Posts Tagged ‘ballistic curtains’

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.

Safe backstops and bullet traps

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of us shoot our airguns inside the house, garage or barn and need to stop our projectiles from damaging what’s behind the target. Today, I want to talk about what works, what doesn’t and why. My sermon today is in the form of a repentant sinner, because I’ve made most of the mistakes I’m telling you to avoid.

The difference between a trap and a backstop
A bullet trap is designed to stop whatever is shot into it. Targets are hung in front of the trap, and it’s expected to stop all bullets/pellets/BBs that enter.

A backstop is often set behind the trap to stop the bullets that miss the trap. If there’s a trap, the backstop is only called upon occasionally; but sometimes there’s no trap — just the backstop, in which case the backstop, alone, has to stop everything.

Starting with BB guns
When I was a boy, the most popular trap for BB guns was a trash can or wastepaper basket filled with crushed newspapers. It worked, but not for very long, so let’s talk about that. Crushed newspapers are great padding for packages. The newspapers have enough resiliency to keep the contents of the package firmly in place — unless those contents are very heavy. And the same crushed newspapers will stop BBs from low-powered BB guns — like Red Ryders — for a short time.

But — and this is important — even a Red Ryder will eventually shoot through the crushed newspapers when one BB after another impacts in the same spot. And, if the BB gun is more powerful, it doesn’t take as long to tear through. Red Ryders shoot at around 300-350 f.p.s. But some powerful BB guns like the Remington AirMaster 77 top 700 f.p.s. They’ll rip through crushed newspapers in one-tenth the time it takes a Red Ryder to get through. When you’re making a BB trap, consider both the length of time you’ll be shooting at the trap as well as the potential velocity of the gun doing the shooting.

A better way to stop BBs is to provide a backstop that has some give — like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet. When the backstop moves, it robs the projectile of a lot of velocity, which prevents bounceback — the bane of the BB gun. And wall-to-wall carpet has a very tough base that seems impervious to steel BBs at Red Ryder velocities. I know of clubs that have made BB gun ranges with large sections of wall-to-wall carpet that not only stop the BBs but which hang to the floor and are folded into a trough at the bottom to funnel all the BBs into a container, simplifying cleanup. A backstop like that and a large powerful magnet makes cleanup an easy chore.

Of course, you can buy a commercial BB trap that will do all I’ve described. Crosman’s model 850/852 trap is perfect for low-velocity BB guns and works for low-velocity pellets, as well. The only problem is that Crosman has them made in China, and sometimes they’re out of stock for a very long time. The UTG pellet & BB trap is very similar and will do the same things. It costs a few dollars more, but the supply is more regular. Both of these traps have “ballistic curtains” that absorb the energy of BBs at low velocity. A thin steel backplate ultimately stops the projectile. Of course, you’ll want to put a larger backstop behind this trap for those few projectiles that miss the trap altogether.


This Crosman 850 BB trap has stopped thousands of BBs and pellets. Notice how the ballistic curtains have been torn up from all the shots.

For the more powerful BB guns — those with muzzle velocities over 400 f.p.s. — I don’t like carpet. Like crushed newspaper, it’s possible to shoot through it if you keep hitting in the same spot. For those guns, I prefer an actual trap filled with duct seal and use the carpet as a backstop behind the trap. The few BBs that hit the carpet won’t hit in the same place, and it should work fine. If the range is to be more permanent, however, put some plywood behind the carpet and keep an eye on the carpet and replace it as needed.

On to pellets
Pellets are made of lead, mostly, though there’s a movement to use other metals that are less toxic. Lead absorbs energy when it deforms against a hard target. Up to 600 f.p.s., lead continues to flatten out until a spent pellet has become a flat round disk with just a trace of the skirt still visible. At velocities above 600 f.p.s., lead starts to break apart upon impact. First, it breaks off in large chunks traveling at low velocity. As the impact velocity continues to rise, the lead fragments get smaller and travel faster. Above 700 f.p.s., they’re traveling fast enough to break lights up to 15 feet away from the trap.


This pellet was flattened at 600 f.p.s. or less, You can still see the pellet’s skirt, including the rifling that’s engraved into both it and the head that is flattened.


This pellet was moving faster than 600 f.p.s. when it hit and has started to break apart. It’s a smaller caliber than the first pellet, but the breakup happens in the same way regardless of size.

You don’t want to use a lightweight pellet trap for pellets that move at higher velocities! They’ll even punch through steel plates if they’re thin enough. For pellet guns, some thought must be given to what kind of trap you use.

I use three traps in my work. One is the BB trap already mentioned. Regular readers of this blog know that I shoot several hundred rounds each week. Often one test involves from 100 to 200 shots. So, my traps (I’m not talking about backstops yet) have to be up to the task.

Heavy Duty Bullet trap
For all my most powerful airguns, I use a Heavy Duty bullet trap designed to stop a .22 long rifle bullet. I bought mine about 20 years ago and I thought $45 was a lot to pay. Today, you’ll pay over $75 for the same thing, but it’s the last bullet trap (of that type) you’ll ever buy. My trap has seen hundreds of thousands of pellets and bullets over the years — and except for the paint, it’s still as good as new today.

My workhorse heavy-duty pellet trap hides behind the cardboard facer. The white backer board behind is half an inch thick and will stop pellets with up to 50 foot-pounds of energy.

This is the trap I use when I shoot 25 yards inside the house, and over the years I’ve missed this trap a couple dozen times, so I learned long ago to back it with something strong. I use a board of white synthetic material that Edith gave me years ago. It’s supposed to be a special board she bought over 15 years ago for kneading bread dough, but it warped just enough that it twirls and moves freely on the countertop during use, so now it’s mine. Since I started using this backer board with the steel trap, nothing has slipped past.

The final trap I use is the one that blog reader Jim Contos gave me. I wrote a special blog describing how to build one for yourself. Jim gave me this trap after I reported shooting through my homemade silent pellet trap that I’d used for many years. After cleaning the trap and replacing all the duct seal, I was testing a Beeman HW100 S FSB, which is a 26 foot-pound PCP rifle. Within just a few shots I shot clean through the duct seal and the steel plate behind it! I’ve used this trap for a very long time and with some powerful airguns. What was different this time was the lack of a wadded mass of lead pellets to help slow the pellets that were shot. So they sailed right through the trap!


This is what happens when a 26 foot-pound pellet rifle hits two-inches of duct seal in the same place repeatedly. There’s a thin steel plate between that plywood back and the duct seal, and the pellets zipped through it!

I don’t back this trap with anything. because I use it only for chronograph testing, where the muzzle is a foot from the trap. I haven’t come close to missing the trap in over 25,000 shots!

How large should the backer be?
Make the backer large enough to positively stop all rounds that are shot in the direction of the target. If you’re the only shooter, maybe the backer can be smaller; but if your range will ever host other shooters of varying abilities, make it bigger. When we lived in Maryland, I often let others shoot on my basement range. I used a 3/4-inch plywood backer that was 4 feet square. Even then it was just enough to stop all the wild shots. Not everyone waits to sight the gun before their finger moves to the trigger!

Let’s review
So, you always want to stop your projectile positively. Sometimes that’s done with just a target backer, like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet. Other times, you use a trap to stop the projectile and put the backer behind it in case you miss the trap.

Shooting safe is imperative, because there’s no room for error here. How you stop your projectiles makes all the difference between a safe home range and a serious accident or injury. This is one area where you always want to err on the safe side!

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