by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today is accuracy day for the Tanfolglio Gold Custom CO2 blowback airsoft kit gun, but it’s just the first of many tests. An airsoft gun with adjustable Hop-up, or BAXS in this case, has to be adjusted to shoot its best. I’ve never adjusted a gun with BAXS, but I’ve adjusted plenty of them with Hop-up and that is how it always happens. The gun never shoots its best right out of the box. I’m assuming the BAXS is the same.
All I did today was find out which BBs are worth continuing with and which aren’t. As it turned out, I got good results with several 0.20-gram BBs, which is what the manufacturer recommends for this gun. I also did well with one 0.25-gram BB.
I’ll warn you right now, the targets you’re about to see are not very impressive. They look terrible, in fact. If you’re used to good groups from pellet guns, these are going to seem hopeless. But they do show small differences between the good BBs and those that aren’t worth pursuing, and that was all I wanted to do today.
I shot off a bag rest with the butt of the gun (the bottom of the magazine well) rested against the bag. I also tried holding it ahead of the bag and just resting my arms on the bag, but it moved around too much. Maybe next time I’ll play with some different holds.
I shot only 5-shot groups today because I was testing a large number of different BBs. In all, I tested over 10 different brands, but only the most promising will be shown here.
Before I get to that, however, there was another problem not related to the gun. The Swiss Arms red dot sight that was bundled with the pistol quit working suddenly during the first session. It wasn’t the battery because that’s still good. So, I dismounted it and installed a Walther Competition II Top Point red dot sight that I got from Pyramyd Air for testing; but some funny-bunny at the factory had left the sight turned to high power, and the battery was dead. I replaced it with a fresh battery but the sight failed to respond. So — two red dot sights out of the running even before we start. That was what ticked me off yesterday and caused the rewriting of my blog.
Fortunately, I have an older Tasco Pro Point red dot sight that has functioned perfectly on many airguns over the past 15 years. That one went on for this test, and everything was good again.
Sight-in was a bit frantic because I unknowingly chose the least accurate 0.20 BB for the job. The gun doesn’t like the Air Venturi Pro CQBBs that weigh 0.20-grams. It took me about 10 shots to get sort of on target, but it wasn’t until I switched ammo that I found out what was happening. More on that in a moment, now for the quick rundown.
This pistol hates 0.12-gram BBs. They couldn’t even stay on the trap at 10 meters, and I was using the UTG Accushot Pellet and BB trap. Forget staying on target! This things were hitting the backer board that was behind the trap. Fortunately, I expected something like that, so I didn’t waste much time. BBs this light are usually good only in lower-powered spring-piston guns.
The pistol also performs only average with the 0.28-gram BBs. Though I only tried one brand, the TSD Tactical 0.28-gram BBs, I can tell from experience that this BB is too heavy for the pistol.
That leaves 0.25-gram and 0.20-gram BBs. The gun shot the best group with Air Venturi Pro CQBBs 0.25-gram BBs, but it was 2.864 inches for 5 shots. See what I mean about not getting too excited?
The second-best group of 5 shots was a 0.20-gram Marui Black BB that Pyramyd Air doesn’t carry. Five of those went into 2.875 inches at 10 meters, which is really too close to call. The round BBs tear holes that are indistinct and measurement may be off by a lot. Fortunately, the pictures don’t lie.
But it was another 0.20-gram BB, the TSD Stealth that’s apparently no longer made that tipped the scales on this day. The first group I shot was spread out wide, but it was just one BB that did it. The other four were in 1.809 inches. I was so encouraged that I shot a second group; and, again, 4 BBs went into 2.229 inches and the fifth shot opened the group several more inches. I think this might be the most accurate BB after the BAXS gets adjusted, or at least 0.20-gram BBs of some other brand might turn out to be the best. If not, the 0.25-gram Air Venturi BBs might get better with the adjustment.
Don’t get discouraged!
My time with airsoft has taught me to first look for the best BB, and then spend more time adjusting the Hop-up to maximize its potential. That’s what lies ahead of us for this pistol. I won’t guarantee the gun will be much more accurate than this; but if past experience holds true, it will be!
Believe me, I do understand that this is not a target pistol. But to win as a competition gun, it has to place its shots close together. IPSC for airsoft doesn’t shoot as far as 10 meters, so this test is extreme, but it’s also quite good at showing what the gun is capable of.
The gun’s recoil is sharp when you’re aiming carefully. And the trigger that I loved before is still preforming well. All in all, I’m a little disappointed that I can’t show you better groups than these; but if the BAXS works as it should, I should be able to reduce these by a lot.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I decided to write this for those readers who indicated they were interested in airsoft to some degree. I know this is an airgun blog, and that means pellet and BB guns — not airsoft, but there are some crossovers. For example, many airsoft companies are now entering the world of steel BB guns. I promise we’re not going to become half-and-half or even one-quarter airsoft; but since there are questions, I feel the need to address them.
History of airsoft
This will be short and sweet. Airsoft came about in the Orient in the 1970s, when the demand for realistic guns that were not firearms was first satisfied. The early designers made their guns shoot 6mm plastic balls that they have since come to call BBs.
The early guns were made to satisfy the needs of collectors to see, feel and even be able to disassemble the guns in which they were interested. So, the early thrust of airsoft guns was for collectors, only. However, the fact that the manufacturers made these guns fire their plastic BBs soon evolved into an entirely different interest. People began conducting wargames with the guns. Instead of paintball, which is very painful when the .68-caliber balls hit flesh, the 6mm plastic balls had almost no impact. Of course, the guns in those days were firing at very low velocities; because it was realism, rather than the gun’s ability to shoot, that attracted buyers.
Once the wargames began, airsoft split off into two directions. The collectors wanted highly realistic guns, and the wargamers wanted guns that were accurate at long distance and would hold up under simulated combat conditions. Some of the early collectible guns sold for thousands of dollars. Indeed, there are still a few of these collector guns being sold today. One example is a very real airsoft Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) that sells for well over $3000. But the collector market has been far surpassed by the wargamers, who now call themselves skirmishers. Airsoft guns for skirmishes are the biggest sellers in today’s market, which has grown to more than a billion dollars in sales annually.
The BB gun wars
I’ve written several articles about the BB gun wars that were conducted in the United States from the 1890s until the 1960s. The BB gun wars were literally backyard battles fought by teams of kids with BB guns. Every community had them, and each bunch of kids had their own rules. I’ve owned several BB guns with multiple dents in both the wood and metal from the impacts of BBs that are obviously survivors of the BB gun wars.
It’s my contention that the BB gun wars still rage today, but they’re now being fought with airsoft guns. Apparently, there’s a need for people to shoot at each other in mock combat, and airsoft guns seem to fill this need.
Because shooting at people is so emotionally-charged, IPSC shooting has recently become popular. IPSC stands for the International Practical Shooting Confederation. It’s the international extension of practical pistol shooting that began as law enforcement training in the U.S. in the 1960s. IPSC competitors shoot from 30,000 to over 100,000 rounds each year in training and competition, so the game is not for poor people.
Airsoft guns are a wonderful way to get into this competition without spending the kind of money that it costs to shoot firearms. For one-hundredth the cost of firearms, shooters can have the same fun under safer conditions with 6mm airsoft guns.
Airsoft history is rapidly evolving. In just 40 years, it’s gone from pure collecting to wargames and now to practical pistol shooting. Who knows what’ll happen in the next 10 years? What’s obvious, however, is that the technology of the airsoft guns is evolving as fast as the interest is. This is a burgeoning area that’s spending a lot of money to satisfy multiple needs.
Let’s examine the airsoft powerplants so we can see what exists and what’s possible. The first powerplant we’ll look at is the spring-piston.
The spring-piston airsoft powerplant is no different than a spring-piston found in any other type of airgun. A piston is powered by a coiled steel spring and moves forward rapidly to compress a column of air that then drives the airsoft BB. Most airsoft spring-piston guns are repeaters, but they must be cocked for every shot. You sometimes see these repeaters called single-shots because the people writing about them don’t understand the difference between a true single-shot that only holds one round and a repeater that holds many round but must be cocked separately to fire each one.
Spring piston guns are among the least expensive, and yet they can also be very powerful and accurate. Sniper guns are powered by spring pistons for the most part. The lowest-powered spring-piston guns cost very little and are not built to last a long time. They have a lot of plastic parts that eventually do wear out. But if you don’t abuse them, most will give you many thousands of shots that will be surprisingly accurate.
Gas airsoft guns are very similar to gas airguns, except they do employ a wider range of gasses. Besides CO2, which they’ve begun to use in the last 15 years, airsoft guns also use other industrial gasses that go by colorful trade names. Green gas and red gas are 2 of these; and green gas is, by far, the most popular. Green gas is nothing more than propane, though some suppliers do infuse some oil into the gas to help lubricate the airsoft mechanisms.
Green gas runs at a nominal pressure of 115 psi. It’s supplied in dispensing cans that have nipples that couple with the inlet valves of the guns they serve.
Someone asked me if green gas was as powerful as CO2, which is pressurized to 850 psi and higher. Well, it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean very much, however, because CO2 has to be stepped way down to safely operate an airsoft gun. The same gun can use both green gas and CO2, it just needs two different magazines — each with its own valve to handle the correct gas.
Generally speaking, gas guns tend to be faster than spring-piston guns, but that isn’t always the case. There are bolt-action spring-piston sniper guns that are very powerful. It’s impossible to make a blanket generalization.
Automatic-electric guns (AEGs)
AEGs are spring-piston guns that are powered by small high-torque electric motors. The motor cocks the piston and trips the sear. The gun usually has a selector switch that allows full-auto (the motor repeatedly cocking and releasing the piston as long as the trigger is held down) and semiauto (firing one time per trigger pull). Besides the spring-piston side of this powerplant, there’s the electric side that deals with batteries, motors and gears.
AEGs are popular because they can shoot full-auto, which gamers and collectors both enjoy. They also are among the fastest-shooting airsoft guns, although bolt-action sniper guns can be modified to be very fast, as well. AEGs allow people to experience things that most people cannot experience with firearms; and, of course, they do it at a fraction of the cost. Even law enforcement agencies are using AEGs as training simulators because they’re much safer than firearms that shoot training ammunition called Simunitions. You can make a mistake with a firearm and kill someone — it happens all the time. But you can’t possibly load a firearm cartridge into an airsoft gun, no matter how realistic it may seem.
The technology is changing rapidly. Today, there are even a few hybrid AEGs that can be used with or without electrical power. Obviously, these will appeal to people who never want to be caught without a functional gun.
What comes next?
Next time, I’ll talk about modifying airsoft guns. Not all guns can be modified, but a surprising number can be; and the manufactures do supply the parts to make the modifications.
I’ll also talk about power, which is fast becoming an important topic. As the guns become more powerful, the “soft” in airsoft is being tested to the limits.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the velocity of the Tanfolglio Gold Custom CO2 blowback airsoft kit gun. When I started the test, I discovered something unusual. The CO2 cartridge I’d loaded last week to test the gun initially had leaked down completely. That usually doesn’t happen until several months have passed, so it got me wondering. I’ll watch the gun and see if it happens again. I left the test today with a 75 percent filled cartridge; so if I test it again in a week and it’s out, I’ll know. And to answer your question, yes, I did use Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of each fresh cartridge when I installed it.
Testing the velocity of an airsoft gun is a little different than testing a pellet gun. It’s more like testing a BB gun because the airsoft BBs come in specific weights. The velocities tend to conform to the weights rather than to the individual brands of BBs used. I’ll test the pistol today with the 4 most popular weights — 0.12 grams, 0.20 grams, 0.25 grams and 0.28 grams. And let’s get something straight right now. When we’re talking about airsoft BBs, we’re speaking in terms of GRAMS — not grains. There are about 454 grams in a pound, but 7,000 GRAINS per pound. So a gram is MUCH heavier than a grain. A gram is a decimal unit of the metric system. It’s one-thousandth of a kilogram. A grain is an apothecary (medical) weight from the old English system of weights — a system that is also used by jewelers. It was historically the weight of one barley seed, but has been standardized to one seven-thousandth of a pound.
Regardless of the weight of each BB, they’re all the same size. Their weight is controlled by the material used to make them.
UHC Precision Ground BBs, 0.12 grams
First up are 0.12-gram (1.85 grains) UHC BBs. They averaged 417 f.p.s. in the Tanfoglio pistol. The range went from a low of 406 to a high of 425 f.p.s. That’s slightly slower than the maximum advertised veloicity of 453 f.p.s for this pistol. At the average velocity they produce 0.71-foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Given the design goals of airsoft, that’s fine, because much more than that will start to injure anyone hit by them.
Air Venturi Pro CQBBs, 0.20 grams
Next up were Air Venturi Pro CQBBs 0.20-gram (3.09 grains) BBs. These are value-priced BBs that come in bottles of 2,700 rounds, 5,000 rounds and, for the serious shooter, supersized bags of 125,000!
These averaged 333 f.p.s. with a spread from 315 to 346 f.p.s. This is the recommended BB weight for this pistol, which means it will probably be the easiest one to tune the BAXS (the trajectory adjustment in the pistol) with. At the average velocity, this BB produced 0.76 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. I have other brands of 0.20-gram BBs, including competition BBs; so if this weight turns out to work well in the gun, I plan to give it the biggest test. As a final note, the velocity was right where the specs say it should be (320-350 f.p.s.).
Air Venturi Pro CQBBs, 0.25 grams
This 0.25-gram (3.86 grains) BB is a little heavier than the recommended weight, but sometimes that doesn’t hurt the accuracy at all. With the right BBs, it can enhance it — and this is where having several different brands of premium airsoft BBs is an advantage. I tested velocity with the Air Venturi Pro CQBBs 0.25-gram BB that’s the equivalent of the 0.20-gram BB mentioned above, but heavier. It comes packaged the same way, and I have the 2,700 BB bottle for the test.
These BBs averaged 296 f.p.s. in the Tanfoglio pistol. The range went from 282 to 304 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this BB produced 0.75 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
TSD Tactical, 0.28 gram BBs
The last BB I tried was the TSD Tactical 0.28-gram (4.32 grains) BBs. These are clearly too heavy for this gun, but they did produce velocity very close to the 0.25-gram BBs. The average was 289 f.p.s., with a spread from 274 to 302 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this BB developed 0.80 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
Loading the magazine
I don’t have a speedloader, so I loaded each BB one-by-one into the double-stack magazine. They have to be pressed through the top of the magazine, which then holds them against falling out while the gun is operating. That’s the sign of a quality airsoft gun. If you remove the loaded mag for any reason, a BB doesn’t fall out of the mag as it often does on lower-priced gas guns and most spring guns and auto-electric guns (AEGs).
I also note the BBs instantly arranged themselves within the mag…and without any fuss. With lesser guns, the BB stack will have gaps on one side that lead to misfeeds.
Stopping the BBs
Nothing rebounds worse than a plastic airsoft BB. Nothing! Those of you who know airsoft probably wonder how I managed to stop the BBs in the velocity tes. When I tell you that I stopped 100 percent of more than 60 BBs fired, you need to know how I did it! I used a UTG Accushot Pellet and BB trap, and in front of that I placed a heavy cardboard sheet at a slight angle of perhaps 15 degrees to the face of the trap. The trap and cardboard both stood in a shallow cardboard tray that caught all BBs that came back out of the trap. It worked so well that I will use it when I conduct the accuracy test.
I proclaimed how much I love the Tanfoglio trigger in Part 1. Now let me tell you the specs. It’s single-stage, with the blade moving through an arc that can be felt, and it breaks cleanly at 2 lbs., 9 oz., which is even lighter than the trigger on my Wilson Combat CQB 1911 firearm. This is a pistol trigger to die for! The only criticism is that it doesn’t break like a glass rod; but since the gun is for action shooting and not bullseye targets, that doesn’t matter.
I got exactly 40 shots before the gun began slowing down. After that, there were another 10 good shots before the blowback function came into question. I guess a lot of the CO2 is used for blowback. Since this is a competition gun, that makes no difference. Winners will buy it and use it, no matter what it takes to make it work. This is not a budget plinker. It’s a full-blown competition airgun!
I hope this pistol will be a real tackdriver because that would make it perfect. I know that it’s not a target gun, but it does have to place its shots in the same place to score high in the competitions it would enter. If it does — well, I don’t know that I will let it go back!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Well, here’s something different! I’m testing an airsoft gun — actually the Tanfoglio Gold Custom Eric Grauffel CO2 blowback airsoft kit — which the distributor calls a softair gun. Many of you don’t remember this, but years ago I used to test airsoft guns for this blog from time to time. Then Pyramyd Air got a dedicated blogger for airsoft and I stopped reviewing them. Well, that blog is no longer active, so I told Edith I wanted to start testing them again, now and then. I don’t skirmish and I don’t shoot guns at people. So, my interest in airsoft guns is in their realism and how well they shoot. That’s how I’ll be looking at this one. Since realism was the original impetus behind the creation of airsoft guns, I don’t think my views are out of line.
This test is actually the first part of a twofer because there’s also a Tanfoglio Gold Custom CO2 blowback BB pistol that I have. I’ll test that one after I finish this test, but I won’t link the 2 reports to keep the confusion down. The gun I’m looking at is serial number 12021442.
Today’s test isn’t just a gun — it’s an entire shooting kit that comes with a Swiss Arms red dot holographic sight. The pistol comes with a Picatinny sight base attached to the gun but no dot sight in the package, so this dot sight completes the ensemble. And it’s an all-metal gun that weighs 3 lbs., 4.4 oz. without sights, ammo or CO2! That makes it 2.5 oz. heavier than my Wilson Combat .45 ACP when it’s fully loaded! Nothing but metal touches your hand. Although the gun resembles a 1911 somewhat, it’s also clearly different. The grip frame reminds me of a Llama Max II 45L/F hi-cap pistol because it ‘s wider, more rounded and softer than a slabsided 1911.
This firearm is purpose-built as an IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) competition gun. It’s endorsed by 5-time IPSC world champion Eric Grauffel and is a copy of the gun he uses. Its purpose is to place as many shots as possible into the highest-scoring kill zone of silhouette targets in the shortest possible time. The slide has a cocking knob located on the right rear, so you don’t rack the slide to start the gun — you pull back on the cocking knob. Even though the trigger appears to be double-action, this pistol is single-action only. And the trigger-pull is to die for! I’ll get to that in a moment.
A knob on the right rear of the pistol retracts the slide to cock the hammer. Blowback continues to cock the hammer after the first shot until the magazine is out of ammo, then the slide remains open.
With this gun, we have a dilemma. It has blowback action that drives the slide to the rear with each shot, cocking the hammer for the next shot. With most airsoft guns with blowback, you get the feel of recoil that a firearm would have. It isn’t exactly the same, but it’s a good simulation, which is the primary reason these guns have it. However, with this pistol, we want to recover from each shot as fast as possible, so any movement caused by blowback runs counter to the purpose of the gun. We have it and it works, but we don’t really want it — except to cock the hammer. Fortunately, the makers understood that, and the blowback of this pistol does not make the gun bounce in your hand. Throw in the safety, which is wide enough so you can rest your thumb on it, and you’ve got an action pistol that’s still very controllable.
I don’t know how they did it, but the makers of this pistol gave it one of the finest 2-stage trigger-pulls it has ever been my good fortune to try. It’s not a glass-crisp release; stage 2 does have movement. You can feel the blade as it moves, but there isn’t even a hint of creep. I’ll test the trigger for you in Part 2 and give you the numbers. But I’m telling you now — this one is very good!
The gun has an ambidextrous thumb safety that can be used as a thumb rest for your shooting hand. The reason to do this is to reduce the amount of muzzle flip with each shot, allowing you to get on the next target faster. Since IPSC is a timed competition, everything that saves time is a benefit.
The forward part of the grip frame and backstrap are both finely checkered for a better grip. I would want even more checkering, but the gun still grabs your hand well. The backstrap is a full beavertail that goes way back over your shooting hand. The hammer is both bobbed and skeletonized for speed. This pistol showcases the type of race gun features competitors would spend thousands of dollars to get.
The magazine holds both the single CO2 cartridge and 17 6mm airsoft BBs arranged in a vertical double-stack column. The specs say this is an 18-shot magazine, so I will be checking that during this test. The extended magazine release on the left side of the frame cleanly releases the drop-free magazine, and the next loaded mag installs easily in the funnel-shaped butt…because, once again, time is the issue.
Of course, the gun’s caliber is 6mm. The lithographed box indicates the pistol does best with 0.20-gram BBs that are supposed to leave the muzzle at 350 f.p.s. Velocity is also given for 0.12-gram BBs that are supposed to go out at 450 f.p.s. Naturally, I’ll test both claims.
This pistol has a proprietary version of Hop-Up called the BAXS shooting system. It puts a controlled backspin on the plastic ball, giving straighter flight over a longer distance. It’s adjustable and requires partial disassembly of the gun to access the adjustment. The slide has to come off. It’s held on by a disassembly pin, similar to the one found on a Beretta 92FS. I’ll test the efficacy of this for you when I write the accuracy test.
There are no open sights on this gun, as it’s a competition model. But it does come with a Picatinny rail for optical sights. The rail is attached to the left side of the gun’s frame by 4 Allen screws, and there are 4 more threaded holes on the right side of the frame, although the base isn’t symmetrical and cannot be switched over to the other side. The slide is free to cycle beneath the rail and is the reason there’s a cocking knob on the gun.
These days, dot sights reign supreme in IPSC competition, so that’s what’s provided in the kit. The Swiss Arms dot sight is a holographic-type red dot that has 11 levels of brightness and the off position. Naturally, the dot is adjustable for both windage and elevation. I see that the dot is very fat, which helps with rapid target acquisition more than precision; again, time is the crucial factor. So the choice of this particular sight was well thought out.
Yes, there’s a blaze orange muzzle to comply with U.S. import regulations. And, no, it’s not okay to take it off or cover it up. If you get in trouble with this gun and have altered the muzzle, you bear the full brunt of liability for the problems it causes.
There’s also a compensator on the muzzle of the gun. It would work if the gun had the volume of gas that’s generated by a .45 ACP cartridge. But with CO2, it’s just there for looks.
I know handguns, and this KWC (Taiwan) airsoft pistol blows me away. It isn’t just good — it’s great, and you can tell it was purposely made that way. There’s no luck involved here — this pistol is intentionally meant to be wonderful.
I know it isn’t a precision target pistol; but it’s made for a type of target shooting, so it has to be accurate. Right? I’ll try to test it in the way it was intended to be shot.
I didn’t select this pistol on my own. I asked Pyramyd Air’s airsoft expert, Sergey, to send me the best gun he has. And this was his choice. I haven’t fired one BB through it, yet I’m already inclined to agree with him!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald
The SHOT Show is not a gun show — though that is what many attendees call it, and the mainstream media that doesn’t attend also calls it that. Instead, it’s a happening — to use a 1960′s term. Or it’s a Middle Eastern open market. The big booths house the recognized names like Colt, Winchester and Crosman. Their booths are two stories tall with signs hanging from the ceiling that you could see a mile away if there weren’t other signs hanging in front of them.
But the real drama of the show isn’t at those booths. People already know what to expect in those places. It’s the little out-of-the-way booths hugging the walls that have the surprises. I always set aside some time just to cruise the aisles, looking for some rocks to turn over.
I’ll be walking along a narrow aisle and someone will step out to stop me. Then, in a conspiratorial tone, he leans over and says something like, “Don’t you just hate it when your ice cubes melt and dilute your drink? Cold Bars have solved that problem forever. These are sanitized stainless steel bars that retain the cold almost as well as water, plus they’re reusable forever. Put three of these in your scotch and soda, and it’ll be as fresh and strong after 20 minutes as when it was poured. When you finish the drink, just pop them in the freezer for 10 minutes…and they’re good to go again. While you wait, you use the second set of three bars in your next drink! Nothing could be easier.”
This guy is serious! You look at his spartan booth and realize that he has poured everything into this venture because at some point watery drinks pushed him over his tipping point. When he bounced the idea off his wife and friends, they all agreed it was the next big thing. They had no idea he would mortgage the house and put his life savings into it!
So, here he is, in a narrow aisle of a large trade show, hawking his brains out to people who, for some reason, just don’t seem to get it. Who doesn’t want cold, undiluted drinks?
Think I’m exaggerating? Attend a trade show and walk the aisles some time.
Why do I plod through these pathways of personal misery? Because next to the stainless steel ice cube booth there ‘s the G+G Airsoft booth that has the best action target I’ve seen in a long while. It’s a lighted rubber hemisphere that’s computer-controlled to react to being hit by an airsoft BB. You can turn the light on or off, depending on how you have programmed it.
They call it the MET Unit, which stands for multifunctional electronic target. It can exist as one single target or they can be strung together in up to 25 targets for a prolonged target array.
The MET Unit is from 1 to 25 programmable lights that turn off or on when hit by an airsoft BB.
The wires between targets can be up to 50 meters in length, which allows them to be set up in a tactical course and either light up at some random time until hit or stay on for a programmed time and go off after the time is up or when hit. Two competitors can shoot at the same target and change the color of the lights when they hit it, establishing a duelling target.
The individual target will sell for $66 or 5 for $250. It looks like a great way to have fast-action fun with airsoft guns. They can take hits from AEGs shooting 0.20-gram BBs at up to 450 f.p.s. Naturally, they’re not robust enough for even the lowest-powered steel BB or pellet guns.
Umarex is now branding airguns under their own name. This year, there are three new long guns: the Octane is a breakbarrel with a Reaxis gas spring and SilencAir, which is a baffled silencer; the Surge is an entry-lever springer breakbarrel; and the Fusion is a CO2 pellet rifle, and it also has the SilencAir noise dampener. We’ve seen the Fusion before, branded as the Ruger LGR, but Umarex tells me the Fusion is a Gen 2 upgrade and quite different. I never got the chance to test the LGR, so I’m looking forward to testing the new Fusion as soon as possible.
The Fusion is a new CO2 single-shot rifle from Umarex that sports a 5-chamber noise dampener.
I spent an hour at the Leapers booth this year. The most important thing I wanted to see was the new scope with an internal bubble level. It’s a 4-16x in a 30mm tube, and it looks exactly like what the doctor ordered for those long-range targets we love to shoot. They’re working hard to get it to market this year, but it won’t go out until they’re certain of the quality. Putting a bubble level inside scopes on a production line is apparently quite a challenge…but one I’m sure Leapers will do correctly.
The entire line of scopes have been upgraded with finer adjustments — many of them 1/8-minute adjustments — and greater repeatability. They have a broad range of adjustment in both directions, and their production models are even exceeding the maximum limits they established! All leaf springs have been replaced with coil springs to increase adjustment precision and repeatability.
But the WOW factor comes on the stuff you can see. How about a 3-9x scout scope (10-inch eye relief) with a wide field of view? That is the big trick for scout scopes, and I saw a beauty mounted on an M1A — though it would be just as correct on a Mosin Nagant.
Leapers new scout scope has a full field of vision — something scout scopes are not known for.
Another surprise from the folks in Michigan is the smallest tactical laser I have yet seen. I asked Mac to photograph it next to a quarter for scale.
Leapers new laser is the smallest I have yet seen. That’s a quarter next to it.
Back to the Crosman booth to show you what the new Benjamin pump looks like when the handle is raised. I didn’t expect the huge reception this pump got when I showed it the first time this year. Please note that it has not one but two pump tubes. This is a 3-stage pump — the same as the current pumps, but this one compresses a bit more air with each stroke. I’ll have more to say about it when I test it.
Maybe this view will help you understand how the new Benjamin pump magnifies the force you put into each pump stroke.
I’ll close with a last look at the Hatsan booth. They have the AT-P carbine and AT-P1 pistol…and both are precharged pneumatics. They’ll come in .177, .22 and .25 calibers that each have hunting levels of power. These are repeaters with circular clips and adjustable Quattro triggers. The sights are fiberoptic, and there are provisions for scopes. The air cylinders remove, and spares will be available as options.
For those who are looking for hunting air pistols, I think these two should be considered. I’ll work hard to review them for you as soon as possible.
The Hatsan AT-P2 Tact (left) and the AT-P1 are exciting new PCP airguns.
Leaving the show
As Edith and I left the show we passed by one final booth. The guy is selling Instant Water for survivalists. Just drop one of his pills in a bucket of water and — Presto! — instant water. Why I can’t think of things like that?
by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin today’s report, here’s an interesting tidbit of news. The Georgia senate has passed legislation (SB 301) that will allow residents to use legal silencers while hunting game. This curious legislation is the first positive thing on silencers that I’ve seen. Does it mean that we are about the see a change in the public attitude toward silencers in general?
You’re on the couch, watching a typical “shootemupski” flick and the gang-banger bad guys in their wife-beater undershirts and black doo-rags are all shooting their Glocks with limp wrists and the guns rotated 90 degrees to the left, so the shells eject out the top instead of the side. You suppress a quiet snicker, knowing that this is inherently wrong, but you chalk it up to Hollywood.
What else do you know about the mistreatment of guns? That’s any gun — air-powered or firearm.
What about the guy who opens his revolver to check that it’s loaded, then closes the cylinder with a quick flick of the wrist? Back in the 1950s, the gun magazines were all loaded with warnings not to do this because of what it does to the crane. The crane is the arm that swings out of the revolver and holds the axle on which the cylinder turns. How many times have I watched a vintage black-and-white murder mystery in which the bad guy did just that to his revolver? It works in the movies because they can shut the camera off and switch guns after they bend the crane. In real life, it’s so damaging that the fit of the crane is the first thing you check whenever evaluating a used double-action revolver.
This Ruger revolver’s crane is made from steel. It’s the part that allows the cylinder to swing out to the side of the gun for loading and unloading. If it can’t take being flipped shut without bending, imagine what will happen to a softer metal airsoft revolver crane!
Mark your territory!
Here’s one all the Bubbas do to their guns. They mark them with their Social Security account numbers etched into the steel with an electric engraving pen. When asked why they do it, they always answer, “It’s mine for as long as I own it, and after I’m gone I don’t care what happens to it.” The sad thing is, when Bubba dies, he stays dead for a long time! So, that beautiful Winchester Model 1873 rifle he inherited from his grandfather in 1954 now sits in some gun store in Ft. Worth marked at $1,875 instead of $3,500, because his SS# is engraved on the frame!
Think this makes it a bargain? Think again. Anyone who buys a gun marked this way just bought it for the rest of his life, because no one else will touch it. If you want to buy a real nice Winchester 1873 lever-action rifle that has someone’s SS# engraved on it, just contact me and I’ll give you the details. It’s been in the same place for at least the past seven years.
Will someone please take the engraving pen from Bubba? This pristine Remington 03A3 rifle from World War II lost a third of its value because he marked the receiver this way.
I was once stupid enough to go “all the way” for you here in this blog and “inlet” the stock of an Air Venturi Bronco for the slide of a peep sight. I put quotes around the word inlet, because it really isn’t the right term. “Splinter-out” would be more exact, I suppose. My woodwork was approximately the same level of quality that you’d get from a rabid beaver. Pole-climbers leave smoother wood behind them.
Soldering with the starz
I’ll never forget back in the late 1990s when big bore airguns were just starting to be the rage, and the Farco Air Shotgun from the Philippines was the current rage. One “boutique” customizer hopped up his Farco up by switching from CO2 at 853 psi to air at 3,000 psi. But the steel screw that was the safety lug on the gosh-darn bolt kept digging a channel back through the brass receiver when the gun fired. Our “hero” built-up that area with a mound of lead solder. I am not kidding — there was a lump of solder there that was an inch deep!
Think it kept him safe? Well, it’s just about the same as sealing the leaks in your car’s engine block with candle wax. All I remember was that his gun was incredibly loud when it fired and nobody would stand within 20 feet of him when he shot it.
“Sometimes, things break off”
When I was in high school, a friend’s father had a double-barreled shotgun with Damascus-twist barrels. I was reading Guns & Ammo magazine at the time and about every third article had a warning about shooting smokeless ammunition in guns with Damascus-twist barrels. So, when his dad pulled out the shotgun to shoot it one day, I cringed and ducked behind a car. His dad said, “Aw, it’s okay. Sometimes things break off, but I still shoot it.” Sure enough, he shot it once, yelled, “Oww!” and stopped shooting. I heard the metal bounce off the car body, after it sliced through his cheek.
Sometimes the product name, alone, is enough to cause problems. The so-called “drop-free” magazines that some airsoft guns have is one example. The term drop-free was created to describe the type of magazine that is released from a semiautomatic pistol like the Colt M1911A1 when the magazine release catch is pressed. That’s opposed to the type of mag release that’s found on a Makarov or a Ruger Mark II that’s located at the bottom of the mag floorplate and doesn’t allow the mag to clear the gun even after it’s pushed. With that kind of release, you have to actually pull the magazine out of the frame of the gun.
A drop-free magazine will actually drop free of the gun when it’s released, but nobody would actually do that unless they had the base of the magazine protected by a rubber bumper to soften the shock of landing on the ground. IPSC shooters use them on their magazines because they have to reload as fast as possible.
But airsoft shooters who pay $129 for their entire gun do not have the optional rubber bumper on the bottom of each magazine unless they buy them and install them! The fact that the gun they buy has a drop-free magazine design does not mean that they can drop the magazine on the ground. It just means that it follows the drop-free magazine design that the auto pistols have.
Getting the lead out!
How many stories have I heard about airgun repair stations that have removed dozens of pellets from an airgun barrel during a repair job? And AirForce told me they once got a rifle back with jammed pellets and burst firecrackers in the barrel!
Pellets are not croquet balls and airguns are not croquet mallets. You can’t move one out of the barrel by smacking it with another one.
If you think it’s bad for airguns, just try it with firearms sometime! Better yet — don’t! Back when I was a lot younger and less patient, I was fast-firing a .45-caliber Generation II Colt Single Action Army when I had a squibb round. That’s a round without powder where the primer alone drives the bullet up the barrel partway. Without thinking, I thumbed off the next round that did have powder, driving both the first and second bullets out the barrel. It also split the barrel along nearly the entire 7-1/2″ length, with a swelling at the point where the first bullet was stuck.
This is what happens when your trigger finger works faster than your mind. This Colt Gen II SAA barrel is split from the muzzle to the threads. The other bullet did come out, though.
I knew something had gone wrong because the gun recoiled about three times as hard as normal, and my shooting partner caught the ejector housing in his stomach. No real injuries other than pride and wallet, but it was a life lesson whose tuition has just been paid.
I could go on with stories of people who felt the need to refinish a collectible airgun and destroyed its value. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt — especially if the gun is painted like so many vintage Crosman guns were. But just don’t buff off the blue of a Falke 90 and expect anyone to appreciate your work. Some things are better left as is, unless you are a most careful worker.
This was supposed to be a Friday blog, but my schedule changed at the last minute and bumped it to today. Please feel free to talk about it all weekend anyway.
by B.B. Pelletier
Simple enough question, no? Maybe you get confused by certain air-powered tools or perhaps a slang reference to a paint sprayer, but most folks know exactly what you mean when you say airgun.
Think so? Think again.
The term airgun isn’t found in most dictionaries, yet. You’ll find your spell-checker wants you to write it as two words, but that’s not what today’s blog is about. I really want to know if you know what’s encompassed by the term airgun.
Some of you have already stopped reading to formulate an official-sounding definition that goes something like this: An airgun is any smoothbore or rifled gun that propels a projectile by means of compressed air. As you stand back to admire your work, it suddenly dawns on you that your definition doesn’t encompass any of the guns that are powered by CO2. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Airguns, it turns out, can be a great many different things. Air is only one of their defining characteristics.
Before we move on, however, let’s deal with the CO2 issue. Clearly carbon dioxide isn’t air. If you doubt that, try breathing it for 20 minutes, and then we’ll talk. I’ve had arguments at length with airgun collectors who were stubbornly opposed to labeling CO2 guns as airguns. While that’s a fun subject for two people to banter about as they watch the fireflies rise on a warm evening, it doesn’t serve a person who is drafting state legislation regarding new hunting laws!
So, are CO2 guns airguns, or not? Well — let’s see. They’re sold by airgun dealers, they travel under the same restrictions as guns that do operate on air, they use the same ammunition and they perform similarly. And, heck, there are even a few amphibious models such as Benjamin’s Discovery that operate on either compressed air or CO2. Wasn’t it Robert Kennedy who observed that if something quacks like a duck it probably is a duck? So, yes, guns that use CO2 are also airguns.
Green gas/red gas
Wouldn’t it be nice if it ended there? Well, it doesn’t. There are other propellant gasses that power guns that must also be considered, now that the door has been opened for CO2. I’m talking about green gas and red gas. The airsoft industry hates to admit it publically, but green gas is actually propane. A tiny bit of silicone oil is added to the gas to lubricate the gun’s parts as it functions, and they leave out the odor that’s added to commercial propane to identify gas leaks (real propane doesn’t smell like onions; it has no smell at all).
The same dealers who tell you green gas is special will even sell you adapters to fill your green gas guns from five-pound propane tanks, all the while backpeddling on admitting that green gas is propane! The Orient, where a lot of airsoft guns are made, is quite good at doublespeak!
Here’s where it becomes interesting. Green gas develops a pressure of around 115 PSI at room temperature. That’s plenty of push to propel a 3-grain plastic ball (they call them BBs) out the spout at a fairly good clip.
Red gas is more exotic. It has a higher vapor pressure than green gas, so the guns that use it require some modifications. If you read all the warnings, you’ll get the idea that red gas is like nuclear fuel, but for one thing. Some airsoft guns also operate on CO2, which has a vapor pressure of 853 PSI at room temperature, which goes way beyond the pressure of red gas. To operate on CO2, airsoft guns have to be modified even more, and this is done by restricting the gas flow through special valving that has very small gas ports. There you are. Guns that run on green gas, red gas and CO2, none of which is air — yet they fall into the airgun category because there’s no other category for them.
Airsoft guns do receive special legislation of their own because many are built to simulate firearms (called “real guns” by some folks), and they’re used in force-on-force skirmishes, with people shooting at each other. There are legal issues concerning brandishing in public and special markings on the guns that are not as applicable to the kind of pellet guns I generally write about. But airsoft guns are sold by the same dealers and often made by the same companies who make conventional airguns. Again, they quack like ducks.
We’re not finished with the non-air powerplants, yet, Sparky. There are still catapult guns to consider.
Catapult guns propel their projectiles by means of a spring in the form of an elastic band or even a conventional coiled steel spring. If you think CO2 guns cause controversy among the anal airgun collectors, try raising this subject and see what happens!
The most common catapult guns are the Sharpshooter-series guns dating from 1923 and produced as toy novelties in the U.S. through at least the 1980s. These guns all shot .118 lead shot, which is more commonly known as No. 6 birdshot.
This Bulls Eye pistol was the first of many so-called Sharpshooter pistols powered by rubber bands. It fired No. 6 birdshot up to ~150 f.p.s. when multiple rubber bands were used.
In most airguns, the use of dropped shot (shotgun shot is made by either dropping it from a high tower so that it forms a ball as it solidifies or forced through small holes by centrifugal force) can be a problem, because of inconsistent size. The shot can easily get jammed in barrels when it’s oversized, which is why we seldom see real BB-sized shot (shot size BB is nominally 0.180 inches in diameter) used in antique BB guns. It simply isn’t regular enough. But catapult guns seldom use barrels. They usually place the shot to be fired in a shaped seat to hold it during acceleration, then release it cleanly at the end of the acceleration phase.
The Johnson Indoor Target Gun shot conventional steel BBs from a submachine gun-looking plastic frame. It used tubular elastic bands much like modern surgical tubing to launch a 5.1-grain BB at 100-150 f.p.s., depending on the strength of the bands.
The Johnson Indoor Target Gun sold for $15 in 1949. It shot steel BBs at 100-150 f.p.s.
But Daisy made a catapult gun that used steel springs. Their model 179 is a Spittin’ Image replica of a Colt single-action revolver that I reported in this blog some time back. Instead of just flinging the BB with the force of the spring, the spring in the 179 pushed a paddle that actually hit the BB like a croquet mallet smacks a ball. Instead of just pushing the BB out the barrel (and this is one of the few catapult guns that really does have a smoothbore barrel), it was whacked out like a line drive off a baseball bat.
Daisy’s 179 was an early Spittin’ Image gun. Production began in 1960.
Rigid airgun collectors are really challenged by catapult guns, because of the Daisy connection. They don’t want to include them in the body of legitimate airguns; but with Daisy being such a key player, they usually cave.
That sets them up for a huge disappointment when they suddenly learn that in the 1840s there was another catapult gun that launched lead balls of approximately .43 caliber with sufficient force to kill small game. The Hodges catapult gun is a long gun with no barrel but with all the Victorian styling expected of a naval weapon made in the 1840s. The thought among advanced collectors is that it was a foraging gun made for naval vessels. Except for the few parts that absolutely had to be made of iron for durability, the rest of the gun is fashioned from bronze and English walnut!
The Hodges catapult gun dates from the 1840s. It was a ship’s foraging gun that made little sound, yet could take game of reasonable size without alerting hostile natives. The Roman soldier statues at the front are for anchoring the elastic bands.
The Hodges ball carrier is pushed back until the sear hooks it. Then the elastic bands are stretched one at a time to increase power. This way, the shooter can build in a lot more power than he can possibly handle when cocking the gun.
The elastic bands were anchored at the forward end by two Roman soldiers cast in detailed bronze relief. I’ve seen two such guns — the one pictured here is in remarkable preservation and the other one has been restored to working order and shot by its owner, who reports velocities in the mid-400 f.p.s. range with 122-grain swaged lead balls.
The next branch on the oddity tree deviates toward those guns that shoot BBs and shot by means of the power of an exploding toy cap. Wamo made a minimum of five different models, and new ones surface every couple years. The most recent I’ve discovered shoots potato plugs!
The Kruger ’98 was a cap-firing gun that shot No. 6 birdshot. The same gun also shot BBs and was called just Kruger. Wamo (also spelled Wham-o) made them both.
The Western Haig used toy caps to launch No. 6 shot. It sold for $2.98 in the 1960s. Sold by the founders of Wamo under a different company name and only from a P.O. Box.
If a toy cap can launch a BB, what’s to prevent it from igniting a small charge of black powder? And who decides what’s “a small charge”? There have been .22-caliber, .36-caliber and even .45-caliber rifles made by Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation in modern times that operate by means of exploding caps igniting black powder. If you go back 100 years, there were some made then, as well. They’re clearly firearms when they use black powder, but what about those using caps only?
This .22 rifle from Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation uses toy caps to ignite black powder behind a .22-caliber lead ball. They also made this in .36 and .45 calibers!
As long as we’re talking about caps, what prevents someone from using percussion caps and even primers to propel pellets and BBs? Apparently nothing, because it’s been done. Are these all airguns, as well?
Not the end!
As you now can see, the question of what constitutes an airgun is far from clear. Once you accept any of these deviations, the rest will come streaming through the same loophole. For instance, is a gun that also launches an arrow then considered a bow? And if so, is it legal to use during bow season?
It is for reasons like this that Edith and I are sometimes so rigid and precise in our terminology — because you never know what’s waiting in the wings.