Posts Tagged ‘sidelevers’

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 5

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

It’s been a long time since we looked at the Fast Deer sidelever. The last report was in December of last year! At that time, I was unsatisfied with the results of the 25-yard targets because of how well the rifle seemed to do at 10 meters. I said we might come back to it, but the gun got put on the back burner to simmer while I did other things.

It was those other things that bring you today’s report, and surely the ones that must follow. I’ve spent a lot of time this year exploring the fundamentals of airgun accuracy. Of course, I’ve barely scratched the surface, but some of the things that have popped up have been surprisingly helpful in ways I couldn’t imagine when they happened. One of them was the test of the Diana model 25 smoothbore that we finished way back in March of this year. In Part 4 of that test, I saw that while the smoothbore was very accurate at 10 meters, it was pretty bad at 25 yards. From those results, I deduced that spin is important to stabilizing a pellet over longer distances, while the high drag of the diabolo pellet is sufficient for accuracy at close range.

It wasn’t until I wrote a column about the Fast Deer for Shotgun News this month that I noticed the Fast Deer’s 25-yard targets resembled those of the Diana 25 smoothbore more than a little. The Fast Deer was also accurate at 10 meters but not at 25 yards. So, here was a rifled bore that performed like a smoothbore. Could we learn something from this? Is the Fast Deer capable of better accuracy than we saw in Part 4?

I was so impressed by these results that I wrote a special report titled Advanced airgun diagnostics: Part 1, in which I showed you the comparison between the 2 airguns. Yesterday I tested the Fast Deer again at 25 yards, but this time I did so believing that it was the fault of the pellet that made the groups so large. Turns out I was only partly correct, and therein lies the meat of today’s report.

The test
I had one pellet that fit the Fast Deer’s bore well…both the skirt and the head. It’s a Tech Force domed pellet that Pyramyd Air used to sell but no longer does. That makes it a Chinese pellet, and I’ve seen only one other Chinese pellet that was worth a darn. That one was a hand-sorted wadcutter that I used to compete with in 10-meter pistol.

Fast Deer Chinese pellet
These Tech Force domed pellets are larger than most. They fit the bore of the Fast Deer rifle well.

The subject pellet fits the bore well, but not tight. Many other pellets just fall out of the breech, indicating a too-large bore, which is characteristic of Chinese air rifle barrels. I knew from the last test that the rifle was at least on paper at 25 yards, so I set up at 25 yards indoors and commenced firing. The first 10 pellets all landed to the right of the aim point, but they were all on paper, so I finished the first 10-shot group with the sights set where they were. This group measures 1.428 inches between centers. That’s not great, BUT — it’s actually smaller than the best group I had fired in the entire last report! In that session, the best group was shot with Air Arms Falcon pellets, so I knew I had to try them again for comparison; for now, I stayed with these Chinese domes.

Fast Deer Chinese pellet target 1
Ten pellets made this first 1.428-inch group. It may not look good, but this is the best 25-yard group this rifle has made so far.

After the first group was completed I adjusted the rear sight to the left. You may remember that I had flipped the sight backwards in response to a suggestion blog reader Vince gave me. That gives a sharper rear notch when aiming, and any little thing like that will help. So, all adjustment had to be done backwards; but since this sight has a very visible index mark to watch, the adjustment was no problem.

As I adjusted the sight, I also discovered that the entire unit is loose. It’s mounted on the gun securely enough, but the very construction of the sight itself is a sheetmetal tangle of parts that will always be loose and subject to movement.

Fast Deer rear sight
The rear sight is clearly marked and easy to adjust, but it’s always going to be loose because of how it’s made.

I decided that I had to push the sight to the left before every shot. That would hopefully return it to the same place every time, giving me the best chance to get good results from it despite its looseness. Then, I shot the next group with more Chinese domes. I forgot to move the sight for 2 of the 10 shots. Nevertheless, this group measures 1.328 inches between centers, which is a significant improvement.

Fast Deer Chinese pellet target 2
Ten shots went into 1.328 inches at 25 yards. I never thought I’d be happy with a group like this, but I am! It’s interesting that perhaps 6 of the pellets in this group went into a much smaller cluster near the center of the main group.

After this target, I adjusted the rear sight once more and then shot a third 10-shot group with the Chinese pellets. I only forgot to push the sight once this time, on shot 9. The group measures 1.597 inches between centers, which is the largest group shot this day with this pellet. Perhaps I was tiring?

Fast Deer Chinese pellet target 3
Ten shots went into 1.597 inches at 25 yards. I never thought I would be happy with a group like this, but I am! While it’s tempting to think that the shot on the left was the one that I didn’t push the rear sight for, I cannot say that for certain.

Falcon pellets
It was time to try the Falcon pellets again. In the last test, 10 Falcons made a group that measured 1.497 inches between centers at 25 yards. This time, 10 went into 1.783 inches. Obviously that’s a lot larger; but if you examine the group, you’ll see that 7 of the pellets went into just 0.692 inches. Taking that and the other group-within-a-group that I shot with the Chinese domes, I came to the conclusion that this Fast Deer may really be accurate but is being hindered by its open sights. The next test of this rifle must therefore have a scope mounted.

Fast Deer Falcon pellet target
Ten shots went into 1.783 inches at 25 yards. While that isn’t very good, look what 7 of those shots did! That’s a 0.692-inch group.

I do not like testing airguns that have been given every chance and still haven’t performed. Every once in awhile, something anomalous like this Fast Deer jumps out at me and needs to be investigated further. If it hadn’t been for my going over the results of this rifle so close to the time I reported similar results from the Diana 25 smoothbore, I might never have given this rifle its second chance today. Now, we’ll all get to see if that was worth it.

I admitted up front that this test demonstrated that the pellet was only part of the reason the Fast Deer has been inaccurate at 25 yards. From today’s test, we might conclude that the poor rear sight that moves is also affecting the outcome. In the next test, I need to make sure that the scope is locked down solid, so the rifle is free to be as good as it can be.

What is a bolt-action?

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

What is a repeater?

Today I’m writing about something that seems to confuse many people. It’s tied to how an airgun works, and I want to discuss it in detail for you. But first, let me tell you what motivated me to write today’s report.

The following is a real question I have heard many times.

I’m looking to buy a gun and it says the gun is a repeater. Please explain to me what a repeater is. Do I have to cock it for every shot? I don’t want it if I have to cock it for every shot. I want to just be able to pull the trigger and the gun fires.

I wrote the report that’s linked above for those new shooters who have trouble understanding the definition of a repeater. Some shooters don’t understand the difference between a semiautomatic action, where the trigger is pulled to fire the gun every time, and a repeater that must be both cocked and also load the pellet before it’s ready to shoot.

Last week, I discovered that this confusion goes even farther. A customer wrote in to Pyramyd Air that one of the FWB target guns was not a bolt-action like they had listed…but it was a sidelever. The gun has a lever on the left side that operates the bolt. When the lever is operated, the bolt slides back and forth in the pellet trough and pushes the pellet into the breech to the same depth every time. It’s likely that other airgunners may understand it the same way, which is why I wanted to address it in the blog.

Feinwerkbau 700 Aluminum sidelever Yes, that lever on this Feinwerkbau rifle does cock the gun; and yes, it is on the side…but that doesn’t make the gun’s action a sidelever. That lever is called a flipper by shooters who borrowed the term from biathlon shooters, whose cocking levers are flippers that work back and forth.

A sidelever refers to a cocking mechanism for a spring-piston airgun. The lever connects to the piston, pushing it back to cock the mainspring. The FWB 700 is a PCP, not a springer. The fact that it has a lever on the side is coincidental. That lever, which is properly called a flipper by the shooters who use it — is just a linkage to the bolt. Edith told me she often gets comments that are like this one, so I thought I would address this today.

A bolt-action gun has a cylindrical metal rod called a bolt, whose job is either to push the pellet into the breech or sometimes to also act as a conduit for the compressed gas that fires the pellet into the barrel. How the bolt is designed and how it works affects the accuracy of the airgun.

Benjamin 130 bolt nose
The bolt nose of the Benjamin 130 bolt is hollow — like many CO2 bolts. But this one is shaped to hold one steel BB during loading.

Only airguns today
When I talk about a bolt-action gun in this report I will be referring only to airguns. This is one area where firearms and airguns differ quite a lot.

What do bolts do?
Airgun bolts do a couple of things, and they do them to different levels of perfection. So, it’s important to know exactly what a particular bolt does if you want to know how to make a gun work its best.

The first thing an airgun bolt does is seal the compressed gas inside the barrel. Some bolts have hollow noses to conduct the compressed gas into the barrel, where it gets behind the pellet. But not all of them do. But they all seal the barrel, so the compressed gas works on just the pellet.

Crosman 180 bolt seal
The Crosman 180 CO2 carbine has a synthetic seal that the bolt presses against the rear of the barrel to seal the gasses. This bolt is only for loading the gun. A separate cocking knob pulls the hammer back.

The second thing bolts do is push the pellets into the back of the barrel. But here’s a big distinction since the back of the barrel sometimes isn’t actually where the rifling begins. The back of the barrel may be drilled out larger than the rifling and just be a chamber where the pellet sits before firing. If the pellet does not touch rifling in this section, accuracy may suffer.

If the bolt doesn’t push the pellet into the barrel to the point that the rifling engraves it — at least on the head, if not both the head and skirt — then it’s possible that the pellet will be slammed forward on an angle and enter the rifling out-of-line with the axis of the bore when the gun fires. The angle may be slight, but it sets up an imbalance that’s acted upon by the airstream when the pellet leaves the muzzle. The drag is not aligned with the axis of the pellet and can start a small wobble as the pellet goes downrange.

Bolt probe
Some bolts have a long thin nose section that we call a probe. The probe pushes the pellet deep into the breech; because it’s thin, it also allows the maximum air to flow around it. While this sounds like such a good idea that we would want all bolts to have a probe, you have to remember that the inside of every pellet skirt is different. The probe sticks deep inside some pellets and doesn’t push them as far into the rifling. But it hits the flat wall inside other pellets and pushes them very deep.

Premier and Hobby
The Crosman Premier on the left has a flat wall that stops the bolt probe. The RWS Hobby on the right does not, so the probe goes in further and doesn’t push the Hobby as deep into the breech.

Repeating airguns use the bolt to push the pellet through the clip or magazine and into the breech. This is one more relationship that must be considered.

Matching the shape of the bolt nose to the pellets you use is important for accuracy. And sometimes an airgunsmith will change the shape of the bolt nose to get increased performance from a certain gun. This is very common with the vintage CO2 single-shot air pistols such as the Crosman Mark I and II and the S&W 78G and 79G.

Crosman Mark I
The bolt nose on this vintage Crosman Mark I target pistol is stock — just as it came from the factory. You can call this nose a probe because that’s how it works. But look at the next picture to see the contrast. Like the Crosman 180, this bolt only loads the pellet. A separate set of sliding tabs cock the hammer.

SW 79G
The bolt probe on this S&W 78G pistol looked like the Crosman, above, when it was new. An airgunsmith has thinned and even shaped this probe to allow gas to flow around it more easily. Just this modification by itself added velocity to the gun. This is another bolt that only loads the pellet. Cocking is done separately.

Benjamin Marauder bolt probe
Like the custom tuners, Crosman made their Marauder bolt probe thin and long. It pushes the pellet from the magazine into the breech and also seats the pellet deep in the rifling. Because it’s thin, air flows easier around and past it, giving better efficiency.

Of course, not every bolt has a probe. Many get along very well with just a simple bolt nose that may even be flat because it fits the shape of the back of the pellets it’s designed to shoot. The Crosman-2240 air-pistol is one example of this.

Crosman 2240 air pistol
This Crosman 2240 air pistol has a brass bolt with a flat tip. There’s also an o-ring (rather than a proprietary seal) around the bolt to seal the gasses. That makes it easier and cheaper to repair.

Finally, some airguns are made to fire both steel BBs and lead pellets. People wonder how these guns are able to be rifled and still shoot steel BBs, but the factories have figured out how to do it. And, yes, the steel BB does wear the bore faster than the lead pellet. In fact, the lead pellet probably doesn’t wear a rifled steel bore at all, at least in terms we can comprehend. There are target rifles owned by clubs that have millions of shots on them and, while they look pretty doggy, their bores are like new.

A gun that shoots steel BBs probably has a flat magnet in the tip of its bolt, so there’s no possibility for a probe. On the other hand, if the tip is wide enough, it probably still shoves the pellet into the breech because the bolt will slide only a short way into the pellet’s skirt. Again, the shape of the inside of the pellet skirt will affect how this works.

Daisy model 35 air rifle bolt tip
The bolt tip on this Daisy model 35 is flat, but it also contains a powerful magnet to hold steel BBs.

The bottom line is that the shape of the bolt really matters a lot for airguns. It has several jobs to do, and its shape determines how well it will do each one. The next time you look at an airgun that has a bolt, give some thought to how well the bolt tip matches the pellets you want to use.

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 4


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

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

Big Shot of the Week

Bill Cardill is the Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
This same scenario will be repeated in countless homes this coming Christmas!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

This is a fourth look at the intriguing KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever from China. We saw some pretty good 10-meter results in Part 3, and I said I’d be back to expand on that. I didn’t mention a scope was coming in part 4, but that’s what I had in mind. However, when it came time to shoot the gun, I decided to see how well I could do with the same open sights I used last time.

Today, I backed up to 25 yards which always reveals things that were perhaps masked when I shot at 10 meters. Twenty-five yards is a middle distance for a spring gun — at least for one in this power range — and you can count on the shots opening up.

The first thing I noticed right away was that heavy trigger! I’d forgotten about it. I don’t think it disturbed my accuracy, since I shot from a rest, but neither did it enhance my shooting.

The second thing I noticed was the size of the rifle’s breech. Three times in 55 shots the pellet fell out, and I didn’t notice it. The result was always a surprising detonation, and once I found a squashed pellet still in the receiver, where the sliding compression chamber had flattened it.

Other than those two distractions, the Fast Deer is a nice rifle. The stock is the right length and size, and everything fits me quite well. If I could mount a peep sight on the gun, I think it would be just about perfect. In fact, I’m going to look into the possibility of doing just that!

RWS Hobbys
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby that did so well at 10 meters. After confirming they were still on target at 25 yards with the same sight setting as 10 meters, I stopped looking through the spotting scope and just shot the group. But Hobbys didn’t do so well at 25 yards. Ten of them made a group that measures 1.918 inches between centers. As you can see, the shots are scattered and show no tendency to go anywhere, in particular. I noted that Hobbys were loose in the breech. Also, the Hobby is a wadcutter pellet, and wadcutter accuracy usually starts falling off around 25 yards.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Hobby group
Ten RWS Hobbys made this 1.918-inch group at 25 yards.

Baracuda Green
The next pellet I tried was that remarkable lead-free dome, the H&N Baracuda Green. They’ve surprised me on more than one occasion, and they looked good at 10 meters in the Fast Deer. At 25 yards, they were a little better than the Hobbys, but not that much better. Ten of them made a group that measures 1.815 inches between centers. The Baracuda Greens fit the breech rather well.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Baracuda Green group
H&N Baracuda Greens were slightly better than Hobbys, but not much. Ten went into 1.815 inches.

JSB Exact RS
I tried JSB Exact RS pellets next, and I got an interesting result. First of all, this was one of the pellets that fell out of the breech. When I tried to compensate for the lost rounds, I shot 11 rounds instead of 10. The entire group was large, at 1.918 inches between centers. Before you comment, I’m aware that’s exactly the same as the RWS Hobby group, but please remember that there’s always a built-in margin of error when measuring these groups. So, they probably aren’t exactly the same size — that’s just how it looked to me.

The interesting result was that 6 of the 11 shots were in a smaller group that measures 0.475 inches between centers. That hints that this pellet might actually be the best one for this rifle, though the overall group doesn’t show it.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle JSB Exact RS group
This group of 11 JSB Exact RS pellets is large, at 1.918 inches between centers; but within it, 6 pellets are grouped in just 0.475 inches.

Beeman Kodiak
Next I tried the heavyweight Beeman Kodiak pellet. Although many would not try it in a rifle as low-powered as the Fast Deer, I’ve often found that Kodiaks are some of the most accurate pellets in lower-powered spring guns. Not this time, however. Ten went into a group that measures 2.134 inches between centers. That was the largest group of the test.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Beeman Kodiak group
Beeman Kodiaks didn’t do so well in the Fast Deer. Ten went into 2.134 inches — the only pellet to go over the two-inch group size.

Air Arms Falcon
The final pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon. These are made by JSB; and, often, if other JSB pellets do well, these will, too. Ten Falcons made a group that measures 1.497 inches between centers. It’s the smallest group of the test, though it doesn’t have the same tantalizing group-within-a-group that the JSB Exact RS pellets had.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Air Arms Falcon group
Air Arms Falcons made the smallest group of the test, with 10 going into 1.497 inches at 25 yards. They also hold some promise for greater accuracy if the sighting was more precise.

Overall evaluation
I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential of the Fast Deer, yet. The groups from the JSB Exact RS and Air Arms Falcons seem to promise a higher lever of accuracy if things were somehow different. I’m going to think about that for a while and see what I can do about it. Yes, I think there will be a Part 5 of this report at some point.

One thing is very interesting and that is what the 25-yard shooting and 10-shot groups have taught us about this rifle. Some things to think about in the future are better sighting possibilities and perhaps expanding the skirts of the two most accurate pellets — to see if that has any bearing on the outcome.

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 3

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

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

Pyramyd Air Big Shot of the Week

Kyle MacLeod is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.

Part 1
Part 2

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

Today will be both a report on the Fast Deer and a rant. The report comes first.

This is accuracy day. Since the Fast Deer has open sights, I thought 10 meters would be a good test distance. You may remember that in Part 2 I told you that I turned the rear sight around to get longer eye relief. Well, that really paid off big time in this test. I found the rear notch to be sharp and well-defined, making alignment of the front and rear sights easy. Blog reader Matt61 asked why good eye relief is necessary for an open-sighted rifle. It’s because you must align the front and rear sights with each other and with the target. If you shoot with a peep sight, no front and rear sight alignment is required — just look through the rear hole and align the front sight with the target. The peep sight is more like a scope in that respect, while the open-sighted (notch and post) sight requires good eyesight for the alignment of the two sight elements.

I started with 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lites. They fit the breech on the loose side but good enough to shoot. The first shot was high and wide to the right, so I adjusted the rear sight down and also to the right. Because it’s turned around, I have to adjust to the right to make it go to the left. And you always want to adjust the rear sight in the same direction that you’re trying to move the pellet.

The group of 10 shot with Premiers was average. It measures 0.756 inches between centers of the two widest shots. That’s not wonderful for 10 meters, but it’s a start.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle rPremier lite group

Ten Premier lites made this 0.756-inch group at 10 meters. Although it does have a large group of 6 or 7 at the right, it’s a little too open for my tastes.

Next, I tried H&N Match Pistol pellets. During the velocity test, I found them to be very consistent in this rifle. I also said this pellet seemed to fit the breech well; but as I loaded them for the accuracy test, I felt they were still somewhat loose. But look at what they did on target! I did adjust the sights after the Premiers, but I didn’t check where it got me — I just shot 10 of these target pellets and let them land where they would. I didn’t even look at the target through the spotting scope until all 10 had been fired, and in retrospect that was a good decision. I could see the dark hole growing in the center of the bull from where I sat, but I didn’t know if there were any pellets outside the main group. This 10-shot group measures 0.48 inches between centers and is centered in the bull.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle H&N Match Pistol target

Now, this is what I was hoping for! Ten H&N Pistol Match pellets went into 0.48 inches.

Next, I tried RWS Hobbys. They seemed to fit the breech very well and just look at the group they gave. The sights were not adjusted after shooting the H&N Match Pistol pellets but notice that the point of impact shifted slightly to the right. Ten of these pellets gave a super-tight 0.38-inch group at 10 meters. That was the best overall group of the test.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle RWS Hobby group

It just gets better. Ten Hobbys went into 0.38 inches.

The last pellet I tried was our new friend, the H&N Baracuda Green that has done so well in recent tests with other air rifles. I did so for two reasons. First, the weight of this pellet, at 6.5 grains, is light enough to be effective in the Fast Deer. And second, because I wanted to see one domed pellet do well in the rifle and because I may want to shoot it at 25 yards. At that distance, the will start to fight me on accuracy.

This pellet did well, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. And there was a problem. I was shooting the lower right bullseye with this pellet, and a piece of Scotch tape I used to hold the target tight to its backer was reflecting brightly. Was that causing aiming errors? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that this one target was harder to aim at than all the others because of that reflection.

Baracuda Greens gave me a 10-shot group that measures 0.902-inches between centers. In the center of the group, though, as seven shots in just 0.353-inches. So maybe this is a great pellet and maybe it isn’t. But I think I know a way to find out.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle H&N Baracuda Green group

Not the best group, but does it contain the best pellet? The Baracuda Green was hampered by aiming difficulties. Would that have made a difference?

The Fast Deer has earned a Part 4 accuracy test with a scope. I find the heavy trigger is not as much of a problem as I thought it would be. And I really want to see how those Baracuda Greens do when I can aim precisely. So, there’s at least one more report coming on this unique Chinese sidelever.

On to the rant
Why can’t airgun manufacturers recognize that spring guns running at this power level (650-700 f.p.s.) are more accurate and have the least problems with hold? That was what gave me the idea to develop the rifle that became the Air Venturi Bronco — because I couldn’t find enough good, accurate airguns that aren’t Olympic-grade target rifles or top-end PCPs.

Everyone seems to think the market will not support a 700 f.p.s. spring rifle that also has great accuracy. They all point to the Beeman R7 and say that it isn’t selling that well. But the R7′s price has left three-quarters of the market behind. To succeed, a rifle needs to cost under $200, like so many of the mega-magnums now do.

No — airguns have to hit the magic 1,000 f.p.s., and the faster you go the better! I appreciate that new buyers are swayed by velocity, and so are some who should know better; but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for a few super-accurate guns that don’t take 50 lbs. to cock. And just so people in all the marketing departments around the world get my meaning: by “a few,” I mean a few tens of thousands per year.

The current horsepower race in airguns reminds me of the muscle car days of the 1960s. Sure, everyone wanted power and speed, but Detroit completely ignored that segment of the population that just wanted reliable transportation. Even after Volkswagen poked a finger in their eye, the fat cats in Motor City thought it was just a blip on the radar that would eventually go away.

Well, it wasn’t a blip, and it was Detroit that went away, instead, when the Japanese snuck quietly into the American car market with their little cars that were what the majority of buyers really wanted. Call them names if you must — we certainly did back in the late ’60s — but acknowledge that they took over the world of automobiles from the Big Three.

People will tell you that it was the gas crisis of 1973 that boosted Japan to the top. Well, I was there and that wasn’t it at all. The Japanese were already entrenched when the gas crisis hit. Sure, it put them over the top, but they were already poised to win before the gas stopped flowing.

The same thing exists right now with spring-piston airguns. Everyone, and I mean every single company who builds or imports spring-piston airguns today, will tell you that a gun HAS to go a thousand feet per second or they can’t sell it. That is the kind of reasoning that drives people like me to the Diana 27 air rifles and Hakims of the world. And I shoot airguns all the time. The folks in the airgun marketing departments play golf and fish and have lives outside of the airgun realm. To them, this is just a job — a paycheck.

Well, I see ways of making that paycheck bigger and fatter than ever, and nobody’s paying attention The Bronco is just one such gun. This industry is starved for more like it. But until we learn the hard way that monster vibration machines are not what the world needs more of, the status quo will remain.

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 2

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

Part 1

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Reed sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

Today, we’ll find out if the Fast Deer lives up to its name. In other words, how fast does the Fast Deer go?

As I thought, I am one of the last people on earth to learn about this rifle. Several of you have owned a couple of them and had lots to say about them. They are good — but don’t expect perfection. The trigger never does get too good. Or the one from Vince that said — turn the rear sight around on its rails, and you get a little more eye relief. That one was most helpful, and that’s how my rifle is now set up. By doing that and also moving the rear sight far forward on the rails, I gained an additional 2.5 inches of eye relief to the rear notch, sharpening it considerably.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle rear sight turned around
Vince’s suggestion of turning the rear sight around on its rails provided more than two additional inches of eye relief. That should help during accuracy testing.

The trigger also became noticeably lighter as I conducted the velocity test, which leads me to believe it was just dirty when I got it. It now breaks cleanly at 8 lbs., 6 oz., which — though far from light — is at least manageable. Before, I estimated it took more than 12 lbs. to get it to break!

The dealer who sold me the gun said it was an honest-to-goodness 715 f.p.s. rifle. But he qualified that statement. It was with a Chinese pellet I don’t have. So, I tested the gun with some good standard pellets — both to see the power and also to assess the barrel in anticipation of accuracy testing.

RWS Hobbys
The first pellet I tried was the lightweight RWS Hobby — a 7-grain lead pellet that’s often accurate and also one of the fastest lead pellets available. The first shot from a cold gun went 658 f.p.s., then the velocity jumped up to 684 f.p.s. By ignoring the first shot, I got a string that averaged 674 f.p.s., with a spread from 670 to 684 f.p.s. That puts the Fast Deer in the same power class as the Air Venturi Bronco, and that’s a good place to be. It means the gun should be easy to shoot and not need a lot of special technique.

At the average velocity, this pellet produces 7.06 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. I also note that the Hobby fit the breech of the rifle very well.

JSB Exact RS
The second pellet I tried was the 7.3-grain JSB Exact RS pellet — a lead dome that delivers superb accuracy in some air rifles. But I don’t think that’s going to happen with the Fast Deer. With the RS pellet, I got a bi-modal distribution, with one mode being about 650 f.p.s. and the other mode being 623 f.p.s. The average for the entire string was 635 f.p.s. — a velocity the rifle never actually shot. The spread was a large one — ranging from 606 to 658 f.p.s. The final shot was 658, and I influenced it by enlarging the pellet’s skirt with the ball tip of a pellet seater. These pellets fit the bore very loosely, and I think the velocity was greatly influenced by this poor fit. FYI, there were also two pellets that left the muzzle at 657 f.p.s. and were not flared, so I left the velocity of the flared pellet in the string.

At the average velocity, the RS pellet generated 6.54 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. I would be afraid of these pellets falling out of the breech before the sliding compression chamber is closed, so they’re out of the running for the accuracy test.

H&N Match Pistol pellets
The last pellet I tried was the H&N Match Pistol pellet. At 7.56 grains, it’s heavier than the other two I tried but is still a relatively lightweight pellet. They averaged 634 f.p.s. and ranged from 630 to 637 f.p.s. Flaring the skirt made no difference to velocity, and this pellet seemed to fit the breech well.

At the average velocity, this pellet produced 6.75 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Since the velocity spread was tight (only 7 f.p.s.) and the fit was good, this will be a pellet to try in the accuracy test.

The rifle is definitely smoking as it’s shot, giving off the unmistakeable odor of a Chinese springer — or what I like to call the “frying bacon” smell. If I were going to tune the gun, I would replace the lubricant with moly grease that would stop the smell and also change the dieseling characteristics. It would still diesel, of course, but it probably wouldn’t be so noticeable.

Update on the Falke 90
Several readers expressed their concerns that I said I was going to refinish the Falke’s stock. It seemed to me that your fears sounded sort of like reacting to the little boy who wants to help his dad by painting murals on his bedroom wall. You may be glad to know that Kevin recommended a good stock restoration man by the name of Doug Phillips, and I’m now talking to him about this project. So, all is not lost for the Falke just yet.

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 1

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

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

I found this rifle at the 2012 Roanoke Airgun Expo a few weeks ago. The thing that caught my eye was the beauty of the finish — and that’s a stretch for most Chinese air rifles. Especially the vintage ones, which this most assuredly is.

I made the mistake of commenting to the dealer that it resembled an older TS-45 sidelever like the ones Randy Mitchell is selling, and I received an earful of protests that it was most definitely NOT a TS 45. And it really isn’t; but when you see the two guns side-by-side, you know their makers at least saw the competition.

TS 45 rifle right
The TS-45 appears to be the Fast Deer’s close relative. This test will determine how close.

The Fast Deer (or, as some call it, the Fast Dear — referring to their wives or girlfriends?) is finely finished, as I noted. The metal parts are deeply blued and the wood is very shiny. The fit of the action to the stock, however, leaves little doubt as to the rifle’s origins. The label on the box says the gun is made by the Zhongzhou Machinery Plant China North Industrial Corporation, or Norinco, as it is known in the U.S. Norinco is to China what Ishmash is to Russia — a huge arsenal that also makes items of a commercial nature.

When Mac first saw the gun, he remarked that the sidelever release appears similar to the one on the FWB 300S. Because this is a Chinese air rifle, you would expect the release to require a huge amount of pressure to operate, but it doesn’t. It’s smooth and as light as it can be for what it does.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle rear sight
The rear sight looks robust enough, but the adjustments are vague. You can make out the parallel dovetail grooves in the spring tube that might serve as a scope mount base. Also, note the sidelever release that works smoothly on the test rifle.

I haven’t removed the action from the stock, but so far the only marking I see on the gun is the serial number stamped into the left side of the spring tube. So, how do I know it’s a Fast Deer? Simple — it came in a Fast Deer box with a Fast Deer owner’s manual.

Fast Deer sidelever air right box graphics
The graphics on the box tell you the name of the rifle.

As I was admiring the rifle (I was not yet its owner), the dealer told me that it shoots at an honest-to-goodness 715 f.p.s. The TS-45 I tested for you earlier this year launched RWS Hobby pellets at an average 552 f.p.s. This gun may do a lot better than that.

Two things I can tell you for certain at this point. First, the rifle has an incredibly heavy trigger. It feels like at least 12 lbs., but it could be even more. There isn’t any creep in the single-stage pull, but the release is much heavier than it should be or even needs to be. The other thing I can say is that it feels like a tuned gun when it fires. It isn’t tuned, because it still smells like bacon frying after a few shots, and that smell is a telltale sign of Chinese grease. But there’s very little vibration and recoil with the shot. It feels like there’s a wonderful air rifle struggling to get out of the Fast Deer.

The sights are a hooded square blade in front and an adjustable rear notch that sits too close to the eye. Your eye cannot focus well on a notch that close, so aiming should be something of an adventure. I do note, however, that the TS-45 rear sight sits in the same place, and I managed to do okay with it. As nice and crisp as the rear sight appears, though, the detents on the windage adjustment knob are soft and mushy — and on elevation, they’re nonexistent.

The rear sight sits on parallel rails that might be pressed into service as a scope mount base. There doesn’t appear to be a scope stop on the gun, but as smooth as it shoots, maybe you don’t need one.

When the rifle is cocked, you can both hear and feel a ratchet dragging scross the coils of the mainspring. That ratchet holds the sidelever in case you slip before the gun is cocked. Once cocked, though, there doesn’t seem to be any anti-beartrap, so use the safe cocking method I recommended for the TS-45.

Restraining the TS 45 sidelever during loading
The sidelever is safely restrained by your arm during loading. If the sear should slip, you might get a welt on the arm, but your digits would have time to get away from the sliding compression chamber.

I was ready to buy this rifle when I overheard another dealer telling this dealer that he also had a Fast Deer on his table. It didn’t have a box, but I thought I’d better check it out first. So, I wandered over to his table where there, indeed, was Fast Deer No. 2. It wasn’t in as good condition as this one, though, and the price was a little higher. I returned to the first dealer and bought the gun seen here for $40.

Some people might ask for a price break on a deal like that; but as far as I was concerned, the dealer had already marked it with his best price. It was cheaper than the other rifle in lesser condition and was only $40. That’s two trips for a couple to Pizza Hut. How could I go wrong?

What’s different?
The single standout difference in the Fast Deer over the TS-45, other than the overall level of quality, is the manual safety. On the Fast Deer, the safety is a switch on the rifle side of the stock, just above the trigger. The TS-45 has no safety.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle safety
The safety is on the right side of the stock, above the trigger. It’s set to fire now.
There’s a red dot below the round black plate. When you move the lever clockwise, the fat part of the lever covers the red dot in the 6 o’clock position. Then, the gun is on safe. When you move the lever counterclockwise so the red dot shows, the gun is ready to fire.

I can tell you that the Chinese pellets I’ve used thus far fit the bore well, so it doesn’t seem to be oversized like so many Chinese air rifles are.

More cheap Chinese airguns, B.B.?
I think that hope springs eternal in the human breast. I know it does in mine! I always hope that I will find some overlooked little wonder than shoots well, is accurate and doesn’t cost a fortune. I have very high standards, and the trigger on this rifle is already a bust — but I’m curious to see if there’s a diamond somewhere amongst all this coal.

I would like to hear from those who own Fast Deer air rifles, because I think they must like them a lot. Either way, though, please let us know what you think of this airgun.

One last thing: Why “deer”?
Edith and I wondered why the term “deer” was used…and this also made us wonder why Leapers (makers of UTG optics, bipods and more) uses a deer for their logo. Plus, their name relates to the leaping of deer. After a bit of research, we found a site that explains this…if the data is true: The deer is a Chinese symbol for longevity. The word for “deer” in Chinese is “lu” which could also be translated to mean “revenue” or “earnings.” It’s a mark for desire for fame, recognition and enduring success. If any of you are fluent in Chinese culture and language, maybe you could shed some light on this.

New-old-stock TS-45 air rifles: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This TS-45 rifle is probably at least 30 years old, yet also brand new.

I’ve anticipated this day with great hopes, because this TS-45 rifle has the tightest bore I’ve ever seen on a vintage Chinese air rifle. I’ve owned a couple older Chinese air rifles, and they always had huge bores that every pellet wallowed in. The only one that was ever accurate was another TS-45 that I modified by changing the barrel for a Lothar Walther from Dennis Quackenbush. That one also had the benefit of an overhaul and was really a nice little plinker after all the work was done. But it didn’t have the original oversized barrel.

Through the years, I’ve heard from many owners of Chinese springers who said they had accurate guns. And always their barrels were considerably tighter than any I’d seen. Well, Lady Luck finally smiled on me, because this time it was my turn to get a tight barrel. So, I anticipated the possibility of accuracy.

Loose stock screws
Before testing I tried to tighten the stock screws. The rear triggerguard screw and the rear sling swivel anchor screw are what hold the action in the stock. Both were loose and needed tightening.

For fun, I removed the barreled action from the stock. From what I see, this would be an easy action to work on, so I may have a go at it at some future date. No promises, but if I can collect another dozen “round tuits,” I’ll have what I need to smooth out this action.

Firing behavior
I have to compare the firing of this rifle to that of the El Gamo 68 I recently tested. Both have heavy triggers and quick shot cycles with very little vibration afterward. The firing pulse is heavy and disagreeable, but I think that with the fitting of a few parts it could be made smoother.

The trigger looks simple enough and is obviously has a case-hardened sear. I can tell that by the shape of the part and its thickness. If I were to rebuild the gun, I might have a go at smoothing the sear contact area a little.

I had a gut feeling this rifle wanted to shoot, and it didn’t disappoint me. The first pellet I tried was a 7.9-grain Crosman Premier dome. I shot at a 10-meter pistol target at a distance of 10 meters (33 feet). The pistol target has a larger bull than the 10-meter rifle target, and I find it easier to see when I use open sights like the ones on this rifle.

Ten Crosman Premier lites made this 1.657-inch group at 10 meters. Nine went into 0.891 inches. This is a very horizontal group.

Speaking of the sights, I find the sights on this TS-45 to be among the sharpest and easiest open sights I’ve ever seen on an air rifle! I wish the makers of modern air rifles would put sights this good on their guns! The rear sight has a U-shaped notch that’s positioned at just the right distance from my sighting eye, so the top of the notch appears clear. And the front post is very sharp and easy to focus on. I had no trouble holding a 6 o’clock hold on the target.

The trigger, on the other hand, is appalling! It’s too heavy to measure on my trigger-pull scale, but I am guessing that it breaks at something approaching 14-15 lbs. of effort! It’s so heavy that my wrist started hurting from pulling it during the test. I’m not sure the final group I shot was as good as it could have been because my wrist hurt so much from squeezing this horrible trigger.

The first group wasn’t as nice as I had hoped, spreading out to the left as the shots increased, but it was much better than a typical old Chinese airgun would do for me. One pellet went way out to the left; but as far as I could tell, the sight picture was perfect for that shot, as well as for all the others. I used an artillery hold with the back of my off hand touching the front of the triggerguard. The rifle sits well in the hand for this hold and is light enough to feel good. Later in the series, I flipped my off hand over and rested the rifle on the backs of two fingers. That seemed to have less movement on target as the trigger was pulled.

The second pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. I’ll usually default to this pellet in a lower-powered spring gun because, for some reason, many of them seem to like it very much. This pellet fit the bore very tight and gave the best group of the day.

RWS Hobbys made the best group of the test. Ten went into this group measuring 0.835 inches between centers.

The Hobby group was very encouraging. I started believing this rifle was going to shoot like a target rifle. The next pellet was shot with the Gamo Match, and here’s where I started to notice the heavy trigger-pull taking its toll. I can’t say for certain, but I think some of the size of this group was due to fatigue.

Ten Gamo Match pellets made this 0.845-inch group. Almost as small as the Hobby group, this one may have suffered from the fatigue of my trigger finger.

The final pellet I tested was the H&N Finale Match Pistol, but by this time there was no mistaking my fatigue. The only other time I remember feeling like this while shooting a gun was when I tested one of those $2,500 Airrow airguns made by Swivel Machine Corp. They had a trigger pull over 25 lbs. and were horrible to shoot. You can see the results of my fatigue in the vertically scattered shots, where the other three groups were good in the vertical plane.

This vertical dispersion is definitely due to the fatigue caused by the heavy trigger. Ten H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets made this 1.376-inch group at 10 meters.

What now?
As I indicated earlier, I’ll set this rifle aside for now. But it looks like a simple action to work on, and I may eventually return, just to see what I can do about that heavy trigger and violent pulse at firing.

I was never one to praise these old Chinese airguns; but if I’d encountered one like this one back in the days when I tested them, things might have turned out differently. I certainly would have cut them more slack if I’d known they could shoot so well.

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