Competition

B.B. visits a new field target club

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, I want to remind you that there are two airgun shows this month. On April 12, there’s Flag City Toys That Shoot in Findlay, Ohio. I’ll have a table there, so please stop by and say hello if you can. For more information about this show, go to their website at flagcitytoysthatshoot.com.

On Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, the Arkansas airgun show will be held in Malvern, which is near Little Rock. Email show organizer Seth Rowland for more info or to reserve a table. I’ll also be there and hopefully have a table, too. So, stop by and say hello. Remember, these airgun shows happen just once each year, so they’re worth driving the extra miles to see.

Last Saturday, I visited a brand new field target club that started here in Texas. The experience was interesting because I haven’t been to a match in years. Many things had changed!

The club was started by Craig Martin in the gated community where he lives. The Pecan Plantation Archery Club allowed him to use their range facilities on this day, and Craig set up 8 lanes.

I was surprised by the turnout. There were 30 shooters on this first day. I remember having less than 15 when we started the DIFTA club in Maryland almost 20 years ago. One of the shooters told me he drove down from Oklahoma just to attend the match, and I know others who drove several hundred miles from remote locations in Texas.

Blog reader David Enoch was there, competing with a .20-caliber USFT. The match was restricted to 20 foot-pounds or less, so some of the powerful PCPs had to be dialed back.

The day began informally, with the opportunity to check the zero of your gun. But when the match began at 10, I was surprised by several shooters who hadn’t yet sighted in their rifles.

checking zero
Shooters could check their zeros at this range before the match began.

Craig set the match up with a minimum of rules. He wanted all shooters to feel relaxed, so he awarded one point for hitting the animal faceplate and two points if you hit the kill zone and knocked it down.

He also squadded those shooters who identified themselves as beginners with a shooter who had some experience with airguns. Not everyone had shot field target before; but once you see a target fall, you get the idea pretty fast.

As I surveyed the crowd, I estimated the average age of the shooters at something north of 45 years. This is in line with what I’ve seen in other airgun sports. Younger people don’t usually want to shoot airguns when there are firearms around; but after a person has satisfied their curiosity, the ease of shooting an airgun becomes more evident.

sighting in
One of only a couple youngsters who attend the match sights in his breakbarrel. No, I didn’t tell him about the artillery hold.

One thing that surprised me was the different types of airguns being used by the shooters. Of course, that was due to this being a first-time event for many shooters; but I saw inexpensive spring rifles, air pistols and even one multi-pump pneumatic I’ll tell you about in a bit!

04-02-14-03-P-Rod
This shooter uses a Benjamin Marauder pistol with the shoulder stock.

Another thing I saw really floored me. Most of the shooters were resting their guns on shooting sticks, and they were sitting in chairs! I’m so ingrained in the old-school AAFTA (American Airgun Field Target Association) rules that the rifle may not be in contact with the ground that I was unprepared for this, but it appeared all the shooters were comfortable with it. I read the current rules and see that bipods (sticks) and seats are now a part of the hunter class. This is certainly an easier way to shoot, and I think it’ll appeal to many more shooters than before, when you had to shoot from an unsupported offhand position.

Before the match began, Craig gave all shooters his match director’s briefing. It covers the layout of the course, the rules of the match, assembling the shooters into squads and safety.

Since there were 8 lanes, he formed 8 squads from the 30 shooters. Some squads had 4 members while others had 3. Craig wanted all squads to have at least one experienced shooter to help the beginners. Of the 30 shooters, perhaps 12 had placed themselves in the beginner class.

Match director's briefing
Before the match starts, the director explains the rules to all participants.

Each lane had 3 targets — one close, one at the middle distance and one that was far. The shooters shot twice at each target, so that makes a match total of 48 shots. Hits on the faceplate scored 1 point and targets that fell scored 2 points.

Craig told me afterwards that there were things he forgot to mention in his briefing. I told him that’s par for the course. It takes a couple matches before you know what’s important and what’s not.

One thing he had that was a great idea was a barbecue for the registered shooters. It was part of their $10 match fee. The remainder of the money will go toward the purchase of new targets. That’s pretty much par for the course, as well. It’s how a club gets formed.

The site had excellent facilities, which is essential. At the DIFTA club we had facilities (restrooms), but they were located several hundred yards from where the shooters were. That was a major complaint I heard at every match.

shooter 1
This shooter is on the course engaging targets. The use of bipods (sticks) was widespread at this match.

shooter 2
This shooter chose to shoot from the prone position. That can make some of the kill zones hard to see depending on the terrain.

shooter 3
A few shooters used the traditional AAFTA seated position.

Ron Robinson drove all the way up from Dripping Springs, Texas, to support this new club. And he was the guy who shot the multi-pump pneumatic. It was a Sheridan Blue Streak with a rocker safety and a vintage scope. I told him the only other time I had ever seen a Blue Streak in a field target match was back at DIFTA, when airgunner Singson Tiu brought one out. I remember him grabbing the scope as he pumped the rifle and, after a loud chorus of “NO” from the gallery, he decided never again to shoot that rifle in a match.

Ron grabbed the stock at the pistol grip to pump it. He told me that after estimating the distance to the target he consulted a cheat sheet for the proper number of pumps. “That looks like a five-pump shot to me,” he said with a sly grin. And then he dropped the target — shooting offhand…unsupported! Okay, remind me to never get into a match against him!

Robinson 1
Laugh if you want, but Ron Robinson dropped this target.

But he also had sticks that he used for the longer shots. Through my binoculars, I watched him shoot a split on one target. When I told him about it, he adjusted his aim and dropped the target with the next shot.

Robinson 2
Robinson settled into the sticks for the far shots.

The day was beautiful and the event was a success. The main reason I decided to report on this match is because several of you have asked me how to find a club in your area. It may be field target you seek, or perhaps something else, like 10-meter target shooting. Whatever the case, now you’ve seen how it’s done. When you can’t find a club to shoot with, start one!

It takes land, permission, targets–but most of all, it takes people. Many of the shooters attending this match were not airgunners and many more had never seen a field target match. They simply came because they were interested. Craig Martin reached out to whomever he could to get this match (and club, we hope) started, and he found there was interest. Once the word got out, the people came. I seem to remember a similar line from a movie about something like that.

Maintaining firearm proficiency with airguns

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

My wife, Edith, and I have to renew our Texas Concealed Handgun Licenses in another month. So we have been practicing in the house with BB and pellet guns. This was more for Edith than for me because I usually get out to the firing range several times each month, and I shoot handguns quite often. You can never practice too much, but I wasn’t the one who was concerned.

Edith doesn’t shoot as much as I do. Most of the time she is glued to her keyboard, working on the Pyramyd Air website in one capacity or another. She has her own Glock model 36 in .45 ACP as a carry gun, and we tricked it out with a better trigger, laser designator and a Wolff barrel that allows the use of my reloads without the gun blowing up (the notorious Glock kaboom). She was concerned about the upcoming qualification and felt she needed to get ready. And who am I to argue with more shooting opportunities?

So, we went though several training sessions at home. We started with the Winchester Model 12 BB pistol that I actually bought after testing because it shot so well. At the time I reported it, I felt the pistol would make an excellent trainer for just such a purpose.

That was what I thought; but when it came time to train, we found the gun wanting. Well, perhaps that’s not entirely correct. What we found was Edith and I both tended to spray the BBs around the target instead of getting the smaller groups I had gotten in the test. I had run out of 2-inch Shoot-N-C targets that I used with this pistol in the report and the nickel-sized bulls I drew on the target paper did not seem to attract the shots as well as the larger bulls had.

So things did not work out the way I had envisioned. This was not good. Edith relies on me to fix her shooting problems — not to pontificate or theorize, but to give her help that actually works. So far I was 0 for 1.

Next, I selected the Magnum Research Desert Eagle. I chose it because of the blowback, which was also the reason I’d selected the Winchester model 12. But the Desert Eagle is a pellet pistol with a rifled barrel, and I know that it’s very accurate.

Unfortunately, it bears very little resemblance to a Glock M36 or a 1911 pistol in any way other than they are all handguns. The Desert Eagle is very large. It’s like trying to hold a boat oar in your hand. In fact, except for the excessive weight of the firearm, the plastic pellet pistol is just as inconvenient. Don’t bother correcting me on this — I own and use a Desert Eagle .357 Magnum pistol as well. It’s big and it does weigh a lot, and personal favoritism won’t change that. I like the gun — just not as a trainer for a Glock or a 1911. Now I was 0 for 2.

That forced me to think outside the box, but probably still pressed up tight against the flap. What about trying a Colt 1911A1? Besides all the BB guns that are made on the 1911 frame, Umarex makes a genuine Colt-branded pellet pistol. The size is perfect for my purposes, and this is a pellet pistol with a rifled barrel — so you know the accuracy will be there. The one drawback is that this pistol doesn’t have blowback. We weren’t after the sensation of recoil — we wanted the slide to cock the hammer automatically so all trigger-pulls would be light and crisp. Instead, we had to cock the hammer ourselves.

In the end, that wasn’t the hinderance I thought it would be. It was easy to cock the hammer before every shot, and the pistol was very well behaved. The first thing we both learned after picking this pistol was we both needed to concentrate on the sight picture more. And Edith made the discovery that if she pulled the trigger with the first joint of her finger, she pulled all the shots to the left. But if she used the pad of her trigger finger, the shots stayed centered on target like they were supposed to. This was real progress.

Over to the firearm
You tell yourself that you’ll practice many times each week, but then the weeks end before you get to it. So the day you progress from airgun to firearm is a large and sudden jump. It doesn’t have to be that way, but for us it was.

In Texas, the Concealed Handgun License requires you to shoot 50 rounds for qualification. Twenty are at 3 yards, 20 more at 7 yards and 10 at 15 yards. So that’s what we did at the range. We hung the silhouette target and proceeded to shoot at each mandatory distance. When I say “we,” I mean Edith. I was there in the capacity of technical advisor and brass catcher.

Edith started with her Glock and fired a complete 50 rounds with it. She started at 3 yards and progressed back, which is how the qualification is shot. We were both impressed with her results, as they were well-centered and much tighter than they were 5 years ago when she qualified the first time.

The lighter trigger on her Glock accounted for a lot since it’s no longer the heavy DAO it once was. But she was using a perfect 2-hand isosceles hold and taking good aim. That much she had gotten from the airgun practice. I was surprised that she wasn’t affected by the noise and recoil, but she told me that after the first shot goes off she becomes accustomed to everything and doesn’t let it bother her anymore. I wish I could do that!

07-01-13-01-Glock-target
Edith’s 50-shot target with her Glock 36 was well-centered. We attribute this to the airgun training.

1911
After completing the 50-shot course, we switched over to the Taurus PT1911 and she went at a second silhouette target. This time she used my reloads and blew the center from the target right away. Then at 7 yards she started to pull some shots to the left. This was when we discovered she was using the finger joint instead of the pad. She told me afterward she does that because she worries about the 1911 grip safety being depressed. That distracts her, which is when the trigger finger goes through too far. Edith has large hands and the 1911 grip is on the small side.

At 15 yards, her shots were even more to the left, so I knew she was pulling them. By the time we stopped, she had fired a total of 90 rounds, which is a heck of a lot of .45 ACP ammo.

Taurus PT1911A1 target
With the 1911, Edith started by blowing the center out of the target; but as she tired, she started pulling shots to the left. We stopped after 40 shots.

Either target would have qualified her that day, though she lacked 10 final shots with the 1911. She was justifiably pleased with her performance, as was I. No more scattering shots — everything was centered until fatigue set in.

Airgun training a success!
The training we did with airguns was successful in preparing Edith to shoot the firearms. It got her used to trigger control, breathing and the sight picture, which turned out to have a dramatic effect on the results.

We make no claims that airguns will get you ready for the muzzle blast or the recoil of a firearm — especially not one as big as a .45 ACP. But, by getting the other things under control, the few things we weren’t able to practice made very little difference to the outcome. Edith is the one who asked me to write today’s report because she feels that training with airguns really helped get her ready. Looking at the targets, I would certainly agree.

The importance of the artillery hold

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

While I was at the courthouse awaiting jury selection the other day, I was reading a favorite gun book, Yours Truly Harvey Donaldson, edited by David R. Wolfe and published in 1980 by Wolfe Publishing Company, Prescott, Arizona. In the book, Wolfe assembles letters and articles written by Harvey Donaldson, one of America’s top shooters, and cartridge developers. He is best-known for his .219 Donaldson Wasp cartridge, but he actually worked on dozens of different centerfire cartridges over the 89 years of his fruitful life. And he was a schuetzen shooter on top of all of that. Schuetzen rifles are single-shot rifles with incredibly accurate barrels that shoot lead bullets at low velocities. They typically shoot at 100 and 200 yards, either offhand or rested on a bench. The best of them have been known to put 10 bullets into a group that measures under one-half inch at 200 yards, which is a challenge that’s difficult to equal with modern arms today.

So, Donaldson knew how to shoot. And that’s the connection to today’s report. I read a paragraph that Donaldson wrote for an article that appeared in American Rifleman magazine in May 1936 – Rest Shooting and Schuetzen Loading:

“The secret of fine rest shooting is to hold the rifle so it will be free to recoil in the same way for each shot. I like to have my rifle come straight back, and when I see the crosshairs rise toward 12 o’clock in a straight line above the bull, I know that all is well and I can expect a good group. If the shooter will carefully perfect his holding so as to get this effect, the matter of making small groups will come much easier.”

That’s a good description of the goals of the artillery hold airgunners use, with one exception. Donaldson describes firearms that, while their bullets don’t travel very fast (never over 1,400 f.p.s.), still leave the muzzle before the major vibrations and movement of the gun begins. With a spring-piston airgun, the heavy steel piston has already jumped forward violently and then come to a sudden stop before the pellet begins to move. Vibrations in the gun have already started well before the pellet leaves the bore, which is why airgunners have to take this special hold even farther than Donaldson describes.

Important point — please read and understand!
Remember this — Donaldson was talking about firearms when he described his hold. So, the basic tenets of the artillery hold apply to firearms as well as to airguns. I have known that all along, but I haven’t harped on it because it really doesn’t matter to most shooters. A hold like this is only important to those who want the absolute last bit of accuracy potential from their firearms. Some of our blog readers who have competed with firearms, like Victor, understand the importance of hold consistency without my saying anything. They might call it something else, like follow-through perhaps, but we’re speaking about the same thing. For the rest of the shooters who are just plinking with a .22 rimfire or shooting anything offhand, it wasn’t important that I drill down to the absolute bottom bedrock fundamentals of shooting to explain my points. Either they understood it without me commenting or it wasn’t important.

But I’m going on record today and saying that an artillery-like hold, or at least a repeatable hold that allows the firearm to recoil in the same way every time, does have a positive influence on the accuracy of a firearm as well as a spring-piston airgun. And I’m also going to say that the artillery hold has a positive effect on other types of airgun powerplants — including the precharged pneumatic (PCP).

It’s still true that a PCP is much easier to shoot accurately than a spring-piston gun, but only with a proper hold will any PCP be capable of delivering its full accuracy potential. Because PCPs do not vibrate very much, nor do they recoil, the benefit of a consistent hold gets lost in the noise. Most good PCPs shoot very well regardless of how they’re held.

What is special about the artillery hold?
Okay, we know that the consistency of the hold is important to accuracy. But is the artillery hold different than what Donaldson describes in the passage above? Yes, it is. Donaldson rested his schuetzen rifles front and rear. The barrel of his rifle rested on the forward rest and the buttstock rested on the rear rest. There’s foam rubber between the barrel and the rest, but my point is that Donaldson does not rest the rifle on its forearm.

To be honest, there are photos showing benchrest rifles rested on their forearms, too, so it can be done either way, but the barrel rest was by far the more common in these older times.

Harvey Donaldson with rested rifle
Donaldson shown with a rested schuetzen rifle in the 1930s. The barrel is resting on foam rubber on the front rest. Photo from the book, Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson, Wolfe Publishing, 1980.

What’s special about the artillery hold is that we don’t normally rest the rifle directly on sandbags or other rests. Instead, we rest it on our hands, which are placed on the rest. The flesh of the hand cushions the rifle in some unique way that even sand cannot. There are some gel-filled pads that seem to work as well as the hand; but when you examine them, you find that they feel quite a lot like the flesh of your hand. There’s something about the consistency that a spring-piston air rifle needs in order to have repeatable recoil and vibration patterns.

What you rest the rifle on is important, but so is where you rest it. I often have to try sliding my off hand back and forth under the stock, from the triggerguard to out as far as I can hold it — searching for a point where the rifle responds the same with every shot. Sometimes, I never do find the right place, and then I resort to resting the stock on the backs of my fingers and even directly on the sandbag. I don’t use the backs of the fingers unless absolutely necessary because it often hurts. And the number of airguns that can be rested directly on a sandbag and still shoot well is very small, although the TX 200 is one that can.

Today’s lesson
The point of this report is that the artillery hold is nothing new, and I didn’t invent it. It was already very old when I picked a quirky name for it, so airgunners would remember it and be able to talk about it. This hold is one of the fundamental tools in a good shooter’s kit. You can ignore it, but do so knowing what you’re giving up — because this is the “secret” to shooting a recoiling spring-piston air rifle well.

Daisy Powerline model 35 multi-pump air rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle
Daisy’s new Powerline model 35 multi-pump air rifle is designed for youth. It’s a smoothbore with several interesting features.

I’m retesting an airgun that I tested over a year ago. One of our readers called Daisy and said he was getting much better accuracy from his Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle than I had gotten in my test, and he asked Daisy if they would look into it. Well, they read the accuracy report (Part 3) and agreed with him that I should have gotten better accuracy than I did. So Joe Murfin, Daisy’s vice president of marketing, called and asked if I would be open to a retest.

Joe told me that Daisy engineers were getting groups of about 1.25 inches to 1.5 inches at 10 meters. I’m sure he meant 5-shot groups, and of course I shoot 10-shot groups; still, his groups were significantly smaller than what I’d gotten from the last gun. My 10-shot groups were in the 2.5-inch to 3-inch range.

I don’t like to retest
Normally, retesting airguns leaves me cold. My philosophy is that I test what users get, and it’s whatever it is. I look at the gun the same way a user would, except that I may know a few more things than the average user and am able to do things most people wouldn’t think to do. That gives the gun a fair test and also educates people who may learn a new trick or two by reading what I’ve done.

I have to admit that over the past year I’ve learned a lot about accuracy with diabolo pellets and the things to look for. More recently, I have become aware of the tremendous accuracy potential of some smoothbore airguns. From that standpoint, a retest of this smoothbore airgun is warranted.

This is not life-saving equipment, and the outcome isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things; but wouldn’t it be nice to know if this $35 airgun is really better than we initially thought? I agreed to retest the gun, and Joe sent one directly from Daisy. Instead of the black stock I had last time, this new gun is finished in camo. Other than that, though, it’s identical to the gun I tested before.

Upon reviewing the last accuracy test, I see I used the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet, RWS Hobby pellet and some vintage Daisy Superior Match Grade pellets I had laying around. At the time, that sounded like a good idea; but after spending more time with the Diana 25 smoothbore in recent months, I think there are some other pellets I ought to try — namely the JSB Exact RS pellet and the RWS Superdome.

In the last report on the model 35, I wasn’t specific about what number of pumps to use for each shot. There was nothing to go on for this test except my experience with other multi-pumps. I would only be shooting at 10 meters, and high velocity wasn’t necessary. Six pumps sounded good to me, and that’s what I used for every target. If this was a larger, more powerful multi-pump, I might have opted for 5 or even 4 pumps, but the Daisy 35 is pretty small, and 6 sounded about right.

First target revealed loading problems
I shot the first target with JSB Exact RS pellets. They did well for the most part, but 3 shots landed apart from the main group. I was having difficulty loading the gun, and I think I may have loaded several pellets backwards because of how easily they flipped around on their own in the loading trough. I was shooting in a dark place to overcome the fiberoptic open sights and was unable to see the breech when the pellet was loaded. Those 3 stray shots might be explained as loading errors. Before I move on, I should note that the size of this first 10-shot group is close to what Daisy told me to expect from 5 shots at 10 meters.

Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle RS group1 10 meters
A well-centered group is ruined by three wild shots. They may have been pellets loaded backwards. Group measures 1.52 inches between centers.

Nothing to do but shoot another group with the RS pellets — making sure each pellet went into the breech the right way this time. I used a portable spotlight to shine on the breech during loading to see which way the pellets were oriented. I think Daisy could spend a little time fixing this problem because that loading trough is almost too small to work with.

The second group was much better. Ten more JSB Exact RS pellets went into 1.108 inches. This is better than what Daisy told me to expect, and my interest was piqued. How good would this gun get?

Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle RS group2 10 meters
The second group of 10 JSB RS pellets went into 1.108 inches at 10 meters.

RWS Superdomes
The second pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome that so many people love. The first 10 pellets made a 1.119-inch group. It’s actually too close to the second group of RS pellets to see the difference, but that’s what the caliper read when I measured it. And these pellets hit the target in approximately the same place as the JSBs even though they’re heavier.

Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle RWS Superdome group1 10 meters
The first group of 10 RWS Superdome pellets went into 1.119 inches at 10 meters.

The second group of Superdomes wasn’t quite as tight as the first. One stray pellet that I hesitate to call a flier landed below the main group, opening it up to 1.243 inches. But that’s still the best that Daisy said to expect from this gun!

Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle RWS superdome2 10 meters
The second group of 10 RWS Superdome pellets went into 1.1243 inches at 10 meters.

But wait –
Well — there you have 4 groups that are all significantly better than any of the groups I got in the last test. The Daisy model 35 can shoot after all — just like our reader said. I wondered if there was any more accuracy beyond what the gun had already delivered. So, I fired a fifth group, this time with JSB RS pellets. Instead of 6 pumps per shot, I gave it the full 10 pumps for each shot. This time, they all landed in 0.76 inches, or as close to three-quarters of an inch as it’s possible to get.

Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle RS group3 10 meters
Ten pumps tightened each shot to deliver almost a three-quarter-inch group. JSB RS pellets, again.

Obviously, using the right pellets made all the difference in the world. That’s a lesson I’ll try not to forget. Even an inexpensive airgun like the Daisy 35 deserves a fair chance to perform its best.

What’s next?
I would love to press the 35 into service as a dart gun, but the tiny breech prevents the loading of darts. I may be able to load them through the muzzle, but you’ll have to wait to find out because I seem to have misplaced my .177-caliber darts. But there’s still 25 yards to test, so you haven’t seen the last of this airgun.

Shooting the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 at 10 meters

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Daisy Avanti Champion 499
Daisy Avanti Champion 499 is the world’s most accurate BB gun.

This test of the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 at 10 meters was requested a couple weeks back by a blog reader, and several of you seconded the request. It was in response to a discussion of the spin rate of projectiles and what benefits it conveys.

After I agreed to write the report, another reader asked me to test not only the Avanti Precision Ground Shot that’s made specifically for the 499, but also some more common BBs. So, today, we’ll see how the 499 performs at the 5-meter distance for which it was designed, as well as at 10 meters. I think we’re in for some interesting ballistics.

The 499
For those who don’t know, the Avanti Champion 499 is the world’s most accurate BB gun. It’s the only BB gun to compete each year in the International BB gun Championships at Bowling Green, Kentucky. Like the wheels and axels on Soap Box Derby racers (the All-American Soap Box Derby is an annual race where children race home-built cars powered by gravity, alone), the 499 is so specialized and ahead of the competition that there’s nothing that can touch it. Unlike derby wheels, though, anyone can own a 499 because they’re sold through specialized airgun dealers like Pyramyd Air (along with their special ammunition).

Although it may look like a Red Ryder to the casual observer, the 499 is as special among BB guns as a Formula One racer is among automobiles.

The 499 is a single-shot BB gun that has a precision smoothbore barrel. It’s loaded through the muzzle by dropping a BB down a funnel-shaped spout, where it enters the true barrel and rolls to the rear to be captured by a magnet. Regular BBs take 0.50 to 1.00- seconds to roll down the barrel, while the Precision Ground Shot can take up to 5 seconds.

The gun was developed by Daisy for their National BB Gun Championship Match. They noticed that coaches were ordering many shot tubes for their teams’ model 99 and 299 target BB repeaters that were used in competition at the time. The coaches were looking for the most uniform barrels that would shoot the best. When Daisy recognized that, they simply designed a gun to be accurate from the start. Once the 499 became a reality, all other BB guns were obsolete because nothing else could keep up.

For over a decade, the gun and ammunition was available only directly from Daisy, until I discovered it while writing The Airgun Letter. The guns were hand-built and Daisy didn’t really think they could sell them to non-target shooters because of the extra cost; but once the word was out about how accurate they are, everything changed. They’re probably still made by hand today, and I’m sure they’re not one of Daisy’s most popular products; but if you like accuracy, you really should look into getting one of these.

Baselining the gun
Before I shoot at 10 meters, I thought it would be nice to see what the gun can do at the regulation distance of 5 meters. I could have found old images for this because I’ve done this test many times before, but I always welcome the opportunity to shoot this marvelous little gun. I shot it on NRA 15-foot targets because I don’t have any of the slightly larger official 5-meter BB-gun targets on hand. The NRA is out of touch with BB gun competition and is stiill using the 15-foot target, where the rest of the world has backed up another 1.4 feet to 5 meters.

For this test, I selected three types of ammunition — Crosman Copperhead BBs, Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs and Avanti Precision Ground Shot. When I load the gun, I listen to the BB roll down the barrel and strike the magnet at the bottom. Copperheads roll the fastest — taking about a half-second to make the trip.

Crosman Copperhead BBs
I shot 10 shots with each BB at 5 meters. I used the back of a chair as a rest because this was a test of the gun — not me. There were no called fliers, and the 10 Copperheads grouped in 0.574 inches. That measurement is approximate, as BBs do not tear clean holes in target paper.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 Copperhead BBs 5 meters

At 5 meters, 10 Crosman Copperhead BBs tore this hole, which measures 0.574 inches between centers.

Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs
Next up were Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs at 5 meters. These are ever-so-slightly larger than Copperheads and take 0.50 to 1.50 seconds to roll down the barrel. They made a 10-shot group that measures 0.361 inches between centers — and keep in mind this is approximate, at best. But you can see in the photo that this group is tighter than the first one.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 Daisy Zinc BBs 5 meters

Ten Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs made this 0.361-inch group.

The final group was shot with Daisy Avanti Precision Ground Shot that is specially made for the 499. If anything is going to group well in the gun, this is. Ten shots made a group measuring 0.224 inches between centers. The hole on the target tells all, as it is either a score of 99 or 98 — it’s too close to tell.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 Avanti Precision BBs 5 meters

Avanti Precision Ground Shot shows what the 499 can really do. Ten went into this 0.224-inch group at 5 meters. This is almost a perfect score.

On to 10 meters
Now that we know how well the gun can shoot, it’s time to back up to 10 meters and test what we all came to see — namely, how well the 499 does at 10 meters. This is the first time I’ve done this, so I am just as interested in the results as all of you.

Crosman Copperhead BBs
First up were the Copperheads. I didn’t change the sight setting, so we’ll forgive the placement of the shots in this test. Ten shots landed in a group that measures 1.118 inches between centers. That’s actually slighly smaller than double the 5-meter group size (which would be 1.148″); so, allowing for the measurement error, it seems to be right-on.

Notice the two shots that landed below the main group. There were no called fliers, so those BBs are probably not the same size as the others.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun

At 10 meters, 1o Crosman Copperhead BBs made a 1.118-inch group. Those two at the bottom were not called as fliers.

Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs
Next up were the Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs that do so well in this gun for normal BBs. Ten of them made a group measuring 0.828 inches. That’s larger than double the 5-meter group size, which is what I expected at 10 meters. Again, there were no called fliers, and one stray BB hit below the main group.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun
Daisy Zinc-Plated BBs did well at 10 meters. This is a 0.828-inch group. The lone shot at the bottom was not a called flier.

Daisy Avanti Precision Ground Shot
Finally, I shot the Avanti Preciaion Ground Shot at 10 meters. The picture tells the story. Ten shots landed in a group that measures 0.755 inches across. This group is larger than double the 5-meter group with the same BB, which is what we would expect. Let’s talk about that next.

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun
This is where the pedigree of the Avanti Precision Ground Shot shows up. Ten made this 0.755-inch group with no real stragglers.

Why aren’t the groups just double the size at 10 meters?
This is a common misconception that I’d like to address. Groups don’t open up on a linear scale as distance increases. A 10-meter group should not be twice as large as a 5-meter group. And here we must differentiate between a spin-stabilized conical bullet and a round ball fired from a smoothbore.

A ball that’s not spin-stabilized will deviate much faster than a ball that’s stabilized by the spin introduced by rifling. A rough comparison can be made to a baseball that is intentionally thrown without spin — the famous knuckleball. It will go straight for a short distance, then suddenly deviate wildly and unpredictably from its ballistic path. The comparison is not perfect because a baseball has seams that affect its movement through the air, but the principle is similar.

Conclusion
Don’t run out and buy Avanti Precision Ground Shot for your Red Ryder. That would be like putting premium gasoline into a lawnmower! On the other hand, don’t buy a 499 and then try to shoot it with standard BBs. That’s false economy going the other way. Back up a few feet and look at what you are paying for ammunition, and then buy what makes the most sense.

The 499 is a special gun that’s purpose-built to do one thing — shoot BBs as close to where you aim as possible. I rested the gun for this test, but every year there are children who shoot similar targets offhand in competition.

Thank you!
I would like to thank everyone who requested today’s test because it was something I’ve never done before. Now, we all know what an accurate smoothbore shooting a steel BB can do at 10 meters.

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

You know how your wife buys a new trash can for the kitchen, and it doesn’t match the front of the old refrigerator that you’ve been talking about replacing for several years? So, you buy a new fridge, but you want this one to have an ice dispenser in the door; so, you hire a plumber to run the water lines; as long as he’s there, you decide it’s time to replace the chipped sink with a new stainless-steel double sink; but as long as he’s under there, you might as well have him replace the water supply lines and the waste pipes. Then, your wife doesn’t like how the new sink looks against the old green Formica counters, and she wants those granite countertops you’ve been promising her ever since you forgot your 17th anniversary; but the new countertops won’t look right on the old painted cabinets, so you decide on some Scandinavian teak cabinets with glass doors; and now the chipped dishes look out of place. [Note from Edith: This is hypothetical. It's not a true story about us!]

So, seven months later, the total bill for the new trash can comes to 70 thousand dollars? Well, that’s what I seem to have gotten into with the Air Venturi Bronco. I was just testing the new Bronco Target Sight kit on the rifle, and I raked back the compost pile a little too far. So, today, you’re going to benefit from my puttering gone amuck.

I took a lot of heat from you guys in my last report. You didn’t like how I did things, plus I introduced the new Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet and called it maccaroni without any warning! Well, shame on me!

I began today’s test by mounting the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope on the rifle. The Bronco has a hole for a vertical scope stop pin, so I was able to anchor the two-piece mounts rock-solid.

I thought I would back up just a bit and see just what the best pellet is for this rifle, and then see if there’s a difference between seating that pellet flush and seating it deep. I started at 10 meters with five-shot groups, just to weed out the pellets that were not worth pursuing. They were all pretty good, but the lightweight Air Arms Falcon was just a bit better than the rest.

I realize that this is a test of a peep sight, but my last report raised some questions about the rifle’s accuracy that I felt needed to be laid to rest before the test was continued. I’m validating the rifle before I continue reporting on the new sight.

Then, I backed up to 25 yards and shot two 10-shot groups. One was with the pellets seated flush with the end of the breech, and the other was with the pellets seated deeper, using the PellSet. Let’s look at my results before I analyze them.


Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets seated flush with the end of the barrel went into this 25-yard group that measures 0.531 inches. The group is reasonably round.


Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets seated deep with a PellSet made this 0.821-inch group at 25 yards. Nine of the ten pellets went into a group measuring 0.564 inches.

Conclusions?
Looking at both the shape and size of these groups, I would be tempted to say the flush-seated pellets shot best. And there’s no doubt that this Bronco can shoot. But let’s not make up our minds just yet.

See that “flyer” in the deep-seated pellet group? It wasn’t a called flier. The hold and release were perfect. There is no reason that pellet should be that far away from the rest of the pellets at 25 yards.

What I’m not showing you are some other 10-meter groups with different pellets that also had strange fliers like this one. I had removed both the front and rear sights, so we can’t blame the front sight screws for being too long. But something is happening with this rifle that’s unusual.

Edith questioned me in the same way that I know the rest of you are going to question me. Didn’t I have good groups in the past? Why is this rifle suddenly shooting like this?

I went back and looked at the groups I shot in Part 3 of this report. If you do the same, you’ll see a couple “fliers” in those groups, as well. The difference is that those groups were shot at 10 meters instead of 25 yards.

So, then I went back to the 7-part report I did on the Bronco and examined those targets. In Part 5 of that report, I shot the rifle with a scope at 25 yards and guess what? There are “fliers” within some of the groups.

What’s happening?
I think the Bronco I’ve been testing is extremely accurate, but it has also been throwing fliers like this all along. I chalked them up to my poor shooting instead of something else. Now that I’ve examine the rifle under the microscope, I’m not so sure it was me. I think this rifle has been tipping pellets all along. It’s only when the gun is fired at 25 yards that this becomes evident.

I think this has gotten worse recently, but I cannot say with certainty what’s causing it. It’s clear from the two groups shown here that the rifle can really shoot, but I think it can do even better than it currently is.

I have a plan to try to remedy this situation; and, at the worst, it will not affect the accuracy of the rifle. But if I succeed, this rifle could shoot smaller groups than you see here.

I need to try my remedy before returning to finish the report on the peep sight kit, because I think it has been affecting the results. And there’s a second problem I’ve identified with the peep sights that has nothing to do with the sights, themselves, but with how I’ve been sighting the gun. I’ll describe that problem in detail for you and tell you how to easily avoid it.

Til then!

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today is the day you find how I improved the accuracy of the Air Venturi Bronco rifle I’m testing with the Bronco Target Sight kit. I asked you to guess what I did to get better groups, but only Fred of PRoNJ got it right. I thought this would be a straightforward test and that one range session was all I needed for this rifle. After all, I already did a 7-part report on the gun, so there’s been plenty of time to get to know how it shoots. In fact, I even installed a Williams peep sight on the gun, so I even know how it shoots with that. This was just supposed to be a test of the Bronco Target Sight kit and nothing more. But man plans, and God laughs!

Yesterday, I told you about the front sight screws and the barrel that obviously needed cleaning. Afterwards, I was not rewarded with those perfect groups I’d anticipated. The groups I got were better than before the rifle was cleaned, but they were still bad for an accurate rifle at 10 meters off a rest. Something else was needed.

The artillery hold
How many of you guessed that the secret to good shooting was the artillery hold? Guess again, because I saw no difference between resting the rifle on the flat of my palm and on the backs of my fingers.

One thing I did rediscover was the need to hold the Bronco absolutely “dead” in my hands rather than with any tension built in. For its power level, the Bronco seems to be on the twitchy side as far as hold sensitivity goes. So, before you shoot, it’s imperative that you relax all the way and allow the rifle to settle in wherever it wants to. Then, you have to shift your hands and body until it settles in with the sights very close to on-target.

But that wasn’t the secret I was looking for because the groups were still on the large side. Then, something cool happened. As you know, my friend, Mac, has been visiting us; and while he was here, I got a couple spring-piston air rifles to test before they come to market. I’ll be starting some reports at the end of this month, so I asked Mac to test the rifle while I worked on other things. It’s never difficult to get him to test a brand-new airgun!

One of the pellets he selected to test the rifles with was the venerable RWS Hobby, which is the lightest all-lead pellet around. Hobbys are often among the most accurate pellets for spring-piston airguns, and they did really well in these new rifles, so his choice seemed obvious. Since the Bronco is also a spring-piston gun, I wondered if Hobbys might do well in it.

Did Hobbys shoot better?
Yes, they really did. They gave groups that were in the ballpark for the rifle as it was now performing with the clean barrel, but they weren’t the groups I’d hoped for. But something drove me to continue to shoot them. I guess I was thinking about the pellet seasoning effect we talk about. As I was shooting, another thought popped into my head.

Two years ago I was testing a Hy-Score 801 — a Belgian-made breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle that has a pellet seater built into the gun. It sits above the breech and swings down to push the pellet deep into the breech. When I tested it, the seated pellets increased in velocity by 100 f.p.s. and also grouped closer. Could that same thing be true for the Bronco, I wondered?

Well, it didn’t take much to test the pellet-seating theory, because I’ve been testing the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet for some time. But this was the first time I had occasion to use the adjustable PellSet tool to push a pellet into the breech of an air rifle! Until now, I’ve always used a Bic pen, but this new tool is adjustable so I can control the depth to which each pellet is seated. And once the tool’s adjusted, every pellet gets seated to exactly the same depth. Consistency is paramount to accuracy, so that’s very important.

Success!
The moment I began seating the pellets deeply with the PellSet tool, the groups shrank to an acceptable size. It looked like a television infomercial, because the difference before and after was night and day. I shot another group but didn’t seat the pellets. I held the rifle as carefully as I had when the pellets were seated deep, just to eliminate any bias. I’m not saying there still isn’t some bias in my testing, but the results of seating the pellets looks very promising!


This PellSet tool is an adjustable pellet seater that hangs around your neck and seals each pellet to the correct depth in the breech. Using it immediately tightened the Bronco’s groups!


When you load a pellet manually, you seat it flush with the breech like this.


The PellSet tool enables you to seat each pellet to the same depth in the bore. The tool is adjustable so you can fine-tune it.


Ten RWS Hobby pellets seated flush with the end of the barrel grouped in 0.916b inches at 10 meters. While not a great target, this demonstrates that the Bronco wants to shoot Hobbys well, because 8 of the 10 pellets made a group about half the size of the large one.


When the Hobbys were seated deep into the breech, they grouped into this 0.72 inch group. This is much better than the first group and clearly shows what deep-seating can do. But notice there’s still one flier in this group.

When I saw the difference between the deep-seated and flush-seated pellets, I believed I was on to something. But one result doesn’t make a conclusion, so I shot another two groups. This time, I was very careful with each shot to apply the artillery hold correctly.


The second group of flush-seated pellets was tighter than the first, though not as tight as the first group of deep-seated pellets. Only a single flier this time. Group measures 0.845 inches between centers.


The second group of deep-seated pellets gave this 0.516 inch group. No fliers at all. This is the accuracy potential of the Bronco!

Conclusions
There was a lot to cover in this test. First: I found that the longer front sight screws do not present any problems as far as accuracy is concerned. That was a needless concern.

Next, I discovered that the barrel wasn’t just dirty — the bore was actually constricted at the muzzle. Cleaning the bore (but not with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound this time) did improve accuracy, but not as much as I’d hoped. Something else was needed.

I had shot decent groups with this rifle in the past, so it is accurate. After cleaning the barrel, I almost got groups as good as before, but not quite. However, I’d been shooting 10 shots at 25 yards before and only five shots at 10 meters. Any direct comparison between before and now was impossible.

Switching to RWS Hobby pellets was good, though Hobbys may not be the most accurate pellets for this rifle. But by staying with them, I eliminated any other comparisons that might lead me astray. I also seasoned the bore, so no one can say that accuracy suffered from switching pellets.

Finally, I used a pellet seater, and not just any seater, but one that’s adjustable so I can set how deep the pellet goes. This tool has a lot of potential for improved accuracy in lower-powered spring-piston airguns, and I plan on using it in a lot of future tests.

Bottom line
The Bronco Target Sights are a nice addition to the rifle and far less expensive than any alternatives. A scope would work well, too, but for those who like iron sights, this sight set might be the best way to go.

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