by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• The truth is slowly revealed
• A lost love
• A new hope
• The anal airgunner
• Lecture me
Today, I’ll talk about something that has harassed me all my life — reality and the need to compromise. At the earliest age, I remember wanting a gun that held infinite bullets (we played cowboys in the early ’50 and we called cartridges bullets back then). The television cowboys never needed to reload. Why should I?
As a pre-teen, I discovered the M1 Garand and its .30-06 cartridge that I was certain could penetrate 10 feet of steel armor! I never actually saw a cartridge outside of a gun magazine; but in pictures, the darned thing looked like a Redstone rocket (a stone-age rocket that existed before the electric light and the internet — look it up) and I just knew there was nothing that could stop it. I read in Classic Comics (always the literary snob) where Frank “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” Buck shot a leopard out of a tree by breaking the branch it was on. And what did he use? A single bullet from a .30-06!
As I eased into my teen years, I bought a gun book by Lucian Cary that I still have today. It showed the awesome .300 Weatherby Magnum that smashed through a big tree, and another one that penetrated a thick sheet of bulletproof glass. Maybe there was something better than a .30-06.
Each of the stages I passed through while growing up opened my eyes a little more to reality. But I remained pretty naive for most of my life. You stick with what works.
In college, I read how Elmer Keith could hit targets at long range with handguns. He stuffed his cartridges (I was reloading by this time and now knew better) with nails and dynamite, and proceeded to make life risky for anything within 400 yards. But Keith had guns I couldn’t get. He shot S&W Triple Locks and customized Colt single-actions that were built to take the stress of his loads. The gun makers were his friends, so S&W gave him a big .357, and Ruger invented the .44 Magnum in his honor. My first-generation Colt SAA could not withstand the same abuse to which he regularly subjected his custom guns.
A lost love
As a youngster, I absolutely loved the shell-shucker Winchester Model 61 slide-action .22 repeater! I got to shoot them several times, but I never could afford one. I settled for an 1890 Winchester pump that did pretty much the same thing, only it did so while looking embarrassingly old-fashioned with its exposed hammer. And the one I could afford had very little finish remaining, plus it wasn’t even a .22 long rifle. It was a .22 Winchester Rimfire (WRF) that cost more per box of 50, yet wasn’t any more powerful. The sweet model 61, on the other hand, took shorts, longs and long rifles in its stride and looked like it was going 100 mph when it was standing still.
But a day finally came when I was able to get a 61! I’d just returned from a 4-year tour in Germany and had a little extra cash. Lo and behold, that was when I discovered that the model 61 struggles to hold all its shots inside an inch at 50 yards! I’d imagined much better, as you may have guessed. No matter, though, because a bitter divorce soon stripped me of all my firearms, reloading equipment and airguns. I didn’t have to look at that LNIB model 61 for very long.
Enough nostalgia. Fast-forward to today and I’ll tell you how things are now. I don’t like compromises, but they seem to pop up everywhere. The M1 Garand, for instance. Sure, it’s an accurate battle rifle, but it’s not really that accurate. Minute-of-soldier for certain, but it’s not for shooting tight groups on paper. Oh, somebody says, what you want is a Garand that’s been worked on! They’ll shoot small groups, alright. Yes, they will, but the better (more accurate) they get, the fussier and less Garand-like they become. When you finally have a Garand that shoots a one-inch group at 100 yards, the darned thing operates reliably with only a few specific loads; and it’s so tight that disassembly for cleaning isn’t recommended. If you doubt me, just ask blog reader Matt61.
There’s a tradeoff between reliability and ultimate accuracy. I’m not talking about the accuracy that lets you hit tin cans at 100 yards. I’m talking about shooting sub-inch 10-shot groups at that distance. When I say reliability, I don’t mean it jams only once in 200 shots. I mean it never jams. I have guns that operate that well, and I’ve had many more that didn’t.
A new hope
While in Germany in the 1970s, I was introduced to the Kartoffel 45. A German hunting acquaintance showed me a 1911 he had found on an abandoned battlefield long after the war ended. It was actually buried in a field and he plowed it up while digging mounds for potatoes — hence the name Kartoffel, which is German for potato. The gun was deeply pitted all over its surface from the rust of many years in the ground. He hammered it apart and cleaned the major parts, plus he replaced everything he could with new parts. The effect was startling. It looked like a gun that might blow up in your hand, yet it functioned like any other Army 1911. Because it was a 1911, all the parts that mattered could be replaced in less than an hour. It could look unserviceable, yet still function perfectly.
Seeing that gun opened my eyes to what’s meant by reliability. I saw the genius of John Browning’s design through the lens of that nearly destroyed, yet perfectly serviceable handgun. When I got back to the States, I knew that a Garand I discovered in a similar pitted condition would also operate just fine. I bought that Garand from a pawn shop that sold it to me with apologies. They felt it was nearly worthless, but I suspected different. When I took it to the range, I was proven right. That old pitted M1 with its rough bore was loose as a goose, yet it never failed to function when fed the military loads for which it was designed.
That told me what’s possible as far as reliability goes, but it said nothing about accuracy. With a lot of additional shooting, I discovered that if I wanted the ultimate in accuracy, I had to give up some reliability. There’s a compromise that balances between the two desired attributes because each one seems to negate the other.
I hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but what you really want is acceptable reliability with an acceptable level of accuracy. And this is where Rainman goes off into a corner, muttering the words to Who’s on first.
Remember years ago when we talked about the stages of an airgunner’s experience? It starts out with the quest for high velocity and ends with self-actualization? Well, I’m older now and have discovered another secret. Live long enough, and your desires start to conform to reality.
What I’m saying is that I now understand why an army would choose a weapon that is extremely reliable but not as accurate as it could be. I appreciate why the Brits revered their SMLE Mk IV. I understand why the Mosin Nagant 91/30 was so long-lived and why the AKM is accepted around the world. It’s because they work, even when they shouldn’t.
I also understand why the United States Marine Corp was so adamant on keeping their 1903 Springfields when the Garand first came out, and why they changed their minds so suddenly after gaining battle experience with the Garand. No battle-ready Garand could hold a candle to a Springfield bolt-action rifle on the target range, but neither could the Springfield keep up with the Garand in war! The Garand was a perfect compromise for its application (at that time — there are better rifles today). The Springfield was very accurate but fell short of the Garand’s firepower. Another compromise.
The anal airgunner
When I worked at AirForce Airguns, one of my friends sent me two standard AirForce reservoirs for his Talon SS and asked me to “balance” them so both would shoot at the same speed when the gun was set to the same power level. He wanted to be able to remove a tank from his gun, attach the other one and continue shooting without changing the power setting.
This was an official request. Obviously, AirForce made the valves in both tanks, and he assumed we would be able to fine-tune them so he could have two tanks that performed exactly the same. He was willing to overlook up to a variance of 10 f.p.s. between tanks. Oh, well — as long as he was reasonable!
I say this with a lot of sarcasm because many of you may be thinking the same thing — if a company makes a valve, surely they can also tune it to do whatever they want? Of course, they can — just as certainly as an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters can write the works of Shakespeare, given enough time.
In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. You can try again and again, and maybe you’ll get two valves to perform the same. Or, maybe, you’ll luck into it on the first try! Better play the lottery if you do! This is why guns that allow you to adjust the airflow, such as the Benjamin Marauder, are so unique. Crosman can’t make all their valves perform the same, but they give you the adjustments to compensate for it.
Okay — lecture me
This is where I will get lectured by some well-meaning readers who know for a fact that it is indeed possible to tune an airgun valve to do exactly what they want. They overlook the 25 hours of time they invest in their project to bring it fruition. In their minds, if it can be done at all, why…it’s possible! Yes, and the United States put several men on the moon in the 1970s, yet they couldn’t do it again today without another costly research program.
Just because a thing has been done once does not mean that it can be repeated. That’s why “The Catch” (referring to Willie Mays remarkable catch of Vic Wertz’s long drive in game one of the 1954 World Series) is so celebrated even today — 60 years later. Or why, when Bob Beaman broke the world long jump record by nearly two feet in the 1968 Olympics, he sailed past the optical scoring device at the end of the sand pit and the jump had to be scored manually.
So something that’s extraordinary can still happen; but when it does, it doesn’t mean the world has changed. The next person to try will probably get the same results everybody else has gotten all along.
My motor has been started by this blog! Can you tell? I just talked to Edith about all the lies and fantasies of gas spring airguns and what Ben Taylor — the Ben in Theoben — taught me about them. Talk about the Emperor’s New Clothes!
Airgunners were lying to themselves about the wonders of the new gas spring technology in the 1990s. Yet, when I started testing my Beeman Crow Magnum and writing about it, a lot of those myths were put to rest. I ended up with egg on my face for more than a year, until Taylor stepped forward and told me I was right. What I learned doesn’t make gas springs any less desirable, but it does reveal that pellets shot from them will not penetrate 10 feet of steel!
Edith said I should write a report about that experience and share it with all of you. Gonna do that next week.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is a guest blog from a new reader, HiveSeeker. He wants to tell us about a pellet rifle he thinks highly of. This is a complete report with the description, velocities and test targets, so I am breaking it into two sections.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.
Over to you, HiveSeeker.
This report covers:
• Ammo feed
Winchester MP4 is a realistic and fun-to-shoot military replica pellet rifle.
Considering the astonishing array of military rifle lookalikes in the airsoft world, it’s a shame that there are so few choices among airguns. But those who would enjoy shooting an accurate reproduction pellet rifle might consider the Winchester MP4 CO2 rifle. Styled closely after the AR15, this .177 airgun features a full-metal receiver, quad Picatinny rail forearm, working selector switch (safety), realistic magazine catch and adjustable stock — lots of authentic moving parts that are only fixed plastic on a number of the other military replicas. The forward bolt assist is only ornamental, but the charging handle (hereafter called the bolt) is fully functional. This also happens to be one of the few semiauto replica pellet rifles available. My ex-military brother-in-law experienced a fair amount of nostalgia shooting this rifle.
The first thing you’ll want to do after unboxing the MP4 is remove the cheap plastic open sights — among the unfriendliest I’ve ever squinted through. They’re not individually adjustable, and the manual doesn’t include one word about them. Just know that you can raise or lower the aiming point by moving the front sight closer or farther in relation to the rear sight; they apparently cannot be adjusted for windage. [Editor's note: The manual and Winchester's website state the rear sight is adjustable, so we asked the manufacturer about it. They say it's not adjustable and plan to remove that statement from their website and from future reprints of the manual.]
A red dot sight works well (and looks tacti-cool) on this gun, though I primarily used a Leapers UTG 3-9×32 Bug Buster scope, which also looks very good. The all-metal receiver provides a very solid platform for mounting optics compared to the plastic receivers of some other contenders in the military pellet rifle arena. Despite being a low-recoil CO2 gun, the bolt recocking mechanism apparently generates some vibration. As a shooter who admittedly tends to over-tighten everything, I was stunned to find my scope mounts loose after about 300 shots. Keep an eye on this.
This gun requires two 12-gram CO2 cartridges. You can spend all day trying to “remove the cover from the base of the CO2 clip by inserting a finger into the ammunition magazine hole and pulling the cover off” (as the manual suggests). There’s no hidden release, and the instructions of course mean the larger CO2 clip hole to the right (go ahead and laugh, manual-spurners).
My CO2 clip fits very tightly in the receiver; and the first time I tried to shoot this gun, it took me a couple trigger pulls to realize the clip was not seated all the way. Look closely at the photos to see how far the clip must slide in. Clip insertion and removal are slightly smoother now but initially required a fair amount of pressure.
Remove the CO2 clip cover by inserting a finger into the larger hole on the right (not the smaller one on the left) and pulling up. It’s easy if you’re not following the wrong instructions! The plastic key above the clip cover is used for installing the CO2 cartridges.
Exercise more care in gently inserting the ammunition magazine, however, as the thin plastic of the round rotary drums is easily cracked. A magazine holds 16 pellets or BBs, though this is a bit deceptive. There are only 8 rounds in each end, and you have to perform a magazine flip to shoot all 16 rounds. I suggest buying at least a couple extra magazines. The buttplate I found to be uncomfortably hard, but a rubber AR-15 add-on fit perfectly, as will most other AR accessories, except anything for the nonstandard pistol grip. My next add-on will be a bipod, which should fit perfectly on the forearm.
If you’ve read any reviews of the Winchester MP4, then you already know that there’s a major ammo feed issue with this gun. Mine is no exception, but so far the problem has been occasional enough to live with — only about 1 pellet out of every 1 to 2 magazines (averaging around 5%) is failing to fire. This is despite carefully using a pellet seat; a tiny ridge inside each individual drum cavity stops the skirt, allowing consistent loading of each pellet. Other owners, however, have experienced a much worse problem, so I’m keeping my gun as is.
Let’s look at some chronograph data. My 10-for-$10 test printout from Pyramyd Air with 7.1-grain Beeman Lasers showed a velocity range of 480-538 fps, with an average of 500 fps even. Waaay lower than the listed 700 fps (which I initially figured was just for BBs), as a number of reviewers have pointed out. For my own tests, I shot 10-shot strings at sea level, waiting one minute between shots, using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master. With 4-grain Crosman SSPs I got a range of 683-710 fps and an average of 694 fps in the better of two tests (air temperature was 88˚F).
Interestingly, the other test string averaged a lower 686 fps but contained my single-shot velocity record of 722 fps. So, the Winchester MP4’s velocity stated on the box is correct, and this gun indeed shoots just as fast as Daisy claims — and with pellets, no less. I did not test with BBs, although this gun is designed to shoot them, wishing to save my barrel (and its accuracy) for pellets only.
Testing with a more typical pellet, the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier Super Match, provided expectedly lower velocities: 487-562 fps with an average of 511 fps (at 84˚F). This was much closer to the 10-for-$10 results. Below are my average shot string velocities.
Shot string….Avg velocity
HiveSeeker continues his test with accuracy results in the next report. I’ll run that next week.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Silly exercise
• What’s the point?
• Airguns I like
• My one airgun
• See where this is going?
• My one firearm
• What this tells me
• How my life has changed
…what would it be? Not long ago, blog reader Kevin asked me this question and I promised to get back to him with an answer. Today, I’m keeping that promise, although I’m not at all positive that in a year my answer won’t be different.
Kevin asked what airgun and what firearm I would keep. There were no other guidelines beyond the number one — of each. This isn’t the first time he’s asked a question like this. Earlier this year, he asked me what guns I enjoyed shooting, and I wrote a blog titled What would B.B. shoot?
Here is what he asked me this time.
Some of us have gone through difficult financial times, some of us are going through difficult financial times and some of us will go through difficult financial times in the future.
For this reason I’m very interested to hear what the ONE airgun is that you would keep and the ONE firearm is that you would keep while you would endure a financial crisis.
This is not a “WHAT GUNS I KEPT AND WHY” this is a ONE airgun and ONE firearm question.
This is such a silly exercise — don’t you think? At least it is until you try to form an answer. Because to do that, you have to think about all the airguns and firearms you own, as well as the ones you have owned in the past — and I suppose you can throw in any you might like to own but never have. Once you have all of them in front of you, it’s time to weed through the mass and see what comes out the other side.
What’s the point?
There is no point to this. Nobody is ever going to be confronted with this decision in quite this way, so why bother thinking about it? Well, it does force you to think about things at a fundamental level — a sort of giant who-do-you-love-and-why game. And Edith and I did actually go through it — not once but twice.
Because I write about airguns, you probably think it’s harder for me to pick a single airgun, but it’s not. It’s actually much easier. When all the facade of accuracy, power and performance is stripped away and I’m no longer thinking about survival on a desert island or how many pellets I can carry in a backpack, the choice of a single airgun becomes simple. I shoot airguns for fun, when all is said and done.
Shooting for fun means I don’t have to justify an airgun based on its power, long-range accuracy, nostalgia, value or anything beyond how much fun I derive from shooting it. That narrows it down a lot, but not to a single gun. I suppose there are at least a dozen, but probably more like 25 nice airguns that I really enjoy shooting.
Airguns I like
For example, I like to shoot my Beeman R8. It isn’t powerful, but at 25 yards I know I can put a pellet within a quarter-inch of the aim point every time. The trigger is light and crisp, and the Burris 4.5-14×32 scope is so clear and sharp that the rifle is a delight to shoot. But it’s not my one airgun!
I also really like my Crosman Mark I target pistol that holds so well and has such a beautiful trigger. But it’s not my one airgun, either.
My one airgun
The one airgun I would keep, after having to get rid of all others, is my little .22-caliber Diana model 27. It’s not really powerful enough to hunt with, but that’s not why I’m keeping it. I’m keeping it because it’s simple and accurate, light and easy to cock. It’s an all-day airgun that I just enjoy shooting very much.
The Diana model 27 — this one badged as a Hy-Score 807 — is my favorite airgun. It isn’t powerful, but it’s light, accurate and has a great trigger. That’s all I need.
I’ve owned several Diana 27s over the years. The first one was a rust bucket that I bought for $18 in a pawnshop in Radcliff, Kentucky, while stationed at Ft. Knox in the late 1970s. It looked terrible. You needed a tetanus shot just to hold it! But it shot like a dream, cocked smoothly and was accurate. I fell in love with it and the love has endured.
The second .22-caliber Diana 27 I ever owned is the one shown in the above picture. I bought it from the late Richard Schmidt at the Winston-Salem airgun show (the forerunner of the Roanoke show) in 1993. I paid $110 for it, which was way too much; but for some reason, they all went for way too much back then — and they still do today.
I pulled that rifle apart and lube-tuned it for my Airgun Letter and learned how to assemble the squirrel-cage of parts that Diana calls a ball-bearing trigger. I later pulled the gun apart a second time and tuned it, again, for a different magazine article. Since then, it’s never been apart. That was more than a decade ago.
Some time in the late 1990s, I wrote an article about how to adjust the ball-bearing trigger. Diana triggers can be adjusted very fine if you know what you’re doing; and, oddly enough, all you need is the owner’s manual to learn how. Or you can just read the blog I wrote about it.
Every time I chronograph this rifle, I’m reminded of just how weak it is (under 500 f.p.s.). But that doesn’t matter. I don’t shoot airguns for their power — that would be futile. I shoot them for fun, and the Diana 27 has more fun per pound than any other airgun I know of. When I worked on the Bronco project, the Diana 27 was my inspiration.
The third Diana 27 I owned was a Winchester model 427. It’s now owned by one of our readers. Why did I sell it? Because I didn’t need two perfect airguns.
Don’t think that I don’t love many of my airguns a lot, because I really do. My Air Arms TX200 Mark III gives me immense joy, and of course I love my Whiscombe JW75. But the last airgun I’ll sell is the Diana 27.
What was far more difficult was to choose from all my firearms. I have been quite blessed at this time of my life to own some of the finest firearms that exist. My Wilson Combat CQB is especially dear to me, not only because of what a wonderful shooter it is, but also because it was a very special gift from Edith. I have a Dillon press permanently set up to reload .45 ACP ammo, and I cast all my own bullets for the round. While the rest of the world pays inflated prices for ammunition, I’m set to reload tens of thousands of rounds at less than a nickel a round. I can’t shoot .22 rimfire as cheaply as I can shoot this pistol. But it isn’t the one firearm I would keep.
Speaking of gifts, the readers of this blog gave me a Single Action Army revolver that means the world to me. I remember coming home from the hospital several years ago and seeing that revolver for the first time. I wasn’t strong enough to hold it up to shoot, and my eyes would need another year to regain their strength, but I got out to the range with that revolver just as soon as I could. Every time I look at it, I think of you blog readers.
I shoot that handgun several times a year, and it always makes me smile when I do. The gun has an authentic fire blue finish that Colt put on their guns during the 19th century, and mine looks brand new. It’s a gorgeous handgun, but it’s not the firearm I would keep.
The single-action revolver I received from the readers of this blog is one of my favorite firearms. It shoots as nice as it looks.
I could go on and on with this thought process. Certainly, I would keep the Ballard. I certainly would not! While it’s intriguing and a beautiful rifle, there’s nothing practical about a Ballard built in 1876. The one firearm I keep has to be practical.
The Ballard rifle is beautiful and accurate, but it isn’t the all-around firearm I need.
What about a nice .22 rimfire? I certainly own several of them, and lots of various kinds of ammo that would last me a long time — no? No. A .22 rimfire is not universal enough for me. Since I reload, I can turn almost any firearm into a .22 rimfire if I want to. What I need is a firearm that can be something more than a rimfire if the occasion calls.
See where this is going?
I am heading for a firearm that is as universal as it can be. Through reloading, it can be made to plink or pop squirrels, but it can also kill a grizzly bear if needed.
It has to be reliable, so complex is out and simple is in. That eliminates all semiautomatics.
It has to be accurate; but in my gun collection, there are no inaccurate arms. I just don’t keep them. On the same note, I don’t need my universal firearm to be suited for target use, so super-accurate guns with big scopes are also out. In fact, the scopes would eliminate the guns all by themselves.
My one firearm
The one firearm I would keep if all the others had to go would be my 1903A3 Springfield. It has a rugged bolt-action that has been proven over more than a century, and this one has adjustable peep sights that maximize the potential for accuracy. I’ve shot 5-shot groups under 2 inches at 100 yards, so the accuracy is all that I need.
When I reload, I have a choice of 5 lead bullets I can cast to produce everything from a .32 automatic up to a full-blown .30-06, if I need it. The cheapest rounds I make cost around 5 cents, and the most expensive costs under 50 cents. That’s so much better than anything I can buy; but if I do buy, this caliber is certainly ubiquitous throughout most of the civilized world.
I have around a thousand empty cartridges; and with my reduced loads I’ll get several hundred firings from each of them. And with reduced loads, I can use pistol powders and primers. So, ammunition will never be a problem.
The O3A3 Springfield is a plain-jane rifle, but it’s everything I need if I can only have one.
I got this rifle from my friend, Mac, but that’s not why I’m keeping it. He sold it because it kicks pretty hard. But I discovered the secret. Soldiers wore field jackets and coats in the field, and the short pull of their rifles was compensated for by the thick clothing. When I shoot this rifle with powerful loads, I always wear a heavy jacket. The rest of the time a t-shirt is all I need. I can hit a pop can at 100 yards every time with my reloads, shooting from a prone or supported position.
What does this tell me?
Kevin forced me to look at my shooting from a very practical standpoint today. It wasn’t sentimentality that helped me decide. And it wasn’t value or beauty. It was utility.
I hope I never have to make a choice like this, because it would break my heart to say goodbye to many of my airguns and firearms. But now I know the two I would keep under any circumstance.
How the blog changed my life
Kevin’s question prompted me to do more than just think about guns. This blog has had a major impact on my life. And from the comments many of you make, I believe it’s also impacted your lives.
If you want to help me better understand my readers, I invite you to send me an email telling me the impact that this blog has had on your life. Pyramyd Air has created a special temporary email address for this. I’ll be the only person to get these emails, and we’re not going to generate any lists from the addresses.
My plan is to publish one or more blog reports with the more interesting comments. If you want, I will use your real name or blog handle; but you can be anonymous, too. I won’t use your name or handle unless you give me written permission to do so.
This email address will be live for only a few weeks. We have tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Even if you’ve never commented on the blog, you can email me your message if you like. If you’re reading this blog after July 2014, email submissions will no longer be forwarded to me, and you may get an auto-reply email stating that or your email might bounce back to you.
This could be interesting. I have no idea what will happen.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Winchester Target Cube
• Rested position
• Overall evaluation
Today is accuracy day for the Legends Makarov Ultra BB pistol and the big question is: How does it hold up against its non-recoiling brother that we all know is very accurate? I think you’re going to be pleased with the results.
I installed a fresh CO2 cartridge, which — thanks to yesterday’s report on CO2 – reminded me to put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of the cartridge before piercing. As before, the piercing was nearly instantaneous with no loss of gas. I looked at the face seal with a jeweler’s loupe and saw that it’s a thick (relatively) clear synthetic that looks like it will do its job for a long time to come.
Next, I loaded some BBs into the front of the magazine. Here’s a tip for this. Lock down the mag follower at the bottom of its slot and elevate the bottom of the mag. This way, the BBs will easily fall into the enlarged hole in the front of the magazine. If one overshoots the mark, it remains in a trough and can be rolled back to the hole very easily.
Winchester Target Cube
Once again, the Winchester Airgun Target Cube was pressed into service for a target holder and backstop. I taped the targets to the cube that now has thick cardboard on both sides. No more styrofoam comes out because of the cardboard; and the targets tear better, even when the BBs are shot at lower velocities.
The Target Cube keeps the BBs from bouncing back. That keeps the shooting area cleaner; and since I shoot BBs in my bedroom, that’s a good thing. If you shoot a lot of BBs in the house, I recommend the Target Cube.
I then sat on a chair at 5 meters from the target and put a large pillow on my lap. When doubled over, the pillow allowed me to rest my arms so I could achieve a very steady 2-hand hold. It’s the gun we want to test — not the shooter.
The sights on the Makarov are very fine, but also sharp. I had no problem getting the same sight picture, shot after shot.
The first target I shot was a 50-foot smallbore bull. Those are just slightly larger than 10-meter air rifle bulls. I had no idea where the pistol was shooting, nor how accurate it might be; but at 16 feet, I felt this target was large enough to keep all the shots on paper. I used a 6 o’clock hold, like I always do with handgun sights like these.
The shots landed about 3/4-inch below the point of aim. While the first 3 shots seemed to scatter, the next 7 stayed inside them, resulting in a fine-looking 10-shot group. In measures 0.916 inches between centers and looks even better. The bulk of the shots landed inside a half inch!
The second target looks even better. I called that shot that went to the left because of the very hard trigger pull we’ve already discussed. Actually, the trigger isn’t that hard for a double-action pull (which it isn’t), but for target shooting it’s way more than you want. This time, 10 shots went into 1.189 inches, with 9 of them in 0.727 inches.
I was really impressed with the way this pistol wants to lay them in the same hole at 5 meters. That trigger pull, though, takes discipline to overcome. The tendency is to try to overpower it, which will result in shots thrown wide to the left in my case.
I decided to try a larger aim point for the third group, so I substituted a 10-meter pistol target instead. The bull is twice the size of the others, and I wondered what it might do. Oddly, it pulled my shots closer together, though I did get a very vertical shot string. This time, 10 shots went into 1.334 inches, with 9 in 0.683 inches. Look at this group, and you’ll see the pedigree of the non-recoiling Makarov showing through.
Yes, I think this Makarov is just as accurate as its non-recoiling brother. What separates them is the stiffer trigger on this one. It makes you really hold tight, and any distraction will cause you to throw a shot.
I like the Makarov Ultra BB pistol. In fact, I think I’m going to buy this one for my growing collection. This is what inexpensive BB pistols should be.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Single-action trigger.
• Slide remains back when magazine is empty.
• Shot count.
Let’s look at the velocity of the Legends Makarov Ultra BB pistol. Because the gun has blowback, I’ll also report how that works.
Umarex is currently making a huge marketing push on their lookalike airguns and the undisputed leader in airguns that look like firearms. The Makarov Ultra is one of their latest and greatest new products.
A firearm Makarov has a trigger that’s both single-action and double-action. Single-action means the hammer must be cocked for the gun to fire, and the blowback action of the slide accomplishes this. But for the first shot, you must manually cock the hammer, because, unlike the firearm Mak, the trigger on this pistol will not cock the hammer on its own. The Makarov Ultra trigger is not double-action.
The trigger-pull, however, is quite odd. A single-action trigger is traditionally light and crisp. The Makarov Ultra trigger, however, pulls through a long arc, and the pull force increases as the trigger nears the end of its arc. It feels like a double-action trigger, even though by strict definition it’s single-action because the hammer must be cocked separately.
The trigger is not objectionable, nor is it too heavy. It just doesn’t feel like a conventional single-action trigger.
Charging the pistol
The pistol is charged by a conventional 12-gram CO2 cartridge. The cartridge fits into the magazine that drops from the Makarov’s pistol grip. Because the Makarov has a magazine release located behind the rear of the magazine floorplate, it’s not convenient to release from the pistol and requires the use of 2 hands to do the job.
Once the magazine is out of the pistol, the CO2 cartridge installs easily and is tightened in place by the tension screw on the bottom of the mag. The piercing went so fast there wasn’t even a telltale hiss of gas that escaped the cartridge. Naturally, I put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of the cartridge before installing it.
The stick BB magazine loads very easily. I put the base of the mag up on a small ledge to elevate it and pulled the follower down to its locking point. A funnel-shaped hole on the magazine is where the BBs are fed in. If the magazine is sloped forward just slightly, up to 16 BBs drop in and roll forward with ease. This is perhaps the fastest-loading stick magazine I’ve yet encountered.
Umarex rates the Ultra pistol at 350 f.p.s., and I found the rating to be slightly conservative. I started shooting BBs with the first shot out of the pistol, and the first few shots with a 12-gram cartridge are almost always above the expected average. Let me show you 10 shots from the first string of 16 BBs that were fired. Several BBs failed to trigger the chronograph’s skyscreens, but all 10 shots came from the first string of 16 BBs fired from the gun.
I allowed at least 10 seconds between each shot, except for between shots 4 and 5. There were several BBs that failed to trip the skyscreens between those 2 shots and I didn’t allow as much recovery time. The average for these 10 shots is 354 f.p.s., with a variation of 28 f.p.s.
The next 10 shots are much more telling. This time I allowed at least 15 seconds between each shot, and when they failed to trigger the skyscreens, I still allowed the time.
This time, the average velocity was 362 f.p.s. and the spread was 31 f.p.s. That means the average went up with the second 16 shots. Notice how fast that first shot is? The gun had laid dormant for at least 10 minutes after the first string. All of this is on the same CO2 cartridge.
The Makarov Ultra is a lightweight BB pistol, so the blowback is pretty snappy. It feels very much like shooting a firearm.
Slide remains back
After the last BB has been fired, the slide remains back, making it obvious the gun is out of ammunition. This is the same thing the Makarov firearm does.
Besides velocity and how well the blowback works, another important performance parameter is the number of shots you can expect to get from a CO2 cartridge. For the first 2 magazines, I was conserving gas unrealistically, just to get an idea about the velocity potential. So, I shot the entire third magazine the way a shooter might — pulling the trigger as fast as I could. That took the total count up to 48 shots. On the fourth magazine, I slowed down to one shot every 10 seconds and got an average velocity of 320 f.p.s. The numbers declined steadily as these shots were fired. So the gun was running out of gas. But that’s still a shot count of 64 on one cartridge.
Blowback was still strong through magazine 4. On the fifth magazine, though, the gun started to sound weaker almost immediately. And on shot 9, the slide failed to cock the hammer for the first time. Therefore I think it is safe to say the Makarov Ultra will give you 4 good magazines on one CO2 cartridge.
Accuracy testing will come next. I hope the Makarov Ultra is an accurate BB pistol because its manual cousin — the gun that doesn’t have blowback — is legendary!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Recent trend of lookalike airguns
• Introduction of the Umarex Legends line
• 4 Makarovs
• Makarov Ultra description
Umarex has made lookalike airguns for over a decade, now, and the guns they’ve made have had a big influence on my firearm ownership trends. It seems that I acquire the airgun first, then long to own the firearm as a companion. I know that sounds backwards, but that’s how it’s happening to me!
First was the Walther PPK/S BB pistol — a cool sidearm that spawned a desire for a firearm PPK/S. I satisfied that with a .22 LR Walther several years ago. Next was the pellet-firing Colt M1911A1. That one came after I had owned a number of 1911s; but when I got it, I didn’t own any 1911 firearms at the time. But within 10 years, Edith and I are broke out with them — having more of that type than any other firearm!
The Umarex pellet-firing Magnum Research Desert Eagle was impressively accurate but so large that I thought myself immune from its charms. But just a couple years ago, I added a .357 Desert Eagle to the gun closet.
The one firearm I never thought I would own was the Winchester 94. I’ve never warmed to that design; but when Edith saw the pellet-shooting Walther Lever Action, she warmed to it right away and soon there was a 30-30 in the closet next to it.
Here come the Legends
Umarex has decided to step up the pace on lookalike guns by introducing their Legends line. The Legends are also lookalikes, but they’re copies of firearms that are legendary. Not that the 1911 and the Winchester 1894 aren’t legendary — for they certainly are, but now Umarex will concentrate on those firearms that have achieved a spot in everyone’s eyes — either by their design or by their role in life or both.
They chose the Luger to kick things off. You all witnessed the test of the Legends Parabellum P.08 pistol that turned into a desire to renew my acquaintance with Herr Luger’s legendary 9mm sidearm. That happened just this past Christmas. As it was happening, Umarex launched their Legends C96 Mauser pistol! To that I said, “Absolutely not!” We’ll see how long that resolve lasts.
Just a week ago, I completed the test of the Legends Colt Python BB revolver. I owned a Python in .357 Magnum years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was one handgun I worried about spoiling by over-handling. I don’t need that. Give me a good old Ruger Security Six any day, and I’ll turn a blind eye toward the scratches.
Today, I’m starting the review of a lookalike handgun that has had a huge influence on me in a number of different ways. I’m now looking at the Legends Makarov Ultra BB pistol.
Umarex began the Legends line of guns as special copies of iconic firearms, and it was fitting that the Makarov was the first to be produced. That one was not offered with blowback, but I found it to be amazingly accurate when I tested it. Then I “taught” Crystal Ackley to shoot with a BB Makarov on American Airgunner, and the gun really took off. In truth, if you saw that episode, I didn’t teach her anything. All I did was tell her what to do, she did it and it worked! Always! Crystal was a natural shooter who out-shot everyone on the show.
At the same time, I acquired a Makarov firearm that I’ve mentioned from time to time in this blog. It’s the only semiautomatic pistol I’ve ever seen that has never jammed or misfired one time in close to a thousand shots. The design is rugged, yet the gun is accurate, and it has a light double-action trigger-pull and mild recoil. Too bad the puny 9x18mm cartridge it’s chambered for is so entirely unsuited to military use, because the gun is a rock-solid reliable piece. A 1911 should be so reliable!
To complete the Makarov story, I must mention the firearm Maks that were converted by Izhmash to fire BBs. They were imported into the U.S. for a short time, until our Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined they can be converted back to firearm status and stopped all importation.
This pistol started out as a Russian 9mm Makarov, then Ishmash converted it to shoot BBs. The Russian grips look different than the Bulgarian grips, but Makarovs had many different styles over the years.
That makes a total of 4 Makarovs in my possession at this time. Three are BB-guns and the other is the firearm. This is a mini collection within my airgun/firearm collection. Now the question is if the new Legends Makarov Ultra is a worthy addition to the party.
The Makarov Ultra
The Makarov Ultra appears very similar to the original Umarex Makarov, but how different can it be and still be a close copy of the firearm? Of course, the big difference with the Ultra is the addition of blowback. When the first Mak came out, the usual suspects howled, “I would buy one in a second, if it just had blowback!” Now, it does.
The pistol is sized to the firearm, and I doubt even an expert could notice any difference unless he examined the gun. With a CO2 cartridge installed it weighs a shade under 24 oz., where the unloaded firearm weighs 26 oz. Only the slight presence of the folded cartridge piercing screw handle under the magazine floorplate gives any indication of what’s inside.
The metal finish is a matte black that’s more subdued than the blued steel on my Bulgarian Mak, but very similar to the Russian version. The grips are closer to the Bulgarian grips, though there are so many Makarovs in the world that just about any grip can be found on them.
The Makarov firearm is both single- and double-action. So, it can be safely carried loaded with a round in the chamber — just pull the trigger when you want to start firing. The Makarov Ultra is single-action only. The trigger looks like it will fire the gun; but pulling it with the hammer down accomplishes nothing. Once the hammer is cocked, though, every shot makes the slide blow back and cock the hammer again. After the last BB has been fired from the 16-round magazine, the slide remains open — to tell you it’s time to reload. Extra magazines may be purchased so you never need to stop shooting.
The sights are fixed — front and rear. This is identical to the firearm. There are Makarov firearms with adjustable sights and double-stack magazines, but I believe these are civilian models, only. Contrary to what the wikipedia writeup says, the Makarov firearm is a very accurate pistol.
Yes, the Makarov Ultra does disassemble, just like the firearm. Pull the triggerguard down in front and slide the slide back and up off the frame. Disassembly takes about 2 seconds. There’s no reason to disassemble the pistol, but I know that some owners just have to do it! Just know that disassembly is not authorized by the factory; and if you damage your gun or lose parts, the warranty doesn’t cover you.
I give the Ultra model high marks for realism. It lacks the lanyard loop on the bottom left of the grip frame and the safety doesn’t decock the hammer like the firearm safety does; but other than that, it’s a remarkable package. For those who like realistic BB pistols, the Makarov Ultra is one to have.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report addresses:
• The .22 rimfire ammunition supply problem in the U.S.
• One possible solution for an ammo supply
• A great substitution for .22 rimfire
Bricks of .22 rimfire ammo usually have 500 rounds, except the value packs that contain a little extra loose ammo.
The rest of the world may not be aware, but there’s an extreme shortage of .22 rimfire ammo in the United States at the present time. In my 66 years, the last two are the only time I could not walk into a gun store or even a discount store and buy a brick of .22 ammunition.
What’s a brick?
A brick is a carton of 500 rounds. It holds 10 boxes of 50 rounds and is called a brick for the general size, shape and weight of the box. There are also loosely packaged value packs that contain a few more than 500 rounds.
In 2012, a brick of inexpensive .22 ammo cost around $9 to $10, depending on the sale. The nominal price was about $20, but everybody knew that was too much to pay, so we all waited for the sales. Only when our backs were up against it did we bite the bullet (pun intended) and pay full price.
Today, the street price of a brick is $50, but that’s only when you can find one for sale. Many of the stores are now rationing sales with limits on the number of smaller boxes you can buy at one time. Buying whole bricks is pretty much a thing of the past.
I’ve purchased single bricks from Midway for $29 in the past year, but they limit your purchase to just one; and when they add the mandatory $27 HAZMAT fee and shipping, the price increases greatly. If they would sell entire cases of .22 (5,000 rounds), the fees and shipping would disappear in the volume. But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Plenty of .22
There’s no shortage of .22 rimfire ammo in the U.S. The ammo plants are working 3 shifts each day to supply all they can. And the government is no longer buying everything they make. What we have is a run on ammo that cannot be satisfied in the near term. The so-called shortage is being caused by hoarding. This is the reason I reload. I can load .45 ACP rounds for much less than the current cost of .22 long rifle. But .22 is a lot of fun to shoot!
Strategies for getting bricks
You can watch the obituaries and attend the estate sales, but that’s where everybody goes. I would make friends with the supply sergeants! That’s what I did in the Army. Supply sergeants are in control of everything, so go right to the source!
In the civilian world, the supply sergeants are the clerks who work in the gun stores and sporting goods departments of the larger stores. Cozy up to them, and they may let you jump to the front of the line when ammo comes in. I’m not talking about stealing here — I’m talking about being first in line — even before the line forms! When you want something that’s hard to get, this is how it’s done.
But wait — there’s hope!
Actually, this report isn’t about .22 ammo at all. It’s about what can substitute for it. When I was at the Flag City Toys That Shoot airgun show last Saturday, a lot of people were talking about it.
If you just shoot to plink, an air rifle is just as good as a rimfire out at 75 yards. You can go out even farther, but I’m trying to stay conservative. Yes, a lot of air rifles are single-shots, but there are also a lot that are repeaters. And the cost, while higher than the cheap rimfire rifles, isn’t that bad. Especially, since the guns you get for that price will shoot rings around most rimfires out to 50 yards.
A couple years ago, I remember listening to some airgunners bemoan the fact that Crosman Premiers in the cardboard box cost more than $20. You get 625 pellets in that box if they’re .22s and 1,250 if they’re .177s. That was when budget bricks were still selling for $9-10. But those days are over and will never return. When this shortage is finally over, I predict the price of a budget brick will be somewhere around $29-$36, and the sales may lower that to $25 on occasion. That’s just a prediction, of course.
Can a pellet rifle equal a .22 long rifle?
The answer is both yes and no. The new Escape survival rifle from AirForce Airguns produces almost 98 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle when the heaviest .25-caliber Eun Jin pellet is used. That compares favorably to a standard speed or subsonic .22 long rifle cartridge. It’s not quite as powerful, but it’s very close. So, yes, a pellet rifle can equal a .22 rimfire.
But, when you drive that pellet that fast, you don’t get all the accuracy that rifle has to offer. You saw that when I tested the Escape. At max power, that large pellet gave me a 2.48-inch 5-shot group at 50 yards. But when I throttled the gun back and shot JSB Exact King pellets, 5 of them went into 0.715 inches at the same 50 yards.
The fill pressure for that smaller group was just under 2,000 psi, and the power was set at 6 — so the rifle was probably producing around 40 foot-pounds. Before you sneer with derision, because that’s less than half what the gun can do at its best, remember that 40 foot-pounds is still more than a lot of PCP rifles can get when they’re shooting full-out. And that’s my point. Understand what it is that you’re talking about. Yes, a pellet rifle can meet the power of a .22 long rifle, but no, it can’t do it with the same accuracy. Maybe someday in the future, but not today.
Do you really need all that power, or have you fallen into the trap of defining your minimum shooting experience based on what’s out there? Are you a guy who just has to hunt deer with a .30-06 because that’s what “everyone” does, or are you someone who thinks a .28-30-120 might just be the best deer cartridge ever for shots under 100 yards? Don’t ask me what a .28-30-120 is — look it up on the internet and gain some wisdom.
Do airguns replace rimfires?
No! And they never will. There will always be a place for a rimfire or two (or more) in my gun closet. But I’m not going to go out and shoot up all my ammo and then whine about it when I own a battery of fine pellet rifles.
I shoot from 100 to 1,000 shots each and every week of my life, with few exceptions. Most of those shots are with airguns. I do enjoy firearms and I frequently shoot them, and rimfires are among the most fun of all; but I don’t allow the current ammunition shortage to hinder my shooting one bit. I’m an airgunner!