Is a precharged airgun safe? Part 1

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

The suggestion for this report came from blog readers ricka and Terd Ferguson, who both expressed concerns over the safety of precharged airguns. That’s safety…as in wondering if one can blow up!

It’s been a long time since I felt those same concerns, but I did at one time. Before I got my first PCP in 1995, I was quite concerned about keeping a scuba tank filled to 3,000 psi in my house. I’d seen the movie Jaws and was suitably impressed when the shark was blown up by a scuba tank at the end. So, these two readers are probably expressing the same concerns that hundreds of you share. I’d like to address those concerns in what I hope will be a straightforward series of reports that are easy to understand.

Do firearms blow up?
Veteran readers of this blog know the answer to that. Firearms do blow up, and I’ve shared at least one such personal story with you — my Nelson Lewis combination gun. I overloaded it and blew the percussion cap nipple out of the barrel! You can read that report here. In retrospect, it was my fault, so we can call that experience a stupident.

I’ve been involved in two other firearm blowups. One was caused by a rim failure in a .17 HM2 rimfire cartridge, and I’ve since come to find that this cartridge is known for that weakness. When it happened to me, shards of hot brass blew out the ejection port of the 10/22 clone I was testing for Shotgun News. One piece of brass cut my right arm and drew some blood; but aside from that and a lot of extra noise and smoke, no other damage was done. That event was out of my control, so it was an accident.

The other blowup was caused by a squibb round (one without gunpowder that drives the bullet into the barrel but not out again) in a Colt SAA revolver. I was firing very fast; and when the squibb happened, I was unable to stop before I thumbed off the next round. The revolver’s barrel was split lengthways when the second bullet hit the first one halfway down the barrel. That wasn’t an accident — it was a stupident.

split revolver barrel
Shooting a round into a bullet that was already lodged in the barrel burst this 7-1/2 inch Colt SAA barrel. The bullet was struck where the ejector housing screw was.

Do precharged airguns ever blow up?
Yes, they do. The causes are as random as they are with firearms, and the results range from sudden surprises all the way to death. The blog readers are entitled to a frank discussion of the kinds of accidents that can happen with precharged guns, and that’s what I’m about to give you.

When I bought my first precharged rifle—a Daystate Huntsman—and a brand new 80 cubic-foot aluminum scuba tank, I was properly awed. No, make that frightened. It was not unlike setting off my first charge of TNT in the Army! I respected the power potential of both that dive tank and the airgun I was filling.

Like any new thing, though, this awe and respect lasted only as long as it took me to become comfortable with the technology. If you do something enough times, the edge of respect starts to wear off—I don’t care what it is. It isn’t good when this occurs, but it’s human nature. Familiarity breeds contempt.

And then it happened. My gun blew up! Okay, it wasn’t actually the rifle; it was the hose that connected the rifle to the scuba tank. And to be honest, it didn’t really blow up. The soft wall of the rubber hose ruptured, violently releasing compressed air. The tear in the hose wall was about one inch long, and the warning signs were there before it happened. The hose had developed a noticeable bulge at the point the blowout occurred. That should have told me that the reinforced fabric liner under the outside rubber was failing, but like I said—familiarity breeds contempt. And I didn’t want to stop shooting my airgun. I took a risk and the explosion happened.

I was standing in my basement when the hose blew. The noise sounded like a concussion grenade, although I’m quite sure it was nowhere near as loud or forceful. The blast loosened a storm of dust from the floor joists above my head; and my wife, whose office was right above me, jumped out of her seat.

The net result was no injury to me, beyond a bruised ego, and no physical damage to anything other than the now-ruined hose. I was momentarily stunned, and it took about 15 seconds before I regained my bearings, because Edith had already gotten to the basement before I turned off the tank’s air flow.

I shared my experience with other airgunners who were more acquainted with precharged airguns and was told I had been lucky the hose hadn’t broken off completely, whipping me violently before I could turn off the scuba tank’s valve. That was when I discovered that nearly everyone who uses precharged airguns has either had an incident like this happen to them or knows someone who’d had one.

Can this be avoided?
Can this kind of incident be avoided? Absolutely! There are several things you can do to keep this from happening. First, if you use microbore air hoses, the likelihood of blowouts is reduced — not eliminated, just reduced. Microbore hoses carry the same internal air pressure as regular hoses, but the surface against which the air presses is so much smaller that it reduces the amount of stress on the hose material. However, most microbore hoses are stiff and will eventually soften at the point at which they are bent. That’s usually up near the tank, where they come out of the tank’s air valve. You still have to watch for that, because when they soften, they also weaken at the same spot. The hose I have linked to in this report has springs on both ends to prevent this bending to a large extent — but you still have to look for it.

Another safety measure is to use a hose that has a braided steel sheath on the outside. This sheath keeps the rubber that’s underneath from expanding and blowing out. The hose that blew out on me was an early rubber Daystate hose that had just a 3,000 psi rating. It was rated for nearly the same pressure it worked at (2,500 psi), which isn’t good. The hoses with braided steel sheaths are rated much higher.

air hose with braided steel sheath
The stainless steel wire braiding on this air hose will prevent it from blowing out.

The most important safety measure is you! Examine your fill equipment every time you use it; and if you spot something like I did, you stop right away.

Another type of stupident
If you fail to fully connect the two halves of the Foster quick-disconnect coupling during a fill, the air pressure will disconnect it for you! It will be accompanied by a small explosion and often by the violent whipping of the air hose. Here’s another place where a microbore hose protects you because it doesn’t whip as much, plus it’s smaller, so it doesn’t hurt as much when you get hit. But the best thing is to never get hit at all. When you make the connection, listen for the click of the knurled ring on the larger female fitting as it snaps into position. That indicates that all the ball bearings inside the coupling are now safely inside the groove of the male fitting.

Foster fittings male and female
This female Foster fitting (left) has a spring-loaded collar that pulls back to allow the ball bearings to move outward. They go around the flat spot on the male fitting on the right, then the spring pushes them into the groove. They will hold the two fittings together under pressure, but only when the ball bearings are in the groove. It’s important to hear the two parts click together.

That is as far as I will go in this report. I know how important this information is for many of you, so I promise to come back to this quickly for part 2.

For now, however, I want to leave you with this thought. I’m being honest with you about the potential dangers that are present whenever precharged airguns are used. You have to keep an open mind about this because the things I’m presenting are not that common. They do happen and most of them can be prevented by the means and methods that we’ll discuss.

Operating a precharged airgun is no more dangerous than having a gas-fired hot water heater in your house or operating a lawn mower. There are things to be aware of; and if you follow the rules, no harm should come your way.

In 2009, I gave Pyramyd Air two articles about the basics of precharged pneumatics:

Introduction to precharged pneumatics/A look at the history and technology of the precharged powerplant
Helpful info for working with precharged pneumatics

While I put a lot into both articles, there will be new things in this series of blog reports.

New-old-stock TS-45 air rifles!: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This TS-45 rifle is probably at least 30 years old, yet also brand new.

Let’s look at the velocity of my new-old-stock TS-45. It’s been many years since I tested a really old Chinese airgun, so this was a nostalgic test for me. The TS-45 surprised me by being smoother to cock and fire than I imagined. The stock bolts were loose; but once I tightened them, the rifle fired quite smoothly and without a lot of aftershocks. I think that’s mostly due to the low power rather than any special fitting of the powerplant parts. Randy Mitchell did lubricate the powerplant of this rifle, but an older Chinese spring-piston air rifle needs a lot more than a lube tune to straighten up.

The non-adjustable trigger is single-stage and if you pull it slowly it releases consistently at around 5 lbs., 14 oz. You don’t want it any lighter because of the danger of this mechanism slipping off the sear while loading. As cumbersome as it is, I always put my arm in the path of the cocking lever while I’m loading, just in case the sear lets go.

Velocity testing
The first pellet I tried to test was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier — the so-called Premier Lite. I say I tried to test the velocity, but it was all over the place. The first shot went 564 f.p.s. and stayed there for two more shots. Then shot No. 4 leaped up to 750 f.p.s. And the feel of the gun at firing was more harsh, which told me it was dieseling pretty heavily. No detonations (explosions) were heard, but I suspect we were running just shy of them.

The Premier pellet fit the bore tightly, which I take as a good sign for potential accuracy. They’ll certainly be among those pellets I use for accuracy testing.

The velocity remained in the 700s for a few shots, then slipped back through the 600s to the 500s again. By the time I had fired 16 shots, we were down to 523 f.p.s.; but I knew the velocity would drop even lower than that, so I switched to the next pellet.

Next up were RWS Hobbys. They started out at 558 f.p.s. and dropped to 523 f.p.s. by the tenth shot, but the average for the string was a healthy 552 f.p.s. I suspect that number is a bit high, but it’s close to the real velocity with this lightweight pellet. Accepting it as fact gives us an average muzzle energy of 4.74 foot-pounds.

Like the Premier, these Hobbys also fit the bore tightly. They will be tested for accuracy, as well.

One nice thing about Hobbys is that they force a lot of dieseling for some reason. Perhaps, it’s due to their lightness, but I often find they’ll burn off excess lubricant when a gun has just been tuned.

The next pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon dome. These pellets fit the bore loosely, and I don’t have a lot of hope for their accuracy potential. They averaged 512 f.p.s., which seemed close to the real velocity. The range went from 500 to 529, so the rifle is definitely becoming more stable. At the average velocity, they generated 4.25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Back to the Premiers
The rifle seemed to have settled down by this time, so I tried chronographing the Crosman Premiers once more. This time they were very stable at an average 464 f.p.s. The range went from 462 to 466 f.p.s., so the rifle seems to have settled in — at least as much as it’s going to for now. A crude spring rifle like this always needs about a thousand shots through it to fully break in and start performing the way it was meant to, but I doubt the velocity will change by more than 20-30 f.p.s.

At this velocity, the rifle generates an average 3.78 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. While that seems low, remember that spring guns do favor lighter pellets, and this one will probably follow that trend very closely.

So, how do I like the TS-45 so far? Well, I see a lot of pellet rifles over the course of a year, and this one isn’t the best that I’ve seen. It isn’t even in the top half. But it also isn’t at the bottom of the list. I’ve tested guns with a lot more power that I liked less than this one. If it weren’t so dangerous, this might be a nice little plinker.

The accuracy test is next, and those results will be very telling.

New-old-stock TS-45 air rifles!: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This TS-45 rifle is probably at least 30 years old, yet also brand new.

At every airgun show there’s always one or two special things that show up. At the 2012 Arkansas show this year, one of those things was a pile of new-old-stock Chinese TS-45 sidelever air rifles. Randy Mitchell had found a pallet of these vintage guns and was selling them for $20! Now, I’m as cheap as any airgunner, but a twenty-dollar spring rifle in new condition is more than even my frugal nature can ignore.

Yes, we’ve already looked at the TS-45 in this blog. Most recently, Vince gave us a look at two slightly different variations of that model — one of which was a rifle I bought at the Little Rock airgun expo many years ago from the late Paul Landrith, a well-known airgun repairman from Arlington, Texas. It was about 15 years ago, and Paul had several TS-45s on his table.

I was writing The Airgun Letter at the time and bought most of the airguns that I tested. I’d stayed away from the Chinese springers as long as I could, but the insistent battle cry of, “Real wood and steel for just a few dollars” finally overcame my resistance, so I started testing them. I did it mostly to poke my fingers in the eyes of everyone who had asked me to test Chinese airguns; but the more I ranted about their obvious shortcomings, the more my readers agreed with me. “Yes, they’re horrible! Don’t you just love them?” It was like attending a convention of bathtub Saab 96 owners. “They’re not supposed to start every time!”

Back to my story, I was at Malvern and saw a rack of TS-45s and immediately thought of Paul Landrith and the old Little Rock show so many years before. Paul warned me that the gun I bought from him was one of those that had amputated a few thumbs during loading, and I was never to trust the anti-beartrap mechanism. Always restrain the sidelever positively, he made me promise before selling the rifle. I always did. When I sent it to Vince, I told him the same thing.

Randy Mitchell was selling piles of these new-old-stock TS-45 sidelevers at the Arkansas airgun show.

And here was another cache of new-old-stock TS-45s, at the show that succeeded the Little Rock show. The clincher came when Randy Mitchel said to me, “These rifles remind me of Paul Landrith!” Apparently, there are many airgunners who dealt with the kindly man and remember him fondly.

So, I bought the gun, more as a reminder of the past than as an airgun project. But after examining my new-old rifle and comparing it to the two in Vince’s report, I see that this is a third variation. It resembles Vince’s beloved “Pointy” more than the other rifle he also tested, but it has small differences. What the heck; this one might shoot as well as Pointy, too, and then wouldn’t I be happy?

The rifle I’m testing for you is a .177-caliber sidelever spring-piston air rifle. From comparison with Vince’s rifle, I would have to say this one might be the earlier model — or as Vince guesses, another one made for export. Since the only writing visible on this rifle says MADE IN CHINA, plus the numbers on the rear sight, I’m inclined to go with the export-model theory. This rifle lacks any Chinese characters or the mountain logo found on the other two rifles on which Vince reported.

Randy has stripped this rifle and lubricated it with the correct grease. He also removed the anti-beartrap device parts from some of the actions, and I got to choose if I wanted them in the gun I bought. Since they’re notorious for failing, I elected to get the rifle without the anti-beartrap, and I’ll be restraining the cocking lever every time I load. That’s how I always did it with my other TS-45, and that’s what I advise all owners to do, as well.

To safely restrain the sidelever during cocking, tuck the sidelever behind your arm, as shown in the photo below. Never put your fingers into the loading port unless the sidelever is restrained this way. If the gun were to slip off safety, the lever would smack into your arm. It would hurt, but your arm would stop it from allowing the sliding compression chamber to cut off your fingers.

The sidelever is safely restrained by my right arm. My right thumb is loading a pellet into the breech. If the sear slips, my arm will stop the lever and the sliding compression chamber from closing on my thumb.

The TS-45 is a vintage airgun made in China and does not have the same safety mechanisms found in similar spring-piston air rifles made today. If you fail to restrain the cocking sidelever while loading, as the photo shows, the gun can slip off its sear and send the sliding compression chamber forward with enough force to amputate your fingers during loading. This is a known fault of these rifles that’s easily addressed by this safe loading procedure.

I know that most of our readers are careful shooters who pay attention to warnings like this, but I’ve also witnessed enough people who act before thinking. I feel it’s necessary to emphasize this warning. It’s the same kind of warning as not loading a muzzleloading rifle with the muzzle pointing at your head. It makes perfect sense; and if you follow it, you won’t have a bad accident. But there is danger, and you need to be informed.

The rifle
This is a single-shot rifle that’s a whisker shy of 40 inches long. It weighs 7 lbs. on the nose. The barrel is 18 inches long and is fixed in the frame. The pull (length from the center of the butt to the center of the trigger blade) is 12-5/8 inches, which is short for an adult.

The metal has not been finished in any detectible way beyond tumbling with a black oxide finish, so the least critical description is a matte black finish. But there are a couple scuffs and scrapes that show this rifle in no way received any special handling at the factory. The finish is 100 percent, however, as befits a new gun, though not all Chinese airguns of this era have that.

The stock is a single piece of blond pallet-grade hardwood. It has been shaped on an industrial sander and has a smooth outer surface that’s covered with a clear synthetic finish. The internal inletting was done by a rabid beaver and resembles the rough sort of folk carving an Appalachian woodsman might do with a dull hatchet. The butt is protected by a blackened steel plate that’s larger than the wood and is one of just two metal parts on the gun that have a smooth finish. Apparently, the punch press is kept fairly clean of metal chips. The other shiny part is the end cap that houses the sidelever pivot point. It shows signs of being hand-finished.

The sights are a hooded round post in the front and a rear ramp that’s adjustable for elevation, only. It has the button lock that Vince likes on his Pointy rifle, but the rear notch is laid back unlike any other other TS-45 I have seen. The rear notch is U-shaped and very well-sized to the front post. I’ll be able to take good aim with these sights.

The front sight is typical of a Chinese post sight, like the one found on an SKS rifle.

The rear sight adjusts for elevation but not windage. The rear notch slants backwards more than others I’ve seen. Notice the sidelever latch lock that takes so much pressure to unlock!

I’ve fired it a couple times just to familiarize myself with the operation and can tell that the bore is uncharacteristically small. I say “uncharacteristically” because, in all my experience with Chinese airguns made during this era (1970-1980), the bores have always been way too large. I have some hope that this may turn out to be a shooter.

The sidelever stays in position until the catch is pushed to release it. On this rifle, the force required is massive — on the order of 20 lbs., which is asking a lot of a thumb! The lever is under extreme tension — not from the mainspring, but from the geometry of how the lever and its parts fit. It’s not a pleasant rifle to cock, considering that it’s supposed to be a plinker. Give me a Bronco any day!

What’s the plan?
The plan is that I’ll test this rifle exactly as if it’s a new airgun. It doesn’t have a scope base, so I can only test it with the open sights that came with it. There’s a limited supply of these new-old-stock rifles, so don’t look for anything long-term from this test. If a few readers want one for themselves, just Google Randy Mitchell and airguns, and you’ll find the link to his website. He doesn’t seem to have these rifles listed there, so you will have to contact him to ask about them.

Special report

by B.B. Pelletier

A couple of new products were announced late this past Friday and are so revolutionary that I couldn’t wait until Monday to report. So, just this week you get one extra report

The Field Adaptive Reactionary Training pellet
Agro Industries of California announced a joint venture with the U.S. Department of Defense that has resulted in a remarkable new kind of airgun projectile that’s approved for use at very close ranges and becomes harmless the farther it flies. The new projectile is a liquid with some of the properties of a solid and is based on the properties of non-Newtonian fluids (specifically Oobleck fluids) that become rigid when subjected to sudden external pressure.

The “projectile” is loaded as a liquid into a special reservoir on the gun and is manually injected into the breech just before firing. The force of the air blast from a conventional spring-piston powerplant turns the proprietary blend of ingredients into a solid that retains its integrity for approximately 34.3 feet when fired from a .177-caliber air rifle at 985 f.p.s. Because it’s a solid during this time, it takes the rifling and spins in the same way as a pellet, though the projectile is much lighter than lead. A low-powered air rifle like an Air Venturi Bronco can easily push the 2.9-grain pellet to the optimum velocity.

The manufacturer refuses to disclose the exact mixture of the projectile, though they do admit that at least half of it is comprised of the pink slime that the California State Board of Education has been lobbying the FDA to approve for use in school lunches. The rest of the contents remain undisclosed and are contractually protected from a FOIA, but the manufacturer assures the public that they’re nutritionally neutral. The contents of the projectiles are therefore considered safe to eat.

The pellets can be used for target shooting to 10 meters, where they punch perfect round holes in paper targets. Two feet past the target the pellets liquify in flight, making it unnecessary to use a backstop of any kind. A “splash zone” of approximately eight feet past the liquification barrier (LB) necessitates the use of a drop cloth behind the target holder and on the wall if it is closer than eight feet from the back of the target.

Marksmanship coaches are not pleased with the accuracy of the new projectile, which seems to be in the range of three inches for five shots at 10 meters, but California educators have responded that the problem could easily be resolved by simply making the targets larger. This approach has worked in the past for modifying standardized scholastic tests, and they are confident the principle can be successfully applied to target shooting, as well.

The vacuum gun
Apparently, last Friday was a special day for airgun advancements, because the North Korean firm of Airgun Factory Number 12 announced a breakthrough in powerplant technology — the vacuum gun. Instead of putting pressurized air or gas behind a projectile, the North Korean gun puts a hard vacuum in front of it. The pellet isn’t blown out the muzzle, it’s sucked out!

The vacuum gun, called Peace Over Safety, has the advantage of cocking with near-zero resistance. There’s nothing to compress, so there’s no resistance when the breech is rotated open for loading. And the vacuum chamber located under the barrel weighs relatively little since there’s nothing inside. So the 4.5mm gun is lightweight and self-contained.

The overall length is 43 inches and the gun weighs 6.5 lbs. without sights. The trigger is called a “super fantastic number ten world finest lever-breaking unit” that the hopeful European Union importer has translated to a mean a target trigger.

The gun comes with a special high-vacuum pump that’s used to evacuate the gun’s vacuum chamber before every shot.

Preliminary tests show the gun achieving velocities of 271 f.p.s. with the special PTFE projectiles supplied by the company. While these pellets won’t break regular target paper, the manufacturer ships each gun with 100 of their own targets printed on special rice paper. A cardboard target holder made from the interior parts of the gun’s shipping container holds each target securely.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea official making the announcement of the new gun told the press at Friday’s unveiling that “… the Peace Over Safety gun really sucks!

Predictive targets (PT)
The California Board of Education has given tacit approval to Junior ROTC programs in state-funded schools to resume competitive target shooting programs if they agree to use the new predictive targets (PT) supplied by the state. The targets use onboard computer technology to predict where a shooter’s projectile will strike and relay that information back to a monitor at the shooter’s position. No shots need to be fired for this technology to function, nor do the guns need any special technology to work with the targets. In fact, in a public demonstration just two weeks earlier, the shooters were all equipped with special blue resin non-guns that are used by police for training purposes. These “guns” have the outer shape of firearms but are solid resin and contain no working parts. A spokeswoman for the board of education told the press after the demonstration that these is no reason the “guns” cannot be made in rainbow colors to appear even less threatening.

Several marksmanship groups have criticized the targets for displaying hits when no gun was used. In one demonstration a coach simply shaped his hand like a mock gun and achieved three “hits” on the target in rapid succession. For that reason, the NRA wanted the targets to be subjected to further development, but the board of education countered by noting that no one is allowed to shape their hand like a gun on any California state campus. Thus the complaint is null and void.

An unnamed senior board member stated that “PT” is going to become a staple of California’s new marksmanship philosophy.

Pyramyd Air bows to public pressure and changes spelling of its name
Pyramyd Air has finally bowed to ongoing public pressure regarding the spelling of its name.

The company was started by Joshua Ungier almost 20 years ago, and the unique spelling of the name was never a problem until the advent of the internet. Often times, prospective customers couldn’t find Pyramyd Air’s website because it had too many Y’s in it. This led some to seek out other retailers with domain names they could actually spell.

Beginning April 1, the company’s name will have only one “Y” in it and will be known as Piramid Ayr. While the website logo has already been changed, the domain name and other changes on the site will transition to the new spelling over the next 30 days.

The company offers a 5% discount coupon code to customers who email them with a bug or incorrect information on their retail site. President Val Gamerman stated, “We receive a significant number of emails from customers seeking a discount code for pointing out that our name has too many Y’s in it. The employees who respond to these emails were demoralized from the burden of answering them, so changing the spelling was the path of least resistance.”

Here’s the new banner we’re using to promote this change:

Weihrauch HW 100 S FSB PCP rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This is the actual rifle I’m testing. Isn’t that wood beautiful?

Before I begin, at the end of this report there is a lengthy Q&A section in which Dr. Mirfee Ungier, wife of Pyramyd Air owner Joshua Ungier, answers a number of questions about protective eyewear and other related shooting issues. Dr. Ungier is a respected ophthalmologist with thousands of successful surgeries to her credit, and she agreed to answer readers’ questions about protective eyewear.

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the HW 100 S FSB PCP air rifle I’m testing. Throughout this report, I’ve mentioned how impressed I am with this airgun for various reasons. It has the easiest-loading metal rotary clip in the business. You can see the pellets advance in the clip, and now I know that you can even see them when a scope is mounted. That makes the rifle very easy to manage — like knowing when you’re shooting the last shot. And, then, there’s the trigger! This one is perfect for me. It breaks cleanly at 8 oz. and has a positive two-stage release. I couldn’t ask for more.

The rifle is light, or at least it feels light when you hold it. The scale disagrees, but I can’t get away from the lightness I feel. Also, the stock happens to fit me perfectly. Though that’s a very personal thing, you can’t overlook it when it works out your way.

On the down side, I noted that the rifle recoils about the same as a heavy .22 rimfire rifle shooting standard speed ammo. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to have a smallbore PCP recoil. The shot count that the chronograph said could be as high as 38 shots on a fill actually turned out to be about 25, like I first noted. I will show you the evidence on two of the targets.

For this test, I mounted an older version of the Leapers 8-32x56AO scope that was used in the test of the Crosman Outdoorsman 2250. While it was too much scope for the little carbine, it was a perfect fit on the Weihrauch PCP. And, it allowed me to see the bulls at 50 yards very clearly. It was mounted in two-piece B-Square adjustable scope mounts that are no longer available. I’ll soon be showing you a new adjustable scope mount that may solve your scope adjustment problems, in case you do not already own one of these vintage American-made B-Squares.

On the big HW 100, the Leapers 8-32×56 looks right. It’s mounted in a vintage high B-Square adjustable mount that’s no longer available.

Accurate right from the get-go
I enjoy shooting accurate guns, because they cooperate to produce such wonderful results with so little work. The HW 100 is one of those. Even the sight-in group was impressive enough to show you. I selected the 18.1-grain JSB Jumbo Exact Heavy as my sight-in pellet, simply because one owner said he got such good results with it in his .22 rifle.

This is the sight-in group — the first 10 shots made after the scope was mounted. It’s ten 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbos at 50 yards and it measures 0.795 inches between centers. It’s the largest group fired with this pellet.

Then, I settled down and shot a couple more groups with the same pellet. I’d adjusted the point of impact to the exact center of the crosshairs, so on the first group I shot out the aiming point with the first couple shots.

Ten more JSB Exact Jumbos went into this group, which measures 0.667 inches between centers. This is a phenomenal group. After the first couple shots, I had to estimate the location of the center of the bull because it had been shot away.

Learned something important
I tried to shoot a third group of 10 shots, and this is when I learned that the HW 100 doesn’t like to shoot that many shots per fill. At least, it doesn’t if you expect accuracy at 50 yards. Look at the grouping and I will explain.

The first two shots went through the center of the bull. The next two shots are at 5 o’clock on the edge of the black. The rifle is now low on air and the point of impact just shifted as a result. This is part of the proof I mentioned in the beginning of this report that the rifle falls off the performance curve very suddenly.

It occurred to me that I may not have filled the rifle to the exact maximum on the first fill. Taking that into account, I watched the rifle’s manometer as I filled the reservoir the second time, and stopped exactly when it hit the top of the green area, which is an indicated 200 bar or 2,900 psi. But as you will see, the needle is quite fat and a bit imprecise.

The onboard manometer (pressure gauge) is located on the end of the air reservoir, where it can be seen easily during a fill.

On the second round, I learned another important thing. This rifle is slightly overfilled when the needle on the manometer is pointing at the max fill spot. In other words, I should have learned where the right high end point was on my more accurate tank gauge and stopped there, because I’ll show you what happened.

On the next group, the first two shots were in the lower right portion of the bull, then they miraculously jumped back to where they belonged in the center. Even so, this was the tightest group of three shots with the JSB 18.1-grain Exact pellet.

The first two pellets went to the 5 o’clock position, while the other eight went closer to the point of aim. Even with this, the group measures only 0.571 inches between the centers of all 10 shots. It’s the best group of the test. This proves that the rifle needs to be exactly on the power curve to shoot its best. Omitting those two shots and the group shrinks to 0.368 inches. Remembering that most writers only shoot 5-shot groups for the record instead of 10, here are 8 that went well under half an inch!

Now I was on a roll and expected the other pellets to perform equally well. They didn’t though. After reading an owner’s report of the gun, I’d selected the best pellet for the rifle and started the test with it.

Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets were the worst pellets of the four I tested. They grouped 10 shots into a startlingly large 1.907-inch group at the same 50 yards that JSB Jumbos had made a group less than one-third that size. They were a shock and disappointment, but also a reminder of just how sensitive an airgun can be when it comes to ammunition.

This group of Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets was disappointing after the success of the JSB Jumbos. It measures 1.907 inches between centers.

Next, I tried the old favorite 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. At just 14.3 grains, it’s screaming downrange at the ragged edge of accurate velocity, and perhaps just a touch too fast. That’s why they gave a larger group that measured 1.225 inches for 10 shots.

Ten Crosman Premiers went into this group that measures 1.225 inches at 50 yards. It’s not that bad, but we already know this rifle is capable of much better.

The last pellet I tried was the equally brilliant JSB Exact 15-9-grain dome that works so well in a multitude of spring and PCP rifles. I expected great things from it. Alas, it was not to be.

Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exacts went into this group, which measures 1.187 inches between centers. It isn’t as good as I had hoped for this pellet.

Well, the results could not be any clearer. This rifle loves the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo to the exclusion of the other premium pellets I tried. It also develops the greatest power with this pellet, so nothing is lost by using it.

The HW 100 is also very sensitive to its fill pressure. As long as you stay within the boundaries, the rifle is capable of incredible accuracy; stray out on either side, and the pellets will wander.

The bottom line
If I could justify keeping this fine rifle, I would. But that isn’t going to happen. I already own several accurate PCPs, and my gun storage facility can only hold so much. So, we’ll be shipping it back to Pyramyd Air very soon. Whoever wants to own this particular beautiful tackdriver should request serial number 1921933.

Dr. Ungier’s answers
Now, we have some answers about protective eyewear questions and related topics from Dr. Mirfee Ungier.

Q. Is polycarbonate OK for the applications we are talking about (pellets and BB’s)?

A. Polycarbonate is more than OK as a safety glass material. ANSI standards have moved entirely to polycarbonate and away from plastics like CR39 (industrial plastic). It may scratch more easily, but maintains its integrity and protective function the best.

Q. If polycarbonate lenses take an impact, does that mean they’re done and you have to get new ones? I believe that’s what they tell us about bike helmets.

A. Polycarbonate can take impacts without cracking or chipping, but you do have to look at it. Especially rimless ones may chip. If there’s any visible defect, replace them. It is much cheaper than replacing an eye.

Q. What are the long-term effects on a person’s vision from frequent use of rifle scopes?

A. I am not aware of any downside of using scopes. People do all the time. If anyone using a scope notices a problem with their vision, they should, of course, get an eye exam. I think of people who use scopes are quite aware of what they are and are not seeing. When they come to me, they are usually better able to communicate than people who do not use their eyes as much. Using eyes is a good thing.

Q. What adverse effects can class III laser sights have on a person’s vision, and how much (or how little) exposure does it take for damage to occur?

A. I am not aware of a study regarding laser time exposure and damage to the eyes. These may not be at the nastier wavelengths, but all lasers by definition are highly coherent beams that can pack a punch. I use red beam aimers for directing other wavelengths into the eyes for therapeutic reasons, and I still try to avoid the center vision. Short glances into a laser scope will probably not cause harm in the short term, but we never recommend it, and you certainly wouldn’t play with them.

Q. What should we do if the unthinkable happens and someone is struck in the eye? What should we do while transporting the individual to the closest ER? What are the emergency first-aid procedures that we should follow?

A. If a serious eye injury occurs, there is no on-the-spot treatment you can do. In fact, most important is to not press on the eye. It is OK to shield it, but pressure could turn a bad injury into a worse one. Then proceed as quickly as possible to an emergency room in a hospital that is equipped to do eye surgery. Calling ahead to be sure would be great. If you are far off the beaten track, then any emergency facility would be OK. During working hours, you could see if there is an ophthalmologist (I mean ophthalmologist, not optometrist or optician, because we may be talking surgery) in town to examine and expedite treatment. Otherwise, call an optometrist for recommendation for the closest facility.

Q. I was wondering if the age of Tom’s old safety glasses could have contributed to their easy destruction. Do time and sunlight degrade the efficiency of protective safety glasses? For instance, what’s the shortest time period in which you should you trust the material integrity of your glasses and be safe while shooting?

A. Safety glasses scratch, age and degrade. Old ones are better than none, but my optician recommends replacing them at least every 2 years.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 6

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 6

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Well, today mom is going to start the kids shooting actual pellet guns. We did that in Part 4, but in Part 5 we got back to the schoolroom training again, so I’m going to pretend that the kids haven’t touched off a shot yet.

She decided on the Daisy 953 for her boys and each boy has his own rifle, so the sights can be left set where he needs them. She bought the separate Daisy 5899 receiver sight for each rifle, figuring that if the boys wanted to go farther with this she could always upgrade.

Since mom is by herself, she will let one boy at a time shoot, while the other boy stands behind the line and helps her. This will make the sessions last longer, but the benefit will be a more rapid development of responsibility in both boys. That’s because the non-shooting boy will have to learn to subordinate his thoughts and desires (and his talking) while his brother shoots. If mom can’t get cooperation like that, she can always end the session early.

These are seven-year-old boys (referring back to Part 1), which is a little young for this, but each parent will have to decide that for themselves. Children mature at different rates, and I can’t set an absolute limit; however, we’re on the young side of formal training. That’s not to say a parent can’t have a lot of fun with kids much younger than this; but in that case, the parent is in complete control all the time. In the formal teaching scenario, we start putting trust in the children.

Since these boys are so young, we’ll let them rest their rifles on a rest while they shoot. Maybe next year, they’ll be able to try some prone shots, but right now everything is off a rest. Mom will probably have to pump the rifle for them. That 20 lbs. of single-stroke pumping effort is a bit much for kids this young to handle.

Step one for each boy in turn will be to sight in his rifle. We will have them take three shots at the top sighter bull of an NRA-sanctioned AR 5/10 12-bull target. (They can also use the Birchwood Casey sight-in target.) Then, we’ll call a cold line and mom and both boys will go downrange to look at the target. They’ll decide where the center of the three-shot group is, then return to the firing line; and the shooter, once permission is given by mom, will adjust the rear sight to move the group to the center of the bull. Mom will call the range hot again, and the shooter will fire three more shots at the same bull. Next, she’ll call the range cold, and once, again, all three people will go downrange to the target.

If the sight corrections were applied correctly (i.e., moving the rear sight in the direction we want the center of the group to move), the second group should be closer to the center of the bull. If it isn’t, the sights may have some slack that needs to be taken up. In other words, the sight needs to be adjusted farther than indicated by how much the group needs to move. The shooter should be recording this in a small notebook that he keeps with his rifle.

If the group has moved in the wrong direction, the shooter will record that and write instructions in front of his notebook on how to adjust the rear sight to move the shot group correctly. With 7-year-old shooters, mom will probably have to help a lot with this. The other boy is watching everything his brother is doing, so when it’s his turn he won’t have to learn all this again. Then, the line goes hot and three more shots.

This is kept up until the group seems centered on the 10-ring, which (on this target) is a tiny dot about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. If the top bull gets shot up, shift to the lower sight-in bull and continue until the rifle is sighted in. Then the shooters will switch and the other boy will sight in his rifle in the same way. Sighting in two rifles this way will probably take at least an hour. When the second rifle is done, the session will end. Hopefully, both boys will have some impression of the trigger by the time they’ve fired 12-20 shots through their rifles.

The next time they have a training session, the first thing each shooter will do is confirm their zero with the top sighting bull. If mom wants to speed the session along, she can put a telescope or a pair of binoculars at the firing line so the shooter can see his target without going forward. In competition, each shooter will have a spotting scope at his or her position and will adjust it every time they change shooting positions. For now, we don’t need to be that formal.

Single mom teaches children to shoot – Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Despite the title of this report, it’s actually written for anyone who’s trying to teach a new shooter, child or adult how to shoot. The age of the shooter is unimportant. The first four parts of this report have dealt with setting up the range, class discipline and how to conduct a shooting class. Today, we’ll get to the actual teaching.

The triangulation system
When I was a youngster, my mother enrolled me in an NRA-run course that taught me how to shoot. This was in the late 1950s, and the techniques used to teach us back then were those that had been popular both before and during World War II. I’ve researched both the modern U.S. Army and Marine Corps marksmanship syllabi and find that what I’m about to show you is, unfortunately, no longer taught — but it should be! Today’s lesson could turn out to be the most valuable teaching technique for training new shooters that you ever learn.

We’re going to teach the new shooter how to use sights through a method called triangulation. Although we’ll be using aperture sights, which are the easiest to learn and the most precise to use, any type of non-optical sight may be taught by this method. Read the entire report before asking any questions. This method will immediately reveal whether a student understands how to use sights, plus it will show the student’s level of skill in sighting — all without the use of a rifle.

Making a triangulation sighting bar
You can make a simple training aid to teach the student how to use the sights. It consists of a straight bar with open “sights” on each end. An 18″ strip of wood will suffice for the bar, and you can fashion the “sights” from paper index cards. If you’re the coach of a shooting club and plan to teach a lot of kids, it might be worth the effort to mount real sights to the bar, though that isn’t necessary. Simple card-stock sights taped to the bar as shown in the drawings will work great. If you cannot find a piece of wood to use for the bar, a long ruler works well as a substitute. The dimensions of this training aid are not precise and critical, as long as it’s made reasonably close to what’s described here.

Poke a small hole through the rear “sight” for the student to peer through. The front “sight” is just a square post. Fasten both front and rear sights so they cannot move during the exercise, as repeatability is important. Place the sighting bar on a box so the student can use the sights without touching or moving them.

The instructor stands or sits 33 feet away and holds a black bullseye target against a large white piece of paper that’s attached to a wall or a large box. In the center of the black bullseye, a small hole has been made for a lead pencil to poke through to mark on the white background paper.

Conduct of the exercise
The student looks through the sighting bar and tells the instructor how to move the bullseye target until it’s positioned perfectly against his sights for a 6 o’clock hold. It’s important that the sighting bar does not move during the exercise — only the target, as adjusted by the instructor. When the sight picture looks right, the student tells the instructor to mark the target and the instructor makes a mark on the white background paper by pressing his pencil through the hole in the center of the target.

Repeat this exercise three times and there will be three pencil marks on the white background paper. The closer these marks are to each other, the better the student has adjusted his sights. This gives both the student and the instructor an excellent idea of how well the student understands the sight picture.

The results you want
What you are looking for is three dots on the background paper in the form of a triangle. A good result is if the dots are all within one inch of each other. Don’t be surprised if they are within one-half-inch of each other. The closer they are, the better and more precise the student is seeing the sight picture.

But if the dots are several inches apart, the student is not yet seeing the sight picture correctly. They may not understand all that is required of them in the exercise, or they may not appreciate the precision they are expected to achieve. Also, this could be an indication of a vision problem. Once you determine the problem(s), you can run the exercise again until they get it right. When the student can place three dots close to each other, they will instinctively know how the rifle sights should look, and you can rule that out as a problem area.

A simpler, faster way to begin
You can avoid making the sighting bar if you want to by simply using the rifle itself. Simply rest it so the student can see through the sights without touching or moving the rifle. This will be more difficult because of the stock, which is why the bar was created, but it is possible. However, many people don’t like the idea of being downrange with a rifle pointed at them, and the sighting bar makes it unnecessary. I think the sighting bar is a much better training aid that takes only a few minutes to create.

Style of the sights doesn’t matter
Don’t worry if your rifle’s sights don’t look like the sights I’ve shown here. You can make them any kind of style you desire. Just cut them out of card stock and color them black to help the student define the sight picture. If you plan to use open sights with a rear notch, be sure to allow enough room behind the rear sight so it appears reasonably sharp to the student when aligned with the front sight. And remember to tell the student that the front sight is what they must focus on. Both the rear sight and the target will appear slightly out of focus when they sight correctly.

I have wanted to share this technique with my readers for years, but I always held back because I felt it might be too difficult to follow. I hope this report has made it clear and that this exercise helps your students learn how to use open sights as it once helped me. One week after completing this exercise successfully, I was shooting five-shot, dime-sized groups at 50 feet from the prone position, which was the first position the NRA taught.

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