,000 today, if one were to become available. Since the Iron Windmill gun looks the same as the more-common (but still scarce) Daisy wire-stocked first model, it's all but unknown to the general public. A Daisy wire-stock first model brings about $3,500 and sometimes less today. I could have bought a nice one for $2,800-$3,000 at last year's Roanoke airgun expo. Ten years ago, you could buy one for $1,500, so prices are going up.

I won't go into all the variations of the first model gun, but the Blue Book of Airguns lists five. Only the very first one has a cast-iron frame. After that, the frames were made from cast bronze, which proved more durable.

Several years ago, Daisy decided to make a commemorative issue of the wire-stocked first model BB gun. They call it a replica, so I guess it is, but like the second-generation Colt blackpowder revolvers, I always thought when a company re-issued a model it once sold, it was still considered a legitimate model.

They decided to limit production to 1,000 guns and all were serial-numbered. To buy one, you had to be a member of the "Friends of the Daisy Museum." Many people, including me, joined just to get in line for a gun.

The sale price of this commemorative is $300, plus $12 shipping to any U.S. address. We waited for over two years for the project to bear fruit, and the day before yesterday my gun arrived. I am the 517th member of the Friends of the Daisy Museum, so my gun is number 517 of 1,000.

The gun comes in a period-correct pasteboard (not cardboard) box. Daisy went out of their way to make everything in the package look correct for the period. Best of all, the frame is cast bronze and the wire stock lacks the crossbar that was added to the stock to make it more rigid. It is marked Daisy, Mfd. by Iron Windmill Company, Plymouth Mich, Pat. Apd. For, which makes it a copy of the early wire-stocked first model, but not the one with the cast-iron frame.

This is the pasteboard box the gun comes in. Everything is period.

Open the box and this is what you see. The packing material is real excelsior. There's no owner's manual. The hang tag reminds you of the dangers of a gun with no safety provisions.

Some modern touches
This gun has only a couple differences from the original gun, the most important of which is that it is made to use today's steel BBs instead of the lead 0.180" BB shot of the original gun. That makes it more user-friendly for those who want to take the occasional shot. And I do mean occasional, because with a cast-bronze frame, this is not a gun to shoot often. Besides, cocking wears the nickel finish, and you don't want that.

Aside from that, the only other significant difference is the presence of a small magnet at the base of the barrel to hold the BB in place. In the original gun, a tapered breech accomplished the same thing. And the breech plug that was cast lead in the original is a machined brass part in the new gun.

They assemble the parts with silver-solder, where lead solder was used on the originals. Silver solder is stronger, so this gun has a better chance of surviving the coming decades.

I bet you all wonder what it's like to hold and shoot one of these oldies, so I'm going to walk you through it. For starters, the all-metal gun weighs 2 lbs., 2.6 oz., so it feels very light. The overall length is 30.5 inches, so it's positively tiny. The length of pull is 12.5 inches--a comfortable length for both youth and adults, alike. The barrel and spring tube are brass. The four separate frame parts are cast bronze and the wire stock, sear, trigger mainspring and piston are all steel.

Here's the gun by itself. I needed the carpet background to contrast with a 100 percent nickelplated gun.

New meets old. The new Daisy gun above an original from the Daisy museum. Daisy photo.

This closeup shows two things. First, there's no reinforcing bar to stiffen the frame where the wire stock attaches. And second, the cocking overlever stands proud of the receiver tube. After this photo was taken, I gently squeezed the lever down several times until it now stands just a quarter-inch above the spring tube at the front, which is the Daisy spec.

The serial number is stamped under the barrel. The box is similarly marked.

The entire gun is plated with nickel. Even the cast-bronze frame parts are nickel-plated with no attempt at polishing the rough sand-casting marks. The receiver tube/barrel and wire stock are polished to a high shine, with evidence of hand work everywhere. For only $300, you can hold something like your great-great grandfather may have held as a child.

It's hard to read because the letters are formed on a rough sand casting.

Made in America
Randy Brown of Daisy told me this gun is 100 percent made in the U.S.A. That's surprising in this day and age, when labor costs so much. Even the bronze castings were done in this country and the guns are assembled in Rogers, Arkansas.

Rear sight is cast into the overlever.

Fronts sight is a simple post.

The factory cutaway shows sear engagement. Daisy photo

I will combine Parts 2 and 3 (velocity and accuracy), because I'm not going to shoot this gun that much.

Now for some good news. These guns will still be available for a very short time! Daisy has made them available to the public on their website. A few hundred guns are up for grabs.

My thanks to the Daisy Manufacturing Company, and especially to Randy Brown, for his help with this report.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

AirForce Edge - Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

AirForce Edge 10-meter sporter-class target rifle is now shipping.

This is accuracy day for the AirForce Edge, plus a closer look at a couple features. I aired up the rifle and, from the results of the testing done in Part 3, I knew I would finish shooting with a lot of shots left on the reservoir.

You'll recall from Part 3 that the Edge shoots light match pistol pellets in the 520s and heavier match rifle pellets in the 480s, so this test should prove interesting. We'll learn if speed plays any part in accuracy. All these groups are five shots at 10 meters with a rested gun.

Note that I'm not entirely centered on the target with any of the pellets. I didn't bother to make the final adjustments because I was going to be shooting four different pellets, each of which would have required a lot of final fiddling.

Meisterkugeln lites
The Meisterkugeln lite was my sight-in pellet. Three shots to get into the bull and another seven to refine it. And then the group. And a good one at that! This is a pellet to remember for the Edge. I think I will put some through the chrono, because this pellet, at 7 grains, is even lighter than the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet I tested in Part 3.

Five Meisterkugeln lites made a pretty good group at 10 meters.

Another Meisterkugeln lite group is only slightly larger.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
The H&N Finale Match pistol pellet was the lightest pellet tested in the velocity test in Part 3. It weighs 7.6 grains (says 7.56 grains on the PA website, but I round off to the nearest tenth), which makes it fast in the Edge. And I got the best group of the session with it.

The best group of the session came from H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets.

I came back to Finale Match Pistol pellets after testing the heavier pellets. They continued to be the pellet of choice from the four tested, but if I were competing, I would not stop looking.

RWS R10 Rifle
RWS R10 Heavy Match pellets weigh 8.2 grains and averaged 487 f.p.s. in the velocity test. They're heavy for the Edge, so this was an interesting experiment. They loaded with more resistance, too.

RWS R10 Match pellets didn't do so well in the Edge. This group surprised me until I saw something similar from the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets that weigh an identical 8.2 grains

H&N Finale Match Rifle
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets performed about the same as the heavy R10s. That shows me the Edge likes the lighter, faster pellets. Blog reader Ron, who just bought an Edge, has noticed the same thing, so I think this must be right for the rifle.

H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets performed almost identically to the heavy R10s. I think this pretty well proves that the Edge likes the lighter pellets best. Of course, one test is not enough for any conclusions.

The adjustable trigger
I mentioned before that the Edge trigger is adjustable; I'll go into the details now. The primary adjustment is a single screw located just in front of the trigger blade. Screw it in for a heavier second stage, out for lighter. I was able to adjust it down below the 1.5-lb. sporter-class minimum, so there's plenty of room to experiment.

The other trigger adjustment is more subtle. It involves positioning the trigger blade up or down on its post. Down gives more leverage, which results in a lighter pull. Between the two adjustments, you should be able to get the Edge trigger adjusted very nicely.

The Allen screw in front of the trigger is the primary adjustment. Out for lighter. The trigger blade also slides up and down on the stalk, changing the geometry--another adjustment.

When shooting, the Edge trigger feels as though it has a positive trigger stop, even though there isn't one on the gun. The trigger breaks so cleanly that my finger naturally stops after the break, and it feels exactly like a trigger stop. So, the Edge trigger is quite sophisticated. Sporter-class shooters are going to love it.

More on the action: how the bolt works
The key to the Edge trigger is the cocking raceway, or what I called the bolt track in Part 1.

The graphic on the gun shows how the bolt operates the action.

The bolt can be swapped from one side of the gun to the other, making the rifle completely ambidextrous. However, AirForce cautions that this is not something you want to do often, because the Locktite on the screw threads of the cocking handle will wear off. Clubs shouldn't think they can switch between kids during a season, because too-frequent changing will require frequent renewing of the Locktite. The mating parts are steel to steel, so wear isn't a problem, but if the Locktite gets worn off they will loosen with use. Set up a rifle for the lefties and leave it that way.

Velocity test
Now, for the report on the lightweight Meisterkugelns, as promised. What do you think they'll do?

They go faster. The average for a string of 10 is 563 f.p.s., with a range from 558 to 566. Not too shabby! And we know they're accurate, though not the absolute best in today's test.

Today's work tells me to continue the search for the best pellet for the Edge and to shoot H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets while I do. The trigger is sweet, the sights are crisp and easily adjustable, it's the only sporter-class target rifle with a dry-fire feature and the adjustable weights are extremely flexible.

And there's a surprise coming soon, I hope.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What Edith got for Christmas

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, I told you about some of the things I got for Christmas. Blog reader Peter Zimmerman asked what Edith got, so she's going to tell you about her gifts. It's very difficult to buy presents for her because she doesn't ask for anything, and she tells me she doesn't need anything. Yet, I still manage to surprise her every year.

If you'd like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We'll edit each submission, but we won't work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

by Edith (Mrs. B.B.) Gaylord

Christmas is to me as airguns are to all of you. It's my hobby, my passion. If I could, I'd have the Christmas tree up all year long. One year, I didn't take it down til April. This year, I plan to put it up around Halloween, just so I can stretch out the time. If Tom would let me, I'd put it up Labor Day weekend!

In a way, I'm much like Tom. I like practical things. I know that it's considered a faux pas to give a woman an appliance, but I've shed tears of joy when getting them. Also, Le Creuset cookware is the only cookware I like, so this year Tom got me another pan in my favorite color.

Tom bought me a Wii this year, along with two games. I've mentioned in another blog that I'd rather play tennis than do anything else, so he bought me the Wii Grand Slam Tennis game. He also got me a Wii bowling game. We plan to add some other Wii games...racquetball, shooting, etc. Because we can't play tennis as much as we'd like, we thought the Wii would be a great way to get some fun exercise while working on our proficiency in the living room. As it turns out, I'm better on the tennis courts than I am on the Wii tennis game (vice versa for Tom), but I'm much better on Wii bowling than I am on a real bowling lane (vice versa for Tom).

If you don't know what the Wii is or think it's just another way to sit in front of a TV and meld with the sofa, you're in for a surprise. It's an active video game. I played the Wii for 2 hours the first time. The next morning, I thought I'd traded bodies with a 100-year-old woman. Instead of telling you what hurts, it would take less time to tell you what doesn't! I've been playing it every day now, and getting better and better. Tom, too. Both of us sweat and get winded from playing our Wii sports. It's not something I would have believed if I hadn't experienced it myself. In fact, I dress in the same clothing I'd wear for playing tennis when I play on the Wii.

I find it interesting that there are also shooting games for the Wii--pistol and rifle target practice, including handheld devices that are shaped like guns. In fact, one of them is branded with the name of a major sporting goods retailer.

While I've never played a computer game in my life, I'm attracted to the Wii because it's a physical activity. I spend enough time sitting down at the computer that I don't want to do it as a leisure time pursuit.

I also got some books I'd wanted and some wonderful decorative items. Tom knows what colors delight me, and so he gets me neat things in those colors every year.

I'm also a fan of old TV shows, and I got the full collection of Victor Borge's funniest videos plus a Laurel & Hardy video. My brother, who didn't make up here it this year because his wife had emergency surgery on a life-threatening intestinal hernia, sent a huge box of delicious items from Omaha Steaks. He's promised to come up in January for a belated celebration. Another reason to keep the Christmas decorations going through the month!

We also got a lovely gift from a manufacturer...two bottles of ice wine from Canada. We celebrate every Christmas with it. Tom's sisters and my brother and his wife come here for Christmas and like it so much that they asked to have Christmas in July. So, July 4th is another time when we all get together. We have a grand old time exchanging fun gifts and celebrating the warmth of kinship. And, we're just like everyone else...we're happy to see them arrive and even happier to see them leave!

Monday, January 04, 2010

What I got for Christmas

by B.B. Pelletier

With a title like that, I'm sure you expect a laundry list of fine airguns, but the truth is, I didn't get a single airgun for Christmas. In fact this report is not really about airguns, though it will touch on them more than a little. What it's really about is contentment, because that is what I really got for Christmas this year.

Although I try not to work on airguns and firearms any more than necessary, there are times when it cannot be avoided. My tool kit is small, as a result of this policy, but this Christmas it received some important additions.

Edith did a lot of online shopping for me at Duluth Trading Company this year, and I received three zippered pouches full of magnets, dental tools and small screwdrivers. I wept! I had been slowly putting a tool kit together because I always needs things like these and in one day with three presents she quadrupled my inventory. What thoughtful gifts.

These tools and lights make my fixing jobs easier.

Along with my tools came several handy lights I can use for those nasty places where the room light never shines. The inside of spring gun compression chambers, for instance. Now, I can look inside and shine a light inside at the same time, where before my own shadow was my worst enemy. I'm always working some place dark, and I can never have too many powerful lights.

Big gift
Not many people would ask for a work-related item for Christmas, but then not many people have the perfect job. For several decades, I have secretly harbored the belief that the .30-30 Winchester cartridge is the most accurate cartridge ever created. That belief, for which I have zero proof at this time, is not a popular one. I daresay I am one of the few shooters on planet Earth who believes that. But not the only one. My best bud, Mac, admitted this year that he harbored a similar belief. That admission, coupled with a single, probably atypical five-shot group shot at 50 yards from a Winchester model 94, four of which are very close, stoked up my interest to the point that I just HAD TO KNOW! You guys know how that feels.

Four of the five shots are grouped pretty tight--especially for coming from a 94 Winchester!

So, I've set before me a multi-year project that will involve reducing the error of the .30-30 round until I reach the point where I can't go any further. I won't say just how accurate I think it can be, but it's way less than a one-inch 10-shot group at 100 yards. Way less.

With that as a goal, Edith gifted me with a Remington 788 in .30-30. Now, for those who are unfamiliar with that model, the 788 is to accurate rifles what the Corvette is to fast cars. By that, I mean that you hear a lot of stories, not all of which are true.

I will start testing my theory with a Remington 788, a rifle that's an urban legend in its own right.

There's a complete book of urban legends about the 788. It was too accurate and hurt the sales of the more-expensive Remington models, so they killed it. It has bolt-locking lugs in the rear of the bolt, so the action is springy and cannot take the strain. It was the best bolt-action ever made for rimmed cartridges, and so on.

So, not only am I about to test a theory that will be considered by most to be highly improbable, but I'm starting the test with a rifle that lives under its own cloud of superstition. Controversial, to say the least. And that's probably why I like it.

I love controversy. I love hearing why Crosman could never make a PCP in the United States, and then listening to the crickets chirp when they made not one but four in two years. I loved reading on a popular forum in November of 2009 that AirForce would probably not bring out the Edge for another year. I smiled when some person wrote a story about hunting deer with a Career Dragon Slayer, in which he said he was probably the first person in history to have killed such a large animal with an airgun.

And, in three weeks I'll be in Las Vegas at the 2010 Shot Show, trying to stir up more controversy in the airgun world. I can't wait!

So, were does contentment come it? Why, with you guys, of course. This blog has evolved into the nicest place on the internet, in my opinion. And I no longer have to know everything, because you guys cheerfully chip in and help the new airgunners find answers to their questions. I'm finally involved with a website where people are more intent on enjoying their hobby than with passing rumors and sniping at each other.

Thank you!

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Year's rant: Come on, manufacturers, give us some compatibility!

by B.B. Pelletier

In my final assignment with the U.S. Army, I taught Maintenance Management at the Armor School at Ft. Knox. At the same time, I was also a member of a small team that briefed every new division commander and deputy division commander on the readiness status of their division prior to their assumption of command. In that capacity, I was the guy who revved up these generals so they went into their new jobs knowing exactly whose heads to chop.

I loved it because, for a day or two, I got to throw around the weight of a one- or two-star general and solve maintenance problems halfway around the world. Wanna know what MOST of those problems were? Incompatibility and dumba** thinking.

Yep, interfaces that didn't actually connect, fuels that didn't work in their intended equipment, metric wrenches issued for repair parts with inch specifications, etc. It's SO EASY to analyze a readiness report that says over half of a division's artillery carriers are deadlined because of broken quill shafts in the turbo-superchargers. You don't even need to know what a turbo-supercharger is to know where the problem lies. And what to do about it. Stop checking the dipsticks, we have identified the problem.

Turned out the division had just been issued new artillery carriers and most of them had broken down on the short drive from the railhead to the motor pool. When I called the depot where the carriers had been overhauled, they said there shouldn't be a problem,as long as the soldiers were draining the preservative oil from the turbo-supercharger gearbox and replacing it with regular motor oil, like the lubrication order called for!

Compatibility and commonsense, folks. It makes the world go 'round. Or not.

So, when some airgun manufacturer decides to develop a new PCP and DOESN'T choose to use a common fill adapter, they fly in the face of compatibility. That happens a lot, these days.

Oh, I can just imagine how the conversation went in their conference room. "We'll own the market! Everyone will have to use our fill adapter, because it's the only way to fill our gun!"

Nobody in the room was brave enough to say, "Or, everyone will avoid our gun because it can't be filled with a Foster quick-disconnect, like half the PCPs now being sold."

I was yelling about this stuff 15 years ago when I started writing about airguns and nothing has changed. You think I'm being overly dramatic?

Tell me, how many of you want to buy a PCP that only gives you half the number of shots it's rated for? Not that attractive, is it? Then WHY do companies still bring out PCPs that need to be charged to 3,500 and 4,500 psi and think they can sell them in the United States?

After the genius who approved the decision to build such a gun has heard the logic of his failure for the 12th time he invents a line like, "You can still use it with 3,000 psi. (You just won't get all the shots). He says what's in the parentheses to himself.

If you like that, here are some others you'll appreciate:

In a New Orleans real estate brochure, "Ocean views on all sides!"


"Trust me, the Tround is going to be the next big thing in handgun ammunition." Referring to the Dardick pistol.


"Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you like Dallas?"

So, Mr. Manufacturer, it's YOUR job to figure out what WE want. And guessing won't do. You have to build an iron-clad case for your product, such that you could stand in court in your underwear explaining your product and not be embarrassed.

I hope I'm not offending anyone with what I say next. About 10 years ago, someone sent me a package of BBs that had each been individually wrapped in a white synthetic material. He explained that he was very concerned about lead poisoning, so he developed an airgun projectile that had no lead in it. It wasn't very accurate, but at least it wasn't made of lead. Would I please help him market his new product, because he didn't know who to approach?

Neither did I.

Because, what do you say to the man who just decided to fill dirigibles with hydrogen? Or to abandon Coca-Cola in favor of New Coke? Or to introduce kudzu to help stabilize earth-bermed dikes?

There just aren't words.

But here's a word: compatibility.

We don't need a 14-gram CO2 cartridge, but we could sure use more 12-gram cartridges at half the price. We'll forego a high-velocity, aluminum BB, but a smoother steel BB would be a blessing. And you can keep your next hyper-velocity breakbarrel, but how about sending us one that's easy to cock and accurate to boot?

Stop giving us the next new thing and start giving us things that you currently think are impossible.

Give us a PCP that can be filled with shop air. Impossible? No, it isn't. But it will take some thought.

Give us a $100 PCP.

Give us a pellet trap that collapses for storage, yet can stop a .22 long rifle bullet.

Give us a breakbarrel that cocks with 20 lbs. of effort and outputs 30 foot-pounds of energy.

Give us a scope with external adjustments.

Give us a BB gun that's as accurate as a Daisy 499, but sells for $50.

Give us a trap for steel BBs that never lets one get away.

In other words, start acting like you are actually in business to succeed and start thinking about things that don't exist, but should. We're waiting.