Posts Tagged ‘Roanoke’

The 2010 Roanoke Airgun Expo – Day two

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The airgun show continued on Saturday, and a firearms show opened in the same civic center complex. Paying admission to the firearms show also got you into the airgun show, so we saw several of those buyers walking in our aisles. It’s odd to see a guy carrying a firearm at an airgun show, but that’s what happens when two shows are run at the same time.

On this day, I got a first-time attendee’s appraisal of the show, which is always interesting. He said he came to the show with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I guess that about sums it up for most of us. If you came to buy just a Beeman R11 and didn’t find one, you might think the show was a bust despite being in the presence of some of the rarest, most collectible airguns ever assembled. If they didn’t have what you wanted, for you the show was bad.

No expectations
But arrive without a preconceived notion of what you might find, and a show like this can bowl you over! For example, I’ve been wanting a Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic to replace the one I had to sell years ago when The Airgun Letter went out of publication. Money was tight, so a number of firearms and airguns were sold. That was back in the days when a Supergrade in nice condition would bring $600. Only two years ago, the same gun might have brought $1,500-2,000. But at this show, I sat just 10 feet from a beauty that was listed at $1,300 — a very good price for a nice Supergrade. I’d just enough to buy it at one point, but it would have tapped me out completely, so I had to let it pass. That is the agonizing that Lloyd wrote about yesterday.


This very late model Sheridan Model A (called the Supergrade) was only a few feet away. The price was as nice as the gun!


A Sheridan Supergrade doesn’t shoot any harder or more accurately than a Blue Streak, but it does it with style.

I told you yesterday that reader and guest blogger Paul had found a special air rifle at the show. What he found was a boxed Walther Lever Action rifle, the one that looks like a Winchester 1894, that impressed him very much. In person, the Walther is quite stunning, with only wood and metal touching your hands. I could tell by his smile that this rifle made his day.

But, as he was telling Mac and me goodbye, he kept eyeing a Beeman C1 of Mac’s on the table. I think he expected his wife, who was with him, to talk him out of it, but when he returned to the table a short time later, he mumbled something about her being an enabler. In other words, Paul’s wife is a lot like my Edith! Long story short, he went away with another fine air rifle.

Fabulous Hakim
Remember me telling you yesterday about the Falke 90 rifle and how it may have been the gun from which the Hakim was copied? Well, I wanted to show Mac why I thought that, so I glanced around for a Hakim to use in demonstration. And there, in a rack close by, was the finest Hakim I’ve even seen — short of one that Larry Hannusch completely refinished! Its owner/seller said he had hand-picked it from a Navy Arms pile back when they were first imported to this country back in the 1980s. There was at least one other Hakim at the show, and it wasn’t too bad, but this one was exceptional.

More fine vintage stuff
Over at Davis Schwesinger’s table, I spotted not one but two rare Winsel bulk-fill CO2 pistols. I recently used one of these as an example of a rare airgun, so seeing two of them in one place is similar to seeing two Stradivarii at a fiddlefest.


The Winsel was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail in the reservoir for refills. The gun on the left is missing its reservoir.

Nearby was a beautiful Warrior air pistol. These are quite rare and very beautiful examples of a quality-made handgun. The bluing and heft of the gun is very firearm-like.


The Warrior is a heavy, all-steel sidelever air pistol that’s worth a used car.

But, perhaps, the best thing I saw on Dave Schwesinger’s table was a collection of old Beeman catalogs. Among them was a super-rare first catalog with a San Anselmo address. If you’ve followed my report on the history of Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman you know that San Anselmo was the Beemans’ home, and they used a P.O. box for the business. Inside this catalog was a price sheet that reveals all the retail and dealer pricing for cataloged items in the first catalog. So, now I know how much my San Anselmo FWB 124 sold for in 1973. I’ll be covering that in another report very soon, as I have a little surprise for you coming in the 124 series.

So, I’m looking at this catalog that was valued at $500 about five years ago — and who knows what today — and Dave tells me, “They told me I should get $425 for that catalog, but if someone gave me $200 for it, I’d foxtrot around this hall.” So I gave him $200.


Davis Schwesinger dances with his wife, Luba, to honor our deal.

I know that seems like a lot for just a paper catalog, but this is the very hard-to-get first edition, and I’ll be using it for the rest of my life. And that, more than anything, is why I felt I could not spend all of my money to buy that nice Sheridan Supergrade. Because you never know when something pivotal, like this catalog, will pop up.


Rarest of all Beeman catalogs, the first edition was mailed from San Anselmo.

Elsewhere in the hall, I encountered still more fabulous deals on collectible vintage guns. One that really tickled me was a Crosman 150 pistol kit. The 150PK consists of a pistol in a metal case that doubles as a pellet backstop. In years past, these were always going for $150 when in good condition, but I found one at this show for only $100. And the pistol was a beauty!

Of course, there are always the bizarre guns, and this show had plenty of them. I saw things that nobody could guess what they were or how they worked. But collector Larry Behling probably sums up this category best with his bazooka.


No, it’s not a target gun. Collector and author Larry Behling holds his new acquisition, an air bazooka.

Vintage target rifles
Usually, there’s a theme to an airgun show, but I couldn’t see one this year beyond the memorial to Fred Liady. However, if I were forced to pick a theme, it would have to be vintage target airguns. I saw more of them than I think I’ve seen in many years. On my table, alone, Mac had two FWB 300s, an FWB 150 and an NIB RWS Diana 75. I’ve already mentioned some of the other great ones, such as the NIB HW 55.


Ten-meter target rifles were all over this show. Mac had four on his table, alone.

I managed to snag an HW 55 Custom Match that I’ll be showing you in the days to come. That’s a pretty nice version of the HW 55 that’s fairly scarce, considering the rifle’s long production history.

As Saturday grew old, people were asking whether the show would run again next year. Dee Liady told me right at the end of the show that her brother and Davis Schwesinger are planning to hold the show again. So, apparently there will be a 21st year gathering at Roanoke. I hope that many of you will be able to factor this into next year’s plans and join us in this beautiful southern Virginia city for the world’s largest and oldest continuous airgun show.

The 2010 Roanoke Airgun Expo – Day one

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, we all wondered a month ago whether the Roanoke show would run this year after the passing of the organizer, Fred Liady, but it did run exactly as planned. Fred’s widow, Dee, made sure that the show went off exactly as Fred would have wanted it, which was her memorial to his memory.

All of the attendees had Fred foremost in their minds as they set up in preparation for the doors to open. Dennis Quackenbush conducted a short but heartfelt ceremony a few minutes before the doors opened on Friday for all of the attendees to remember not only Fred but other noted airgunners who left the building this year. There weren’t many dry eyes in the crowd when Dennis finished his short eulogy in front of the Fred Liady memorial table at the front of the show hall. Then, everyone filed past Dee and told her how much they missed her husband. I was surprised she had the strength to stand there and greet over 100 people who’d known Fred for so many years. At the end of the ceremony, the mood in the room was one of quiet remembrance that lasted until the doors finally closed the next day.


The show was dedicated to the memory of organizer Fred Liady. Attendees were invited to sign his memorial document, and there were numerous people who signed in from the internet.

Roanoke was different this year
Besides the somberness under which everything operated, this was a very different show. It was quieter, slower and more reflective of the current economic times. By that remark, I mean to imply that the prices on airguns were lower than I’ve seen them for many years! That’ll come out in this report, but I’m going to take a different perspective, because to me, this show also happened very differently.

Instead of me flitting from table to table and deal to deal, the show literally came to me. Most of the deals I made were thrust upon me rather than me having to seek them out. Allow me to explain.

Marv Freund, a good Maryland friend for many years, told me he had a strange airgun at his table that he thought I’d be interested in. He wasn’t certain of the name, but by the time we walked over to his table I’d pinned it down to Falke, a German maker of classic springers. And of the many models that Falke (falcon in English) made, the model 90 underlever was the top…and Marv had a Falke 90 to show me! They don’t get much harder to find than that. This was the first Falke 90 I have ever seen at any airgun show, and I’ve been attending shows since 1993!

The wood stock has been worked over by a budding folk artist. When I finally show it to you, you’ll see that the stock has definitely been folked-over, but the metal seems to be in good shape and it’s all there. Marv named a price that would have been good for 1980, and I acquired my first airgun of this show.

Back at my table, I was marveling at my good fortune when several blog readers walked up and introduced themselves. Most of those I met have not yet commented on the blog. I encouraged them to do so, but it was just nice to meet them and put faces on more readers. Then, Fred from the People’s Republic of New Jersey (FredPRoNJ) arrived. I’ve met him before and he’s kept in touch this year following my hospital stay. With him was his friend, Tom, the former Navy SEAL, who I suspect is starting to warm up to airguns from constant exposure through Fred.


Reader Fred, from the People’s Republic of New Jersey, was the first to spot my table.

He handed me the logbook for his new Benjamin Marauder that showed the work he’d done to get the valve as stable and conservative as possible. The data I saw were quite impressive, and I know that when he finishes his experiment we’ll all be treated to an excellent guest blog. But Fred had some guns he wanted to buy and one RWS 350 he wanted to trade or sell, so I bid him well as he wandered off in search of his dreams.

Then strange deal No. 2 happened. Richard Schmidt, a dealer from New York, came by my table and we chatted about airguns in general. Back at my first airgun show in 1993, I bought a Hy-Score model 807 (Diana 27) from him at the Winston-Salem airgun show, which was the forerunner of the Roanoke show. I still have that 27, and you can read about it here. Anyway, Richard knows I have a weakness for 27s, so he offered me a nice one he’d brought. When he showed it to me, I was very pleased at the overall condition. He named a price that was mid-1990s, and I reached for my wallet. But Mac broke open the barrel and pointed out that the breech had some bad damage that was not repairable. Richard was as surprised as I was, and he took the gun back for a barrel replacement after the show.

A couple of hours later, I was relating this story to Mac and to blog reader Lloyd. As I was lamenting the loss of a good model 27 a man walked up and said, “You want a Diana model 27? Here’s one for you! I’m sorry that this one says Winchester 427 instead of Diana 27, but you know they’re the same guns.”


Mac on the left and reader Lloyd were ready for a great show.

Well, a Winchester 427 is the top of the Diana 27 hierarchy. It’s like saying you’re sorry that this is a Rolls-Royce instead of a Bentley! I told him I would like to pay the price I had negotiated with Richard Schmidt and he agreed. After a quick once-over, I couldn’t get the money out fast enough — and my second purchase was history.

Elsewhere in the show there were deals spilling off dealer tables — literally, in one case, when a gun rack dropped all of its vintage guns into the aisle. Not once, but twice! If you wanted a Feinwerkbau 124, the show was loaded with them. Prices started at $170 for a standard model in good shape and never got up to $400. If the same guns had been advertised on the Yellow Forum classified ads, they’d have sold in a day.


That FWB 124 in the center is a deluxe model going for only $285!

But is wasn’t just 124s that were hot. I saw hundreds of vintage guns at prices that reminded me of 20 years ago. How about a Diana model 66 target rifle for $350! Or a new-in-the-box HW 55! I didn’t catch the price of that one, but it was NIB, so who really cares!


How about a Diana model 5 pistol from RWS for just $75? It was like new.

Then there were the REALLY old airguns. Cased air canes and dart guns from the 1700s. A cased butt-flask rifle with all the tools. Yes, they weren’t cheap because they never are, but they were there — and in profusion. A serious collector could not have discounted this show. But something was different.


This cased air cane with the pump and all the tools was made by Reilly of London. One of many fine antique airguns at this show.


A dart gun from the late 1700s was one of a pair. The set trigger could be fired by blowing on it.

In years past, I’ve witnessed deals involving huge sums of cash at this show. But I didn’t see any of that this year. And, when people talked about it, they all seemed to say they had money to spend but were less willing to spend it than in years past.

Some were frustrated by not finding exactly what they came for. The R7 was high on many lists this year, but there seemed to be a shortage of them at this show. However, Fred from the PRoNJ did connect with a Beeman model HW 50S that satisfied him quite well. I expect him to let us know how this rifle meets his needs.

He got it in a super deal from Pyramyd Air, which had four tables of guns, pellets and accessories and was always busy. Mac bought a Daisy model 25, one of the new ones I’d just finished testing, for a super deal! And, he bought as many pellets as he could carry in a super dented-tin sale they had. Pyramyd Air Tech Manager Gene Salvino was doing anything and everything to sell guns and equipment to anyone who dropped by their tables. Blog reader Lloyd bought a great AirForce scope from them to use on a Benjamin Discovery he also picked up.


Gene Salvino (right) the Pyramyd Air tech manager, shows a rack of precharged rifles to interested buyers.

I returned half a truckload of test guns to Pyramyd Air at the start of the show. Some of these went back as far as three years.

I was back at my table when a tall gentleman stopped by to say hello. When I heard him say he was our very own reader Kevin, I came out from around the table and hugged him, which I’m sure embarrassed him to no end. Months ago, when I was flat on my back, Kevin and several other blog contributors, including Lloyd and Fred, virtually took over the duties of answering the questions that came in. This blog would not have functioned as well as it did without their help, and Edith and I will never forget what a wonderful thing they did for us all.


Reader Kevin arrived on day one and toured the show floor.

Toward the end of the first day, Paul, another contributor and guest blogger, stopped by the table to say hi and we talked for a bit. He’s got another guest blog coming together, but it may be a while, as building a new house is on the front burner in his life right now. However, Paul’s still an airgunner, and he revealed that he’d seen a gun he thought would be perfect for his needs. But the outcome of that story will have to wait my report about day two.


Reader Paul holds a BAM B40 at my table. He stayed for both days and found a couple of nice airguns.

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