Posts Tagged ‘air rifles’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I was going to shoot my old Daisy 880 at 10 meters with both pellets and BBs, and then again at 25 yards with just pellets, but I figured — what the heck? I have the brand new Daisy 880 on hand, and I’ve already stated that the accuracy might fall off at 25 yards with my old 880 because of the velocity variance — so why not switch over to the new rifle now?
So, I opened the box and took out the rifle. According to the box, this rifle is made in China, but I can’t tell any difference between it and my older rifle, except the lettering on the metal and plastic parts has a slightly different font. Even the front sight is the identical red fiberoptic sight that’s on my old 880.
Start the test
This time, I thought I would test the rifle exactly as it came from the box, so I didn’t oil it. But I did open the manual and read how Daisy recommends oiling it, when it needs it. Because some of our blog readers have insisted that Daisy only recommends oiling with 30-weight non-detergent oil, I photographed the section in the owner’s manual that comes with the new gun. It’s shown below.
So, I started shooting without doing anything to the gun. I tested exactly the same way I tested my old 880 before — starting with 7.9-grain Crosman Premier domes.
5 530, 473, 438 — oil! – 450, 457, 449
The plan was to shoot the rifle with Premier lites up to 10 pumps. But on pump five, something strange happened. The rifle did not shoot faster — in fact it slowed down. Thinking I’d made a mistake while counting the pump strokes, I did it again, and that shot was even slower than the last. I did it one more time, and once more the gun shot even slower. In fact, it shot slower than it had on just three pumps!
At this point, I assumed the rifle was suffering from a lack of oil on the pump head; and since 20-weight Crosman Pellgunoil is exactly in the middle of Daisy’s recommended range of oil viscosities, I used it to oil the pump head. Then, I shot three more shots with five pump strokes each. As you can see, they did increase in velocity; but by the third shot, they were coming back down again.
I decided to start the test all over. The gun was not oiled, again.
8 502, 474, 502
This time, the rifle’s velocity tapered off at 8 pump strokes. I shot two more shots on 8 pumps and then completed the test so you could see the results. The new rifle was clearly not performing up to snuff.
Next, I decided to try a string of shots on five pump strokes to see what would happen. I got this.
Oiled gun with 30-weight non-detergent oil and retested with 5 pumps:
Okay — 30-weight non-detergent oil
When the velocity in the string above was lower than it had been before, I wondered if all the hype about 30-weight oil might have some merit. I stopped in the middle of the test and oiled the gun with 30-weight non-detergent oil. You can see what happened after that.
I decided to rerun the whole test, now that the rifle seemed to be performing better. This is the rifle oiled with 30-weight oil.
The BRAND NEW Daisy 880 I’m testing is clearly not performing as well as several of our readers have reported. And, just as clearly, it has very little to do with the viscosity of the oil used to lube the pump head. The only slight advantage 30-weight oil seems to have over 20-weight oil (Pellgunoil) in this new test rifle is that it does hold up for a couple additional shots. I think it’s obvious that this brand new test gun doesn’t live up to the advertised level of performance.
I am returning this rifle to Pyramyd Air. I will think about what I want to do next. I could rebuild my old gun, but I would be doing it with Chinese-made parts that might not work as well as the parts that are in the rifle now. Or I could just continue testing with my old rifle, since it is the best 880 I have.
One thing I AM NOT going to do is to keep chasing after 880s until I get a good one. This evaluation is supposed to resemble what a customer would experience, and I think it may have done just that.
One last comment
I couldn’t have done any of this testing without a chronograph. I would have been flying blind if I had no way of timing each of the shots that were taken. And I probably would have enjoyed my new rifle exactly as it was. My point is this: If you can’t chronograph the shots, be happy with what you have but stay out of velocity discussions. I think most Daisy 880 owners probably don’t chronograph their guns, and they’re happier for it.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, I want to remind you that there are two airgun shows this month. On April 12, there’s Flag City Toys That Shoot in Findlay, Ohio. I’ll have a table there, so please stop by and say hello if you can. For more information about this show, go to their website at flagcitytoysthatshoot.com.
On Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, the Arkansas airgun show will be held in Malvern, which is near Little Rock. Email show organizer Seth Rowland for more info or to reserve a table. I’ll also be there and hopefully have a table, too. So, stop by and say hello. Remember, these airgun shows happen just once each year, so they’re worth driving the extra miles to see.
Last Saturday, I visited a brand new field target club that started here in Texas. The experience was interesting because I haven’t been to a match in years. Many things had changed!
The club was started by Craig Martin in the gated community where he lives. The Pecan Plantation Archery Club allowed him to use their range facilities on this day, and Craig set up 8 lanes.
I was surprised by the turnout. There were 30 shooters on this first day. I remember having less than 15 when we started the DIFTA club in Maryland almost 20 years ago. One of the shooters told me he drove down from Oklahoma just to attend the match, and I know others who drove several hundred miles from remote locations in Texas.
Blog reader David Enoch was there, competing with a .20-caliber USFT. The match was restricted to 20 foot-pounds or less, so some of the powerful PCPs had to be dialed back.
The day began informally, with the opportunity to check the zero of your gun. But when the match began at 10, I was surprised by several shooters who hadn’t yet sighted in their rifles.
Shooters could check their zeros at this range before the match began.
Craig set the match up with a minimum of rules. He wanted all shooters to feel relaxed, so he awarded one point for hitting the animal faceplate and two points if you hit the kill zone and knocked it down.
He also squadded those shooters who identified themselves as beginners with a shooter who had some experience with airguns. Not everyone had shot field target before; but once you see a target fall, you get the idea pretty fast.
As I surveyed the crowd, I estimated the average age of the shooters at something north of 45 years. This is in line with what I’ve seen in other airgun sports. Younger people don’t usually want to shoot airguns when there are firearms around; but after a person has satisfied their curiosity, the ease of shooting an airgun becomes more evident.
One of only a couple youngsters who attend the match sights in his breakbarrel. No, I didn’t tell him about the artillery hold.
One thing that surprised me was the different types of airguns being used by the shooters. Of course, that was due to this being a first-time event for many shooters; but I saw inexpensive spring rifles, air pistols and even one multi-pump pneumatic I’ll tell you about in a bit!
This shooter uses a Benjamin Marauder pistol with the shoulder stock.
Another thing I saw really floored me. Most of the shooters were resting their guns on shooting sticks, and they were sitting in chairs! I’m so ingrained in the old-school AAFTA (American Airgun Field Target Association) rules that the rifle may not be in contact with the ground that I was unprepared for this, but it appeared all the shooters were comfortable with it. I read the current rules and see that bipods (sticks) and seats are now a part of the hunter class. This is certainly an easier way to shoot, and I think it’ll appeal to many more shooters than before, when you had to shoot from an unsupported offhand position.
Before the match began, Craig gave all shooters his match director’s briefing. It covers the layout of the course, the rules of the match, assembling the shooters into squads and safety.
Since there were 8 lanes, he formed 8 squads from the 30 shooters. Some squads had 4 members while others had 3. Craig wanted all squads to have at least one experienced shooter to help the beginners. Of the 30 shooters, perhaps 12 had placed themselves in the beginner class.
Before the match starts, the director explains the rules to all participants.
Each lane had 3 targets — one close, one at the middle distance and one that was far. The shooters shot twice at each target, so that makes a match total of 48 shots. Hits on the faceplate scored 1 point and targets that fell scored 2 points.
Craig told me afterwards that there were things he forgot to mention in his briefing. I told him that’s par for the course. It takes a couple matches before you know what’s important and what’s not.
One thing he had that was a great idea was a barbecue for the registered shooters. It was part of their $10 match fee. The remainder of the money will go toward the purchase of new targets. That’s pretty much par for the course, as well. It’s how a club gets formed.
The site had excellent facilities, which is essential. At the DIFTA club we had facilities (restrooms), but they were located several hundred yards from where the shooters were. That was a major complaint I heard at every match.
This shooter is on the course engaging targets. The use of bipods (sticks) was widespread at this match.
This shooter chose to shoot from the prone position. That can make some of the kill zones hard to see depending on the terrain.
A few shooters used the traditional AAFTA seated position.
Ron Robinson drove all the way up from Dripping Springs, Texas, to support this new club. And he was the guy who shot the multi-pump pneumatic. It was a Sheridan Blue Streak with a rocker safety and a vintage scope. I told him the only other time I had ever seen a Blue Streak in a field target match was back at DIFTA, when airgunner Singson Tiu brought one out. I remember him grabbing the scope as he pumped the rifle and, after a loud chorus of “NO” from the gallery, he decided never again to shoot that rifle in a match.
Ron grabbed the stock at the pistol grip to pump it. He told me that after estimating the distance to the target he consulted a cheat sheet for the proper number of pumps. “That looks like a five-pump shot to me,” he said with a sly grin. And then he dropped the target — shooting offhand…unsupported! Okay, remind me to never get into a match against him!
Laugh if you want, but Ron Robinson dropped this target.
But he also had sticks that he used for the longer shots. Through my binoculars, I watched him shoot a split on one target. When I told him about it, he adjusted his aim and dropped the target with the next shot.
Robinson settled into the sticks for the far shots.
The day was beautiful and the event was a success. The main reason I decided to report on this match is because several of you have asked me how to find a club in your area. It may be field target you seek, or perhaps something else, like 10-meter target shooting. Whatever the case, now you’ve seen how it’s done. When you can’t find a club to shoot with, start one!
It takes land, permission, targets–but most of all, it takes people. Many of the shooters attending this match were not airgunners and many more had never seen a field target match. They simply came because they were interested. Craig Martin reached out to whomever he could to get this match (and club, we hope) started, and he found there was interest. Once the word got out, the people came. I seem to remember a similar line from a movie about something like that.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report was requested by blog reader Rob 8T2 and seconded by a number of others. I reported on the spring piston forward spring guide that’s known as a top hat, and he wondered if I was also going to talk about the AirForce top hat. Though they share the same name, the two items aren’t connected in any way. One is a spring guide, and the other is an adjustable valve stem for a pneumatic valve. The adjustable valve stem draws its name because, like the forward spring guide, it also looks like a gentleman’s top hat in profile.
The sliding breech cover has been pushed forward, cocking the striker and revealing the breech for loading. This is the original valve from a first-generation AirForce Talon without a power adjustment wheel.
To understand the AirForce top hat, we have to go back in time to before AirForce Airguns air rifles had power adjustment wheels on the left side. In January 2000, I reported on the new AirForce Talon, the first air rifle to be offered to the U.S. market by the new AirForce company. But I’d already owned the rifle I tested for two years. I bought it from the UK company, GunPower, in 1998, when it was configured differently and sold as their Stealth rifle. In late 1999, AirForce Airguns sent the parts to reconfigure my rifle to their new Talon specification, with an 18-inch .22-caliber barrel.
By that time, I already had many hours of testing and shooting on the rifle in its original Stealth configuration with its 12-inch barrel. It was during that time, by talking to AirForce owner and creator John McCaslin, that I learned how to adjust the top hat of my rifle to change the power.
You may find it amazing to learn that I could adjust that rifle to fire from 65 f.p.s. all the way up to 950 f.p.s. with 14.5-grain Eley Wasps. In truth, any velocity below about 400 f.p.s. was just a parlor trick. The rifle could do it, but all consistency was lost. From 400 to 950, though, it was fairly consistent.
How the top hat power adjustment worked
Power was adjusted by screwing in the top hat to shorten the valve stroke and the valve dwell time (the time the valve stayed open). The valve stroke became shorter because the wide flange at the base of the top hat contacted the top of the valve body and stopped moving. Then, the valve return spring started pushing the valve stem closed again, aided by the high-pressure air inside the reservoir.
Conversely, a longer valve stroke meant more dwell time and more air flowing out. At some point, however, the pellet left the 18-inch barrel, and the longer valve stroke stopped having any additional influence. Once the pellet’s out of the barrel, no amount of additional air can push it any faster.
To loosen the top hat for adjustment, unscrew a tiny 0.050″ Allen screw in the large knurled bottom flange of the hat, allowing it to turn on its threads. Once the desired clearance was reached, the small screw was tightened again. This screw caused problems because enthusiastic owners were over-tightening it, causing it to put dents in the hollow valve stem it contacted. In later years, AirForce started putting two screws in this flange to increase the locking pressure and hopefully reduce the damage to the valve stem.
The o-ring secret
Adjusting the top hat was a chore. One day, airgunsmith Tim McMurray told me about an easier, more convenient way. He said to slip a rubber o-ring around the top hat flange, so it rode in the space beneath the flange. It very effectively limited the amount of valve stem travel. Once I found out how good it was, I left it in place all the time. I wasn’t interested in sheer velocity. I wanted good accuracy at a reasonable level of power. Nothing has changed in 14 years, has it?
Talon SS puts an end to top hat adjustment
In November 2000, I wrote about the new Talon SS, which was the first AirForce rifle to have a power adjuster on the left side of the gun. My own SS was a pre-production prototype that didn’t have the power scale engraved on the side of the rifle; but after 14 years of continuous use, it’s still working fine and the air tank has never leaked.
The Talon was also updated with the power adjustment wheel at the same time. Now all AirForce sporting PCPs have power wheels and the top hats no longer need adjustment.
John thought that the power-adjustment mechanism would put an end to the fiddly top-hat adjustment, but it didn’t! By the time the power adjuster came on the market, there was a lot of interest in AirForce Airguns…and the internet was abuzz with homebrew ideas of how they should be set up and operated. People did use the new adjustment, but they also continued adjusting their top hats. Top hats continue to be adjusted and discussed right down to today!
The truth about the top hat
The truth is that the top hat is still a very influential part of the AirForce system. It does have tremendous impact on the rifle’s operation, though not always in the ways you read on the internet. Now that the rifles have the power adjustment wheel, the top hat has become more of a starting point or a setting that gives each rifle a potential range of power. The power adjustment wheel is what fine-tunes that range. The top hat is a set-and-forget kind of adjustment, only people are not leaving it alone.
Some valve stems are very thin, such as those found on the Hi-Flo valves. When the screws are over-tightened on these valves, they dimple all too easily. That’s one reason I advise owners not to adjust their top hats.
Top hats are set at the factory with feeler gauges. I’ve told several people I once discovered that an American quarter coin was exactly the right thickness to set the top hat for a Condor Hi-Flo valve. I’ve actually done that more than once. A difference of one or two thousandths of an inch from the factory spec usually isn’t critical. But when the difference grows larger than that, it does start to become critical. It depends on which rifle you’re talking about to determine if the difference is critical.
For the record, I left AirForce Airguns in 2005, and a lot of things have changed since then. I’m not qualified to give out factory specs on anything they make today. I don’t adjust my top hats at all. I use the power adjuster 100 percent of the time when I adjust, and most of the time I leave each gun set at the position that gives me the greatest accuracy.
You wanted to know about the AirForce top hat — there you go.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The PCP is built on a Crosman 2100B chassis.
I bet that when some people heard about this experiment, they laughed it off. Perhaps that will change now that we have looked at this novel idea 5 different times. I’m learning so much from this series that it’s going to affect my writing for years to come.
I was surprised — again!
Somebody — I don’t remember who — asked me to test the $100 PCP with round lead balls — I guess because the steel BB test turned out so well. So I did. I shot it at 10 meters with .177-caliber Gamo round lead balls. Since I shot with open sights, I didn’t get to see the group after confirming that the first shot hit the paper. Imagine my surprise to see all 10 shots clustered tightly in 0.561 inches!
That got me thinking — a lot! I’ve been doing this experiment so slow that I forget what I’ve done before.
What I thought I would do today was complete this report with a test of the rifle scoped at 25 yards. However, when I mounted the scope, it was very far off line, as in angled to the barrel. Either the grooves on the receiver are off or the scope mount I chose wasn’t grabbing the base correctly.
After missing the target twice at 25 yards, I pulled the scope off the rifle and decided to shoot another test with open sights. I used different pellets than I used in Part 4 so we get to see some different results.
Crosman Premier heavy
The first pellet I tried was the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavy. In .177, Premiers come in both lite and heavy, and this is the first time I’ve tested this rifle with the heavy. I would love to tell you these pellets went into a small group, but the truth is that they scattered in a 2.352-inch pattern.
H&N Baracuda Match
Next, I tried 10 H&N Baracuda Match pellets. They made a better group than the Premier heavies, but it still wasn’t worth talking about. Ten pellets went into 2.051 inches at 25 yards.
After looking at the second group, I noticed that it looked like the first group, only a little smaller. Because I always look through the spotting scope after the first shot of every group to make sure I’m on paper, I knew that the first shots of both groups were high and right. It seemed to me that the shots might be spreading out to the left as the pressure in the reservoir dropped; so on group 3, I took a photo after the first 5 shots had been fired.
Finally I tried RWS Superdomes. Including the lead balls I shot at 10 meters, this was the fourth projectile in this test and the seventh diabolo pellet tested at 25 yards in this rifle. The other 3 pellets were documented in part 4.
Ten Superdomes went into 1.528 inches at 25 yards. That was the best group in this test with pellets, but only the third best pellet of the seven that were tested at 25 yards.
As it turned out, the next 5 shots didn’t open the group that much more. So, another theory bit the dust.
The $100 PCP is very accurate at close range, but not as good as the distance increases. Of course, you must remember that the barrel is taped to the reservoir with Gorilla tape, so there’s a lack of precision in the build.
It would still be interesting to see how this rifle behaves when scoped, but I’ll have to find mounts that permit mounting a scope to the integral rail. At this point, I think the $100 PCP is a proven concept. I would really like to see this rifle in production.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the velocity of the BSA Supersport SE. The factory advertises 750 f.p.s. for the .22-caliber rifle I’m testing. I just hope that’s with lead pellets.
I mentioned in Part 1 that the rifle cocks a little on the heavy side. I estimated 40 lbs. of effort. On my bathroom scale, this one actually requires 39 lbs. to fully cock the rifle. My gut tells me that some of the effort is the tightness of the new gun and will probably decrease by a few pounds over time.
I cannot resist making a comparison with the Beeman R9, which is also sold as the HW 95. The size and power of this rifle seem to align with that classic, but shooting will tell us the whole story.
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby – a lightweight lead wadcutter that’s used to test the legitimate velocities of all airguns. By legitimate, I mean that there are many lead-free pellets that may go faster; but since very few of them are accurate, they probably won’t be used by many shooters.
Hobbys averaged 717 f.p.s. from the test rifle. But the velocity spread was large — from a low of 695 f.p.s. on the final shot to a high of 731 on shot three. That’s 36 f.p.s., which is a bit high for a springer — especially these days when many new spring guns come out so well adjusted.
At the average velocity, Hobbys generated 13.59 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Hold your comments, however, because I noted in Part 1 that I thought this rifle might have a heavy piston (or top hat) that I said could make it shoot better with heavier pellets. So, let’s try one.
The next pellet was the 21.14-grain Beeman Kodiak — a heavyweight if ever there was one. Kodiaks averaged 535 f.p.s. in the test rifle, and the spread was just 12 f.p.s. It ranged from 527 f.p.s. to 539 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet produced 13.44 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Not as much as the Hobby, but very close. And the tight velocity spread leads me to suspect I was right about the piston. I think the Kodiak has earned a spot in the accuracy test.
We need to see what a medium-weight pellet can do in the Supersport SE, and the RWS Superdome is a fine one to try. At 14.5 grains, it sits right in the middle of the weight spread — especially in the range of pellets that should be considered for this rifle.
Superdomes averaged 661 f.p.s. in the Supersport. Since we know the “magic” number is 671 f.p.s. — where the weight of the pellet in grains equals the muzzle energy in foot-pounds — we are very close to that level. This rifle must therefore produce a shade less than 14.50 foot-pounds with this pellet. And it does! It produces 14.07 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle — the highest energy of the three pellets tested.
The total velocity spread for the Superdome was 16 f.p.s. Therefore, the 2 heavier pellets did better (shot more stably) than the lightweight Hobby. I’ll keep that in mind as I test the rifle for accuracy. Yes, I will test it with a scope; but since it comes with a nice set of open sights, I plan to first test it with them.
The rifle cocks smoothly and without the normal noises I associate with a new spring rifle. And when it fires, there’s no objectionable vibration, as long as you hold it lightly.
The trigger is reasonably crisp. It breaks at 2 lbs., 14 oz., which is light but not overly so. I also really like the fact that the safety is manual.
Last comment. The Supersport SE feels very “old school” to me. It isn’t overly powerful. It has a smooth cocking and shooting sequence. And the size and weight of the rifle feel very nice. I’m so tired of those oversized breakbarrels that make me feel like I’m a kid shooting dad’s big shotgun for the first time. The Supersport SE feels just right.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This is a second look at the Disco Double at 50 yards. On this day at the range, the wind was quiet, so it was a good day to test.
I didn’t do anything to the rifle before this test because I didn’t have any time to stop long enough to clean the bore. So, it went uncleaned. I may have promised to do certain things before the next test, but all I actually did when the time came was grab the rifle and go back to the range.
I used the same black single sandbag you saw in the Daisy model 8 test earlier this week. The Disco Double perfectly fits the long groove of that bag and feels more secure than if it was in a conventional rifle rest.
The first group was made with 10 Beeman Kodiak pellets, and they were on target since I’d already zeroed this rifle at 50 yards for the earlier test. They initially stayed together, and I thought the rifle might have turned the corner. They then began to fly farther and farther apart. In the end, 10 pellets went into 1.837 inches — hardly a group worth mentioning. When I checked back to the previous test, though, I noted that this same pellet had made a group that was 2.458 inches at 50 yards; so as bad as it is, this was an improvement.
Okay, that wasn’t the brilliant opening I was anticipating. Even though the same pellet beat the last group by half an inch, it didn’t seem like the time to gloat. Next up were the JSB Exact Jumbo RS pellets — the most accurate pellets in the first 50-yard test.
The first group was another teaser. It looked small through the scope. It wasn’t until I measured it that I found out it went over an inch. Ten RS pellets went into 1.317 inches at 50 yards. That’s smaller than the smallest group from the previous test. There, 10 RS pellets went into 1.3418 inches at 50 yards. This group is similar, but it’s not crushingly better by any means.
I now have 2 groups — each of which is better than the same pellet in the previous test. One is significantly better; the other is only better by a whisker. What does that mean? Rather than try to answer that question, I decided to shoot another group. Surely, this one would be conclusive!
The next 10 RS pellets went into a 1.773-inch group. That was the hands-down worst group of both days of testing for this pellet. On the same day, shooting under the same conditions with the best pellet, I got both the best and worst groups this rifle had fired to date.
I’m sure someone can make sense out of these results — but I’m not that person! After 2 days of testing at 50 yards, I had not proven anything except that I can’t make this air rifle shoot — yet!
I considered shooting some more groups; but after looking at these results, I thought this wasn’t the day. Sometimes, the bear gets you!
I think what I’ll do is drag the Disco Double to the range every time I go and try to shoot different pellets each time. Maybe then I’ll stumble across the magic pellet that turns this rifle into a shooter. After testing similar rifles, I’m convinced this gun can shoot — I just haven’t yet discovered how.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s topic was suggested by Dennis Quackenbush. We were discussing the influence made by a few key firearms, and he wondered if I’d ever written about airguns in the same vein.
The title says it all, and I bet a lot of you can start a list right away. But which ones to pick? It’s easy to speculate and guess, but is there a better way to choose the air rifles that really did make an impact? And what is meant by “impact?”
I find that an easy way to approach a monumental subject like this is to step away from airguns and choose something that many more people can relate to. Like automobiles, for instance. Which automobiles had an impact on the entire motoring universe?
Well, you can’t go very far without recognizing the Ford Model T. In production from 1908 through 1927, the model T put America on wheels. It caused roads to be paved, businesses to spring up in unlikely places and the entire demographic fabric of the United States to change forever.
When the flivver (as it was also called) first came out, politics in the U.S. were most important at the county level, then the state and only grudgingly at the national level. When it finally passed from the market, national politics were forever changed and local elections were relegated to the status of “also ran.” The Tin Lizzy got the farmer off his farm and into town as frequently as every weekend.
And, if the 15 million Model Ts were game-changers, what about the more than 21 million Volkswagen Beetles that swarmed over the planet from 1947 until the last one was built (in Mexico) in the early 21st century? Certainly, they had a major impact on personal transportation? [I know the Beetle is still being produced, but I'm talking about the original air-cooled version.]
See how easy this is when the topic isn’t as important as airguns? Now, name an air rifle that changed the game.
How about the very first modern air rifle that was conceived in 1905? Built by the Birmingham Small Arms company, best-known for their military rifles, the first underlever air rifle that came to market was called the Lincoln; but BSA liked what they were contracted to build and they put their own name on the rifle, as well. That one rifle started the entire line of smallbore airguns we enjoy today.
There were pellet guns before the BSA, of course, but they were primarily smoothbores and made to shoot darts. Their construction wasn’t robust like the BSA’s was, and they were entirely unsuited to the type of shooting we do today.
One of our own blog readers — RidgeRunner — picked up a 1906 BSA at the Roanoke airgun show last year. Maybe he’ll favor us with his impressions of this hugely important airgun?
This BSA underlever was the first modern air rifle.
It came along in the early 1970s and metamorphosed in front of our eyes. Originally it was nothing more than a well-made sporting breakbarrel, the 124 (or 121, as it was first known) had a longer piston stroke than any gun that went before. No doubt, the German engineers were just interested in keeping the cocking effort to a minimum; because in their country, the muzzle energy of airguns is limited to 7.5 Joules by law. A longer stroke meant they could use a less powerful mainspring and still get the velocity they were after, but it also meant the gun was primed to be hot rodded.
By the end of the decade, the 124 had become the first air rifle to break the 800 f.p.s. “barrier.” Several other companies — notably BSF and Diana — followed suit; and by 1979, the airgun velocity wars were in full swing.
The FWB 124 started the airgun velocity wars in the 1970s.
I’ll never forget seeing the Beeman R1 in the Beeman catalog. I had just purchased an FWB 124 and thought I was king of the hill, only to discover that the new R1 had 140 more f.p.s. I was livid! And within a year, Beeman was offering a special tune that jacked up the velocity over 1,000 f.p.s. — the first spring gun to do so. In another year, the standard R1 was getting 1,000 f.p.s. out of the box, and the special tune got them above 1,100 f.p.s.
The R1 didn’t stay on top for very long. Diana soon came out with their model 48 sidelever, which produced an honest 1,100 f.p.s. out of the box…and did so with less cocking effort than the big R1. But for as long as it reigned supreme, the Beeman R1 was like a booster rocket for the advancement of the spring-piston air rifle.
Are there others?
Of course, these 3 rifles aren’t the only ones to have a major impact on airgunning. I can think of several that belong in this group. What models do you think deserve this recognition? And why?