Posts Tagged ‘RWS R10 match rifle pellets’
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s test is shooting the Crosman MAR177 at 25 yards, both with and without the magazine. We’ll also shoot it with the best wadcutter target pellets and the best domed pellets to see what differences there are.
Rather than shoot the rifle myself, I let Mac shoot it this time. He is the better rifle shot between us, and I just wanted to see what the rifle would be like in his hands. He shot it off a bag rest at 25 yards indoors. Ten pellets were shot from the magazine, then another 10 of the same pellet were shot using the single-shot tray. Mac tested both domed and wadcutter pellets, so we get to compare the relative accuracy of both today. And the results did not turn out as I expected.
I’d noted in an earlier report that the particular 10-shot magazine I’ve been using has two chambers with tight entrances. Mac found the same thing without being prompted by me. I had him use the same magazine as I did so I could compare his results with all other variables remaining the same.
You’ll recall that I mentioned not liking magazine guns because of how they handle the pellets. So, today was also a test between the magazine and loading each pellet as you shoot. I’m not saying that all pellets have feeding problems, but that some magazines may have a problem. But when you load each pellet singly, you have less chance of damaging the pellet.
That said, the MAR177 has a gap at the front of the single-load tray that can catch the nose of certain pellets and make it very difficult to load. The H&N Field Target pellets that were the most accurate in an earlier test had this problem and had to be exchanged for a different domed pellet. The H&Ns have a semi-wadcutter rim around the head that just catches in the gap on the tray and causes the pellets to flip up and possibly get damaged on loading. I substituted 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellets that fed perfectly through the tray.
On to the shooting
Let’s get right to today’s test. First, Mac tested the domed pellets at 25 yards.
Mac tried the H&N Field Target pellets first, and they were very accurate, but a couple of them refused to feed through the magazine. But the Falcon pellets fed flawlessly, so we changed the test to use them as the domed pellet of choice. Once again, I want to say that in another magazine this pellet might have fed better, but this is a quirk you get with mags that you don’t get when loading singly.
Clearly the single-loaded pellets are more accurate than those loaded by the magazine. That may not hold from magazine to magazine; but for this one mag, you’re better off loading the pellets one at a time. Let’s see how the rifle does with wadcutters at 25 yards.
The trend continued with the wadcutter pellets. The R10s grouped even tighter than the Falcons at 25 yards, and those that were loaded singly did much better than those that fed through the magazine.
What have we learned?
First, we’ve learned that some magazines do influence the accuracy of the gun with all ammunition — or at least with the pellet types used in this test. A different magazine might well give different results, but one thing it will never do is outshoot loading the pellets by hand, one at a time. As a 10-meter shooter, I knew this going into the test. But it was nice that we were able to demonstrate it so clearly.
Next, we see that wadcutters were more accurate than the domes in this test. Even though both pellets were very accurate, the wadcutters had the edge. That was the part that surprised me. I’d expected the domes to take over at 25 yards.
The bottom line
The Crosman MAR177 is a valuable addition to an AR and a wonderful target rifle in its own right. It was held back in this test by the use of an AR National Match trigger, which is by no means as good as a target trigger on an air rifle. Even so, we see accuracy that any 10-meter precision rifle would be proud of.
I think Crosman has made a winning rifle in the MAR177. And when they bring out more powerful versions of it in the future, it’ll be all the greater justification for owning an AR! My thanks to Crosman for the loan of this MAR177 for both this test and for the feature article I am writing for Shotgun News!
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the Crosman MAR177 upper shooting domed pellets at 25 yards. I’ll be using the 10-shot magazine, so we’ll get to see that in action, as well. I’ll tell you right now that today was a learning day that spawned another report that’s still to come. Read on to learn what it is.
As you know, the Crosman upper receiver is attached to a lower receiver that I built on a Rock River Arms lower receiver shell. I used Rock River parts, and the trigger is an upgraded two-stage National Match trigger, also from Rock River.
To the uninitiated, the term National Match sounds like the finest possible precision. Well, it isn’t! A National Match trigger in an AR is about like a John Deere tractor — strong and effective, but as far from real precision as it is possible to get and still have a good trigger. My trigger has a light first stage and a crisp release in stage two, but it’s not what any target shooter would call precision. The break point is right at 5 lbs. My Trapdoor Springfield, which was made in 1875, has a trigger just as nice. My 1879 Argentine rolling block’s trigger is lighter and crisper, now that I have replaced the heavy service-grade trigger return spring. So understand that National Match does not mean the same as precision. You owners of Rekord triggers don’t know how good you have it.
The National Match AR trigger is quite a bit better than the single-stage trigger that comes standard on a military or civilian AR, but it isn’t a target trigger by any stretch. I tell you that so you’ll understand what I had to deal with in this test.
The MAR’s magazine is the same one that a .177 Benjamin Marauder uses. It’s wound under spring tension as it’s loaded and advances by spring power as the bolt is worked for each shot. Remember that on the MAR, the bolt is retracted by pulling back on the charging handle — the same as all other ARs.
The 10-shot magazine comes from the Benjamin Marauder and is completely reliable, as well as quick and easy to load. Here the last shot is in the magazine, holding it in place. The clear plastic cover is rotated to drop in the other 9 pellets.
The mag loads easy once you know the right procedure. A couple of the chambers were tight, so I used a mechanical pencil to push in the pellets. Once they cleared the lips of the tight chambers, they dropped into place easily. There were no feeding problems throughout the test, which entailed about 90 pellets, give or take.
I mounted a Leapers 4×32 mini scope on the rifle. It’s not a scope that Pyramyd Air stocks, but it would be similar to this Leapers scope. You may criticize my choice for some lack of aiming precision; but when you see how good the little scope looks on the rifle, I think you’ll understand why I went with it. It allowed me to use medium scope rings and still clear the magazine that stands proud of the receiver top. If I were hunting feral hogs with a 300 AAC Blackout or a .50 Beowulf cartridge, this is the scope I would use. No, it doesn’t magnify as much as a good 3-9x scope, so we may have to take that into consideration when we look at these groups.
I sighted-in at 12 feet, using my 10-minute sight-in procedure. If you haven’t tried this yet, you need to. It took just three rounds to get on target; and although a bit of luck was involved, this sight-in procedure always cuts time from the front-end of my scope tests.
Air Arms Falcon
I used the 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellet to sight in. The scope seemed right on for elevation, but off to the right. I dialed in some left correction and shot again. Almost there, but not quite. One more adjustment put me at 6 o’clock, as far below the aim point as the center of the scope was above the bore axis (approximately). I knew I was safe to back up to 25 yards and start shooting.
The next 7 shots made a group measuring 0.422 inches between the centers of the holes farthest apart. It was an auspicious beginning for the test!
It was also the best group I shot with the Falcons. The other two opened up to over three-quarters on an inch, so although they made a good first impression, Falcons were not the best domed pellet in the rifle I’m testing.
JSB Exact 8.4-grains
I also tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes. They put 9 pellets into 0.495 inches, but threw the tenth shot low and right, opening the group to 1.047 inches. I detected no reason for this wild shot, so I’ll have to chalk it up to the pellets — maybe.
Next I tried some BSA Wolverines. This is yet another JSB dome that sometimes out-performs anything else. But in the MAR, they were just satisfactory, putting 10 into 0.642 inches.
JSB Exact RS
Another tantalizing group was made by JSB Exact RS pellets. We’ve learned over many tests that the RS is one of the best pellets for low- to medium-powered springers, and the MAR177 shoots at the same velocity, so I wondered how well it would do. Nine shots went into 0.474 inches, but the tenth shot opened that to 0.874 inches. It was a second instance in which 9 shots were tight and the tenth was a flier. I cannot say where in the string the wild shots occurred, though, because the scope couldn’t see the pellet holes as they were made.
H&N Field Target
Next, I tried H&N Field Target domes. A reader recently asked me why I don’t try these, as he had good success with them. I responded that I had, and had not experienced the same success; but when I checked my pellets, I discovered that I’d been shooting H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. The Field Target pellet tin was unopened. See what confusion a small name change can make?
These 8.5-grain domes gave me the best 10-shot group of the test — a stunning 0.441 inches between centers! This is a pellet I will work into future tests, you can be sure. This also serves to demonstrate that although the scope only magnifies four times, that’s good enough.
I was starting to tire from all the concentration, so this was the place to stop. I would say that the MAR177 made a good showing, but also raised some questions.
What comes next?
The performance of the rifle in this test was so intriguing that I want to reshoot the same test, only using the single-shot tray next time. Then I will know for sure whether or not the magazine has any influence over the group size. I’ve always had reservations about magazines in any rifle, and I really want to see if there’s any discernible difference. If there is, I may have to do a lengthy test of magazines vs single-shot operations in PCPs.
The next test that will also offer an opportunity to pit wadcutter target pellets against the best domes at 25 yards. I’ve always maintained that 25 yards is about the maximum distance at which wadcutter pellets are accurate, and we even shot a segment on the American Airgunner TV show in which we put that to the test. The domes were clearly superior to wadcutters at 35 yards, so this test will be at a closer distance and indoors. It should prove interesting.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is the first accuracy test day for the Crosman MAR177 upper, so let’s see how this baby shoots. Blog reader Darth Cossack pointed out that I had mounted the front sight backwards in the last report, so I fixed that for today’s photo. It wouldn’t have mattered from a shooting standpoint, but we do want the gun to look right.
On this AR-15, both the front sight and the rear sight adjust for elevation, while the rear sight also adjusts for windage. The front sight requires a sight adjustment tool that I don’t have and didn’t see packed with the upper. You can also use the point of a 5.56mm military round, which I have an abundance of, but doing it that way is very laborious. I’m hoping the rear sight adjustments will take care of everything that’s needed.
And one more time for those who didn’t read it — the MAR177 is purpose-built for the new sport of National Match Air Rifle (NMAR). NMAR can be shot with traditional 10-meter rifles (using the CMP classifications of Precision and Sporter) and the course is three positions — standing, kneeling and prone. You can continue to use your shooting glove, sling and shooting jacket for this sport, as well. Shooting trousers are not permitted.
The benefit of the AR-15 type rifle that the MAR177 is a part of is that it helps shooters transition over to National Match highpower shooting, because the lower that includes the trigger can be the same for both rifles. And from a competitive standpoint, the MAR177 is very affordable. The only other AR-type air rifle that’s suitable for this sport is made by Anschütz and sells for $1,850.
It cost me $450 to build my lower receiver, and half of that was the National Match trigger. If I wanted to build a lower on a budget, I could do it for under $200 by careful shopping. And I just saw a complete lower advertised in a local sale for $250. But the trigger would then be single-stage and heavier, though there are ways to gunsmith the pull weight down to the legal range of 4.5-5.0 lbs. And when I say the legal range, I refer to high-power competition, only. An air rifle has no trigger-pull limit, because Precision-class target rifles, which are the Olympic target air rifles, are permitted to compete in NMAR.
Why did Crosman make the MAR177 upper for a firearm lower?
This question is being asked by many airgunners. Why would Crosman knowingly make their upper to fit a lower that then classifies the whole rifle as a firearm under federal law? The answer lies in the tens of millions of AR rifles now in the hands of shooters and the extreme popularity of the model. Crosman is building for a market that is more than a hundred times larger than the current active airgun market in the U.S. Even if only a few percent of those owners decide to buy a MAR177, they represent more than all the active airgunners in the United States at this time.
But Crosman isn’t blind to the potential for sales of an MAR that’s not classified as a firearm. I have no doubt they’re working hard on a lower that will accept a modified MAR upper that will not be classified as a firearm. But these things take time. I would expect such a project to be on the fast track right now, but how long it might take before we see it is unclear.
The difficulties are enormous!
You probably think the MAR was easy to develop. After all — every AR is the same (they’re all held to certain specs), so don’t they just have to develop a gun for one lower that will automatically work on all the rest? Actually, no. When your upper has to interface with all the lowers on the market and all possible combinations of triggers in those lowers, there are bound to be some problems. Crosman did their due diligence in designing a universal upper, but there are bound to be some combinations of lower receivers and triggers that experience temporary problems. That would be true for any company designing any new AR-15 upper from scratch.
As I mentioned in Part 2, my Rock River lower and National Match trigger worked fine from the first moment I assembled the rifle, so every new owner can expect success, but there are bound to be some hiccups. There are synthetic lower receivers on the market that are being sold on a price basis that are known to have interchangeability issues with firearm uppers, and this is going to carry over to the MAR177 as well.
I’m not going to list those brands here, but if you do a search for AR-15 lower receiver problems, you’ll come up with a good list of what to avoid. The problems are both the lower receivers, themselves, and the separate parts kits to complete them. People are buying these receivers and parts based on price, alone, and they’re running into problems when one brand of lower won’t accept another company’s parts kit and then work with those three other uppers.
Somebody asked me why I chose a Rock River lower receiver and a Rock River parts kit, and I’m telling you why. There are other brands that are just as good, and a few that are even perhaps better, such as the Giessele National Match trigger that one of our readers mentioned, but you have to be aware of the fact that not all AR-15 uppers fit all AR-15 lowers.
What I’m testing
One final comment I want to make. Building a gun like this is full of decisions. You are free to choose whatever appeals to you; but once you choose, your path is determined by the decisions you make. As I said before, there’s no trigger-pull weight restriction in the NMAR class for air rifle shooting, but if I were to want to use the same lower in a match with a firearm, I would be restricted to a weight range for the trigger release and also the style of pistol grip. While I’ll probably never compete in a high-power military-style match, I wanted to shoot a gun that would qualify. It was a choice I made, and one that you do not have to follow. But that choice led me to a certain level of performance in the rifle I am now about to test.
I’m also shooting the military-style post front sight. An aperture front would allow more aiming precision; but if you want to use the MAR as a training tool for your high-power competition rifle, you’ll stick with the sights that come on the upper.
I shot 5 shots per group off a rest at 10 meters with each pellet I tested. Since there’s going to be more testing with this gun, I didn’t try to test all the pellets I have, but I did try eight different ones.
Sighting in was done with the Crosman Premier Super Match target pellets that Crosman packed with my test gun. And they were astonishingly good! The group fired for record measured 0.144 inches between centers. That’s in the range for CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) and NRA Sporter class 10-meter rifles that have much lighter triggers and aperture front sights. I was impressed.
Loading is not perfect
I used the single-shot tray for all this testing. This is the same tray that the Benjamin Marauder uses, and there’s a small gap just before the breech of the barrel. If you try to load the pellet tentatively, the head drops into the gap and binds. If you slam the bolt home too fast, the pellet jumps up in front and also jams. It takes a while to get the right closing speed so the pellet feeds smoothly. Not all pellets jam this way, but a couple are particularly bad. You’ll have to try it for yourself if you use the tray. I was able to get the feed right for every pellet I shot, so it’s not a problem — you just have to spend some time to learn the peculiarities of the gun with the ammo you choose.
The second-best pellet in the test was the Gamo Match. While the group they made looks large, it’s so round that it doesn’t take up that much room. In reality, this probably means they’re not really second best, but I may have made a small aiming error with one of the other pellets. However, it’s surprising that such an inexpensive pellet is also this capable.
RWS R10 7.7-grain pellets that are no longer available gave the best results, with a group size of just 0.106 inches between centers. I shot them early in the test and was probably more rested than I was later, so my eyes were working at their best.
The other pellets
Besides these three, I tried five other target pellets. They were all very equal to the Crosman Super Match, and the largest group fired during the test was 0.162 inches with RWS Hobbys.
JSB S100 Match
One test like this is not enough to determine the most accurate pellet. If I were to do the same test again, the results would no doubt change. Lots more testing is needed to find that one best pellet for this competition air rifle. However, one test was sufficient to prove that the MAR177 has everything going for it. It’s accurate, easy to use and conserves air like a free diver. It mates to an AR lower perfectly to become the best possible training system for AR shooters.
I have more plans for this rifle. Next, I plan to mount a scope and test the rifle with accurate domed pellets at 25 yards. I believe the MAR177 has more to show us.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’re going to see how the new Crosman MAR177 upper performs! Because this rifle is a precharged pneumatic, I used my Shooting Chrony Alpha chronograph to analyze the power curve. Though not absolutely necessary, a chronograph can eliminate a lot of shooting time and let you know how the rifle shoots on the first session.
The test rifle was showing a charge of just less than 1,800 psi when I started the velocity test. I chronographed Crosman Premier Super Match target pellets that Crosman sent with the upper for testing the rifle.
The first shot went 582 f.p.s., which sounded to me as though it might still be within the power curve. So I fired 16 more shots and the velocity ranged from a low of 559 f.p.s. for the final shot to the 582 f.p.s. that was the first shot. At that point 17 shots had been fired and the pressure gauge was reading 1,600 psi, so I guessed that the gun had fallen off the power curve. The average for these 17 shots was 569 f.p.s.
I filled the reservoir until the gun’s pressure gauge indicated 2,000 psi. I then fired five shots that ranged from a low of 580 f.p.s to a high of 585 f.p.s. It seemed the gun was certainly now on the power curve and that it hadn’t been that far off the curve on the first 17 shots.
But just to be sure, I filled the reservoir to 2,200 psi and fired another five shots. This time, the velocity ranged from a low of 578 f.p.s. to a high of 586 f.p.s. That’s not much different than the reading on the 2,000 psi fill, so the rifle is clearly on the power curve and has been since at least 2,000 psi. But then it wasn’t that far off at 1,600 to 1,800 psi, either.
To see if these assessments were correct, I filled the rifle to 3,000 psi — the top of the white sector on the onboard pressure gauge. If the gauge was calibrated correctly, the rifle should now be at the top of its power curve.
Too much pressure
If you ever needed to see a demonstration of what over-pressurizing a pneumatic gun will do, this is it. The first shot after the fill went out at 549 f.p.s. and the next one went 537. In fact the first 11 shots were all below 550 f.p.s. Shot 12 went out at 551 f.p.s., and the pressure gauge on the gun read 2,900 psi. I accepted that this is the maximum fill pressure for this rifle. More than that shuts the firing valve too fast and costs velocity.
I then fired 33 more shots, for a total of 34 good shots (so far) on the 2,900 psi fill. The lowest velocity was 534 f.p.s. and the highest was 562 f.p.s., for an average of 552 f.p.s. At that velocity with this pellet, the rifle generates 5.39 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Having established the top fill pressure, I proceeded to test the rifle’s velocity with other pellets without refilling the gun. I tested only target pellets, but the test was more for the weight of the pellets than for their shape.
RWS R10 Match 7.7 grains
I tried the RWS R10 Match pellet that weighs 7.7 grains. This one is now off the market, and there is no replacement. It is in-between the RWS R10 Match pistol pellet that weighs 7 grains and the RWS R10 Match Heavy pellet that weighs 8.2 grains.
This one averaged 588 f.p.s. for 10 shots with a 13 f.p.s. spread from 581 to 594 f.p.s. That generates an average of 5.91 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
H&N Finale Match Rifle
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets weigh 8 grains, even, and averaged 575 f.p.s. in the MAR177. The velocity spread went from 571 to 585 f.p.s. This pellet generates an average of 5.87 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
The final pellet I tried was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. They averaged 609 f.p.s., but the velocity spread was larger than the other two pellets. It ranged from 593 to 625 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 5.77 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Back to Premier Super Match
After these three pellets had been tested, there were a total of 64 good shots on this fill. Remember — I’m counting the start of the fill from where it passed 550 f.p.s. for the first time. That was when the gun registered 2,900 psi on its gauge. I shot another 10 Crosman Premier Super Match pellets, and this time they averaged 567 f.p.s. The spread went from 559 to 571 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 5.64 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
How many shots per fill?
I fired 74 good shots on the first fill, and stopped with 2,200 psi remaining in the reservoir. If I continued to shoot until 1,600 psi, as the testing indicates is possible, that would add another 50 shots, minimum, to the shot count, taking the total to 124 shots on a fill. That’s more than enough, but what I now know is that the gun likes the range of 2,900 down to 1,600 psi on the onboard pressure gauge.
The dynamics of the MAR177
The MAR177 is unregulated, so it relies on just the action of the firing valve to control the velocity of the pellet. In the data I’ve shown here, the lowest velocity for a Premier Super Match pellet that’s still on the power curve is 534 f.p.s. The highest velocity within the curve is 585 f.p.s. I’m getting the high velocity from the string fired on the 2,200 psi fill. So, this rifle has a large velocity spread ranging from 534 to 586 f.p.s. to get those 124 shots that I maintain are in the power curve. That’s 52 f.p.s., and normally we wouldn’t consider a range that large to be good. But this rifle is meant for 10-meter target shooting, and for that reason I doubt we will see any group enlargement due to velocity. However, I’ll conduct a test to see if there’s any vertical stringing, which is what large changes in velocity can cause.
If we were shooting the rifle at 25 yards and farther, then I would recommend using a smaller section of the power curve. It’s apparent that, as the air pressure drops below 2,000 f.p.s., the velocity rises to the highest it’s going to be with a particular pellet.
If the large velocity spread bothers you, you can limit the fill to 2,800 psi, and your slowest shot will be 535 f.p.s. Or limit it to 2,700 psi and the slowest shot will be 549 f.p.s. If you decide to do the latter, your total shot count will be 104 shots, and the total velocity spread will be 37 f.p.s. For my money, the 2,900 psi fill looks best, so that’s what I’m going to use to test this gun.
This discussion would be impossible without the use of a chronograph. You would just load the rifle and shoot until the point of impact started to wander. By using the chronograph, you can look at the performance from shot to shot and also understand that there are always going to be some anomalies in the data.
If a different pellet is used to baseline the rifle, things could change dramatically. Premiers are made from a hardened lead alloy, where the other three pellets are closer to pure soft lead. That will have an effect on the numbers you get.
A major lesson demonstrated
This test demonstrates clearly why you cannot simply act as though the pressure gauge on a PCP is reading correctly, and the valve is responding according to the specifications. I’ve said in the past and I’m saying it again — these small gauges can easily be off by 300 psi yet still be considered accurate. The same is true of the firing valve — it may operate at a slightly different range of air pressures than the spec states. If you want to know for sure, you have to use a chronograph.
What we have seen here is the fact that this gun operates on less peak reservoir pressure and also continues to operate to much lower ending pressure. Without these tests, that information would not be known, because you certainly can’t tell from the sound of the discharge. Instead of obeying the owner’s manual in rigid lockstep, we’ve used a diagnostic to learn how our particular gun performs. Knowing that, we can get the best performance that this individual airgun has to offer.
The muzzle compensator
I mentioned the compensator in an earlier report, but I wanted to show it to you here. You’ll see that the turbulent air gets stripped off and cannot follow the pellet downrange after it leaves the muzzle because of how this compensator is designed.
When the pellet leaves the muzzle, it passes through a separate piece that strips off the turbulent air and directs it to the side. The pellet is free to fly straight without the turbulent gasses acting on its skirt.
by B.B. Pelletier
Well, when was the last time we had a discussion this large on this blog? You were talking on yesterday’s report and on the first part of this series, all at the same time.
And, we were talking apples, oranges, cinnamon wafers and pseudo-dadaism in the post-war cinema! All at the same time.
So, once more, I will attempt to state what it is that we’re trying to do. We’re trying to discover some things that, if applied in certain ways, will always help improve accuracy. As I explained to several readers, the artillery hold is one such thing. I didn’t invent it. I just gave it a name so I could talk about it, and people would understand what I was talking about.
Now we’re looking for more things like the artillery hold that, if applied properly, will always improve your accuracy.
Today, you’re going to have to read the report very carefully, because the results you are about to see are the opposite of what you expect. But please read everything, and I’ll explain what I think has happened.
Yesterday, I tried using common reading glasses to improve the accuracy as I was shooting an Air Venturi Bronco rifle. I shot 6 groups of 10 shots each at targets 25 yards away. There were three pellets that I tested. Each pellet was shot first without me wearing reading glasses and then again with the glasses on. I showed you the targets as they occurred, and I told you after the shooting was finished that I could not discern any advantage to shooting with reading glasses.
Now I’ll show you what happened when I pre-sorted the pellets by weight before shooting. We’ll compare the best of the two targets shot yesterday with each pellet against a target shot with that same pellet sorted into a group of 10 pellets that weigh the same, down to the nearest tenth of a grain.
Those readers who do not have problems with their eyes can do today’s test as well by simply shooting two 10-shot groups — one with sorted pellets and one without.
The first pellet shot was the same 8.4-grain JSB Exact domed pellet that I used to begin the test. I used that pellet because back when I tested the Bronco for you, it turned in the best results.
I weighed all the pellets on an electronic powder scale set to register grains. The scale weighs to the nearest tenth grain, so that was how I grouped them. Only those pellets that registered the exact same weight on this scale would be used.
Sorting the JSBs proved to be a big surprise for me, because they were not that uniform. Weights varied from 8.1 to 8.6 grains for a pellet that is nominally supposed to weigh 8.4 grains. I do appreciate that anything manmade will vary, but it has been my experience that premium pellets like these JSBs do not vary that much. But these did. In fact, I had to use the pellets that weighed 8.3 grains, because there weren’t enough of the ones that weighed 8.4 grains.
Then, I shot the group. I took as much care as I had with all the other groups, plus these groups came after the first test, so I had 60 shots under my belt by this time. I expected to see a super-tight group.
It looks like only 6 pellets went through, but the holes next to the numbers 7 and 6 on the target have multiple pellets through them. I can tell that from the back of the target paper. This group of pellets sorted by weight measures 2.061 inches between centers.
That group surprised me a lot, I can tell you. I expected a lot better performance from sorted pellets. Look at yesterday’s best group, shot with unsorted pellets.
Ten shots with the same 8.4-grain JSB Exact pellet, only these were randomly selected from the tin. This group measures 2.085 inches between centers, which is only a trifle larger than the sorted group, above. These happened to be the ones shot while I was wearing reading glasses.
The next pellet to test was the BSA Wolverine. In sharp contrast to the JSB Exacts, above, these pellets were extremely consistent in weight, and I rejected only one while picking 10 to shoot.
What a contrast! Only one pellet was found not to weigh 8.3 grains, and it weighed 8.2 grains. These pellets are extremely consistent in weight.
Well, I figured the consistent Wolverines were going to win the day, except they hadn’t been that accurate in the first two tests, and they should have been if weight variation matters to accuracy. And this time they were a real surprise!
This group of 10 sorted BSA Wolverine pellets measures 2.481 inches on centers. It’s the worst group of the test (including all the shooting seen both yesterday and today).
I was really stumped, but please hang on because there’s an explanation coming. First, though, have a look at the best target shot with unsorted Wolverine pellets.
This Wolverine target shot yesterday without reading glasses measured 2.048 inches between centers. The target shot while wearing glasses measured the same size. Both are considerably smaller than today’s target shot with pellets sorted by weight.
The last pellet I tried was the RWS R-10 heavy pellet. I assumed that because it’s a target pellet it would be very uniform in weight. WRONG!
And, you may remember that the R-10 pellets were by far the most accurate pellets of all in the first test. Well, this time they surprised me.
This group of sorted RWS R-10 pellets measures 1.743 inches between centers. It’s the largest group of R-10 fired. While the best group of the day, it’s larger than the random R-10s fired the day before.
Let’s look at the best R-10 group, fired during the first test.
This group of R-10 pellets shot without reading glasses measures 1.158 inches between centers. Not only is it better than the group sorted by weight, it’s the best group of all the shooting done thus far.
Okay, here comes the explanation I promised. All these targets from yesterday and today were shot at the same time, so these three final targets shot with pellets sorted by weight were shot last. They represent shots 61 through 90.
I can’t prove it, but I believe that pellets of a uniform weight should not be less accurate than the same pellets of random weights. The results of today’s test seem to indicate that sorted pellets are less accurate than unsorted pellets if we go just by the group sizes, but I think something else is at work here. I believe there’s a whole lot of test bias in what I have reported both yesterday and today. I believe today’s results were skewed to the bad end of the scale because they were the last groups I shot and I was getting tired from all the sighting techniques I was undergoing to use the reading glasses.
As twotalon observed, are we talking about something so ambiguous that it will be different for every shooter? I don’t think so. But I do think that the test design I have done yesterday and today doesn’t work.
I believe the problem is lighting, as in not enough light on the target in these tests. I say that because today I went to the outdoor range and shot two 10-shot groups with a .30 caliber M1 Carbine at 50 yards and each group measured about three inches across the two widest shots. The M1 Carbine has a very large peep sight that has been criticized for its crudity, yet I shot well with it using the same reading glasses that failed in these tests. And, today I was able to see the bull quite well, even though it was twice as far away.
Finally, even out at 25 yards, the uniformity of pellet weight appears to not be much of a factor. The BSA Wolverines that were the most uniform weight did worst of all. Of course, the results of these tests are so large and open that all kinds of errors and truths may be camouflaged within.
From these two tests that I will have to consider as failed, we can draw some important conclusions. First, I need to either use a scope or a dot sight when conducting accuracy tests. Tomorrow, I’ll show you some groups that demonstrate that I can still shoot well with a scope.
Perhaps a future experiment might be for me to put a dot sight on the same Bronco and re-shoot this test. I’ll use the same three types of random pellets (not sorted by weight) for that test, then I’ll mount a scope on the rifle and shoot the same test again. If there’s a definite difference between the results from the two optical instruments (and I’m thinking there will be), I’ll select the most accurate optical sight and rerun the weight-sorted test.
Meanwhile, you can select as much of this test as you desire and try to do it yourself. When we’re finished, we should know the value of pellets sorted by weight and those of you who have old eyes like me might give the reading glasses trick a try, but only outdoors or where there’s a lot of light.
by B.B. Pelletier
No other single blog report has had the reception this one has! We have had readers awaken to discuss their favorite things and other readers say they are leaving the blog because they don’t want to read the lengthy comments made by enthusiastic readers who have been stimulated about this subject.
We also had a number of readers who failed to understand what this series will attempt to do, so perhaps I had best state it again clearly, so we all know. The purpose of this series is to discover those things a shooter can do to improve accuracy with an airgun. This is a quest to find out what works, as far as improving accuracy is concerned.
Today, I’m conducting an experiment for you to learn if the trick I mentioned yesterday about using reading glasses works for rifles. I selected an Air Venturi Bronco as a test rifle for several good reasons. The first is that it’s accurate. Next, it’s easy to cock. There will be a lot of shots fired in this test, and I need something that’s easy to cock. Yes, it’s a spring-piston rifle and a PCP would be easier to shoot accurately, but that’s not the point. More of you own springers, so using one is easier for a lot more people. You see, I want you to do this test right along with me. That way, we get a lot more results.
I’m shooting off a rest at 25 yards, so the artillery hold comes into play. Even I make mistakes holding a spring rifle from time to time, so I’m shooting 10-shot groups that will give me some leeway for the occasional bad shot.
This is just the start of a lot of testing with this one rifle, and even so, it’s only the beginning of the great accuracy test. Some of you got that from the title, but for the rest of you I imagine this series could run for a long time and many individual reports. There might even be a book in all of it, if enough worthwhile data is uncovered. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s just see how today goes for starters.
Today’s test is simple and goes like this. I want to discover whether wearing reading glasses is beneficial to my accuracy, so I’m going to shoot groups both with and without the glasses. I will shoot several pellets, but because I’m shooting 10-shot groups, there isn’t enough time for me to shoot all the groups I need to. That’s where some of you come in. Read my test and then conduct one of your own. You can use a different rifle, different pellets and even shoot at different distances if you like, though I would recommend that you shoot out to at least 25 yards to get the group separation needed to show significant differences. Try to model your test after mine, so we can all talk about the same thing.
I’m shooting a Bronco with a Beeman peep sight that was used in the report on the Bronco. The first pellet I tried was the 8.4-grain JSB Exact domed pellet.
Remember that my eyes have recently started to change their prescription during the day. I no longer can see the sights like I could a month ago, and the whole purpose of this test is to find a way to correct that.
JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes
I first shot the Bronco without glasses, trying to see the front sight as best I could. The sight was thin and fuzzy, so it was difficult to see the demarcation between the top of the post and the bottom of the bull. The bull was very clear to me. I shot quickly, but I wasn’t rushing.
Next, I put on the reading glasses and shot another 10 shots with the same pellet. The front sight was razor-sharp, but the bull was dim, as though in a dream. However, I found that if I shifted focus to the bull and back to the front sight, the bull became much more distinct. I could walk the sight post in to it fairly well that way. It’s another technique that I’ll have to learn and get better at, but it’s possible.
Ten shots with the same 8.4-grain JSB Exact pellet, only this time I was wearing the reading glasses. This group measures 2.085 inches between centers. That’s not a big difference from the first group, however, look at the six pellets in one hole. The first group only had two pellets touching and the central cluster was much larger.
From this first set of targets, I would have to say that it looks like the glasses are helping a little. But one set of data is meaningless, so I continued with other pellets.
The BSA Wolverine is an 8.3-grain domed pellets that is very accurate in certain precharged rifles, so I thought it might do well in the Bronco, too. The first group was shot without the glasses.
The BSA Wolverine pellet grouped like this when I shot without glasses. Yes, there are 10 pellets in this group. Four of them are in the larger hole at the edge of the bull. The group measures 2.048 inches between centers.
I shot 10 more Wolverines with the aid of reading glasses. This time, I knew the technique better, but that didn’t make it any easier.
When using reading glasses I got a group of 10 that measured the same size as without glasses, as near as I can measure it. It measures 2.048 inches between centers. There’s a cluster of three pellets in the lower hole. This target caused me to wonder if this technique is worthwhile.
After seeing this target, I started to wonder if the shooting glasses thing was working as I’d hoped. With two sets of targets in hand, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. However, I pressed on.
RWS R-10 pellets
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 heavy target pellets. These are the heavier rifle pellets that are suitable for the Bronco’s power.
Ten RWS R-10 pellets shot without the aid of reading glasses. Well, you can certainly see that the point of impact changed dramatically and the group got smaller. Obviously, this is a good pellet for this rifle. This group measures 1.158 inches between centers.
Then, I tried the same pellet with the glasses.
With reading glasses, the RWS R-10 heavy match pellets made almost the same size group. This group measures 1.327 inches between centers. It’s larger than the no-glasses group, but only by a small amount.
What can be said about this test, thus far? Well, I was surprised that the results came out as they did. I thought there would have been a big difference between the two sighting methods, but from these three sets of target it doesn’t seem that way. However, now you can do the same test, those who need the reading glasses, anyway, and see what you come up with.
For you people with good eyes, I haven’t left you out. Tomorrow, I’m going to show you the rest of the test, which is something you can all do, as well. I won’t tell you what that is, nor the results I got, but I will say that it’s quite compelling. In fact, it opens up a whole new test for us to do in the future.
by B.B. Pelletier
Well it’s Friday again, and it’s time to have some fun. When I tested the TF 79 competition air rifle, I mentioned that I also shot several vintage 10-meter rifles the same day, just to make sure I was still able to shoot a good group. Well, we heard from a lot of readers who apparently like these oldsters just as much as I do, so I thought I would take today and report on how they all did.
I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years, but I didn’t hold onto them because I was always chasing some other dream. Long-range accuracy or big-bore prowess were always competing with these quiet target rifles, and there’s only a finite amount of money to go around. So, over the years I’ve both shot and given up some real vintage beauties.
A couple years ago, I decided that I had to always have at least one vintage 10-meter target rifle on hand at all times for when those assignments — like testing target pellets — came along. At the Little Rock airgun expo, I searched for an HW55 — a rifle that I knew from experience would be right for the job. Well, there was one in my price range. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was a very rare version of the HW55 that not too many collectors have ever seen. It was the HW55 SF, the only HW55 ever made without the positive barrel latch on the left side of the action. In reality, it’s just an HW50 with a target sight, but Weihrauch had marked the barrel as an HW55, and I was able to find a listing for the model in a vintage catalog from Air Rifle Headquarters. Technically, it’s a 55, even without the barrel latch, because the manufacturer says it is.
I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years
That rifle sparked a renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles; and over the course of the next two years, another four guns have come into my possession. They are, in order of acquisition, a Walther LGV Olympia, an HW55 Custom Match, an FWB 300S and, most recently, an FWB 150. The 150 is off to the airgunsmith getting overhauled right now, but the other three are on hand and are part of today’s testing.
From the comments I received, I knew that I would not only have to report on how these guns shoot, but also on their particular weaknesses, because many of you seem to want to acquire one for yourselves. Today’s report is not meant to be a detailed report on each of the rifles. There is no time for that here. I’ve already reported on the HW55 SF and the Walther LGV Olympia in separate reports that you can read, so there are only the FWB 300, HW55 CM and the FWB 150 yet to get their own three-part evaluations at some time in the future.
I’ll shoot four of the five target rifles for you to compare their accuracy against what you’ve seen from the TF79, not to mention the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge. Be sure to read the reports on the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge, too. And, also, please know that Crosman made another target rifle called the Crosman Challenger 2000 that was a CO2 rifle with a Benjamin 397 barrel. That rifle was never as accurate as the Challenger PCP, but you can easily get confused by the similar-sounding names.
The HW55 SF
As I mentioned, this was the airgun that kicked off my renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles. As you can see in the picture, it’s just a simple breakbarrel that happens to have a target sight. In its day, which was around 1968, Weihrauch was making the finest breakbarrel rifles they ever produced, so there’s a lot to this rifle that you won’t see in an airgun made today.
The HW55 SF was an unexpected find. It was supposed to be a work-a-day test-bed rifle. Instead, it rekindled old interests.
Also, because this is a model 55 in the eyes of the manufacturer, they installed the special target version of the Rekord trigger. While the standard Rekord trigger is something to behold, the target version has a much lighter trigger return spring and can be set to release safely at just ounces of breaking pressure. So there’s not much difference in feel or performance between this trigger and the one found on the FWB 300.
Nearly all HW55 rifles have this locking lever for the barrel on the left side of the gun. It’s the most easily recognized feature of this model.
Only the rare HW55 SF is without a barrel-locking lever. The baseblock is marked “HW55.”
So, the old 55 likes inexpensive RWS Hobby pellets, too. What a plus! Sometimes, that’s exactly how it goes. I also shot RWS R10 Heavy pellets, but they weren’t as accurate as the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets. The rifle is a bit buzzy when it fires, which I don’t like. But the accuracy is almost too good to do anything to the powerplant except use it as it is.
The two weaknesses an old HW55 can have are a bent mainspring and worn seals. The early seals were leather and can be handmade by the owner, but later guns used the synthetic HW50 seals that seem to last a long time. If the breech seal is synthetic, there’s a good chance the piston seal will be, too.
Walther LGV Olympia
The next rifle I tested was the Walther LGV Olympia. This old classic was one I bought from collector Tom Strayhorn, at what I thought was a super price. Tom sold it so low because of some finish loss on the forearm, but color me purple if that matters one iota! I’m a shooter. While I like a good-looking air rifle, if it shoots well it can look like a dog. Besides, I don’t think this one looks that bad! Finally, there’s a real advantage to my low standards!
Isn’t the Walther LGV Olympia a gorgeous air rifle?
The LGV has a beautiful firing behavior. It’s smooth and free from vibration. I like the way the heavy rifle cocks, as well. It’s so smooth that it’s like watching a bank vault door operate. The trigger is the equal of the HW55 target trigger.
The Walther LGV series guns have two flaws. First, they tend to crack their stocks at the pistol grip where the wood grain is aligned wrong for strength. Second, all of them were made with seals that crumble in time, but the replacement seals of today seem to last forever. So, check on the grip and seals before buying. Most airgunsmiths can work on an LGV because it isn’t too intricate.
HW55 Custom Match
This is a rifle that deserves a complete three-part report of its own. Although I’ve owned it for several months, I haven’t shot it that much. I know I got some good groups from it in the past, but to tell the truth, it was the ugly stepsister in this test. The firing behavior is harsh and jarring — not at all what I expect from an HW55. It feels like the rifle was tuned by someone who only wanted power. I think I need to open it up and calm it down.
The HW55 CM represents the finest technological advance of the entire series of rifles.
I have so much to say about the HW55 CM because it represents Weihrauch’s high-water mark with the 55-series rifles. Even rarer than the Tyroleans that everyone covets, the CM was around for only a very few years at the end of the half-century-long production run of the HW55. It was the finest “buggy whip” they ever made, though my rifle needed some fixin’ to get to that point.
An embarrassing target! These H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets should have grouped in less than half this space. I really need to tune this rifle to reduce the harsh firing cycle. I also shot the gun with the R10 pellets but won’t show it because it’s even worse than this one.
Compared to the other rifles, the 55 CM feels thin and spindly. It has the thinnest barrel of all; in this crowd of heavyweights, it’s a definite pipsqueak. The lower-grade 55 SF feels so much more substantial. Of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be, and I think the harsh firing behavior is causing me to project bad feelings on the rifle. I really need to calm it down. When I do a separate report, I’ll tune the rifle and hopefully get it shooting like it should. If I can’t, this one will have to hit the road.
The 55 CM has the same flaws as the other 55 rifles. Mine has a leather breech seal, so I assume the piston seal is also leather.
The last vintage rifle is the one all the others are always compared to — the venerable FWB 300S sidelever target rifle. It features a sledge anti-recoil system in which the powerplant slides a fraction of an inch on steel rails in the stock when the gun fires. The shooter senses only the slight rearward movement of the rear sight, but absolutely no recoil.
Feinwerkbau’s 300S is the standard against which all vintage target rifles are compared.
This is another rifle that will get a separate three-part report sometime in the future. I got it from Mac at the Roanoke airgun show last fall. Bought it for cash right off the table after looking at it for one whole day.
This rifle shoots good groups in spite of the person on the trigger. You almost can’t make it do otherwise. Together with the LGV Olympia, it’s the easiest 10-meter spring rifle to cock. I can’t wait to see what the FWB 150 feels like because this one has prepared me for a winner!
The FWB 300S is real prone to break at the wrist. And the seals will wear out. In this case, the No. 1 repair station in the U.S. is Randy Bimrose. I wouldn’t use anyone else.
The bottom line
I had a wonderful time shooting these four veteran target rifles. Each has its own personality and feel, but they all were at one time the best air rifles in the world.
It’s very relaxing shooting these old guns, because I don’t have to work hard to get good results. The lower velocity comes with reduced recoil and lower noise that makes the whole experience one worth repeating many times.
If I were to pick winners at this point, the FWB 300S would be the overall leader, followed by the LGV Olympia as the best breakbarrel.