Posts Tagged ‘Air Venturi Bronco’

If I could keep just one…

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

This report covers:

• Silly exercise
• What’s the point?
• Airguns I like
• My one airgun
• Firearms
• See where this is going?
• My one firearm
• What this tells me
• How my life has changed

…what would it be? Not long ago, blog reader Kevin asked me this question and I promised to get back to him with an answer. Today, I’m keeping that promise, although I’m not at all positive that in a year my answer won’t be different.

Kevin asked what airgun and what firearm I would keep. There were no other guidelines beyond the number one — of each. This isn’t the first time he’s asked a question like this. Earlier this year, he asked me what guns I enjoyed shooting, and I wrote a blog titled What would B.B. shoot?

Here is what he asked me this time.

“B.B.,
Some of us have gone through difficult financial times, some of us are going through difficult financial times and some of us will go through difficult financial times in the future.
For this reason I’m very interested to hear what the ONE airgun is that you would keep and the ONE firearm is that you would keep while you would endure a financial crisis.
This is not a “WHAT GUNS I KEPT AND WHY” this is a ONE airgun and ONE firearm question.
kevin”

Silly
This is such a silly exercise — don’t you think? At least it is until you try to form an answer. Because to do that, you have to think about all the airguns and firearms you own, as well as the ones you have owned in the past — and I suppose you can throw in any you might like to own but never have. Once you have all of them in front of you, it’s time to weed through the mass and see what comes out the other side.

What’s the point?
There is no point to this. Nobody is ever going to be confronted with this decision in quite this way, so why bother thinking about it? Well, it does force you to think about things at a fundamental level — a sort of giant who-do-you-love-and-why game. And Edith and I did actually go through it — not once but twice.

Airgun first
Because I write about airguns, you probably think it’s harder for me to pick a single airgun, but it’s not. It’s actually much easier. When all the facade of accuracy, power and performance is stripped away and I’m no longer thinking about survival on a desert island or how many pellets I can carry in a backpack, the choice of a single airgun becomes simple. I shoot airguns for fun, when all is said and done.

Shooting for fun means I don’t have to justify an airgun based on its power, long-range accuracy, nostalgia, value or anything beyond how much fun I derive from shooting it. That narrows it down a lot, but not to a single gun. I suppose there are at least a dozen, but probably more like 25 nice airguns that I really enjoy shooting.

Airguns I like
For example, I like to shoot my Beeman R8. It isn’t powerful, but at 25 yards I know I can put a pellet within a quarter-inch of the aim point every time. The trigger is light and crisp, and the Burris 4.5-14×32 scope is so clear and sharp that the rifle is a delight to shoot. But it’s not my one airgun!

I also really like my Crosman Mark I target pistol that holds so well and has such a beautiful trigger. But it’s not my one airgun, either.

My one airgun
The one airgun I would keep, after having to get rid of all others, is my little .22-caliber Diana model 27. It’s not really powerful enough to hunt with, but that’s not why I’m keeping it. I’m keeping it because it’s simple and accurate, light and easy to cock. It’s an all-day airgun that I just enjoy shooting very much.

Diana model 27 breakbarrel air rifle
The Diana model 27 — this one badged as a Hy-Score 807 — is my favorite airgun. It isn’t powerful, but it’s light, accurate and has a great trigger. That’s all I need.

I’ve owned several Diana 27s over the years. The first one was a rust bucket that I bought for $18 in a pawnshop in Radcliff, Kentucky, while stationed at Ft. Knox in the late 1970s. It looked terrible. You needed a tetanus shot just to hold it! But it shot like a dream, cocked smoothly and was accurate. I fell in love with it and the love has endured.

The second .22-caliber Diana 27 I ever owned is the one shown in the above picture. I bought it from the late Richard Schmidt at the Winston-Salem airgun show (the forerunner of the Roanoke show) in 1993. I paid $110 for it, which was way too much; but for some reason, they all went for way too much back then — and they still do today.

I pulled that rifle apart and lube-tuned it for my Airgun Letter and learned how to assemble the squirrel-cage of parts that Diana calls a ball-bearing trigger. I later pulled the gun apart a second time and tuned it, again, for a different magazine article. Since then, it’s never been apart. That was more than a decade ago.

Some time in the late 1990s, I wrote an article about how to adjust the ball-bearing trigger. Diana triggers can be adjusted very fine if you know what you’re doing; and, oddly enough, all you need is the owner’s manual to learn how. Or you can just read the blog I wrote about it.

Every time I chronograph this rifle, I’m reminded of just how weak it is (under 500 f.p.s.). But that doesn’t matter. I don’t shoot airguns for their power — that would be futile. I shoot them for fun, and the Diana 27 has more fun per pound than any other airgun I know of. When I worked on the Bronco project, the Diana 27 was my inspiration.

The third Diana 27 I owned was a Winchester model 427. It’s now owned by one of our readers. Why did I sell it? Because I didn’t need two perfect airguns.

Don’t think that I don’t love many of my airguns a lot, because I really do. My Air Arms TX200 Mark III gives me immense joy, and of course I love my Whiscombe JW75. But the last airgun I’ll sell is the Diana 27.

Firearms
What was far more difficult was to choose from all my firearms. I have been quite blessed at this time of my life to own some of the finest firearms that exist. My Wilson Combat CQB is especially dear to me, not only because of what a wonderful shooter it is, but also because it was a very special gift from Edith. I have a Dillon press permanently set up to reload .45 ACP ammo, and I cast all my own bullets for the round. While the rest of the world pays inflated prices for ammunition, I’m set to reload tens of thousands of rounds at less than a nickel a round. I can’t shoot .22 rimfire as cheaply as I can shoot this pistol. But it isn’t the one firearm I would keep.

Speaking of gifts, the readers of this blog gave me a Single Action Army revolver that means the world to me. I remember coming home from the hospital several years ago and seeing that revolver for the first time. I wasn’t strong enough to hold it up to shoot, and my eyes would need another year to regain their strength, but I got out to the range with that revolver just as soon as I could. Every time I look at it, I think of you blog readers.

I shoot that handgun several times a year, and it always makes me smile when I do. The gun has an authentic fire blue finish that Colt put on their guns during the 19th century, and mine looks brand new. It’s a gorgeous handgun, but it’s not the firearm I would keep.

Single Action
The single-action revolver I received from the readers of this blog is one of my favorite firearms. It shoots as nice as it looks.

I could go on and on with this thought process. Certainly, I would keep the Ballard. I certainly would not! While it’s intriguing and a beautiful rifle, there’s nothing practical about a Ballard built in 1876. The one firearm I keep has to be practical.

Ballard
The Ballard rifle is beautiful and accurate, but it isn’t the all-around firearm I need.

What about a nice .22 rimfire? I certainly own several of them, and lots of various kinds of ammo that would last me a long time — no? No. A .22 rimfire is not universal enough for me. Since I reload, I can turn almost any firearm into a .22 rimfire if I want to. What I need is a firearm that can be something more than a rimfire if the occasion calls.

See where this is going?
I am heading for a firearm that is as universal as it can be. Through reloading, it can be made to plink or pop squirrels, but it can also kill a grizzly bear if needed.

It has to be reliable, so complex is out and simple is in. That eliminates all semiautomatics.

It has to be accurate; but in my gun collection, there are no inaccurate arms. I just don’t keep them. On the same note, I don’t need my universal firearm to be suited for target use, so super-accurate guns with big scopes are also out. In fact, the scopes would eliminate the guns all by themselves.

My one firearm
The one firearm I would keep if all the others had to go would be my 1903A3 Springfield. It has a rugged bolt-action that has been proven over more than a century, and this one has adjustable peep sights that maximize the potential for accuracy. I’ve shot 5-shot groups under 2 inches at 100 yards, so the accuracy is all that I need.

When I reload, I have a choice of 5 lead bullets I can cast to produce everything from a .32 automatic up to a full-blown .30-06, if I need it. The cheapest rounds I make cost around 5 cents, and the most expensive costs under 50 cents. That’s so much better than anything I can buy; but if I do buy, this caliber is certainly ubiquitous throughout most of the civilized world.

I have around a thousand empty cartridges; and with my reduced loads I’ll get several hundred firings from each of them. And with reduced loads, I can use pistol powders and primers. So, ammunition will never be a problem.

O3A3 Springfield
The O3A3 Springfield is a plain-jane rifle, but it’s everything I need if I can only have one.

I got this rifle from my friend, Mac, but that’s not why I’m keeping it. He sold it because it kicks pretty hard. But I discovered the secret. Soldiers wore field jackets and coats in the field, and the short pull of their rifles was compensated for by the thick clothing. When I shoot this rifle with powerful loads, I always wear a heavy jacket. The rest of the time a t-shirt is all I need. I can hit a pop can at 100 yards every time with my reloads, shooting from a prone or supported position.

What does this tell me?
Kevin forced me to look at my shooting from a very practical standpoint today. It wasn’t sentimentality that helped me decide. And it wasn’t value or beauty. It was utility.

I hope I never have to make a choice like this, because it would break my heart to say goodbye to many of my airguns and firearms. But now I know the two I would keep under any circumstance.

How the blog changed my life
Kevin’s question prompted me to do more than just think about guns. This blog has had a major impact on my life. And from the comments many of you make, I believe it’s also impacted your lives.

If you want to help me better understand my readers, I invite you to send me an email telling me the impact that this blog has had on your life. Pyramyd Air has created a special temporary email address for this. I’ll be the only person to get these emails, and we’re not going to generate any lists from the addresses.

My plan is to publish one or more blog reports with the more interesting comments. If you want, I will use your real name or blog handle; but you can be anonymous, too. I won’t use your name or handle unless you give me written permission to do so.

This email address will be live for only a few weeks. We have tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Even if you’ve never commented on the blog, you can email me your message if you like. If you’re reading this blog after July 2014, email submissions will no longer be forwarded to me, and you may get an auto-reply email stating that or your email might bounce back to you.

This could be interesting. I have no idea what will happen.

What would B.B. shoot?

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

Blog reader Kevin asked me this question recently, and I embraced it because I usually don’t even have time to think about which airgun I would prefer to shoot. There’s always another blog, a feature article and 5 other deadlines pressing on my time…so thinking like this is not a luxury. It’s a fantasy! Then, Kevin asked this question and “forced” me to stop and think about it for today’s report. Ahh! Happy Friday!

The first gun that pops into my head when I ask this question is the Diana model 27 rifle. It’s just such a simple, uncomplicated airgun that I guess it serves as my happy place. But as I think about it, other guns pop up. The Air Venturi Bronco, the Falke model 70, the Diana model 25 are 3 more that come to mind immediately. They all share the model 27′s chief attribute — ease of operation. In short, they’re all fun airguns.

Diana 27 air rifle Diana’s model 27 breakbarrel is so light, smooth and easy to operate that it epitomizes everything that’s good about airgunning in my eyes.

Falke 70
Falke model 70 is another vintage breakbarrel that’s light and smooth like the Diana 27.

To take the fantasy a little farther, have these guns always been the ones that do that, or have there been others? Yes! There have been others!

My straight-grip Webley Senior pistol is exactly like the Diana 27 in this respect. It’s small and easy to operate. I still own this pistol, although there’s seldom any time to actually shoot it. But it’s right there in the drawer where I can put my hands on it whenever I want. I guess that’s good enough. I guess it will have to be.

Webley Senior
I’ve owned this straight-grip Webley Senior since the early 1970s. It’s easy to cock, has a nice trigger and is fun to shoot. Not terribly accurate, but it’s one of those rare guns I let slip by because everything else works so well.

When I think a little longer and harder, my Beeman R8 pops into view. It comes in later because it has a scope, and scopes do complicate things. So do target sights, but my Walther LGV Olympia 10-meter target rifle now comes to light. And with it comes the new .22-caliber LGV. The target rifle took longer to pop up because it’s a heavy gun. The .22 took longer because of its power. When I want to play, power is the farthest thing from my mind.

Firearms?
Kevin didn’t ask me what my favorite firearms were; but since this is Friday, I’ll take a little license and include them, as well. Right now, my new PO8 Luger is a favorite because it’s accurate, recoils very little and it eats my handloads like they were candy! And when I think of that gun, I cannot overlook my Ruger Single-Six in .32 H&R Magnum. It has great power and almost no recoil. For cutting out the center of a bullseye, that little Ruger wheelgun is a dream.

P08 and Ruger Single Six
The Ruger Single Six is chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum. It’s light, yet very powerful and will out-penetrate a .357 Magnum on a steel target. The 1917 Luger is such a smooth shooter that it’s like eating peanuts — I can’t stop! Both guns are very accurate.

Then, I think of my O3A3 Springfield. It’s one of the few military rifles that gives me an honest sub 2-inch group at 100 yards. If it didn’t recoil so much, I’m sure it would have popped up even sooner.

O3A3 Springfield
This O3A3 Springfield will smack you with recoil when you’re shooting full-house loads. The short stock gives it a running start at your shoulder. But the accuracy is stunning!

My M1 Carbine is also a favorite — not for its accuracy, which is just average — but for the fact that it drops the empty cases on top of the shooting bench! Most autoloaders throw their cases a country mile, but this little sweetie piles them up for me. With more training, I’m sure I can get it to put them back in the box!

M1 Carbine
My M1 Carbine is well-behaved. Next, I’m going to teach it to put the fired cases back into the box!

Guns I wish I still had
Now comes the Great Lament — the ones that got away! I had a Bernardelli Baby in .25 ACP that would put 3 shots into the bottom of a soda can offhand at 30 feet. Most .25s are lucky to hit dinner plates at that distance, but this little pistol was a good one. I let it get away. I recently bought another Bernardelli Baby in the hopes of doing the same thing. Alas, this one is a dinner-plate special.

Ruger .44 Magnum Blackhawk with 10-inch barrel
They’re very collectible now; but when I had my 3-screw Ruger Blackhawk, they were just good guns. I was too stupid to know that the one I had was an exceptional shooter. I figured I could always get another one.

Custom .458 Winchester Magnum
I have written about this rifle many times. I shot it with a 550-grain cast lead bullet, and it would put 10 shots into less than 2 inches (outside measurement) at 100 yards. It was like owning a target-grade 45/70. Stupid me — I thought I would always be able to find another one just as good. Haven’t yet!

What kind of shooting do I like to do?
I’m pretty easy to please. I like whatever kind of shooting I happen to be doing at the time — usually. The things I hate are magnum spring rifles that buzz like bottles of hornets, slap me in the face and have no accuracy. I also disdain black rifles that can’t group in less than 3 inches at 100 yards. In fact, I dislike almost anything that isn’t accurate.

I enjoy shooting a .45 Colt Single Action Army with accurate loads and feeling the plow-grip roll in my hand during recoil. I like shooting a nice 1911 and feeling the slight burp of recoil when I hold my thumb over the manual safety. I shot a Walther P38 recently that had a nice trigger and is very accurate. My experiences with P38s aren’t that good, but this one was memorable. I could burn up a lot of 9mm ammo in that one.

gift SAA
When I came home from the hospital several years ago, I received this Single Action Army as a gift from the readers of this blog. It is a favorite of mine because it mimics the feel of a Gen 1 Colt perfectly!

Same for the PO8 I got for Christmas. The ergonomics are legendary and the trigger is extremely good for a Luger (their trigger linkages usually make for poor triggers). My handloads are moderate enough that I can shoot this pistol for the rest of my life and not put any wear on it!

I enjoy holding a 10 with a target air pistol and seeing the pellet hit the pinwheel. I love seeing 10 shots from an accurate rifle sail through the same hole at 100 yards, knowing the hole they made is smaller than half an inch. I love shooting 5 shots from a 10-meter rifle and seeing a group smaller than a tenth of an inch.

10-meter pistol
Holding a 10 with a pistol is very enjoyable!

I love shooting my Daisy Avanti Champion 499 offhand and making quarter-inch groups. My shooting buddy Otho bought one for himself this past December and has been doing the same thing ever since.

I enjoy shooting a Garand and hearing the shot go off but not feeling the recoil. I know it’s there, but the push is so slow that it doesn’t seem to count. The same holds true for my .357 Magnum Desert Eagle. It’s got enough power to drop a steer, but the soft recoil feels like a 1911 shooting +P ammo.

Best of all
But the thing I like above all is when I solve some problem of inaccuracy and turn a bad gun into a real shooter. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but from time to time I do hit one out of the park. I’m hoping to do that with my Ballard someday. And maybe my Meteor, as well.

Airguns I’m thankful for

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

Today is Thanksgiving, here in the U.S., as well as the first full day of Hanukkah, which started last evening. I want to wish my Jewish readers a happy Hanukkah and all my U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving Day. Today I’d like to take some time to acknowledge those airguns that are worth remembering.

Benjamin 107
It was my first airgun — though I didn’t acknowledge it at the time. I was whining at my mom to let me buy a BB gun, when all the while I had a beauty right there in front of me.

The 107 was a front-pump .177 smoothbore pistol that shot BBs, darts and pellets — none very accurately. But compared to a common BB gun, it wasn’t too bad. I got it when I turned 10 or 11 after my father died. It had been his. I remember seeing him shoot it once, but that was all.

All the black nickel finish was gone, and the gun was worn to silver nickel in most places, with a hint of brass showing though some of the edges. It was a real bear to pump, and I think I could manage only three strokes when I applied all my weight. After that, I was the one having the stroke!

I could hold about one inch at 20 feet with darts, which was the ammo of choice since I had them and they could be reused. There were some Benjamin pellets that came with the thing, too, but I don’t remember them being very accurate.

Once I secured my Daisy No. 25 pump BB gun, I don’t think I ever looked at the old Benjamin, again. But that was the first airgun I ever shot, and it started the fascination that’s lasted until now.

Diana model 10
Fast-forward 14 years, and I’m married (to my first wife) with a child and living in Germany. In the walled city of Rothenberg ob der Tauber, I find a gun store that sells high-end airguns. They have Walther LGVs and LGRs that I can’t afford as a family man. But they also have a Diana model 10 target pistol that the owner claims is stunningly accurate. He’s a good salesman, and we decided we could afford it; so I buy it plus 5,000 RWS Meisterkugeln pellets.

I learned how to shoot 10-meter pistol with that airgun — heck, I learned that there WAS such a thing as 10-meter pistol! And I got passably good. Good enough to stand on the line at formal matches while better shooters won. I did that for the next 20 years and got better and better until I was what, in technical terms, is known as a duffer. That’s a guy who shows up and shoots without embarrassing himself, while others rule the day.

I also taught my gun-hating father-in-law how to shoot with that air pistol. He got so interested that he shot up a lot of my 5,000 pellets! I finally sold that pistol when I left the Army in 1981.

FWB 124
This is the air rifle I bought after returning from Germany in 1977. I scoped it with a Tasco firearm scope and never had a lick of trouble with it. It had the plastic trigger that the early rifles came with, but I loved it just as it was. It taught me what a precision adult air rifle could be. I had been reading about these rifles for the last 2 years I was in Germany; and, of course, I failed to realize that I lived in Erlangen, the home of the BSF factory! No, I read the Airgun Digest in the last 2 years of my tour and I wanted a 124, so that’s what I got.

11-28-13-01-FWB-124
One of many FWB 124s I’ve owned over the years. Each one is a classic!

Then the R1 came out and took all the wind out of my sails. My 124 was no longer the baddest airgun on the block — despite the fact that no one on my block owned any air rifles at all. No sir! Dr. Beeman said the R1 was the gun to own, and I wanted one with all my fiber! I had to sell that 124 to pay off debts when I left the Army, but it left a seed deep inside me and I’ve owned several since that time.

Diana 27
The Diana 27 I’m referring to is not the one you have seen me write about. No, it’s a gun I bought for $18 in a pawn shop in Radcliff, Kentucky, in the late 1970s. I didn’t even know what it was at the time. It was a Hy Score 807 in .22 caliber and rough as a cob. The rust was deep all over, making the metal surface bumpy. Had it been removed, there would have been deep pits left behind. But the gun still shot very well. I marveled at how light and smooth the powerplant was. It shot slow compared to the 124, but out to 20 yards it held its own. I gave that one to a friend when I left the Army.

Diana 27
Diana 27 isn’t a pretty air rifle, but it shoots like a dream!

Sheridan Blue Streak
This was an air rifle I had coveted since I was a Tenderfoot in the Boy Scouts and read all the ads in Boy’s Life. It could shoot through an inch of wood — the ads said so! And it was accurate. But I never had the money to buy one as a kid. In 1978, a year after returning from Germany (and fast becoming a real airgunner), I finally bought one. The price had risen from $19.95 to $39.95 in the time that had passed, but I purchased what is today recognized as the high-water mark of Sheridan production — a 1978 Blue Streak with the rocker safety!

Sheridan Blue Streak
The Blue Streak I bought in 1978, and the rifle on which Edith learned to shoot.

That gun stayed with me after I left the Army. It wasn’t worth enough to sell, so I kept it and still have it today. Edith learned to shoot with it and killed 9 rats around our Maryland home — not to mention various mice in the house and snakes in the garden. She put a yellow twist tie around the triggerguard to remind her the pellets were the ones in the yellow plastic box. This was before the days of The Airgun Letter and field target. Edith was still learning about airguns.

Beeman R1
We really didn’t have the money at the time, but Edith gifted me with a new Beeman R1 for Christmas in 1991. The Airgun Letter was still 3 years in the future, so the only reason I got this gun was because I told her how long I had desired it. I had purchased a Beeman C1 a couple years before, but it just didn’t scratch the itch.

But the real surprise was the used HW 77 carbine that was also under the tree that year. That was Edith at her best — giving me a gift I had no idea I was getting. We even had a scene from A Christmas Story, as a final long box with my name on it appeared after all other gifts had been opened!

The R1 scratched my itch alright; but what I discovered about airguns is that the more you scratch, the more the itch spreads. You think I’m an enabler? Remember, folks, I do everything to myself before I do it to all of you.

Beeman R8
It was the day I returned from the hospital in 2010. I was sitting on the sofa and had just enough strength to sit up for awhile. Edith pulled out a long cardboard box and told me that one of our blog readers had sent me something for when I come home. I couldn’t stand or even open the box. She had to do it for me. Inside was a black hard case and inside that was the most beautiful Tyrolean air rifle I’ve even seen. It was a Beeman R8 with a custom stock and a fresh tune. A personal note told me who had done the work and how nice it shot.

Beeman R8 Tyrolean
This beautiful Tyrolean Beeman R8 was waiting for me when I returned home from the hospital.

As weak as I was, I had Edith hand me the rifle and I found that I could cock it. Oh boy! Here was a spring rifle I could shoot real soon, even when I couldn’t cock most other air rifles. My friend, Mac, was still testing spring guns for me for several months as my strength returned, but that R8 was mine from the moment I first held it.

Edith and I were showered with gifts from the members of this blog when I got out of the hospital, and we were stunned at the outpouring. But that R8 is my favorite spring rifle because of how nice it is, how great it shoots, and most of all what it meant to me at a time when I could barely raise my head off a pillow.

What about the others?
Sure, there have been plenty of other airguns I’m thankful for. My Whiscombe has been a dream test bed for numerous experiments. Both the Benjamin Discovery and the Air Venturi Bronco are guns I personally was involved in developing. So, of course, they meant a lot. The AirForce Talon SS with a 24″ barrel is probably the gun I shoot more than any other…and you all know how I feel about the TX200! I could go on and on, but where do I stop? These guns have all been pivotal in my development as an airgunner.

I’m thankful
Back when I wrote The Airgun Letter, I allowed myself to get sucked into several bad arguments over trivial airgun issues. When we started this blog, I insisted on using a pen name rather than my own. I didn’t want to spoil things with old baggage from the past. I also reinvented myself at the same time. I learned to curb my temper and to listen to what others have to say — even when it runs contrary to what I believe.

Some of you suspect this, but now I’ll tell you all that Edith is half of Tom Gaylord, the writer. She keeps me on an even keel and lets me vent privately when I have to. She has a much better memory than I do and sometimes she suggests things that I wish I had thought of (and accept credit for when they show up in print). If I didn’t have her, the veneer of who I am would quickly peel back and expose the unpleasantness underneath.

The airguns I have written about today were all pivotal in shaping my life as an airgunner. But it is Edith and you readers who have really had the greatest influence. Through thick and thin, you continue to inspire me and make me glad to have this job.

A few weeks ago, blog reader David Enoch asked me to write a report about the airguns that I never warmed to. I tried doing that and quickly found all the bad old stuff leaking out. So, I stopped writing and focused on only the good things that have happened with airguns. There are so many of them; and when I focus on them, I become the person I want to be.

Today’s report came as a result of a disaster I had while testing a gun yesterday. Nothing went right, several optical sights failed and I put some new dents in the wall of our bedroom. I then sat on the couch complaining about everything. Knowing that I was losing it, Edith suggested today’s topic. I hope this piece does some good for all of you because it has made my day! Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

Getting started in airguns

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

Today’s report goes out to all those readers who are just getting into airguns, as well as those who have been in airguns awhile but feel there are many things they’re either missing or don’t fully understand.

We have a new blog reader who goes by the name Essbee. For the past week, he’s been asking the kind of specific questions that tell me he doesn’t understand something as well as he would like to. Then yesterday, he sent in this set of questions:

Thanks. How does The Benjamin Marauder compare with German guns (RWS & Weihrauch) in terms of quality and durability and ease too. No doubt the Germans are pricey in PCP hence ruled out but their quality is no problem. Could I have a report for or against on the quality of Benjamin Marauder as compared to German technology and craftsmanship.

What are the chances the gas will leak on PCP guns. If it does how will it be fixed and at what cost? In contrast the air springers have no such problem. What do you say on this? What is the record at your end of PCP repairs vs air springers?

Hence I was comparing an RWS 34, RWS 350 Magnum and RWS Air King 54. Considering the cocking effort, weight and velocity it seems RWS 34 stands up very well in .22 with longer barrel. Am I correct? For hunting which is the best?

How do I answer this?
If you read the questions, you’ll see they’re a combination of technical questions and requests for my subjective opinions. I find it very difficult to answer questions like these because they require more time and space than we have available. So, what I do is try to guess about who’s asking the question, then answer from that standpoint as best I can.

New airgunners come from a variety of backgrounds. They can be youngsters who have never really sampled the shooting sports at all. Everything is a mystery to them. Or they can be adults who may know about the shooting sports but have never really participated in them. You might think that would make them the same as the youngsters, but it doesn’t. Adults do have some life experience to relate to, so they can understand things that youngsters haven’t experienced yet. My answers to adults have to be slightly different than the same answers to youngsters.

The questions can also come from adults with lots of shooting experience but who are just getting into airguns. When that’s the case, we have a common basis of shooting upon which to build, but they still won’t be familiar with things like the artillery hold or with canting issues at close range.

Some of these adults may have served in the armed forces and may be even more familiar with firearms than most people. That makes my answers even more difficult because there are things about airguns that the military never thought of.

Some of the questions come from law enforcement officers, both retired and active duty. They’ll have an even different viewpoint, and my answers will have to be presented differently.

So — how do you get into airguns?
I obviously can’t answer everyone in the same way. But I do think there are fundamental things that ALL new airgunners need to think about. So here we go.

1. Start small
Don’t buy that super-duper ultra-magnum that you see advertised. Forget the advertising hype, unless all you want is something to brag about. If that’s what drives you, go somewhere else because I can’t help you. I’m in this for the enjoyment of the hobby — not for posturing, looking good or counting coup.

Get a weak but accurate airgun as your first gun, and then learn to shoot it. Forget scopes unless you’re almost legally blind. Learn to shoot with open sights. Learn to follow-through on every shot. Learn to call your shots, which is to state where they went before you look through the spotting scope.

I would tell you to get a Diana model 27, but they don’t make them anymore; and many of you would rather purchase a new gun. Okay, get an Air Venturi Bronco. That rifle was created to be the modern equivalent of the Diana 27. Is it? Probably not, because there are too many things that aren’t the same. But the Bronco is accurate, it has a good trigger, it’s both light and easy to cock, and it comes in .177 caliber so the pellets are cheap. And the rifle, itself, is a great bargain.

Want a different choice? Okay, consider a Stoeger X5. For around $90, you get everything the Bronco has except the great trigger and some of the accuracy. But it’s very good and is a wonderful way to break into airgunning. Find something like that.

Want an air pistol? How about a Beeman P17? Oh, you can find bad reports about this pistol if you look, but they number in the dozens, while thousands of pistols have been sold. I have had 2 and both were quite reliable. One was a test gun from Pyramyd Air and I bought the other one after returning the test gun. The one I have now has many shots on the clock, as well as many years on it, and still performs as good as it did when it was new.

Want a spring pistol? Try the Ruger Mark 1 pellet pistol. It’s inexpensive, accurate, easy to cock, and the trigger–while heavy–is manageable.

The point
I said to start small with a low-powered pellet gun and learn how to shoot it. That’s the best advice I can give anyone who wants to get into this hobby. Yes, the powerful guns are neat and the super-accurate guns are a ball to shoot, but they also require some understanding that only comes with practice. I want you to get as much trigger time as possible, and a lightweight, inexpensive, accurate gun is the way to do that.

2. Buy good pellets
I know that saving money is a good thing, but I don’t want you to miss out on the thrill of a lifetime just so you can save a dollar a tin on bargain pellets. Stop kidding yourself that you can buy good pellets at a discount store. That was never the case, and today it’s quite far from the truth. You might be able to buy some adequate pellets at a discount store, but where does that leave you? With a Bronco that shoots 1.5-inch groups at 25 yards instead of one that shoots 3/4-inch groups. Is that what you want? You know the best way to save money is to never shoot at all. If you’re going to shoot, give yourself a chance of hitting.

3. Stop fighting the trends and start applying yourself
A popular definition of a crazy person is one who keeps doing the same things and hopes for different results. I see shooters who aren’t using the artillery hold because they say it’s too hard. Well, of course it’s hard, but all the best shots do it. Don’t you want to see what kind of shot you can be? If you try to buck the trend and avoid things like the artillery hold, you’re acting like a NASCAR wannabe who doesn’t like cars that are set up for the racetrack. Sure they’re hard to drive, but they’re also the only kind of cars that win the races!

You want to shoot groups at 100 yards, but you don’t want to use a scope level. Great. That’s like an ice-skater who wants to be in Hush Puppies all day because the skates hurt his ankles. You can’t shoot tight groups at 100 yards without leveling your rifle for every shot. So, if you don’t use a scope level, you’ll have to find some other way of doing it.

4. Shoot
I know it sounds simple, but just shoot. That’s why you decided to get into airgunning in the first place. It’s so easy to shoot at home. I fire from 100 to 1,000 rounds each and every week.

The more you shoot, the more chances you have to improve. Not that all people do improve, mind you, but at least you have the chance.

I’ve found that 20 shots on your own is worth a lot more than 20 conversations about shooting on the internet. Go on and have the conversations — but do the shooting, too.

Summary
This is what I would tell a new airgunner. Too often — always, in fact — they come to me with their eyes sparkling with thoughts of buying this or that mega-magnum rifle, I know they’re heading for disaster. I cringe when I see this because I know the conversations we’re going to have much later when all they’ve done finally sinks in and they realize this wasn’t the way to go.

Here’s a little story to illustrate what I’ve been saying. I watch certain internet gun sales websites and from time to time certain guns are listed. Let’s single out the Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum for this story. When I see the ad, I can guess what it will say. This fine gun is almost new in the box. It’s only been fired a few times. Comes with a fresh box of ammunition and only 6 cartridges have been fired. Now, why do you suppose that is?

See you in September…

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

“Have a wonderful summer.”

Great words, but not when they’re in my high school graduation yearbook. We were all going our separate ways. Some of us were going to southeast Asia and might never come back. Others were going on to colleges to become doctors, lawyers, nuclear physicists and accountants. A couple went to Hollywood and were never heard from again and at least one went on to win several Super Bowls and become a household name — actually two names. I went to high school with Larry Csonka in Stow, Ohio, and Craig Morton in Campbell, California.

So, why didn’t they write, “Since I’m never going to see you again, have a nice life.”? I’ll tell you why — because people don’t know how to say goodbye. So now, 48 years later, I have someone wishing me a perpetual good summer of 1965. I was never quite sure about what that meant, either. Was it just the one summer, or were all of them implied?

Know what else people aren’t good at? Visualization. Like what to pack for a vacation. Oh, the old swimsuit is easy enough, but what about taking an airgun?

Well, gee, I did just get a .50-caliber Dragon Claw. Wouldn’t that be neat to have along at Yellowstone?

Not unless your fantasy is to be the focus of a SWAT team attack! Unless you’re vacationing at a rifle range or somewhere very remote, a big bore airgun is not ideal. Nor is anything that requires a large support base such as scuba tanks, hand pumps, CO2 cartridges and ancillary stuff like that.

While you’re at it, leave your 4-foot gun bags and hard cases at home with the aquarium and the garden tractor. The last thing you want or need on a vacation is a lot of baggage.

My pick for you is the Beeman P17 single-stroke pistol and as many tins of pellets as you think you’ll need. Or, if you don’t like Chinese airguns, spend the money and buy the German-made Beeman P3 that it was modeled after. Both guns are quiet, accurate, have adjustable sights, great triggers and are very portable. Sure, they’re single-shots, but that’s part of their attraction — they slow you down and make you pay attention to what you’re doing.

Oh, you don’t absolutely have to stick with a single-stroke pistol if you don’t want to. A nice pneumatic like the Crosman 1377C or the .22-caliber 1322 would be fine. They’re larger pistols, but still self-contained, requiring only pellets for fun.

If you want a springer, might I suggest the Browning Buck Mark? It’s reasonably accurate, easy to cock and the price shouldn’t break the bank. If it does, you aren’t going on a vacation; you’re just staying home from work.

What about a rifle?
For an air rifle, I recommend the Diana 27; but since none of you were far-sighted enough to get one back when I was touting them, now you have to live with what’s available. Well, that was why the Air Venturi Bronco was created — for all those who should have bought Diana 27s but never got around to it. For a lot less money than a Diana 27 costs, you can get a brand-new Bronco and have the same fun with it. It’s a little larger and heavier, but just as accurate, just as easy to cock and quite the little all-day plinker.

I could go on and on with this — recommending multi-pumps and other springers, but that’s not the point of today’s blog. The point is that when you’re on vacation, take along something simple and fun to shoot. It doesn’t need to be your most powerful or most accurate airgun — just one that you like to shoot.

And travel light. Vacations are not the time to stress about air supplies or where to buy more CO2. They’re times when you want to be free and unencumbered by stuff, so you can have some fun.

And, one more thing. You guys all say that I’m an enabler who spends your discretionary money faster than your wives and girlfriends can account for it. But did you notice that the guns I chose for today were mostly inexpensive? You don’t have to spend a lot of money on an airgun to have fun with it. A $40 P17 or a $45 Buck Mark should certainly be affordable. And that was my criterion for selection — good airguns at good prices.

Keep things simple when you’re away from home and your support base. If you have to buy pellets from a discount store, even the cheapest ones should shoot okay in the guns I’ve recommended. In fact — that gives me a great idea for another report. I will test inexpensive pellets like you’d find in a discount store (and Pyramyd Air sells these, too) against the best pellets I can buy.

Yeah! I like that!

Oh, and have a wonderful summer….

B.B.’s Christmas gift suggestions for 2012: Part 1

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

Announcement: Mark Barnes is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Pyramyd Air Big Shot of the Week

Mark Barnes is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.

At last, we’ve come to the day when I get to spend your money or suggest gifts for you! Knowing what an enabler I am, you must appreciate what a rush this report is for me.

Pyramyd Air Champion heavy-duty trap

Champion heavy-duty trap

Pellet trap
I will dive right in with my first suggestion — a Champion Heavy Duty Metal trap. If you don’t yet own one of these, you need one. They cost $42 when I bought mine in the early 1990s, and time is a-wastin’ for you to get yours. Yes, they’re pricey for what they are, but this is the last trap you’ll ever need for any smallbore air rifle. It’s rated to stop standard-speed .22 long rifle bullets, so you know that nothing your airguns can toss at it is going to do any damage. Mine has uncounted shots on it, and it’s still in near-perfect condition — except for the paint. I’ve emptied about half a ton of lead from this trap over the years; and, yes, that was all melted down to be reused in cast bullets. The last 100 pounds of it is still waiting to be melted. This trap is big, heavy and hard to love — except when you’ve been using it for several years, and you finally realize what a tremendous piece of equipment it really is! Not for steel BBs!

Leapers UTG Accushot pellet & BB trap

Leapers UTG Accushot pellet & BB trap

BB traps
Crosman no longer sells their famous model 850/852 pellet and BB trap, so the Leapers UTG Pellet & BB trap is the only game in town. That is, if you want to have ballistic curtains that you can replace. I destroyed my Crosman trap after about 100,000 shots with steel BBs and low-velocity lead pellets, and I hope Santa remembers that this year. I hope Leapers never drops this trap from their line, as it’s the most valuable, flexible BB trap I know of.

Winchester airgun target cube

Winchester airgun target cube

I’m not big into BB guns, but this blog affords the opportunity to shoot steel BBs a lot more than I normally would. When the Crosman trap finally gave up the ghost, I asked Pyramyd Air to send me a Winchester Airgun Target Cube for BBs and Pellets. I’ve used this target trap with both BBs and pellets much of this year. Some of the pellets were leaving the muzzle at speeds over 800 f.p.s. There’s a steel plate inside the cube for higher-speed pellets, and the BB side is rated to 350 f.p.s. I would estimate I have around 1,000 total shots on the cube, and it’s still going strong. I use it every time there’s another BB gun to test because I have no other BB trap — at the moment. It stops all the BBs cold, with not one of them falling to the floor, which is a big advantage to an in-home range. I would be careful to hit this cube straight-on, rather than at an angle, just so the BBs have to penetrate as much of the foam as possible.

Chronograph
Here’s another item that we all need, yet find difficult to buy for ourselves. But I want to make a little analogy here. Not buying a chronograph and living in perpetual doubt about the velocity of your airguns is like being the “modern” guy or gal who laughs at those of us who wear wristwatches, because cell phones display more accurate time. All well and good, but why do these people (Edith) keep asking me what time it is?

Shooting Chrony Alpha chronograph

Shooting Chrony Alpha chronograph

I could give you lots of reasons why you need a chronograph, such as keeping tabs on a spring gun’s health and calculating the ideal fill pressure and shot count for a PCP, but that has all been done many times in this blog. Let’s just agree that a chronograph is wonderful, too, for every airgunner and leave it at that.

Shooting Chrony Alpha Master chronograph

Shooting Chrony Alpha Master chronograph

My choice for you would be a Shooting Chrony Alpha model, which is what I use all the time. I selected the Alpha model over the cheaper F-1 model because the Alpha has a built-in calculator that does simple statistics for you. The F-1 also does give both the high and low shots plus the average. If that’s all you need, it’s a wonderful value.

If you don’t mind spending a little more money, the Alpha Master with its remote readout that allows you to be up at 15 feet from the skyscreens is great for those who also want to chronograph firearms. Sometimes with powerful centerfires you do need to be several feet back from the start screen.

Blue Book of Airguns

Blue Book of Airguns

Blue Book of Airguns

For those who are finding that this airgun hobby keeps growing and expanding, the Blue Book of Airguns, 10th Edition is a nice reference to have. There’s great information about many of the vintage airguns we talk about in the blog, plus all sorts of other useful stuff such as the crossover names for multi-branded guns like those made by Diana. The 10th edition also has a very special article by Dr. Robert Beeman about the Lewis & Clark airgun. Doctor Beeman has done more research on the Lewis & Clark airgun than anyone and has uncovered a wealth of information for a book he’s writing on the subject. This article is a sneak preview of all he’s learned.

Airguns?
Well, am I ever going to recommend any airguns? Yes, I’ll get to that right now. But these first gifts are the ones I believe people really need but will not buy for themselves.

I have to be very careful about the guns I recommend because sometimes newer airgunners put a lot of faith in what I say. That’s not necessarily warranted; but I’m aware that a few people are doing it, so I watch what I say. I know that for many of you, one airgun may be all you buy. If that’s the case, I want it to be the best representative it can possibly be, and I don’t mean just FOR THE PRICE. A poor choice is a poor choice at any price, and I will not get into a game of rating “value” according to the price of something. If I recommend it, I believe the item has to stand on its own.

Air Venturi Bronco spring-piston air rifle

Air Venturi Bronco

Air Venturi Bronco
I recommend the Air Venturi Bronco. It’s a low-cost breakbarrel spring rifle that has a lot going for it. It’s accurate, easy to cock, sized for older kids as well as adults and has a wonderful trigger. It’s not a powerful air rifle, but I don’t think there is a better all-around air rifle on the market today.

Gamo Whisper spring-piston air rifle

Gamo Whisper air rifle

Gamo Whisper
I’ll bet this choice surprises a lot of people — especially the folks at Gamo, who may think I’m overly critical of their airguns. The fact is that they hit the nail on the head, with the Whisper and I find it to be a very fine airgun! I love the fat muzzlebrake that contains their baffled silencer; and regardless of whether or not it makes the gun any quieter (it does), it is the handiest cocking handle on the market. The only two things that would make the Whisper better are a gas spring and a better trigger. Pyramyd Air lists the Whisper with a Crosman Nitro Piston conversion in a different section of their website, which I find terribly confusing. But it is there, so don’t overlook it. The gas spring removes all vibration from the gun, which the standard Whisper does have. The better trigger we’ll just have to wait on.

Crosman used to have a Nitro Piston lower-velocity rifle that I would have also chosen for a gift, and for a very short time they also listed a Benjamin Legacy in .22 caliber that was one of the very finest spring rifles they ever offered. Sadly, both have been discontinued. If any other maker decides to de-tune a gas spring air rifle, there’s a market for it. Perhaps, the sales at the discount stores wouldn’t justify it, but educated buyers like those who read this blog could sustain steady sales, I believe. The Bronco got off to a slow start; but now that the word has circulated throughout the airgun community, I think the sales have picked up to the sustainment level.

Air Arms TX200 MKIII underlever air rifle

Air Arms TX200 MKIII

Air Arms TX200
You don’t have to ask because here it is. You have a bunch of money and want the absolute best spring gun — it’s the TX200 Mark III. Not the Hunter Carbine or the Pro-Sport — just the Mark III. This air rifle is built the way you think they all ought to be built. The metal is deeply blued, and the wood is flawless. The trigger is like the Rekord, only in its finest incarnation. Yes it costs a lot; but if you want the best, this is it.

Benjamin Discovery PCP air rifle with hand pump

Benjamin Discovery PCP with hand pump

Benjamin Discovery
I know, it sounds like bragging to promote a gun I had a hand in designing, but the fact is that Crosman carried out my wishes for the Benjamin Discovery almost to the letter. I was so proud of it that I wanted my name to go on it! Yes, the Marauder that I will get to next is quieter, more accurate and has a better trigger. But as a way of getting into the mysterious world of PCP airguns for little money, nothing can beat the Disco. If you do your part, it’ll shoot groups of 10 that are smaller than an inch at 50 yards. I linked to the combo that includes the hand pump because, frankly, I think this is the best way to learn about PCP airguns. And the price is right!

Benjamin Marauder precharged pneumatic airgun

Benjamin Marauder PCP

Benjamin Marauder
Crosman got their revenge on me when they introduced the Benjamin Marauder and everyone said it was the gun they should have built in the first place. They wanted to build it first, but I convinced them to start with the Discovery and gain some experience before tackling a more complex airgun like the Marauder. The Benjamin Marauder certainly is without equal. It has a fine adjustable trigger, splendid accuracy, is very quiet to shoot, and the fill pressure and velocity are both adjustable. What more can you ask for? Maybe the stock is on the fat side, but far be it from me to criticize the rifle that has changed the world of PCP airguns. Every PCP manufacturer has benefitted from the Marauder because it opened the world to the “dark side” — precharged airguns. I won’t suggest a caliber because each one has its champions. I’ve shot them all and they’re all best buys.

AirForce Talon SS precharged pneumatic air rifle

AirForce Talon SS

AirForce Talon SS
If you like the black rifle look and can shoot a single-shot, then it doesn’t get any better than the Talon SS from AirForce airguns. As I’ve pointed out in numerous reports, this isn’t just an air rifle — its a whole shooting system. You can change calibers and barrel lengths and run on either air or CO2. And the gun accepts an entire host of accessories. Some folks do not like the black rifle styling. That’s fine. If they want a conventional style there are certainly many air rifles to choose from. But for all those who only care where the pellet goes each time, the SS wins hands-down.

Daisy Avanti 853, AirForce Edge, Crosman Challenger

Daisy Avanti 853 at top, AirForce Edge in the middle and Crosman Challenger at the bottom

AirForce Edge & Crosman Challenger PCP
If you want a nice target rifle without paying a fortune, there used to be just one choice — the Daisy Avanti 853. It still exists, of course, and there are hundreds of thousands of them still in the hands of junior shooters all around the country, but its time has passed. I say that because the rifle’s trigger is poor and can only be modified to be okay, at its best. Two other 10-meter junior rifles have kicked it out of the nest. The Edge from AirForce is the first of these.

The Edge is an entirely new rifle from AirForce and incorporates their new target sights, as well. While the price is on the high side, you’re getting $170 worth of target sights included in that. I have tested the Edge and found it to be one of the two best youth target rifles available today. You’ll get an incredible 100+ shots from the tiny air reservoir, and filling it from a hand pump is relatively east for an adult. A dry-fire mechanism is built into the trigger so you can practice without firing a shot, which all target shooters need to be able to do. The trigger cannot be any better than this is — literally — since it’s limited by the NRA and CMP competition rules. If you like ergonomics, no junior target rifle comes close to the flexibility of the Edge. It even lets you to weight the rifle perfectly according to each shooter’s preference — up to the maximum permitted overall weight.

The Crosman Challenger PCP is the other great youth 10-meter target gun. This rifle doesn’t have sights that are as nice as those on the Edge; but in all other ways, it’s just as good. It’s a tack-driver, and I’ve proven that in a test. You’ll also get more than 100 shots on a fill with the Challenger PCP, and the trigger is very good, though it’s also constrained to the minimum weight requirement of 1.5 lbs.

The Challenger is very adjustable, as well. The pull of the stock has a wide range of adjustability and the buttplate can be canted sideways for comfort. All things considered, I think either this rifle or the Edge would make a wonderful Christmas gift for the target shooter — both young and old.

I told Edith that I could get everything into a single report this year, but that was wrong. I still have a lot more to do, so look for part 2 next week.

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