Posts Tagged ‘Spring-piston rifles’

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2: Part 1

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

We learned this weekend that Robert Law, founder of the original Air Rifle Headquarters, has just passed away. For those who are new to airguns, Air Rifle Headquarters was the first informative airgun importer in the U.S., preceding Beeman Precision Airguns. ARH was the rocket that lifted airgunning off the pad, and Beeman boosted it into orbit. If you want to know more about this early history, read a three-part blog I wrote about Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman Precision Airguns and how they started.

This report covers:

• Time to evaluate the gun
• The rifle
• Where is it made?
• Initial impressions

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2
Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2

The day has finally arrived. And it isn’t what I’d envisioned. When I left the SHOT Show in January, Crosman and I were on the same page with this new Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2. I told them how important I felt this rifle was going to be, and they assured me that I would get one to review for you at exactly the right time. So, when the guns became available, my reports would have just started. They told me that would happen in April, but I assured them I knew things don’t always work out as planned.

Well, it’s now June and not only is the rifle hitting the market a little late, it appears that Crosman plans pumping them out as fast as they can. Pyramyd Air received a large shipment of rifles just a little over a week ago, and those arrivals have all been spoken for — but more are coming.

Pyramyd Air shipped me a wood-stocked .22-caliber rifle the next day, which is how I came to have the test gun. It’s serial No. 414DAO482, but that may not matter because I promised to buy the test rifle if it turns out to shoot like the rifle I tested in Las Vegas.

Time to evaluate the gun
I was pleasantly surprised when I shot the NP2 at the SHOT Show this year. The rifle I fired seemed to do everything Crosman said it would. It cocked easily for a powerful rifle with a gas spring, the trigger was smooth, light and crisp on the release, the shooting sensation was dead calm — and from the spinners I was hitting on the range, the rifle appeared to be quite accurate.

Of course, there were things I couldn’t evaluate under those circumstances. I was told the rifle’s discharge sound was less than that of a Benjamin Marauder, but there were a thousand other media members on the ranges, all banging away with firearms. It was liken a war out there, and I was unable to evaluate the sound of a quiet air rifle. But I can do that now.

I can also evaluate the accuracy potential much more precisely with paper targets that show the results. And best of all, I can address those nasty doubts that some people are trying to put in the minds of buyers that the NP2 Crosman is shipping is somehow not as nice as the gun that was available for testing in Vegas. The whole point of this rifle is to eliminate all those drawbacks that inexpensive gas-spring breakbarrel rifles have had up to now:

Heavy cocking effort (40-60 lbs.).
Heavy and creepy triggers.
Painful recoil and vibration at discharge.
Mediocre accuracy.
Sharp crack at discharge.

Gas springs have so many potential advantages over coiled steel springs that cleaning up this punch list of flaws makes perfect sense. You see, gas springs:

Can remain cocked without spring power degradation.
Are less sensitive to cold.
Have less vibration (buzzing) on discharge.
Have an even cocking pressure all the way through the stroke.
Are lighter weight.

If the new Benjamin Trail NP2 rifle addresses those faults mentioned above, then it will be a major step forward in spring gun technology, in my opinion. The rifle I tested at the SHOT Show certainly seemed to address as many of them as I was able to evaluate, which is why I said in my 2014 Gaylord Reports chapter in the new Blue Book of Airguns that the NP2 is the standout airgun product for 2014.

I said that because the majority of airgunners still shoot spring-piston guns. If that were not the case, the new NP2 wouldn’t be the story that it potentially is because tens of thousands of customers wouldn’t be interested in it.

From a technological standpoint, the AirForce Escape rifles are every bit as novel as the NP2, for what they are and what they can do. But the majority of airgunners in the U.S. do not shoot precharged guns, and that is not likely to change anytime soon. So, the NP2 is positioned to have a major impact in how the majority of airgunners view their sport/hobby.

I’ve explained my thinking so you’ll understand that this is not just another product test. It may seem like that; and if you are interested in this gun, you’ll get all you came to find. But there’s more at stake here than just one air rifle, or even a line of air rifles. This is a potential upgrade to gas-spring technology that has for so long been stalled because of the drawbacks mentioned above. If Crosman has truly solved all or most of these faults in gas-spring technology, then the future of this type of airgun seems very bright.

The rifle
As mentioned, I’m testing a .22-caliber rifle in a wood stock. This is from the first shipment of NP2s to hit the market, but there are 2 other versions of this model coming. One will rest in a black synthetic stock, and the other will be set in a Realtree camo synthetic stock.

The first rifles will be in .22 caliber, which I think is very wise. As powerful as this air rifle potentially is, you’ll want the bigger bore and heavier pellet to extract all the power to be had from the Nitro Piston. If you want a different caliber, I believe both .177 and .25 calibers will follow because the accompanying owner’s manual lists all 3 calibers.

Speaking of power, there seems to be some confusion about just how much we can expect. When I checked the Crosman website, it said this rifle will get up to 1200 f.p.s. with alloy pellets and up to 900 f.p.s. with lead pellets in .22 caliber. Pyramyd Air’s website description faithfully repeated that. But don’t memorize those velocities because Crosman has changed them. I expect they need some time for these details to settle down.

On the box the rifle is shipped in, it says to expect up to 1100 f.p.s. with alloy pellets and 950 f.p.s. with lead pellets. And the owner’s manual, which is extremely generic, is entirely mute on the subject. There are always slip-ups like this when a new product is launched, so I’ll test the rifle with both alloy and lead pellets and tell you what it actually does.

The test rifle has a wood stock. The wood is some unidentifiable Asian hardwood that looks like beech. It has a very straight grain, and the finish soaked into the wood in couple places, leaving dark spots or streaks. The wood is smooth with a matte sheen and has no checkering or stippling.

The stock is an ambidextous thumbhole design with a straight line to the butt that keeps the rifle high against the cheek when you mount it to your shoulder. It’s well-suited for mounting a scope. It’s a hunting stock that has a rear detachable sling swivel anchor installed and a front sling swivel located under the base block of the barrel. The cheekpiece rolls over to both sides, and the safety is ahead of the trigger, making the rifle completely ambidextrous.

The pistol grip is very vertical, making the trigger fall right where a shooter with medium-sized hands will want it. The feeling is very comfortable, though the styling doesn’t appeal to me. I liked the synthetic stocked rifle I tested at SHOT, but this wood stock feels very similar and not a bit heavier.

The stock is thick in places, but slims down where your hands will go. It seems to have been designed by a shooter. The buttpad is dense, black rubber that attaches to the stock with two screws. The fit isn’t perfect, but it’s close.

The metal parts are finished to a satin black that they call a hunter finish these days. The end cap, triggerguard and a couple parts of the barrel shroud are plastic and the rest of the action is metal. The front steel sling swivel has been thoughtfully covered in soft rubber to protect the gun’s finish in the field.

A Weaver scope base is permanently attached to the top rear of the spring tube. This is the best way to anchor scope rings on a recoiling rifle, and I wish other airgun makers would take notice.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 scope base
The Weaver scope base that comes on the rifle will stop all scope ring movement issues.

The rifle comes without open sights, but a 3-9X32 Centerpoint scope and rings are included in the box. All you need to do is mount it and start shooting. More on the scope after I mount it. I think Crosman is making a mistake by not at least offering an open sight option on these rifles. I hear a lot of requests for them from shooters.

The weight is given as 8.3 lbs., but that can vary with a wood stock. I weighed the test rifle, and without the scope it came in at 7 lbs., 12 oz. The scope and rings added exactly one more pound.

The barrel is one long shroud, making it look like a bull barrel but without the weight. Crosman mentioned integrated sound suppression and they showed me the guts of the shroud at SHOT. So, yes, there is some technology (baffles) in there.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 baffles
The NP2 shroud has this technology inside.

Unfortunately, the shroud unscrews from the barrel, and the rear portion of the shroud is made from plastic. People may overtighten their shrouds, causing this plastic to crack.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 shroud rear
At the rear of the shroud, a plastic piece fits against the baseblock. This could be subject to crack if the shroud is over-tightened.

The overall length of the rifle is 46.25 inches, so it’s very large. It will dwarf your Remington 700.

The specs say the rifle should cock with 28 lbs. of effort. This one feels like it’s going to top 30 lbs. by quite a lot. I will tell you more about this in the velocity test that will come next.

Inside the box, there’s a huge warning paper telling you never to dry-fire the gun (shoot without a pellet). They say it several different ways; and by the size of the paper and the size of the type on it, I would say this is something Crosman wants you to pay attention to.

Where is the NP2 made?
Lettering on the right side of the baseblock tells us the NP2 was “Designed, engineered and assembled in the U.S.A.” Is there anyone who doesn’t recognize those words as code for not made here? The wood stock is strong evidence of the origin, but these words confirm it. That said, we are going to evaluate this rifle on the basis of its performance — not the country of origin. I only mention this to address the inevitable questions.

Initial impressions
Here’s what I see so far. The NP2 is relatively light and powerful. The trigger that Crosman calls the Clean Break Trigger is two-stage with a long, heavy first stage. But stage two is not breaking cleanly on my test rifle out of the box. There’s a lot of creep. The trigger is adjustable, so I’ll hold off commenting until I adjust it.

The test rifle definitely cocks with more effort than 28 lbs. That’s something that differs greatly from the rifle I shot at the SHOT Show. There’s little difference in cocking effort between this rifle and any other powerful gas-spring rifle. This one cocks on the light side, but it certainly does not cock with 10 lbs. less effort. Less effort than what is never addressed, but if they mean a powerful gas-spring air rifle, this one doesn’t.

I’ll check the cocking effort, again, after a hundred shots have been fired, just to ascertain if it’s just due to the roughness of a new rifle. In fact, I’ll bet that the one NP2 Crosman brought out to the range in Vegas probably had over a thousand shots on it, with everybody in the company trying it out. So, maybe I’ll do something similar for you.

I’m pleased to report that the firing behavior feels identical to what I experienced in Las Vegas. It shoots dead calm. Of all the shortcomings of a gas-spring gun, that and accuracy are the two biggies.

As I end this first report, I’ll address the discharge noise. I didn’t notice it! What I mean is that this rifle is quiet enough that the sound of the pellet hitting the silent pellet trap is louder than the report. When I shot it the third time, Edith noticed that I was shooting in my office and asked if this was the NP2. I said it was, and she said it wasn’t very loud. That probably says more than anything.

BSA Supersport SE: Part 2

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

Part 1

BSA Supersport SE
BSA Supersport SE

Let’s look at the velocity of the BSA Supersport SE. The factory advertises 750 f.p.s. for the .22-caliber rifle I’m testing. I just hope that’s with lead pellets.

Cocking effort
I mentioned in Part 1 that the rifle cocks a little on the heavy side. I estimated 40 lbs. of effort. On my bathroom scale, this one actually requires 39 lbs. to fully cock the rifle. My gut tells me that some of the effort is the tightness of the new gun and will probably decrease by a few pounds over time.

I cannot resist making a comparison with the Beeman R9, which is also sold as the HW 95. The size and power of this rifle seem to align with that classic, but shooting will tell us the whole story.

RWS Hobby
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby – a lightweight lead wadcutter that’s used to test the legitimate velocities of all airguns. By legitimate, I mean that there are many lead-free pellets that may go faster; but since very few of them are accurate, they probably won’t be used by many shooters.

Hobbys averaged 717 f.p.s. from the test rifle. But the velocity spread was large — from a low of 695 f.p.s. on the final shot to a high of 731 on shot three. That’s 36 f.p.s., which is a bit high for a springer — especially these days when many new spring guns come out so well adjusted.

At the average velocity, Hobbys generated 13.59 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Hold your comments, however, because I noted in Part 1 that I thought this rifle might have a heavy piston (or top hat) that I said could make it shoot better with heavier pellets. So, let’s try one.

Beeman Kodiak
The next pellet was the 21.14-grain Beeman Kodiak — a heavyweight if ever there was one. Kodiaks averaged 535 f.p.s. in the test rifle, and the spread was just 12 f.p.s. It ranged from 527 f.p.s. to 539 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet produced 13.44 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Not as much as the Hobby, but very close. And the tight velocity spread leads me to suspect I was right about the piston. I think the Kodiak has earned a spot in the accuracy test.

RWS Superdome
We need to see what a medium-weight pellet can do in the Supersport SE, and the RWS Superdome is a fine one to try. At 14.5 grains, it sits right in the middle of the weight spread — especially in the range of pellets that should be considered for this rifle.

Superdomes averaged 661 f.p.s. in the Supersport. Since we know the “magic” number is 671 f.p.s. — where the weight of the pellet in grains equals the muzzle energy in foot-pounds — we are very close to that level. This rifle must therefore produce a shade less than 14.50 foot-pounds with this pellet. And it does! It produces 14.07 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle — the highest energy of the three pellets tested.

The total velocity spread for the Superdome was 16 f.p.s. Therefore, the 2 heavier pellets did better (shot more stably) than the lightweight Hobby. I’ll keep that in mind as I test the rifle for accuracy. Yes, I will test it with a scope; but since it comes with a nice set of open sights, I plan to first test it with them.

General comments
The rifle cocks smoothly and without the normal noises I associate with a new spring rifle. And when it fires, there’s no objectionable vibration, as long as you hold it lightly.

The trigger is reasonably crisp. It breaks at 2 lbs., 14 oz., which is light but not overly so. I also really like the fact that the safety is manual.

Last comment. The Supersport SE feels very “old school” to me. It isn’t overly powerful. It has a smooth cocking and shooting sequence. And the size and weight of the rifle feel very nice. I’m so tired of those oversized breakbarrels that make me feel like I’m a kid shooting dad’s big shotgun for the first time. The Supersport SE feels just right.

Air rifles that made an impact: Part 1

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

Today’s topic was suggested by Dennis Quackenbush. We were discussing the influence made by a few key firearms, and he wondered if I’d ever written about airguns in the same vein.

The title says it all, and I bet a lot of you can start a list right away. But which ones to pick? It’s easy to speculate and guess, but is there a better way to choose the air rifles that really did make an impact? And what is meant by “impact?”

I find that an easy way to approach a monumental subject like this is to step away from airguns and choose something that many more people can relate to. Like automobiles, for instance. Which automobiles had an impact on the entire motoring universe?

Well, you can’t go very far without recognizing the Ford Model T. In production from 1908 through 1927, the model T put America on wheels. It caused roads to be paved, businesses to spring up in unlikely places and the entire demographic fabric of the United States to change forever.

When the flivver (as it was also called) first came out, politics in the U.S. were most important at the county level, then the state and only grudgingly at the national level. When it finally passed from the market, national politics were forever changed and local elections were relegated to the status of “also ran.” The Tin Lizzy got the farmer off his farm and into town as frequently as every weekend.

And, if the 15 million Model Ts were game-changers, what about the more than 21 million Volkswagen Beetles that swarmed over the planet from 1947 until the last one was built (in Mexico) in the early 21st century? Certainly, they had a major impact on personal transportation? [I know the Beetle is still being produced, but I'm talking about the original air-cooled version.]

See how easy this is when the topic isn’t as important as airguns? Now, name an air rifle that changed the game.

How about the very first modern air rifle that was conceived in 1905? Built by the Birmingham Small Arms company, best-known for their military rifles, the first underlever air rifle that came to market was called the Lincoln; but BSA liked what they were contracted to build and they put their own name on the rifle, as well. That one rifle started the entire line of smallbore airguns we enjoy today.

There were pellet guns before the BSA, of course, but they were primarily smoothbores and made to shoot darts. Their construction wasn’t robust like the BSA’s was, and they were entirely unsuited to the type of shooting we do today.

One of our own blog readers — RidgeRunner — picked up a 1906 BSA at the Roanoke airgun show last year. Maybe he’ll favor us with his impressions of this hugely important airgun?

BSA 1906
This BSA underlever was the first modern air rifle.

FWB 124
It came along in the early 1970s and metamorphosed in front of our eyes. Originally it was nothing more than a well-made sporting breakbarrel, the 124 (or 121, as it was first known) had a longer piston stroke than any gun that went before. No doubt, the German engineers were just interested in keeping the cocking effort to a minimum; because in their country, the muzzle energy of airguns is limited to 7.5 Joules by law. A longer stroke meant they could use a less powerful mainspring and still get the velocity they were after, but it also meant the gun was primed to be hot rodded.

By the end of the decade, the 124 had become the first air rifle to break the 800 f.p.s. “barrier.” Several other companies — notably BSF and Diana — followed suit; and by 1979, the airgun velocity wars were in full swing.

FWB 124
The FWB 124 started the airgun velocity wars in the 1970s.

Beeman R1
I’ll never forget seeing the Beeman R1 in the Beeman catalog. I had just purchased an FWB 124 and thought I was king of the hill, only to discover that the new R1 had 140 more f.p.s. I was livid! And within a year, Beeman was offering a special tune that jacked up the velocity over 1,000 f.p.s. — the first spring gun to do so. In another year, the standard R1 was getting 1,000 f.p.s. out of the box, and the special tune got them above 1,100 f.p.s.

The R1 didn’t stay on top for very long. Diana soon came out with their model 48 sidelever, which produced an honest 1,100 f.p.s. out of the box…and did so with less cocking effort than the big R1. But for as long as it reigned supreme, the Beeman R1 was like a booster rocket for the advancement of the spring-piston air rifle.

Beeman R1
Beeman’s R1 accelerated the velocity wars beyond the sound barrier!

Are there others?
Of course, these 3 rifles aren’t the only ones to have a major impact on airgunning. I can think of several that belong in this group. What models do you think deserve this recognition? And why?

BSA Supersport SE: Part 1

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

BSA Supersport SE
BSA Supersport SE

Today, we’ll begin looking at a .22-caliber BSA Supersport SE. This is a conventional breakbarrel spring piston air rifle in a beech stock. It’s been some time since I’ve tested a conventional new spring rifle like this.

The serial number of the rifle I’m testing is SSE22-770789-13. The metal finish is unpolished but probably tumble-finished, giving all the parts a matte sheen. The only plastic parts you can see on the outside are both sights, the safety lever and the triggerblade. They blend into the overall matte black finish very well.

The stock is shaped well and has 4 panels of pressed checkering — one on either side of the forearm and one on either side of the pistol grip. The BSA stacked rifles logo (called piled rifles in the UK, and the BSA logo is called the Pylarm logo) is pressed into the base of the pistol grip. The wood is finished smoothly, and the only rough area is the point where the black rubber buttpad meets the wood. That transition isn’t smooth, and there’s glue around the joint.

BSA Supersport SE butt
The joint at the buttpad is a little rough and has dried glue.

The barrel comes very far back when the rifle’s cocked, making this a long-stroke piston. The cocking linkage is in 2 pieces that are jointed to keep the cocking slot in the stock as short as possible, which reduces the feeling of vibration. BSA says that the action is internally weighted to deliver top performance. I’m thinking they mean that there’s a weighted top hat inside the piston, or the piston itself is heavy. Either way, the rifle should shoot medium and heavyweight pellets better than lightweight pellets.

BSA Supersport SE air rifle
The barrel comes way back when the rifle’s cocked. That means the piston stroke is long.

The rifle is supposed to weigh 6.6 lbs., according to BSA information. The rifle I’m testing weighs 7 lbs. on the nose. The difference is attributable to the density of the wood in the stock.

BSA advertises the muzzle velocity at 730 f.p.s. That would be with a lightweight pellet, but I’m hoping it’s a light lead pellet. If so, that’s a good velocity for a .22 spring rifle — not too fast, yet plenty of power. We’ll find out in the velocity test.

The trigger is adjustable via an Allen wrench. The adjustment works on the second stage to lighten it or make it heavier. The safety is manual, which I must applaud. Only the shooter should be in control of the gun — never the design!

The sights are fiberoptic, front and rear. The rear sight adjusts in both directions, so I’ll start the accuracy testing using the open sights.

BSA Supersport SE front sight
Front sight is fiberoptic.

BSA Supersport SE rear sight
Rear sight is fiberoptic and adjusts in both directions.

There’s an 11mm dovetail groove machined into the top of the spring tube, but BSA has long been noted for having its grooves set at the widest end of the size spectrum. For newer readers, 11mm is a nominal size for airgun dovetails. They actually range from 9.5mm out to almost 14mm, and BSA has always had the widest set. But it looks like the grooves are now 11mm apart.

I’m very pleased to see a deep, wide vertical scope stop hole in the middle of the dovetails at the rear of the spring tube. This provides a solid anchor point for a vertical scope stop that most of the conventional 11mm scope rings have.

BSA Supersport SE scope stop hole
This deep, wide hole in the spring tube is for a vertical scope stop.

Solid firing cycle
I couldn’t resist shooting the rifle a couple times to check the trigger and the firing cycle. The trigger is definitely 2-stage, with some creep in stage 2. I’ll work on that for next time. The firing cycle is quite smooth. It’s got a hint of spring buzz, but only a hint. The shot feels solid and there is no hurtful vibration at all. This is a very pleasant spring rifle to shoot!

I would add that, when I cocked the rifle, the stroke felt to smooth that I almost thought it had a gas spring. Ten years ago, I would have said this rifle has been tuned. It feels that smooth. The cocking effort is heavier — going up around 40 lbs., as a guess. In recent years, I’ve seen a number of breakbarrel air rifles that cocked as smooth as this one, so what I believe is happening is the manufacturers are paying more attention to the internal tolerances. The result is that the buyer gets a smoother air rifle; and at the price for which this one retails, that’s quite a bargain. Five years ago, you got something much harsher for the same $250.

I have owned and tested BSA Supersport rifles in the past. In fact, in the 1990s they were a huge seller here in the U.S. They are no-frills rifles that offered good performance and accuracy at a good price. Let’s hope BSA has continued that tradition in this latest offering.

BSA Meteor: Part 8

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

BSA Super Meteor
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.

Today, you’ll see how I fixed the bad muzzle crown on the BSA Super Meteor, and then we’ll see if that had any effect on the rifle’s accuracy. You might want to read Part 7, again, just to remind yourself of what I faced.

The BSA project has been just that — a project from the start. All I wanted to do was test another vintage spring-piston air rifle for you and report the results, but this particular air rifle has challenged me at every turn. From the time I bought it at the Roanoke airgun show last September, it’s been nothing but a prolonged learning scenario. I won’t bore you by recapping all that’s happened; but if you want to find out, read Parts 1 through 7.

At the end of Part 7, I showed you a nasty muzzle crown, which I surmised was the reason that all the pellets were leaving the barrel with a yaw to their axis. They weren’t tumbling, because every one of them struck the target paper in exactly the same orientation. They were yawing, or traveling forward while pointing off to one side. Because the barrel is rifled, they were spinning on their long axis, but that axis didn’t happen to coincide with their flight path.

Meteor crown
The BSA Meteor crown has some serious nicks in it. The dark spot at 10 o’clock is the deepest. Compressed air could escape through this channel before any other part of the pellet leaves the bore, and the jet of air could push the pellet over on its side.

The solution was to crown the bore; but as you can see in the picture, the Meteor’s muzzle is counterbored by more than an inch. In other words, it isn’t where it appears to be from the side. It’s deep inside the barrel, where the theory says it shouldn’t get damaged as easily. Only this one was — perhaps from over-zealous cleaning through the muzzle. Who knows? The point is that it had to be fixed.

My shooting buddy Otho suggested a piloted counterbore to face off the crown true and square to the axis of the bore. And he volunteered to make the pilot, so I slugged the bore for him and found it was a diameter of 0.176 inches. That seemed odd to him because it’s larger than the bore of a .17-caliber rimfire bullet that’s about 0.172-inches. But that’s the difference between .17 caliber and .177 caliber — which is important for airgunners and firearms shooters to know. The pilot he made measures 0.1745 inches and fits the Meteor’s muzzle comfortably.

Meteor crown end mill
Otho made the pilot for this counterbore.

The counterbore chucked up perfectly in my portable electric drill. I allowed extra length for the bore to go down into the barrel and touch the muzzle without the drill chuck touching the barrel.

Meteor crown end mill in drill
The counterbore is chucked in the drill and set to run true. It sticks out far enough to cut the crown without the drill chuck touching the barrel.

Plugging the barrel
Before starting the work, I pushed 3 fat pellets into the breech and then pushed them with a cleaning rod to within 2 inches of the true muzzle. These will keep the metal chips from dropping down the bore.

I oiled the counterbore and pilot with a good grade of light machine oil before inserting it into the muzzle of the gun. The drill was set on a slow speed, but I can also control the speed by how hard I squeeze the trigger. I wanted a slow steady turn without putting much pressure on the drill. The counterbore is sharp enough to cut the soft barrel metal without a lot of encouragement.

Meteor crowning the muzzle
The drill is set to run slow, and I’m also slowing it more with the trigger. You don’t need speed for a cut like this.

After about 10 seconds of cutting, I removed the counterbore and cleaned the new crown with a cotton swab. There was a band of bright metal around the muzzle where the counterbore had cut. Upon close examination, I could still see gouges in the bright band. The gouges were deeper than the first cut.

Meteor crowning first cut
The new crown is bright after the first cut, but there are still gouges that need to come out.

I cleaned the counterbore with a swab and oiled it again. Then, I made a second cut on the crown. This time, I felt the drill pulse as the cutter removed the uneven metal. It became smooth, and I knew the cut was finished. When I cleaned and inspected the new crown this time, it appeared smooth and even. The job was done.

Meteor crown complete
I apologize for the blurriness of this picture. Focusing on the crown is very difficult when I’m also trying to light it from the same axis as the lens is pointing. The lens is about one inch from the end of the barrel, and this was the best picture I got. There are still some faint marks on the crown. After examination with a loupe, I didn’t think they would be a problem.

At this point, I felt the crown was as clean as I could get it. And there was a simple way to see if this had made a difference. I drove the pellets in the bore out the muzzle and a few steel chips came with them. Next, I shot two RWS Hobby pellets offhand from 12 feet. If the crown was good, they would cut the paper perfectly instead of hitting sideways. And that’s what happened.

So, I backed up to 8 yards and shot 2 more shots from an improvised rest. These 2 pellets landed very close to each other and also showed no signs of tipping. I felt the job was done.

Meteor crown proof target
The two lower shots were from 12 feet. They confirmed the pellets were hitting the paper straight-on. The two upper shots were from an improvised rest at about 8 yards. They told me the crown is probably working.

Now for the test!
The test is a rerun of the Part 7 accuracy test. I used every pellet from the last accuracy test and shot at the same 10 meters.

Eley Wasp
Crosman Premier lite
Air Arms Falcon
RWS Hobby

Meteor crown proof Wasp target
Ten Eley Wasps went into 2.256 inches at 10 meters.

Meteor crown proof Premier lite target
Ten Premier lites went into 1.522 inches.

Meteor crown proof Falcon target
Ten Air Arms Falcons went into 1.941 inches.

Meteor crown proof Hobby target
Ten RWS Hobbys went into 1.361 inches.

If you compare these targets to those in Part 7, one thing jumps out at you. None of these pellets tipped when they went through the paper. So, crowning seems to have solved that problem!

But the accuracy seems no better. The Hobbys did group better in this test, but the Falcons grouped worse. With groups this large at 10 meters, I’m not willing to say anything has improved. I’ve had cheap Chinese air rifles group better than this.

I have one trick left up my sleeve. I’ve noticed that the Meteor rear sight seems hinky and difficult to adjust, and I suspect it jumps around as I shoot. It’s not loose to the touch, but I don’t trust it to hold zero.

I’ll do one more test of this rifle with either a dot sight or with the See All Open Sight if I can get it mounted to the Meteor. If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably abandon this air rifle as a bad investment.

TX200 Mark III: Part 13

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

TX 200 Mark III new rifle
Brand new TX200 Mark III. It’s very similar to my TX; but the checkering is different, and the line of the forearm is more scalloped.

I didn’t plan on this test, but a big goof made during the last test of the red dot sight on the Air Arms TX200 Mark III forced me to rerun the test. The dot sight I used wasn’t anchored and was loose on the rifle at the end of the test. As long as I’m doing this again, I decided to make some lemonade. So, I’m going to show you a quick tip I use to anchor a scope or other optical sight when the mounts I choose have no stop pin built in. I may have covered this in the past, but bear with me as this is important to today’s test.

I want to get this test completed to clear the TX200 Mark III for the next test of the See All Open Sight. It turns out that the See All folks knew all about the problems their sight has with straight-line rifles like the M4, and they cover it in their FAQ section on their website. I didn’t read the FAQs before testing the sight; I just read the owner’s manual, so I missed that. But I thought you should know that they’re aware of the problem.

A quick fix to the scope stop situation
I often have to improvise things, and scope stops can give me problems. Since I have 25+ scopes on as many rifles, with a few extras sitting in the cabinet waiting to be mounted, I often run into a situation where the mounts that fit the scope I want to use (as well as the airgun I’m testing) don’t have the right stops. If the rifle has vertical scope stop holes like those on the TX200, the problem is solved by this quick tip.

The pictures show everything, but here’s what’s happening. A recoil pin is selected to fit in one of the rifle’s vertical scope stop holes. It doesn’t need to be attached to the scope mount — just dropped into the hole. Once it’s in the hole, slide the mount against it and tighten down the mount. As the rifle recoils, the mount tries to slide back, but that only jams it harder against the stop pin.

TX 200 Mark III quick scope stop pin
I used a real scope stop pin, but anything this size will work.

TX 200 Mark III quick scope stop pin in hole
Drop the pin into the vertical scope stop hole on top of the rifle. Yes, this is upside down on purpose. It fits the hole better that way.

TX 200 Mark III mount butted against scope stop pin

Slide the scope mount against the pin and tighten down the mounts. As the rifle recoils, it will just try to slide back and wedge against the pin tighter, so there will be no movement. The UTG Weaver-to-11mm adapter can be seen at the bottom of the mount. It’s the dark thing jammed against the pin.

Now that the fix is in place, we can begin the test. Since the red dot sight was off the rifle, I need to sight-in again. Hopefully, the sight will be pretty close this time! All shooting was from 25 yards with the rifle rested directly on a sandbag.

It took 3 shots to get on target this time. The sight was farther off than I expected.

Baracuda Match
The first pellet I tried was the H&N Baracuda Match. They did well in the last test when the sight wasn’t well anchored, so I figured they would continue to do well today. And they did. Ten shots went into 0.753 inches, and 9 of those went into 0.477 inches. That group is very round and uniform.

TX 200 Mark III Baracuda Match group
Ten in 0.753 inches and 9 in 0.477 inches. The H&N Baracuda Match pellets shot well using a dot sight.

JSB Exact RS
Next up were JSB Exact RS domes. At just 7.33 grains, they’re very light for a rifle having this much power. But they sometimes give surprising accuracy. Not in the TX200, however. The group was open and was the largest of the 4 pellets I tested. Ten RS pellets went into 1.071 inches at 25 yards.

TX 200 Mark III JSB Exact RS group
Ten in 1.071 inches at 25 yards. The JSB Exact RS dome is obviously not the right pellet for the TX200 Mark III.

Crosman Premier 7.9 grains
Then, I tried a group with the Crosman Premier lite. Ten went into 0.641 inches, with 9 making a 0.397-inch group. So, this light pellet that I didn’t know could shoot in the big TX turned in the second best group of the day — besting the Baracuda Match pellets!

TX 200 Mark III Premier lite group
Ten in 0.641 inches at 25 yards, and 9 in 0.397 inches. This is a great group!

Crosman Premier heavy
The last pellet I tried was the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavy. I expected them to beat the Premier lites, and that’s how it turned out. Though the group appears larger than the Premier lite group, it isn’t. Ten heavys went into 0.583 inches at 25 yards and this time there were no fliers. The group is elongated but has no one pellet apart from the group.

TX 200 Mark III Premier heavy group
Ten Premier heavys went into 0.583-inches at 25 yards, with no stragglers. This was the best group of the day!

This test was conducted correctly, with the red dot sight anchored firmly to the rifle. I inspected the mounts after the shooting was finished, and the scope stop pin is still holding the rear scope mount firmly. These groups are representative of what I can do with a dot sight on a TX200. But how do they compare with the same rifle when it’s scoped?

With Baracuda Match pellets, the scoped rifle put 10 into 0.417 inches at 25 yards, while the same rifle and pellet made a 10-shot group measuring 0.753 inches with a dot sight. With Premier heavy pellets, the scoped rifle put 10 into 0.333 inches, while the same rifle and pellet made a 0.583-inch 10-shot group using a red dot sight. Clearly, the scoped rifle is more accurate than the same rifle with the red dot, although it’s still very accurate with the dot sight.

The question now is what will happen when I mount the See All Open Sight on this airgun? Can the groups be as small as those made by the red dot sight? Can they be smaller? We’ll find out next week.

2014 SHOT Show: Part 2

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

Part 1

Here’s our second look at what’s new in airguns for 2014. Last February, while I was having dinner with Hans Wonish of Umarex, he told me about the upcoming Broomhandle Mauser I’m now testing. After we discussed that for a bit, Herr Wonish asked me if there were any other handgun models that I though might be well-received by airgunners. Several crossed my mind, but the one that really stuck out was the Colt Python! This year, I saw that revolver in the Umarex booth!

Umarex Colt Python CO2 BB revolver
BB gun shooters are going to love the new Colt Python .357 from Umarex. It uses real shells to hold the BBs!

Another new rifle from Umarex is going to have a lot of hunters excited because it offers something they’ve been requesting for a long time. The new Umarex Fuel breakbarrel spring rifle (with Reaxis gas piston and SilenceAir technology) has a bipod built right into the stock! That’s right — there’s nothing more to buy. Just pull the legs apart and rotate them down to make a solid field stand. Or flip them back up, and they’re just part of the stock.

Umares Fuel air rifle
Built-in bipod makes the Fuel spring rifle stand out — and up!

Umarex Fuel air rifle
When not needed, the Fuel’s bipod folds neatly back into the stock.

Edith and I went snooping over in the German pavilion. In the Diana booth we saw a gun that hasn’t been seen in the U.S. yet. It’s the 340 N-TEC Premium, a breakbarrel Diana with a nice silencer on the muzzle and a beautiful walnut stock with deep checkering. That’s all pretty usual fare for Diana, except this rifle has something new. A gas spring that’s 100 percent German made!

Diana 340 N-TEC air rifle
The Diana 340 N-TEC Premium is German’s first rifle to have a German-built gas spring.

We’re fortunate to have Herr Michael Mayer (of Mayer and Grammelspacher — the owners of Diana) show the gun to us. He was justifiably proud of the craftsmanship of this beautiful rifle and told us we may start seeing them in the U.S. by June of this year.

AirForce Escape nets big sales on first day!
Remember the Escape rifles I showed you 2 days ago? Well, AirForce sold their entire first 3 months of production on the first day of the show! The reception was overwhelming for this rifle; and like I predicted, people who aren’t traditional airgunners were buying them, too!

Remington gets back into airguns
They haven’t made airguns since 1929, but Remington Arms is revitalizing their airgun selection in 2014. Leading the effort is Dani Navickas, the lady who served many of us at the old Beeman organization for so many years. She has spent a lot of time teaching the Remington staff about the airgun market, and it looks like it will pay off this year.

The first offerings are guns made in China, but don’t make a face. When I saw them, I was shocked. The quality looks as good as anything that comes from Europe these days. Each model is patterned after a popular Remington firearm, and the guns should be available to the U.S. market by early summer.

Remington Express air rifle
The Remington Express and Express Compact are 2 new air rifles from Remington. They say I can test an Express very soon!

Reminton also has a neat 1911A1 BB pistol. It has blowback and can fully disassemble like the firearm. I’ll test that one as soon as possible!

Remington 1911 air pistol
New Remington BB pistol has blowback and offers full disassembly. The grip safety really works!

Another new product from Remington are some great field targets with features I haven’t seen before. They offer killzone reducers that are permanently attached and just flip in and out of position! And some of them are resettable with a second shot — ending the need for long cords that can tangle and break.

Remington field targets
Killzone reducers simply flip in and out of place! And reset the target with a hit on the bottom paddle!

With Dani at the helm, we can count on Remington to enter the airgun world in the right way. I hope they realize how fortunate they were to get her to lead their efforts!

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