Big bore airguns

Quackenbush .308: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


Quackenbush .308 big bore is an attractive airgun.

The last time we looked at this Quackenbush .308 big bore was when I discovered that my rifle really likes Mr. Hollowpoint’s 68-grain hollowpoint bullet. I also tested a 150-grain Loverin-design bullet that was just a bit too heavy for the gun. It didn’t want to stabilize and was tearing elongated holes in the target at 50 yards.

If you’ll recall, I was running low on air that day, so I could fill the rifle to only 3,000 psi. That gave a stunning group that was smaller than one inch at 50 yards with the 68-grain hollowpoint, but I wondered whether it would do any better if I filled the rifle to higher pressure. I also wondered if going just a trifle faster would have stabilized the 150-grain bullet. There were a lot of unanswered questions after the last test.

Today, I’ll address those questions. I had a full air tank and a reasonably good day at the range. Certainly for testing something as stable as a .308, the light breeze was no challenge.

Shooting the 68-grain hollowpoints
I decided to fill the rifle to 3,500 psi, to see what kind of velocity that might give. The 68-grain bullet averaged 1051 f.p.s, on that much air and left about 3,100 psi in the tank for the second shot. That’s a muzzle energy of 167.15 foot-pounds.

Shot two averaged 1,010 f.p.s. with the same 68-grain bullet and generated 154.07 foot-pounds of energy. You might think that’s close enough to the first velocity that the bullets will print in the same place. They might if this was a firearm — but it’s an air rifle, and we have to take the flexing of the horizontal air reservoir into account. As the pressure inside the air reservoir changes, the reservoir — which is a long tube — flexes a tiny bit. Since it’s connected to the barrel, this flexing can cause movement in the muzzle.

The first shots printed about two inches higher on the target than the second shots. I knew they would from past experience shooting other big bores, so this came as no surprise to me. I actually shot one group of first shots (after a 3,500 psi fill) at one target and a separate group of second shots at a second target.

After seeing where the shots landed relative to the aim point, it’s possible to use the mil-dot reticle in my scope to shoot both shots into the same group by using two different aim points. This is a technique I learned several years ago with my .458 Outlaw; and with it, I can put five bullets into one inch at 50 yards. I didn’t try that on this day, however, because I was too busy learning the gun.

Neither group obtained this day was as good as the group I shot last time on just 3,000 psi of air. The first group that was shot on 3,500 psi measured 2.72 inches between centers for five shots, though four of those shots landed in a group measuring 1.219 inches.


Four of the five bullets were close at 50 yards on 3,500 psi. Two landed in the same hole.

The group that was fired on 3,100 psi measured 1.953 inches between centers. That’s twice the size of the best group that was shot several weeks ago on 3,000 psi, so I think this bullet is going too fast for best results. It looks to me like this 68-grain hollowpoint wants no more than 3,000 psi as a max charge. That would put the velocity at around 970-980 f.p.s.


Lower starting pressure gave a tighter group. This one was made with 3,100 psi.

Did the 150-grain bullets stabilize?
Again, the 150-grain bullets failed to completely stabilize — even when driven to 825 f.p.s (on 3,600 psi air) and generating 226.75 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.


Both bullet holes show evidence of tipping. The bullet is not stabilized.

Clearly, this Loverin bullet is too long to stabilize at the velocity this rifle generates. What’s needed is a 120- to 130-grain bullet that’s short, which means it must have either a round or a flat nose.

Some observations
I’m seeing a relationship between soft pure lead bullets and better accuracy. Any hardening alloy seems to open up the group.

Ditto for lubricated bullets. So far, the best, most accurate bullets are those that are completely dry. I see now that I need to cast some more 130-grain bullets in lead that is as pure as I can make it, and shoot them absolutely dry. I’ve seen the performance of pure lead bullets on game, and they hold together far better than hard alloy bullets do. Lead hardened with antimony breaks apart in large chunks, while soft lead mashes up like a wad of bubble gum when it hits game.

I’ve always questioned using a .308 for game as large as a deer. I know hunters who are better shots than I am do it all the time and have great success, but for me the .308 is more of a coyote and bobcat round. I’ll leave the deer and wild hogs to the .458 and keep this .308 for smaller game. It probably has a useful range of 125 yards in my hands. For an air rifle, that’s pretty far!

Quackenbush .308: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Tyrone Nerdin’ Daye is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Tyrone Nerdin’ Day says this about his winning photo: Me and my IZH-DROZD MP-661k Blackbird with Wild Mod Chip, Walther PS 22 red dot sight, quad rails and a UTG Tactical Op bipod. Black SWAT vest with the Walther CP99 Compact, police belt with Winchester Model 11.

Part 1
Part 2


Quackenbush .308 big bore is an attractive air rifle.

It’s been a long time since Part 2 because I was searching for a better bullet for this rifle. Oh, the groups shown in Part 2 aren’t that bad; but when you see what I have to show today, you’ll be glad I stuck with it.

Most of my experience has been with Quackenbush’s larger calibers. My Quackenbush .458 Long Action rifle is so accurate that I was pretty sure I could get better performance out of this .308.

The .308 is the big bore gun everyone talks about these days. Guys are taking deer and goats with them out to incredible distances. At the 2012 LASSO big bore shoot, they were hitting half-sized sheep silhouettes out to 300 yards and making it look easy. But the bullets I had didn’t seem to want to perform like what I saw from other guns. So, I kept searching and trying different bullets.

Blog reader Robert from Arcade even sent me a batch of 150-grain Loverin-style lead bullets he cast himself. They were big and heavy, and my rifle wasn’t doing that well with lighter lead bullets, so I didn’t have a lot of hope for these. But I took them along to the range yesterday, where I tried them along with a remarkable new bullet that I picked up at the Arkansas airgun show this year.

Mr. Hollowpoint saves the day!
At that show, I asked Robert Vogel, who’s Mr. Hollowpoint, for a good bullet for my rifle. He recommended a new hollowpoint he’s casting that has had some good reports. At 68 grains, it’s a featherweight compared to the 115 to 130-grain bullets I’ve been shooting, and I thought maybe the additional velocity I’d get might make the difference. So, I bought a bag to try.

I got out to the range on Wednesday, and the day was very close to perfect. At 88 deg. F, it was a bit warm, but the wind was very low and never did pick up.


The 150-grain Loverin bullet on the left and the 68-grain hollowpoint at the center and right were both tried. Notice the uneven base on the hollowpoint. It seemed to make no difference on the target. That large hollow point lives up to its name!

My carbon fiber tank would soon need a refill, so I was only able to fill the rifle to 3,000 psi, and I held the number of shots per group to 5 instead of 10. The first shot was low and about three inches to the right of the bull, so I cranked up the elevation and put in some left clicks and then shot a 10. It was nothing but luck that the one adjustment put the bullet in the right spot.

It doesn’t get much better than that, so I refilled the rifle and shot again. I was filling after each shot, so every shot had the benefit of a 3,000 psi fill behind it. With the Quackenbush Long Action Outlaw, and to a large extent with all other big bore air rifles I’ve tested, the first and second shots group in different areas — but they do group tight. The trick is to use some extra elevation for the second shot so it goes to the same place as the first. But since I didn’t know exactly how much elevation to use with this new bullet, I refilled after each shot instead.

It was a slow, methodical process of settling into the rest, sighting, squeezing off the shot, then returning to the tailgate of my truck to top off the reservoir for the next shot. My shooting buddy, who witnessed all this, was impressed by how much recoil this .308 has. Of course, it recoils with or without the bullet, because the air that’s exhausting is giving the rifle a rocket push.

By the time the fifth shot had been fired, I could see the results through the scope. The group was tight and well-centered, and the last three shots were in the x-ring, which is in the center of the 10. They can be covered by a dime. So, this 68-grain hollowpoint from Mr. Hollowpoint is the bullet my .308 likes!


Five shots went into this 0.975-inch group at 50 yards. The 68-grain bullets from Mr. Hollowpoint are a real winner in my Quackenbush .308. The center three bullet holes can just be covered by the dime.

The base of the bullet has an uneven ridge extending past the base. It’s the result of sizing the bullet, because Robert Vogel sizes each and every one to .308. Normally, I would worry about anything on the base that isn’t perfectly uniform; but after looking at the target, I can see that this has little affect on how this particular bullet flies.

This bullet loads very easily in my rifle. There seems to be no resistance when the bolt is closed. They’re cast from pure lead, which leaves them soft and prone to deformation. Performance on game is enhanced through the combination of the soft lead and the hollowpoint design. A soft lead bullet holds together better than one that’s hardened with antimony, so these bullets still penetrate deeply in game. Elmer Keith wrote extensively about the performance of soft lead bullets on game with handguns, and the velocity of these big bore rifles is pretty close to what he obtained.

I wouldn’t use such a light hollowpoint on a whitetail deer-sized animal, but it ought to turn a coyote or a bobcat inside-out! And the rifle is now zeroed at 50 yards — huzzah!

From light to heavy
Next up was the Loverin-style 150-grainer from Robert of Arcade. Since the rifle was only so-so with the lighter bullets I’d tried, I didn’t think it would stabilize this long lead slug, but it wasn’t much trouble to try. Robert also casts these from lead as pure as he can get; so, like Mr. Hollowpoint bullets, they’re just right for airguns.

A Loverin bullet has many grease grooves along a relatively long body. It was greatly in favor in the early 20th century. When jacketed bullets came along, they sent the best lead bullet designs into relative obscurity. Only those who cast their own bullets are aware of the differences in designs like the Loverin, and this style bullet is no longer popular with mold-makers today. If I want to get a Loverin mold, I either have to buy a custom mold or I have to watch the auction sites for a vintage mold to come up for sale. This one is Lyman mold 311466.

In contrast to the easy loading of the 68-grain hollowpoint, these bullets were hard to load. They were not sized and measure up to 0.311 inches in diameter. I normally shoot unsized lead bullets in my big bores whenever I can to ensure the best sealing of the bore — a little resistance at loading is normal.

The bullets landed lower on the target, as expected, and they were about a half-inch to the right; but after 5 shots, I was impressed by the group they made.

By this point, the carbon fiber tank was definitely running out of air. On the final two shots, it filled the rifle to only 2,950 psi. Since the resulting group seems elongated up and down, I will attribute some of that to the uneven fill. I think that if I shot this bullet at a higher-pressure fill, the performance might improve.

Notice, also, that the bullet holes seem elongated. There was some tipping going on, and this bullet is probably at the ragged edge of stability at this velocity — whatever that is. A higher-pressure fill will probably boost velocity enough to correct this at 50 yards.


Five shots went into this 2.008-inch group at 50 yards. The Loverin-design bullet did remarkably well, considering its 150-grain weight. The last two fills were only 2,950 psi. I wonder what a higher, more uniform fill might do?

This longer, heavier bullet would be ideal for deer. While the velocity is probably down at the 700 f.p.s. mark, these bullets still shoot all the way through deer unless they’re stopped by heavy bone. I would restrict my shots to very close range with this bullet, but I think it might do the trick out to 80 yards, or so.

What’s next?
Now that I have one good bullet for sure and the possibility of another, it’s time to test both with higher fill levels. I also want to chronograph these bullets so we can see what sort of performance they give.

I also want to cast some of my 130-grain spitzers in pure lead and shoot them unsized and unlubricated. That might be the secret to success in this rifle.

We’re not quite done with the Quackenbush .308. My thanks to both Mr. Hollowpoint and to Robert from Arcade for providing me with these two bullets to test.

2012 Arkansas airgun show

by B.B.Pelletier

Every airgun show is unique. I’ve said that many times before, but it’s always true — and this one was no different. What I look for when I try to describe an airgun show is how it stood out from all the others. That’s what I’ll do today.

An airgun show is small, in comparison to0 a regular gun show, but there are more airguns on a single table then you’ll see at most big gun shows. And the guns range from inexpensive Daisys and Crosmans to then most exotic airguns imaginable. So go to gun shows for and crowded aisles, but to airgun shows to find airguns.

I didn’t get away from my table for the first half of the first day. When I finally did, the show immediately began to reveal itself. It was jam-packed with big bore air rifles! I mean jammed! Dennis Quackenbush and Eric Henderson are always the mainstays of the show; but this time I met Robert Vogel, whose business is Mr. Hollowpoint. Robert casts each bullet by hand from lead as pure as he can make it. His bullets mushroom on game perfectly and rip huge holes in living flesh, making the most humane kills possible. I bought a bag of 68-grain .308-caliber hollowpoints for the Quackenbush .308 test I’m conducting, and he threw in a second bag of .22 pellets for free. These will have a special debut in a smallbore test in the near future.


Robert Vogel (standing) is Mr. Hollowpoint. He has thousands of different bullets for big bore shooters to try.

But Mr. Hollowpoint wasn’t the only bullet maker at the show. Seth Rowland, the show’s host and promoter, also supplies the big bore airgunning community with cast bullets in numerous sizes and shapes. And their customers can hardly appreciate the untold hours they spend at the lead pot, casting and sizing these silver slugs one by one.


Need bullets? Seth Rowland has them in different sizes, shapes and weights.

10-meter guns
Another theme that’s common to all airgun shows is 10-meter target guns. This year’s Arkansas show had plenty of them, both from dealers like Scott Pilkington of Pilkington Competition Equipment in Tennessee, as well as numerous private individuals. I mentioned several weeks ago that Mac was bringing some recently overhauled FWB rifles to this show, and on day one an interested buyer sought him out. This man was serious about buying a target rifle, and he had done his research on the internet. But this was the first time he’d seen, felt and shot these rifles.

Mac took him out to the shooting range to try out an FWB 150 and a 300; and from his testing, he decided the 300 was the gun he wanted. Because it lacks the barrel jacket, it’s lighter than a standard 300S. He was buying the rifle for his wife to shoot in competition. They made a deal, and he went home with the exact target rifle he wanted — an overhauled ex-club rifle at a price that was several hundred dollars below what he would have paid for a gamble on the internet. For this man, driving all the way to Arkansas made good sense.

I’m sure that same scenario was played out numerous times at this show, because that’s what happens at an airgun show that also has a shooting range. You get to try out the guns before you buy — something that’s impossible at a regular gun show.

The odd and wonderful
You never know what you’re going to see at one of these shows, but there are a few people who always seem to have interesting things. Larry Hannusch, the top airgun writer for the past 30 years, is one person who can always surprise you. This year, our tables were together, giving me the opportunity to look at his guns more closely than normal. He had a Crosman 113 bulk-fill CO2 rifle, which isn’t unusual, except the owner of this one had inlet a pellet box into the right side of the stock — much like the patchbox found on certain muzzleloading rifles.


Some owner made this patchbox in the stock of his Crosman 113 bulk-fill rifle.


He built the “patchbox” with a built-in spring. There were pellets inside.


When was the last time you saw one of these? A French ball-flask pistol from the 1700s.

The big find
Often there will be a big find of some certain airgun that shows up at a particular show. I remember one year someone was selling piles of brand-new-in-the-box S&W 78G and 79G pistols. There were at least 50, but as my memory serves there might have been as many as 100 brand-new guns that were at least 20 years old at the time. Another year, it was Scott Pilkington who brought almost 300 club target guns for sale. You could buy an FWB 300 for $150-$200! Of course, it would have been a beater and would have needed to be resealed, but it certainly was the budget way into a 10-meter gun.

Then there was the year that someone had over 20 Johnson Target Guns, the submachinegun-looking plastic catapult BB gun from the late 1940s. They were all new in the box, and the cloth backstop that was in the box to stop the BBs inside the box lid that also served as a backstop had turned to dust. But they were complete. To collectors, they were a wonderful find. I actually saw two of these at this year’s Arkansas show; so even after more than 10 years, they’re still slowly dissolving into the collector population.


Two brand-new Johnson Target Guns in the box with all the literature and accessories.

When I walked into the second large room in this show and turned the corner, I ran into Randy Mitchell’s booth, where he was selling a pile of recently discovered TS45 sidelever air rifles for $20 each! I blogged this rifle several years ago, and Vince also wrote a guest blog about the same rifle. Until now, there were no new guns you could buy. You had to find one by chance and would always be one somebody had owned and possibly modified. Now, Randy Mitchell, who runs his Adventures in Airguns store, has a huge pile of these rifles to sell. They aren’t very safe and are the very guns that chopped off thumbs when their anti-beartraps failed; but if you cock them safely and load while restraining the sidelever, they’re fun to shoot and are often accurate.


Randy Mitchell found these old/new TS45 sidelevers and brought them to the show. It’s stuff like this that keeps me going to every airgun show I can make!

Collectibles
Of course, there are too many modern guns to name here, but know that at any show you’ll find almost every modern classic airgun for sale. If you’re looking for good TX200s or old R7s, they’re usually available — and they were at this show, too. But what you also see are airguns that are so rare and hard to find that some of them won’t even be seen in airgun books. This yearm Ingvar Alm had both a Winsel CO2 pistol in the box and a Giffard CO2 pistol from the 1870s on his table. Giffard invented the application of CO2 for gun use, and Winsel made only 50 guns in the early 1950s. Neither gun is represented well in any airgun book I know.


The Winsel pistol was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail his tank back to the company to be filled. Yeah, that’s going to work! They made 50 and quit. Today, they’re a prized collectible.


Giffard pioneered the use of CO2 in guns in the 1870s. His pistols are many times rarer than his rifles. The empty pop bottle is for contrast — like Cindy Crawford’s mole.

Big bores
There were more big bores at this show than I see at other shows. Perhaps, that’s because the focus of big bore airgunning seems to center around Texas, where the LASSO match is held. Dennis Quackenbush delivered his guns to eager buyers, but the only rifle he had to show was his own .308, which he doesn’t want to sell. Eric Henderson and Big Bore Bob Dean were both there with some guns to sell, as well as Robert Vogel. But the one maker with a lot of guns on display was Jack Haley, whose table was a rainbow of laminated stocks.


Jack Haley’s table was a colorful display of big bore rifles.

Oops!
Then there was the big bore that has been a joke in the airgun community for many years. The gun itself is fine. It was made back in the 1980s by Ben Patron, whose name is clearly on the side of the receiver. Somewhere along the line, some person got ahold of it and displayed it at the Springfield, Missouri, gun show as a “U.S. military .50-caliber sniper air rifle.” The label for that display was still inside the guitar box that held the gun, and Dennis Quackenbush remembers seeing it at the Springfield show. After that, it somehow ended up in an Arkansas pawn shop where Big Bore Bob found it and bought it.


Some previous owner had concocted a colorful background story for the Patron big bore of the 1980s.

The drawing
Many shows have a drawing, but airgun shows are so lightly attended that you actually have a chance of winning! This year, they gave away several very nice prizes at the close of the show, including a scoped TalonP pistol from AirForce! Then came the drawing for the frame-extended silencer for the Talon SS. I knew before the little girl picked my ticket that I would win it. How ironic is that? I’m testing a Talon SS with a bloop tube right now, so of course I’m going to win another one! But the supreme irony came when Randy Mitchell, a big bore hunter, won the .50-caliber Dragon Claw donated by Pyramyd Air.


Randy Mitchell (right) won the Dragon Claw. Show host, Seth Rowland, standing, ran the drawing. The young lady added a lot of sparkle and enthusiasm to the show. I see an airgunner in the making!

On the trip home, Mac and I relived the show many times. That’s another benefit. I can remember snippets from most past shows, and this one will now be filed away in the library.

LASSO 2012

by B.B. Pelletier

The Longrange Airgun Silhouette Shooters Organization (LASSO) 2012 meet last Saturday was a lot like the blind men examining the elephant. What it looked like depended on where you were. It was a renaissance fair of airgun gatherings, and I don’t say that lightly. I have been to all but one of the five events they’ve held, and this one was the best by far. Promoter Eric Henderson has delegated many of the organizational functions to the right people, and each took their responsibilities seriously.

The shoot was held on Terry Tate’s ranch, several miles south of Sulphur Springs, Texas. The land is flat, open and perfect for this kind of event; and Terry and his wife went out of their way to be gracious hosts. Weather is the one variable you cannot control, but this day was nearly perfect. It was a little breezy, but that just sharpens the competition. And it also keeps the bugs at a minimum and the hot Texas sun at bay.

The event exists to give big bore enthusiasts the opportunity to shoot their rifles (and a couple pistols) against one anotherand to see what’s happening in the world of big bore airguns. So, it’s not surprising that shooters drove in from Chicago, Kentucky and other regions equally far away. Driving over a thousand miles for a one-day event like this separates the serious from the tire-kickers, and these boys and girls were serious.


This telephoto shot of the big bore range shows targets out to 300 yards. The pond begins about 40-50 yards from the firing point. The first ram is at 100 yards.


The shooters were ready for a big day!


Chase, Clint and Chris are big bore shooters who drove all the way from Chicago to the LASSO shoot. The guy in the black hat is also a big bore!

Girls? Yes, this year we had our first female shooter on the line. Regina Williams asked for no special consideration and was just as competitive as the rest of the shooters.


Regina Williams was the first woman to compete in the LASSO match. She placed astonishingly high!

The big deal of the day
As Rosanne Roseannadanna said, “It’s always something!” This year, it was our most fundamental rule. What is a big bore airgun, you ask? Well, there are four smallbore calibers — .177, .20, .22 and .25. Anything larger than .25 caliber is considered a big bore. But this year, someone showed up with a .257 rifle made by Jack Haley that launches 75-grain bullets at 1,100 f.p.s. They develop over 200 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

For those who are unfamiliar with caliber designations, .25 caliber measures .257 inches in diameter. So, here was a gun in a caliber we have always called a smallbore but shooting much heavier bullets and developing big-bore energies. What to do? There was much hand-wringing the evening before the match, but in the end promoter Eric left the decision up to the shooters, who agreed to allow the rifle to compete to win. If they hadn’t, it might have been like ignoring the guns of another Roy Weatherby.


John Bowman shook everyone up with his Haley .257 rifle. We’ll see his picture again. I’ll bet he’s going to have the same impact as Weatherby when everything settles down.

I talked with John Bowman, owner of this scandalous rifle, and was informed that he lapped the bore himself after talking to Dan Lilja, no less. He claims the rifle will group inside two inches at 300 yards. We will hear more about this rifle in a bit.


Ed Schultz, Crosman’s head engineer, competed with his Rogue.


Chase used a shooting stick for his Quackenbush.


Not everyone used a support for their rifles. This is the classic military seated position.

The rifles that competed were by Quackenbush, Benjamin, Haley and AirForce. There might have been one or two other makes that I missed. The AirForce gun was a Condor converted to .308.

The smallbore range
Not everyone owns a big bore airgun, so blog reader David Enoch organized a smallbore component at this event for many years. This time, he had a beautiful 100-yard range set up with metal reactive targets from 20 yards all the way out to 100. And Jerry, who’s a new reader of ours, brought his faithful CZ 634 out to the range so everyone could see why he loves it so much. I had a chance to shoot it, and I see that this tuned Slavia springer is much better-behaved than my untuned 631. Jerry also brought out his new TX200 and started what I think will become a lifelong love affair with the rifle. The trigger was not adjusted and did have some creep, but the action and accuracy were pure TX200 — which is to say the best there can be.

David set out some quadrant sight-in targets at 35 yards, so people didn’t have to shoot at paper to get sighted in. They were a one-inch bull, a three-quarter-inch bull and a half-inch bull. You started on the one inch and worked your way over to the half-inch bull. By the time you were spinning the half-inch bull, your rifle was a good as it was going to be at that distance. David bought his targets online from Steelplinkers.

The giddy guy
I noticed a young man at the AirForce booth asking questions about the Condor, so as usual I butted in. Greg is from just north of Austin, Texas, and he drove out because he was hoping to see and handle some smallbore PCPs. I glommed onto him and took him over to the smallbore range, where he proceeded to have the time of his life! I started him with my Talon SS and learned that he had never looked through a scope sight before this day.

He was startled to see the crosshairs move, despite all he did to control the rifle. But after all of us assured him that it happens to everyone, he settled down and started shooting well. Reader new2this complained about a Talon SS in yesterday’s blog comments. Well this new guy, Greg, was hitting half-inch spinners at 35 yards in a strong breeze. Not just now and then — every time. He almost got bored from his success, once he figured out the gun. He was torn between a Condor and a BSA Hornet, which another shooter happened to have on the line, so he got to try that one, as well.

I know he shot a lot because I was refilling his air cyinders all day long. Greg was so caught up in the day that he reminded the rest of us what it was like, and we intentionally made certain that he got to try everything. He even hit a 75-yard spinner in the wind with a .177 Marauder! Now, that’s some real shooting!


Greg came to LASSO just to see a couple airguns he had read about. He wound up shooting his two top picks — this BSA and an AirForce Condor (as well as my Talon SS) and was completely satisfied. After an hour of shooting on the smallbore range, he was hitting half-inch spinners at 35 yards and full-sized spinners at 75 yards in the wind!

I mentioned Greg was a young man. Well, to me he is. But as youthful as he appears, he’s 50 years old. He’s a boxing instructor and boxes 72 two-minute rounds each week.


The smallbore range was just as active as the big bore range. David Enoch, left, ran it.

Lunch
Lunch was a bar-b-qued pig shot on Terry’s ranch the day before. Everyone loved the spread and it was part of the $10 entry fee for the match. For the same money, you also got a door prize ticket for valuable drawings. Among the prizes donated were a Sam Yang Dragon Claw big bore rifle from Pyramyd Air, a scoped Condor from AirForce Airguns, a Benjamin Marauder from Crosman and a Shoebox air compressor from Shoebox.


Jim Lowder was the lucky winner of the Sam Yang Dragon Claw big bore rifle.


Ron Robinson won the Benjamin Marauder .25 caliber. He almost dropped it in this victory dance! His brother Kim won the shoebox compressor!


Wes Fry won the AirForce Condor.

Winners
Someone had to win this match, and I told you we would be seeing John Bowman, again. That little Haley .257 of his won the day. So now all us silverbacks have to give up room on the branch to this upstart who dared to buck the system. But I’m warning you, folks, this will be the absolute last time we bend the rules for anyone! ;-)


Eric Henderson, LASSO’s promoter is on the right. Next to him from right to left are John Bowman — 1st Place, Joey Tidwell — 3rd place and John Crumpley — 2nd place. The .257 Haley big bore took first and third place. A Quackenbush .308 took second.

This was a wonderful event for all who came and participated. It was a drive of over one-thousand miles for some, but they were glad to be there and will be returning next year.

Quackenbush .308: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


Quackenbush .308 is handsome even in this lowest-grade version.

Today’s report will be quite different from the norm. This is Part 2, which is normally where I test velocity. I did that, and you’ll see it in today’s report — but you’ll also see some targets, because I tested accuracy, too.

When I test a smallbore pellet gun, I know at the start how the gun should perform, more or less. Yes, there are some surprises; and yes, I do make some mistakes — but a lot of what happens can be predicted pretty accurately. But not a big bore!

With a big bore airgun, I’m almost starting from scratch. Sometimes, I will have tested something similar and can use that experience as a starting point, and there’s some of that in today’s report; but this .308 rifle is unlike any other big bore air rifle I’ve ever tested. There are more .308 lead bullet designs and bullet molds available than there are .177 pellet types on the market. Out of all that, I have to select some designs that make sense.

This is where my firearms experience comes in handy, and this is the reason I often run reports on firearms in this blog: learning the intricacies of this Quackenbush rifle is exactly like figuring out how a new black powder rifle operates. And I don’t mean some ultra-modern, bolt-action black powder rifle that uses replica powders in pellet form, either. I mean a real black powder rifle made by hand and has to be figured out as you go.

So, how do you start testing a gun when you don’t know much about it? Well, you start with what you do know and go from there.

I know that other Quackenbush Long Action Outlaw guns operate at pressures above 3,000 psi, so I’ll start with a higher fill pressure. I know that this rifle will be in the 200-250 foot-pound range with bullets it can stabilize, so I’ll select them first. I know that by reading what others have written about their .308 rifles.

I also know that Quackenbush rifles have to break in. They do get faster with use. So, I’ll look for that.

Furthermore, since this is a big bore air rifle operating at a very high level of performance, it’s going to use a lot of air. I know how much air the Korean guns like the .50-caliber Dragon Claw use, and I know that this rifle is going to use even more. So, even an 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber air tank is going to get drained in a hurry.

I cast bullets for many of my firearms, and I also happen to own a bullet mold for a nice spitzer (pointed) lead bullet that was designed for the M1 Carbine. It casts at around 130 grains, which is an ideal weight for this rifle, because the expected velocity (derived from the known power that has been published by other .308 owners) will be 850-950 f.p.s. on the first shot. I calculate this velocity range by taking the expected power (say 225 foot-pounds) and running it through the Pyramyd Air velocity calculator (use the second formula on the page to do this).

The issue here is bullet stability. These bullets are stabilized primarily by the spin imparted by the rifling in the gun. The longer a bullet becomes, the faster it must spin in order to stabilize. Since you cannot change the twist rate of the barrel, you have to drive the bullet faster to stabilize it. Sometimes, though, you’ll get away with shooting targets that aren’t too far away with a longer bullet. The bullet will be semi-stable for the first 40-50 yards or so. It all depends on the bullet’s length.


The bullets I shot are like the one at the center of this photo. At the right is that same bullet with the lubricant wiped off. At the left is a 170-grain lead bullet that’s normally too heavy for this rifle. However, for close work, it might work okay. That bullet normally takes a copper gas check, but it can be shot without one.

That velocity will give a fairly flat trajectory and stability to the 130-grain bullet as far as the rifle can be accurately shot — which is about 200 yards. But consider this: this bullet is just one of over 200 different lead bullets that are appropriate for this rifle! If you really want to experiment and push the envelope, that number grows to over 500! Nothing guarantees that this will be the one right bullet. It’s just the first one I tested.

Scope troubles
Before I went to the range, I mounted a scope on the rifle. I encountered problems right away because of how far the Weaver bases are set apart on the rifle’s action. They are so far apart that I cannot mount the leapers long eye relief scope I had planned to use, because the ring separation exceeds the scope’s tube length. This is where it gets dicey because of the scopes that were available; and the Weaver rings I had that were not committed to other tests and guns. I ended up with a set of high rings and an Osprey 2.5-10×40 scope that I don’t care for. More on that, later.

So, I get to the range and the day is pretty good. The wind is fairly calm, with just a few breezes I can wait out. Besides, I’m shooting a .308 130-grain bullet at 50 yards. The wind doesn’t affect it nearly as much as it would a pellet!

First fill
The gun’s first fill is a guess. I know my .458 Outlaw likes a 3,500 psi fill, so I go with 3,600 psi for this one. I’m looking for a couple things. First, how fast does the first shot go? Second, how fast do shots two through whatever go? That’s right — I don’t even know how many powerful shots I’m going to get from this rifle. If it were a 9mm Korean gun, that number would be 5-7. But a Quackenbush .308 is more powerful and uses a lot more air. My .458 gets two good shots per fill, so there’s a very good chance this one will, too.

Before I left the house, I oiled the striker (hammer) with high-tech gun oil. I oiled it again at the range. I know that all big bore guns need to break in to shoot their best. Then, I filled the rifle to 3,600 psi and started shooting:

Shot……..Vel.
…1……….857
…2……….816
…3……….777
…4……….730


The first few shots were over the chronograph. Then, I commenced shooting for accuracy at 50 yards. You can see how high the scope sits above the receiver.

Okay, those are the first four shots. If I’m looking for good groups at 50 yards with this bullet, only the first two shots look good. If I’m demonstrating the rifle to a bunch of Boy Scouts, I can probably continue shooting for another couple shots. Do you see what I’m doing? I’m calculating things based on what kind of shooting I expect to do.

And shot one generates 212.06 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Shot two makes 192.26 foot-pounds.

I also noted that when I went to fill the reservoir again, the gun still had about 1,900 psi inside. Four shots used up 1,700 psi, or about 425 psi per shot. The Korean big bores use around 200 psi per shot, so that gives you a good idea of how they compare to a Quackenbush Long Action.

Next, I sighted-in the rifle. Because the Quackenbush Long Action does not allow the bolt to be removed easily at the range, I used a target paper that’s two feet by four feet. The point of aim is close to the center of the paper. That gives me a good chance of striking somewhere on the paper at 50 yards. If this were a smallbore airgun, I would have started at 10 feet, as I explain in my article about sighting in a scope; but you can’t do that with a gun this powerful unless you own a lot of private land. I’m on a club-run rifle range, and I have to obey their regulations. I’m hoping to get on paper without boresighting. I do own a boresight device, but it has only bore spuds that go up to .22 caliber, so it wouldn’t work in a .308.

I’m in luck, because the first shot hits the paper…about two feet below my aim point. Well, that isn’t as lucky as you might think. Remember the Osprey scope I mentioned earlier? Well, it has 1/8 MOA (minute of angle) adjustments. At 50 yards, every click will move the strike of the round about one-sixteenth of an inch! For two feet, I’ll have to move the elevation knob up 16 x 12 x two, which is 384 clicks! There probably aren’t that many clicks in this scope, plus I don’t know how far up it already is. I have a droop problem!

I’ll replace this scope and mounts for the next test, which means I’ll have to sight-in and do this all over again. But today is not lost. I can still continue to test the gun. I adjust the scope up so the round lands about 14 inches below the aim point, and that’s how I will test the gun today. It’s simple enough to staple two targets to the backer in line with one another, so I can aim at the top one and hit the lower one. Now, we can see how this rifle shoots with this bullet.

The only problem is — all I have are bullets that have been sized and lubricated. I know that Quackenbush big bores seem to do best with dry lead bullets, or at least that’s been my experience up until now, but I’ll use the bullets I have on hand. I will have to cast some more bullets and not lubricate them for the next test.

Accuracy
Shot one went about 14 inches below the point of aim, as mentioned already. Shot two dropped another several inches, but I compensated for it by using the tip of the bottom fat vertical duplex reticle line as a different aim point. So, I’m able to get a fair grouping of bullets, though it’s nothing I am satisfied with, yet. I’m able to shoot six bullets into a group measuring 1.6 inches by shooting just two shots per fill and using the two aim points. After shot two, the gun’s remaining pressure is about 2,700 psi, so the first two shots use about 900 psi — which works out to 450 psi per shot. Do you see how this stuff works?


Two bullets in the hole on the left, and you can see the rest. Three of them were first shots after a fill, and three were second shots. This group measures 1.6 inches between centers.

I then moved over to another set of targets and tried something different. I tried refilling after the first shot — so every shot would be going the same speed and I could use the same aim point. This time, four of the five shots grouped into 0.982 inches, but the fifth shot opened it to 1.767 inches. It looked like it was going to be better, but once again, no cigar.


There are three bullets in the large hole on the left. Shot four (top) opened the group to just under one inch, but the fifth shot opened the group to almost 1.75 inches.

After shooting at two different targets, I lubricated the striker again and chronographed the gun. This time, I tried to fill the reservoir higher than 3,600 psi, but my carbon fiber tank had already dropped to 3,600 psi. I had to stick with that as the highest fill pressure.

Shot……..Vel.
…1……….867
…2……….819
…3……….772
…4……….733

As you can see by comparing this second string to the first one, my rifle seems to be performing at the same level, more or less. That does not tell me whether 3,600 psi is the highest operating pressure or not, but it’s a good indication that the rifle either needs a lot more shots through it or it’s already broken in. I’ll have to get my carbon fiber tank refilled before I can conduct another test at a higher fill pressure.

And just for continuity, the first shot generated 217.04 foot-pounds. Shot two generated 193.67 foot-pounds.

Where to next?
If you’re as curious as I am, these results open up a lot of possibilities. For starters I want to test the gun at a higher fill pressure. I also want to shoot dry bullets, but I think I need to clean and dry the bore before I do. I can’t clean the lubricated bullets well enough to consider them dry, so I have to cast another batch.

I definitely have to mount a different scope in lower rings, and I have to be prepared to elevate the rear mount if the rifle turns out to be a drooper. All I know at this point is that I had the scope adjusted very high, which very well could have lead to the groups being as large as they were.

I have a feeling that this rifle will shoot groups smaller than one inch once I learn its secrets.

Quackenbush .308: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Rich Mulvey is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card! Congratulations!

Rich says that this is Ben, who’s 11 years old. He’s getting ready to shoot the reset paddle on his Gamo trap. He’s using the Air Venturi Bronco.

Today I’ll begin a look at a big bore precharged air rifle that most of you will never see. The Quackenbush .308 is a classic from the central Missouri airgun maker.

This air rifle may not be mainstream; but just mention it to airgun hunters, and you might as well have pulled the starter rope on a hotrod snowmobile! The noise starts immediately as people break up into discussion groups, some to explore the potential accuracy or the best bullet and others to recount the dozens of game animals that have fallen to their rifles.

I’ve personally seen 150-lb. goats dropped at 140+ yards with single shots from this rifle, though I wouldn’t recommend it for that distance or for that size animal. But it did work, and I saw it do that twice in one day. But hunting is the purview of others. I’m going to do my usual review of the rifle and let you readers decide how best to use it.

.308 caliber
Dennis Quackenbush is both a shooter and a hunter. Besides making several hundred airguns each year, this man “gets it.” He knows that if an air rifle is a .45 caliber it either has to be a .451 that can use common pistol bullets or a .458 that uses common rifle bullets. He would never think of foisting a .454-caliber rifle on his customers, because Dennis knows that the .454 pistol caliber died before World War II. As a shooter, he understands the importance of making rifles in calibers for which there are a wide variety of lead bullets, because not everyone casts their own.

He chose the .308 caliber for the obvious reason that it’s the most popular-sized .30-caliber bullet here in the U.S. There are .310 and .311 lead bullets available for the SKS, AKM and the Mosin Nagant — but they’re not that popular. You have to search to find them. But .308 is money in the bank here in the U.S. You’ll find dozens of different styles and weights to try in your rifle.

I once asked him why he didn’t go with 9mm when he brought out this rifle and he responded, “Ballistics. You know there are very few 9mm lead pistol bullets available on the market; and of those, the heaviest is about 125 grains. That gives you a short, fat bullet with low sectional density and poor long-range performance. But in .308, a 130-grain rifle bullet is reasonably long and has a much higher sectional density than the short 9mm pistol bullet. And my rifle can drive a 130-grain .308 bullet up to respectable velocity, making that caliber well-suited for hunters.”


Quackenbush .308 rifle is handsome even in this lowest-grade version.

The rifle
My .308 is made on a Long Action Outlaw receiver. I tested a .308 Exile back in 2005, but the rifle I tested was made on the old action with a shorter striker spring and striker travel. The long action allows the striker spring to be longer and the striker to travel a longer distance. Both increase the airflow through the valve, which equates to power.

My article reviewing the Exile is up on the Quackenbush website, so I’m able to compare the performance of this current long action gun to what was done in the past. That old rifle shot a 128.6-grain bullet at 860 f.p.s. on the first shot — generating 211.25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. It did take some shooting to get the rifle up to that velocity, as the moving parts do need to wear in a bit, but I’ll also lubricate them before the velocity test starts with the new rifle, which will put me on better footing than I was in the old test.

The rifle is blued steel housed in a figured walnut stock. I selected the lowest-grade gun Dennis makes, but you can see from the photo that it’s still something to be proud of. It weighs 8 lbs. exactly without a scope, and the rifle comes without sights, so a scope is required. It comes with Weaver bases installed, so you need Weaver rings to match.

I’ve used the Leapers Bug Buster scope and other compact scopes in the past on these rifles, but the long action of this particular rifle needs a scope with a longer tube. The plan is to install a long eye-relief scope and see how it works. After my success with the Evanix Conquest at 4x, I’m suddenly interested in lower-power scopes — especially for workman rifles like this.

The rifle is just shy of 44 inches long, and has a 26-inch barrel. The pull is 13-1/2 inches. The action is different from what you may be used to, though it’s not unusual. Dennis uses a separate cocking bolt to retract the striker against the heavy spring, leaving the loading bolt for just the single function of inserting a bullet. This design was popular back in the 1980s with several vintage British precharged rifles but is seen less often today. In powerful big bores, however, it offers the advantage of providing good purchase on the cocking handle, while leaving the loading bolt normal-sized.


The black handle cocks the striker. The knobbed bolt is just for loading.

Dennis makes all his own barrels and the rifling buttons that cut them. At one time when he was experimenting with twist rates, he was hand-cutting the rifling; but now that he has the data he needs, button-rifled barrels are easier and faster to make, as well as smoother after production.

Lead bullets
I’ve made several references to using lead bullets — now let me explain why. In big bore air rifles, you want to eliminate as much friction as possible. Jacketed bullets have too much friction and will slow the velocity way down, plus they wear the soft steel of the barrel much faster. This holds true for vintage firearms, as well, which is why I would never shoot a jacketed bullet in a Trapdoor Springfield or in my old Ballard. People do shoot them in vintage guns, but they’re wearing out barrels much faster than they should.

These older guns have much softer steel in their barrels. While they’ll reasonably give 50,000-100,000 shots with lead bullets if properly cared for, shooting jacketed bullets will wear them out in as few as 5,000 rounds. I’m speaking about firearms now — the airgun barrels do not wear out at the same rate, and nobody knows how many shots they could conceivably get.

Fill pressure
Dennis builds airguns for thinking owners. You don’t just pull one of his rifles from a box and fill it to 3,000 psi. You experiment, which means you need to have access to a chronograph. I’ve found his Outlaw actions can tolerate 3,200 psi up to 3,500 psi very well and give optimum performance. Others have claimed fill pressures up to 3,850 psi in their guns. The point is that you experiment until you find the fill pressure that gives the greatest number of high-power shots with the bullet you’ve selected to use. I’m hoping to get four or possibly five good shots on one fill of this rifle.

Quackenbush rifles all fill from a standard Foster male fittings. He provides a stainless steel fitting to prevent the ball bearings of the female fitting from impressing themselves into the metal of the male fitting at high fill pressures.


The rifle is filled through a common Foster male fitting. It’s very standard around the world.

General
Dennis has very definite thoughts on what makes a good airgun. Though he also builds parts for aerospace companies and test fixtures for other manufacturers, he keeps his airgun technology firmly planted in the 1950s. By that I mean he’s going to use steel for the metal parts and walnut for the wood.

He buys his stock blanks in large lots, so there will always be enough for his production needs. And he shapes the stocks on a pantograph to save time and keep the shape consistent.


Quackenbush always has several hundred walnut stock blanks on hand.

We’re in this together
I have owned this rifle for about four years and have never fired it. My .458 Quackenbush always takes precedence, so this adventure will be just as new to me as it is to you. I’m inviting you to watch over my shoulder as I get to know this classic big bore.

What IS an airgun?

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.

Carbon dioxide
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.

Catapult guns
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.

Caps!
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.

Swiss Arms P92 replica pistol
Swiss Arms P92 CO2 BB pistol

More and more, we're hearing that airguns are ideal for firearm training when it comes to improving trigger control, acquiring a target and increasing accuracy. While all those are big pluses, let's remember the other reasons: (1) Save a fortune on ammo (if you can even get firearm ammo!). (2) Shoot at home. (3) No hearing protection needed. (4) Airguns are a fraction of the cost of firearms. So, click on the image & add this to your gun vault.

New .22-cal. Sheridan!
Sheridan 2260MB CO2 rifle

Sheridan has always made .20-cal. airguns. So, this new .22-cal. rifle is particularly exciting. And, it's available only in limited quantities. If you collect Sheridans (or just love them for their quality), you MUST add this to your gun vault. It's a single-shot CO2 rifle with a metal breech. Bolt-action single shots like the 2260 are ideal for teaching proper gun handling. Everything you love about Sheridan guns…and more. Get yours NOW before they sell out!