Posts Tagged ‘pcp’

Benjamin Marauder, .25 caliber – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

It’s powerful. It’s accurate. It’s quiet, and it performs just like a PCP costing twice the price. The Benjamin Marauder in .25 caliber is an American-made marvel!

You know that dream where you remember at the end of the semester that you signed up for a course that you forgot to attend, and the final exam is today? And you just walked out the front door without your keys and the door locked behind you? And you’re in your underwear? And you live on Main Street? Well, something similar really happened to me!

Two years ago, I spent some time in the hospital, and the best-laid plans….Actually, my buddy, Mac, drove out from Maryland and spent a week testing airguns and taking pictures to help Edith and me keep the blog going. When he left, Mac left me with a pile of targets and photos that I continued to use to write blogs for two weeks after I was finally discharged but still not back on my feet.

Mac did test the .25-caliber Benjamin Marauder for accuracy and left me with the test targets, but in the post-hospital confusion I threw them out! Then, when I recovered enough to finish the report and discovered I’d disposed of the targets, I looked for the .25-caliber Marauder so I could finish the test. But couldn’t find it. I figured Edith might have returned it while I was out of action.

However, last week I was packaging some guns to return and found the .25-caliber Marauder standing just where Mac had left it. So, today, I am doing the accuracy test of the gun that was last reported nearly two years ago.

Actually, the rifle and you readers do benefit from my mistake, because there are now two great .25-caliber pellets available. When Mac tested it, there was only one — the .25-caliber Benjamin dome that I’m so tempted to call a Premier. It weighs 27.8 grains, and Mac got an average velocity of 797 f.p.s. with a tight spread from 791 to 802 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 38.94 foot pounds.

The other pellet wasn’t available when Mac tested the rifle. But I discovered during the test of the TalonP pistol that the .25-caliber JSB Exact King is another superior .25-caliber pellet. Weighing 25.4 grains, it should be a trifle faster than the Benjamin dome but produce slightly less energy.

Long time, no shoot!
When I set about to test the Marauder for today’s report, I was reminded how long it’s been since I shot one. There was a guy at the recent LASSO shoot who was shooting a .177 Marauder, and I remember being surprised by how quiet it was. But his rifle was the only one keeping up with my Talon SS on the smallbore range! And he was shooting out to 75 yards! So I admit there was a lot of anticipation at getting to shoot a Benjamin Marauder once again.

So, here’s a quick impression of the rifle before we get to the accuracy report. The Marauder is a big gun. I’d forgotten how large the stock feels. It isn’t heavy, but it fills your hands. The trigger is one of the best on the market, but the trigger in the rifle I tested has not been adjusted. It’s exactly as the factory sent it. The first stage was surprisingly heavy, but stage two was light and very crisp. Once I figured out where stage two was, I found the trigger very crisp and responsive; and of course, it would be no trouble to dial off some of the first-stage pull weight.

The rifle was set to operate on a 3.000 psi fill from the factory. I say that because the Marauder will function with any fill pressure from 2,000 to 3,000 psi — it’s adjustable by the owner. But the .25 screams to be set up for the full 3,000 psi. That’s because this big .25 is a real thumper that uses a lot of air for each shot. I got three good 8-shot magazines from each fill, but after that the pellets started falling lower on the target. So, 24 shots to a fill.

I mounted two-piece medium-height rings on the rifle, and that was when I discovered that the receiver of the Marauder is not very high. Usually, the receiver on a precharged rifle is much higher than the barrel, but the Marauder is different. The barrel is shrouded for quiet shooting, which makes it fatter, and the low receiver means mounting a scope takes some thought. You can’t just slap on a scope with a 50mm objective lens, because it will hit the shroud. So, I used an old Bushnell 6-18x44AO Trophy that I used to use in field target competition. It provided plenty of magnification and a very clear image.

If I wanted to use a scope with a larger objective, I could have used high mounts, of course. But the medium mounts were much better for natural eye placement.

Okay. What will she do? Quite a lot, actually. This big quarter-inch bore is accurate! At 25 yards, it managed an 8-shot group that measures just 0.287 inches between the centers that are farthest apart. That was with the Benjamin domes. Why 8 shots and not 10? Because that’s the magazine’s capacity in this caliber. I actually shot a couple such groups, and they were all pretty much the same, much to my surprise. This big Marauder wants to lay them into the same hole, shot after shot.

Eight Benjamin domed pellets made this nice 0.287-inch group at 25 yards.

Next, I tried the JSB Exact King pellet. It’s a little lighter than the Benjamin dome, but also has a wider skirt — and I could feel the pellet entering the breech every time the bolt was pushed home. This time, I went to the trouble of loading a partial magazine to get the full 10 rounds in the target.

Ten JSB Exact Kings made this 0.751-inch group at 25 yards. It’s both larger and also not round, so this pellet may not be right for this rifle.

From just this evidence, I would have to say the JSB pellet isn’t right for the Marauder; but because I took such a long break in the report, I’m not going to let it end here. I want to mount a better scope on the rifle and try it again. And I want to adjust the trigger next time. I think the Marauder has more to show us.

One more thing
The pellets for this big .25 cost as much or more than .22 long rifle ammo. That’s correct — they run $20 to 25 for 500. So why shoot an air rifle? First, because it’s more accurate than the average .22 rimfire shooting budget ammo. Second, because this rifle has a better trigger than all but the more expensive target rimfires. Third, although this air rifle produces pretty close to 40 foot-pounds at the muzzle, it’s still shooting diabolo pellets that are safer at distance than a .22 bullet. Fourth, because unless you spend $400 and more, you aren’t going to get a .22 rimfire that’s this quiet.

Scale is why you shoot a Marauder. You can drop woodchucks at 50 yards and not bother the cattle in the next pasture. Make no mistake, the .177 and to a lesser extent the .22 Marauder are both well-suited to plinking and general shooting. The .25 is not, unless you don’t mind the additional cost of the pellets. The .25 is a hunting airgun, plain and simple. But it’s a hunting airgun that can hit the target without weighing 12 lbs. or requiring 50 lbs. of effort to cock.

Weihrauch HW 100 S FSB PCP rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This is the actual rifle I’m testing. Isn’t that wood beautiful?

We’re going to start our look at Weihrauch’s top PCP rifle, the HW 100 S FSB. There are so many features packed into this rifle that I’ll have to address them in all three parts of the report, but today I’ll get a good start on the general rifle.

Weihrauch is best known to airgunners for the high-quality spring-piston airguns it produces and, of course, their well-reknowned Rekord trigger. But they only entered the world of precharged pneumatics less than a decade ago with their one and still only model, the 100 S. For the record, the FSB designator means fully shrouded barrel, so that’s the first of many features you’ll be seeing. There’s a model 100 T (for thumbhole), also with a fully shrouded barrel. So it is called the HW 100 T FSB.

The HW 100 was new in 2004, and reports of its accuracy started very soon thereafter. This is a 14-shot repeater that uses a circular clip to feed the pellets. It’s cocked by a short sidelever located on the right side of the action. Power is claimed to be in the 26 foot-pound region in the .22 caliber version I am testing. The rifle is also available in .177 caliber and .20 caliber. I recommend going with the largest caliber because of the power potential, but the HW 100 is also supposed to be so extraordinarily accurate that a .177 caliber rifle will also be attractive. At 22 foot-pounds in that caliber, it’s too powerful for field target but probably a perfect rifle for long-range shooting.

The rifle is supposed to get 40 shots on a fill to 200 bar, which is extremely good at the claimed power level. It’ll be interesting to find out how it actually performs.

The wood on the test rifle is impeccably finished with what looks like a genuine oil finish. There’s no shine and the grain of the wood is striking. You can see holographic ripples in the wood, though they would show up better if the finish had more luster. The pistol grip and forearm are both checkered, and the pistol grip has a palm swell for a righthanded shooter. This rifle is not ambidextrous.

Naturally, there are no sights on the rifle, as you’re expected to scope it. This one deserves the best scope you can afford. The scope rail is split into two parts, ahead of and behind the slot where the circular clip goes in the receiver. This is the first PCP that uses a circular clip like this that doesn’t protrude above the top of the receiver.

The 14-shot circular clip lies entirely below the top of the receiver.

You would expect a rifle in this price range to have a lustrous finish overall, but that’s not exactly the case. The receiver is finished in the deep shiny black you expect, but the barrel shroud is entirely matte. The removable air reservoir is a semi-gloss that lies in between the two. That’s a lot of contrast in the finishes, however I have to say that everything looks right on the gun

The removable reservoir has a built-in pressure gauge (manometer) at the front. It reads in bar, and 200 bar (2,900 psi) is a maximum fill. The fill probe is proprietary (sigh!) but it has 1/8-inch BSP threads on the other end, so it attaches to any conventional pneumatic airgun fill hose. You’re given a blank plug to insert in the fill port any time the probe is out to keep dirt from entering.

The trigger
I could not resist trying the trigger. No, it’s not a Rekord, which only works on Weihrauch’s spring-piston rifles. The trigger on the HW 100 S is a very refined PCP sporting trigger that will feel like a world-class target trigger to most shooters. It’s adjustable, however the instructions in the owner’s manual are out of date. To make the adjustments shown in the manual on the rifle I’m testing, the stock must first be removed. However, I did so and made some attempt at adjusting the trigger. I could not notice any difference in the pull weight. So, I’ll leave it alone. It feels perfect as it comes from the box.

The HW 100 trigger is not a Rekord, but it’s extremely crisp and light.

Shrouded barrel
The shrouded barrel has four air relief holes at its base. These are to give the pressurized air a place to escape when the pellet blocks the muzzle. This is a sign that Weihrauch knows what it’s doing with PCPs, because most airgun manufacturers don’t know the value of these holes. The shroud also has several baffles.

One of four holes in the back of the barrel shroud that let the compressed air escape. This decreases the muzzle report significantly.

I also want to comment on the weight of the rifle. At 8.6 lbs. it’s certainly no lightweight, yet when I hold it, it feels several pounds lighter. The stock feels slender, yet somehow also hand-filling. The bottom of the forearm is flat for a good hold, and the pistol grip is sculpted to allow the thumb to be placed in the upright position. I guess I’m saying that the stock feels like a classic to me.

Overall, I would say that my first impression is a good one. This rifle feels and looks like it will shoot. Of course, all of that lies ahead.

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Announcement: The blog’s server went down on Thursday, April 21, 2011. It came back online Sunday, April 24. This blog was published early Monday, April 25, and is dated Friday, April 22. Monday’s regular blog will be published in the afternoon of Monday, April 25.

This is a good, long report, so grab your coffee and perhaps another Danish. Today, we’ll learn something about accuracy and group sizes.

I’m testing the accuracy of the .22 caliber BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle, and it’s quite nice! Helping quite a bit was the weather at the range, which was perfect for long-range airgunning, as there wasn’t a breath of wind to be felt. The day was overcast and misting slightly and with every shot you could see vapor at the muzzle when the compressed air emerged.

I scoped the Scorpion with a CenterPoint 8-32x56AO scope that was sharp and clear. Even though I shot at the small 50-foot rimfire bulls like I usually do, they appeared quite large and sharp through the scope. I was easily able to bisect the center ring with the crosshairs.

I had filled my carbon fiber air tank since the velocity test, so I was able to fill the rifle up to its maximum of 232 bar. I couldn’t do that in Part 2 because my tank was below 232 bar, so I’m going to give you a second look at velocity today, with some of the pellets I used for accuracy.

Accuracy first
The gun was not sighted-in because I had just mounted the scope the evening before. Normally, I like to shoot the first few rounds at 10 feet to adjust the scope on target at 20 yards, but today I did something different. I stapled a huge silhouette target to the target frame, then put my targets on that. That way, I had two feet by four feet of paper for the pellet to hit. You could also use a large piece of butcher paper or even cardboard to do the same thing. So long as there are no holes in the paper when you start, just attach your real target to the center of the larger paper and start shooting. For those of you who shoot at public ranges where you cannot put your own target on the range at different distances, this is a handy trick to avoid boresighting.

The first pellet I tried was the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellet that everyone raves about for powerful PCPs. Since this rifle is capable of almost 40 foot-pounds, it seemed perfect for that pellet.

The first five shots were barely on paper, but they did strike the intended target paper of 11 bulls. Though they all landed in the upper right corner of the paper, I scanned the group to show you how the gun did. Bear in mind that this is only a five-shot group, and it not representative of the true accuracy this rifle can offer, but it’s in the ballpark.

The first five shots from the BSA Scorpion at 50 yards made this 0.175-inch group! Now, that’s a screamer, folks! But look to the upper right of that hole and you’ll see another partial hole. That was shot No. 6. And THAT is the reason that 5-shot groups are not enough. Read the text for the explanation.

Okay, I hope you’re as excited as I am by this first group. All five pellets wanted to go to the same place. I’ve tested accurized Ruger 10-22 target rifles that did not give results as good as this. However, as I indicate in the caption, shot No. 6 landed apart from the group. Since I have a little experience with these high-pressure, powerful BSA rifles, I suspected what was happening. I quit shooting this group and adjusted the scope. Because this rifle is advertised as having 20 powerful shots on a fill, I continued shooting after adjusting the scope.

This is the telling target. There are 10 shots here, but they represent shots number 7 through 17 on the first fill. The same JSB Exact Jumbo 18.1-grain pellet was used. Notice the two definite groups we have. The upper group contains the first six pellets and the lower group the final four. This rifle is losing pressure and changing the point of impact as it does! That is why the sixth shot in the first group was apart from the other five. This whole group measures 1.013 inches but the top group of six measures 0.533 inches.

I’ve seen performance like this before in these 232-bar BSA rifles. They have a large number of shots for the relatively small reservoir on the gun, but the valve cannot perform with stability across the entire fill. You do get 20 powerful shots, but the POI will change slightly as the pressure diminishes. Hunters may not notice it, but it shows up clearly on paper at 50 yards. I decided that with the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo pellet the Scorpion had only five good 50-yard shots on a fresh fill before it started to shift POI. I refilled the rifle and shot another 10-shot group to see if that was correct.

Here’s the proof of what I’m saying. The first five JSB Exact Jumbos stayed in a very tight group, but starting with shot No. 6 the group spread laterally to the right. The last shot went to the far left, so the POI was still shifting. The group measures 1.49 inches between the two widest centers.

What does this mean?
All is not lost, nor has the sky fallen. You have a choice when presented with this type of performance. Either refill the rifle after every five shots and get bragging-sized groups at 50 yards, or accept the 10-shot groups that you do get and continue to shoot this pellet, or find a different pellet.

The weight of the pellet, plus how it fits in the bore, determines the dwell time that the pellet remains in the barrel. For most of that time, the back-pressure of air inside the barrel behind the pellet holds the firing valve open and air escapes. Changing to either a lighter pellet or one that fits looser — or both — will change this relationship and give you different results, as we shall see.

These JSB Jumbos fit the bore so tight that I could feel them pop into the breech as the bolt was closed. So, they’re both heavy and tight.

Next, I tried the Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellet. They weigh the same as the all-lead Kodiaks, and past testing has shown that they’re equally accurate, so let’s see what they did in the Scorpion.

A beautiful nine-shot group! If only that tenth shot wasn’t in the center of the bull. I don’t know which shot it was, but I do know it was not in the first five, nor was it the last shot. Group measures 1.227 inches between centers, with nine shots in 0.537 inches.

Kodiaks weigh 21+ grains; and like the JSB Jumbos, they also popped into the breech. Well, I decided to try it again because that nine-shot group was a good one. So, the rifle was topped off, and I shot the copper Kodiaks a second time.

This 10-shot group shows more spreading than the first one did. Again, I got a flyer through the center of the bull, but this time there were also two that went to the right. Group measures 1.253 inches between centers, and you can see that the first seven are in a tight bunch in the center.

What next?
Well, at this point I reckoned that I had the Scorpion pretty well figured out. Heavy pellets were going to use a lot of air, which resulted in a change of POI in the middle of a 10-shot group attempt, so they were probably not the best pellets to use for what I was doing. However, if you could top off after five shots, then they would be ideal.

I tried one more pellet just to prove my point about the heavy pellet POI shift after five shots. This last one was the 28.4-grain Eun Jin pellet. If ever a pellet was going to hold open a valve, this is the one that would do it.

Well, it doesn’t get much more obvious than this. The first five are in a tight group that then drops to the right. The final three pellets are on the extreme left. The group measures 1.774 inches between extreme centers and is the largest group of the test. No sense shooting another one.

The results were as clear and unambiguous as they could be. The tendency to spread after five shots continued in a most aggressive way. The central group of five measures 0.526 inches between centers. So, shooting the first five shots from a fill is still a viable option, even with this heavy pellet.

Now where do we go?
Isn’t it obvious? If the rifle can’t shoot heavy, tight pellets more than five times on a fill, what will it do with lighter pellets that are loose? Luckily, I happened to have a tin of the old standby 15.8-grain JSB Exacts on hand. They’re the lightest pellet I tested, and they were loose in the bore.

Ten 15.8-grain JSB Exact pellets went into 0.62 inches at 50 yards. This is almost as good as a custom-tuned 10-22 Ruger I tested years ago. This is a good pellet for the Scorpion.

The first target was good, so I shot a second one. It measured so close to the first one that I cannot discern a difference.

A second group of 10 15.8-grain JSB Exacts measures the same as the first one. This is obviously the pellet for this rifle.

I said I would do some more velocity testing for you because I wasn’t able to completely fill the rifle in Part 2 of this report. I’ll test two pellets — the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo heavy and the 15.8-grain JSB Exact. They should show us what the performance curve looks like, and we can extrapolate to other pellets whether they’re heavy and tight-fitting or light and loose.

The 18.1-grain Exact Jumbos averaged 871 f.p.s. for 20 shots, but the spread went from 818 up to 904. Starting with shot No. 6, the velocity fell off on every successive shot. Shot 15 was still going 848 f.p.s., so for hunting purposes that might be your last shot on a fill. But shot five is the last one for a super-tight group at 50 yards. The first five shots averaged 899 f.p.s., with a muzzle energy for just those five of 32.49 foot-pounds.

The 15.8-grain Exacts averaged 891 f.p.s. for 20 shots with a spread from 810 to 947. Every shot except shot five was a decrease from the shot before, and the rifle dropped velocity faster with this pellet than with the heavier one. Velocity alone doesn’t explain why I got such great 10-shot groups, because by shot 10 the rifle had dropped 45 f.p.s., where the heavier pellet lost only 18 f.p.s. Still, the groups don’t lie. This is the more accurate pellet. The first five shots averaged 936 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 30.74 foot-pounds.

I seem to be pushing the 10-shot group a lot for accuracy testing, but today was a perfect example of why it’s better. Yes, this was a very specific situation that you wouldn’t encounter in a spring rifle, but those extra five shots give any gun every chance to express all of its bad traits. A 30-shot group would even be better, but except for extreme product testing or belaboring a point, it’s seldom done. Ten approximates 30 closely enough for most purposes.

Looking at the price of the rifle, it offers a hunter good value in a traditional-looking powerful rifle. The trigger is okay and nothing about the rifle is bothersome, except for the 232-bar fill pressure. The accuracy is stunning, as you have seen. It cracks like a .22 short, so be ready for that. In fact, after I finished the velocity testing, Edith said, “That was loud. What was it?”

I replied, “BSA Polaris.”

But that didn’t sound right, so I thought about it for a second until the name came to me.

“Scorpion!” I shouted a minute later.

“Where!” she answered, running into the room with her shoe off, looking for the arachnid invader.

So, the old girl still has life in her yet.

And, by the way, I can still shoot a rifle, in case anyone asks.

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle

Today, we’ll look at the power of the BSA Scorpion PCP. You’ll recall that this rifle is advertised to hit 30 foot-pounds, so we’ll see how well that works today.

Now, for the first time I found myself short of air. My carbon fiber tank only had about 220 bar in it, and of course this rifle fills to 232 bar. I do own a Hill pump that could do the job, but until my hernia is repaired I don’t think that’s such a good idea. So I can’t report on the maximum shot string today. It’s supposed to be 20 shots but my rifle started to lose velocity after just nine shots. So, we won’t count that against the rifle; we’ll just have to see to it another day when the tank is full.

Quick thoughts
The cocking is harder on the Scorpion than on other bolt-action rifles, and that’s because of the high pressure at which the valve operates. On the plus side, BSA gives you a nice long bolt handle to grasp.

The trigger has some play in stage two. It releases at about 56 oz., but I’ll adjust it for the accuracy test. Okay, let’s get on with the test. Remember, the Scorpion is a .22 caliber air rifle.

Beeman Kodiaks
The first pellet to be tested was the Beeman Kodiak. Kodiaks weigh 21 grains in .22 caliber and are usually among the most accurate pellets in powerful PCPs, so they’re a good place to begin. I’ll probably use them in the accuracy test, as well. In the Scorpion, Kodiaks averaged 847 f.p.s. The spread went from 841 to 849 f.p.s., which is pretty tight. At the average velocity, they’re giving us 33.46 foot-pounds, so BSA is already off the hook for power. It breezed through with ten percent to spare! That result is giving me good feelings about the rifle.

Crosman Premiers
The Crosman Premier dome is a 14.3-grain pellet. That’s right in the center of the middle-weight range. PCPs don’t generate their most power with lighter pellets, so I didn’t expect these to hit the 30 foot-pounds mark. They averaged 978 f.p.s. and the spread went from 975 to 985 f.p.s. Once again, a tight spread. At the average velocity they generate 30.38 foot-pounds at the muzzle, so we have another winner. Clearly, this Scorpion wants to shoot!

Gamo TS-22 pellets
The next pellet I tested was the Gamo TS-22 pellet. At 22 grains, it’s heavier than the Kodiak and is another domed pellet. In the Scorpion, they averaged 830 f.p.s. and the spread went from 829 to 831 f.p.s. Talk about tight! At the average velocity, the TS-22 pellet generated 33.66 foot-pounds, the highest of the test by a slim margin. What that tells me is that if I shot 28.4-grain Eun Jin pellets, I would probably top 35 foot-pounds. Oh, what the heck. Let’s do it!

Eun Jin pellets
This last test was with 28.4-grain Eun Jin pellets, and I expected to be surprised. My tank was even lower by this time, but I do believe from the performance I saw that it was still getting up into the power curve. Eun Jins averaged 748 f.p.s in this rifle. They ranged from 746 to 750 — another very tight spread. At the average velocity, they were developing 36.29 foot-pounds at the muzzle, so this Scorpion is way ahead of its advertised numbers! And, Eun Jins can be surprisingly accurate at this speed, so maybe I’ll include them in the accuracy test, as well.

Clearly, this Scorpion wants to shoot!

Observations thus far
I thought the Scorpion was going to be like another BSA Hornet, and indeed it is. It’s not just a 30 foot-pound gun. It’s really more of a 35-38 foot-pound gun when the right pellets are used. BSA knows how to make a good air rifle barrel. So, I’m expecting surprising things in the next test.

You know, at the price, this isn’t such a bad little PCP. It’s got oodles of power and a very simple design. If it’s also accurate, we’ll have a winner.

As you read this, I’m traveling but will be back home Wednesday evening. I’ll be logging on periodically during the day but would appreciate it if the regular blog readers would chip in and help with answers to any questions. Edith will also monitor the blog more closely than usual.

NASA’s moon-mission airgun

by B.B. Pelletier

Today’s guest blog is written by Dr. William Abong, formerly of NASA. Dr. Abong worked at NASA on the Apollo Moon Mission, where he was a member of the extraterrestrial life sciences team.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.

Guest bloggers must know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

The LOOPH Lunar air rifle is a unique airgun and now available exclusively from Pyramyd Air!

by William Abong, Ph.D.

Until recently, the gun I will present to you today was highly classified. NASA has now declassified this part of the moon mission and given me permission to write about it.

How it began
Back when we were getting ready to go to the moon, there were concerns for the safety of the astronauts on these far-flung missions. You don’t read about it today, but back in those days we took the UFO threat very seriously. So many of the early astronauts had seen and photographed extraterrestrial phenomena that we felt we had to give them something to protect themselves.

Firearms were ruled out early on because the astronauts are often working in oxygen-rich environments that would not handle a chemical explosion very well. We came up with the idea of making them a defensive airgun — something that would not endanger the environment.

The gun we built was different than anything you see today. First, it had to work reliably in a vacuum. Second, we had no guidelines as to how powerful to make it for we didn’t know the threat. Oh, we had some data on the anatomy and resilience of the Grays; but since they’re not the only species known to exist, we felt we had to design for something more powerful and deadlier. In the end, we pegged our design on something that was three times more difficult to kill than a cape buffalo.

The gun we built is called the LOOPH Lunar air rifle, with LOOPH standing for Lightweight Open Orifice Pellet Heaver. You would call it a precharged pneumatic air rifle because it operates on 1,000 psi air, but it is unlike any PCP you have every heard of. For starters, there are 25 air valves lined up sequentially along the top of the barrel. Each opens just as the projectile passes it to maintain a constant 1,000 psi thrust on the projectile. It was difficult to time these valves; but once we did, we operated them with special electronic switches that can be controlled very precisely.

It was our design to keep the pressure behind the projectile constant for greater acceleration. A normal PCP has one valve that opens and closes. When it closes, the air pressure in the barrel immediately starts dropping off. The LOOPH delivers constant air pressure, so acceleration always increases. The gun is very loud on Earth, but since it’s designed to be used in a vacuum, it makes no difference because in space no one can hear you scream.

The gun is too dangerous to let safety pass lightly, so the design team decided to make it the safest gun ever made. There are 12 different safeties on the weapon. They take over a minute to disconnect if you are in shirt sleeves. We never tried it in a spacesuit, but we estimated it would take over five minutes. Since the astronaut may encounter situations where it is desirable to get into action faster than that, we put in a voice override. If the astronaut says “Shoot!” all the safeties come off, making the gun instantly ready to fire. Because of the primitive state of the early voice recognition software/firmware, we had to limit the astronauts who could use this feature on the gun to those with a Northeastern or Midwestern accent. Southerners could not make it work. Unfortunately, a high percentage of astronauts come from the Southern states, plus it was popular in those days for an astronaut to affect a Texas drawl, so not too many people in the program could use this feature.

The team was concerned about electromagnetic interference (EMI) from various sources, so we considered TEMPEST-ing the whole gun. But after learning that would approximately double our development budget of $27 million, we decided to just put two wraps of tinfoil around the receiver until use. After all, tinfoil is a well-known safety precaution when dealing with alien RF emanations and most of the design team wore some whenever they were in the mission mode anyway, plus it cost us less than a dime for each use.

Projectile and caliber
Since we had no known threat on which to base our design (killing Grays is like shooting frogs, you know) we decided to go overboard and design for the worst threat we could imagine. The caliber of the gun was the most difficult choice we made. The team leader wanted it to be .30 caliber, but several of our younger members were aware of the U.S. Army’s experimentation with a new .22 caliber round. Debates went on for over a year, and we finally had to have a sequestered off-campus team session in Las Vegas to decide. In the end, we got a book written by Mr. Jack O’Connor, who touted the .270 caliber as the finest compromise of all. Since compromise is the hallmark of the Agency, we settled on a caliber of 0.2767 inches. That’s not exactly the same as a .270, but we couldn’t just use a conventional caliber without risking criticism from some quarter, so we made one up. That way, there was nothing to complain about.

If the caliber was the hard part, the material for the projectile was easy. Iridium. It’s dense, has a high melting point and is resistant to almost all known acids. This was at a time before the movie Aliens, but we actually did think about the possibility of encountering a race that had concentrated acid for blood. In fact, I think one of the team members later collaborated on the script for Aliens.

The projectile weight is 11.5 gm (177.471 grains), and it leaves the muzzle at 1,399.9464 m/sec. (4593 f.p.s.). That gives an energy of approximately 8,315 foot-pounds. Since it’s shot in a vacuum, it continues at that speed until acted upon by some outside force.

The one thing we didn’t figure was the cost to produce the projectile. Iridium is extremely difficult to machine. So, the individual rounds cost something like $5,000 each to make. At NASA, our motto is “Pick the very best. We’ll find a way to fund it.” So, we don’t worry too much about things like cost unless we get close to the end of our budget. However, with a projectile costing as much as this one, we found that at the end of each budgetary year, we could spend the remainder of our funds buying extra projectiles. I think we ended up with something like four tins of 200 rounds each. For those of you who are budget types, that represents more money than our entire development budget. But we also had a yearly allowance that wasn’t costed into the same budget, so we spent a lot more than $27 million on this project.

We incorporated a heads-up display on the inside visor of the astronaut’s space helmet, so there are no sights or displays on the gun itself. You point the rifle normally and watch the HUD until the pipper gets on target, then take the shot. Since we were required to have complete redundancy, we arranged valve No. 4 so if you align the right side of that valve with the end of the muzzle you got a reasonably good sight. I guess if you buy the rifle today, you’ll have to use that method because I don’t think NASA will sell you an active helmet.

The extra stuff
You probably noticed all the tools coming out of the top of the receiver. They’re there because of some arguments we got into during development. Management kept asking us to add this and that feature to the gun, until it was completely unworkable. So our team leader decided to stifle them by building in a kit of special tools that astronauts would always have on hand if they had the rifle. They don’t detach from the receiver, though, so unless you’re weightless they’re of limited value. But just having them appear on our briefing slides stopped a lot of the random comments.

From reading this blog, I know that most of you value the best materials in an airgun. Well, we certainly put them into the LOOPH! Most of the gun is made from tool steel; and where synthetics are employed, we went with a dense Styrofoam to save weight. We were going to blue the metal parts, but because of the environment in which the gun will be used, we had to settle with vacuum-deposited platinum. I think it looks pretty snazzy.

You have to save money somewhere, so we decided to do it by not firing the rifle except during testing. The astronauts never got to shoot an actual round in the real gun. However, we were part of the mission training and simulation team; and for only $1.5 million plus software, we developed a training device that they could use. Individual shots on the trainer were less than a thousand dollars, which saved us a bundle in ammunition costs. Plus, we didn’t have to open a tin, so they were available to all the moon missions.

We never actually fired the gun during testing except one time to make sure it all worked. But I developed a simulation that we used to test with. The gun seems to be very destructive and should do well against any reasonable threat. Of course, it won’t stop Superman, but we feel confident that there isn’t a species of alien with his powers out there. If there is, too bad for all of us!

In the simulations, the gun was quite accurate. It could drill a Gray at 100 yards before he started warming up his temporal lobes to defend himself — not that we ever did that, of course. I guess it would put 5 rounds through a 5-inch circle at 100 yards.

Mission end
The Apollo 13 astronauts had to leave their gun in the Command Module upon their return to Earth. Of the seven guns made, only six remain today. When the mission ended, we asked NASA management for permission to fire the guns a couple of times, but they felt it was too dangerous and declined. Besides, it was very expensive.

I learned a lot during this development. The most important thing was that there are very few problems that exotic materials and more money can’t solve. And, when you do encounter one of those unsolvable problems, just revise your goals to keep what is possible within your grasp. Do that and you’ll probably never go wrong.

Happy April first!

Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This is the new Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol. It’ll send those light little airgun silhouettes into orbit.

Today is velocity day for the Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol, and there’s much to report. For starter…what a little sweetie this pistol is! This is one of those every-so-often-they-make-a great-one guns. The trigger seems to make all the difference in the world, but the power it generates is an additional benefit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I filled the gun to 3,000 psi, as indicated by the gauge on my carbon fiber tank. The onboard manometer read about 100 psi less. But no matter, as I only watch one gauge during the fill, and the larger one on the tank is very reliable.

Let’s shoot!
Then, I just started shooting. Since this pistol is for airgun silhouette, domed pellets are fine, and I selected Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. The shot string is presented below.

25……484 (avg. 1st 25 shots 476)
34……487 (fastest shot in string)
50……474 (avg. for shots 26-50 482)
75……455 end

The string shows that this pistol is well above the advertised 450 f.p.s. mark. It also shows that there are more than the claimed 50 good shots in the string. Whether you start with the first shot or drop 100 psi from the fill and start with shot number 6 (that’s a guess), you’ll still get over 60 good shots. We’ve discussed shot string analysis enough by now that you understand all too well how to look at this string and evaluate it. If you’re new to this blog and would like to see that analysis in greater detail, look at this report on the first Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol to see how a long shot string should be analyzed.

Foot-pounds of energy don’t matter that much in the silhouette game, because it doesn’t take much energy to send these little metal targets flying. Even the big rams that sit out at 18 yards will be bowled over by the energy that starts out at around four foot-pounds.

In centerfire rifle silhouette, the ram is at 500 yards and a light strike by a small caliber like the .243 Winchester is likely to turn the target sideways on the stand, but not knock it off. That’s a bad thing, for the target must be knocked off its stand to count. In airgun silhouette, it takes a really poor shot to not knock it off the stand. The real problem is finding those tiny chicken silhouettes on the dirt and grass after they’ve been launched 10 yards by a pellet. So, the power of this pistol is more than adequate.

They’ve come a long way
Five years ago, Crosman couldn’t even spell PCP, and now they’re one of the world leaders in the technology! That says a lot about the company and the resolute vision they have of the future. The valve in this test pistol seems to defy belief, getting so many powerful shots from such a small reservoir. It shows that Crosman knows how to design a valve and also how to build precharged pneumatics. Twenty years ago, the world would not have believed that such efficiency could be gotten from an air pistol.

Okay, so let’s test the pistol with some more potential pellets.

RWS Hobbys
I won’t put you through the agony of the shot strings for these pellets. RWS Hobbys averaged 483 f.p.s. The spread went from 478 to 491 f.p.s. over a 10-shot string. The average muzzle energy was 3.63 foot-pounds.

RWS Hobbys aren’t used for shooting silhouettes, but they are a legitimate lead pellet that people really shoot. They demonstrate that Crosman’s advertised velocity of 450 f.p.s. is extremely conservative.

Gamo Match
The next pellet I tried was Gamo Match. This is another lead wadcutter that no one will use to shoot silhouette, but they showcase what the powerplant can do. The website says they weigh 7.71 grains, but mine must be older because they weigh 7.5 grains. They average 484 f.p.s. in the Crosmann Silhouette with a spread from 479 to 490 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generate 3.9 foot-pounds.

JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes
The 8.4-grain JSB Exact dome averaged 469 f.p.s. in this pistol. It’s a pellet that might be used for silhouette. The spread went from 456 to 475 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 4.1 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

I said in Part 1 that I would report on the new trigger and this is it. As it came from the factory, the trigger had a 1-lb. first stage, then a definite second-stage stop and it broke at 2 lbs. on the nose. Because there’s an overtravel adjustment that’s set perfectly, the trigger is the paragon of crispness. If you’re a 10-meter pistol competitor, you’ll be used to pulling through stage one and stopping at stage two, waiting for the opportune moment for the break. Then, the trigger becomes like a 1-lb. trigger because the first stage has been removed from the equation. Don’t try to over-think it. It just works that way, and you need a precision trigger to learn that. This one certainly is.

Well, there it is and that’s how it works. It’s very sophisticated, yet not very complicated. If you like good triggers, you’ll like this one. (From Crosman’s owner’s manual)

A good day of testing and promise for a great finish for this latest release. Of course accuracy matters, so we still need to see that.

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle looks a lot like the BSA Hornet.

Every time I test a BSA PCP, I like it. They have accurate barrels and simple actions. They don’t offer frills that I don’t care about, and the things they do have are usually very good. I’m looking forward to this test of the .22 caliber single-shot BSA Scorpion air rifle.

Unfortunately, the Scorpion needs a 232 bar fill. That means you either need a Hill pump or a carbon fiber tank. I have the latter, but I wonder how many other airgunners have one…or are they willing to put up with the expense of buying either one just to operate this rifle?

The Scorpion lists a muzzle velocity of 860 f.p.s. But no muzzle energy is given, so that number means very little. But the print owner’s manual tells me the rifle delivers 24 foot-pounds in FAC trim, which is the gun I’m testing for you today. That number means something, and it’s a good power for hunters.

The reviews all say the rifle is loud. Well, duh! This is a PCP with a short barrel and lots of power, so of course it’s going to be loud. Only a shroud or silencer is going to take care of that. I dry-fired it already, and I can assure you that this rifle is very loud.

Special things
The reviews also praise the trigger. I want to look into that in the velocity test. I tried the trigger and, thankfully, it’s adjustable. As it came from the factory, it had a huge amount of creep in stage two. I will attempt to adjust that out in Part 2. The barrel is free-floated, which should make a lot of people happy because of the potential for greater accuracy.

The rifle comes packed with a CD manual. It may work on a PC, but it doesn’t on a Mac. So I used the paper owner’s manual.

There’s also a Scorpion T-10 that’s a repeater (guess how many shots?), but I’m looking at the single-shot.

BSA has its own proprietary fill probe, so you have to adapt it to whatever filling system you’re using.

BSA has a proprietary fill probe that has male 1/8″ BSPP threads on the other end.

General description
The BSA Scorpion is a single-shot PCP that comes in both .177 and .22 calibers. The .22 I’m testing makes the most sense at this power level. The reservoir is on the small side, and they advertise 20 full-power shots per fill. The rifle reminds me of the Hornet and that was also a good one, so I’m hoping this one will be, too.

This is a carbine-length airgun and just 36.5 inches overall. The barrel is 18.5 inches long, but a muzzlebrake adds two more inches. As a result of the short length, the rifle feels very compact and you’ll want to consider that when you scope it. No long scope on this one. I’m going to use the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope, because I want to see every bit of accuracy this rifle has to offer.

At 7.7 lbs., the Scorpion is no lightweight. Add a scope and the weight will increase by at least another pound. My unscoped rifle weighs 7.5 lbs., exactly, so I reckon the density of the beech wood in the stock is different.

The finish of the overall rifle is subdued, as a hunting rifle should be. The metal is finished matte black and the wood is a low-gloss satin. The finish overall is even and without any flaws. Both the grip and forearm are checkered with an aggressive pattern that lacks any sharp diamonds, but feels very rough to the touch. It works well at giving you a firm hold, which is what checkering is supposed to do. There are also three BSA logos laser-engraved into the stock — two at the butt and one on the bottom of the grip.

The rifle comes with the bolt for righthand operation, but it can be switched to the other side — making the gun completely ambidextrous. The Monte Carlo profile features a raised cheekpiece that rolls over to both sides of the butt.

Because of the 232 bar fill pressure I’m going to need to top off my tank before testing velocity. But I do look forward to testing this rifle, because BSA PCPs have always done well for me.

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