Posts Tagged ‘daisy’
by B.B. Pelletier
A.J. Stewart gets a chance to shoot Ray Apelles’ custom Benjamin Marauder at Crosman’s Northeast Regional Field Target Championship (NRFTC) hosted by Crosman at their facilities in East Bloomfield, New York.
The concept of a product gone wrong isn’t unfamiliar in our society. One only needs to consider the Edsel automobile, Apple’s Lisa computer and reformulated New Coke to realize that failures in the marketplace are part of our rich tapestry of life. And collectors will point out that Edsels are now highly collectible, or that Apple learned a lot by taking the PARC technology and putting it into a $10,000 personal computer. It was the perfect springboard for their hugely successful Macintosh line. As for New Coke, well, the comedians are the only ones who derived a little benefit from that!
So, is there an equivalent faux pas in the world of airguns? You betcha! Plenty of them. Let’s start with one of my favorites.
The Wamo BB gun line
I have to call this a line of guns, because it was comprised of many different models. The most popular was the Kruger pistol that looked like a Luger, and the Western Haig that resembled a Buntline Special. Both “air” guns used the explosive force of toy caps to propel a No. 6 birdshot, which is very close to .12 caliber. And at least one variation of the Kruger shot genuine .173-caliber steel BBs instead of the smaller lead shot. And I’ve seen the box for a Kruger variation that was a potato gun.
A .12-caliber Wamo Kruger pistol at top, Western Haig in the center and the .177 steel BB version of the Wamo Kruger at the bottom. Wamo made a lot of cap-firing guns! They didn’t sell the Western Haig directly, but the co-owner of Wamo owned the patent on it.
Wamo (or Wham-o — they used both names in their literature, in their ads and on their boxes) also sold other cap-firing shot-launching guns that were covered by the same patents but were not directly associated with the Wamo name. The Western Haig is one such gun.
The caps were a poor way of providing power. They had unreliable ignition, wildly variable power and they left an acidic hydroscopic residue in the steel barrels and firing mechanisms that rusted them to inoperability within days of the first shooting. Nowhere in the scanty instructions was the shooter advised how often or even how to clean his gun after firing, so they failed after the first use in most cases.
Crosman .21-caliber compressed gas guns
The Crosman CG is a CO2 rifle that uses a 4-oz. CO2 tank left over from World War II, where it was originally meant to rapidly inflate large life rafts. A Crosman employee located several thousand of these tanks after the war and the company modified their model 101 pneumatic to use them. Crosman had been making and selling shooting galleries with CO2 guns since 1932, so this idea wasn’t new to them; but on many of these CG guns, as they came to be known, they installed .21-caliber barrels that used a proprietary shot.
This is a straight-tank CG rifle. Another version has the tank slanted toward the butt of the rifle. They came in both Crosman’s proprietary .21 caliber and the more conventional .22 caliber.
The gun wasn’t really the product Crosman was selling. They were selling a complete indoor shooting gallery, suitable for league competition, which they hoped to popularize in companies across America. They had some success, if you believe all the press photos of the leagues shooting, but the idea died out pretty fast. Can you imagine the sales call that would have to be made to the New York Times — to get them to purchase a shooting gallery for their employees today?
The CGs were also produced with .22-caliber barrels, and those are the ones that are still being shot by collectors. But the .21-caliber rifles don’t see a lot of use.
Here’s a blooper that can still be found at some airgun shows! The Larc BB “machine gun” was powered by a can of Freon. It used the pressurized Freon gas to blow the BBs out the barrel at a rapid rate. Back in those days, we not only bought Freon by the can for our leaky air conditioners, kids played with liquid mercury and had real firecrackers on the Fourth of July. Sure, their names were Sleepy, Stumpy and Lefty, but those were the good old days!
For those who are too young to know, Freon is a refrigerant gas that was replaced by other gasses when it was realized that it depleted the Earth’s ozone layer. Using it in a gun to launch BBs is politically incorrect on a number of levels today.
Today, a few enthusiasts still shoot their Larc guns using air pressure instead of Freon. But as originally designed, the Larc was doomed to extinction.
Daisy 400-series pellet rifles
What if Daisy took a Daisy Avanti 499 Champion BB gun and modified it to become a repeating pellet rifle? Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Daisy must have thought so, because from 1971 to 1976 they made no less than seven different models (400, 403, 404, 450, 452, 453, 454) — all of which did pretty much the same thing. They looked like BB guns on the outside but were actually clip-fed pellet rifles in disguise. And the customers stayed away in droves! Like Ford with their Edsel, Daisy kept right on trying to make the idea work, and also like the Edsel, this was a design that never worked right from inception.
I owned a 450 in like-new condition. It was weak, misfed pellets and was the most inaccurate pellet rifle I’ve ever tested. A regular BB gun is more accurate. But at least the magazines were difficult to load and quirky to install! I couldn’t get rid of mine fast enough, and I suspect that’s what happened to most of them. A great idea that, unfortunately, didn’t work.
Sorry that there’s no picture; but if you can imagine a Daisy 499 painted gray, that’s what they looked like.
By Himmel — it’s a Schimel!
The time was 1950, and airguns were literally coming out of the woodwork. When a .22-caliber single-shot pistol that ran on CO2 and looked like a German Luger hit the market, it should have been well-received. Perhaps the marketing wasn’t there, or perhaps the company was under-capitalized. For whatever reason, the Schimel didn’t make it. But that wasn’t what made it a blooper.
What makes the Schimel stand out was the use of inappropriate materials. A steel barrel liner was pressed into a diecast shell, with the result that over the years electrolysis has welded most Schimel barrels in place. The diecast parts were also used in places where they were overstressed, and they broke in use. The seals for the CO2 system were gas-permeable, with the result that they absorbed the gas and swelled when the empty cartridge was removed. The owner then had to wait for hours for the o-rings to shrink back to normal size so another CO2 cartridge could be installed in the gun.
Schimel grip panels were made from plastic that shrank over time. Today almost all grip panels have shrunk in place. And the paint that was used over the outer surface of the gun dried and flaked off so that today no Shimel can be found with 100 percent finish.
These shortcomings are not what ended the gun’s career. They each took many years to appear, but they do indicate that the people at Schimel were not interested in the product as much as they were interested in immediate sales. That mindset is probably what caused the end of Schimel.
Schimel gas pistol was a good idea, poorly executed.
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
Some more history
The first part of this report was certainly met with a lot of enthusiasm, so I think I’ll add some more history today. In the comments to Part 1, we had a discussion of the sport called Running Target. Some called it Running Boar, which it was for several decades, and long before that it was called Running Stag.
The sport originated in Germany, I believe, though it was probably popular in Austria and perhaps even in Switzerland. It existed at least as far back as the mid-19th century and was shot outdoors at a target pulled on tracks by human power. The original target was a male chamois made of wood with a target where the heart of the animal would be. But that target evolved into a male red deer, called a stag. The stag was exposed to the shooter for a specific number of seconds.
In time, the stag was replaced by a running boar, because the stag was thought to be a noble animal and the boar wasn’t so highly regarded…though in England they did have a similar sport called Running Deer.
As the match evolved, it picked up rules. There was a slow presentation of the target (5 seconds) and a fast presentation (2.5 seconds), and the shooter was supposed to shoot one shot on each pass. The target was engaged in both directions during the match. It wasn’t long before the wooden animals were switched for paper targets that were both cheaper and easier to score.
The Running Boar target was double-ended so it could be used in both directions on the same track.
The aim point was usually the animal’s nose, but that was the choice of each shooter.
Over the years, the rifles they used changed from muzzleloaders to centerfires, and eventually to rimfires and airguns, because of the increased opportunities for range safety. Today, both rimfires and airguns are still being used at the World Cup level.
The guns have traditionally used sights that account for the movement of the target and allow the correct amount of lead. When scopes came into the event, they were specialized with reticles that allowed for the lead to be dialed in. Anyone who owns an FWB 300S Running Target rifle with the correct scope has something to prize.
Gary Anderson brought a running target range to the Roanoke Airgun Expo back in the late 1990s, giving many airgunners the opportunity to closely examine the target setup. By the 1970s, the sport had become Running Target — to assuage those who felt shooting at boars was not politically correct. The sport was part of the 1992 Olympics, but was dropped after the 2004 games. It’s a sport that goes in and out of fashion as the years pass; but it’s still a World Cup event, so we may see more of it in time.
When the change was made to Running Target, the target was changed to a target with one central aim point and two bulls — one for each direction.
Velocity of the FWB 300S
Today is the day we check the velocity of this FWB 300S, so let’s get to it. When it was new, the 300S was advertised with a velocity of 640 f.p.s., though the pellet they was used to get that number was never specified. I will use a range of pellets I believe are appropriate to the power level of a spring gun like this. And, in a departure for me, one of the pellets I test will be domed.
Air Arms Falcon
I tested the Air Arms Falcon pellet even though it’s a domed pellet that’s not appropriate for target shooting, because many readers use these rifles with scopes for plinking and other pursuits. So, I’ll also shoot this pellet for accuracy — just to see what it can do.
This was the first pellet I tested, and I’m so glad I own a chronograph, because I learned something valuable about the 300S in this test. This rifle needs to warm up before it’ll shoot with stable velocity. Think of an older car from the 1950s that had to be warmed up for a minute or so and then driven slowly for the first mile to allow the parts to expand and start sealing as they should. Heck — most car engines from that era developed leaks pretty quickly, and you did whatever was necessary to keep them from wearing faster than they should. Well, this FWB 300S needs the same kind of warmup. Let me show you the first 9 shots.
So, if you shoot a 300S — or any of its derivatives — for score, maybe you better shoot about 10 shots just to warm the action before expecting the rifle to do its best.
After shot 9, the rifle became very stable and averaged 658 f.p.s. with the Falcon pellet. The low was 655, and the high was 671 f.p.s. At that speed, this pellet generates 7.05 foot-pounds. That’s pretty brisk for a 300S; but Mac, who traded the rifle to me, said it had just been sealed and overhauled by Randy Bimrose, so it’s performing at its best.
A couple observations
Before I move to the next pellet, I’d like to make a few observations. First, I said in Part 1 that the 300S action doesn’t need to be levered forward at the end of the cocking strike like the action of an RWS Diana model 54 Air King, but that was incorrect. It does have to be levered forward into lockup in just the same way, but the 300S action is so smooth that I didn’t notice it until now. With a Diana 54, you always notice it.
I mention this because, like the Diana 54, the 300S uses the sledge-type anti-recoil system; and even though it’s a gentle rifle, it has to operate in the same way as the more powerful Diana. Moving the action forward into lockup prepares the action to release when the gun fires and to move on the steel rails in the stock just a fraction of an inch, canceling the feel of recoil.
The second thing I noticed this time is that I can feel the cocking link bump over the mainspring coils as the cocking lever moves back to the stored position. I sometimes feel that same roughness in other spring rifles, where the tolerances are tight, and I thought I’d mention that this one does the same thing.
RWS R-10 Pistol pellets
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 Pistol pellet, which weigh 7 grains, even. I tried them because of their weight — not because I think they’ll be the most accurate pellet. I just want to show the rifle’s velocity with a reasonable range of pellet weights.
This pellet averaged 658 f.p.s. with a low of 640 and a high of 664 f.p.s. The low shot was the only one that went slower than 656 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 6.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
The final pellet I tested was the 8.18-grain H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. It averaged 609 f.p.s. and ranged from 597 to 616 f.p.s. The average velocity generated a muzzle energy of 6.74 foot-pounds
There you have it. This 300S is extremely healthy and ready to go target shooting in the next report! It’s still a joy to shoot and is a rifle that you should continue to covet if you’re so inclined.
One additional thing. There has been some talk of how accurate these rifles are at longer range. If you want, I’ll schedule a special fourth report in which I shoot this rifle outdoors at 50 yards. I’ll have to wait for a calm day, of course, but wouldn’t it be fun to see how this rifle shoots at that range?
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300s is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
I’ve danced around writing this report for the better part of a year, and some of you have asked me when I was going to get around to it. Well, today is the day we’ll begin looking at Feinwerkbau’s fabulous 300S — considered by many airgunners to be the gold standard of vintage 10-meter target air rifles.
Today’s blog is an important resource for those who are interested in fine vintage 10-meter target rifles, because I’m going to give you the links to all the other reports I’ve done.
There are plenty of vintage 10-meter rifles that I haven’t tested for you yet. The Diana 75, the Anschutz 380, the Walther LGR, the Anschutz 250 and the Gamo 126 all come to mind; but if you want to split hairs, there are numerous similar models like the Walther LG55 and the Diana 65 that also belong to a very long list of classic oldies. But the guns we’ve looked at thus far are a fair representation of the classic era of target air rifles. Today, we’ll look at the rifle many consider to be the pinnacle of achievement during that period.
You probably know the history, but if you don’t — first there was the FWB 110, a sidelever target rifle that recoiled! Yes, it recoiled. What’s more, Feinwertkbau didn’t make too many of them. The 110 is considered to be a very desirable airgun collectible today, and many advanced airgunners, including me, have never even seen one. According to the Blue Book of Airguns, fewer than 200 were made from 1962-1964.
The FWB 150 followed the 110 and introduced Feinwerkbau’s anti-recoil system. I reviewed the FWB 150 for you last June. I found it to be easy to shoot and compellingly accurate, but it wasn’t everything it could be. That honor awaited the 300S that I’m reviewing for you today.
The FWB 150 is the predecessor of the 300S. It shares a more sporterized stock profile with the interim FWB 300.
A footnote deserves to be inserted here, as the first edition of the Beeman catalog, a collectible in its own right, also mentioned an FWB 200 model, existing at the same time as the 300. A short line in the Blue Book says the model 200 was similar to the model 300 but lacked the recoil-compensation system. Until I researched today’s report, the model 200 was unknown to me and I’ve certainly never seen one. Is it as rare as the model 110? Has anyone ever seen one? These are the curious things that pop up as we research this fascinating hobby, and they’re what keeps the collector in me in a permanent state of anticipation.
The model 300 was much like the 150, in that it has a single coiled, steel mainspring and a thinner, more sporterized stock, yet it was definitely labeled a 300, rather than the 150. You don’t see as many straight 300 rifles as you do 150 rifles these days. Perhaps that’s because when the 300S came out it overshadowed the 300 and drove it from the marketplace in fairly short order. The 300S was a very different gun.
If you’re like me, you never paid much attention to the difference between a 300 and the 300S. What’s in a letter designation, after all? A lot of things, as it turns out.
Let’s start with the mainspring. The 300S has two coiled steel springs that are wound in opposite directions. It’s said they cancel the slight amount of torque at firing, though I cannot say that I’ve ever noticed any torque in my 150. The RWS Diana 48 sidelever does have noticeable torque upon firing, and you’ll feel a definite rocking to the right after the trigger is pulled. Since the sidelever already unbalances that rifle, the feeling is magnified; but the 150 doesn’t have the same feeling. At least — my rifle, which was recently tuned by Randy Bimrose, doesn’t.
The 300S stock is shorter than the stock on the 300/150. It also has a more vertical pistol grip to enhance the offhand hold. A slight flare at the bottom might go unnoticed in the catalog photos; but when you hold the rifle, the pistol grip grabs you right back.
So, how does this rifle block the recoil? Well, for starters, it actually doesn’t! All the FWB spring-piston target rifles do recoil; but in the 150 models and the 300-series there’s a special system in the stock that isolates the shooter from the movement. A set of steel rails set into the stock allows the action to move while the stock remains still. The shooter doesn’t feel any recoil and only the slightest vibration in some guns. But you do notice the movement of the action, because of the eyepiece that’s close to your sighting eye. The movement is very short — on the order of a quarter-inch or so — but if you’re close to the rear sight you’ll notice it. A rubber eyecup helps take up the shock and prevent your eye from banging into the rear sight disk, and I find it necessary to use this accessory with this model rifle.
This system is called the sledge system, after the name for a dry-land type of sled whose runners make it easy to drag heavy loads. It’s completely different from the Giss anti-recoil system, in which a counterweighted piston actually has no discernible recoil.
This mechanism is very refined compared to a similar system found on the RWS Diana model 54 Air King. Of course, that magnum spring-piston rifle has to deal with three times the power in a rifle of similar weight, so it’s actually doing quite a good job of canceling the recoil. Still, when the 300S lever is retracted, there’s no “levering” of the action required at the end of the cocking stroke like you have with the Diana 54. The ratcheting anti-beartrap safety that prevents the sliding compression chamber from smashing your thumb during loading does not need a separate button to release the cocking lever after you’ve loaded. The only extra step the 300S does have is a small locking latch on the sidelever that unlocks the lever at the start of the cocking stroke. The 150 and 300 cocking levers both have an end section that pivots outward to unlock the cocking lever and achieve the same thing.
Press down on the cocking lever latch to release the lever for cocking and loading.
The sidelever on a 300S is also much shorter than the one on the 150, yet the cocking effort remains as light. Obviously, some geometry was changed when the model was updated.
My 300S is a Daisy gun. While many were imported and sold by Beeman, many more came into the U.S. through Daisy when the company was trying to establish itself as a target gun company. The FWB name trumped the Daisy name, however, and a Daisy FWB is exactly the same as one from Beeman or one imported directly from Europe.
This 300S came from Daisy.
No piston seal
Another odd but not unique feature of these rifles is the lack of a conventional piston seal. Instead of a traditional seal, they use a metal ring much like those found on an automobile engine’s piston. These rings will last for millions of cycles, as some club guns have demonstrated, though other parts like the breech seal will eventually have to be replaced. And the coiled steel mainspring set needs occasional replacement, as well.
Many Webley pistols and a couple of the older Webley rifles have the same design, so piston rings are not unique in the airgun world. They are, however, features that are found only on guns of quality.
When the 150/300 was new, American airgunners were not used to light target triggers as a rule. They were accustomed to a 3-lb. pull being considered light. So, when they encountered the FWB trigger that releases at ounces rather than pounds, they were astounded. In fact, if they’d been accustomed to shooting the older target rifles from the 19th century, like Ballards, Maynards and Winchesters, all of which had fine double-set triggers, they would have been less impressed.
The 300S trigger has a nominal pull weight ranging from 3.5 oz. to 17.7 oz. (an optional trigger spring boosts that range from 10.6 oz. to 52.8 oz.). In target rifle terms, even the lighter range is not very light, though I find it just right for me. The trigger on my rifle releases at a satisfying 4.4 oz. It’s a two-stage pull with stage two being very definite. With practice, you can get on target and “think” the trigger off as the sight picture becomes perfect.
The 300S trigger also adjusts for position, cant and first-stage travel — all things that the 150 trigger does not do. Although the 150 trigger is just as light and crisp as the one on the 300S, you can’t reposition it. It’s also curved like a sporting trigger instead of straight like the target trigger found on the 300S.
The trigger of a target air rifle has no lower limit, the way a target air pistol does. In the ISSF rules for air pistols, a match pistol trigger must break at more than 500 grams (17.64 oz.). This is done in the interest of safety, as the muzzle of a pistol is too easy to move while on a firing line. But a rifle like the 300S is more obvious and easier to control, so there’s no lower limit. Some target air rifles today are releasing at less than 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of force.
The stocks of the vintage target air rifles show a fairly broad latitude of design, but they stop short in a few important areas. Tyrolean stocks are not permitted in World Cup and Olympic matches, nor are butt hooks. Today’s rifles are studies in ergonomics applied against these rules. Today, a 300S looks fairly normal to eyes that are accustomed to wild aluminum stocks with numerous adjustments; but when it was new, it seemed to push the envelope of possibility. I suppose it’s equivalent to how the finned cars of the late 1950s appeared when they were new compared to how we see them today.
Another drastic measure was taken at the World Cup level in the realm of target sights. For a brief time, the tube-type rear aperture sight was used, but complaints that it gave an unfair advantage caused a ruling that it was no longer permitted. This is very odd, since tube-type sights have been in use since at least 1776 and were in widespread use in target matches throughout the 19th century. But the ruling was made, and today’s rear sights cannot use tubes to enhance the sharpness of the sight picture.
FWB target rear sights looked as exotic as a Rolex watch when they were new in the 1970s. Today, they seem almost simple, but they still do the job. The click detents are nowhere close to the thousandth-inch measurements of the Vernier scale peep sights I showed you recently; but since you’re shooting 10 meters instead of 1,000 yards, they’re more than adequate for the job.
Unfortunately, these rifles were also sold without sights for a slightly reduced price, and many buyers mounted short scopes on their 11mm sight dovetails. While they may have been pleased with the gun that way, they created a shortage of sights for the future that is difficult to resolve. Until five years ago, you either had to install a hoplessly crude rear sight made either in Spain or China and live with the problems of adjustment backlash, or you had to pony up almost as much money as you paid for the entire rifle just to buy a set of precision sights.
AirForce corrected that lack for you with their adaptive rear target sight that fits most 10-meter guns. For about a third of what a German rear sight costs, you get a unit that’s the equivalent of the vintage FWB rear sight; and as a bonus, it looks at home on any rifle. An additional feature that never seems to get mentioned is this sight can be removed from its base and installed in a standard one-inch scope ring — multiplying the possible applications greatly.
The front sight looks more conventional and is of the globe design with replaceable inserts. On the 300S, it’s part of a larger aluminum barrel sleeve that makes it proprietary. When the globe on an Anschütz or Weihrauch target rifle slides onto a dovetail, this globe actually fits only the 300S barrel.
The front sight on this HW55 attaches to two dovetails of standard width. All Weihrauch rifles that have dovetails can use this sight.
The FWB 300S front sight globe is integral with an aluminum sleeve that fits over the barrel. It’s either this or nothing!
The front sight is pinned to the barrel through the sight base. On some versions of the 300S, like the Universal and the later Match, this pin is at the bottom of the barrel. On my rifle it’s located at the top.
You may have also noticed that the 300S has a blued barrel sleeve that’s slenderer than the one on the 150. Only toward the end of the barrel does it swell a bit. That’s because the 300S barrel is longer than the one on the 150, so there has to be less sleeve material to balance the weight correctly.
But the real test of this airgun comes with shooting. I’ve already shot this rifle several times, so I know what’s in store. You should feel eager expectation for the next two installments, because this rifle wants to shoot!
I attended a gun show this past weekend; and on the first day, I noticed something that I’ve seen for many years but never appreciated. Most of the people who attend gun shows don’t know what airguns are worth. You can benefit from that.
Nobody knows what airguns are worth!
Across the aisle from me, a dealer had a Daisy model 21 double-barreled gun laid out. When I examined it, I noticed that it was really beat-up. It was a 20 percent gun, at best.
The dealer said he wanted a thousand dollars for this gun, because he’d seen one new in the box selling for $3,500 on the internet. He knew his was a junker, but he figured it must be worth that much at least.
He probably saw the asking price for the new-in-the-box gun. There are lots of outrageous prices like that online, and they usually never get a nibbler. But some people use those bogus prices as their starting point, and this dealer was one of them.
I’ll be attending the Roanoke Airgun Expo in a couple weeks, and I expect to see half a dozen to twenty model 21 Daisys, ranging from $300 for beaters, like the one I described, up to perhaps $1,400 for one like-new in the box. Yes, the price spectrum is really that broad, but it doesn’t continue on up into the stratosphere like many people hope and dream.
So, here’s an idea. Get a real cheap model 21 and bring it to a gun show! While you’re at it, there are many more airguns you can dispose of in this manner.
Airguns that firearms people like
You can’t go wrong with any of the Winchester-marked Diana breakbarrels. At the gun show, they think the name adds value. So your $200 Winchester 427 is now worth $250 or even more.
Older Benjamins and Crosmans always seem to go well. Since I am old myself, let me explain that by old I mean pre-1960. Pre-war is even better. And by pre-war, I mean before World War II.
Older and classic Daisys sell well. Older Daisys command attention wherever they are. But there are classic guns that don’t have to be old. The No. 25 is the poster child of all classic BB guns, and guns made in Rogers in the 1970s are very attractive to non-airgun buyers. You can pick them up cheap everywhere and make a nice profit when you sell them to someone who doesn’t know how common they are.
Another certain seller is an older, well-made gun like a Webley Senior or a Tell III. However, you have to buy them right, because gun show guys just don’t understand $300 pellet guns. Guns like the Weihrauch HW 45 (Beeman P1) are not so good, because you’ll usually have to pay too much to get them; or if you do get one right, it’ll be too hard to explain it to a non-airgunner.
But whatever you bring has to function, because these guys don’t want to collect them. They’ll be reliving their childhood with the treasures they buy from you. Spend the money to get them sealed and working before you lay them out, and you’ll be surprised at the response you get.
Older, vintage-looking guns
There’s a small market for wall-hangers at gun shows. I recently sold several cheap shotguns to guys who just wanted them as accent pieces for the wall. Well, what about older Daisys and Kings that reek of the 1920s? What about a real old Benjamin model D that isn’t worth fixing, but has great lines? Just be sure to pay pennies for guns like this, because you’ll sell them for pennies, as well.
One thing you absolutely cannot do at a gun show is dry-fire an airgun. People do it at airgun shows, and I think some folks believe it’s okay. If you do it even one time at a gun show, you’ll be ejected from the show and banned from returning.
Become “the airgun guy”
Pick a gun show and attend it regularly. Soon, the dealers and veteran attendees will know you as the airgun guy. Whenever someone brings an airgun to the show, they’ll be directed to your table. Whenever someone asks about where the airguns are, they’ll be sent to you. You won’t have much competition at most of the smaller gun shows, from what I’ve seen.
The more regularly you attend a show, the more traffic you’ll build. These are people who will come to the show just because they know you’ll be there. They may have a gun that needs to be fixed or they may have just bought a collection that included airguns. Whatever the connection, if you’re the airgun guy, all the business will come to you.
by B.B. Pelletier
Update on Tom/B.B.: Tom’s condition continues to improve, and some milestones the doctors have set have been reached and even surpassed. Since Saturday, he’s been all smiles and has perked up quite a bit because his best friend, Mac, has arrived for a week’s stay. He’ll be testing guns and providing velocity and accuracy data, which B.B. will use to write blogs over the next few weeks. Since Mac is a heck of a great shot, we should be seeing some really good targets and groups.
AlanL has previously commented that light pellets might be more efficient and was wondering about things like drag. He specifically mentioned using aluminum for pellets. I thought I would take today and do a short report on some projectile weight changes that have been made and had major impacts over the years.
The first caliber BB gun was actually shotgun shot-size BB. That’s supposed to be a round lead ball 0.180 inches in diameter. Early BB guns shot this because the shot was readily available, and owners didn’t have to make any special provisions to get it. Every hardware store carried shotgun shot.
When the 20th century dawned, the Daisy company decided to lighten their lead shot, so they down-sized it to 0.175 inches. This reduced the amount of lead that went into each projectile. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the savings are great when you’re selling millions and billions of shot. The benefits were that the new shot flew faster in given guns. Of course, being smaller, it didn’t work in the older guns; so different size shot tubes for Daisy’s private-branded Air Rifle Shot had to be fabricated for new guns.
Fast-forwarding to the 1920s, Daisy began to get returns of their BB guns with shot stuck in the tubes. When they looked at the problem, most of these were coming from the Minneapolis area. They went there and discovered that kids were going to the scrap piles behind the American Ball Company and picking out round steel balls that would fit in their BB guns. They gauged the shot by dropping it down the muzzle to see if it stuck in the shot tube. This new type of shot worked well, but it wasn’t suited for the shot tube, which was designed for lead. Daisy saw another savings opportunity, though, and they contracted with American Ball to produce Bullseye Air Rifle Shot. We’re now into the 1930s, and Daisy guns are shooting what we see today — traditional steel BBs. They went even faster than the older lead shot, but they didn’t shoot quite as true. The shot size was now nominally 0.173 inches. Daisy was able to reduce the power of the springs in their guns, making them easier to cock and producing an overall better product.
World War II
WWII caused shortages of materials that halted production of BB guns for the duration. When the war was over, critical supplies — such as steel plate — were still in shortage and hard to come by. So, the BB gun industry took several years to ramp up into production. Since steel was such a critical item, Daisy experimented with aluminum shot. This is where today’s story plays out, AlanL. Aluminum shot was very, very fast and had absolutely no accuracy whatsoever. Daisy had discovered the threshold beyond which you cannot lighten the projectile. So, they went back to steel, and we’ve been there ever since.
For more proof that lightweight projectiles are less accurate, you only need to look at the world of airsoft. An airsoft BB of 0.12 grams is often selected for smaller, less expensive airsoft guns because it flies very fast. But, when put in a potentially more accurate gun, they cannot be controlled and usually fly erratically. Airsoft snipers have learned this and understand the importance of balancing the weight of the ammo with the gun.
You’ll notice that there are some optimum pellet weights. If you look at what’s available for sale, you’ll find that many of the pellets are clustered within a central weight range. When you go too heavy, they become clumsy and inaccurate. When you go too light, they become erratic and inaccurate. For long-range shooting, you want a heavier projectile and a more powerful powerplant that’s suited to that projectile weight.
by B.B. Pelletier
Update on Tom/B.B.: Improvements continue! One of the doctors mentioned that they’re starting to look down the road to see when he can be discharged. Nothing definite yet, but things look promising!
Today’s guest blog is a continuation of last Thursday’s, comparing a vintage Red Ryder with a new one.
Cosmetic differences cont’d
The 1938 cocking lever makes one solid “clack” at the end of its arc, whereas the 1938B makes seven clicks during its travel due to an internal ratcheting mechanism. This is a safety feature to prevent mashing fingers if one pulls the trigger with the cocking lever extended. I can attest that this was a fairly uncomfortable occurrence on the old 1938, but a pretty common dare as well! Despite the increased safety, the old 1938 feels a bit more solid when cocking, since the 1938B’s plastic lever is much less substantial and vibrates a little with the ratcheting.
Note that my 1938 has had a couple of nuts missing from the receiver since the 1980s, and the cocking lever pivot bolt and nut are a juvenile replacement; the bolt is undersized, and I don’t believe there was a nut originally, simply tapped metal. I replaced the original with an undersized bolt, necessitating the nut. The missing nuts on the receiver were seemingly for appearance, as the folded metal receiver is tapped for the screws also.
The 1938B has a plastic trigger and safety, whereas the 1938 has only a folded metal trigger (with a notably lighter pull). The 1938 has no safety! The 1938B’s cross-bolt trigger safety is part of a plastic unit that seems to be integrated with the trigger. Although wear on the older gun is a consideration, it also seems likely that the trigger-pull on the newer ones was increased on purpose, in addition to adding the safety.
Another significant functional difference is in the loading ports.
Functionally, there’s a slight edge to the older gun, with easy loading, no safety and a very light trigger, as well as more solid and easily adjusted (although cruder looking) sights. I also suspect that nostalgia plays no small part in my preference. The new gun feels smaller and lighter, although the lengths are obviously identical and the weights are close. The clicking cocking mechanism and the plastic cocking lever are definitely glaring differences. Whereas the older gun still feels solid (albeit a little worn in) after all this time and perhaps tens of thousands of shots, the newer gun seems a bit more fragile. Since most of the changes seem to be a likely necessary response on Daisy’s part to the increase in litigation and costs of manufacture over the last three decades, it’s hard to fault them excessively for the changes, especially as the price has seemingly changed little (not even counting inflation) over the last three decades.
Out of the box, the new gun hit a cross-mark dead center at 5 yards on the first shot, so it shoots enough like the old one to be in the same league. Of course, that first shot was luck! It seems to group (using the term loosely) almost identically to the old one. My accuracy estimate is based on shooting offhand…I didn’t use a bench. In my experience, groups of around 2 inches at a maximum of 25 feet are what should be expected, although sometimes you may be able to do slightly better. Back in the day, we would regularly shoot bottle caps at about 25 feet, but we counted only the hits!
Range also is not very far, which is good in terms of safety and convenience. My brothers and I would play a “rifleman” game, where we would shoot a 4 ft x 2 ft piece of corrugated steel located about 150 feet away (just a guess as the “range/playing field” is now gone). This game did not require a precise sight picture (2 feet of windage was usually adequate), but it did require knowing which part of the writing on the back of the barrel to place in the notch of the rear sight. Again, we would regularly hit the long-range target, but there were, I’m sure, many misses. To my knowledge, none of us were ever injured by ricochets in that scenario, nor was the metal ever dented by the BBs, although it had many larger dents from being used as a backstop for baseball.
Given the age discrepancy, it’s hard to judge the differences in power: the newer gun definitely seems to hit a little harder, but age is certainly the biggest factor. I don’t think either one would/will ever get above 300 fps, and the rated 280 fps seems just about right, unlike the one from the 1940s that BB tested, which was a little more powerful.
Despite differences between the 1938 and 1938B, the current 1938B Red Ryder is still a gun that can be a lot of fun in the right application and, rather mysteriously given its roots in an otherwise forgotten cartoon cowboy, still appeals to its target market (and their fathers) many decades later.
by B.B. Pelletier
Update on B.B./Tom: Tom is walking around the hospital halls several times a day (using a walker). The doctor said he seems to be recovering faster than expected. Today, Tom’s moving to a different floor…where patients go when they need less nursing care. Good news!
Today, we have a guest blog from BG_Farmer. It’s a two-parter, and you’ll see the rest of it on Monday.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.
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Now, on to today’s blog.
After digging my old Red Ryder out of the basement at my parents’ house and finding that it had been left cocked (no doubt by a younger brother or nephew) for perhaps years, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it functioned just fine with a little oil in the “oil here” hole. My wife and son both enjoyed shooting it, but I feared that it was on borrowed time for active duty, so a new model Red Ryder 1938B was purchased in 2007. Though they are unmistakably both Red Ryders, I thought it would be interesting to examine the changes made between the two models and see how the newest version compares to my childhood classic. I hope this will be useful to fans of the Red Ryder, as I was able to find little information of this type when I researched it.
The two guns pictured above are both examples of the post-1972 revival of the classic Red Ryder BB gun. My personal Red Ryder, a model 1938 carbine from approximately 1977-8, is the one on top. The new 1938B is on the bottom. B.B. covered a predecessor (No. 111 Model 40) of the no. 1938 bought in 1972 in some detail here (part 1) and here (parts 2 and 3).
The picture below shows the model identifications. The metal on the 1938 is rusted where many grimy fingers wore off the paint and younger siblings neglected to oil it.
I date my gun to 1977 or 1978 due to the placement of the lariat logo on the right side of the gun. Previous years of the revived 1938 apparently have the logo on the left side, just as the model they copied did. The lack of a safety, which would make it a 1979 or later model 1938A, helps date it fairly accurately. The 1938A (not shown) and 1938B differ mainly in regard to the safety construction, if my understanding is correct.
While the two guns are remarkably similar at first glance, there are many differences on close inspection. First, the wood is finished differently. The 1938 has a lighter stain and clear finish, with much nicer grain, while the 1938B has a darker, reddish, almost opaque finish. The newer gun also has a more angular and simplified shaping, with not as many rounded edges. My 1938B also differs in finish from the one pictured on the Pyramyd Air website, so there is obviously a great deal of variance.
On the right side of the stock, the famous lariat logo is similar, but not identical. The guns vary subtly, with the most significant difference I can detect being that the lariat itself is both wider and coarser on the 1938B.
There are also significant differences in the metal finish. The older gun seems to have been painted with enamel, whereas the 1938B appears to be powder-coated. Whatever it is, the newer gun’s metal finish is much nicer than I ever remember the old one being. The placement and finish of the barrel bands differ. The old 1938 has a bare steel band, while the new gun has a painted band placed relatively further back on the forestock. The forestock on the 1938B is also thinner at the front and more sharply tapered than that on the 1938.
It is also evident that styling was changed to adapt to suit more sophisticated children, as the muzzle of the 1938B looks quite a bit more realistic than the old 1938.
Unfortunately, my 1938 has lost the saddle ring and leather thong due most likely to my youngest brother being left-handed (the thong would be in the way of the trigger hand), though he denies any knowledge of the loss. The newer 1938B saddle ring and thong are installed with a plastic ring oriented vertically, linked to a metal ring holding the thong, whereas the old one had a metal ring oriented horizontally in the receiver and another externally holding the thong. I can only guess that the change was to accommodate some internal revisions, possibly related to adding the safety.
Stay tuned for part 2 next Monday.