by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This blog was requested by blog reader Joe, who wanted to know if choked airgun barrels are more accurate, and why. A number of other readers seconded his request. So, we know there’s interest in the subject.
What is a choke?
A choked barrel is one in which there’s a reduction in the diameter of the bore near the muzzle. Someone likened it to the FX Smooth Twist barrel that’s rifled only at the end of the barrel, but it isn’t the same. The Smooth Twist barrel has a constriction — the rising of the rifled lands. But in a choked barrel, the entire bore gets smaller. I don’t know if the Smooth Twist barrel is also choked; but if it is, that’s a separate thing.
Most shooters know that shotguns are choked, and they understand why. A choke keeps the shot from spreading as quickly as it would without a choke. Shotguns have several specific kinds of chokes that make the pattern they project contain a certain shot density at a given distance from the muzzle. Hitting something at 25 yards with an improved cylinder choke is virtually the same as hitting it at 40 yards with a full choke. But that’s not what a choke does for a rifle barrel.
A choked rifle barrel squeezes the bullet or pellet slightly just before it leaves the muzzle. This is only an analogy, but it’s like pulling hard on a dog’s leash — it gets his attention and focuses him. In the case of the bullet and pellet, it stops any minute fluttering that may be happening inside the bore.
In my experience, it does work. Here’s what I know. First, the great barrel maker, Harry Pope, always choked his barrels. He first drilled the holes in the barrel blank undersized, then reamed the bore to get a choke of half a thousandth of an inch (0.0005-inches or 0.0127mm). His choke was an even taper down the full length of the barrel; and for the life of me, I can’t comprehend how he did it. Most barrel makers have a transition point where the bore tapers more or less abruptly from one size to the smaller size. This transition is very smooth, and the choke is seldom more than a thousandth of an inch, so it doesn’t disturb the bullet or pellet that much.
Pope’s barrels are legendary. One of them put ten lead bullets into 0.20 inches at 200 yards! And a great many of them will put 10 shots into a half inch at 200 yards, although Pope never guaranteed that level of accuracy.
But what about today’s barrels? Are they choked and does it help? Yes and yes are the answers. But not all barrels are choked — and even those that are choked may not be so intentionally.
Here’s a true story. When AirForce Airguns was switching over to Lothar Walther barrels in the early days, they tried barrels with and without chokes. Lothar Walther was capable of making barrels without chokes; but in their conversations with AirForce, they asked why they wanted unchoked barrels. After testing, AirForce decided it was well worth the additional cost to have all their barrels choked.
In the three years that I worked at AirForce, I tested every rifle that was returned to the company for inaccuracy. That must have been 20-30 rifles, in all. Every time one came in with such a complaint, the first thing I did was clean the barrel with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, and the next thing I did was shoot a group with the clean barrel. In all that time, I only had to shoot a single group with each barrel to produce a 5-shot group that ranged between 0.25 inches and 0.375 inches at 23 yards (which was the longest straight distance I had inside the old factory). Then, the rifle was packed with the target that I signed and dated and returned to the customer. Case closed.
Only once in three years did I find a barrel that I couldn’t get to shoot. It was an 18-inch .22-caliber Talon barrel that I’d cleaned several times. It just would not group better than 0.75 inches at 23 yards. It stumped me until I pushed a pellet through the bore with a cleaning rod, starting at the breech. There was no choke! Somehow, this barrel had slipped through the Lothar Walther manufacturing process without getting a choke, and it would not shoot.
So far, I’ve been talking about chokes that are intentionally put into the barrels, but there are the unintentional kind, as well. Certain spring rifles such as the HW 80 and older versions of the Beeman R1 used to come with sights. The barrels of those rifles had dovetail grooves for the front sight swaged into the front of the barrel. When the swage upset the outside of the barrel to make these grooves, the metal inside the bore was distorted just a little at the same time. If you push a pellet through these barrels, you’ll feel it pause when it gets to where the dovetails begin. This isn’t a real choke, but it does feel like one when you test for it this way. Shooters have referred to these as choked barrels for decades.
You’re looking at the end of the dovetail grooves (those small v-shaped nicks on both sides of the top of the barrel) that were swaged into this R1 barrel to attach the front sight. When this is done, the force of the swaging process upsets metal inside the bore, making it feel like a choke — but it really isn’t.
Spring guns probably don’t need to be choked. When they fire the intense blast of air they generate, it irons the pellet’s skirt out into the bore. As long as the barrel remains uniform throughout its length (and not all barrels do), the pellet is fit to the bore by this action. But a pneumatic or a gas gun releases its compressed air or gas more gradually and doesn’t distort the pellet. So, a choked barrel is the way to make all pellets uniform before they leave the muzzle of these airguns.
How are barrels choked?
Years ago, chokes were put into barrels with reamers just before they were rifled. In other words, the choke was cut directly into the metal of the bore. But with the advent of button- and broach-rifling, it’s easier to rifle the barrel first and then squeeze it down afterwards.
I read with interest where one of our readers was advising someone that a barrel had to be annealed before choking it by the squeezing method, and then hardened afterward. Actually, air rifle and rimfire barrels are made from dead soft steel, or steel that is nearly dead soft. They are not hardened in any way and can be distorted very easily. You could choke a barrel by tapping the outside with a ball peen hammer — though it won’t be uniform, and I certainly don’t recommend trying it.
Chokes can be rolled into barrels with hardened steel rollers set in fixtures that apply force gradually. Someone asked if a tubing cutter would work for this, and I have the answer. No, it won’t work. It will crimp the barrel, but it’s too sloppy and difficult to control a hand tool like a tubing cutter. I know this because I had Dennis Quackenbush convert a tubing cutter for me several years ago, and I attempted to choke barrels this way. But a precision jig that applies equal force to precision rollers that are similar to the function of a tubing cutter is certainly one good way to choke a rifle barrel.
Another way is to run the barrel straight into a tapered die and swage in the choke — similar to resizing a cartridge during reloading, only a lot more force is required. To do it that way requires that the outside of the barrel be held to very close tolerances, so it’s less desirable than the tapered roller method.
A third way to choke a barrel is to squeeze it together from the outside, using a die made in two pieces. The pieces come together, compressing the barrel between them. Like the other method that uses a die, this method also requires a barrel of a given outside diameter.
If you hammer-forge the barrel (cold-forming the barrel around a hardened mandrel that has the rifling pattern in reverse), the choking can be done when the mandrel is made. Simply make the mandrel with a taper, and the barrel that’s ironed around it will also be tapered.
Companies select the method of choking that suits their barrel manufacturing methods. In other words, if they make hammer-forged barrels, that’s the most convenient time to put in the choke. But if they sell only one choked barrel for every thousand barrels they make, rolling in the choke probably makes more sense.
Quick and dirty
Here are some facts from this report.
1. Choked barrels do seem to shoot more accurately — all other things being equal (meaning the barrels are of equally high quality).
2. Not all rifled barrels are choked.
3. Spring gun barrels may have chokes that are unintentional.
4. There are several different ways of choking a barrel.
5. Companies select the most cost-effective way to choke the barrels they make.
While you may feel compelled right now to run out and find a way to choke every rifled barrel you own, remember this — it may not be necessary. Some barrels that are not choked do just fine the way they are.
However, having written this report, I find that I am now thinking about choking the barrel on my BSA Meteor to see if that helps with the mediocre accuracy.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.
Today, we’ll find out if a new breech seal fixes the low-velocity problem I had with my Meteor in the last test. You’ll remember that I tested the rifle for velocity and noted that the breech seal was pretty bad in the last report. I removed it and made a quick leather seal just to test the gun. I got initial velocities in the low 500s with light lead pellets, but they quickly dropped to the 300s to 400s. I felt the breech seal was the problem, and since T.R. Robb had treated me so well on the piston head and seals, I ordered some new breech seals from them. They were 5 pounds each, and shipping to the U.S. added 2 pounds, 50 pence for a total of 17 pounds, 50 pence, shipped ($28.82). They arrived last Friday, and I quickly installed one in the gun.
The new breech seal is small in diameter, but tall to fit the groove in the breech.
The temporary leather seal had flattened out across the entire rear of the barrel. The darker circle is where the actual seal is supposed to be.
This is the groove where the breech seal fits.
And here’s the new synthetic breech seal standing proud of the breech, as it should.
The rifle is already well-lubed from the rebuild I just finished. After the new seal was pressed into place, all that remained was to test it. You would do well to at least scan Part 5 to see the last velocities. RWS Hobbys were running around 360 f.p.s.
I’d seated the pellets deep for the previous test, so that’s how this test began. RWS Hobby pellets averaged 648 f.p.s. with a spread from 633 to 663 f.p.s. It was obvious that some dieseling was happening, as I could smell it as I shot. I think these velocities are slightly elevated from where the gun will settle after a break-in of a few hundred shots. At the average velocity, this pellet is producing 6.53 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That’s not a lot, but it’s much more than it was doing before the breech seal.
Next, I tried seating Hobbys flush with the breech with finger pressure, alone. These averaged 652 f.p.s., with a spread from 638 to 665 f.p.s. The muzzle energy raised slightly to 6.61 foot-pounds — not really a significant difference. The velocity spread tightened by 3 f.p.s., too, but that’s also insignificant. I’m of the opinion that at this point, deep-seating isn’t doing much — at least for this pellet.
JSB Exact RS
Next, I tried the 7.33-grain JSB Exact RS pellet. This one shot faster when the gun had the leather breech seal — an average of 460 f.p.s., but that number was also declining fast as the seal flattened out. The difference in velocity between these and the Hobbys might just have been the order in which they were tested.
When seated deep, the RS pellets averaged 611 f.p.s. for 5 shots, but I got the impression that the velocity was starting to drop — as if the excess lubricant had been burned off. Seated flush, the same RS pellet averaged 592 f.p.s., but the string was an almost linear velocity drop from the first shot at 611 f.p.s. to the last, at 577 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produces 5.71 foot-pounds.
The gun seems to be breaking in and the velocity is declining slightly. I think it will settle down soon, so the gun will still show a marked increase from the new breech seal. To test that, I’ll do a special velocity retest after the accuracy tests are complete. They’ll give the gun more time to break in.
I’ve mentioned more than once how much I like the way this rifle fires. The trigger, though single-stage only, is crisp enough for me. It breaks at 4 lbs., 14 oz., which may seem like a lot; but on a handy plinking rifle, it really isn’t bad. If I’d been trying to shoot groups at 50 yards, maybe I could complain; but for what I want this gun to do, the trigger’s fine.
The rifle cocks with just 19 lbs. of effort! Though it’s an adult-sized airgun, it cocks like a youth model — a feature I really enjoy. And the cocking is so precise. Pull the barrel down until you hear the sear click into position…and you’re done. There’s no overtravel and no long cocking stroke that takes you outside the range where you have the best mechanical advantage.
There’s also no buzzing or vibration that’s noticeable. I’m sure there must be some, but the gun feels very solid when it fires. It’s difficult to explain until you feel it in another air rifle, but it’s a feeling you’ll really enjoy.
I literally cannot wait to shoot this rifle for accuracy! I’ll first try it at 10 meters. If it does well, I’ll also try it at 25 yards. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to test this rifle a lot, now that it performs so well.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.
Today’s report is really interesting — at least I think so. If you want to know more about what’s behind the performance of a spring-piston air rifle, today will give you some insight.
In the last report, I installed the new piston head with a new seal and buffer. This head has a threaded shank with a nut to hold it to the piston securely. It replaces the old head that was held on by a flimsy E-type circlip that had failed. And you may remember that after the head separated from the piston, people continued to cock and fire the gun, not knowing what was wrong. The result was a lot of mechanical damage, including broken welds on the piston and heavy galling inside the compression chamber and spring tube.
After the rebuild (with a lot of help from my friend Otho), I fired the rifle and noted that it seemed okay, but it would have to wait for a run over the chronograph to know for sure. Today, we’ll do that run.
Before I did any shooting, I cleaned the bore with a bronze bore brush and J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. It was filthy to begin with, but I was surprised that the brush went through easily from the first stroke. Usually, it takes 10 strokes or more before the brush loosens up.
Once all the paste was cleaned out of the barrel, it was much brighter inside, though not as shiny as a new barrel. I don’t have a borescope; but to my naked eye, the bore on this rifle looks very uneven. If this were a firearm, I would suspect it had fired a lot of corrosive ammunition and not been cleaned properly. We’ll see what that does to the accuracy in the future.
I initially selected three different pellets for this test. Two of them were lightweights, and the other was a medium-weight pellet; but as it turned out, I never got to test the medium-weight pellet. I learned so much from the lightweights that I was pushed in a new direction.
The first pellet I tried was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. The Hobby is a lightweight pellet that normally goes faster than any other pure lead pellet. I use it in most of my velocity tests to give a good idea of the rifle’s power. I expected to see something in the high 400s or low 500s with this rifle, but that’s not what I got! Look at the first 3 shots.
Obviously, Hobbys were not the right pellet for the Meteor. They fit the breech tight and didn’t seem to want to move very fast.
JSB Exact RS
Next, I switched to the JSB Exact RS pellet. While this 7.33-grain pellet weighs a little more than the Hobby, it fits the breach much looser, and I felt it might have higher velocity. Let’s look at the first 3 shots.
Clearly something was wrong! I felt the tuneup should have given me more velocity than that. I took a look at the breech seal, which had not been replaced. It was flattened even with the breech but didn’t seem to be damaged in any way. However it seemed like a good idea to pull it out and examine it closer. That turned out to be exactly the right thing to do!
When I pried the seal from the breech, it fell apart! The Meteor’s breech seal is a synthetic circular seal that’s taller than an o-ring; and from appearances, this one is at the end of its life. I didn’t have a replacement seal on hand, but I know how to make breech seals out of leather. I had a couple of my homemade leather Diana breech seals on hand, and all they needed was some trimming to fit the Meteor. The first one was trimmed too small and gave me several shots at 216 f.p.s. Obviously, it wasn’t doing the job!
The Meteor breech seal disintegrated when it was pried out of the breech. It wasn’t doing the job anymore and needed to be replaced.
The next leather seal was left larger and just stuffed into the breech seal channel. It fit the rifle much better, while still standing a little proud of the breech. That’s what you want in a leather breech seal. This time I decided to oil the seal thoroughly before continuing the test. I applied several drops of silicone chamber oil about 10 successive times and allowed it to soak into the leather. Then, I left the gun overnight with the breech broken open to allow the leather to completely soak up all the oil, while not flattening out. The next morning, I oiled the seal one more time. Then, it was time to shoot.
The first 3 shots with JSB Exact RS pellets the next day were very revealing:
I was on the right track, but maybe the job wasn’t finished. Even though the JSB Exact RS pellet fit the breech looser than the Hobby, I wondered if deep-seating would improve the velocity. The next 10 shots are all with the JSB Exact RS pellet seated deep in the breech, using the Air Venturi pellet pen and seater.
Time for learning!
Okay, what have we learned from this? I think an examination of this last shot string shows the gun wants to shoot a little faster than 500 f.p.s. with this pellet, but it isn’t for some reason. You notice that the velocity drops as the shots accumulate. What’s up with that?
It seems to me that the new breach seal is losing its ability to do the job as the gun is fired. An examination of the seal shows that it’s flattening out, but I didn’t want to accept this conclusion from just one string of shots. So, I returned to the RWS Hobby pellets next.
Because they fit tight, I also deep-seated these pellets with the pellet seater:
I’m not sure what to make of this shot string. It looks like the Hobbys wanted to go faster, but then they sort of stabilized around 360 to 370 f.p.s. I doubt if they’re going to go over 400 f.p.s. with the current breech seal.
The adjustable single-stage trigger breaks at 4 lbs., 9 oz. as it’s set right now. Because this trigger adjusts by varying the amount of sear contact area, I plan to leave it right where it is, for safety’s sake. It’s crisp enough that I can work with it as is.
What to do next?
Based on the evidence I see above, this rifle now wants to shoot in the low 500s with light pellets, but the breech seal is holding it back. If that’s true, a new breech seal should push the gun back up over the 500 mark. The solution seems simple. I went online to T. R. Robb’s website in the UK and ordered 3 new breech seals. Since they’re synthetic, I don’t know how long they will last…but 3 should last me the rest of my life.
I’ll be very pleased to get a final velocity around 500 f.p.s. with lightweight pellets. Remember, I want to shoot this Meteor for fun — not to obtain the absolute last foot-pound of energy it can produce. The trigger is heavy but also very positive, and a delight to shoot. And the rifle fires with a pleasingly dead-calm shot cycle.
I have no idea if this rifle is worth the money, time and effort I’m putting into it, but I’m doing it as a learning exercise, rather than just restoring a BSA Meteor to usefulness. If I wanted a Meteor to shoot, I would have been money ahead to just turn this rifle into a parts gun and find a rifle that was in good condition to start with.
I guess the analogy to what I’m doing with this Meteor is the guy who finds a rusty old tractor laying out in a field — abandoned for decades. It isn’t worth the effort, but if he can get it running again, think of all he might learn along the way.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is an important one, but it may be confusing until you hear the whole story. The last time I reported on this Tech Force M12 combo was back on November 19 of last year. A lot has happened with this rifle since then, and I’ve kept daily readers informed of what’s been going on, but it would have been easy to overlook and even easier to forget. So I’ll summarize.
The M12 I’m testing is a drooper, and I first had to solve that problem. Once I did, I noticed it threw fliers. I cleaned the barrel — but it got no better. I tightened all the screws — again, no change. I cleaned the barrel with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound — and still there was no improvement. Then, I shot the gun just to break it in — again, no change.
All of this work took a lot of time, as I was testing and reporting on other guns. I also set the rifle aside for weeks at a time out of sheer frustration. In late January of this year, I decided to have another go at discovering what the problem was. I had to locate a drooper scope because, by this time, I’d used the scope that was on this rifle for other tests. I reread the early reports and discovered that this rifle had shot very well at 10 meters with JSB Exact RS pellets. So, that was the pellet I tested, but at 25 yards.
At 25 yards, I got several groups that had a bunch of shots close together and then some fliers. But one group stood apart as extraordinary. Seven of the 10 shots were in an extremely small group, and 3 others were huge fliers. This was what I had been looking for. When you see something like this, it tells you the rifle wants to shoot, but something is interfering intermittently.
The group at the top left with the one shot that isn’t quite touching is 7 shots from 25 yards. That’s a 0.439-inch group. The other 3 holes are fliers shot at the same time. This is a clear indication of a problem.
I looked down through the muzzlebrake with a powerful flashlight and saw the real barrel muzzle deep inside. It appeared very rough, plus I could see bright bits of lead clinging to the inside rear edge of the muzzlebrake. I showed this to Edith, and she confirmed what I was seeing.
Apparently, the crown of the muzzle of my rifle was uneven and was causing pellets to wobble just a tiny bit when they left the barrel. A few of them were hitting the inside rear edge of the muzzlebrake, causing them to destabilize in a big way. Those were the random fliers I was seeing.
I communicated this to Pyramyd Air. Gene, the tech manager, took apart an M12 to look at the crown. He said it looked rough to him, as well. He crowned it and sent me the barrel to exchange with the barrel in my rifle.
The barrel Gene sent is .22 caliber, while my rifle is .177, but that makes no difference. One barrel works as well as another, as they’re the same size on the outside. I followed Gene’s instructions and switched barrels in 15 minutes. I didn’t have to disassemble the rifle because of how it’s made.
Once I got the original barrel out of the gun, I could see that the muzzle wasn’t as rough as I’d thought. I had seen grease on the end of the muzzle when I looked down inside, and it looked like rough metal to me. The muzzle is finished rather well, but the actual crown, which is a chamfer cut into the bore, is cut on an angle rather than perpendicular with the bore. It allows compressed air to escape the muzzle on one side of the pellet before the other.
The muzzle of the .177-caliber barrel that came in the rifle was crowned lopsided. The chamfer appears narrow at the bottom of the muzzle. That’s not an optical illusion — it really does grow narrow there!
Following the assembly of the barrel to the rifle, I remounted the scope and proceeded to start my sight-in. I decided to test the .22 barrel with JSB Exact RS pellets, as well. One shot at 10 feet was all it took…and I was on target. Two more shots at 10 meters and I was sighted-in. Next, I shot a 10-shot group. The rifle behaved very stable and did not appear to throw any wild shots.
The 10-meter group I shot was consistent, if not terribly small. But the lack of fliers, even at 10 meters, gives me hope that the crowning of the barrel has solved the problem.
Test is not finished.
By no means is this report finished. I still need to shoot several groups at 25 yards to see what the M12 can really do. I have no idea what the best .22-caliber pellet might be. After rereading the first two parts of this report, I see that I very much liked the way the gun handles. That’s still true. It lacks the two-bladed Mendoza trigger — and that’s a shame, but the trigger it has isn’t that bad. Obviously, I’m able to use it.
I now have both a .22-caliber barrel and a .177-caliber barrel that fit on the same powerplant. If I can hold onto them both, I may be able to get a little more milage from this gun. First, I could do a redneck crowning job on the .177 barrel and report how well that works.
Next, I could test the .22 barrel for velocity and then swap barrels and retest the .177 barrel to get a comparison between calibers from the same gun. I’ve always been able to do that with my Whiscombe, of course, but this is more of a real-world air rifle to which many can relate.
I know there are several shooters who wanted the M12 to be a great buy, and my early tests didn’t bear that out. If they’ve continued to follow this blog, they’ll get the chance to see how the story ends!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Well, today is do or die for the Cometa Fusion Premier Star air rifle. The last report was back in early November of last year, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on the gun. Several times, I’ve started a test, thinking that I finally got the scope movement problem resolved — and each time a problem has cropped up. If I didn’t believe this rifle had potential, I would have given up long ago; but the .177 version of the rifle — the regular Cometa Fusion air rifle, was so accurate that I felt this one had to be, as well. Today, we’ll find out if it was worth the effort.
Thanks to Kevin
I want to publicly thank blog reader Kevin for all his help with this troublesome test. He sent me an adjustable mount that unfortunately did not hold on the test rifle, but he made a special scope stop pin that will be used today. If you read the past reports, you’ll discover that this rifle has a severe drooping problem. It needs as much scope alignment correction as you can possibly get. I used a special UTG drooping scope base that’s a prototype you cannot buy for today’s test, but I only did so to accommodate Kevin’s stop pin. You should be good with any droop-compensating mount as long as you have the right scope stop pin to fit the gun. I’ll say more on that in a moment, but first let me admit this is the very first air rifle I’ve seen that could defeat the BKL mounts. The one I tried slipped off the gun in five shots. In fairness to BKL, though, this rifle also broke other scope stop pins — and in one case dragged one through the top of the spring tube until it popped free. So, this is a special case.
Those are NOT scope stop pin holes!
Well, excuse me! Those four holes on top of the spring tube that I thought all along were scope stop holes must not be there for that purpose; because if you insert a stop pin too far through any one of them, you’ll bind the action. The gun will not cock! So, not only are they too small in diameter, they’re also very critical of the depth to which the stop pin is inserted! I took some pictures to show you what I mean.
Looking down through the rear “scope stop pin” holes, you can see parts that move when the rifle is cocked. You can also see where, in an earlier attempt to anchor a scope, a pin ripped out of the rear hole.
Nevertheless, I was able to engage one of the front holes enough to finally anchor the scope base, thanks to Kevin’s pin. Now, it was possible to do some shooting.
Is the bore too large?
I did several things to prepare the Fusion Premier Star for this test. I cleaned the barrel with J-B bore paste. I also tightened the barrel in the fork, so it’ll stay wherever it is put after the rifle’s cocked. That’s the test of a properly tight pivot point — one that will keep the breech sealed upon firing. But since none of the scope mounts have worked until today, none of my shooting before today has been successful.
I also began to wonder if Cometa had used a .22 rimfire barrel for this rifle. That would explain the failure to group because the bore of a .22 rimfire is about 5 thousandths too large for normal pellets. A .22-caliber pellet rifle bore is supposed to be no larger than 0.218 inches in diameter, where a .22 rimfire barrel is 0.223 inches across. It makes such a huge difference that there is no chance of shooting well with the rimfire barrel and standard pellets.
H&N Field Target Trophy
Because of that, I decided to test the rifle with overly large pellets, as well as normal-sized pellets, to see if there was any obvious difference. The first pellet I tried at 25 yards was the H&N Field Target Trophy with a large 5.55mm head. Pyramyd Air has these pellets with head sizes of 5.52, 5.53, 5.54 and 5.55mm.
I was using the pellets with the 5.55mm head. They loaded very tight in the breech, as you might imagine. The first group of 10 I shot was large, but inside the main group were 5 rounds in a smaller hole. That prompted me to shoot a second 10-shot group, which showed me what this pellet is capable of.
JSB Exact 15.9-grain
Next, I tried the 15.9-grain JSB Exact dome that often does so well in .22-caliber spring-piston rifles. I stopped after just three shots, and I’m showing you those shots so you know why I stopped. I know many of you feel that the barrel needs to be “seasoned” with each new pellet — meaning that a number of pellets must be shot before any official recording can be done — but this spread is already larger than 2 inches, and I’m saying that seasoning isn’t going to help things that much.
5.56mm Eley Wasp
Was this a .22 rimfire barrel? It was starting to look like it, because the larger H&Ns did well and the JSBs did so poorly. But the proof of the pudding is to shoot the largest pellet of all and see what happens. That would be the obsolete 5.56mm Eley Wasp. If it also shoots well, then I’m thinking the barrel is a rimfire barrel.
Well, Wasps were not good. They made the same 2-inch spread the JSBs did with only three shots, so I stopped shooting them. I won’t show the shots because you know what a 2-inch group looks like. But at least I believe this barrel is not from a rimfire.
Next, I wanted to try a heavy pellet that’s not necessarily a large one — the Beeman Kodiak. They fit the breech well — neither too large nor too small. And the first three shots were looking good, but shot 4 went to the right. In the end, I had a horizontal group that was a little large, but stayed at the same height for all 10 shots. I don’t think the Kodiak is the right pellet for this rifle.
I was disappointed by the .22-caliber Fusion after the .177 had done so well. In the end, I did get the rifle to shoot, but it took every trick in the book to get there. I can recommend the .177 version of this rifle, because I really like the adjustable cheekpiece and the adjustable trigger. But the .22 took too much to get it to shoot.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Okay, today I want to try to finish my 2012 gift list.
Pneumatic air rifles
I have to list the Benjamin 392 and 397 rifles. Even though the price is rising steadily on them, they both still represent some of the best values in the airgun market. I’m specifically not recommending the Blue Streak because it’s now the virtual twin of the other two rifles, and I feel that its .20 caliber limits the availability of premium pellets too much.
The M4-177 is another great multi-pump gun. It’s not as powerful as the first two, but it’s even more accurate at short ranges. If you want a cheap target rifle, this could be the one!
What about CO2?
Don’t I have any CO2 recommendations? Well, I have just one, and it’s not cheap. The Walther Lever Action Rifle is a copy of the Winchester 1894 lever action that the world knows so well. It’s an 8-shot repeater that can take a scope, if you need one, but in my opinion deserves to be used as it comes — with open sights! This rifle is slick to operate and deadly accurate at close range (to 25 yards). It isn’t a hunting airgun; but for shooting targets or just plinking, there aren’t many better — especially repeaters.
Let’s look at some pistols for a moment. I must include the Beeman P17 single-stroke pneumatic on this list because it delivers several hundred dollars of value in a $40 package. Yes, it’s made in China, but it’s so close to the Weihrauch HW40 PCA that costs $200 more (sold by Pyramyd Air as the Beeman P3) that Weihrauch repairs them in Europe under their warranty. Hans Weihrauch, Jr. told me he has to stand behind the gun because everyone thinks of it as something he makes! How’s that for copying?
Another air pistol that made my list is the IZH 46M single-stroke pneumatic target pistol. It’s accurate, powerful and easy to pump. It’s on the heavy side, so some shooters may not be able to hold it in one hand. Besides that, there’s a lot going for this air pistol. It has one of the nicest triggers you’ll every find — short of a real world-class target air pistol.
The Beeman P1 spring pistol has so much going for it that it deserves to be on my list. It’s accurate, powerful and has a wonderfully adjustable trigger. Although it comes in three calibers (.177, .20 and .22), I can only recommend the .177 because I think it’s perfect for the power level of the pistol.
How about some stuff that isn’t an airgun? It’s stuff you also need.
Let’s start with Ballistol. This stuff is so useful that I’m planning to do a whole blog about it. Removing rust is just one of its handy tricks. I have so many uses for Ballistol these days that I don’t know what life would be like without it. My friend Mac had his house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore flood a couple months ago, and water got into all three of his gun safes through the holes in the bottom of the safes that are used for anchor bolts. All of his firearms and airguns sat in several inches of water for a straight week, yet there wasn’t one sign of water damage on any stock, nor was there any rust on any gun! How’s that for a Ballistol testimonial?
The most popular cleaning and maintenance product at Pyramyd Air is Crosman Pellgunoil. Readers of this blog have witnessed hundreds of old guns rescued by its application over the years. At least you have if you get all the comments sent to you. This stuff is magical! I fixed the neighbor kid’s Daisy 880 a week ago with it! If you shoot CO2 or multi-pump pneumatic guns, you need this stuff!
Another cleaning product that almost every airgunner will eventually need is a jar of J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. Only those who shoot guns with brass barrels don’t need this product to clean their bores. You know that I use it on new guns to simulate a long break-in, and it does work for that. I also use it to scrape copper fouling from the bores of my centerfire rifles. Benchrest shooters use the stuff, so it’s got to be pretty good!
I won’t put brass bore brushes on my list, but they’re wonderful if you need them. But I will put what they go on — a .177-caliber Dewey 26″ coated cleaning rod. I used to buy el-cheapo rods that were made in sections. They were aluminum, so of course they bent and their threads stripped with use. Then, one day at AirForce Airguns, while I was cleaning a couple hundred Lothar Walther barrels that had just returned from the bluer, I suddenly realized that the rod I was using — a Dewey — had cleaned a good many thousand airgun barrels by my hand, and who knows how many before me? And, although it was slightly bent and showed some age, this rod was still going strong. My aluminum rods would have given up many times doing the same work. That was the day I became a believer in the Dewey solid cleaning rod. I linked to the .177/.20 caliber rod, but you also need one for your .22 and .25-caliber guns. Like pellet traps and chronographs, this is a bullet you bite if you’re a shooter.
One more thing I won’t do without is my ATK Weaver Gunsmith 36-piece Tool Kit. I actually have six or seven similar kits because the smaller blades do break with use. But when you need that perfect screwdriver to fit a screw on a very expensive gun, nothing else will do.
Well, that’s my list for this year. I hope this has been of some use to you, because it’s one of the most tedious reports to write and create. These are all things that I would recommend to you personally if you asked. I’ve used and/or tested everything on this list, and I believe they’ll satisfy you exactly as advertised.
by B.B. Pelletier
This is part 5 of what would normally be a three-part test. If you’ve followed it, you know all I’ve gone through to let the Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel look its best. And today’s report was no exception. I spent more time with the rifle than I usually do in part 3 of any other airgun. I guess I had a burr under my saddle blanket about this rifle from the start. It was so nice-looking, and it was also a spring rifle that most adult men can cock, which isn’t that common when it comes to Hatsan breakbarrels. So, I wanted it to succeed.
Cleaned the barrel
The first step for today’s report was a thorough cleaning of the barrel with J-B Bore Paste on a brass bore brush. From the way the friction lessened the more times I brushed the bore and the black gunk that soon filled the bristles, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Mounted a scope
After the barrel was clean, I set about mounting a scope with droop to compensate for the barrel droop the test rifle has. I had planned to mount the Hawke Sport Optics 4.5-14×42 Sidewinder Tactical rifle scope, but it has a 30mm tube and nowhere in my inventory of available scope rings could I find a droop-compensating mount with 30mm rings. I have them, but they were all doing other jobs. Fortunately, when I was working with Leapers to create their UTG droop-compensating base for RWS Diana spring rifles they sent me a couple samples without the recoil shock shoulder, so I can mount them on any conventional 11mm scope dovetails. Since the Hatsan 95 comes with a scope stop plate already installed, I just backed the base up to it and I was done.
Because the UTG base raises the scope high above the spring tube, I used a set of the lowest Weaver rings I have. With them I was able to mount the AirForce 4-16×50 AO scope with plenty of room to spare. This AirForce scope is the brightest of my one-inch tubes. I don’t usually have it available because it’s mounted on my Talon SS, but the recent test of the Micro-Meter tank has freed it up.
Time to test!
Then it was time to test the rifle at 25 yards. I can report that the droop-compensating scope base did its job and put the scope’s adjustments down into the bottom quarter of the travel range. That means there was more than enough tension on the erector tube return spring, so that can be ruled out as an excuse for inaccuracy. After a quick sight-in at 10 feet, I went back to 25 yards and started shooting.
Beeman Kodiaks are out!
The first pellet I tried was the Beeman Kodiak. But no matter how I held the gun, they simply would not group. I fired about 30 rounds, trying all sorts of holds without success. I tried the Kodiak first because back in Part 3, they seemed to do well at 10 meters. I’d hoped that solving the scope problem would also make them group at 25 yards, but no dice.
So are JSB Exact 15.9-grain domes!
Next up was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 15.9 grains. Like the Kodiaks, these had done well at 10 meters, and I just knew they would shine at 25 yards. But, once again, in hold after hold, they disappointed me. I would put three pellets into the same hole, then throw one an inch away. That could not be blamed on the scope this time.
I even tried shooting the rifle with the forearm resting directly on the bag. Though that seldom works…when it does, it works quite well, and it was worth a try. Once more, the groups were large and open. The shot count was now above 60 without success. I began mentally composing the report that was to say I had failed to get the Hatsan to shoot at all, but something inside kept me at the bench.
Perfect artillery hold is required
By shooting so many pellets, I did discover the best place to put my off hand. The heel has to touch the rear of the cocking slot. If I can feel that, I know the stock is always in the same place. Also, there can be absolutely NO tension when shooting! I have to be entirely relaxed and my shoulder cannot put any pressure against the buttpad. If there’s any tension or if I am holding the rifle in place instead of letting it just rest on target with me relaxed, the shot will always go wide in the direction the rifle wanted to go as I was holding it.
The next pellet I tried was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 18.1 grains. This pellet often shines in certain PCPs, and I wondered if it might make a difference here. But when shot two landed two inches from shot one, I stopped.
Next up was the RWS Superdome that has surprised me in the past. Several readers say this is always a good pellet for them, and I thought it needed to be tried. I got 8 shots into 1.164 inches between centers, but that just wasn’t good enough to satisfy me. So, they were out, too.
While I was looking through my .22-caliber pellets I saw a fat tin of RWS Super-H-Points. This is a 14.2-grain hollowpoint pellet that also cuts a hole in the target like a wadcutter. It shouldn’t be accurate in a spring rifle of this power, but nothing else was working so I decided to give it a try. When the third shot made a cloverleaf with the first two, I felt this might be the one. And it was! Ten shots gave me a group that measures 0.792 inches between centers. Looking at this group, I see the promise of even better grouping once I become more familiar with the pellet. But even if this is the very best it can do, it’s good enough for me.
There is the 25-yard group we have been looking for! This Hatsan 95 likes RWS Super-H-Points. Ten made this 0.792-inch group. See the two holes made by the 18.1-grain JSB? No wonder I stopped shooting it!
The last word
So, what do I think? Well, the Hatsan 95 is definitely an accurate spring-piston air rifle at a great price. BUT — and this is a big “but,” — if you want it to perform you’re going to have to learn how to shoot a rifle. And I don’t mean shooting Uncle Jim’s 30-30 a couple times, either! You’re going to have to learn how to apply the artillery hold to the very best of your ability because this rifle does not forgive laxness.
Cosmetically, this rifle will give you more than any other air rifle in its price range. The trigger is disappointing, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just not real good. But you can adapt to it and if you learn to hold the rifle right and use the right pellets, it will perform. Based on this test, I think the Hatsan 95 is one of the best buys in a spring-piston air rifle today.
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