Posts Tagged ‘rimfires’

A few bricks short…

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

This report addresses:

• The .22 rimfire ammunition supply problem in the U.S.
• One possible solution for an ammo supply
• A great substitution for .22 rimfire

22 bricks
Bricks of .22 rimfire ammo usually have 500 rounds, except the value packs that contain a little extra loose ammo.

The rest of the world may not be aware, but there’s an extreme shortage of .22 rimfire ammo in the United States at the present time. In my 66 years, the last two are the only time I could not walk into a gun store or even a discount store and buy a brick of .22 ammunition.

What’s a brick?
A brick is a carton of 500 rounds. It holds 10 boxes of 50 rounds and is called a brick for the general size, shape and weight of the box. There are also loosely packaged value packs that contain a few more than 500 rounds.

In 2012, a brick of inexpensive .22 ammo cost around $9 to $10, depending on the sale. The nominal price was about $20, but everybody knew that was too much to pay, so we all waited for the sales. Only when our backs were up against it did we bite the bullet (pun intended) and pay full price.

Today, the street price of a brick is $50, but that’s only when you can find one for sale. Many of the stores are now rationing sales with limits on the number of smaller boxes you can buy at one time. Buying whole bricks is pretty much a thing of the past.

I’ve purchased single bricks from Midway for $29 in the past year, but they limit your purchase to just one; and when they add the mandatory $27 HAZMAT fee and shipping, the price increases greatly. If they would sell entire cases of .22 (5,000 rounds), the fees and shipping would disappear in the volume. But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Plenty of .22
There’s no shortage of .22 rimfire ammo in the U.S. The ammo plants are working 3 shifts each day to supply all they can. And the government is no longer buying everything they make. What we have is a run on ammo that cannot be satisfied in the near term. The so-called shortage is being caused by hoarding. This is the reason I reload. I can load .45 ACP rounds for much less than the current cost of .22 long rifle. But .22 is a lot of fun to shoot!

Strategies for getting bricks
You can watch the obituaries and attend the estate sales, but that’s where everybody goes. I would make friends with the supply sergeants! That’s what I did in the Army. Supply sergeants are in control of everything, so go right to the source!

In the civilian world, the supply sergeants are the clerks who work in the gun stores and sporting goods departments of the larger stores. Cozy up to them, and they may let you jump to the front of the line when ammo comes in. I’m not talking about stealing here — I’m talking about being first in line — even before the line forms! When you want something that’s hard to get, this is how it’s done.

But wait — there’s hope!
Actually, this report isn’t about .22 ammo at all. It’s about what can substitute for it. When I was at the Flag City Toys That Shoot airgun show last Saturday, a lot of people were talking about it.

If you just shoot to plink, an air rifle is just as good as a rimfire out at 75 yards. You can go out even farther, but I’m trying to stay conservative. Yes, a lot of air rifles are single-shots, but there are also a lot that are repeaters. And the cost, while higher than the cheap rimfire rifles, isn’t that bad. Especially, since the guns you get for that price will shoot rings around most rimfires out to 50 yards.

A couple years ago, I remember listening to some airgunners bemoan the fact that Crosman Premiers in the cardboard box cost more than $20. You get 625 pellets in that box if they’re .22s and 1,250 if they’re .177s. That was when budget bricks were still selling for $9-10. But those days are over and will never return. When this shortage is finally over, I predict the price of a budget brick will be somewhere around $29-$36, and the sales may lower that to $25 on occasion. That’s just a prediction, of course.

Can a pellet rifle equal a .22 long rifle?
The answer is both yes and no. The new Escape survival rifle from AirForce Airguns produces almost 98 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle when the heaviest .25-caliber Eun Jin pellet is used. That compares favorably to a standard speed or subsonic .22 long rifle cartridge. It’s not quite as powerful, but it’s very close. So, yes, a pellet rifle can equal a .22 rimfire.

But, when you drive that pellet that fast, you don’t get all the accuracy that rifle has to offer. You saw that when I tested the Escape. At max power, that large pellet gave me a 2.48-inch 5-shot group at 50 yards. But when I throttled the gun back and shot JSB Exact King pellets, 5 of them went into 0.715 inches at the same 50 yards.

The fill pressure for that smaller group was just under 2,000 psi, and the power was set at 6 — so the rifle was probably producing around 40 foot-pounds. Before you sneer with derision, because that’s less than half what the gun can do at its best, remember that 40 foot-pounds is still more than a lot of PCP rifles can get when they’re shooting full-out. And that’s my point. Understand what it is that you’re talking about. Yes, a pellet rifle can meet the power of a .22 long rifle, but no, it can’t do it with the same accuracy. Maybe someday in the future, but not today.

Do you really need all that power, or have you fallen into the trap of defining your minimum shooting experience based on what’s out there? Are you a guy who just has to hunt deer with a .30-06 because that’s what “everyone” does, or are you someone who thinks a .28-30-120 might just be the best deer cartridge ever for shots under 100 yards? Don’t ask me what a .28-30-120 is — look it up on the internet and gain some wisdom.

Do airguns replace rimfires?
No! And they never will. There will always be a place for a rimfire or two (or more) in my gun closet. But I’m not going to go out and shoot up all my ammo and then whine about it when I own a battery of fine pellet rifles.

I shoot from 100 to 1,000 shots each and every week of my life, with few exceptions. Most of those shots are with airguns. I do enjoy firearms and I frequently shoot them, and rimfires are among the most fun of all; but I don’t allow the current ammunition shortage to hinder my shooting one bit. I’m an airgunner!

All .22 rimfire ammo is not the same!

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Does the pellet matter? Part 1

Today’s report is a continuation of the test we started last week, when I asked if the pellet matters (as far as accuracy is concerned). That test wasn’t quite as dramatic as I would have liked, and several readers chalked it up to my Beeman R8 being an inherently good shooter. No doubt it is, but that still doesn’t explain the good results I got with pellets that I wouldn’t normally recommend for that rifle.

Today, I’m using a target rifle that’s hands-down the most accurate .22 rimfire I’ve ever owned, seen or shot. It’s a Remington model 37 Rangemaster from before World War II, and it’s fitted with the “miracle trigger” that Remington once sold. This trigger has no perceptible movement and releases with just an increase in finger pressure. It’s much like an electronic trigger, only this one is all mechanical.

The rifle has a Redfield 3200 target scope. It magnifies 24X and has parallax corrections down to extremely small increments out to 50 yards.

Remington 37
Remington’s model 37 is a world-class target rifle.

I’ve put 5 shots from into a quarter-inch at 50 yards with this rifle using peep sights.

But this time, I’ll shoot 10-shot groups because they’re the ones that show a rifle’s true potential. For this test, I used 13 different .22 rounds. Most of them weren’t target rounds, but that doesn’t matter. They’re all different, and that will address today’s title question.

Best round first
I had no idea how this test would turn out. I knew certain ammo shot well, but this was the first time I’d shot 10-shot groups with the rifle at 50 yards. The best round turned out to be CCI’s .22 Subsonic Hollowpoint. Ten of them went into a group that measures 0.504 inches at 50 yards. That’s as good as some top-quality air rifles at the same distance, and I was pleased with it.

CCI Subsonic group
Ten CCI Subsonic HPs went into 0.504 inches at 50 yards.

Worst round
The worst round was Remington’s Target ammo — a standard-speed round that Remington recommends for formal target shooting. How’s that for irony? Ten of them went into 1.766 inches at the same 50 yards from the same super-accurate rifle! If that doesn’t make believers out of you, nothing else I can say will. Look at this group. These bullets didn’t even attempt to go to the same place!

Remington Target group
Ten Remington Target rounds went into 1.766 inches at 50 yards.

Another poor round was Winchester’s Wildcat high-velocity ammo. Ten of them went into 1.395 inches at 50 yards.

Winchester Wildcat group
Ten Winchester Wildcats went into 1.395 inches at 50 yards.

Surprise!
I expected the high-velocity ammo to do worse in this test because that’s what everyone says. They say once you break the sound barrier, .22 rimfire ammo loses its potential. So, the large Wildcat group didn’t surprise me. But the Remington Viper group that measures just 0.924 inches does. Vipers are hyper-velocity rounds whose 36-grain lead bullets leave the muzzle of a 24-inch barrel at 1,410 f.p.s.

Remington Viper group
Ten Remington Vipers made this 0.924-inch group. This was not expected.

Remington Cyclone rounds are also hyper-velocity. They leave the muzzle at 1,410 f.p.s. — yet, 10 of them went into just 0.882 inches. According to popular belief, these should have been among the least accurate round in any .22 rimfire rifle.

Remington Cyclone group
Ten Remington Cyclones made this 0.882-inch group. Another unexpected result!

Close, but no cigar
Another subsonic round almost made the second-best group. Ten Remington Subsonic Hollowpoints went into 1.206 inches, but 9 of those bullets made a 0.548-inch group. The one round that’s not in the group is below it, and this tells me what probably happened. Rimfire ammunition has one big weakness. The priming material is sometimes not evenly deposited around the rim, and that causes misfires and poor ignition. This shot looks like it came from a round that wasn’t ignited well and probably went slower than the others. Of course, I can’t prove that without velocity data that I don’t have, but poor ignition is the bane of .22 rimfire target shooters.

Remington Subsonic group
Ten Remington Subsonic Hollowpoints went into 1.206 inches, with 9 of them going into just 0.548 inches.

The Subsonic was the most accurate round in my 10/22, which I tested for Shotgun News years ago, but the Remington Target round that was the worst in this rifle was also among the top 5 in that test. So, each rifle is different, and the ammo definitely does make a huge difference!

I shot a total of 13 different rounds in this test. I’ve shown you the best and worst in today’s report. Besides the 3 bad groups I have shown, there were 4 other rounds that made groups larger than one inch. One inch for 10 shots is small for most .22s, but not for a Remington model 37. Of 13 different rounds, 7 made groups larger than one inch, leaving 6 that made groups under an inch.

Conclusion
Obviously, the ammo does make a difference in .22 rimfires — just as pellets make a difference in pellet rifles. I’m still going to do the test of discount-store pellets versus the best premium pellets. From the comments I’ve received, I believe I’ll test them in 2 different rifles. It should be interesting.

What can you do?

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Charles Spillman is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Pyramyd Air facebook big shot of the week

Charles Spillman submitted this week’s winning photo for BSOTW.

Just a reminder that the Roanoke airgun show is next Friday and Saturday — a week from today! I hope to see some of you there.

As immersed as I am in airguns, it’s hard to surprise me these days. But that wasn’t always the case. I remember the time when I shot springers and CO2 guns but avoided precharged guns out of the fear of handling highly compressed air. I saw the movie Jaws and watched the great white shark blow up when the scuba tank let go!

So, I have a frame of reference for the newer airgunners — the guys who may have been shooters for a long time and have now decided for whatever reason to check out airguns. If I write for anyone, I write for them and also for the brand-new shooter.

And I hate jargon. Even though I use it too much, I know how confusing it can be to try to follow a story when the author keeps dropping acronyms and slang terms in your path. I could say PCP, and sometimes I do, but I try to say precharged pneumatic first. And I say silencer, when others attempt to skirt the issue with terms like Lead Dust Collector and Decibel Reduction Device.

Keeping a fresh outlook
One exercise that keeps me fresh is examining and using various firearms (I try never to say “real guns”). Not only does this keep my own perspective fresh and curious — it also gives me a busman’s holiday from airguns, when things become too much the same.

Several years ago, I decided to write a long series of articles for Shotgun News about the Ruger 10/22 .22 rimfire carbine. Why that gun? Because I’d never owned one before and had only shot one a few times. It would appear as new and confusing to me as a Benjamin Trail NP XL appears to a new airgunner. I called my five-part series, “What can you do with a 10/22?”

Ruger 10/22
The Ruger 10/22 is an iconic .22 rimfire. It is to .22s what ARs are to centerfires.

Like any shooter who reads, I had read a lot about the 10/22 — or at least it seemed as though I had. In my mind, it was a superior .22 semiauto that was highly accurate, infinitely reliable and utterly desirable. So, I asked for and received one for Christmas. Just like any airgun, I immediately took it to the range to see what it would do. I was prepared for the best — and got the worst! My 10/22 shot 2-inch, 10-shot groups at 50 yards, on average, with just a couple getting close to the 1.5-inch range. Bummer! I’d owned dozens of .22s that were more accurate. Oh, well, nowhere to go but up!

Just like an airgun, the next step was to tune the rifle. But tuning a .22 means machine time, plus I knew absolutely nothing about the model, so I sent it off to a place in Connecticut that lightened the trigger, installed a trigger stop, jewelled the bolt, drilled a cleaning hole in the rear of the action so the barrel can be cleaned from the breech, rechambered the barrel with a match chamber and installed an extended magazine release that looks suspiciously like a thumbscrew!

Ruger 10/22 cleaning hole
Yes, they simply drilled a hole through the back of the aluminum receiver so a cleaning rod could pass through, once the bolt is removed. It’s a great idea!

Ruger 10/22 mag release
A simple thumbscrew extends the magazine release so human fingers can operate it. For shame, Ruger!

What I got back was a different rifle. The trigger was now very good (Ruger should be ashamed of the trigger they put in that rifle!), the barrel could be cleaned from the breech, thus preserving the crown, the magazine now pops out fairly easily (another point of shame for Ruger) and — best of all — the rifle was much more accurate. Ten-shot groups of one inch were not uncommon.

Ruger 10/22 Tom at bench
Does this look familiar? I tested the Ruger at 50 yards, just like I would an air rifle.

Well, the ulterior motive for buying the 10/22 was so I could buy and test a legal silencer, but the drill to get one occupied more than a year of my time and finally a personal appeal to the head of the branch that approves such requests. I needed something to do in the meantime. My friend Mac donated one of those electric guitar-looking custom stocks to the project, and I bought a Butler Creek bull barrel to see if there would be any accuracy difference…and there was a huge difference! The new custom 10/22 now shot 10-shot groups of less than three-quarters of an inch, with a couple that were under 0.60 inches between centers.

Ruger 10/22 two rifles
You’re looking at the same rifle in two versions. At the top is the custom stock and bull barrel on the action. Underneath is the standard rifle with the custom trigger features Photoshopped out.

And all it took was spending a further $500 (factoring in the custom work, plus the cost of the custom stock if I had bought it and the bull barrel) to get this $130 semiauto to shoot! Boy, did I ever feel like a new airgunner!

Then, Mac proposed a test of my whomptydoodle custom 10/22 against a box-stock Ruger 10/22 Target — a rifle that Ruger makes and sells for about $450 (at the time the test was being conducted). I said sure, and another huge test was run. At the end of that one, I knew that the factory Ruger 10/22 Target was slightly better than my custom gun, though my rifle has the better trigger. I was kinda like the guy who buys a Beeman HW 97K and then spends $500 getting it tuned, only to discover that the TX200 Mark III was better in the first place!

Ruger 10/22 Target
This is what $450 bought. A Ruger 10/22 Target that out-shot my custom rifle at 50 yards.

By this time, the silencer had come in and I had to reconfigure the rifle with the factory barrel, because the silencer adapter Dennis Quackenbush supplied was made to fit it. I found in that test that a silenced .22 rimfire isn’t as quiet as everyone imagines. Also, the accuracy remains about the same with or without the silencer attached.

Ruger 10/22 with silencer
And the entire drill was to acquire this legal silencer so I could report on it. It works, but not as well as most people think.

Along the way, I sort of got a brief reputation among the Shotgun News advertisers as a 10/22 guy, so Magnum Research let me test both their .22 rimfire and their .22 Magnum semiautos that are built on the Ruger pattern. The long rifle version is incredibly light, and the magnum gun was a tackdriver. If only I had the money to buy it at the end of the test!

Ruger 10/22 Magnum Research 22 Magnum
Boy, was this Magnum Research .22 Magnum a tackdriver!

Then, I tested another 10/22 wannabe (the Rhineland R22) and that was the extent of my exploration into this unfamiliar realm. I knew that Volquartsen (a maker of aftermarket upgrade parts for the 10/22) makes complete guns that are no doubt the best that money can buy, but I never sampled them.

Ruger 10/22 Rhileland R22
This Rhineland R22 doesn’t look like a 10/22, but it is on the inside. This one was chambered for .17 HM2.

But in all of this, I learned some fundamental lessons. First, with all the hype, the Ruger 10/22 is a pretty standard firearm…and other semiautos, like the Marlin model 60, for instance, are just as good. What makes the Ruger stand out are all the aftermarket accessories and all the talk — most of which is just talk and not to be believed. I learned that you do get what you pay for. By spending a little more money up front, you can save a lot more down the road.

Just FYI — this little trip down memory lane originally occupied seven feature articles, taking over 30,000 words and 130 pictures. I mention that because all the detail was omitted for today’s report.

Sheridan Knocabout

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Isaiah Garrison is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Isaiah Garrison is this week’s BSOTW.

It’s uncommon for a firearms manufacturer to make an airgun. Many of them put their names on airguns made by someone else, but not many bona fide firearms manufacturers actually produce them.

Even rarer is when an airgun manufacturer makes a firearm. It does happen, but it gives us cause to stop and wonder.

In 1952, Sheridan, the airgun maker from Racine, Wisconsin, began offering the Knocabout single-shot .22 long rifle pistol. When it was first produced, this unique pocket pistol retailed for $17.95 at the same time that the model A Sheridan air rifle was selling for $56.50! What a turnabout that was!


Sheridan Knocabout

Today’s report was requested by blog reader Robert of Arcade, who has waited patiently for this for several years. As most long-term readers know, Robert is an old-school hunter and trapper from upstate New York. One thing about the Knocabout that must appeal to him is its utility on a trapline for administering the coup de grace to any trapped animal. Of course, that’s not its sole purpose, but it’s one of the big attractions because of the gun’s budget price.

Knocabout is right
Before I continue, let’s get something straight. Knocabout is the correct spelling for this model. I’m aware that it’s not the right spelling of the actual English word. That would be knockabout. But Sheridan must have had their reasons for spelling it differently. And speaking for Pyramyd Air, we have no room to comment.

One of my little strategies for finding Sheridan Knocabouts on gun auction sites is to enter the word both ways. I often find that the seller spells it incorrectly in his caption of a photo of the box lid with the correct spelling!

Construction
The Knocabout is made in the most cost-effective way possible for the time, without stepping over the line into cheap. The barrel is a steel casting that also contains some of the features required for the breech. If it were made today, the barrel would be a thin liner pressed into an outer shell; but on the Knocabout, it’s a single, solid piece of steel with several machined areas that serve different functions.

The pistol weighs 1 lb., 7.30 oz. The barrel is 4-3/4 inches long and the overall length is 7 inches.

Two steel side plates contain all the action parts, riveted together into a working assembly. It’s not a very maintainable way to build a gun, but it sure avoids a lot of manufacturing steps. The best part is that it works very well! It’s not a minimal design that barely functions. It’s reliable, consistent and easy to operate.


You’re looking inside the grip frame at the mainspring that drives the hammer.


The pistol is upside-down, and you’re looking at the metal plates that hold everything together. The barrel release and triggerguard are at the right.

The floating firing pin sticks out of the breechblock when the hammer rests against it.. When the safety is applied, it cams the hammer slightly back, allowing the firing pin to be pushed back by its spring. For the sake of safety, you should always apply the safety before opening the gun.

The grip is comprised of two plastic shells that are screwed to the sides of the sheet steel grip frame by two sheetmetal screws in each grip. When they’re removed, you gain somewhat better access into the action for cleaning with cotton swabs, though no other parts can be removed because they’re all retained by the seven rivets that hold the sheetmetal frame halves together.

Functioning
The hammer is exposed and must be cocked manually. Then, open the breech by flipping the barrel up. Do this by pressing in on the lever sticking through the front of the triggerguard. The safety should be on when you do this. I found it best to load a cartridge, close the breech with the safety still on. Cock the gun and then release the safety when the muzzle is pointed toward the target. The instructions that are printed in the lid of the gun’s box tell you to do it this way.

The trigger-pull is single-stage and releases with 2 lbs. of pressure. There’s very little felt creep, and this trigger rates as a very good one!

The sights are cast and machined into the barrel casting. There’s a crisp, wide rear notch and a thinner front post that stands out clearly against a target with bright light falling on it. They’re non-adjustable, of course, but I admire how finished they appear to the shooter.

Shooting
I’m sure you want to know how the Knocabout shoots, so I took it to my local gun club and shot it on the 15-yard range. I used a rested two-hand hold and a 6 o’clock sight picture. The targets were 50-foot timed and rapid-fire pistol targets, and I was at 45 feet, so they were ideally sized.


I tried the Sheridan with a lot of different ammo.

I shot the pistol with high-velocity .22 long rifles, standard-speed rounds that are listed as subsonic and two types of CB capsbecause they’re made for guns like this. As an afterthought, I also included some inexpensive Russian standard-speed long rifle ammo that has proved mediocre in some of my other .22s. Who knows if they would somehow shine in this pistol?

This is a single-shot pistol that takes a lot of time to load, so I went with 5-shot groups for this test. I’m not going to show you every target I fired, but I’ll give all the results. I’ll show only the worst group and the best. The first target, however, I mis-counted and shot 6 rounds.


This 6-shot group measures 6.5 inches across — from the outside of the two holes farthest apart. It was shot with CCI CB Longs, a round that did well in my 6-part report on CB caps versus pellets. In the Knocabout, however, it was dead last.

Other rounds
Winchester Super-X high-velocity .22 long rifle rounds made a group that measured 5-3/8 inches across the two widest holes. Aguila Super Colibri made a 5-1/8 inch group. Then, CCI subsonics turned in a group that measured 2-3/8 inches across. That sounded very good in light of what had gone before. But, then, I tried the Russian Junior ammo. Amazingly, they struck the center of the bull and gave a group measuring just 1-7/8 inches across. The pistol really could shoot, after all! I only needed the right ammo.


This group of 5 Russian Junior rounds was astounding after what had gone before. It measures 1-7/8 inches across!

Two other guns
Someone who doesn’t know me might think that I don’t know how to shoot, so I thought I would shoot two other .22 handguns to put these results in perspective. One is a very early Ruger Single-Six with the flat loading gate, and the other is a nondescript Ruger Mark II Target pistol. I didn’t shoot as many different rounds in either of these guns as I did the Knocabout, but I shot enough to show that I can shoot.


This Single-Six is an older one.


Five Winchester Super-X rounds from the Ruger Single-Six made this 2-3/8 inch group that’s well-centered in the bull.


Ruger’s Mark II Target pistol is mundane, but highly accurate.


This target made by the Ruger Mark II with 5 CCI subsonic round measures 15/16 of an inch across the outside.

Compared to what?
I’ve said many nice things about the Knocabout. It probably sounds as though I think it’s almost a free pistol. The truth is, it’s a long way from that. But compared to the other inexpensive single-shot .22 pistols made at the same time, I think the Knocabout might just be the pick of the litter. It’s certainly much better than a Wamo Powermaster; and from what I know from examination but without shooting one, a Savage 101. I know there were a double handful of other cheap single-shots in the ’50s, and I’m going to guess that the Knocabout is probably better than all of them. Of course, what do I know? I haven’t tested any of them. I’m saying that based on what I see in front of me and what I know about Sheridan’s reputation at the time.


With the grips off, you can see what the pistol looks like underneath.


The barrel flips up for loading.

Some scope fundamentals: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This is one of the most popular reports I’ve done in a long time. That may be because scopes can be very cantankerous to deal with — hard to mount, difficult to zero, always seem to shift their zero, etc. Today, I’ll address some of the problems you can have and some ways to minimize them.

Scopes should work — no?
To the non-shooter, the telescopic sight seems like a guarantee of accuracy. We’ve all seen the movies. Put the crosshairs on the target, squeeze the trigger and you can’t miss.

Then, you try it for the first time, and you notice that you can’t keep the scope’s reticle (crosshairs) steady. As long as you hold the rifle, no matter what you do, the crosshairs move. Each beat of your heart makes them jump a little. Each breath you take in can move the scope or at least tilt it. You can minimize these movements through training, but nobody can eliminate them entirely. That’s why I shoot from a rest so often. But sometimes that doesn’t work — especially with spring-piston airguns. You have to learn the artillery hold; and since that technique goes well beyond what many people think, I’ll explain it more fully here.

Relax for a neutral hold
The artillery hold is really just a way to get you to follow through, but there’s more to it. An important part of the hold is how you are at the instant the gun fires. You have to be completely relaxed, so the gun doesn’t recoil back and encounter an off-center obstruction that shifts the muzzle in a certain direction.

Here’s how to achieve this relaxed state. After putting the crosshairs on your target, take a breath and expel most of it. Try to relax as you do this. The crosshairs will usually move off the target in a certain direction. If you had fired before relaxing, the pellet would have gone off target in the same direction the crosshairs just did. Maybe it wouldn’t have gone quite as far as the crosshairs seemed to, but it would have moved in the same direction. The result is a larger group.

Let’s try again. This time, after you relax, move the crosshairs back on target by shifting the gun or your hands slightly. It doesn’t take much.

Once you’re back on target, take a deep breath, close your eyes, let out most of the air and relax again. Now, open your eyes and see where the crosshairs are. They probably moved again, only this time they didn’t move so far. Shift things to get back on target again and repeat this procedure.

You may have to repeat this procedure several times before the crosshairs are still on target when you open your eyes. When they are, you can take the shot — making sure that you allow the gun to recoil and move as much as it wants to. This time, the shot should feel very different than it normally does. It should feel neutral — as though you’re no longer connected to the gun. That’s the feeling of a perfectly neutral shot and one that will group as tightly as the gun is capable of — if you can repeat the process several times.

What does this have to do with scopes? Everything! This is the only way to shoot a recoiling airgun with any accuracy; and until you can do that, you’ll never have much success with a scope.

With most firearms, except .22 rimfires, the hold isn’t nearly as important for accuracy because the bullet is out of the gun before all the movement takes place. But with airguns, and especially spring-piston airguns, the pellet hasn’t started to move before the gun does. Only a .22 rimfire is similar, and even they’re much more forgiving than most airguns.

However, you do need to know that all firearms are affected by hold, as well. Even centerfires that shoot in excess of 3,000 f.p.s. will benefit from the hold I’ve described here, but the amount of accuracy increase is so small that it’s only of interest to target shooters and long-range varmint hunters. The average shooter won’t normally notice the difference between a 1-inch group and a 1.25-inch group at 100 yards. Or if they do, they won’t care. I’ve heard that from so many shooters at my rifle range over the years that I know it’s true.

Now you’re ready
If you can learn how to neutralize your rested hold using the process I just described, you’ll see an immediate increase in accuracy from your scoped guns. Then, you’re ready to discuss scope fundamentals!

Temperature is critical
We don’t appreciate how sensitive a modern telescopic sight can be. I don’t mean fragile, either — I mean sensitive. Every change in temperature changes the point of impact of your scope a little. No scope is immune to this phenomenon, yet most shooters act as if once the scope is zeroed it stays zeroed.

Field target shooters know different. I’ve seen a field target scope with three different sets of click values on the elevation knob, each color-coded to a 20-degree temperature range. The shooter who owned that scope took the time to not only figure out all the elevation click values for every yard between 10 and 55 — he did it three separate times when the temperature was in three different ranges! That’s something Hollywood will never show you.

The optical elements inside a scope are refracting light to the millionths of an inch. When they move in relation to one another — because the metal tubes that hold them expand and contract from changes in temperature, the light beams do move. The movement is very slight, but it can and sometimes does change where the images appear. The point of aim changes.

There are many other reasons for a shift in the point of aim, but temperature is a constant one that must always be taken into account. If you’re looking for the way to prevent such changes, I’m sorry to disappoint you. There’s no solution to cancel the effect of temperature changes on a telescopic sight. But if you know it will happen you can at least anticipate it and adjust your scope when the time comes.

Reticles
There are so many different kinds of scope reticles that it would take a book to cover them all. And most of the highly specialized ones are for specific purposes, such as the ballistics of a single military round, so they have no place in a general discussion. I’ll address hree general types of reticles found on most scopes. If I miss something, you can bring it up in the comments.

The oldest type of reticle is the plain “crosshair,” which is two straight lines — one vertical and the other horizontal. In some scopes, these lines actually appear to move as the scope is adjusted, but that’s getting pretty rare today. More often, the crosshairs remain in place in the center of the image and the adjustments move the whole image, so you don’t notice anything.


The plain crosshair is the oldest type of reticle. This image shows thick reticle lines, but they can be much thinner for greater aiming precision.

Often a very thin reticle can be difficult to see against a background, so there will be a small dot at the center of the crosshairs that makes them stand out. This dot will be small, perhaps one or two minutes of angle (a minute of angle covers about one inch at 100 yards), but it doesn’t take much to be noticeable against anything but a dark woods background.


This dot looks large on the heavy reticle lines. But in many scopes, both the dot and reticle lines are very small and fine. This is just for illustration.

Plain crosshairs are best in open country and are therefore favored by long-range shooters. They’re fine for plinking, as long as the reticle lines aren’t too thin. They’re less useful in deep forests, where the reticle lines don’t stand out. For that terrain, probably nothing beats the duplex reticle.

The duplex reticle is a plain crosshair that has thicker lines near the edges of the field of view and thinner lines in the center. When I shot field target, I used a scope with a duplex reticle for two reasons. First, it was much easier to see in the deep woods where many matches are shot; and second, the duplex offers four additional aimpoints.

The duplex reticle uses crosshairs of two different sizes. The ends of the thick posts provide four additional aim points that can be used for things…like greater or lesser distance and wind.

Duplex reticles are the favorite of hunters, because they work well in deep foliage yet they permit precise aiming at the same time. Like plain crosshairs, duplex reticles come in different thicknesses.


In the mil-dot scope, the dots are an exact size (measured in mils) and are spaced apart an exact distance. On variable scopes, they must be used at one power setting to work as designed. Read the information that comes with the scope to discover how this works.

Mil-dot reticles are a more recent invention. They feature dots of a controlled size spaced along one or both reticles at regular spaces. Mil is short for milliradian, a measure of angle that, unfortunately, has never been standardized. Or perhaps it’s more correct to say that it has been standardized dozens of times — each with a different measurement. When I was a mortar platoon leader, our fire direction center and mortar sights used the old French measurement of 6,400 mils to a circle, but there are many other measurements that differ — some slightly and others in a more significant way.

One common use for the mil is rangefinding. Though it isn’t exact, we say that one mil subtends (covers) one meter at 1,000 meters. At 100 meters one mil subtends one-tenth of a meter or 3.9 inches. That’s so close to 4 inches that we round it up.

A whitetail deer is about 12 inches from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the chest. A two-mil dot will just about cover the deer’s chest at 150 meters.

Is that too much for you? It is for many hunters who still use the mil-dot scope for aimoff when there’s wind. Or they use the vertical dots for aim points at distances other than the range for which the scope is sighted.

Focusing the reticle
The first thing a shooter must do with a scope is focus the reticle. The eyepiece should adjust to allow you to do this, and it does on all but the cheapest scopes. Focus by looking through the scope at the sky or a light-colored wall and turn the eyepiece until the reticle appears in sharp focus. I’ve read that this is supposed to be done incrementally; because if you stare at the reticle very long, your eyes will naturally focus on it. So do it in stages.

After you focus the reticle, some scopes have a locking ring to hold that focus. Others don’t have the locking feature, but the focus rings should be stiff enough to hold your focus without it.

Focusing the reticle is very important for scopes with adjustable objectives, because the scope’s designers assume the scope is in sharp focus when the objective ring or sidewheel is turned. Only when the reticle is in focus will the scope come close to the distances marked off on the parallax ring or knob, which is the adjustable objective we are discussing. And, of course, that will also depend on the temperature when the scope is used.

On the other hand, on lower-powered scopes that have a fixed parallax setting you can use the focus to bring close targets into better focus. This isn’t what the adjustment is for and it will blur the reticle somewhat, but sometimes it’s the best way to use a low-priced, fixed-focus scope at closer distances than it’s intended.

FWB 300S vintage target air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


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.

Shot Velocity
…1……543
…2……560
…3……580
…4……615
…5……635
…6……633
…7……639
…8……647
…9……656

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?

Pellet velocity versus accuracy test: Part 7

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Before we begin today’s report, I want to reflect on a truth that helps explain why we’re sometimes dissatisfied with things when we get them. I was at the range last week testing some airguns, and I was using my Celestron 70C spotting scope, like I always do. This scope is good at 50 yards, but becomes marginal at 100 because it cannot resolve the smaller bullet holes. I don’t mean pellet holes, I mean .22-caliber bullet holes in the black bullseye at 100 yards.

A friend brought his Burris spotting scope to the range for me to compare, and the difference between the two was night and day. His scope was sharp enough to see small spiders walking on the target paper at 100 yards!

That same day, I shot a couple rifles my other friends had brought to the range. One of them was a fantastically accurate custom 6mm/.22 that can shoot a half-inch, 5-shot group at 100 yards. But it’s scoped with a BSA 4-24X scope that isn’t available at Pyramyd Air for good reason. It’s so dark and muddy that I couldn’t see the bullet holes as I shot this very accurate rifle. And I was shooting at a bright orange dot on white paper! I couldn’t see bullet holes on that! The scope was set at 16X because anything above that caused the image to go white from flare, and we were shooting in total shadow under a covered roof!

Another friend had a Lyman Super Targetspot scope that was 10X, and I could easily see all the holes his .220 Swift was making at 100 yards on the same kind of targets. So with six fewer magnifications, I was able to see the holes because of the superior optics. The Lyman scope is no longer made and a good used one will fetch about $800, while you can probably buy the BSA for under $200 all day long.

Back to the spotting scopes
My Celestron spotting scope has 30X, 60X and 90X power available. Where do I have it set? Between 30X and 60X, which is about 45X. Because anything greater than that muddies up the image too much — even at 50 yards. My friend’s Burris spotting scope only goes up to 45X maximum, yet it’s many times clearer than my Celestron. And I found on this day that only 10X was actually required to see .22-caliber holes at 100 yards on a light target. A black bull is probably harder to see with just ten power, but with 45 power it is easy!

So, I went home and researched that Burris spotting scope. It sells for about $175 at Midway, where the Celestron C70 Matsukov I have sells for about $80. But what good is it if it doesn’t do its primary job?

That got me thinking about shooters who purchase air rifles on the basis of velocity, alone, without appreciating all the other variables that come in the package. Things like smoothness, a good trigger and, most importantly, accuracy are pushed aside for velocity and low price.

I rant on about these things because they are also among my personal flaws. I’ve always tried to buy the cheapest of everything, and often the “mostest powerfulest,” too. So, I’m constantly drawn back to them whenever I find that I have made another dumb blunder.

On to today’s report
This was a day of great learning. When I summarize this series of tests, today will mark a big turning point, I believe. I learned a lot of things — all of which I will now show you.

Beeman Devastators
As always the first pellet tested was the lightweight Beeman Devastator. I’ve been amazed at the performance of this pellet from the start of this test, and last time I predicted that it would shoot even smaller groups this time.

Sorry, but that didn’t happen. The first four shots seemed to confirm the need to “season” the bore before shooting each new pellet. I’m showing that target here so you can see what I saw.


This sight-in target for Beeman Devastators fooled me. Shot one was the upper right. Shots two and three were in the same hole on the left and shot four was between that group and the first shot. At the time, I felt this was demonstrating the need to “season” the bore before shooting a group with this pellet.


This group of Devastators seemed to suggest that the barrel wasn’t fully seasoned yet. Group measures 0.956 inches between centers.

Shot one was the on at the high right, then the tight group of shots at the left were the next seven shots. Just when I was about to proclaim a universal law of bore seasoning had been discovered, shots nine and ten fell between the first shot and the group at the left.

Now, I was in a quandary. If the last two shots had strayed from the group in the same direction as the first shot, what was it telling me? Maybe the bore didn’t need seasoning. Maybe the Devastator just doesn’t like this velocity. Only another group would tell me for sure.


This second target of 10 Beeman Devastators shows that the barrel didn’t need to be seasoned. It simply isn’t responding well to this velocity. Group measures 0.724 inches between centers.

I believe that this particular velocity is one the Devastator pellet doesn’t like. As you know, I haven’t touched the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) on the barrel of my Whiscombe during this test. And I won’t. I don’t really care how accurate the gun is with a certain pellet. I was trying to see if there is a linear relationship between velocity and accuracy, and these two groups suggest that there isn’t. You’ll have to read the rest of this report to fully understand what I mean.

Crosman Premier lites
Next, I shot 10 Crosman Premier lites at 25 yards. This time, the target was very good, but the point of impact moved about a half-inch higher than last time. I was prepared to shoot four shots to season the bore, but the pellets kept going through the same hole, more or less, so I just completed the group without any seasoning.


This is a nice group of 10 Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets at 25 yards. It measures 0.747 inches and is actually slightly larger than the smallest group of Devastators. It’s almost identical to the last group shot during the previous test, so no big change in group size with this pellet.

The change of impact point was another big lesson this time. I’d seen it earlier, but not as dramatically as this time. The overall size of the group remained the same as before. That’s another indication that this is a barrel vibration issue and not one that’s driven by a change in velocity.

Beeman Kodiaks
The next pellets I tested were the Beeman Kodiaks, which have performed so well to this point. This time, the point of impact shifted up about three-quarters of an inch, but the group remained very tight. This time, 10 shots went into a group measuring 0.472 inches at 25 yards, which I believe is currently the best group of this entire test. Last time, they gave us a group measuring 0.628 inches.


Kodiaks continue to be the best pellet of the test. This group of 10 measures 0.472 inches between centers.

Eun Jin
And, now, it’s time to report the performance of the super-heavyweight 16.1-grain Eun Jin pellet. Last time, they made the worst showing and that continued into this test, as well. What was different was the fact that the point of impact dropped more than two inches with what was just a slight reduction in velocity.


I was aiming at the center of the bull above, where they impacted! This was a dramatic change of impact point from the last test. Group size for these 10 Eun Jin pellets was 1.27 inches between centers. That’s a little larger than last time, but the change of impact was far more noticeable.

What have we learned?
Well, nothing has been linear in this series of tests — the way I expected. But what the vibrations are doing seems pretty obvious. So, the next test is both needed, as well as anticipated.

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