Posts Tagged ‘globe sight’
by B.B. Pelletier
Shivashankar says this is his 4-year-old son with his dad’s Diana Model 23 on the boy’s first day at their club!
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
We’ll look at accuracy today, but this isn’t our last look at the 300S. You convinced me to take this rifle to the range and test it at 50 yards. I’ll do that, but I have to have a perfectly calm day for it. Kevin also convinced me to test weight-sorted pellets against pellets straight from the tin, so that’s how I’ll do the test. I want to use domed pellets at that distance, so today I’ll be looking for a good one that the rifle likes.
More 300S trivia
Mac sent a batch of photos to show some details that few people have ever seen. I’ll show a couple today and more in the next report.
Remember the Running Target rifle we talked about last time? Well Mac sent photos to show how the loading port differs from the one found on the standard 300S match rifle. The port is the same size, but FWB has rotated it to the right to make access for loading a little easier. I guess they expected a lot of right-handed RT shooters, or more likely they also built one in a left-hand version. Mac’s is the right-hand rifle.
The standard 300S loading port is centered on top of the spring tube, to be equally accessible from either side.
On the right-hand Running Target rifle, the loading port is rotated to the right for better access from that side.
All of today’s shooting was done from a rest at 10 meters. I attached the Gehmann color filter wheel to the rear aperture and used the yellow filter to sharpen the bulls. It seemed to work okay. Unless I were to use it for a lot longer, I really could not say that it adds anything. I don’t shoot a 10-meter rifle often enough to notice things like that.
Pellet head size is important when shooting a target rifle, and I shot pellets with heads of 4.50mm and 4.52mm, but none with a 4.51mm. Interestingly, the 4.50mm heads ranged from bad to good; so even when you have a single head size, you aren’t done looking for the right pellet.
Pellets that didn’t make the grade
I tried nine pellets in this test. Seven were wadcutters and two were domes. RWS Hobby pellets and Gamo Match were the two that didn’t cut it. Both shot so poorly that I didn’t waste any time with them. Oddly, in the test of the FWB 150 I did last year, RWS Hobbys were tied with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets as the best ones. Go figure!
I shot two 5-shot groups each with the other 7 pellets. And with 6 of the 7 pellets, the second group was smaller than the first. That lends support to the notion that an airgun barrel needs to be seasoned before it will perform its best.
The following pellets did okay, and I would have continued to use them if I had nothing better. Each of them seemed to want to do better than they were doing, but I tried an extended test with one of them and it didn’t pan out.
The RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet came the closest to making the final cut. Maybe if I shot it more it might improve. But the best group of five I got measured 0.153 inches between centers.
I tried the Vogel match pellet that Scott Pilkington makes here in the U.S. It’s a great match pellet, but for some reason the 300S didn’t care for it that much. This is the pellet I shot four groups with, but the best of them measured 0.192 inches between centers. No dice!
JSB S100 Match pellets were another tease. The best group measured 0.113 inches between centers, but in the end it just wasn’t enough to make the cut. This was the only pellet I tried that had a head size of 4.52mm. All the others were 4.50mm. This pellet did very well in an Edge match rifle from AirForce, so I thought it might have a chance here, but no dice.
The one domed pellet that I thought might work but didn’t was the Air Arms Falcon pellet. The best group out of two was 0.167 inches between centers. It was a nice, round group; and because this isn’t a wadcutter, the group looks about half the size it really is. With domes, you have to make extra allowances for the skirt that tears through the target paper.
Three pellets showed great promise in the 300S, and one of them was superb. The JSB Exact RS was the best domed pellet, putting 5 shots into a beautiful round group that measured just 0.111 inches between centers. Because these groups are all so small, I’ve enlarged the photos for you to see them better. My dime is in the photo for reference. This is the pellet I will take out to 50 yards.
I tried both H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets and H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets in the 300S, and both turned in a wonderful performance. These are the pellets the gun likes best. The Finale Match Pistol pellets turned in a group that measured 0.117 inches between centers. It looked very good when I saw it, but one that’s even better was yet to come.
The best pellet of the day was the last one I shot — the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. Five of them went onto a group measuring 0.097 inches.
So we found out what we knew all along: the FWB 300S is an accurate target rifle. Just for fun, I checked back to the test of the FWB 150 and saw that the best two groups with that rifle measured 0.119 inches between centers, so I did a little better with this one. On any given day, I suppose either rifle would emerge the victor. But I like the firing behavior of the 300S a little better.
The next time you see this rifle, it will have fired those JSB Exact RS pellets at 50 yards. What a day that will be!
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!
by B.B. Pelletier
In Part 2, we learned that the peep sight has been around for a very long time. But following the American Civil War, the entire world became intensely interested in shooting for about 60 years, and target shooting was at the top of the list. World-champion target shooters were regarded like NASCAR drivers are today.
Because of all this interest, the common peep sights that were already at least 50 years old, and perhaps as old as a full century, started to change. By 1870, designers were innovating again. One of the most famous innovators, and the man whose designs are still impacting battle rifles 125 years later, was Col. Buffington of the Springfield Armory. In 1884, Springfield selected his sight for the U.S. .45-caliber, single-shot military rifle — the gun we call the Trapdoor.
The Buffington rear sight is both a peep and several different open notches. It sits 10-12 inches from the eye, yet is easily used with practice. Adjustable for both windage and elevation, it increases the accuracy potential by sharpening the sight picture.
As far as I know, the Buffington sight is the first use of a peep sight on a rifle that was intended for all combat troops. It worked so well at ranges of 500 yards and beyond that the American Army used it on all versions of the Krag and the M1903 Springfield, as well. Even though the peephole is located 10-12 inches away from your eye, it still works with precision.
The U.S. Army was so satisfied with the peep sight that they put it on the O3A3 Springfield of WWII, the M1 Carbine, the Garand, the M14 and all models of the M16/M4. It’s an easier sight to learn and far more precise than an open notch. Only in recent years have our Army and Marine Corps begun to experiment with optical sights, with the declination of the peep sight.
The refinement of the peep sight
But it wasn’t the Buffington sight that brought peep sights to their highest level. It was a challenge in 1873 that came from the champion Irish rifle team to any team of riflemen the Americans could put together for the championship of the world. No one, including the Americans, thought the Irish would lose the match; but just shooting against them was such an honor that we put a team together, built a thousand-yard rifle range and two firearms companies — Sharps and Remington — each built long-range target rifles for the team members to shoot.
The Irish shot Rigby muzzleloaders that were considered the most accurate in the world. No one thought a breechloader had a chance against them. And Rigby, himself, was part of the Irish team!
Until the year of the match (1874), there were no peep sights with vernier scales in the U.S. The best anyone could do was adjust their sights by 1/200 of an inch. At close ranges out to a maximum of 300 yards, that’s good enough; but when the distance is 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, the sight has to adjust in the thousandths of an inch. The way to do that was to add a vernier scale to the sight. So, both Sharps and Remington did exactly that.
A vernier scale is a scale of numbers that aligns with an index, making it possible for the naked eye to see measurements as small as one ten-thousandth of an inch, even though our eyes cannot actually see things that small. The vernier scale magnifies the final measurement for us through an ingenious scale of lines that are 10 times or 100 times larger than the measurement it’s measuring.
This closeup shows the Ballard rear peep sight from 1876. This is a common short-range (up to 300 yards) rear sight that’s adjustable to 1/100 of an inch, with care. There’s no vernier scale on this sight, so it has to be read directly. There’s a lot of interpolation required, and I have to use a jeweler’s loupe to read it that close.
This is a vernier scale on a peep sight. The offset index marks on the small scale align with the sight index marks, but only one of them is aligned perfectly. This allows you to “see” measurements as small as 1/1000 of an inch.
This Ballard front sight from 1876 uses an aperture! It was hand-filed to the correct size for the 20-rod (220 yard) bullseye target. It also works perfectly for a smaller 100-yard bull.
The results of the first international match at Creedmoor was a win for the U.S. team; but the score was extremely close, and the Irish team had fired one shot at the wrong target — losing the score. As far as the world was concerned, the match proved nothing about the superiority of muzzleloaders or breechloaders. However, the next year the U.S. won again in England, and this time the score was more conclusive. The breechloader had finally arrived on the target scene, and peep sights were accepted, though most shooters were using scopes if the rules allowed it. And the day of the precision peep sight with a vernier scale had finally arrived.
The American shooters positioned their rear sights on the heel of the butt, giving them the maximum separation of the front and rear sight, but requiring the shooter to lay down with his feet toward the target and balance the muzzle on his shoes. This odd position was given the name Creedmoor — after the range — and has every since defined that style of prone shooting.
Not every nation adopted the peep sight, and some who were as well-regarded as the Americans (namely the Swiss), shot very well with the older post and notch. They used it right on up through the 1960s. The US, Canada and the UK stayed with the peep sight on their battle rifles because it was quicker to learn, faster to use in battle and more precise.
Notice, also, that target shooters were using front aperture sight elements in the 1870s! Until a few years ago, I thought front apertures were an invention of the 1970s, but they’re at least a full century older. They came about because of changes from square targets to round targets around the mid-1870s.
by B.B. Pelletier
Leslie Foran (aka Desertdweller) took this winning photo of his grandson Nicky Crocker shooting a Daisy 856.
Today, we’ll look at peep sights. Do you think a peep sight is a modern invention? Wrong! Despite what Wikipedia says, peep sights date from at least as far back as the 1840s and perhaps even a half-century earlier. There were sights enclosed in tubes during the American Revolution (1775-1783), but those had not yet reached the full development of the sights I will discuss today. By 1840, peep sights were being offered by a great many rifle makers.
The first peep sight consisted of a round, flat plate with a hole drilled through its center. It was mounted on a threaded stalk; and when turned, it could be screwed up and down for vertical adjustment. One-half turn was all that was required, because the plate was the same on both sides. It was located on the tang of a rifle and was used in conjunction with a very fine front bead sight that was mounted atop a tall thin post. This early peep sight has been called a lollipop sight for more than a century because of the resemblance to that candy.
This lollipop sight is from a later schuetzen rifle, but it’s very similar to ones made before the American Civil War.
The front sight was so thin as to be fragile, and so was enclosed in a steel tube — or what we now call a globe. The earliest type of front bead was made from pig bristles that were touched on their tips by a red-hot iron. The heat caused the bristle to melt into a tiny ball that became the bead. The other end of the bristle was stuck in a small piece of soft pine and covered with shellac to hold it in place. The piece of wood was then attached inside the front tube, completing the sight. Later front posts were filed from steel, but they could never be as thin as the ones made from pig’s bristle.
This steel front post and bead is many times thicker than the pig’s bristle front sight mentioned in this report.
Using the peep sight
To use the peep sight, the shooter looked through the hole in the plate (the peephole) and focused on the front bead. The bead was then held either in the center of the target or just under the center, depending on the type of targets being used. An early target was a wooden shingle blackened by fire and scraped white in the center. This white spot was called the mark, and early target shooting was called “Shooting at a mark.”
You’ll notice that I didn’t discuss where the front bead is supposed to be positioned relative to the peephole. That’s because it doesn’t work that way! If you look through a peephole and keep both eyes open, your brain will automatically center the bead in the center of the peephole, because that’s the source of the brightest light.
From the shooter’s perspective, all he does is look through the peephole and put the front bead on the target. His eyes do the rest. That’s why the peep sight is so much more precise than sporting types of open sights.
When the front sight is a square post, it works the same; but you have to estimate the location of the middle of the peephole. On some sights with large peepholes, that can be difficult. It’s still many times faster than a post-and-notch sight set and at least as prercise.
This is what a square-post front sight looks like through a peep. The aim point is 6 o’clock on the bull.
The front aperture
Around 1874, a new type of front sight came into widespread use. It was an aperture atop a post, and the reason it took until 1874 to come into use was because most targets weren’t round until then. Most shooters shot at targets that were squares, so a round aperture wasn’t of much use. But when the American Standard target came into accepted use (the National Rifle Association lobbied for it), it brought the front aperture with it.
To use this type of front sight with the rear peep sight, you look through the peep and focus on the front aperture. Center the black bull in the aperture, and you’re done. As long as your front aperture is very close to the same size as the black bull downrange, all you have to do is align a series of concentric circles.
This is what you see through the peep sight when the front sight is an aperture and the bull is round.
Keep both eyes open!
It isn’t just a good idea to keep both eyes open when using a peep sight — it’s absolutely essential to their proper operation. I did a blog on this back in 2009 that gave you a quick experiment to conduct. If you do so, you will discover why you must keep both eyes open to use peep sights!
In what era do you place the movie Quigley Down Under? Be careful, because the rear sight on his rifle had not been used on an American rifle before 1874. That was the year the UK champion Irish Rifle Team challenged the US team to a match to decide the world championship. The US had no team at the time of the challenge, nor did we have any standard rifles that were up to shooting the 800-, 900- and 1000-yard distances involved. Even the rifle range known as Creedmoor was specially built for this challenge match.
To help the American team, both Sharps and Remington made special Creedmoor match rifles fitted with the very first vernier rear peep sights ever used in this country. They also had wind-gauge front sights to adjust for the drift and winds on the range.
When I return with the next section of this report, I’ll show you what an advancement this really was.
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the Diana 75, and I’m going to tell you right now that it’s something to behold! Mac is a dedicated mini-sniper — the sport in which you use 10-meter rifles to shoot at small reactive targets like empty cartridge cases from long distances. Mac has done it from 50 yards, shooting offhand with his favorite FWB 300 target rifle. But he’d forgotten how very nice this Diana 75 is until this test forced him to rediscover it.
The test was conducted outdoors in calm weather. First, I asked Mac to shoot groups at 10 meters, because this is a 10-meter rifle, after all. But then he moved out to 25 yards and shot the same pellets.
He shot off a rest and rested the forearm on the palm of his off hand, which was rested on a sandbag for support. Because there are so many groups, I relaxed the 10-shot requirement, so what you will see is the result of 5 shots.
Oh, and Mac asked me to stress the following. All shooting was done using the target sights. No scopes were used.
Testing at 10 meters
RWS Meisterkugeln pellets used to be the best target pellets RWS offered. But, today, they’re one step down from the R10 Match pellets. Nevertheless, they’ll often be extremely accurate in your airguns. Mac shot the lighter version of this pellet that’s recommended for pistols. Mac got a 5-shot group measuring 0.25″ between centers, but he didn’t forward the photo.
Next, he shot H&N Finale Match rifle pellets. The 75 seemed to like these and grouped 5 of them in 0.19″.
RWS Hobbys were next, and Mac surprised himself. After correcting a canting problem, he grouped 5 into a 0.12″ group!
Next, Mac departed from the world of target pellets and tried some JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes. While you can’t use them in a match, they are perfectly fine for sports like mini-sniping or just general plinking.
Mac ended the ten-meter session with his favorite RWS Superdomes. And they performed very well, grouping five into 0.16″.
Move back to 25 yards
Once the 10-meter targets were finished, Mac moved back to 25 yards and tested the same pellets, again. As before, the groups are 5 shots.
The first pellet tested was the RWS Meisterkugeln. This time, Mac sent the photo. And, the Meister seemed to perform the same at 25 yards as it did at 10 meters — sort of near the bottom of the pack.
H&N Finale Match target pellets were next. At 25 yards, they gave a pleasing group of just over a half-inch for 5.
The RWS Hobbys came next, and they were still screaming at 25 yards. Apparently, the tight group at 10 meters wasn’t just a fluke. At 25 yards, 5 went into a tight group measuring just over a quarter-inch.
JSB Exact domes followed the Hobbys and they gave a group of exactly a half-inch.
The final pellet tested at 25 yards was the RWS Superdome. They performed well, though Mac claims another called flier. But 4 of them went into 0.30″.
Well, that completes the report on the 75. It’s quite the plinker, as hundreds of proud owners can attest. Mac, who has always been partial to the FWB 300, was surprised that he didn’t remember what a great shooter he had in this rifle.Just a month ago, it was being offered for sale at Roanoke. He may have to rethink that one!
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald
Before we begin I have a word about my health. Next Tuesday I’m going to have my pancreas repaired. This is hopefully the final operation I will have to undergo. It will be a major operation where they open me up rather than going in laprascopically, so I’ll be in the hospital for a week or possibly longer to recover. I have written blogs to cover the time I’ll be away, plus I’ll probably have my laptop at the hospital, but I may not be as easy to reach next week. If everything goes according to plan, I should get the drain out of my side and the stent out of my pancreas by the end of this year. And, while I’m away, I’d like to ask the veteran readers to help out the new guys, as you always do.
We’re back with the big Diana 75 target rifle today, and it’s velocity-testing day. Mac was kind enough to test the rifle with quite a few pellets, so we’ll get a good picture of how powerful it is. Along those lines, I was asked this week by someone in the UK how difficult it would be to boost the 75′s power up to the UK legal limit of 12 foot-pounds. I told him it would be impossible to do because the rifle was engineered to do a certain thing, which is shoot targets. The powerplant doesn’t have the swept volume to go as high as 12 foot-pounds. But from his question, I could tell he wasn’t asking what he really wanted to know.
He actually was so impressed by the 75′s accuracy at 10 meters that he extrapolated it out to 55 yards and wondered what a wonderful field target rifle it might make. Well, a TX200 is just as accurate, and it’s already been engineered for field target.
I see that viewpoint from the field target crowd a lot. They see the stunning 10-meter accuracy of these target rifles and assume they would be perfect for field target, if only the power could somehow be boosted. Back in the 1990s, people were going crazy by turning $2,000 Olympic PCP target rifles into $3,000 field target competition rifles, when all they had to do was look around at some of the fine rifles that already existed. Just because a gun shoots a tight group at 10 meters doesn’t mean that it’s also going to be as good at long range. It probably will be pretty good, but so will a purpose-built rifle costing one-third as much.
A .45-70 revolver doesn’t have the same range and power as a .45-70 rifle, not to mention its wrist-snapping recoil! You can’t just extrapolate a certain feature out to infinity and have it remain stable all the way. Things tend to work best when all the many factors are engineered to complement each other and to work together. Okay, so now we understand that. Back to today’s report.
Mac’s rifle is still in the original styrofoam shipping container it came in back in 1979! Kevin saw it on Mac’s table at the Roanoke airgun show, and he commented how new it looked. What he didn’t see, because it wasn’t displayed, was the complete original set of tools, sight inserts, literature and parts that also came with the gun. This really is a complete set!
As complete a set of original accessories as you’ll ever see. There’s even a sighting adapter to allow you to shoot at 6 meters instead of 10!
And, the sights are a wonder to behold. Back in its day, the Diana 75 went head-to-head with Feinwerkbau, Walther and Anschutz. All four makers had beautiful target sights that helped the shooter extract all the points possible from their target rifles, and Diana did not scrimp in any way. When the rifle was resting on your shoulder, the rear sight cup came right to your eye and closed out all of the world except that little black circle 33 feet away. It worked like radar, guiding your body to keep the black circle centered inside the front sight element, which was usually an aperture of some kind. Though you looked through that huge adjustable rear sight, you had no perception of it being there. All you saw was the front sight element and the bull.
Once you had it up to your eye, you lost all sense of the huge rear sight and fully concentrated only on the front sight and target.
The front sight of the 75 is a traditional globe with a wide variety of inserts. You can see in the picture what was available back in the late ’70s when this rifle was new, but today the clear Lucite aperture has replaced all the old inserts in popularity, because it enables the shooter to see much more than just the bull he’s shooting at. Shooting at the wrong target used to be a huge problem when there were 12 bulls on a target sheet, and the clear front inserts solved it. Of course, these days, the targets are presented electronically, one bull at a time, so the possibilities of doing that are greatly diminished, as long as you don’t shoot at your neighbor’s target.
The globe front sight is typical for 10-meter rifles. Of course, it accepts many different inserts.
Velocity testing with RWS Meisterkugeln
Now, it’s time to test the rifle for velocity with several different pellets, starting with RWS Meisterkugeln. This 8.2-grain pellet is made for target rifles and averages 564 f.p.s., with a spread from 551 to 576 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 5.79 foot-pounds.
H&N Finale Match Rifle
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets averaged 532 f.p.s., with a spread from 526 to 540 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy generated is 5.14 foot-pounds.
The RWS Hobby pellet is generally the lightest lead pellet available. In this rifle it averages 619 f.p.s., with a 28 foot-second spread from 607 to 635 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 5.96 foot-pounds.
JSB Diabolo Exact 8.4 grains
A popular round-nosed pellet is the JSB Diabolo Exact 8.4-grain dome. JSB labels this as a match pellet right on the tin, but of course you cannot shoot in a match with anything other than wadcutters, so it really isn’t a match pellet. That’s just the name they gave it, and I prefer to call it a dome to avoid confusion. It averages 566 foot-pounds, with a spread from 554 to 581 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 5.97 foot-pounds.
RWS Superdome pellets are one of Mac’s standbys. He likes their performance in many guns and always falls back on them in a pinch. In the Diana 75, they average 538 f.p.s., with a spread from 524 to 544 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generate 5.46 foot-pounds.
Mac noted that all pellets fit the rifle’s breech easily, with Hobbys being the loosest fit. And he reminded me to tell you that this gun has been resealed. If you recall, I mentioned that all RWS Diana recoilless rifles have problems with their original piston seals dry rotting, so Mac has had this one resealed with a more permanent material. Outwardly, the gun looks brand new, and with the new seal it acts as good as it looks. The 75 I owned years ago averaged 630 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys, so this rifle is in the same ballpark.
Mac made one additional observation. It was 56 deg. F in his garage when he chronographed these shots. By the time he reached the third type of pellet, the velocities started to vary wildly. He thought the rifle was failing; but when he shot at a test soda bottle, the shot seemed as good as ever. What it boiled down to was the battery was dying and the cold weather was speeding it along. The 75 is so fast to cock and load that Mac was staying ahead of the battery’s recovery time. When he slowed down between shots, the battery caught up, and the velocities returned to normal again. With cold weather hitting us now, that’s something to keep in mind.
We’ll look at accuracy next, and I promise you, this rifle has it in spades. You’re going to be envious.