Posts Tagged ‘collectible guns’

BSA Airsporter Stutzen: Part 2

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

BSA Airsporter Stutzen
BSA Airsporter Stutzen was the final version of the Airsporter with a tap.

Part 1

This report covers:

• Your interests
• Gamo: Yes or no?
• Get over it!
• Firing cycle
• Velocity with RWS Hobby pellets
• RWS Superpoint pellets
• Webley Flying Scott High Velocity Twin Ring pellets
• Cocking effort
• Trigger-pull
• Evaluation so far

We all learned about the BSA Airsporter in the last report, and I got some important feedback from readers. Apparently, these rifles have been sold at airgun shows right under my nose without my knowledge. The one thing that’s certain is that I’m not the only one who knows how nice this rifle is. Several of you know it and are smart enough to stay under the radar as you pick up these air rifles at airgun shows. I hope to see some of these at the Ft. Worth Airgun Show in September.

Your interests
There were several things the blog readers commented on in the first report. Several of you said you liked the stutzen styling, which is why I mentioned that stutzens are not specific to any one manufacturer. A couple folks noticed how this rifle resembles the Diana 430 Stutzen, and I agree they do look similar. But they aren’t alike at all. The Diana rifle has an entirely different powerplant design and cocking linkage; and even though it resembles this one, it isn’t the same or even that close.

The Diana 430 Stutzen has a sliding compression chamber, like the TX200 Mark III. You load the pellet directly into the breech of the barrel of that rifle. This BSA Airsporter Stutzen has a loading tap that accepts the pellet. When the gun fires, the air blast blows the pellet from the tap into the breech, and that results in some power loss when compared to a rifle that takes the pellet directly into the breech.

Power output was another topic you discussed a lot. Some of you hoped this rifle would make 12 foot-pounds, but a few readers guessed that it’s more of an 8 to 9 foot-pound airgun. Today is velocity day so we will see exactly what this particular rifle will do.

Gamo: Yes or no?
Then there was some discussion on whether or not this rifle was made by BSA in England or by Gamo in Spain after Gamo bought BSA. Here’s the answer: This rifle was made by the BSA company in Birmingham, England, before the company was sold to Gamo.

I related that I had tested a Gamo Stutzen with a rotary breech many years ago and didn’t care for it, and that kicked off a round of discussions. Fred_BR, our Brazilian reader, said he has a .22-caliber Gamo Stutzen with rotary breech that he loves. He found it difficult to understand what my objections were.

Some of you were angry that Gamo owns BSA and continues to build and sell spring rifles under that name, which I guess is similar to the Chinese owning Beeman and making and selling air rifles under that name. I understand that sentiment. When Umarex purchased Hämmerli and started to sell airguns made in China under that name, it really set me off. I’d always been a fan of the hand-built Hämmerli free pistols that cost thousands of dollars, and it just didn’t seem right to use that prestigious name to sell something inexpensive and mass-produced. When Crosman came out with a spring rifle they called the Benjamin Super Steak a few years ago, I went nuts! As far as I was concerned, the name Streak belonged to a Sheridan airgun.

Get over it!
But we just have to let it go. Brand changes are a fact of life and will always be with us. If they weren’t, there would be no such thing as Redline Levis jeans and Cleveland 335 Ford engines. The most we enthusiasts can do is identify those models that have the features we want and pursue them over the rest of the items bearing similar names but different specifications.

Shot cycle
That being said, I was prepared not to like this rifle when I got it. I remembered the harsh firing cycle of the Gamo Stutzen .177 rifle I tested for The Airgun Letter and expected this one to be the same. But it isn’t. Where the Gamo was harsh, this BSA is smooth. The first shot told me this is a completely different air rifle from what I’d expected.

Velocity with RWS Hobby pellets
The first pellet I tested was the lightweight RWS Hobby. Since this rifle is a taploader, you need pellets with wide skirts that are also thin so they can spread out and fill the tap chamber when the air blast hits them. A number of popular pellets I tested were 100 f.p.s. slower than expected because they were either too small for the tap or their skirts would not distort with the shot. But Hobbys are both larger in diameter and also have thin skirts. As far as pellet seating is concerned, it isn’t possible with a taploader. You just drop it in nose-first and you’re done. The pellet takes it from there.

Hobbys averaged 800 f.p.s. on the nose. The low was 795 f.p.s., and the high was 804 f.p.s., so the maximum spread was only 9 f.p.s. That’s an indication that the Hobby is a good pellet for this rifle. At the average velocity, Hobbys generate 9.95 foot-pounds at the muzzle, which is certainly on the high side of many of the guesstimates.

RWS Superpoint pellets
As I mentioned, I did try pellets from other makers, but they were all too slow –which indicates they aren’t sealing well in the tap. But I knew RWS Superpoints also have a thin skirt from my work with the Hakim, which is also a taploader, so I decided to give them a try. Superpoints weigh 8.2 grains in .177 caliber, so they aren’t the lightweights Hobbys are, but their thin skirts may compensate for that.

Superpoints averaged 766 f.p.s. in the Stutzen, with a low of 759 f.p.s. and a high of 770 f.p.s. The spread is only 11 f.p.s., which indicates this is also a good pellet for this rifle. The pellets that dropped 100 f.p.s. from what was expected also had large velocity spreads between individual shots, which shows how inconsistent they are in this rifle. At the average velocity, Superpoints generated 10.69 foot-pounds of muzzle energy — putting to rest the rumor that this is a weak spring-piston rifle. I believe the rifle I have is up to snuff and performing as well as can be expected.

Webley Flying Scot High Velocity Twin Ring pellets
Here’s a pellet most U.S. shooters don’t know. I know these are no longer being made in the UK; but since the usual pellets weren’t working, I decided to give them a try. The Flying Scot is a domed pure lead pellet that has a very thin skirt. They also stop about halfway down in the BSA loading tap, which makes them the largest of the 3 pellets I tested. The weight varies from 7.3 grains to 7.5 grains, but most of the pellets weighed 7.3 grains.

Webley Flying Scott pellets
Webley Flying Scot pellets are pure lead domes. They’re lightweight with thin skirts.

Webley Flying Scott tin
Flying Scot tin

Flying Scots averaged 775 f.p.s. in the BSA, with a low of 758 f.p.s. and a high of 791 f.p.s., with a spread of 33 f.p.s. — much greater than either of the other two pellets. This is an indication that this pellet is probably not a premium pellet and may not have good accuracy. But I’ll test it. At the average velocity, the Flying Scot produced 9.74 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Cocking effort
This rifle cocks with a maximum of 29 lbs. of effort. Most of the time the scale needle stays around 26 lbs., but it always does spike up to 29 lbs. early in every cocking stroke. It feels more like 40 lbs., though, because of where the cocking linkage pivot point is located.

Trigger-pull
The non-adjustable 2-stage trigger takes up with about 1 lb., 3 oz. for the first stage, then stage 2 releases at 4 lbs., 14 oz. The trigger shape and linkage is so perfectly placed that it feels like half that.

Evaluation so far
This BSA Stutzen rifle has surprised me at every turn. I expected not to like it, yet found it to be smooth-shooting with a light, crisp trigger. I expected lower power than I’m seeing in this test, so obviously this rifle can perform. I know BSA has a reputation for making great barrels, so I can’t wait to see how it does on targets. That’s next.

BSA Airsporter Stutzen: Part 1

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

BSA Airsporter Stutzen
BSA Airsporter Stutzen was the final version of the Airsporter to have a tap.

This report covers:

• What’s a stutzen?
• My first encounter
• Parallel development
• Fast-forward to 2010
• BSA Airsporter
• Underlever spring-piston air rifle
• Open sights
• Overall evaluation

Today, I’ll start a report on an airgun that’s tantalized me for over 20 years. It has done so in multiple ways and has caused me to learn more about this hobby of ours: The BSA Airsporter Stutzen.

What’s a stutzen?
First, let’s discuss the name. A stutzen is a style of rifle, not a specific model made by just one manufacturer. There are stutzen air rifles and stutzen firearm rifles. So, what is it?

The German word stutzen means to crop, dock or prune, so a stutzen rifle is one that looks cropped. Fundamentally, it’s a slang term give to a rifle that’s mounted in a stock that goes all the way to the end of the muzzle. The rifle barrel may be full length, but it appears cropped because the forearm is just as long.

A stutzen is not necessarily a carbine, though it can be. The stutzen name doesn’t refer to the length of the barrel, but rather to where and how the stock ends in relation to the barrel. You see, Mannlicher stocks also go to the end of the muzzle. Does that mean that all rifles with Mannlicher stocks are stutzens? Yes, I suppose it does, but there are subtle differences. Classic Mannlicher stocks have distinctive steel nose caps that enclose the end of the barrel. However, in the past 30 years, people have blurred the distinction between a classic Mannlicher-style stock and a stutzen, and today the terms are used interchangeably.

BSA Airsporter Stutzen muzzle
The BSA Stutzen’s stock ends in a schnabel of dark wood. There’s no metal end cap that a true Mannlicher stock would have.

My first encounter
The first stutzen I tested was for The Airgun Letter. It happened in the 1990s, at a time when I was very much into spring-piston airguns. The rifle I tested was a Gamo Stutzen that was a less-expensive version of the BSA Stutzen that had either just been discontinued or was soon to be. At the time, both the Gamo and BSA rifles had rotary breeches. I’d never seen a BSA Stutzen, so the Gamo Stutzen I tested represented all stutzen air rifles to me. That was a shame because the Gamo rifle was hard to cock, harsh-firing and not very powerful. As I recall, it wasn’t that accurate.The hard cocking and harsh firing cooled me to the rifle. I was shooting and playing with TX200s in those days, and any spring rifle that I tested suffered by comparison.

Parallel development
At the same this was happening, I was also deep into Hakim air rifles. I’d already owned about 10 of them and tuned them for others as well as for myself. The Hakim is also an underlever spring rifle, just like the BSA and Gamo Stutzens, but it’s lower-powered, making it easier to cock; after a tune, it shoots quite smoothly. Why, I wondered, couldn’t these stutzens be more like the Hakims? They were actually a lot more like them than I knew!

Fast-forward to 2010
I was at the 2010 Roanoke Airgun Expo, only because my buddy Mac drove out to Texas from Maryland and drove me back East (and then back home to Texas, again). I still had a drain tube coming out of my pancreas from a failed operation five months before, and I was barely able to walk. Another friend at this airgun show, Marv Freund, insisted I buy a strange German underlever rifle from him that turned out to be the Falke model 90 I’ve written so much about. If you don’t remember our first look at the gun, perhaps you’ll remember that it had the stock that I’d restored and reported on in a second 4-part report.

During both those reports, I remarked how much the Falke 90 action resembled the Hakim action. On closer inspection and after more research, I discovered that both rifles had their heritage in the BSA Airsporter of 1948. The title of this report is the BSA Airsporter Stutzen. Is this starting to make sense?

BSA Airsporter
The BSA Airsporter is the underlever that started all of my fascination with these rifles, yet I’d never actually owned one. I’ve had bundles of Hakims and even the super-rare Falke 90, but somehow the BSA Airsporter eluded me all those years. Well, not entirely. I did actually own an Airsporter that was just a junk rifle I picked up at a local gun show. The stock was broken off at the triggerguard, and you could see the insides of the action. My thought was just to rescue it for airgunners, so I was happy to sell it to collector Larry Hannusch at Roanoke for what I’d paid. A year later, Larry had installed another stock on it, and I almost bought the rifle back from him before realizing it was the same gun. Other than that, I’ve never owned an Airsporter.

Then, several weeks ago, I was at another local gun show — in fact a show that was held at the very place that the 2014 Ft. Worth Airgun Show will be held. The guys out there know that I’m into airguns. When they have something, they sometimes bring it to me. At this show, there was a very familiar rifle laying on one of the tables. It looked like either a BSA or Gamo Stutzen, and it turned out to be a BSA. But this one was different from the one I’d tested back in the ’90s.

Instead of Gamo’s rotary breech, this one was a true taploader, which I knew made it older. It’s in like-new condition, and the seller knew that I was the only airgun guy in the room — or in the state, as far as he knew — so he offered it to me in a trade deal I couldn’t refuse. It was basically anything to get this airgun off his table because he doesn’t do airguns. By the way, if you do come to the Ft. Worth show this September, you’ll meet a bunch of members of this gun club who are very excited to sell all their old airguns. The club is giving them a communal table so they won’t have to pay to display and sell all their old airguns — and remember — they’ve been asking me for the past 2 years to have this show!

BSA Airsporter Stutzen tap
The loading tap is opened manually after cocking. Drop the pellet in nose-first.

Anyhow, I got this Stutzen in trade, even though I didn’t want it because of my experience with the Gamo years before. It’s so beautiful that I knew someone else would want it for sure. When I got it home and looked in the latest Blue Book of Airguns, though, imagine my surprise to discover that this isn’t just a stutzen. Its full title is BSA Airsporter Stutzen. That’s right — this is the Airsporter that I’ve been hunting for over the past 15+ years!

Underlever spring-piston air rifle
The Airsporter Stutzen is an underlever spring-piston rifle whose lever is concealed in the forearm. From the side, there isn’t a clue that the lever’s there. Despite what I said earlier about stutzens not necessarily being carbines, this one is — at just 39.25 inches long. The barrel makes up almost 14 inches of that length. The length of pull is 13.50 inches, which includes a one-inch black rubber buttpad at the back. So, this rifle is compact.

The stock is beech wood, but it’s from an earlier era and is far more attractive than the beech stocks of today. The taploading Airsporter Stutzen was made from 1985 to 1992, making it the final version of the Airsporter to have a tap. After that, the Gamo rotary breech was used on all BSA Stutzens. The wood is stained an even dark brown color, and the pistol grip is checkered. The forearm ends in a darker wood schnabel, which is German for beak or bill, and goes hand-in-hand with the stutzen style. The cheekpiece is nicely formed and stands apart from the butt, unlike the Gamo stocks that would follow. They all appear to have been melted, as their cheekpieces are blended into the butt with little transition. The comb has a classic Monte Carlo profile.

There are quick-detachable sling swivel studs on the stock, front and rear. But I must say that a sling on an underlever rifle can easily get in the way during cocking.

The metal parts are all an even dark black with a medium polish. It’s midway between a hunter matte and the deep shine of a TX200.

This rifle is .177 caliber; and although they were also made in .22 caliber, I suspect there are many more in this caliber, owing to the times and where they were made. The rifle is loaded through the tap, which must be manually opened after cocking. Don’t open it before cocking or the piston will create a partial vacuum when it withdraws. The tap is an extension of the air transfer port and must be aligned with the transfer port and bore (in its closed position) for air to flow though.

BSA Airsporter Stutzen lever down
This is how far down and back the lever comes.

The rifle weighs 8 lbs. on the nose. The 2-stage trigger is crisp right now, but I see one and possibly 2 screws that might allow some adjustment. There’s very little information about these guns on the internet, but I did read that an owner had tried to adjust his trigger with little result. Both screws are headless Allen screws, so they aren’t there to secure anything.

I’ve shot the rifle a few times and can tell you the trigger is crisp, and the firing cycle is smooth and quick. Cocking is a bit on the stiff side, but not as bad as I remember. I think the Gamo Stutzen’s cocking linkage was rougher than this one.

Open sights
There are open sights front and rear and not a fiberoptic tube to be seen! It’ll be fun to shoot. The rear sight adjusts in both directions, plus it sits at the front of an 11mm scope base. BSA scope bases on rifles of this time are the largest ever produced and actually approach 14mm wide, so care must be taken when choosing mounts. I don’t know if I will scope the rifle or not at this time — I just want to test it for you.

BSA Airsporter Stutzen rear sight
The rear sight is mounted on an inclined plane for elevation and a dovetail for sideways adjustment.

The front sight is a post that sits on a ramp. It’s very square and matches the rear sight notch well. A removable sheet metal hood covers the post.

Overall evaluation
I originally did the trade deal for this air rifle because it was a good one. But after examining the rifle more closely and after learning that it’s actually the Airsporter I have been searching for, I’m very glad I got it. I don’t know if I’ll keep it or sell it after testing, but at least I will have had the opportunity to closely examine an Airsporter after all these years. This will be a fun test!

El Gamo 300: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

Before I begin, blog reader HiveSeeker has asked me for some photography tips. Not that I’m a great picture-taker, but I do have some tips on how to photograph airguns. For starters, he wondered about photographing dark guns like his Winchester MP4. In the past, I’ve done several reports on airgun photography, but we may have enough new readers that it would be of interest, again. What do you think?

Okay, let’s get started. Today, we’re looking at the accuracy of the El Gamo 300.

This report covers:

• Poor man’s R7
• Trigger
• Firing behavior
• Accuracy
• First pellet
• Summary

A poor man’s R7
The El Gamo 300 was supposed to be my “poor man’s Beeman R7.” It was supposed to have the power and accuracy of the R7 (which is a modified HW 30S) at a cost that was far less. At the time, when the 300 was selling (the late 1970s), the R7 was sold with open sights, so the two airguns were comparable. The HW 30S still does has open sights today; so in that respect, the comparison can still be made.

As it turned out, the 300 is about 100 f.p.s. slower than an R7. The cocking is easier, but this rifle isn’t in the same power class, so any comparison suffers.

Adjustable trigger
Alas, the 300′s trigger is much simpler and only minimally adjustable, while the R7/30S both have the famous Rekord, which is one of the finest sporting airgun triggers of all time. I did try to adjust it, but the biggest thing that seemed to change was the length of the first-stage travel. The pull did drop, but only by a little. When the first-stage travel was shortened it did increase the length and creep of stage two; so I guess you could say it does adjust the pull to that extent, but the results were not very encouraging. It’s an acceptable trigger for an inexpensive spring rifle, but far below the Rekord for performance and adjustability.

One reason I wanted to get a 300 is because I believed it had the same action and trigger of the El Gamo 68 XP. That rifle’s trigger is very adjustable; and, while it gets unreliable when you take it down too light, it’s very crisp and positive when adjusted to a normal sporting level (3-5 lb. pull weight). The 300 trigger can be adjusted even lighter with safety, but it still retains some creep in stage two.

Firing behavior
The 300 is a buzzy gun. I could no doubt fix it with a little tuning, but right now the buzz is its most annoying feature. When this gun was new in the 1970s, nearly every air rifle felt the same and there was no basis for comparison. However, in the past 20 years, both airgun design and tuning tricks have improved so much that the vintage guns now suffer in comparison.

Accuracy
For today’s test, I shot this rifle at 10 meters from a rested position. I used the traditional artillery hold with the rifle rested on my off hand, back by the triggerguard. As you’ll recall from my earlier reports, I felt the rear sight notch was too narrow for the front blade. Well, when the target was illuminated by a 500-watt lamp, it was easy to see the whole front sight and some light on either side. That made aiming precise when I didn’t believe it could be.

The rifle cocked easily; and when the barrel closed, the detent locked it tight. One of our readers mentioned that breakbarrels with opposing chisels at the breech seem to lock up tighter and with more authority than do those whose chisel detent rides over a round pin. I have to mention that the 300 has the double chisel arrangement and the reader is right. When this barrel closes, it sounds like a bank vault.

El Gamo 300 chisel breech
Looking down at the open breech, we see the chisel lock (right) that engages the spring-loaded chisel detent on the baseblock. This arrangement makes the breech lock up more positively than if the chisel detent had to go over a round crosspin. That hole above the chisel lock is the air transfer port.

First pellet
The first pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. I used a 6 o’clock hold and squeezed off the first shot, which surprised me when I saw the pellet had hit the 10-ring almost in the center. After that, I just shot the next 9 rounds without looking again. When I looked after all 10 shots had been fired, I saw a nice round 0.588-inch group in the center of the bull. That was a good start!

El Gamo 300 Hobby target
Not only is this 0.588-inch group of 10 Hobbys nice and round, it’s also centered in the bull. That makes it appear even better than it is. This is the best group the El Gamo 300 shot at 10 meters.

Next, I shot 10 Air Arms Falcons. The first shot hit the 9 ring, and I didn’t have to look again until it was all over. Ten shots landed in 0.629 inches, but 9 of them were in 0.41 inches. While this group is slightly larger than the Hobbys, I would say the Falcons are probably more accurate, just based on those 9 tight shots.

El Gamo 300 Falcon target
This group of 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets looks amazing, though at 0.629 inches between centers it’s larger than the Hobby group. Without that one pellet at the bottom, there are 9 in 0.41 inches.

The last pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite. I saw the first shot go into the 8-ring so I stopped looking until it was over. This time, though, the pellets spread out more, and the group measures 0.771 inches between centers. From the open appearance of this group, I can tell that Premier lites are not the best pellet for the El Gamo 300.

El Gamo 300 Premier lite target
Crosman Premier lites scattered more than the other two pellets. Ten made this 0.771-inch group. The group looks larger than it really is because the pellet on the right tore the target wider than where it penetrated.

Summary
The El Gamo 300 is not a poor man’s R7. It is what it is — a nice, inexpensive spring rifle that offers a lot of value for the price. Even today, when the used guns sell for $50-100, they’re still a bargain. But they’re not in the same class as a CZ Slavia 630/631, which really is a poor man’s R7.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to test several air rifles in this same vintage class over the past few years. Some of them, like the Diana 25 with the ball-bearing sear, are superlative airguns that withstand the test of time. Their very design makes them perform at a higher level than most guns. Others, such as the Falke model 70, promise the moon but fail to deliver. This El Gamo 300 is closer to the latter guns, although its low price does make it an ideal candidate for home gunsmithing for the careful hobbyist.

No doubt the 300 can be modified and tuned to be a wonderful air rifle; and when it is, it’ll have the accuracy needed to carry it off. But there are other airguns that are inherently nice just as they come from the factory. A 300 is probably the cheaper way to go, but expect to spend some time and sweat equity to turn it into what you really want.

El Gamo 300: Part 2

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

Part 1

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced, quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

I’m out of the office for the next couple days. Will the veteran readers please help the newer readers with their answers while I’m gone? As always, I’ll see the blog early in the morning and, again, late at night. Thanks! On to today’s report.

This report covers:

• A little more history of the 68-XP
• Velocity testing
• Breech seal
• Retesting velocity
• Cocking effort
• Trigger-pull
• How my life has changed

Today, I’ll test the El Gamo 300 velocity. I see that many of you were surprised to learn these were made in both Spain and Brazil. Furthermore, a number of newer readers had missed the 6-part report on the El Gamo 68-XP and were surprised to see it referenced in Part 1 of this report. Here’s a little more on that subject.

There was a repeating version of the 68-XP that had the same mechanism as the El Gamo Expomatic. It was a tube above the gun that fed pellets into the breech one at a time as the barrel was broken during cocking. It didn’t work too well, and Air Rifle Headquarters refused to carry either repeater. They tested them and found that they jammed too easily. I’ve tested other air rifles that have a similar repeating system, and that was my experience, as well. That must mean that the repeating version of the 68-XP is very rare because few were ever sold.

Back to the 300. According to the ARH catalog, a broken-in 300 should shoot about 665 f.p.s., and one that’s been accurized gets up to 680 f.p.s. They don’t mention what pellet was used in testing to obtain these numbers; but given that it was the 1970s, we know it had to be a lead pellet. Lead-free pellets were not on the market at that time.

Velocity testing
The first pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. They averaged 503 f.p.s. for 10 shots. The velocity ranged from 490 f.p.s. to 511 f.p.s., so a 21 f.p.s. spread.

I thought that was low, so I tried 10 more that were deep-seated with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater. This time, the average rose to 506 f.p.s., which is hardly worth the effort. The spread went from 496 f.p.s. to 519 f.p.s., so the spread opened to 23 f.p.s. Deep-seating doesn’t seem to be worth the time and effort with this rifle.

The next pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. These averaged 539 f.p.s. The Hobby was the lightweight lead speed demon of its day, so this rifle is not performing to spec. And yes, I did oil the leather piston seal before testing. The spread for Hobbys was from 524 to 547 f.p.s., so 23 f.p.s.

The final pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon. They averaged 519 f.p.s. with a spread from 510 to 523 f.p.s. So the spread was only 13 f.p.s. Falcons fit the breech loosely, where the other two pellets fit snugly.

Breech seal
That puts today’s test into perspective. I don’t think my test rifle has been shot very much, if at all, because it doesn’t have the bluing wear that’s usually found on guns that have been used, and the bluing is original. I looked at the breech seal, which looked okay, but it’s very difficult to tell by just looking. There was no puff of air to be felt at the breech, but sometimes that isn’t conclusive, either.

While the seal looks like an o-ring, it’s really a tall synthetic seal that’s proprietary. When I removed it, I could see that nothing I could make would work as well, so I made a spacer to fit under it, raising it for a tighter fit.

Gamo 300 breech seal
The breech seal (right) and the plastic shim I made to fit under it to raise it higher at the breech.

Gamo 300 making breech seal
I made the breech seal spacer from a coffee can lid by using hole punches.

Re-testing velocity
The spacer did increase velocity a little. Premiers went from an average of 503 to an average 522 f.p.s., and the spread that had been 21 f.p.s. dropped to 15 f.p.s. Hobbys went from 539 to 568 f.p.s., and the spread went from 23 f.p.s down to 15 f.p.s. Falcons jumped from an average 519 f.p.s. to 553, and the spread that had been 13 f.p.s. dropped to 6 f.p.s.

While these are all improvements, I don’t think they’re large enough to warrant the work that was done. I would leave the rifle where it is; but now that the spacer is in place, I won’t remove it.

Cocking effort
I measured the cocking effort on my bathroom scale. It topped out at 19 lbs., making the 300 a youth rifle by my criteria of a cocking effort of 20 lbs. or less. But the large size of the rifle means that it is for older kids or adults.

Trigger-pull
The trigger was releasing at 3 lbs., 2 oz., with the second stage being very creepy. I adjusted the one screw behind the trigger in both directions. Turned all the way in (clockwise), the first stage is removed entirely, and the pull remained where it was. Turned out as far as it will go, the first stage becomes light and stops positively at stage two. Stage two releases at 2 lbs., 14 oz., so a 4-oz. decrease from where it was.

The rifle is now ready for 10-meter accuracy testing. I may do something about the narrow rear sight notch so I can see some light around either side of the front post. If I do, I’ll tell you and show you what I do.

How the blog changed my life
I initially published this section on the May 30, 2014, blog. I’m going to repeat it at least once a week during June and July so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten.

From the comments many of you make, I believe the blog may have positively impacted your lives. I invite you to send me an email telling me about that impact.

Were you a firearms shooter who accidentally discovered airguns through this blog? If so, tell me how this blog has helped your understanding of airguns.

Were you already an airgunner, but you thought what you saw in the big box stores was all there was? If so, how has this blog helped you understand more about airguns?

I’ve gotten quite a few responses already, but I want to make sure you know that I’m not looking for “attaboys,” pats on the back or personal recognition. I’m looking for real feedback on what you’ve learned so I can target my blogs to what you feel is important, what you’d like to know and what you’re still unsure of. This blog is written for its readers, and I want to share your stories with others who may be where you were before you found this blog.

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.

El Gamo 300: Part 1

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

I asked you last week to send me an email about how this blog changed your life (see last subhead). The special email set up for that didn’t work after that blog went live, but we’ve just tested it — and it’s fixed. I look forward to hearing from you.

This report covers:

• History of the gun
• The rifle
• Firing behavior
• A poor man’s R7

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

I told you that I bought an El Gamo 300 at this year’s Toys That Shoot airgun show in Findlay, Ohio. And those readers who have been with me for a couple years know why I wanted this rifle — I said it was the conventional version of the El Gamo 68-XP breakbarrel that I bought from blog reader David Enoch at the 2012 Arkansas airgun show. I wrote 6 reports on that rifle, which today lives in my collection as a fine example of an airgun from an earlier time.

The recent passing of Robert Law caused me to read a 1979 Air Rifle Headquarters catalog yesterday, and I looked at the El Gamo 300 writeup very closely. Apparently, it isn’t as much a conventional version of the 68-XP as a variation on that powerplant. The two rifles do share the same velocity and accuracy potential; and even though their styling looks different, I believe they have a lot of the same parts. When I examined the triggers, I could see that the 300 trigger is much simpler than the one on the 68-XP. So, what I said about their similarity needs to be better defined. The two rifles are closely associated, but the 300 is not just a 68-XP in a conventional stock.

El Gamo 68-XP trigger
The 68-XP trigger has three adjustments (behind the guard).

El Gamo 300 trigger
The 300 trigger has a single screw behind the trigger blade for adjustments.

History of the gun
Robert Law, the owner of the original Air Rifle Headquarters, was the George L. Herter of the U.S. airgun world. He published a large black-and-white catalog in the 1960s and ’70s that got thousands of people started in this hobby — including me! He wrote tons of descriptive information about each gun, and he made you salivate over the thought of acquiring them. Here’s what he wrote about the 300.

“An opportunity to buy a match profile rifle at a price typical of the 1960′s era might seem a little too much to ask in this day and age. Yet that is just what the ElGamo people have accomplished in their remarkable 300 model! The remarkable price breakthrough has been made possible by eliminating expensive frills, using mass production, and the use of less expensive labor.”

Let’s look at that price a moment, for I have the price list that came with this April 1979 catalog. The 300 (he called it the 300 Target in the price list) sold for $82.95. The 68-XP brought $89.95. At the same time, a Weihrauch HW30S (the model with the Rekord trigger) was bringing $114.50, and a deluxe FWB 124 right-hand rifle went for $209.50. In today’s dollars, the 300 would fetch around $225-250 because the HW30S is now bringing $329.99. But in 1979, Law felt that $100 was a price point that a rifle like the 300 could not top.

The rifle was actually discontinued in 1975 because of the increasing price, and then brought back when a large purchase was made by a single customer, dropping the production cost. The 68-XP and the 300 were made in both Spain and Brazil. When you bought one from ARH, it could potentially come from either country.

The rifle
The El Gamo 300 is a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle in .177 caliber that I believe is the only caliber it came in. It’s midsized, at 42-7/8 inches overall and weighing 6 lbs., 12 oz. The barrel is 17-1/2 inches long. The length of pull measures 14-1/4 inches.

Cocking is light and easy. I’ll measure it in Part 2. The barrel is held shut by a chisel detent that’s easy to open. For the modest power the rifle develops, the detent is sufficient to keep the barrel closed during firing.

The stock is a dark blonde-stained beech with almost no grain. The forearm is tall and narrow, having a boxy cross-section and pistol grip. The butt has El Gamo’s “melted” look, where the raised cheekpiece barely stands out from the stock. And the comb has a Monte Carlo profile. The buttplate is hard plastic with some anti-skid lines and a bullseye mark and nothing else.

There’s also some other plastic on the gun. The end cap, trigger blade, triggerguard, as well as some front and rear sight parts are made of plastic. The metal parts are blued steel that, by today’s standards, is quite good. In its day, the 300 wasn’t finished better than any other airgun in its price range.

The sights are a fixed hooded post in front and a rear notch that’s click-adjustable in both directions. El Gamo made the notch too narrow, so the front blade fills it completely, making this rifle difficult to sight. A pair of 11mm dovetail grooves will handle a scope, but no provision for a scope stop. Remember, this rifle comes from a time when scoping an air rifle was considered a novelty.

El Gamo 300 rear sight
The rear sight adjusts in both directions with light, smooth clicks. The rear notch is too narrow for the front post.

El Gamo also put a hole in the spring tube that allowed the direct oiling of the piston seal. I guess they wanted to keep the leather seal supple. I have only seen that on the Mendoza rifles of a few years ago.

El Gamo 300 scope grooves
Two 11mm dovetail grooves allow a scope to be mounted. That hole is for oiling the piston seal.

Firing behavior
I’ve shot the 300 several times just to get a sense of how it feels. There’s a little buzzing upon firing, but it isn’t objectionable. Compared to my tuned 68-XP, though, I did notice the difference. The breech seems to fit most pellets well, so I hope that the accuracy Robert Law promised is achievable. He said I could expect to put 5 shots into 0.21 inches at 25 feet. I’ll be shooting at 33 feet (10 meters), so I’m hoping that means I can expect a quarter-inch group. Then, again, I’ll shoot 10 shots instead of just 5, and use today’s super-accurate pellets. So, all bets are off.

Air Rifle Headquarters said to expect a velocity of 665 f.p.s. after conditioning, which is the combination of a break-in and initial lubrication. They said to expect 680 f.p.s. with their accurization. I don’t care what my rifle does in the velocity department, but I do want it to shoot smoothly.

It isn’t fair to compare this rifle to my 68-XP because I tuned and adjusted that rifle extensively. Maybe if I see enough potential from this one, I’ll do the same.

At the time when the rifle was initially being sold, there was probably talk about whether or not a Brazilian model was as good as a Spanish model. I have no way of knowing whether there’s any basis to that — both of my rifles were made in Spain.

El Gamo 300 logo
The El Gamo logo and the country of manufacture are stamped on the spring tube.

A poor man’s R7
Whenever there’s a rifle like this 300 that embodies a lot more quality than the price signifies, it gets labeled as a “poor man’s something.” In this case, given the size, accuracy and power, I think the Beeman R7 is the comparison. I do remember thinking back when this catalog was new that there was no way I would ever want either the 300, which looked cheap to me, or the 68-XP that looked like a kid’s gun. But the long lens of time has a way of distorting things.

In light of the air rifles being offered today, the El Gamo 300 seems to offer a lot more than it did 35 years ago. I don’t need the supersonic velocities being offered today, and will trade them in a heartbeat for a cocking effort that’s lower. The questions that remains are how well the trigger performs and what kind of accuracy I can get.

El Gamo 300 two rifles
The El Gamo 300 (top) is a conventional breakbarrel, compared to the 68-XP.

2014 Toys That Shoot Airgun Show: Part 2

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

Part 1

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s blog:

• Correction to the first report.
• Some vintage airguns.
• There were parts for sale.
• Vintage store displays and boxed BB guns from WW II.
• Ft. Worth airgun show.
• NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits.

This is the second part of the report on the Toys That Shoot airgun show in Findlay, Ohio. In the first report, I showed you a lot of vintage collectible airguns — some commanding very high prices. Today, I’ll show the other side of the show — the one where regular people would buy and sell. Before I get to that, though, there is a correction to the first report. I mentioned seeing a muzzleloading big bore air rifle on Dennis Quackenbush’s table, and I gave you the impression that he designed it. He did not. That rifle was designed by its owner, Mike Paulus, who commissioned Dennis to build his design. Dennis told me as much at the show, but I wasn’t listening. I thought he was being modest; in fact, he was telling me that Mike designed the rifle. Dennis just made the parts for him.

Paulus rifle

Mike Paulus’ big bore airgun was mislabeled in Part 1

Mike also made the stock entirely on his own. Dennis said the concept was so well thought out that it was very straightforward to build, and Mike is extremely pleased with his new rifle.

Vintage airguns
Let’s be honest, we go to these shows to see the extremely rare guns, but we also go to buy fine vintage guns that are affordable. This was a wonderful show for this. In past reports, I focused on guns like the FWB 124 or the Diana 27; but this time, I looked at the other kinds of guns collectors and shooters want.

Let’s start with some desirable vintage pistols. I saw a good number of Crosman 600 semiauto repeaters at this show. They ran from $90 to 200, depending on condition and what they came with. If you’re looking for a classic pellet pistol, this is one that’s hard to beat! The 600s were selling for $75-125 more than this just 5 years ago, but the boom peaked and the price has fallen back. Now’s the time to buy.

vintage pellet pistols
Crosman 600s on the left at the top and bottom and a Mark I or II in the center. On the right from the top are a chrome Hy Score 800, Crosman 150/157 and a Benjamin 100/107 at the bottom. All were affordable, and I believe they all worked.

If you’re more of a collector than a shooter, these same guns were available in their boxes with all the original accessories and literature.

vintage pellet pistol boxes
The same vintage pistols were also available in their original boxes. These were incredibly affordable!

Somebody remarked that there were a lot of fine Daisy model 25s at this show. He was right. I didn’t photograph them all, but one stand was particularly picturesque. It looks like an arsenal “organ” of guns from the 19th century.

rack of Daisy 25s
Sharp eyes can pick out at least one very early Daisy model 25 pump gun in this rack, but there are actually many variations, including different types of wood stocks. All are vintage and desirable!

Parts, parts and more parts!
One thing that’s always needed are the parts to fix these old treasures. With guys like Ron Sauls, Tom Slocum and Larry Behling at the show, you’re connected to the best and finest. Ted Summers had a huge display of vintage parts for Crosman and Benjamin guns — as well as two custom salesman’s cases that were used to transport the Crosman airguns to stores when representatives made their calls.

parts
“Where can I get …?” was answered all over the Findlay airgun show.

Store displays
These weren’t for sale, but it was fun to see the store displays that were popular back in the 1940s and ’50s. I’m not old enough to have seen some of these when they were new, but they sure do make me nostalgic for those old days. It’s nice to see that simple cardboard displays made it down through the ages.

Daisy double barrel display
Lucky was the boy or girl who got a Daisy double-barrel BB gun.

Daisy Defender display
That’s a copper-plated Daisy Golden Eagle on top and a boxed Daisy Defender from WWII. Very few Defenders were made (in 1942!), and fewer still survived with their boxes. I don’t know if this box is original or a repro, but it looks perfect next to that fine air rifle!

What would B.B. do?
I went to this show with a couple guns in mind. One was a BSA Meteor Mark I or II, to compare to the Mark IV I’m currently working on. So many people told me the Marks I and II Meteor are the best of this model, and I wanted to get one to compare. The one I found at this show turned out to be a gorgeous Mark III; but, as that was just a bit too late in the production cycle, I had to pass. Too bad, because the condition was very nice!

Next to it in the rack I visited at least 5 times was a Slavia 631 in great condition. So, when blog reader Mitchell in Dayton Steve Darr mentioned he was looking for one, I sent him over for it. He got it, as you will soon learn; but from our conversations, he knew I was also looking for an El Gamo 300 rifle to go with the XP 68 I tested for you in 2012-2013. The 300 is very similar to the XP 68, but in a conventional stock.

Imagine my surprise when Mitchell returned with his Slavia and told me that right next to it in the rack — yes, just 2 places down from the BSA I had been looking at for 2 days — was the El Gamo 300 I was looking for. Well, I rushed right over and was so enthusiastic that I lost all my bargaining power. I paid almost the full sticker price, simply because I could not wipe the grin off my face! Well, it wasn’t that much money, anyway (which is how I justify the mistake to myself).

El Gamo 300

El Gamo 300 is a plain rifle that promises to be interesting.

The other acquisition is one that walked right up to my table. A young fellow was carrying a rifle bag, and I asked him what was inside. He said it was a Hakim. Now, most of you don’t know this, but my airgun kryptonite is the Hakim rifle. I’ve owned more than 15 of them and they all worked when I got through with them (except for a pile of parts I shipped to the talented Vince). But this Hakim was different! The stock had been replaced. While that does lower the collector value on most guns, in this case it was like plastic surgery that turned the bride of Frankenstein into a pretty woman.

The new stock is honey-colored walnut that shows lots of straight grain. The metal parts have a lot of original Parkerized finish remaining, so the overall look is quite nice. I tested the action right there at the show, and it didn’t seem to be anything special — but we’ll see when I test it for you here.

Hakim
I’ve never seen a Hakim air rifle with a stock like this. Let’s hope it shoots as nice as it looks.

I bargained very hard with this young fellow — mainly because I was about to spend a lot of money on this gun. I gave him a nice offer that was still about $100 below what I see people asking for them on Gun Broker. And this rifle is probably worth the higher figure. But I did not care. If I could get it for what I offered, I would buy it; if not, I would still have a lot of money in my pocket.

He was reluctant to sell at the price I offered; but since it was a lot of money and since he had nothing in the gun, he finally accepted. This may be the first time I’ve bargained so hard for a bluebird walk-in airgun that I really wanted! At any rate, I now have a very pretty Hakim to test for you.

One additional thing. My friend Wayne Fowler offered me my old Air Arms Shamal rifle that I sold him when I left Maryland. He offered it for the same price he paid me; and since it is a beautiful air rifle, I asked Edith to buy it as my birthday present. She agreed because she also feels this is one of the most beautiful airguns I’ve ever owned. And the accuracy was stunning.

Edith has told me I can have the rifle as soon as it arrives, so there’s one more great airgun to come out of the Findlay show. Naturally, I’ll review it for you.

Summary
I had a lot of fun at Findlay. It was a show that reminded me of airgun shows from 20 years ago. It had the guns, the buyers and all the excitement I remember from the great airgun shows of the past. If you can go to just one airgun show, put the Toys That Shoot show at the top of your list! Or — come to my show in Texas.

The Ft. Worth airgun show
As some of you know, I’ve been putting together a Texas airgun show. Click here to read/download a flier. The show is sponsored by Pyramyd Air.

The American Airgunnner television crew is coming to film the show. AirForce will be there with a table, as will Dennis Quackenbush, Eric Henderson and Jim Chapman. I hope to get Umarex USA and Daisy to attend. There will be a dedicated airgun range at the gun club where this show will be held on Saturday, September 6. If you want to see what airgun shows are all about and meet the two top airgun hunters in person (Henderson and Chapman), plan on attending this dynamic one-day show.

The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits
Pyramyd Air has a booth at the 2014 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits being held today, tomorrow and Sunday in Indianapolis at the Indiana Convention Center. Pyramyd Air provides the public airgun range at the show, besides having a display booth (No. 4523). The NRA show is like a mini SHOT Show, only it’s open to the public. Admission is free to NRA members, and a small fee is charged to non-members. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the new guns and the people who make and support them. If you’re able to come, consider attending. Here’s some info on the range and which guns, ammo and accessories will be featured there.

2014 Toys That Shoot Airgun Show: Part 1

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

Best airgun show I have been to in a very long time! Not because I sold a lot — I didn’t. But I met a lot of nice blog readers, got to see some airguns that are extremely rare and got to acquire a couple nice vintage guns for future blogs.

Dennis Quackenbush told me this show would be a good one, and he was right. As soon as the doors opened to the public, the place was packed. From what I saw, people had money to spend and weren’t afraid to pull it out.

The Findlay show is very heavy into vintage BB guns; so if that’s what you like, it’s one of the 2 best shows for that. But they weren’t all Daisys. There were many other rare models, including a super-rare Quackenbush Lightning.

Quackenbushes
A table loaded with Quackenbush airguns! John Groenewold, who wrote the book “Quackenbush Guns,” had tables at the show.

Quackenbush Lightning
The Quackenbush model zero, also called the Lightning, uses rubber bands to power the sliding compression chamber that moves on the fixed barrel. It’s the rarest model, with fewer than 10 complete guns known.

I mentioned there were rare airguns at this show. That Quackenbush Lightning was one of them, but there was another that I was shown privately. It is a Giffard Deluxe Target model that, until I saw it, was unknown to me. The owner, who is an advanced collector and asked for privacy, graciously allowed me to photograph the rifle.

Giffard Deluxe Target
You’re looking at the action of an 8mm Giffard Deluxe Target rifle that may be the only one in the U.S. Giffards are not common, but this one is virtually unknown!

This rifle is almost entirely hand made. Gold inlays on the barrel tell you the care they put into it. A rifle like this cost three times what a regular Giffard cost at the time (1870s & ’80s)!

Giffard Target Model The bottom of the triggerguard of this special target rifle is actually a palm rest for offhand shooting!

They went on and on…
Being at this show was like taking a stroll through Dr. Arni Dunathan’s book, The American B.B. Gun. At every turn, you saw cast iron and folded-metal BB guns from the genesis of the sport/hobby! You had to be there to appreciate it completely, but trust me when I tell you this show was a treat for the American BB gun collector.

BB guns
Atlas, Matchless, Columbians — the guns in this photograph are worth a fine used car!

Not everything was old
Toward the end of the show, Dennis Quackenbush asked me to come to his table and photograph a rifle he had just delivered. When I got there, I saw a rifle unlike anything Dennis has ever made. It’s a muzzleloader that he usually will not produce for reasons of safety — a slight air leak at the breech could fire the bullet into the shooter as he is loading it in the barrel, or anytime afterward.

Dennis did make the metal parts for this airgun, but the entire design was the brainchild of Mike Paulus. Mike took the design to Dennis and asked him to build the gun, while Mike made the stock on his own. Then the two were married into what looks for all the world like a vintage muzzleloading black powder rifle. Good job, Mike!

Quackenbush muzzleloader
This muzzleloader designed by Mike Paulus and built by Quackenbush is stunning! Mike put a vintage-looking Malcom scope on top to complete the image.

Old friends
I recently shared with you a story about my first AirForce rifle. It had no power adjustment wheel, so I put an o-ring under the top hat to “tune” it. Those were the days. Well, imagine my surprise to see the old girl on a friend’s table at this show! He had added a wood stock to her, and it was like seeing your old girlfriend necking in the back seat of a convertible with somebody else!

AirForce rifle
This was my first AirForce rifle. It has no power adjustment and the wood stock parts are new; but underneath, I still recognize her.

Then, my friend told me something wonderful. He said that I could have my old Air Arms Schamal back for what he paid! Some of you know this rifle is one of the most accurate air rifles I’ve ever shot, plus it has a gorgeous walnut stock with presentation grain.

My wife, Edith, has promised that she will buy back the Shamal for my birthday later this year. Naturally, I’ll give you a complete report!

Good friends
Besides the guns, the best thing about this show was the people I met. When he introduced himself as Twotalon, I walked around the table and hugged the man we all know so well through the pages of this blog. He was there with Mrs. Twotalon, who was gracious enough to smile and put up with the boring minutiae us two old codgers shared.

the Twotalons
Twotalon and his wife stopped by my table and introduced themselves.

That triggered a rush of blog readers, who came so fast and furious that I failed to keep track. But Derrick is one reader I met years ago at a Pyramyd Air function. He updated me on what he’s doing these days. Before he left the show, he laid two air pistols on my table and told me to give them to young shooters! Shades of my late friend, Mac, who often did the same thing.

Derrick — I gave those guns to the show organizer, Dan Lerma, who knows a lot of deserving young people, several of whom were helping run this very show! I know they will find a good home.

As the crowd was building at my table, Mitchell from Dayton came by and introduced himself. He wanted an autograph on his Blue Book of Airgun Values, which I was happy to do. But he told me he was at this show to find his longtime dream gun — an FWB 300! There were several on different tables, and I pointed him toward them; but when he returned in half an hour, it wasn’t an FWB he was carrying. He had an Anschütz 380 in his hands! Now, that’s a fine target rifle, as well; but then he flipped over the rifle and showed me the real reason he bought it. Someone had skillfully carved a ram’s head on the right side of the butt, and he was completely taken with the art!

carving
This ram’s head carving on the stock of the Anschütz 380 clinched the deal for Mitchell of Dayton. I can understand the attraction!

Before I go…
There will be at least one more section of this report, but I want some time to process all that happened at the show. However, if I can leave you with one key memory, it would have to be just prior to the opening of the doors when all the dealers stood as the Boy Scouts installed the National and Ohio State flags in the hall — and then several hundred Americans pledged allegiance to the flag. That was followed by a brief prayer of thanksgiving for this wonderful event that was about to unfold.

Sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

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Air Arms TX200 air rifle

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