Posts Tagged ‘collectible guns’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today is Thanksgiving, here in the U.S., as well as the first full day of Hanukkah, which started last evening. I want to wish my Jewish readers a happy Hanukkah and all my U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving Day. Today I’d like to take some time to acknowledge those airguns that are worth remembering.
It was my first airgun — though I didn’t acknowledge it at the time. I was whining at my mom to let me buy a BB gun, when all the while I had a beauty right there in front of me.
The 107 was a front-pump .177 smoothbore pistol that shot BBs, darts and pellets — none very accurately. But compared to a common BB gun, it wasn’t too bad. I got it when I turned 10 or 11 after my father died. It had been his. I remember seeing him shoot it once, but that was all.
All the black nickel finish was gone, and the gun was worn to silver nickel in most places, with a hint of brass showing though some of the edges. It was a real bear to pump, and I think I could manage only three strokes when I applied all my weight. After that, I was the one having the stroke!
I could hold about one inch at 20 feet with darts, which was the ammo of choice since I had them and they could be reused. There were some Benjamin pellets that came with the thing, too, but I don’t remember them being very accurate.
Once I secured my Daisy No. 25 pump BB gun, I don’t think I ever looked at the old Benjamin, again. But that was the first airgun I ever shot, and it started the fascination that’s lasted until now.
Diana model 10
Fast-forward 14 years, and I’m married (to my first wife) with a child and living in Germany. In the walled city of Rothenberg ob der Tauber, I find a gun store that sells high-end airguns. They have Walther LGVs and LGRs that I can’t afford as a family man. But they also have a Diana model 10 target pistol that the owner claims is stunningly accurate. He’s a good salesman, and we decided we could afford it; so I buy it plus 5,000 RWS Meisterkugeln pellets.
I learned how to shoot 10-meter pistol with that airgun — heck, I learned that there WAS such a thing as 10-meter pistol! And I got passably good. Good enough to stand on the line at formal matches while better shooters won. I did that for the next 20 years and got better and better until I was what, in technical terms, is known as a duffer. That’s a guy who shows up and shoots without embarrassing himself, while others rule the day.
I also taught my gun-hating father-in-law how to shoot with that air pistol. He got so interested that he shot up a lot of my 5,000 pellets! I finally sold that pistol when I left the Army in 1981.
This is the air rifle I bought after returning from Germany in 1977. I scoped it with a Tasco firearm scope and never had a lick of trouble with it. It had the plastic trigger that the early rifles came with, but I loved it just as it was. It taught me what a precision adult air rifle could be. I had been reading about these rifles for the last 2 years I was in Germany; and, of course, I failed to realize that I lived in Erlangen, the home of the BSF factory! No, I read the Airgun Digest in the last 2 years of my tour and I wanted a 124, so that’s what I got.
One of many FWB 124s I’ve owned over the years. Each one is a classic!
Then the R1 came out and took all the wind out of my sails. My 124 was no longer the baddest airgun on the block — despite the fact that no one on my block owned any air rifles at all. No sir! Dr. Beeman said the R1 was the gun to own, and I wanted one with all my fiber! I had to sell that 124 to pay off debts when I left the Army, but it left a seed deep inside me and I’ve owned several since that time.
The Diana 27 I’m referring to is not the one you have seen me write about. No, it’s a gun I bought for $18 in a pawn shop in Radcliff, Kentucky, in the late 1970s. I didn’t even know what it was at the time. It was a Hy Score 807 in .22 caliber and rough as a cob. The rust was deep all over, making the metal surface bumpy. Had it been removed, there would have been deep pits left behind. But the gun still shot very well. I marveled at how light and smooth the powerplant was. It shot slow compared to the 124, but out to 20 yards it held its own. I gave that one to a friend when I left the Army.
Diana 27 isn’t a pretty air rifle, but it shoots like a dream!
Sheridan Blue Streak
This was an air rifle I had coveted since I was a Tenderfoot in the Boy Scouts and read all the ads in Boy’s Life. It could shoot through an inch of wood — the ads said so! And it was accurate. But I never had the money to buy one as a kid. In 1978, a year after returning from Germany (and fast becoming a real airgunner), I finally bought one. The price had risen from $19.95 to $39.95 in the time that had passed, but I purchased what is today recognized as the high-water mark of Sheridan production — a 1978 Blue Streak with the rocker safety!
The Blue Streak I bought in 1978, and the rifle on which Edith learned to shoot.
That gun stayed with me after I left the Army. It wasn’t worth enough to sell, so I kept it and still have it today. Edith learned to shoot with it and killed 9 rats around our Maryland home — not to mention various mice in the house and snakes in the garden. She put a yellow twist tie around the triggerguard to remind her the pellets were the ones in the yellow plastic box. This was before the days of The Airgun Letter and field target. Edith was still learning about airguns.
We really didn’t have the money at the time, but Edith gifted me with a new Beeman R1 for Christmas in 1991. The Airgun Letter was still 3 years in the future, so the only reason I got this gun was because I told her how long I had desired it. I had purchased a Beeman C1 a couple years before, but it just didn’t scratch the itch.
But the real surprise was the used HW 77 carbine that was also under the tree that year. That was Edith at her best — giving me a gift I had no idea I was getting. We even had a scene from A Christmas Story, as a final long box with my name on it appeared after all other gifts had been opened!
The R1 scratched my itch alright; but what I discovered about airguns is that the more you scratch, the more the itch spreads. You think I’m an enabler? Remember, folks, I do everything to myself before I do it to all of you.
It was the day I returned from the hospital in 2010. I was sitting on the sofa and had just enough strength to sit up for awhile. Edith pulled out a long cardboard box and told me that one of our blog readers had sent me something for when I come home. I couldn’t stand or even open the box. She had to do it for me. Inside was a black hard case and inside that was the most beautiful Tyrolean air rifle I’ve even seen. It was a Beeman R8 with a custom stock and a fresh tune. A personal note told me who had done the work and how nice it shot.
This beautiful Tyrolean Beeman R8 was waiting for me when I returned home from the hospital.
As weak as I was, I had Edith hand me the rifle and I found that I could cock it. Oh boy! Here was a spring rifle I could shoot real soon, even when I couldn’t cock most other air rifles. My friend, Mac, was still testing spring guns for me for several months as my strength returned, but that R8 was mine from the moment I first held it.
Edith and I were showered with gifts from the members of this blog when I got out of the hospital, and we were stunned at the outpouring. But that R8 is my favorite spring rifle because of how nice it is, how great it shoots, and most of all what it meant to me at a time when I could barely raise my head off a pillow.
What about the others?
Sure, there have been plenty of other airguns I’m thankful for. My Whiscombe has been a dream test bed for numerous experiments. Both the Benjamin Discovery and the Air Venturi Bronco are guns I personally was involved in developing. So, of course, they meant a lot. The AirForce Talon SS with a 24″ barrel is probably the gun I shoot more than any other…and you all know how I feel about the TX200! I could go on and on, but where do I stop? These guns have all been pivotal in my development as an airgunner.
Back when I wrote The Airgun Letter, I allowed myself to get sucked into several bad arguments over trivial airgun issues. When we started this blog, I insisted on using a pen name rather than my own. I didn’t want to spoil things with old baggage from the past. I also reinvented myself at the same time. I learned to curb my temper and to listen to what others have to say — even when it runs contrary to what I believe.
Some of you suspect this, but now I’ll tell you all that Edith is half of Tom Gaylord, the writer. She keeps me on an even keel and lets me vent privately when I have to. She has a much better memory than I do and sometimes she suggests things that I wish I had thought of (and accept credit for when they show up in print). If I didn’t have her, the veneer of who I am would quickly peel back and expose the unpleasantness underneath.
The airguns I have written about today were all pivotal in shaping my life as an airgunner. But it is Edith and you readers who have really had the greatest influence. Through thick and thin, you continue to inspire me and make me glad to have this job.
A few weeks ago, blog reader David Enoch asked me to write a report about the airguns that I never warmed to. I tried doing that and quickly found all the bad old stuff leaking out. So, I stopped writing and focused on only the good things that have happened with airguns. There are so many of them; and when I focus on them, I become the person I want to be.
Today’s report came as a result of a disaster I had while testing a gun yesterday. Nothing went right, several optical sights failed and I put some new dents in the wall of our bedroom. I then sat on the couch complaining about everything. Knowing that I was losing it, Edith suggested today’s topic. I hope this piece does some good for all of you because it has made my day! Happy Thanksgiving!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on buying rare and hard-to-get airguns. In the past, I’ve written several times about trolling for good buys and how to turn them up in a variety of circumstances. Some of you have shared your own experiences on this topic — from trolling in pawn shops to placing ads in novel locations to ferreting out those unexpected great deals.
I want to take a different direction on the same topic. What do you do when you want something specific? You’re going after just one thing — not accepting any good thing that snags in your net. How do you go about getting that thing you want very much?
Make haste slowly
Ben Franklin gave this advice in Poor Richard’s Almanac. It means you should be focused on your goal at all times — but don’t jump at the first, second or even third opportunity to get what you want. Many years ago, an old friend of mine went about buying used cars this way. He told me he was always looking for a “creampuff,” which he described as a very old car (at least 10 years old) that had low mileage and excellent maintenance records. This was back in the 1950s and ’60s, when cars had to be maintained a lot more than they do today.
My friend, Harry, even had a method of looking for cars. He cultivated older people, talking to them and helping them out in small ways by watching their houses while they were on vacation, helping with their yard work if they were older and couldn’t do it, and just keeping his eyes open as he drove around the neighborhood. He told me once that when he wanted a new (to him) car, he planned on spending 6 months to a year to find just the right deal.
The right deal was a car with less than half the expected mileage for its age, one that had regular oil changes and tuneups and preferably one that was kept inside a garage. We lived in San Jose, California, so the weather was usually quite nice; but Harry reasoned that if the car was garage-kept, it was also loved like a member of the family instead of being treated like a broken down old horse tied up to the hitching post out in the rain.
In 10 years, I watched him buy 4 cars this way, and each one was a winner. He never paid that much, though I also noticed that he didn’t have to haggle about the price, either. His sellers were always motivated to sell him their cars at very reasonable prices.
So, making haste slowly means having a plan that has minimum acceptable criteria — price, condition, accessories and so on. Once you determine these criteria, you don’t sway from them. You pass up deal after deal until the right deal comes along. When it does, you’ll have looked at so many other deals that were almost what you wanted, but not quite, that the right deal will shine like the noonday sun.
Why is it worth that much?
When you’re searching for a specific airgun, you have to know what the market is paying for them at the current time. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay that much for the same gun, but you at least have to know what they’re going for. This helps you in several ways.
The first way knowing what things really cost helps you is by aligning your own thought processes. If you think that Sheridan Supergrades should cost $600 in excellent condition, you’re probably never going to find one. The reality is that Supergrades in original excellent condition are now bringing $1,400 to $1,800. If you can’t acknowledge that, nothing you do is going to make you happy.
The second thing you need to know is that ANY restoration or fiddling with a potentially collectible Supergrade destroys 90 percent of its collector value. A gun that looks like a new gun but has just been refinished is worth $1,200. The seller may have twice that much into it — that’s not your problem. That gun has no real collector value. In fact, the same gun was worth more before it was refinished than it is right now. I get into arguments over this fact repeatedly with people who think that an item’s appearance is worth more than its history. To them that may be true; but to the rest of the world that spends real money on things, it isn’t.
The truth may be that you’re not a collector. If that’s the case, the good-looking restored Supergrade may be worth more to you because of its appearance. Just know that when you try to sell it, this fact is going to come back to haunt you.
The condition of airguns drops off very fast as they accumulate the nicks and dings of ownership. When someone tells me a gun is like new, I expect it to have 100 percent of its finish and no dings or marks on the wood. Don’t ever tell me that something is like-new except for a small bit of finish wear at the muzzle! You just described a gun in excellent condition — not like-new.
I’m not lecturing you. What I’m doing is giving you the tools to turn around situations in which people misrepresent the condition of their airguns to you — often without knowing it. A like-new FWB 300S is probably worth $800. An excellent FWB 300S is worth $550. Big money difference for just a few words, but that’s how it works.
I own a Falke 90. That model is widely acknowledged to be rarer than a Colt Walker revolver, which brings from $200,000 to over one million dollars when they sell. Of course, the Walker is tied to the Mexican War and the Falke 90 is just a post-WWII airgun without any significant history, but the point is that they’re very rare.
Mine, however, has been extensively restored. Where a Falke 90 in original condition with 90 percent of its original finish is probably worth over a thousand dollars, mine is worth whatever someone will pay for it. My rifle looks quite nice, but it’s obviously been worked on. Even if you didn’t know the whole story of the gun, you’d be foolish to pay even half what an unrestored gun is worth to get something like my gun.
Here is another thought. Back at the end of World War II, it was popular for American soldiers to obtain a Luger pistol. Many of them then had their guns nickel-plated before bringing them back from the war. Today, these guns are popping up everywhere and the stories that accompany them are fantastic! “It was a presentation piece from Hitler to very special people on his staff. This one belonged to Heinrich Himmler!”
Yeah — right! If Heinrich Himmler had owned all the guns attributed to him he could have opened a gun store! And nickel Lugers? Yes, a few of them do exist with legitimate provenance, but the bulk of them were made after the war by Happy Hans the Plating Mann. It was anything for a buck in those days, and many soldiers wanted shiny trinkets to remember their overseas experience.
Here’s another one. A factory-engraved Colt Python is worth a premium. But a Colt Python that was engraved outside the Colt factory is only worth what people will pay for it. If the non-factory engraving is well done, it can add value to the gun. If it’s poor, it can quickly take away value.
It’s all in the details
You want an FWB 127 — the .22-caliber version of the famous FWB 124 (.177 caliber) sporting air rifle. You know that 127s bring almost double what 124s bring because they’re so scarce. A nice 124 may sell for $450, while a nice 127 will fetch $700 all day long. But hey — a guy you know has pressed out the barrel of his 124 and replaced it with a .22-caliber barrel from an HW 80. He would have used an FWB barrel; but since the .22-caliber 127s are rare, so are the barrels. Does that make his rifle a 127? No, it makes it a 124 that’s been fooled with. It may be exactly what you want from the standpoint of its function, but all the collector value of the gun is now out the window. I’m not saying the gun has no value — just that it no longer has any collector value.
But, it’s over 100 years old!
I hear this all the time on the “reality” TV shows that deal with the value of things. Whether it is found inside a storage locker or an old barn, the age of something is not the sole driver of its value. It’s just one component. Older firearms are potentially worth more than modern ones (depending on what they are and their condition) — older footwear, maybe not so much. Age is just one thing that drives the price, so don’t overrate it.
In your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19)
When I was a consultant for an engineering firm, we had a saying about the software we developed: “You want it bad? It’s bad right now!” This applies to acquiring those special airguns you want, as well. Don’t be stampeded into a deal just because you have found almost what you want. It has to satisfy all of your criteria or it’s not the right deal for you. You don’t want to have to talk yourself into the deal after the fact, trying to convince yourself that you did okay. If the quality is there and the specifications are right but the money isn’t, walk away. If the money is good but the specs are off (the TX200 Mark III instead of the Hunter Carbine you really want or a .177 instead of a .22), walk away.
This is the big one that separates the men from the boys, but it also separates the men from their money. When you do find the gun you want and everything else is right, act on it. I’ve witnessed the following: A man lowballing the seller of a military Girardoni in fine condition and allowing another buyer to whisk it away. Ten years later, the gun was worth no less than 15 times what it sold for that day. I personally put together the deal that got me my Ballard rifle for about half the asking price. Even then, it was still the biggest single gun transaction I’ve ever been part of. I had to trade 3 high-value guns to get it, but the deal was right and I knew it.
I recently was involved in a transaction in which I offered far less than the seller was asking for his very valuable gun. But I knew he’d been trying to sell it for over a year and there hadn’t been much action on it, if any. While my offer was embarrassingly low, it was also a substantial cash offer. True, you could go on the auction websites and see similar guns whose owners were asking twice what I offered, but you could also see they weren’t getting any takers. It’s one thing to say such-and-such a gun is worth a certain price; but when you want to sell it and someone is standing in front of you with a lot of real money in his hand — even though it is less than the experts believe your gun is worth, there’s a strong motivation to take the offer. You see this happening on TV shows like Pawn Stars all the time, but I’m also telling you that it can happen just that way.
If you want that hard-to-find airgun, there are some things you need to do.
1. Educate yourself on the real value of the gun. What are people actually paying for them?
2. Be a stickler for originality and condition. You can buy modified guns and guns that have been refinished if you want to, but make sure the deal reflects that.
3. Know as many of the technical details as possible of the gun you want. Know why it’s worth what it’s worth, instead of a warm feeling just to be in the presence of one. Never forget that some warm feelings are not pleasant!
4. Be patient to wait for the right deal.
5. Most importantly, act when the deal is right. Don’t look back after the deal is done.
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.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
M1 Carbine on top and Crosman M1 Carbine below. A realistic copy!
Today, we’ll test the Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun for accuracy. I pulled out all the stops, plus I shot a comparison group with a Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun for comparison.
I fired all targets from 15 feet, which is the NRA distance for BB gun competition. Daisy uses 5 meters, which is about 16 feet, 6-and-a-fraction inches, but the NRA standardized on 15 feet many years ago and hasn’t changed. They don’t hold any significant competitions that I am aware of, while Daisy hosts the International BB Gun Championships every year. But since the gun I’m testing was never meant for competition, I felt the shorter distance would suffice.
I shot the gun from a rest using the artillery hold to take myself out of the picture. The target was well lit, and the Crosman M1 Carbine has an adjustable peep sight at the rear, so the sighting system is pretty advanced.
Daisy Premium Grade zinc-plated BBs
The first BB was the Daisy Premium Grade zinc-plated BB. You saw how these compare to the Umarex precision BBs in Part 2 of this report. Nine of the 10 BBs landed in 1.354 inches and were slightly low and to the right of center. But 1 of the 10 shots strayed up and to the right, opening this group to 5.148 inches between centers. No shot was a called flier.
I expected results that were like the 9 shots. I did not expect any wild shots like this one!
Okay, so maybe the Umarex BBs would do better in this gun. Remember, I’m shooting off a rest at 15 feet.
Umarex Precision BBs
Next, I loaded 10 Umarex Precision steel BBs and tried a second group on a fresh target. I can’t tell you how large this group is because 2 of the BBs missed the target trap and hit the backer board I put up to protect the wall. I know one of them was high because it passed through a piece of cardboard I had taped to the target trap. The 8 shots that landed on the target paper made a group measuring 3.046 inches between centers. It’s impossible to know how large the actual group was since 1 of the BBs left no record whatsoever.
Wow! This wasn’t the way I remembered the M1 Carbine! I knew you would have a lot of questions for me. So, I decided to do something about it.
Avanti Precision Ground Shot
I also tried the Avanti Precision Ground shot that Daisy sells for the Avanti Champion 499 BB gun. This shot is very uniform in size and measures 0.1739 inches with my micrometer. That’s considerably larger than either of the other 2 BBs I shot.
This time, all 10 BBs hit the paper and made a group measuring 3.681 inches between centers. That is the best group of all 3 BBs tried. But it wasn’t good enough for me. Shooting 3 inches at 15 feet is something I never want to do because I know I’m better than that. How much better? Well, I had to find out.
Avanti Champion 499 BB gun
I next shot a group in the same way but with the Avanti Champion 499 BB gun — the world’s most accurate BB gun. Naturally, I used the Avanti Precision Ground shot since it’s the only BB developed specifically for this gun.
This time, 10 shots went into 0.328 inches. They were a little high and right on the target, which means I need to adjust the rear sight just a little, but I’m pleased with the group size. It came after firing 30 aimed shots, so I was starting to get tired, if anything.
The Crosman M1 Carbine is not as accurate as I remembered. I expected to put 10 shots into 1.5 inches or better, and that didn’t happen with any BB — not even the Precision Ground shot. I think I’ve shot 5-shot groups with this BB gun in the past, and that may have given me false expectations.
Still, the Crosman M1 Carbine is a wonderful BB gun from the standpoint of realism and power. It comes from a time I fear we will never see again, and I lament the end of the era that produced such a fine BB gun.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
M1 Carbine on top and Crosman M1 Carbine below. A realistic copy!
Today, we’ll take a look at the velocity of the Crosman M1 Carbine BB gun. My gun is one that has a plastic Croswood stock, which means it was made between 1968 and 1976. It doesn’t have any indications of having been taken apart, so I’m assuming that it’s factory original.
Strange spring-piston gun!
This rifle is unique in that it has a valve. Despite being a spring-piston gun, there’s a pop valve in line with the piston. It remains shut until overcome by pressurized air. A small coiled spring holds it shut as long as possible. That allows the maximum air pressure to build up, so the BB doesn’t start moving before the piston has almost reached the end of its travel.
Most BB guns use a hollow tube to push the BB off its seat and get it up to about 50-80 f.p.s. Then, the compressed air comes through the air tube and blasts the BB on up to terminal velocity. But the Crosman M1 Carbine and the Crosman V-350 action from which is is designed do not have the tube. So, the compressed air is held back until it reaches overwhelming pressure, and it’s the only thing that acts on the BB. How well does it work?
Daisy Premium Grade zinc-plated BBs
The first BB I loaded was the Daisy Premium Grade zinc-plated BB. I’ve found these BBs to be very uniform and larger than some on the market. They measure 0.171″ to 0.173″ in diameter, and their surface is smooth, though not as smooth as some. They weigh 5.1 grains, on average.
Daisy BBs averaged 383 f.p.s. in the Crosman M1 Carbine. The range went from a low of 365 f.p.s. to a high of 391 f.p.s. That’s a pretty large spread for a spring-piston BB gun, but the average velocity is also on the high side. We’ll have to wait to see how accurate they are; but in my experience, Daisy BBs are always near or at the top, as far as accuracy goes.
BBs are loaded in the front of 2 holes in the upper handguard of the gun. The rear hole is for oiling the piston seal, which on this gun has a huge impact.
The BBs load into the 22-shot gravity-fed magazine through a hole in the front of the upper handguard. Pull back on the operating handle to open this hole for loading. Although Crosman says the magazine holds 22 BBs, my gun holds 23.
The rear hole in the upper handguard is for oiling the mechanism. You can also see BBs through the hole if the gun is loaded.
Daisy Premium Grade zinc-plated BB on the left, Umarex Precision steel BB on the right. The Umarex BB is visibly smoother; but in tests with many guns, these 2 BBs are similarly accurate. It’ll be interesting to see how the Crosman M1 Carbine handles each BB in the accuracy test.
Umarex Precision BBs
Next, I tried Umarex precision steel BBs. They averaged slightly less velocity, as 375 f.p.s., but the spread was also tighter. The low was 367 f.p.s. and the high was 382 f.p.s. That’s a range of 15 f.p.s., compared to 26 f.p.s. for the Daisys.
The Crosman M1 Carbine trigger is light, breaking at 2 lbs., 13 ozs. on the test gun. The blade is very thin, though, and that makes the pull feel heavier.
This airgun is performing at the peak of its power right now. An average Crosman M1 Carbine will shoot around 350, so this one is certainly a little hot. I can’t wait to see how well it does in the accuracy test.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
M1 Carbine on top and Crosman M1 Carbine below. A realistic copy!
When I attended San Jose State College in the 1960s, I was in ROTC. My first 3 years as a cadet were in the enlisted ranks, and we all drilled with the M1 Garand. Today, people feel the Garand is a cool historical military weapon (and it is!); but in the late 1960s when it was all we had, it wasn’t nearly so cool. It was, in fact, heavy, clumsy and dangerous when you performed Inspection Arms. We learned to live with it and eventually became adept at not smashing our thumbs when we closed the bolt, but the fact was that the Garand was a 10.5-lb. clunk that always seemed to weigh too much.
The cadet officers, in sharp contrast, were issued the M1 Carbine, which weighed about half as much and felt like a feather compared to the Garand. When they performed Inspection Arms, there was no heavy spring to fight to get the bolt open and no chance of an M1 thumb. The bolt on the Carbine action slides home with minimal fuss.
Of course, we never got to shoot our guns. We just drilled with them. I could perform the Manual of Arms pretty well but had no idea what it was like to touch off a round. And those days were long before Garands became widely distributed among private owners in the U.S. They were around, but a kid in college like me shot a 1903 Springfield if he shot anything.
Carbines were more readily available, but I never had the chance to shoot one of them, either. So my entire opinion of both weapons was based solely on their weight and the relative ease with which the Manual of Arms was performed. Naturally, I fell in love with the M1 Carbine.
I wasn’t an airgunner in those days. I’d been one 10 years earlier when firearms were out of the question…and I would be, again, in a few years when I encountered adult airguns during a tour with the First Armored Division in Germany. I was unaware that Crosman had marketed an M1 Carbine lookalike BB gun from 1966 to 1976. And, given my interest in firearms at the time, it’s doubtful that I would have been interested in one if I had known about them.
It wasn’t until I started going to airgun shows in 1993 that the Crosman M1 Carbine popped up on my radar screen; and when it did, I assumed it was a CO2 gun since my total knowledge of Crosman was that they made CO2 guns. Having lived through the great experiment of the “bottle-capped” CO2 containers in the late 1950s (they leaked gas), I wanted nothing to do with any gun that used it. That’s a story of its own, and it’s one I’ll share with you soon.
Crosman’s first CO2 cartridge (right) used a type of bottle-cap close. Many leaked.
In the late 1980s, someone offered me a Crosman M1 Carbine for $15, and I turned it down because of my distaste for CO2 guns. It wasn’t until about 10 years later when I was writing The Airgun Letter that I discovered my mistake. The Crosman M1 Carbine is not a CO2 gun. It’s a spring-piston BB gun that cocks using the push-barrel system that Quackenbush (Henry Marcus, not Dennis) made popular in the late 1800s.
I also discovered that this BB gun had a rear sight that adjusts in the same way the type II and type III Carbine rear sights adjust. And it’s lightweight — just like the military gun. And powerful for a BB gun! And also accurate. What was not to like?
The Crosman rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation — just like the type III military Carbine rear sight.
A military Carbine type II rear sight is very similar to the Crosman sight. They adjust the same way!
I broke down and bought a wood-stocked Crosman M1 Carbine at the Winston-Salem Airgun Expo. That gun taught me what I’d been missing all those years. It was accurate (for a BB gun), powerful and looked great. But those were busy days when I was buying and selling airguns often to have new material for the newsletter. So, I let that gun get away from me — for almost twice what I paid to get it! That was the value of the wood stock, which was available only for the first two years of production.
Then I went into a severe case of seller’s remorse, which I guess I also verbalized a little. My friend, Mac, saw me looking at another M1 Carbine at another airgun show, and he bought it for me as a gift. That was the kind of friend he was.
Following that, I got serious and set about to acquire my first actual M1 Carbine firearm — just to complete the circuit. I found it to be wimpy, weak, inaccurate and in all other respects thoroughly lovable. I have not been without a Carbine since. And I will never get rid of my Crosman M1 BB Carbine.
The Crosman M1 Carbine is a very realistic airgun. It weighs 5.25 lbs., which is within 1 ounce of the firearm’s weight. The stock is plastic dyed medium brown and given a grained pattern on the surface. Crosman called it Croswood, and for its day it was very realistic. In fact, it looks much more authentic than the real wooden stock that’s slab-sided and without figure. The Croswood stock is much more rounded and more fully contoured than the wood stock.
The picture shows that the airgun is in most ways very similar to the firearm. Of course, there are some significant differences. The “magazine” for instance is nothing but a metal box — a reservoir for BBs that must be dumped out and then loaded into the 23-shot gravity-fed magazine before they’ll work in the gun.
Crosman’s magazine is really just a reservoir for extra BBs. They have to be removed from the reservoir and loaded into the gun.
Slide the plastic cover off the magazine and pour out the BBs.
That magazine, by the way, is the gun’s Achilles heel. Kids (and parents who don’t understand its purpose) remove it and lose it. The gun will still work fine without it, but some of the authenticity is lost. There have been solid plastic magazines sold over the years for those who need to regain the look without the storage compartment.
The BB gun loads through a hole in the top of the stock. To load, you slide the operating handle to the rear to open the hole, then drop in the BBs one by one. They roll back toward the butt, which is natural. When you cock the gun, you pull back on the barrel and normally the muzzle will be elevated when you do.
This gun can be difficult to cock — even for some adults. The mainspring is powerful, and the barrel doesn’t offer a good handle to grasp when pulling it back. Many people cheat by putting their palms over the muzzle and pushing the barrel back. That puts your palm over the muzzle of a cocked gun — which is not something you want to do.
The right way to cock the gun is to use the front sight as an anchor for your index finger but not put any part of your hand in front of the muzzle at any time. I’m sure kids developed their own ways of cocking this gun, as it’s entirely too powerful for most youngsters to cock conventionally. Most Carbine BB guns will have significant finish wear on the barrel just behind the front sight due to repeated handling.
Grasp the barrel this way to avoid putting your hand over the muzzle. This wears the finish off the barrel at this point.
The pull of the stock is a somewhat short 13 inches. But the firearm’s pull extends only another quarter inch farther, so it’s right in line with that. And the overall length is 35.50 inches for the BB gun and 35.75 inches for the firearm. So, the pull is where the difference is.
This gun was an icon to kids growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s. It was (and still is) so realistic that every junior BB-gunner wanted one for himself. Even if he couldn’t cock it without resorting to trickery, this was a gun to own!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The four smallbore calibers are .177, .20 (5mm), .22 and .25. But have there ever been others?
Yes, there have been other smallbore calibers. Crosman produced their galley air rifles in the 1940s in .21 caliber. I don’t know if anyone knows exactly why they chose that caliber; but given the immediate post-World War II timeframe, I would bet they did it to corner the market. In other words, you had to buy your pellets (in this case round balls) from them because nothing else would fit these guns.
They also made the same guns in .22 caliber, and those are the more popular examples today. And a great number of .21-caliber rifles have been converted to .22 caliber in the half century that’s passed.
Quackenbush (Henry Marcus, not Dennis) also made a .20-1/2-caliber pellet gun for which he supplied pellets. Same reason, I’m sure.
Of course, there was the .118-caliber BB gun made by Daisy, Wamo and the several Sharpshooter catapult gun makers (about 5 in all). We refer to those guns as .12 caliber, but they’re really a whisker less. They mostly shot No. 6 birdshot, but Daisy actually produced copper-plated steel BBs, as well.
A few years ago, there was an abortive attempt at making a .14-caliber pellet rifle. It happened at the same time that the .14-caliber rimfire round was being explored, and I feel confident that the pellet gun maker was hoping to ride the coattails of the rimfire development for the barrels. I didn’t hear a lot about this one; but the claims were higher velocity, flatter trajectory and (hopefully) lower cost for the pellets once the millions of dollars of development cost had been paid to create the small pellets to begin with. People never seem to take that into account when dreaming up these schemes!
What the world needs is an accurate BB gun
That was the ongoing theme of my misspent youth. And the logic is completely sound. You see, a BB is very inexpensive, so little boys can buy lots more of them than pellets that cost a small fortune. Rimfire ammo we allowed out parents, uncles and grandfathers to purchase because that took paper money rather than coins.
But BB guns weren’t very accurate — at least the ones we owned weren’t. But somewhere in the world there were accurate BB guns. In Germany, there was a special Diana model 30 gallery gun that shot steel balls so uniform they might be considered ball bearings. Those guns were accurate! They also had counters on them that tallied the number of shots fired, because they were used by shooting gallery operators who charged the public by the shot.
A Diana model 30 was priced at $1,000 in the U.S. in the 1970s. It didn’t cost that much in Germany, but that was what one costs over here. And the ammo? Well, forget it because the gun violated the entire reason for an accurate BB gun. It wasn’t cheap!
Then there was the VZ 35 bolt-action rifle that was a pre-war training rifle. They were hard to come by in the U.S. and didn’t shoot BBs…they shot 4.4mm lead balls. However, in the 1990s, Compasseco imported a bundle of VZ47 airguns that were a post-WWII production of the same gun. They were just as accurate as the earlier rifles, if not as well-finished. But they cost $250, and who in their right mind would pay $250 for a BB gun?
Then there was the Mars 110 and 115 trainer, the Anschütz 275 and the Haenel 310 — all of which were accurate lead ball shooters. The Haenel sold used in the U.S. at $59 at one time.
Finally, there’s the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun, also known as The world’s most accurate BB gun. Surely, that would qualify as what we want?
Well, yes, except that one only shoots 250 f.p.s. and it’s a single-shot. What we want is something very powerful, and it has to be a repeater. Besides, the 499 sells for $126, so it’s not cheap.
Let me get this straight. You want a Fender Starocaster guitar for $250 — right?
Well, only if it’s not made in China.
What you want is a time machine because the things you want only exist in the past!
Why are air pistols so weak?
What I want is a powerful air pistol so I can go hunting in the woods and not have to lug a heavy rifle around all day. Why doesn’t someone make a powerful air pistol?
AirForce Airguns makes the TalonP air pistol. It generates over 50 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and can keep 10 shots in six-tenths of an inch at 50 yards. How about that?
First of all, the TalonP is too big. You can’t put it in your pocket like you can a real pistol. Second — it costs $411. Come on! What we want is a gun like the 1377, only one that has some serious power, is a repeater and costs under $150.
I’m going to defer to you readers to tell this person why what he wants is impossible.
Have you ever tried using a primer to power a pellet?
This great idea pops up about every 5-10 years. I even tested one called the Convert-a-Pell, which failed miserably. The velocity ranged from 250 to over 600 f.p.s., and the accuracy through the .22 rimfire liner they supplied was on the order of 2.5 inches at 10 feet!
But there have been many others. Mendoza made guns that used a small blank cartridge to propel pellets and/or BBs. I tested one and found it also failed miserably to do anything other than make lots of noise.
David Pedersoli has a pellet gun that uses a 209 shotgun primer to push the pellet, but I know nothing more about it. Pedersoli has a good reputation for making fine firearms, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this one.
There is also a company caller PrimeGun making a BB gun that uses a 209 primer. They claim “hypersonic velocity,” which is what I always want from my round-ball shooters [sarcasm alert]. They talk a lot about the advantages their guns have over conventional airguns, but they never once mention the extreme difficulty of obtaining shotgun primers in the current market when reloading supplies are limited.
So, the answer is, “Yes,” I have tested primer-powered pellet and BB guns and found them to be poor substitutes for real airguns.
The bottom line is that the laws of the physical world have to be obeyed, no matter how much people may want them repealed. And the laws of economic possibility must also be observed. If they weren’t, we could all drive Ferraris and live in mansions.