Posts Tagged ‘Spring-piston rifles’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
This BSA underlever was the first modern air rifle.
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.
The FWB 124 started the airgun velocity wars in the 1970s.
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.
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?
Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ten Eley Wasps went into 2.256 inches at 10 meters.
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.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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!
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.
Built-in bipod makes the Fuel spring rifle stand out — and up!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.
I’m headed to Las Vegas this weekend for the 2014 SHOT Show, so I’m asking veteran readers to help the newer readers more than usual. And I thank you in advance.
Tuesday’s blog will have something very important. It’s the first day of the SHOT Show, and I’ll show you something brand-new. It’s a pretty big deal, so it’s worth a look. Now, let’s get to today’s report.
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the BSA Super Meteor Mark IV that I’ve been working to restore. This report was never supposed to be an ongoing saga. It was supposed to be a quick 3-part look at a vintage air rifle, but the Meteor that I bought at the Roanoke airgun show last September turned out to need almost one of everything. So, I hunkered down and went to work.
I said in one of the earlier parts that fixing up an old spring-piston rifle is a lot like rebuilding an old tractor. Man, was that ever a prophesy! I had no idea that I would have to get down into the guts of the rifle to get it shooting again; but if you’ve followed along on all the earlier parts, you know that’s exactly what happened. Now that the old girl is shooting like she should, let’s see how accurate she is.
This is a vintage spring rifle with open sights, so I like to begin shooting those at 10 meters. Since I have no idea how accurate or inaccurate they are, it’s best to start close. If the groups show some promise, I can always back up to 25 yards and shoot a second test.
I figured a vintage airgun deserves a vintage pellet, so I broke out some obsolete Eley Wasps in .177 caliber as the first pellet. The first 2 shots were to sight in, and shot #1 was low, so I tried to adjust the rear sight up using the adjustment wheel. Alas — it didn’t move the sight! The backup plan was to loosen the rear sight blade and slide it higher. I also noted that the whole rear sight unit needed to be snugged down, so that was also done.
These .177 Eley Wasps are from the same timeframe as the Meteor rifle.
Loosen the 2 screws and slide the sight blade up to raise the point of impact.
Before we proceed, a word about .177 Eley Wasps is in order. Many of you know that the 5.56mm (.22-caliber) Eley Wasp is a particularly fat .22-caliber pellet. It’s often the best in vintage airguns whose bores are on the large side. But the .177-caliber Wasp is not an oversized pellet — at least not the ones I have. I often choose these pellets for guns with larger bores such as the Meteor, forgetting that these aren’t the best or biggest .177 pellets around.
I shot only 8 pellets at the target because the group grew to 3.559 inches between centers, and it didn’t seem worth my time to finish. But that wasn’t all I noticed. Most of the pellet holes are ripped out to the right, as if the pellets were not traveling straight. We know from the previous velocity test that this rifle now shoots fast enough to not tear target paper when the pellets pass through, so this tearing had to have been caused by the pellet’s orientation and not its velocity.
It only took 8 Eley Wasp pellets to convince me that this was not the right pellet for the Meteor. Notice the tearing of the paper! It’s all in the same direction. I’m cutting off parts of the bulls in this photo because they contain another group from another pellet.
Crosman Premier lite
These results were enough to convince me to use modern pellets in the Meteor. The next pellet I tested was the Crosman Premier lite. This time, I fired all 10 pellets, and the group was much smaller than before, but it still measured 1.73 inches between centers. That’s horrible for any air rifle at 10 meters!
What was even more surprising is the fact that the Premiers also tore paper to the right of the main pellet hole. In fact, they tore in exactly the same place!
It looks like 9 holes, but there are 10 Crosman Premier lite pellets in this group. It measures 1.73 inches between centers…and notice the tearing of the target paper in exactly the same way that the Eley Wasp pellets tore it.
If the pellets were tumbling in flight, the tears would be randomly scattered around the main hole because the tumbling pellet would change its orientation all the time. But because they are all in the same place, it looks like the pellets are tipping as they exit the muzzle and flying straight to the target in that tipped orientation. Hmmm! Have to think about that.
Air Arms Falcon
The next pellet I tried was the Falcon from Air Arms. I selected this pellet because the heads were sized large, at 4.52mm. They have the largest heads of any .177 pellets I have.
They put what looks like 9 shots into 1.863 inches between centers. Once again, several of the holes are torn on the right side.
The final pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby. This is a large wadcutter that sometimes is very accurate at 10 meters. But not this time. Ten went into a group that measures 2.05 inches between centers. They also tore the paper to the right of the main pellet holes.
I knew something was wrong with the rifle because these pellets all fly at different speeds. There’s no way a tumbling pellet can tear the paper in exactly the same place when they all get there at different times. For even one single type of pellet to do that is hard to believe, but for 4 different types…it’s impossible. The pellets have to be leaving the muzzle tipped on their edge and remain in that orientation all the way to the target.
I know that most of you have guessed what’s wrong with the rifle by this point, but I hadn’t. Of course, I didn’t have someone pushing my nose into the facts like you have in this report. It wasn’t until my buddy Otho came by for a visit. I showed him the targets (because he has an interest in the Meteor, as you recall), and he said, “I’ll bet that barrel needs to be recrowned.”
Oh, my gosh! How could I fail to see that? Of course that was the problem. When I brought out the Meteor for him to look at, he saw it right away. I bet you will, too. The muzzle is backbored by more than an inch; but with a tactical flashlight, we were able to look down inside.
See the dark spot at 10 o’clock? It appears to be a nick in the muzzle. How it got there I don’t know, but it should be fixed.
The saga continues!
Yep, this Meteor is like an old tractor, all right. Just when you think you have the thing running and looking spiffy — the magneto quits. These days, there’s only one old man in Kansas who can repair them. Actually, I protesteth too much because I really enjoy working on this gun. It wasn’t made in China, yet it has turned out to be even worse than most of the very poor-quality Chinese airguns I’ve tested in the past.
In truth, there’s a lot of great engineering in this rifle, as well as a ton of abuse. You BSA Meteor owners out there know that I’m not purposely beating up your favorite airgun. It’s just that it challenges me at every turn. But that’s a large part of what makes this hobby interesting. After all is said and done, I’m not upset.
OK, take that report on a Friday and run with it! Remember, I’m on my way to Las Vegas and cannot answer as many comments as normal.