Posts Tagged ‘bugelspanner’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
A number of our blog readers suggested this report in various different ways. GunFun1 asked about the darts that might have been used in the old Tyrolean bugelspanner I wrote about. What did they look like, and why were they so accurate? He also talked about making a bugelspanner room in his house, where he could shoot the bugelspanner to his heart’s content.
Several others asked about the darts and wondered why I thought darts were more accurate than pellets. Today’s report is not about the darts, although I must share some exciting news with you on that front. Larry Hannusch, who is without a doubt the leading writer of vintage and antique airguns, read about my bugelspanner and is sending me some original pre-war darts that I can show you. So, there will be a Part 2 to that report, thanks to Larry, who also helped me remember how to disassemble a bugelspanner. I hope to take it apart for you and show you the insides in the same report.
But let’s go back to the notion of a bugelspanner room. That put me in mind of my past experience with guns — indeed, all of it. And that brings me to the story of how I became who I am.
Where it all started
I started out very young, as I’m sure you must have guessed. I was a very curious lad who was also quite naive — more prone to believe legend and myth than facts. I wanted Paladin to be faster on the draw than anyone else. I wanted Superman to be real (I mean the real Superman, George Reeves, who was killed June 16, 1959, by a 9mm bullet in the head under suspicious circumstances). And I sort of liked guns — sort of.
Then, I was given a subscription to Guns & Ammo magazine as a Christmas present. On the cover of the first issue was the picture of a zimmerstutzen rifle. Inside, I read the story of shooting these curious parlor rifles on cold winter evenings high in the alps. I guess that shooting was very similar to the circumstances under which our parents walked to school — uphill both ways for 10 miles and always in the snow! For some reason, when you talk about target shooting in Germany it’s always associated with beer and it’s perpetually winter.
Whatever the magic was, I was smitten. I wanted a zimmerstutzen in the very worst way! Maybe that’s why I considered a career in the Army and embraced my first overseas posting to Erlangen, Germany, a suburb of Nürnberg. I knew I was going to northern Bavaria, so I pictured all the men wearing lederhosen and the women in dirndls. In my mind, Chevy Chase’s European Vacation was about right.
Well, culture shock set in when I saw what Germany was really like. I felt like a refugee from Afganistan when walking amongst those upscale, sophisticated Deutchlanders, whose spoken English was better than mine! I spent nearly 4 years there and never saw a vintage zimmerstutzen, though I saw plenty of modern ones made on .22 rimfire bolt-action rifles. I lived in the hometown of the famous BSF airgun factory for 42 months without knowing it; and when I returned home, I was no further along in my quest than before I went.
But once back in California, I did buy a German Aydt falling-block rifle chambered in .22 long rifle. It was a Tyrolean-style rifle. too, just not in the traditional 4mm zimmerstutzen caliber. So, I set up a Sheridan target trap (Sheridan once made a .22 rimfire trap) in a schrank (a freestanding cabinet that serves as a closet in Germany) in the living room of my government quarters at Fort Knox. Then, I stood in my dining room and fired CB caps into the target from about 19 feet away. This was all offhand, of course.
The very target trap and schrank at which I shot back in the 1970s. I kept the schrank and the trap but sold the rifle. Where are my priorities? Zimmerstutzen target came from collector Gary Staup.
The 4mm zimmerstutzen cartridge (left) is dwarfed by the .22 long rifle cartridge.
The rifle had a 5-lever double-set trigger, which was especially fine. And its 28-inch barrel ate nearly all the discharge sound of the CB cap cartridges I shot, so it was quiet enough for indoors. I’m describing to you my “bugelspanner room.” I didn’t shoot when the family was home, for safety reasons; and, in truth, I didn’t shoot this way very much. But in my mind, I’d finally gotten my zimmerstutzen. All I needed was a keg of beer in the dining room!
In those days, I didn’t take very many pictures, so there’s no picture of that gun. But it looked very much like my new Bugelspanner, so I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.
Then I got divorced, left the Army and had to sell all my guns to pay bills. Then I met Edith and got married again. Then she suggested I write about airguns and I did. Then I happened to stumble across an airgun owner who was puzzled as to what gun he had. It turned out he had a real zimmerstutzen — which I bought, tested and wrote about. While researching the topic, I met John Gary Staup, America’s foremost schuetzen and zimmerstutzen collector, and he helped me research the article that I eventually published in Airgun Revue No. 2. It was the longest article about zimmerstutzen rifles ever printed in the English language, as far as Gary or I were able to determine. And that article is posted for you on this website in its entirety.
My first zimmerstutzen, and the one that I wrote about the most. It was 4.3mm caliber and used separate ammunition.
Of course I tested the zimmerstutzen for accuracy. After searching for one for so many years, I’d high hopes for stunning accuracy. Zimmerstutzens shoot at 15 meters instead of the 10 meters we’re used to; but when I tried mine, it was on my standard 10-meter range. The accuracy wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. First, of course, those round lead balls tear ragged holes in the target paper, unlike the wadcutters that target air rifles use. The targets look worse and are much harder to score. Five shots went into about a half-inch or so.
The gun was very loud, and the velocity of the 7-grain lead balls was highly variable — from 800 to over 1,000 f.p.s. It wasn’t as pleasant as the myth I’d created in my mind over the years, which was a real let-down. Vintage target air rifles were more accurate than this thing I had been pursuing for over 3 decades. It kind of took the wind out of my sails. I did have a second zimmer for a short while; but I bought it as an investment, only, and I never fired it.
When I saw the Tyrolean bugelspanner of airgun collector Don Raitzer on display at an airgun show, my interest piqued, again. Bugelspanners are not known for their accuracy, so why was this one outfitted for extreme competition? I also saw Larry Hannusch’s Tyrolean bugelspanner at the same show and got to wondering. What were these strange things all about? Who uses a paddleboat to go water-skiing? Photos of both those guns are in the linked zimmerstutzen article, if you’re interested.
When I say things like my interest piqued, I don’t mean that the subject occupied my every waking moment. More like every couple of months I would give it a casual thought. So, things moved very slowly while these thoughts percolated on the back burner of my mind. A few weeks ago, when the opportunity to own a Tyrolean bugelspanner arose, I was spring-loaded for it.
Which brings us to the present time. I now know that zimmerstutzens were accurate for their time, but they weren’t better than the 10-meter target air rifles we have today. They weren’t infallible. And it’s my guess that the dart guns of the 18th and 19th centuries were also not as accurate as the reports make them out to be.
So, I’m still wondering why anyone would go to the effort and expense of making a dart gun with all the features of a super-accurate offhand competition gun. And I guess that’s what keeps this hobby fresh and exciting for me.
Why did the makers put so much accuracy potential into a smoothbore dart gun?
This is just one of the things that defines me. My time working as a ride operator and deputy marshall at Frontier Village amusement park in San Jose, California, is another part. That was when I read Elmer Keith from cover to cover and shot guns for a living as part of the hourly gunfights in the park. But what made me a lover of quirky single-shot rifles was my 30-year saga in search of the German zimmerstutzen.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, I have a story for you. A couple weeks ago, one of our blog readers — a man named Eric — emailed me a link to a local craigslist.com posting. Eric met me at a gun show last year, and I sold him a Winchester model 427 (Diana 27) air rifle. He already knew about fine vintage airguns, and the 27 had been on his wish list for a while, but I don’t think he was a blog reader. Well, we fixed that right away! Since then, he’s been reading the blog and becoming more familiar with his new rifle and airguns in general
The listing he sent me showed a Tyrolean air rifle with the traditional high-cupped cheekpiece and hooked buttplate. What was even more fascinating were the double-set triggers and the large aperture sight located at the rear of the receiver, as well as the sporting sight mounted on the barrel.
The gun was a bügelspanner, or loosely translated, a triggerguard (lever) cocker. I’ve owned 2 bügelspanners in the past, but neither was as nice as this one. And the funny thing is that this was posted on craigslist! That’s funny because guns are sold on gun websites — not on a general website like craigslist.
But this posting had lasted for a minimum of 2 weeks before I saw it. So, I contacted the seller and, glory be, he still had it! We met last Sunday, did the transaction and this was one of those rare times when the gun was exactly as represented.
The gun is a smoothbore .25-caliber gun. The seller, named Joe, told me he had owned it for the past 34 years and had gotten it at the age of 8 as a gift from his father. The gun is much older — probably dating back to around the 1920s or ’30s.
It’s a spring-piston gun that has 2 opposed volute springs that compress against each other. They push a leather-covered piston in the same way that a coiled steel mainspring does in a conventional spring-piston gun, so this is just an odd form of spring-piston airgun.
Two volute springs push against each other when compressed.
The volute spring is a flat spring that’s been coiled and stretched into this shape.
I was attracted to this airgun because of a long, abiding interest in zummerstutzens — indoor gallery or parlor guns used for target shooting. I’ve been fascinated with them since I was a teenager and first read about them in Guns & Ammo back in the early 1960s.
The zimmerstutzen rifle is usually found in the Tyrolean style, but not always. It’s nominally 4mm, but there are more than 20 specific calibers for which the guns were bored. They fire either fixed ammunition (a cartridge) or separate ammo with a percussion cap and round lead ball loaded separately. Rather than get into the full description here, I invite you to read my full article about them. I normally don’t like giving homework assignments; but if you read that article and look at all the pictures, you’ll have a much better understanding of the gun we’re examining today.
The subject gun
I was inclined to believe the subject gun is a dart gun, but what little historical documentation there is mentions using pellets as well. I thought it was a dart gun because it’s set up for extreme accuracy, and I didn’t think that pellets could be that accurate in a smoothbore barrel. But we did do a test of the Diana 25 smoothbore at 10 meters and established that it is, in fact, very accurate at that distance. So, I really don’t know if I’m supposed to shoot darts or pellets in this gun. For the present, I only have pellets because .25-caliber darts are not that common. But I could certainly make some.
This type of gun either fits or doesn’t fit — there’s no in-between. I’m lucky that it fits me pretty well. But that sporting rear sight does get in the way of seeing the front sight. I would have to remove it to use the rear sight.
Why a sporting rear sight? Shooters in the US are not familiar with how European airgunners view target shooting. They use their guns for both precision target shooting and also for sporting use. I guess the best comparison would be to the Hunter Class of field target. Therefore, European target guns often have both a precision rear peep site and a second sporting rear sight located somewhere on the barrel. The subject gun has both.
The front sight is a fine post and bead, which is typical of all zimmerstutzens and, indeed, of many target guns from the 19th century. This sight is very fragile, so it’s protected by steel “ears” on both sides.
The sporting rear sight is adjusted in both directions by a clock key.
Rear peep sight is also adjust by a clock key and can be removed to use the sporting sight, only.
Front post-and-bead sight is delicate, so two steel ears protect it.
The gun has an octagonal barrel, which dates its manufacture to before World War II. It’s impossible to get a more precise date than that because these guns were made from the beginning of the 20th century until the early 1950s. The octagonal barrel also suggests a time before 1940. Most likely this gun was made in the 1920s or 30s, but I have no way of proving that.
The name Original is engraved on the barrel. Several sources say that this is a name used by Oskar Will in Zella Mehlis, Germany; but one source says that name, by itself, was used only by his competitors, and all of his guns also have the word Will on them, as in Original Will.
The name Original may mean this gun was made by Oskar Will of Zella Mehlis.
The gun is cocked by pressing down on the triggerguard, which is actually a long lever pivoted near the bottom rear of the butt. You can see the pivot pin sticking through the rear of the buttstock. A linkage pulls the piston back, compressing the two springs. To load the gun, you press a catch forward on the right side of the forearm, and the rear of the barrel can then be tipped up. You could call this a breakbarrel, but the barrel doesn’t have anything to do with cocking the springs. In that respect, the gun is like the breakbarrel Whiscombe rifles.
The cocking effort is pretty demanding. It’s on the order of 40 lbs., at least. I can’t see how a boy of 8 was able to cock this gun, but maybe his father cocked it for him until he grew into it.
Triggerguard is shown up…in the firing position.
Triggerguard is pulled down to cock the springs.
Push the catch forward, and the barrel can be tipped up for loading.
The double-set triggers on this gun are interesting. They work in the normal way — the rear trigger is pulled to set the front trigger and the front trigger fires the gun. However, there’s one difference. Many guns with double-set triggers will also fire when the front trigger is pulled without being set. This gun will not. If the trigger is not set, the gun cannot be fired.
Double-set triggers function normally, except the gun won’t fire unless the trigger is set. Many double-set triggers will fire when the front trigger hasn’t been set, but not this one.
Joe told me he shot the gun, so I figured it would be okay for me to do, too. First I dumped about 20 drops of 3-In-One oil down the air transfer port and gave it an hour to soak into the leather piston seal. The, I loaded an obsolete 20-grain Diana Magnum pellet and shot it into the trap from just a few feet away. The firing cycle was very harsh, so I won’t be doing that, again, until I can examine the condition of the powerplant. I could hear how slow the pellet moved, which leads me to suspect I’m right about this being a dart gun.
The gun is stocked with a light-colored walnut that’s checkered on the straight pistol grip. Also typical of the Tyrolean stock is the thumbrest that protrudes from the right side of the grip. That makes this a definite right-hand rifle!
This top view shows how thick the buttstock blank had to be to begin with!
The gun’s metal is finished with a combination of heavy nickel plate and hot-tank bluing. I would put the finish at 80-85 percent, which is to say…a lot! There are pepper tracks of rust scattered around the blued barrel, but an application of Ballistol and steel wool has begun to remove them. I’ll keep this up for as long as it takes to get down to smooth metal.
This report will not follow the traditional pattern of velocity testing followed by accuracy testing. For starters, I think the gun is too fragile to shoot that much, plus it does fire harshly. I need to find out what’s going on inside before I do much of anything.
I made this Part 1 so I could come back to it with a second report, though I have no plans for that right now. But as I learn more about it, there will be enough information to make an interesting Part 2.