Posts Tagged ‘Roanoke show’

2012 Roanoke Airgun Show

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

Every airgun show has one or more themes. Some shows have piles of new-old-stock airguns that have been recently found. I remember at one show seeing stacks of S&W 78G and 79G target pistols that had never been sold. They were over 30 years old and still new in the box. At another show, there was a pile of Johnson Indoor Target Guns in the same condition, only the boxes were disintegrating after 60 years in storage. And, once, at Little Rock, a guy pulled up to the door and unloaded about thirty LNIB airguns that he’d purchased 20 years earlier. They were all high-grade guns, and he wanted exactly what he’d paid for them. Imagine being able to buy a Beeman R1 at a 1985 price!

At this show, the theme seemed to be entrepreneurial airgunners and what they’ve done. Paul Watts was the first table I visited. Edith and I remember when Paul Watts was just getting started as an airgun tuner. He had no idea then who he would turn out to be. But his friend brought the first major tuning job he ever did and had it on display at the show. It’s an R1 with a special steel base block that allows you to swap barrels!

Beeman R1 Paul Watts interchangeable barrels
Paul Watts’ first major airgun modification was this Beeman R1. He made it accept barrels of different calibers, plus he stocked it in this beautiful figured walnut stock. A friend found it for sale on Gun Broker.

Another major entrepreneur is Mike Reames, who works in CO2 like nobody else. Where others have been content to reseal and tune guns, Mike’s been making his own designs for many years. This year, I was attracted to one of his ball-flask pistol creations on a collector’s table. I’m sure the design of the gun will surprise many of you, but that wasn’t what caught my eye.

Mike Reams ball flask CO2 pistol with interchangeable barrels
Mike Reames made this CO2-powered ball-flask pistol that has interchangeable barrels.

What really startled me was finding out that Mike was making the swaging dies for the bullets that fit the several interchangeable barrels for the pistol. If he can do that, I wondered (aloud) if he might also make a custom swage for my Nelson Lewis rifle barrel? Mike was enthusiastic about the project, so I now have a source for a die that cannot be obtained anywhere else! Why do I need it? Because the original Nelson Lewis dies don’t work very well, and Mike’s apparently are very easy to use! You know there will be a full report coming!

Mike Reams outside lock guns
Mike Reames is working on these two outside lock designs. Can you believe things like this are being made today?

Two of our regular readers — Ridgerunner and Fred from the People’s Republik of New Jersey — came to the tables Mac and I shared and spent a lot of time with us. Both men brought guns to sell, and both walked out with cash or different guns! Both had been to this show before, and I think they’ll agree that it was larger this year than last.

Mac and Ridgerunner
Mac (seated) talks airguns with Ridgerunner. They were about to strike a big deal!

Ridgerunner brought his FWB 601 target rifle, among other things. He was looking to turn it into a Talon SS. Mac was selling a real sweetie that I built for him years ago. It has a special 26-inch, .177-caliber HW barrel and is an extremely good long-range airgun. The two of them did the tarantula dance for a couple hours (really — I’m not kidding!) and then deal was done.

Literally minutes after the deal was closed, Mac put his new gun in the rack (it still had Ridgerunner’s pricetag on it), and a young man asked him for the full tour. The gun had everything, and Mac pulled it all out of the box to show him. Then he shrugged, looked at his wife, thanked Mac and walked away. I sat down and started planting the seeds of desire in Mac’s mind, telling him of the treasures I would give him for the gun and why he needed to write a guest blog about it. Then, after an hour, the young man and his wife reappeared at our table, and he said he guessed he had to have it! It was bittersweet! I was glad to see Mac score so soon, yet I wanted to be the one who got the gun.

FWB 601 and 350 Magnum
Ridgerunner’s FWB 601 and Fred’s 350 Magnum.

I once wrote that we’re only temporary caretakers of the airguns we have. If you think about it, 30 years before now others enjoyed many of the guns in your safe. I just wanted to be the caretaker of that 601 for a couple years — just to be able to say I had one.

Without a doubt, Friday was the day with the heaviest traffic, as buyers have learned to come early to get the best deals. In fact, I sold two guns on Thursday evening as we were setting up. The sales came both early and often for Mac and me. But not everybody had the same experience. Price was a bigger concern this year than at any time in the past, and our stuff was priced pretty low. As I walked around the show, I saw tables where the other dealers had figured this out, as well, and they seemed to be selling, too. But the tables with higher-priced guns just seemed to have more tire-kickers than usual.

HW EL54 Baracuda
This ether-injected HW Barakuda was priced at only $700! That’s about $300-400 off the normal asking price for one.

On Saturday, I bought a beautiful Chinese sidelever springer that I’ll show you very soon. I was surprised by the high level of finish the gun has (it’s like new in the box). When the dealer put a price of $40 on it, I almost bought it on the spot. The only thing that stopped me was that another dealer was there and saw the gun, too, and he said he had one at his table that he needed to reduce, if that one was going for only $40. But when I went to his table, the price was still higher — so I marched back and bought the first one. Wait until you see it!

There were also guns that were for display only. Crosman collector Tom Slocum showed the only known model 1400 that was ever made in .177 caliber. It has a beautiful walnut stock. Not only does he have the rifle, which is in new condition by the way, but he also has the original bill of sale that proves this is a .177-caliber 1400. And there’s a letter from Crosman documenting it as well.

Crosman 1400
This Crosman 1400 is the only known .177. The stock is walnut.

Another innovator is our own Lloyd Sykes, of Benjamin Rogue fame. Lloyd now runs AirgunLab.com and is best-known for offering the Disco Double — an extra air reservoir tube kit to expand the capacity of your Benjamin Discovery. But there was a .25-caliber, 90 foot-pound rifle on the table, too. So Lloyd is becoming another source for reasonably-priced custom airguns. We talked and agreed that I’ll test one of his inventions soon.

Lloyd Sykes
Lloyd Sikes (seated) shows his new 90 foot-pound rifle to a customer.

This year, many readers of this blog stopped by and introduced themselves. A lot of you don’t make comments on the blog, but you say that you read it regularly. I want you to know that seeing you at this show was one of the high points for me. It’s nice to know there are real folks out there enjoying the same things I do.

Any regrets?
I was very parsimonious at this show. I only bought one gun, though I saw several I liked. One of them was so good it’s going to give me regrets, I am afraid. A cased FWB 65 with all the equipment in a factory case was offered for just $250. I had other places for my money to go or I would have broken my hand paying that price!

The other regret is one that unfortunately cannot be avoided. When Dennis Quackenbush read off the names of the airgunners who are no longer with us, a thousand images flooded my mind. Even Dennis got choked up as he read the long list of those who have left the range. And the really sad part is that it was just the list for one year! The older airgunners are starting to leave us in numbers that are too great to bear.

Of course, the show came to a close all too soon. Like old-time settlers in a wagon train, we all broke camp and packed our guns away. As we headed out, each of us was thinking of the next show and what we might see. I hope to see some more of you readers at next year’s show.

2011 Roanoke Airgun Show

by B.B.Pelletier

There I was, at the Roanoke airgun show, and this year was REALLY different! For starters, it wasn’t in Roanoke. It was up a small mountain road several miles south of the big city, and I thought that would keep the attendance down. But at the Friday opening, there were hundreds of attendees who came through the doors. And those who struggled to find the place were rewarded with what I have to categorize as the very best airgun show I’ve been to. Allow me to explain.


About midway through the first day, and the show was doing a brisk business.

It seems that hard financial times have hit the airgun market, and as a result there were too many great buys to count. Also, something else happened that I guess is like the changing of the guard. It seems that many of the old graybeards were cleaning out their closets and selling most everything they had. Some strange metal surfaced to bait the faithful, as well as the tried and true guns we all love.

One thing I was looking for are readers of this blog. RidgeRunner was first to step up and introduce himself. He was doing his impression of a walking garage sale by lugging a rifle, pistol and a daypack full of pellets around the show. And the last time I saw him, I think he had bought some pellets! Talk about taking coals to Newcastle!


RidgeRunner was happy to be at the show.

Lloyd and his beautiful wife, Mary Ellen, were next to stop by. Mary Ellen was returning home from a business trip, and her plane was diverted to Roanoke; so Lloyd did the manly (and opportunistic) thing by rushing down to pick her up. We gabbed about old times while Mary Ellen looked around her very first airgun show. She said she was impressed, and I think that was an honest appraisal because for some reason this was a classy show.

Usually, a show has some sort of “flavor.” By that I mean that there will be one or more memorable things that happen only at that particular show. I remember one where there were new-in-the-box Smith & Wesson 78G and 79G pistols stacked up in piles. At another show, a man was trying to sell a genuine Girardoni military rifle. I was flabbergasted when he sold it for $3,500. Several years afterward, I was even more flabbergasted to see a similar rifle sell for over $50,000!

I look for those “patterns” at every show, and they help me report the show. At this show, I couldn’t see any pattern on Friday. Maybe there was a smallish group of 10-meter target rifles for sale and a few nice Benjamin Discovery rifles were out on the tables, but I couldn’t see any real patterns.

But what did happen at this show more than at others I’ve been to was that we had time to actually talk. Several other readers came by and even people I know just from seeing them at every show I attend; but, for once, there was time to really talk. And as a result, I was set straight on a number of technical topics. The beauty of that is that Edith wasn’t there to keep me in line, so the task was shared by many people. Of course, they weren’t as good at it as Edith is…but, then, she’s had many years of practice.

Mac shared a table with me, and he had a super first day! He brought most of his stable of 10-meter rifles, plus many of his finest sporting guns. His first sale was an FWB 124 I tuned about 10 years ago, and it still averages 881 f.p.s. with Premier lites. After that, his guns were flying off the table as I watched enviously from the sidelines. Part of his success is due to his engaging style. He stood in the aisle in front of the table and hooked them as they ventured too close.


Mac discusses the finer point of airgun trivia with a patron who moved too slow.

I’m always on the lookout for different things, and Wayne Fowler had one on his table. It was a .35-caliber single-shot round ball shooter with a ball reservoir that Mike Reames made. Wayne said his pistol is very accurate, so he mounted a red dot sight to the barrel and shot a group with it. The proof is right in the center of the bull.


Wayne Fowler’s handmade pistol drilled the bull. The 18th century meets the 21st as the red dot sight sits atop a round rifled barrel. Strange but true!


Want a ball reservoir pistol of your own? A customer deals with maker Mike Reames, who has several unsold ball reservoirs on his table.

I vowed I wasn’t going to buy anything at this show, and that resolution lasted until almost 12 hours before the doors opened. How could I need anything more, I asked, as I forked over the cash for several impulse purchases made while chatting at the motel the evening before the show opened? You’ll be seeing the results of those purchases in upcoming events. But here’s one: Edith has been asking for a slingshot with a laser for almost a year, and I found one for her that has a laser and a red dot sight. (Note from Edith: Woohoo! He’s right. Ever since I saw some online demo videos, I’ve been wanting one of these.)

Saturday
The Saturday show was much different than Friday. Saturday is normally when the locals come; and while a few did make it in, it was a very slow day. Mostly dealers trading with dealers.

I did overhear conversations between several dealers saying they’d had as good a show as ever despite the smaller size and change of location. I would estimate was only 75% as large as the Roanoke shows of the past. There’s room to grow in the current facility, and show promoter Davis Schwesinger has plans to do just that.

One last comment. Although I mentioned him earlier and even showed a picture of one of his pistols, I must say that Mike Reames, who makes the unusual ball reservoir pistols, is making a name for himself. His work is of good quality, and everybody who gets one seems to enjoy it. I think we’ll do more with Mike in the future.

The show ended around 2 P.M. Saturday, but all the dealers I talked to said they were coming back next year. I know that many of the dealers who were not there will make plans to attend. It may take a while, but I think we’ll grow this into a fine, large airgun show, again.

Airgun selling strategies

by B.B.Pelletier

I attended a gun show this past weekend; and on the first day, I noticed something that I’ve seen for many years but never appreciated. Most of the people who attend gun shows don’t know what airguns are worth. You can benefit from that.

Nobody knows what airguns are worth!
Across the aisle from me, a dealer had a Daisy model 21 double-barreled gun laid out. When I examined it, I noticed that it was really beat-up. It was a 20 percent gun, at best.

The dealer said he wanted a thousand dollars for this gun, because he’d seen one new in the box selling for $3,500 on the internet. He knew his was a junker, but he figured it must be worth that much at least.

He probably saw the asking price for the new-in-the-box gun. There are lots of outrageous prices like that online, and they usually never get a nibbler. But some people use those bogus prices as their starting point, and this dealer was one of them.

I’ll be attending the Roanoke Airgun Expo in a couple weeks, and I expect to see half a dozen to twenty model 21 Daisys, ranging from $300 for beaters, like the one I described, up to perhaps $1,400 for one like-new in the box. Yes, the price spectrum is really that broad, but it doesn’t continue on up into the stratosphere like many people hope and dream.

So, here’s an idea. Get a real cheap model 21 and bring it to a gun show! While you’re at it, there are many more airguns you can dispose of in this manner.

Airguns that firearms people like
You can’t go wrong with any of the Winchester-marked Diana breakbarrels. At the gun show, they think the name adds value. So your $200 Winchester 427 is now worth $250 or even more.

Older Benjamins and Crosmans always seem to go well. Since I am old myself, let me explain that by old I mean pre-1960. Pre-war is even better. And by pre-war, I mean before World War II.

Older and classic Daisys sell well. Older Daisys command attention wherever they are. But there are classic guns that don’t have to be old. The No. 25 is the poster child of all classic BB guns, and guns made in Rogers in the 1970s are very attractive to non-airgun buyers. You can pick them up cheap everywhere and make a nice profit when you sell them to someone who doesn’t know how common they are.

Another certain seller is an older, well-made gun like a Webley Senior or a Tell III. However, you have to buy them right, because gun show guys just don’t understand $300 pellet guns. Guns like the Weihrauch HW 45 (Beeman P1) are not so good, because you’ll usually have to pay too much to get them; or if you do get one right, it’ll be too hard to explain it to a non-airgunner.

But whatever you bring has to function, because these guys don’t want to collect them. They’ll be reliving their childhood with the treasures they buy from you. Spend the money to get them sealed and working before you lay them out, and you’ll be surprised at the response you get.

Older, vintage-looking guns
There’s a small market for wall-hangers at gun shows. I recently sold several cheap shotguns to guys who just wanted them as accent pieces for the wall. Well, what about older Daisys and Kings that reek of the 1920s? What about a real old Benjamin model D that isn’t worth fixing, but has great lines? Just be sure to pay pennies for guns like this, because you’ll sell them for pennies, as well.

Safety first
One thing you absolutely cannot do at a gun show is dry-fire an airgun. People do it at airgun shows, and I think some folks believe it’s okay. If you do it even one time at a gun show, you’ll be ejected from the show and banned from returning.

Become “the airgun guy”
Pick a gun show and attend it regularly. Soon, the dealers and veteran attendees will know you as the airgun guy. Whenever someone brings an airgun to the show, they’ll be directed to your table. Whenever someone asks about where the airguns are, they’ll be sent to you. You won’t have much competition at most of the smaller gun shows, from what I’ve seen.

The more regularly you attend a show, the more traffic you’ll build. These are people who will come to the show just because they know you’ll be there. They may have a gun that needs to be fixed or they may have just bought a collection that included airguns. Whatever the connection, if you’re the airgun guy, all the business will come to you.

Sterling HR-81 .177 underlever air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This report is specifically for blog reader Robert from Arcade, who mentioned last week that he always wanted to own a Sterling air rifle, but didn’t have the money when they were available. Well, I can relate to that! My Sterling just jumped into my lap at the Roanoke airgun show last year. It was at the very end of the show when Jim Grossman came over to my table and offered me the Sterling for a BAM B-40 I had on the table. I took the trade because I was intrigued by the rifle, but also because I’d be able to test the Sterling for you. It’s not a common air rifle by anyone’s definition, and I think it’s always nice to be able to look at something a little different.

At the time we made this deal, I was unaware who I was dealing with. I only found out after I returned home that it was Jim, from whom I purchased the Haenel model 1. Jim is the guy who packs all his guns in custom-fitted foam containers for shipping. He is also the guy who let us look at his Relum Supertornado underlever back in December 2009.


The Sterling HR-81 underlever spring-piston air rifle was designed in the UK and ultimately manufactured in the United States by Benjamin Sheridan.

The Sterling is an unusual spring rifle in many ways. I guess the main way it differs from all other airguns is that it was originally made in the UK by the Sterling Armament Co., the company that is more famous for making the Sterling submachine gun in World War II. Then, the rights to manufacture were purchased by Benjamin, and it was made right here in this country. The Blue Book of Airguns puts a small premium on the guns built in the UK, but I like the idea of owning a U.S.-made rifle. I have no idea which one is scarcer, but I do know that when Crosman bought Benjamin in 1994 they stopped production of the Sterling very quickly.

Lothar Walther barrels
Here’s a bit of trivia. I was present at the Baldwinsville airgun show when Davis Schwesinger of Air Rifle Specialists sold Dennis Quackenbush 1,000+ surplus Lothar Walther barrels that had been destined for Sterlings. Davis obtained them from Crosman after the Sterling was cancelled. I guess in the 1990s, Crosman wasn’t interested in making spring-piston air rifles. The staff has changed since then, and I bet they wouldn’t throw away a whole design like this today! Dennis used those barrels for his projects for many years.

What is the Sterling air rifle?
The Sterling is an underlever spring-piston rifle that has a unique bolt-action loading system. To load the gun, you lift the bolt handle and it jumps to the rear under spring tension. The pellet is then put into the loading trough in front of the bolt; and once the bolt is pushed forward and down, the rifle is loaded. The bolt handle is located at the rear of the action, but the tip of the bolt is located over 8 inches forward. The loading port or trough is closer to the front of the action. The spring that pushes the bolt handle back when you raise the handle must be overcome to close the bolt after loading. In that respect, it feels a lot like working the action of an old SMLE battle rifle. And, because the bolt is spring-loaded, you feel that closing it cocks the rifle, but it doesn’t. Cocking is accomplished by pulling back on the underlever until the sear catches the piston, just like any other underlever.


The bolt handle is located at the rear of the action, but the loading trough (the dished-out area on top of the action) is toward the front.


This is how the rifle is marked with the maker’s name.


The model number and caliber are marked on the right side of the receiver.

Sterlings were made in three calibers: .177, .20 and .22. I don’t know if Benjamin was the reason the .20 caliber was in the lineup, because Benjamin owned Sheridan at the time they bought Sterling, and the Sheridan airguns never existed in any caliber other than .20. Perhaps one of our more savvy readers can tell us if there were ever any .20s made when Sterling was still a UK brand.

A quick check of the internet reveals that Sterling rifles were fraught with quality issues. The triggers were the most-often criticized parts, as they tended to break and fall apart in use. Only the wood stock held some of the trigger pins in place, and sometimes they didn’t even do that. The sights were next, with the rear sight being considered substandard to even the TS-45 Chinese rear sight. Apparently, the 2-piece front sight fell off often, so Benjamin made it a 1-piece part. The screws all over the gun fell out from vibration. In fact, twangy operation was almost a universal criticism of the Sterling design.


The trigger with the manual safety lever. Notice the trigger pin that’s free to fall out through the stock cutout for the safety.

But Jim Grossman has been inside my Sterling, because it doesn’t vibrate too much and the mainspring has a light coat of tar instead of the lithium grease that Benjamin used. My trigger is single-stage and lets go at just 2.5 lbs. The pull is a little creepy, but it’s well within the realm of decent triggers.

I also see a square-section mainspring inside the rifle. Jim told me he got the rifle off the airgun classifieds, and it was very twangy when he got it. It also dieseled badly. When he opened it up, he found a lot of grease forward of the piston seal, which served as fuel for the dieseling. He installed a Merlin spring that he bought from Jim Maccari. He verified that it is, indeed, a square-section wire spring. He lubed it with just a hint of black tar to get rid of most of the twang.

The rifle is stunningly heavy, at 8 lbs., 10 oz. Yet, it delivers the power of the Beeman R7. We’ll see that more closely when I test the velocity. That, more than anything other than the poor build quality, probably doomed the design. An underlever is always heavier than a breakbarrel, simply because of the extra lever, but you don’t expect a rifle this heavy to be so underpowered.

My gun is the HR-81, which is the plain version of the rifle. It has a beech stock that is not checkered, but has a ventilated black rubber recoil pad. The metal is polished fairly well, but it’s not perfect like a TX200 or an FWB 300. It’s much better than most of what is being sold today in the $300 price range. The front sight is fixed to the gun — a decision Benjamin apparently made. Although it’s designed to take interchangeable inserts, the screw-in back that holds the inserts in place has been lost. Without it, the front sight cannot be used unless you glue them in place. The factory rear peep sight did not come with the rifle. From the comments I’ve read, I’m not missing anything important. Fortunately, there ‘s a long 11mm dovetail atop the receiver, so I’ll just install a scope.

There was also a deluxe model called the HR-83. It had a checkered walnut stock with a raised cheekpiece. When Benjamin took over manufacture, the look of the rifle and the shape of the stock, not to mention the selection of the wood they used, all improved noticeably.

Another interesting minor trivia point is that I found my exact rifle for sale on Auction Arms back in 2007. It was referenced on the Vintage Airgun Forum, and I was able to call up the expired sales page and identify my rifle from the various patterns in the wood. It doesn’t mean anything or add any value to the gun, but it’s interesting that it sold back then for about what I traded for it at Roanoke. I don’t think this rifle appreciates much over time.

One final comment. If you read the reviews, you’ll see split opinions about the quality of the Sterling. Some say it’s a high-quality air rifle, while others criticize it soundly. Nobody feels neutral about the rifle. I took the time to analyze these remarks and came to the conclusion that it was people who were unfamiliar with airguns who thought the quality was high. Experienced shooters were able to compare it to other guns and thought the Sterling came out second best. I’m going to reserve my opinion until I see the whole test, because I want to give the rifle every chance to succeed.

A safe strategy for no-loss – mostly gain – airgun collecting – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I wanted to follow up with this second part right away to keep the lesson together and fresh. Yesterday, when I closed, I mentioned some huge pitfall to be avoided, so let’s begin there.

Modified guns
Avoid modified airguns if you want to get your money back! There are a few exceptions that prove the rule, but let’s explore this first. Any modification will sit well with the one who did it or for whom it was done and a percentage of the general public, but the rest of the folks won’t like it. For example, barrels cut short to boost velocity in spring guns. It doesn’t pay to do this and it often ruins accuracy, but the flat truth of it is, it makes the gun no longer standard. Do you want a Beeman R1 with an 11-inch barrel? Most people don’t, and if you buy one you’ll soon find that out.

Avoid guns that have been modified/gunsmithed by their owners. That 2240 with the 14-inch barrel, the custom wood grips and the dot sight might make you all warm and pink inside, but it won’t ever be worth what you have to pay for it. Buy it for yourself if you want, but don’t try to fold it into this buying plan, because it won’t hold its value.

One exception to this that proves the rule is the LD modification of the Crosman Mark I. That’s a safe investment as long as you buy it right. But the same sort of thing converted by Joe Blow isn’t going to carry water. So, in general, modified airguns are money pits.

Guns in poor condition
I see it all the time. Some dealer unrolls a blanket with the battered and rusted components of a gun that would have great value if it were in nice condition. Then he hunkers down over the remains of his former treasure and demands top price for something that belongs in the parts pile.

Condition really matters in airguns, as it does in most other hobbies where collecting is involved. The only way out is when the gun is also valued as a shooter, such as the 124 I mentioned yesterday. My rusty find for $35 had value as a shooter but never as a collectible. A sale price of $185 might be possible for a slicked-up shooter, but don’t even think of trying to get $200 or more. On the other hand, an excellent condition 124 with a rotten seal should still bring $250. Condition is everything.

Let’s look at some other things to be on the lookout for. Rarity is one. If a person tried to sell you a 1953 Corvette in nice shape are you smart enough to know what you’re looking at, or are you a person who thinks that somewhere along the way somebody stuck a six-banger engine in this Vett to save on gas? Because the first several years of Corvettes all have six-cylinder engines; but if you don’t know that, you’re oblivious to their value.

What do you do when someone hands you a Brown Pneumatic in the box with the instructions that look like blueprints? What’s one of those worth? Or a guy has two Winsel jet-powered pistols in boxes he wants to sell for $25 apiece because he can’t get them filled anymore. What are they worth?


Collector Larry Hannusch owns this beautiful Brown Pneumatic air pistol in the box with the original instructions. This is such a desirable airgun that it heads the Vintage Airguns Forum page.


Ever see one of these? Would you know what to do if you did see one for sale? It’s a Winsel.

Or, you walk into a consignment store, like a friend of mine did a few years ago, and there sits a Quackenbush Lightning with a $500 price tag on it. The store owner researched Quackenbush airguns on Gun Broker and he found that Model 1 and 2 guns bring $400-500 in good condition, so he figured this one should do the same — whatever it is. Actually, this Quackenbush is one of the rarest of all airguns, at least as rare as a Plymouth Iron Windmill BB gun that predated the First Model Daisy wire stock gun. Wes Powers said he only knows of half a dozen Lightnings that still have their rubber-band-propelled sliding rear chamber that builds the compression. So, here sits a gun worth, conservatively, $5,000 to $10,000, and however much more the next ardent buyer is willing to spend to get it. Do you know enough to spend the $500 to buy the gun, or will you wait and ask somebody days later, only to find out you alerted the neighborhood and the gun is gone.

Knowledge is power
In this business, you have to know the merchandise, and the Blue Book of Airguns is a great place to begin. Yeah, it’s full of contradictions and errors and omissions, but there’s nothing else on the market to replace it. And the people who criticize it the most are the same ones who won’t give you a straight answer to save their lives. So, buy the freakin’ book and be done with it.

Along with that, the more you know about the shooting sports in general, the better off you’ll be in this business. I have a library filled with old Stoeger catalogs and Gun Digests from decades past that tell me things about airguns that no other books contain. I go to gun shows and talk to the guys who have a couple old Crosmans on their table.

Maybe, if I do that, one of them will level with me that he has a Sheridan under his table that looks different than the modern Sheridans. It has a big aluminum receiver! Trouble is, it won’t hold air when he pumps it, and he doesn’t want anyone to get a bad deal from buying a gun that doesn’t work.


A fine Sheridan Supergrade needs to be cocked to hold air. But how many people know that?

I’ll buy it because I happen to know that the Sheridan Supergrade this guy has under the table has to be cocked before it will hold air. That’s what I mean when I say knowledge is power.

Don’t do this!
The kiss of death at a gun show or an airgun show is to insert yourself into the conversation between two people talking business. But why does it continue to happen? I’ll be closing a super deal and some motormouth will queer it with his comment about the gun I’m trying to buy. It doesn’t take much, because when a deal is closing either one or both the buyer and seller are as nervous as a teenaged girl on her first serious date.

The proper etiquette is to wait for the conversation to stop before asking one of the persons, now disengaged, your question. There’s no call for a smart remark in this situation. Save that for the party at the roadhouse this evening.

Now that’s not to say that you can’t follow a guy who’s trying to sell a gun you want to buy and stopping him in the aisles, but wait until after he’s left the dealer’s table.

Do make the shows!
If you really want to go far in this hobby, you owe it to yourself to make the airgun shows. Especially the really big one in Roanoke, which will be happening this month on Friday, October 22, and Saturday, October 23. That’s where all the action is. This is where I once saw a $60,000 military Girandoni change hands for $3,500 in the aisles. This is where three BB guns once sold for in excess of $40,000. This is where Robert Beeman once walked the aisles (when the show was in Winston-Salem) and Olympic double gold medalist and current CMP chief, Gary Anderson, once had a table. People fly in from around the world. If airguns are your thing, this is the show to attend.

You don’t have to have a table to have fun at this show. And by all means come on the first day when the dealing is the hottest. Here’s a flyer on the show with all the information.And if you do come this year, please stop by my table and introduce yourself. I’d love to meet you.

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