Spring-piston pistols

What’s for Christmas? Part 2

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

Part 1

This topic was received well last week, so I’m doing the second list today. Several readers have reminded me of other gifts I should mention, and some of them will make today’s list. If I don’t list something you suggested, there’s a reason. These are the things I recommend without question.

Stocking stuffers/small, neat gifts

Gifts in this category don’t cost a lot but will have great meaning to airgunners. Some of them are things that shooters won’t buy for themselves.

Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater
Someone suggested the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater, and I have to agree. This is a great gift, and it’s one that a lot of shooters won’t buy for themselves.

EyePal Peep Sight Master Kit
The EyePal Peep Sight Master Kit is another gift that people may not think about; but when they have one, they’ll love it. I chose the Master Kit so you can use it with both rifles and pistols (and bows if you’re an archer, too). Even if you don’t wear prescription glasses, the EyePal is a great aid for your safety glasses to sharpen your vision and make that front sight clear!

Eyepal peep sight master kit The EyePal makes the front sight appear razor sharp. Use it on prescription glasses and non-prescription safety glasses, alike.

Pellet selection
Here’s a gift I’m putting in this section, although it will cost you some money. Pyramyd Air offers 4 tins of pellets for the price of 3. Your favorite airgunner has pellets he or she really likes, but they don’t buy them all the time because they may cost too much.

Consider this gift similar to one of those fancy boxes of candies or Christmas smoked meats that are given this time of year. Nearly everybody likes them, but we don’t spend money on them for ourselves. So, this is an opportunity to buy something your airgunner wants but will never buy himself. The one problem you have is finding out which pellets to buy. Rather than try and guess what your airgunner wants, I’m going to leave this up to you. You need to do a little investigation, maybe look at the pellets that he has on the shelf, or just talk to him and find out what he really wants but hasn’t bought.

Gifts under $50

Crosman 357
For a pistol shooter the Crosman 357W is a great idea. It’s a revolver, so you get multiple shots per loading; and for the money, it’s an accurate little air pistol.

Walther Multi-Tac tactical knife
If your airgunner is a gadget junkie, you can’t do much better than a Walther Multi-Tac tactical knife. It’s a tool kit for your pocket. And it has a 440C stainless steel blade to cut whatever you need.

Walther multi-tac tactical multi-tool and knife Walther’s Multi-Tac knife is a toolkit in your pocket!

Walther Xenon Tactical flashlight
Can’t have too many flashlights! Not when you need one! The Walther Xenon Tactical flashlight uses two CR123A batteries to cast a 60-lumen light. That means you get both good battery life and a powerful light.

Gifts under $100

Some of these gifts are just over the $50 mark, so look at them carefully. This category holds some of the most surprising values in airguns.

Legends Makarov
The Makarov from Umarex is a wonderful BB pistol that I just can’t stop talking about. I bought one for myself after testing it! It’s extremely accurate for a BB pistol, which means you really can use it for target practice. It runs on CO2, so don’t forget to get some CO2 cartridges if you give this gun as a gift.

Legends Makarov CO2 BB pistolSimply one of the best BB pistols you can buy at the price, the Legends Makarov is accurate, well-made and inexpensive.

Crosman 2240
Another fine CO2 pistol is the single-shot Crosman 2240. It’s a .22-caliber, bolt-action pistol that’s powerful and accurate, plus it serves as the basis for many aftermarket modifications.

Ruger Mark I
The Ruger Mark I air pistol is powered by a spring-piston. It isn’t very powerful, but it’s a great companion for the handgun shooter who only wants to poke holes in targets and plink with a pistol that’s easy to cock and accurate.

Stoeger X5 air rifle
The Stoeger X5 air rifle is a wonderful, youth-sized, spring-piston rifle that has enough quality to make my list. The trigger is a little stiff, but the accuracy is there. It reminds me of the Hämmerli 490 that is, sadly, no longer available.

Gifts a little over $100

I created this category for those items that are a few dollars over $100 but are still within the realm of economy. Sometimes, the things you want are just over the line — no matter where you arbitrarily draw it.

Shooting Chrony Alpha chronograph.
The Shooting Chrony Alpha chronograph is the instrument I use to document 98 percent of the work I do. I use it because it’s small, portable and very reliable. Sure, there are reasons to use my Oehler 35P chrono, sometimes; but most of the time, this is my choice.

Shooting Chrony Alpha chronograph
Though it’s just $10 over a hundred, the Shooting Chrony Alpha has everything you need!

Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun
I have to recommend the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun because it is the target shooter’s dream. Where other BB guns will put 10 shots into three-quarter of an inch at 16 feet when all is right, this one will put 10 into a quarter-inch at the same distance. This is a shooter’s tool, not a hunting gun or bragging-rights gun. Be sure to stock up on the special Avanti Precision Ground Shot if you get this gun because it definitely adds accuracy! And order some special 5-meter BB targets that are sized right for this gun!

IZH 60 air rifle
I am also going to put the IZH 60 air rifle on my list this year. Though the accuracy slipped when the gun’s design was changed several years ago, this is still a delightful youth rifle that’s easy enough for even smaller kids to cock. It has reasonable accuracy, and the sidelever design means that fingers can’t be pinched in the mechanism like they would on guns having sliding compression chambers. I recommend the single-shot over the repeater for reasons of safety.

Daisy 953 TargetPro
I normally don’t recommend combo guns, but I’ll make an exception for the Daisy 953 TargetPro. It’s a pellet rifle with enough accuracy to get you into the game without spending a bundle.

Gifts under $300

Gifts in this category start to take on the aura of personal taste. My recommendations may not be what your airgunner wants, so you need to find out if they are before you buy anything.

Benjamin 392 pump
This one is very personal. You airgunner will either like it or not. So, check first. The Benjamin 392 pump is the best multi-pump rifle going, these days. Its heritage dates back to the late 19th century, so there’s a lot of history there. I also chose the .22-caliber 392 for its power; but if your airgunner only wants to shoot at targets, then the 397 is the same rifle and shoots cheaper .177 pellets.

Daisy Avanti 853
The Daisy 853 is right at $300, but its a great buy even at that price. It features a Lothar Walther barrel and has been used by millions of kids for competition in the decades it’s been around. The trigger is rough, but there are several websites that tell you how to fix it. To get anything with better accuracy, you’re going to need to spend several hundred dollars more.

Diana RWS LP8
Want an air pistol that shoots like a rifle? The Diana RWS LP8 is the one to get. It just may be the best value in a really good air pistol these days. It has plenty of power and is very accurate. The breakbarrel cocking is on the heavy side, but an adult male shouldn’t have a problem.

RWS Diana LP8 air pistol
For the price, the Diana RWS LP8 air pistol can’t be beat.

Gifts without limit

Now, we can spread our wings a little. This is where many of the better airguns live.

HW 30S
Let’s start with the HW 30S. You know this rifle as the Beeman R7 when it’s in a different stock, but airgunners know the HW 30S has the same powerplant and the same adjustable Rekord trigger as the R7. If your airgunner likes the styling of the HW 30S, it’s less expensive; but if he wants an R7, it’s also a wonderful spring-piston air rifle.

Diana RWS 48
If you want a big bruiser spring-piston air rifle, the Diana RWS 48 is one I would recommend. And, I recommend it in .22 caliber, where you get all the power it can develop. The 48 is a sidelever that’s surprisingly easy to cock, despite the level of power it delivers. It’s also very accurate. One thing, though, the 48 is a big air rifle, so be sure your shooter knows what he’s in store for. Definitely for adults, only.

Diana RWS 48 air rifle
Diana 48 sidelever from RWS is large and in charge!

TalonP air pistol
There’s no other smallbore air pistol that can hold a candle to the TalonP air pistol from AirForce Airguns. It comes in .25 caliber and has 10 shots per fill at over 50 foot-pounds of muzzle energy! Many rifles can’t equal it! When I tested it for accuracy, I got sub-one-inch groups at 50 yards. It’s a hunting air pistol extraordinaire.

AirForce TalonP air pistol
The TalonP pistol from AirForce Airguns leads the pack for power and accuracy.

Walther LGV Challenger
If you want a really fine breakbarrel spring rifle, you can’t do better than the Walther LGV Challenger. I recommend the .22-caliber gun because it was so smooth when I tested it.

What’s for Christmas? Part 1

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

I know the Christmas holiday is a long way off, but this year it comes upon us faster than usual. Thanksgiving will be very late this year (November 28), and since that day traditionally kicks off the Christmas shopping season, many people will be jammed because of too little time left. So, I’m starting my Christmas shopping blog a couple weeks early.

Stocking stuffers/small, neat gifts

Things in this category are gifts that don’t cost a lot but will have great meaning to airgunners. Some of them are things that shooters won’t buy for themselves.

Leapers UTG pellet & BB trapLeapers UTG pellet & BB trap
The Leapers UTG pellet & BB trap is the best trap for BBs, and it also works for lower-velocity pellet guns. I used to tout Crosman’s model 850 pellet/BB trap. Well, they removed it from the market and replaced it with a model 852 trap that they say is only good for pellets. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the Leapers and Crosman traps, except the Leapers trap is a few dollars more. How’s that for a switch?

But Leapers does recommend their trap for BBs, plus they sell replacement ballistic curtains for just a few dollars for the inevitable time when you shoot through them.

I’ve been using a Leapers trap for the past 4 months, and I do plan on reporting on it; but if you want the absolute best BB/pellet trap you can get, this is it!

Winchester Airgun Target Cube for BBs and pellets
For about half the money the Leapers trap costs, the Winchester Airgun Target Cube for BBs and pellets is a good BB trap that also works for pellets. I’ve reported on this trap in many reports on BB guns and even for some pellet guns. My trap now has several thousand shots in it, and the styrofoam is starting to flake off when hit, but it’s still useable.

The beauty of this trap is that it’s completely quiet. So, you get the same response as though you are shooting at an Air Venturi Quiet Pellet Trap, but at a greatly reduced price. The trap can take hits up to higher velocities because it has a steel plate embedded inside, but I recommend using it for lower-velocity BB guns and pellet guns.

Gamo squirrel field target
As long as we’re looking at things to shoot at, don’t forget the Gamo squirrel field target. This is a fine field target for low-powered airguns that prodiuce less than 12 foot-pounds of energy. It gives you something to shoot at in the yard, and the kill-zone reducers allow you to change the target as your shooting improves.

I don’t recommend this target for a club or for match use, but for informal field target practice it is perfect. It costs half of what a stronger field target costs.

Gifts under $50

This category is for those gifts that cost a little more but still represent a wonderful value to most airgunners.

Beeman P17 air pistolBeeman P17
My first pick is the Beeman P17 pistol. This single-stroke pneumatic air pistol is accurate, has a wonderful trigger and is quiet enough for shooting inside the home. Some find pumping it a little hard, so consider that; and there are reports that some guns have pump problems that allow the compressed air to leak out. I haven’t run into one that had a problem yet, but there’s a simple fix all over the internet, so don’t let that dissuade you.

S&W M&P 45 BB and pellet pistol
The S&W M&P pistol is a great buy for under $50. It’s a BB pistol I’ve reviewed and found to be an exceptional value. It’s accurate for a BB pistol, and it looks and feels like the firearm it copies. And it also shoots pellets! What a great buy for so little money! [Note from B.B.: This pistol was below $50 when this report was written and edited, but the price increased before it was published. I left it here because it's such a nice gun, but it now costs over $50.]

Colt Defender BB pistol
I found the Colt Defender BB pistol to be a wonderful BB pistol when I reviewed it.

Gifts under $100

Let’s look at some gifts for under $100. These are things airgunners probably want but may not remember to ask for — so you need to ask them.

Champion Heavy Duty trap
The Champion Heavy-Duty trap should be an essential part of every airgunner’s equipment. They will only need one of these, and it’ll last for the rest of their lives. My own trap is close to 20 years old and must have half a million shots on it, but it still works like new! It can take rounds from a .22 long rifle and still not dent or blemish, so you know no smallbore air rifle can possibly hurt it.

Crosman 1077
The Crosman 1077 CO2 rifle is Crosman’s homage to the Ruger 1022. And, like that famous rimfire, the 1077 has become a classic in its own right. It’s a fun plinker, and the stiff double-action trigger (this rifle is really a revolver) lightens and smooths with use. It’s also surprisingly accurate — way beyond what the price indicates.

Umarex Morph 3XUmarex Morph 3X CO2 gun
The Umarex Morph 3X CO2 gun isn’t for everyone; but if your shooter likes gadgets, it might be for him. It gets its name from the way it changes from a BB pistol to a BB carbine. It also has adjustable power that compliments the barrel length options. Just seeing what it can be made to do will occupy a lot of time.

Umarex Steel Storm
If your shooter likes full-auto, consider giving him the Umarex Steel Storm. Although it’s a pistol and doesn’t have a shoulder stock, the Steel Storm is quite accurate with BBs in the semiautomatic mode. It’s a very affordable BB automatic, although it’s limited to 6-round bursts in full-auto.

Gifts a little over $100

Instead of giving you a list with price breaks from zero to infinity, I’m doing this in a more rational way. This is the way people shop — or at least they should shop. There are a couple items for a little over $100 that make wonderful gifts, but they don’t belong in an under $300 category. You’ll see what I mean when you look at them.

Dan Wesson BB revolverDan Wesson BB revolver
I really enjoyed testing the Dan Wesson BB revolver. It’s a CO2 revolver that functions just like the firearm it copies. They come in barrel lengths of 2-1/2 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches and the one I like the best — the 8-inch barrel. Loading is very realistic, and the accuracy is quite good. Read about it here.

Air Venturi Bronco
You knew I had to put the Air Venturi Bronco on the list. For $130, it’s the best value you can find in a spring-piston airgun. The stocks are now stained a darker brown color, so those who didn’t like the blonde stock will now get their wish. It’s great for older youth as well as adults. A wonderful all-day plinker!

EBOS CO2 BB gun
If your shooter wants a full-auto BB gun, I think the Electronic Burst of Steel (EBOS) from Umarex has no equal. It’s accurate, powerful, reliable and everything works as it should. Yes, it’s over $100, but it’s worth it! You can read about it here.

Gifts under $300

This category is much harder to pick for because so much personal taste is involved. But this is my blog, so I get to pick ‘em!

Diana RWS 34P
I really like the Diana 34P imported by RWS USA. I don’t care for the 34P Compact because the shorter barrel makes it harder to cock. I like the standard 34P. I also dislike its fiberoptic sights, but most people will scope their rifle, so that doesn’t really matter.

Diana has made vast improvements in the model 34 over the years, and I think it has evolved into the best value for the money. If you want power and accuracy at a bargain price, the Diana 34P is for you. If you want a wood stock, get the regular Diana 34. It’s still under $300.

Benjamin Discovery + hand pumpBenjamin Discovery
The best deal around in a precharged rifle has got to be the Benjamin Discovery. It also requires a way to put pressurized air into the gun, and that can be either a hand pump or a scuba tank, so this gift may also entail additional items for your shooter. It’s a big decision, but the Discovery is really the easiest way to get into precharged airguns. And if you do decide to get a Discovery, know that there is a package deal that includes both the rifle and hand pump at a significant savings. Of course it takes you out of the under $300 category.

Gifts without limit

I’m not going to list the most expensive things here. I’m just going to list the few things that I would recommend that are more than $300.

Beeman P1 pistolBeeman P1 pistol
For your handgunner, I recommend the Beeman P1 pistol. This spring-piston pistol is a wonderful target gun for everything short of full-blown 10-meter competition. It features 2 power levels and a wonderfully adjustable trigger. At the time of publication, this pistol is selling for $460.

Benjamin Marauder
Then we come to the Benjamin Marauder precharged air rifle. It comes in .177, .22 and .25 calibers. It’s very quiet, has a wonderfully adjustable trigger, is quite accurate and has more adjustability than many European air rifles costing over a thousand dollars. As this is published, the Marauder sells for $470, which has to be the best PCP value around.

AirForce Talon SS
The Talon SS from AirForce Airguns is a stunningly accurate PCP that allows the user to change calibers as well as barrel lengths in minutes. It isn’t one rifle — it’s a whole shooting system! It was the first PCP to use a shroud to reduce the muzzle report, and it was one of the first to offer adjustable power. This is the kind of airgun a shooter joins with in a serious way because it can be so many different things. At the time of publication, the Talon SS retailed for $575.

Air Arms TX200 Mark III
The last gift I will put on today’s list is the always-popular Air Arms TX200 Mark III. It would be difficult to think of a finer gift for an airgunner. Even the inveterate PCP owner needs one of these, just to know how high the spring-piston bar can be raised. Beazer — feel free to chime in, being a new TX200 owner and all.

Now that I’ve given you my list, I expect to hear from you on those things I failed to mention. I’ll come back and do a second list in a week or so, and I’ll consider all that you say. There are gifts I intentionally left off this report, but I also want to hear what you guys think.

Remember, the 2013 Christmas season will be brief because of how late Thanksgiving is this year. No matter if you’re a gift-giver or a hopeful gift recipient, the time to act is right now. And if you thought of buying one of the last Sheridan Blue Streaks (because Crosman has stopped making them), the opportunity is quickly disappearing. Pyramyd Air is sold out at present but will get a final shipment of this venerable multi-pump around Dec. 6. If you want one, pre-order it. Cause once they’re in stock, they’ll vaporize pretty quickly.

Why powerful mainsprings don’t always increase velocity

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

Today’s report is the one I mentioned forgetting in last Friday’s blog! Blog reader Errol reminded me about it yesterday.

I hear this so often from airgunners — how they think they’re going to add a more powerful mainspring to their airguns and increase the power. It sounds logical, but it often doesn’t work; and it nearly always doesn’t work as well as you think it should. Today, I want to discuss why that is.

Fact 1
The Weihrauch HW 35 was always considered to be one of the most powerful airguns in its day — which was the 1950s. They delivered over 700 f.p.s. when new in the 1950s; and over time, this rose to 750 f.p.s. Careful tuning could get close to 800 f.p.s. from certain guns. This model is still being made today, but now it sells because it’s so pleasant to shoot and doesn’t produce excessive power. How times change!

The HW 35 was so-named because the length of the piston stroke is 35mm. Piston stroke is the distance the piston travels from being cocked to being at rest at the end of the firing stroke. When Robert Beeman set out to make what eventually became the Beeman R1 rifle, he used the HW 35 as the starting point and increased the piston stroke to 80mm. And that’s where the additional power comes from — the piston stroke length and not the strength of the mainspring. Greater stroke length means greater swept volume, which means more air to compress for the shot. It doesn’t matter all that much how fast the air is compressed, which is the only thing a stronger mainspring does.

Fact 2
Then, there’s the story of the man who wanted to build a supersonic .22 pellet rifle. So he took the Beeman R1 as a starting point and built one that was 125 percent larger. The late Steve Vissage built a Frankenstein rifle that I documented in a report called Steel Dreams. It weighed 11 lbs., took 53 lbs. of force to cock and was larger than the R1 in every way, save one. It developed the same power! Yes, bigger mainspring and wider piston did not increase the power of the gun one iota.

Why is this true?
I know you want an explanation of why a more powerful mainspring doesn’t necessarily increase power. Here it comes:

THE MAINSPRING DOESN’T ACT DIRECTLY ON THE PELLET

The mainspring pushes the piston. The piston compresses air in front of it, and it’s that compressed air that gets behind the pellet and pushes it up to speed. The mainspring never touches the pellet. So, changing the mainspring has no direct effect on the speed of the pellet.

Here’s a good example everyone will understand. We have a house with a hollow-core door as the front door. Forget the fact that it violates all building codes — your cheap Uncle Rufus put it on when the old front door finally broke. This one was dirt cheap, which is why he got it. But your Aunt Thelma is justifiably worried about a break-in; so when Rufus is out of town, Thelma has a locksmith install a super-duper triple deadbolt lock on the door. Is that going to protect her? Of course not. Any burglar can simply break the door apart with one good kick. The lock will still be secure, but there won’t be any door attached to it.

Do any heavy mainsprings ever work?
Am I saying that heavier mainsprings never work? No, I’m not. When I was testing the Beeman R1 for my book, I installed the Mag 80 Laza Kit from Venom in England. Ivan Hancock created a drop-in kit of parts that worked well in the R1/HW 80 and increased the power. The mainspring was a very long stiff spring with thicker wire, and it was coated with a black tarry substance that I named black tar in my newsletter articles. That’s where the term black tar comes from. Black tar is also called velocity tar in some circles.

The R1 went from requiring 36 lbs. of force to cock to 50 lbs. with this kit. But the heavy mainspring was not directly responsible for the power increase. The kit also included a new piston that had 6 synthetic bearings that are now called buttons. These buttons rode against the spring cylinder walls and kept the steel piston from touching the steel spring cylinder.

Here’s the deal. The new piston was harder to slide inside the spring tube because the synthetic bearings pressed tightly against the sides of the spring tube. The powerful mainspring simply brought the piston’s speed back to parity with the factory piston. What increased the power was a combination of a better piston seal and the elimination of all piston vibration when the gun fired. The gain was just a few foot-pounds of energy, but the rifle was now getting everything the R1 design could possibly give.

A parallel in the pneumatic world
Most of you readers are aware that pneumatics work within pressure limits, and over-pressurizing them doesn’t add power — it takes it away. The reasons are different, but the end result is the same as for heavier mainsprings. The design of the gun is being overcome by one thing (the mainspring in a spring gun, or too much reservoir pressure in a pneumatic) and the performance balance is tipped toward the negative.

CAN a heavier mainspring increase the power of a springer?
Yes, it can if you also change the rest of the powerplant along with the mainspring. And no, it won’t if a heavier mainspring is all you add. The secret to more power is to balance all the components so the gun performs at its optimum. With all airguns, there’s a limit to how far you can go. Where that limit is depends on the rest of the design — the parts that are too expensive to change.

You can break your heart trying to buff up a dirt clod to a high shine. Or you can start with a gun that has some potential and make real progress by artfully changing the things that matter. The secret is to know which is which.

One last remark
Pyramyd Air is stocking the most recent issue of Airgun Hobbyist magazine. If you want to try just a single issue to see if a subscription is worthwhile, now’s your chance.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 6

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4a
Part 4b
Part 5

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol, with cocking aid removed.

We’re certainly getting a good look at the Benjamin Trail NP pistol! While the title says this is Part 6, it’s actually the 7th report because Part 4 was so large it had to be broken into two parts.

Let’s look at the performance of the pistol after break-in. This test pistol has been shot so much that it’s now broken in, so today we’ll look at the velocity. Crosman says in the owner’s manual that the pistol needs several hundred shots before it’s fully broken-in, and this gun certainly has that many shots through it.

They also say the gun will become quieter after a break-in, and the test pistol is certainly quiet now. Apparently, some guns have detonated and surprised their owners, so Crosman is being conservative in its explanation. The test Trail NP pistol has never been very noisy.

I’ll report the velocity of each pellet before and after the break-in period, so you can compare them.

RWS Hobby
The first pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. It’s normally the fastest lead pellet in almost any airgun.

RWS Hobby pellets

Crosman SSP hollowpoint
The Crosman SSP hollowpoint is a 4-grain, lead-free pellet that’s shaped like a wadcutter but with a deep hollow point. Being so light, it’s a real speed demon.

Crosman SSP hollowpoint pellets

Crosman Powershot Penetrators
Crosman Powershot Penetrators are synthetic-jacketed pellets that have a metal core. They weigh 5.4 grains and loosely fit the bore of the Trail NP pistol.

Crosman Powershot Penetrator pellets

Crosman SSP pointed
Crosman’s SSP pointed pellet is another 4-grain, lead-free pellet. You’d expect it to have about the same performance as the SSP hollowpoints, but this pellet isn’t sized as well as the hollowpoint. Consequently, they fit the bore variably, which affects the velocity.

Crosman SSP pointed pellets

JSB Exact RS dome
The last pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome. It weighs 7.3 grains and fits the bore loosely.

JSB Exact RS domed pellets

So there you have it. All 5 of the pellets shot slower after the break-in, and all but one had more consistent velocity spreads. Clearly the Benjamin Trail NP pistol does break in as the company states in the owner’s manual.

This report has been a look into the performance of a spring-piston air pistol as it breaks in. We’ve seen the way to maximize the accuracy of the airgun, and we’ve learned how to overcome the too-tall front sight post. I hope this experience has been of benefit to the new shooters and perhaps provides a template of how a spring gun breaks in.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 5

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4a
Part 4b

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol with cocking aid removed.

Before we begin today’s report, a word about my late friend, Earl (Mac) McDonald. His family has set up a memorial page in his name to collect finds for research into the causes of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is one of the names prion disease goes by. Most of you knew Mac only through his writing and testing here on the blog; but a few of you were friends with him through this hobby, and I thought you would like to know about this.

Today, we’ll continue testing the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. Although today’s title says Part 5, it’s actually the 6th report because I had to break Part 4 into sub-parts a and b.

We’ll look at the accuracy of those 3 lead-free pellets that Crosman provided with the test pistol. As before, I’m shooting at 10 meters, and the gun has a red dot sight mounted. I’ll describe all the other shooting conditions as we go. It has been so long since I last tested this air pistol that I had to read both parts of the fourth report to find out how to shoot the pistol for the best results.

I decided to shoot everything with the cocking aid attached. My testing demonstrated that it didn’t hurt the accuracy, and in a few cases it seemed to help it. At any rate, it makes the pistol easier to cock, so I left it on for this whole test.

Crosman Powershot Penetrators
The first pellet I tested was the Crosman Powershot Penetrator. It’s a synthetic-bodied pellet with a heavy non-lead metal core. They fit loosely in the breech, so I seated them flush but did not try to seat them deep. Since some of my best shooting was with the gun rested directly against the sandbag last time, I decided to start out that way. Imagine my surprise to see a near-pinwheel shot with the first pellet! [A pinwheel is a shot in the exact center of the target, and it refers to taking out the extremely small 10-ring of a smallbore target so that just the white scoring ring remains behind.] The shot was so good that I stopped and took a picture of it to show you — in case history was about to be made. This happens about one time every ten thousand shots or so for me, and it’s usually by pure chance. It is, however, the sort of thing that gives rise to lies and legends and is probably the basis for the Cargo Cults.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Just in case I was about to make history, I photographed the first shot of the Benjamin Trail NP pistol with Crosman Powershot Penetrators.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Shot No. 2 (at the bottom of the picture) made it clear that the first shot was a happy accident. Resting the pistol directly on the sandbag was not the thing to do!

Much as I would have loved to bask in the radiance of that first shot, shot No. 2 dispelled the miracle. Pellet 2 landed 4 inches south of the first one, humbling me once more.

Here’s a lesson in testing airguns. When something goes wrong like this, and all your experience says that it should have been wrong to begin with (resting a spring gun directly on a sandbag), take the hint and change your ways. So I did. I moved my hands forward of the bag and held the gun with no part of it touching anything except me. Then, I shot 10 more shots into a very decent group that measures 1.587 inches between centers. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a bad group for this pistol. Not the best by any means; but for lead-free pellets, it’s not bad.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Resting the arms on the sandbag and holding the pistol free was the way to go. Ten flush-seated Powershot Penetrators made this 1.587-inch group at 10 meters.

Crosman SSP hollowpoints
Next, I tried the SSP hollowpoint pellets seated flush and with my arms resting on the bag but the pistol not touching it. This was how I held the gun for the remainder of this report. This time, 10 pellets made a slightly smaller group — measuring 1.513 inches. Amazing! Who would have thought that lead-free pellets could be so accurate?

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Ten SSP hollowpoints seated flush made this 1.513-inch group at 10 meters. This is a decent group for lead-free pellets.

This pellet fit the breech tighter, so I figured I could try to seat them deeply. Next, I shot 5 of the same SSP hollowpoints seated deep with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. When the first 2 pellets landed very close to each other, I thought I might be on to something; but after 5 shots, I knew differently. I had a vertical string that measures 2.013 inches between centers. It’s very tight side-to-side, so I was holding the pistol okay…but the velocity of the pellet was way off, shot-to-shot.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
It took only 5 shots to learn that nothing was gained by seating the SSP hollowpoints deep. Group measures 2.013 inches.

Allow me to explain what I mean by the velocity was off. I’m not referring to the velocity from the muzzle to the target. At 10 meters, you can vary the velocity by 50 f.p.s. and not affect the group that much. But the time the pellet remains inside the barrel while the gun is moving affects things greatly. That is what I mean by the velocity affecting things. I really mean the pellet dwell time inside the barrel because that determines where the muzzle will be when the pellet exits. Obviously, when this pellet is seated deep, that time varies enough to affect where the pellet strikes the target — even at 10 meters.

The bottom line — deep-seating is out for this pellet. And another testing tip — I don’t need to fire a second 5 shots to figure that out. I can stop here and move on with the test.

Crosman SSP pointed pellets
The last pellet I tried was the Crosman SSP pointed pellet. This is another lead-free pellet. Instead of a hollow point, it has a pointed tip. The weight is the same 4 grains as the SSP hollowpoint. I seated them flush with the breech and started to shoot, but they were hitting so low that some were below the target paper. So, I stopped and adjusted the red dot sight up several clicks, then started the group all over. Ten pellets landed in a 5.004-inch group that told me the test was over. Sure, I could have tried seating these pellets deep or holding the pistol directly on the sandbag, but this huge group told me it wasn’t worth the effort. What was the best I could do — shade the hollowpoints by a fraction of an inch? No, I know when to hold ‘em, and I also know when to fold ‘em. Now, it was time to end the test.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
When your target looks like this, you’ll know what to do.

Impressions so far
I remain impressed by the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. For the money, it offers performance well beyond what most airguns of equivalent price can give you. It’s an air pistol you must be dedicated to, however, because it takes some getting used to. But for smashing power with decent accuracy, I can’t think of another spring pistol in this price range that does as well.

There is still one final test to do. I want to rerun the velocity test. That will establish if the hundreds of shots we’ve given this pistol to this point have finally broken in the gun.

Walther’s new LGV Master Ultra .177 air rifle: Part 6

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Walther LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle
The LGV Master Ultra with a wood stock is what readers have been asking to see. Today we shoot it at 50 yards.

This is the final installment on the Walther LGV Master Ultra. When combined with the 6-part review I did of the .22-caliber Walther LGV Challenger, that’s 12 separate reviews of the new LGV rifle. I think that’s more than enough information to help anyone make up their mind.

For this report, I took the rifle to my outdoor rifle range two different times. The first time, the wind kicked up as I was shooting the first group, so I only managed to shoot one 10-shot group that day. It took a long time because I had to wait to shoot between wind gusts. The second day at the range, the weather was perfect. It was one of those rare days where the wind never gets up to one mile per hour all day long, so I feel the rifle has gotten as fair a test as I’m able to give.

To remind you of the way it’s set up, the LGV Master Ultra is scoped with a Bushnell Banner 6-18X50 AO scope mounted in BKL 1-piece rings. Nothing special about the scope or mounts, except that they both work very well with this rifle.

Today, I’m shooting at 50 yards. Two things about this are exceptional. First, I’m shooting a spring rifle at 50 yards. If you’ve never tried it, don’t knock it. You can’t just double the size of a 25-yard group and get what it’ll look like at 50. Second, I’m shooting 10-shot groups. They’ll always be 40% larger than 5-shot groups. So, factor that in as you read my report.

Day one on the range
This first day began okay; but before the first group was finished, the wind picked up. I waited between gusts, and I’m pretty sure the wind did not account for any increase in the group size. I shot 10-shot groups, as is my custom. That way, I seldom wonder if the results are anything but representative of the rifle. Yes, it’s harder to shoot 10 shots well, rather than 5; but I find that if you start thinking that way, the next thing you know is that you’ll be looking for only the best 5-shot groups among all you’ve shot. That’s harder to do with 10-shot groups because they take so long to complete.

The shooting at 25 yards had convinced me that I needed to rest the forearm at the end of the cocking slot, instead of with my off hand touching the triggerguard. That gives the rifle a very stable hold without the normal shakes you get when you hold it the other way.

I got just one group this day. There were more shots, but the wind picked up enough that I found it impossible to say that it wasn’t influencing the size of the groups. The single group I shot was with Crosman Premier lites, the 7.9-grain pellet that had performed so well at 25 yards. At 50 yards, 10 pellets made a group that measured 1.509 inches between centers. So I brought it home, to await the perfect day for another test.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle Premier lite group 1
The first group of Premier lites went into 1.509 inches at 50 yards. Due to the wind rising, this was all I could shoot this day.

That day came last week. It was supposed to be raining, but the skies were dry and overcast. As mentioned, there was barely a breath of air the whole four hours I was at the range. The first group was shot with the Premier lites, for which I had so much hope. Ten went into a group measuring 1.561 inches between centers. It was time to face facts — this was the best the rifle was going to do with this pellet at 50 yards. Now, it was time to experiment.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle Premier lite group 2
This second group of Premier lites was shot on a perfect day. It measures 1.561 inches between centers. The first group was also the best group.

Next, I tried Beeman Devastators — a lightweight hollowpoint pellet that has no hope at 50 yards, except when the conditions are perfect, as they were this day. Ten went onto a group that measured 1.852 inches between centers. I think that’s pretty good for a hollowpoint at 50 yards, but it probably doesn’t look too good in the photo.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle Beeman Devastator group

Beeman Devastators did very well for hollowpoints at 50 yards. Ten went into 1.852 inches.

The day was still dead calm, so I thought I’d keep shooting. The next pellet I tried was the H&N Baracuda Match that hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped at 25 yards. At 50 yards, 10 of them made a 1.637-inch group…but this group was strange. Six pellets landed high in a tight 0.829-inch bunch and the other four landed low, making a 0.777-inch group of their own. This result would bear some further investigation, if I owned this air rifle.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle H&N Baracuda group
H&N Baracuda Match pellets printed these two groups. Six on top and 4 below, for a total size of 1.637 inches between centers. There are no holes under the dime.

I can see sorting these pellets by weight and being very selective of each pellet, rather than just shooting everything straight from the tin, as I did in this test. I make no promises; but when you get results like this, there may be a good reason.

The last pellet I tested was the JSB Exact heavy, a 10.34-grain dome. I had high hopes for these, as well; but when the first 6 landed in 1.586 inches, I stopped because the final 4 had no chance of tightening that.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle JSB Exact Heavy group
Six JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into 1.586 inches. I didn’t complete this group.

So that was the test at 50 yards. It didn’t turn out as I’d expected. The 12 foot-pound .22-caliber LGV Challenger produced better groups that hovered around one inch. The wind cannot be blamed for this, so the 12 foot-pound rifle just turns out to be more accurate at long range.

The final word
I said the Walther LGV is the TX200 of breakbarrel springers at the end of the other test, and I’ll not change that assessment. The action is incredibly well-built, the trigger is fine and the accuracy is better than average for a good spring-piston rifle. I like the barrel latch, and I no longer need the last foot-pound of power to validate an airgun’s worth. What I’m after is a wonderful shooting experience that this Walther delivers.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 4b

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4a

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol, with cocking aid removed.

Before I begin today’s report, I have sad news. Our friend Earl “Mac” McDonald passed away on Sunday, May 5, at 4:30 a.m. He was surrounded by his family.

Mac was diagnosed with a prion disease in April of this year. I don’t want to discuss it here, but if you want to know more, here is a link. This disease affects one person in a million. It is not only very rare, but the cause wasn’t even discovered until the 1980s. Scientists are still unsure of all the details.

I was aware of the probable diagnosis when I went to visit Mac last month but was asked not to disclose the details. Fortunately, when I arrived, he was able to recognize me. I sat with him and talked about old times whenever he was awake. My wife, Edith, and our friend Otho Skyped with Mac. Via the computer, Edith showed Mac the SHOT Show report in Shotgun News, which was the last thing he photographed for me.

Like everyone who knew him, I’m saddened by his passing — but that is more than offset by the pleasure of knowing him as long as I did. The fact that he was able to attend this year’s SHOT Show was especially rewarding.

As this blog moves forward, I will occasionally refer to Mac and some of the things he did. The best memorial I can give him is to never forget the time he was here.

Today’s report
I left you with a cliffhanger last Friday — more than I imagined, as it turned out, because I thought I was writing Thursday’s report and would publish the second part on Friday, rather than today. I know you all want to know what happened when I seated the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets deep in the bore with the cocking aid attached and rested the pistol directly on the sandbag.

If you were expecting a Cinderella story, it didn’t quite happen. The group got measurably better — in fact, it was the second-best group of the test to this point. Ten shots made a group measuring 1.105 inches between centers. Compared to the previous group, which was larger than 2 inches, it seemed clear that this was the best way to shoot this pellet — deep-seated, gun rested on the bag and the cocking adapter attached.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol H&N Finale Match Pistol group gun rested-deep seated cocking aid on
Ten shots with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets seated deep with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 1.105-inch group. So, deep-seating these pellets reduced the group size by half.

Did you possibly think that it put all 10 into the same dime-sized hole that the 5 good ones went into on the previous test? I hoped that would happen, too, but it didn’t.

Not H.P.White Labs
Before you start looking back at all the testing done on this pistol to-date to recommend different things for me to test, let me say I am not H.P. White Laboratory, and the goal of this test is not to see how accurate the Benjamin Trail NP pistol can possibly be. My purpose is to evaluate the pistol as it comes from the box, so those thinking of making a purchase will have something to go on. I think I’ve done that already, and the gun is definitely worth the money. But the test is far from finished.

Air Venturi Pellet Seater
Blog reader Nomobux asked me how deep I seated the pellets with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. Well, that varies, based on how thin the pellet skirts are. But I measured the seater with the pin protruding by 0.163 inches, which seated the pellets about 0.125 inches deep.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol H&N Finale Match Pistol Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater
I set the pellet seater to this depth months ago and have been using it this way ever since.

Crosman Destroyers
A blog reader asked me to test Crosman Destroyers — a new hollowpoint that has a large open cavity in the nose. Since I was playing, I decided to shoot 5 shots and see if it was worth finishing the group. With the pellets seated deep, the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag, 5 shots made a group measuring 2.546 inches, so I stopped there. Since that was already very large and 5 more shots would not make it any smaller I decided to save my time and effort.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol Crosman Destroyer group gun rested deep seated cocking aid on
Five shots with Crosman Destroyer pellets seated deep with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 2.546-inch group. I stopped after 5 shots because the group was already too large.

But I also figured some of you wouldn’t let me rest if I didn’t test at least one more variable with this pellet, so I shot it seated flush, as well. Surprise! It turned out better. Ten shots went into 2.086 inches. That’s not a world-beater group, I know, but it is better than the 5 shots with deep-seated pellets. It points out that deep seating has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol Crosman Destroyer group gun rested flush seated cocking aid on
Ten shots with Crosman Destroyer pellets seated flush with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 2.086-inch group. Though it’s not a great group, it is better than the 5-shot group with deep-seated pellets.

Michael, Michael, Michael!
Blog reader Michael saw that I hadn’t yet tested the best-shooting RWS Hobby pellets from the rested position with the cocking aid attached, but he was standing on my shoulder as I played with the pistol. I knew you would want me to go back and test it this way, so I did. This time, the magic didn’t work, however, and the 10-shot group size was 1.536 inches, so no improvement.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol RWS Hobby group gun rested deep seated cocking aid on
Ten RWS Hobbys seated deep with the gun rested on the bag and the cocking aid attached measured 1.536 inches at 10 meters. It’s not bad, but no cigar. The gun shot better when not rested on the bag.

Isn’t it interesting how changing one variable will change the entire performance of the gun? I think so.

The bottom line is that the Benjamin Trail NP is still a whole lot of value for the price tag. And I’m not finished, yet. There’s still another accuracy test to go with those lead-free pellets; and then I want to recheck the velocity of the gun, now that several hundred shots have been fired. There’s more to come, so sit back and enjoy.

Top-notch springer
Air Arms TX200 air rifle

When it comes to spring-piston air rifles, the Air Arms TX200 Mk III is a favorite of many airgunners, including airgun writer Tom Gaylord. His favorite caliber is .177. While the gun will initially impress you with its beauty and superior craftsmanship, you'll be even more impressed with the incredible accuracy! Tom claims this is "the most accurate spring gun below $3,000." Beech or walnut, left-hand or right-hand stock. Isn't it time you got yours?

All the fun, none of the hassles!
Uzi CO2 BB submachine gun

You've seen tons of movies with guys spraying bullets from their Uzi submachine guns and probably thought it would be a blast. Except for the cost of ammo! You can have all that fun with this Uzi BB submachine gun at just pennies a round. Throw shots downrange for hours on end with all the fun, none of the firearm hassles and a fraction of the cost.

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