Posts Tagged ‘Theoben Eliminator’

B.B. looks at gas springs

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

This report covers:

• What to call them
• Can gas be a spring?
• Confusion reigned supreme
• We bought one
• Meet Ben Taylor
• It worked!
• Ft. Worth airgun show

What to call them
Today, I want to tell you about the saga I had when I got into gas-spring airguns. Let’s start with the name. Some folks call them gas struts, while others call them gas rams. Some, like Crosman and Gamo, use trademarked names like Nitro Piston and Inert Gas Technology to name their gas springs. But the industry that makes the units calls them gas springs.

They’re called struts when used in assemblies, like the MacPherson strut in a car’s suspension or the suspension strut on an airplane’s landing gear. I don’t know where the term “ram” comes from, but I’m sure there’s a reason people use it.

Can gas be a spring?
Boy, does this terminology ever throw some people! They cannot accept the idea of gas being a spring, because they know that the gas has to be contained inside something before it can work in that manner. So they object to calling these units “springs.”

A gas-spring unit is a cylinder-like device with two halves that slide in and out. Inside the spring, compressed air or sometimes another gas such as nitrogen is permanently contained. When the two halves slide together, they compress the gas inside and raise the pressure. That causes the two halves to spring apart with force. Inexpensive gas springs are used in many places where coiled steel springs used to be. They’re cheaper to make and can last far longer without degrading — depending on how they’re made.

When I started writing about airguns in 1994, gas springs were just coming into the picture. Theoben, an airgun company in the United Kingdom, was an early leader in the field of gas-spring airguns. There was also a factory in Argentina making them, though their distribution base was smaller. I didn’t find out about them until the late ’90s.

Theoben was founded by co-owners, Dave THEObald and BEN Taylor. I mention that because of what happened to me later, when Ben Taylor talked to me at the SHOT Show.

Confusion reigned supreme
In the early days, the British airgun magazines were loaded with articles about Theobens! Americans were importing them privately at first, then Air Rifle Specialists out of New York state began importing them. Davis Schwesinger was the owner of that company. A few years later, the Beeman company stepped in with their Crow Magnum, which was a Theoben Eliminator in a slightly different stock. After that, Theobens were in the U.S. to stay.

I was writing about airguns by this time, so I chanced to encounter these guns from time to time. My first encounter was not with the powerful Eliminator/Crow Magnum, but with the lowest-powered Theoben ever made, the thoroughly delightful Fenman. Someone had one and allowed me to shoot it at a silhouette shoot in Virginia. I was amazed at how accurate the little rifle was. I was hitting rams at 45 yards offhand, which is way beyond my normal ability. But the rifle was accurate, lightweight, attractive and easy to cock for a gas-spring gun. I say it that way because, even though it produced just 12 foot-pounds, the Fenman cocked with about 40 lbs. of effort. That was mostly due to its short barrel. If you’re interested in my experiences with a Fenman you can read about it here.

We bought one
I decided that I needed to get on the gas spring bandwagon if I was going to write about airguns with any authority. So, Edith and I bought a brand-new Beeman Crow Magnum in .25 caliber. I bought the Beeman because of the name. I figured they would back up the gun no matter what happened. I bought the .25-caliber only because they didn’t offer one in .26. I wanted the biggest, baddest spring-piston air rifle in the world, and the Crow Magnum/Eliminator was it at the time. Well, yes, there was also the equally powerful handmade Whiscombe, but they were out of my price range at the time.

Beeman Crow Magnum
We bought a Beeman Crow Magnum in .25 caliber to test it. What we found was not popular!

I began testing the rifle for my Airgun Letter, and that was when the ship hit the sand! I was getting results that nobody else talked about, and my experiences were far different from those in print. For starters, I decided to shoot the big rifle 1,000 times to break it in. I shot at paper targets 10 meters away and fired 50 shots at each bull. Fifty were all the shots I could fire in one session, using both arms to cock the 60-lb. breakbarrel. And my groups were about two inches in diameter! Two inches at 10 meters! Oh, boy, did that ever get people talking!

Folks immediately started saying that I was doing things wrong and that surely this big rifle couldn’t be that difficult to cock. The Beeman company called and told me to let some of the air out of the gas spring, because Theobens had that ability and I had purchased the optional pump. So, I did. I let out enough air pressure to drop the cocking effort to 46 lbs., and the power stayed almost where it had been. It was easier to cock but still inaccurate.

Gas springTheoben guns had a screw that covered the access to their gas springs.

gas springRemove the screw and attach a hand pump to fill the gas spring. A narrow rod pressed in on the Schraeder valve to release pressure.

I had a visit from a Theoben owner who owned several of the guns. He came to my house, and we both shot our .25-caliber rifles at 10 meters, getting one-inch 5-shot groups! That made it real and no amount of talking could change it. Then, he told me that .25 was not the best caliber for the rifle. If I wanted it to shoot accurately, I needed to get a .20 caliber. Another reader of my newsletter loaned me his Eliminator that he said had been filled with pure nitrogen to reduce the cocking effort; but when I measured it, it still came to 45 lbs. And, it was no more accurate than my rifle.

I contacted Davis Schwesinger of Air Rifle Specialists, and he swapped my .25 barrel for a .20. While he had my gun, he went through it and found that my piston seal was okay. He said he did that because too many Theoben owners had over-pressurized their gas springs and burned up their piston seals. I reported all of this in The Airgun Letter, and the hate mail poured in! I kept trying to shoot good groups with the new .20-caliber barrel. While it was better than the .25, it was still unacceptable.

burned piston seal
This Theoben Eliminator seal was melted from the heat of excessive compression, caused by over-pressurizing the gas-piston unit. Davis Schwesinger replaced this seal (and many others) for customers who didn’t understand they were hurting their guns. This is not a seal from my rifle.

Meet Ben Taylor
Then, I went to the SHOT Show and met Ben Taylor. In fact, he sought me out. He told me that my experiences with his rifles were normal, and that the airgunning world had a distorted view of gas-spring technology. He first told me to clean my barrel. In those days I didn’t believe in cleaning airgun barrels, but Taylor told me to use J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound on a brass or bronze bore brush and to run it fully through the barrel 20 times in both directions. Does that sound familiar?

He also told me to shoot Crosman Premier pellets in my .20-caliber rifle and to lubricate them with a mixture he called Whiscombe Honey. He told me to make it with a mixture of STP Engine Oil Treatment (the real thick stuff) and a good gun oil such as Hoppes. Use equal parts of both by volume and stir them thoroughly. I mixed up a batch that I still use to this day. He told me that John Whiscombe had discovered this mixture worked great in his powerful rifles and that Theoben recommended it.

Taylor also cautioned me to not over-pressurize the gas spring in my gun. Of course, I already knew this, but he told me this was the No. 1 problem his guns had. Owners looking for the last foot per second were over-pressurizing their springs and actually reducing the power the guns put out! He said they refused to believe that more was not better. Those who didn’t own a chronograph were ruining their airguns. There’s a maximum pressure for the gas piston and going above it does not increase the piston’s speed. He said these owners turned their airguns into slide hammers that beat themselves apart to no advantage.

It worked!
I talked with Taylor for about a half hour. The man was completely honest with me, which was refreshing after the tidal wave of propaganda I’d been getting. I returned home, cleaned my barrel, set the gas spring at 45 lbs. and proceeded to shoot the first one-inch group ever at 40 yards. What do you know — the darned thing actually works when you do it right!

Since that time, I’ve shot dozens of different gas-spring airguns. RWS USA imported some that Theoben made especially for them, and I found them to be delightful when used correctly. Tom Gore of Vortek started manufacturing gas springs for various models of Weihrauchs, and I got to test them before anyone. I still have one of his units he made for my R1; and after 15 years, it still works like new.

The best modern gas-spring guns I have tested were the Gamo Whisper with a Vortek gas spring installed by Air Venturi. That gun cocked easily and had virtually no movement or vibration! It was a dream! But it didn’t last long in the market.

Crosman signed a deal with Vortek that got them into the gas-spring business. One of their early guns was called the Benjamin Legacy. I still have mine. It’s a .22 breakbarrel that produces just over 12 foot-pounds and has all the attributes I want to see in a breakbarrel rifle. It’s easy to cock and very accurate. There’s almost no recoil and zero vibration! They also produced a Benjamin Trail Reduced Velocity for a short time, but very few were ever sold. People want power!

Alas, I’m in the minority for wanting spring guns that are reasonable. Most shooters want raw power, which is where we are today. Companies are giving people what they think they want at the expense of hard cocking, poor accuracy and painful vibration. And that — my friends — is why I like the new Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 so much.

The Crosman management team that runs the company today wasn’t around during all those years of gas-spring growing pains when things didn’t work as advertised. Yet, miraculously, one of their young engineers has discovered how to make a gas spring rifle that has the benefits of the best of them, and still produces credible power. Not uncanny power, but usable power in an accurate rifle.

If you’re new to airgunning, you may still have to experience some of these hard lessons yourself. Sometimes, that’s the only way to learn. You want the ultimate in power, and you assume that the accuracy will come right along with it. Only after you’ve been slapped around a while and then shoot a real smooth airgun will you appreciate the difference that a good, smooth gun can make.

Here’s the last thing I’ll say on this subject. I’ve seen people switch  hundreds of times to using good airguns, and each time it’s wonderful. An airgunner who has been pursuing the power trail finally shoots a well-tuned spring rifle that’s easy to cock and dead calm. That experience blows him away, and a new airgunner is born! I enjoy watching this happen, and I hope that it happens to all of you some day.

Ft. Worth airgun show
The Texas airgun show is on Saturday, September 6. Go here for a look at the show flier. All the registration information and hotel information is on the flier, plus the show hours and costs. The 4-H Club will cater food and drinks.

This show is stacking up to be the largest airgun show ever held! We already have the following vendors coming:

AirForce Airguns
Umarex USA
Hatsan USA
Dennis Quackenbush

The following companies say they will try to attend:

Scott Pilkington
Neal Stepp (International Shooters Service)

Besides these major dealers, American Airgunner television will have a film crew at the show and host Rossi Morreale has been invited. Steve Criner, star of television’s Dog Soldier and also appearing on American Airgunner, will attend. We’ve invited big bore hunter Eric Henderson and Jim Chapman, who writes for Predator Extreme magazine, and many other airgun personalities. AirForce Airguns is trying to bring Ton Jones of television’s Auction Hunters to the show, if his schedule permits. Ton is the guy who created the idea for the AirForce Escape survival rifle, as you will remember.

The gun club holding the event has several of their members bringing airguns to sell on a combined club table. These guys have been asking for this show for the past two years and should bring out some interesting old guns for the first time.

The following door prizes and raffle prizes have been donated:

AirForce CondorSS
Air Venturi Bronco
Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE
Walther LGV Master Ultra

Other prizes and giveaways not yet determined will be given out at this show.

I expect a very large turnout for this show. I anticipate new private dealers with airguns that haven’t been seen at other shows, and I know there will be some gun dealers who will be bringing their airguns to sell.

Even better, the crowd at this show will not just be the usual people who attend airgun shows. Yes, many of them will be there and even have tables, but I expect to see hundreds of airgunners who have never been to an airgun show before. Because there will be both vintage guns and brand new guns for sale at the same show, they’ll see the best airgun show ever.

The gun club will be active that day, so there will also be firearms on the ranges. Therefore, the club is allowing firearms to be displayed at the show. Naturally, all firearms and airguns must be unloaded when indoors and must be tied to prevent operation. No dry-firing will be permitted indoors.

Besides the show, the club is giving us two ranges for airguns to be tested and demonstrated. These are located approximately 50 yards from the buildings that house the show. Chapman and Henderson will host a big bore range and demonstrate the guns to the public.

You may have thought about attending an airgun show or even having a table at a show. This is the show to attend! It happens in just a single day and will be exciting, fast-paced and full of surprises.

Tables are now filling fast. If you want one, don’t delay. Send your reservation check today!

Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Beeman’s RX-2 is a handsome air rifle. The brown laminated stock looks perfect.

Man does not live by bread alone — so today we’re having cake! Taking some time away from the BB guns, today we’ll begin looking at a Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle. This rifle is built by Weihrauch and has a Theoben gas spring instead of a coiled steel mainspring. It’s still a spring-piston gun, but the gas spring changes some of the characteristics that I’ll address as this report unfolds.

I decided this time to treat all of us to a combo package instead of a basic rifle that I would then have to scope. Pyramyd Air mounted the scope for me and performed their 10-for-$10 test, which means they chronographed the rifle with 10 shots (actually 13) and included the chrono ticket inside the package. That way both Pyramyd Air and the customer know what the rifle can do at the moment of delivery. This service is included in the price of the combo package, so all you have to do is order what I did.

The RX-2 comes in all four smallbore calibers, but if ever there was a case for ordering the larger calibers, this is it. The power this rifle generates is lost on a .177 gun, because the bore is too narrow for all the air to flow freely. I went all the way and ordered a .25 caliber. I now know from testing the TalonP air pistol that there are at least two superlative .25-caliber pellets on the market, and I’ll test this rifle with several of the other premium brands just to make sure I’ve tested the right ones.

A long time coming
I’ve owned three Theoben gas spring rifles — four if you count the fact that I converted a .25 to .20 to get more accuracy. And I’ve tested many more Theobens besides those. So, you would think that the RX-2 and I were old friends, but we’re not. This will be the first time that I’ve ever shot this model. Back when it first came out as the Beeman RX in 1990, it was viewed by many U.S. airgunners as a “poor man’s Theoben.” It was priced at about half what a Beeman Crow Magnum (Theoben Eliminator) was selling for, and in my mind it didn’t hold the attraction of the pricier airgun.

But over the years, it evolved through the RX-1 (1992) model and finally into the RX-2 (2001)…and I still didn’t test it. I got questions all the time about the trigger, which is not Weihrauch’s fabled Rekord. Because the trigger must grab the gas piston at a different place, a Rekord will not work in this gun. So, Weihrauch replaced it with a trigger especially designed to work with the gas spring. I never knew how good it was and will only discover as this report unfolds. My test rifle is serial number 1817631.

There have been several stocks to choose from over the years, and the one on this rifle is a laminate. That adds weight to the gun, which the lighter gas piston counteracts to some degree, but in the end the rifle I am testing is slightly heavy — at 10 lbs., 15 oz. with the scope. I say “slightly heavy” because I’m used to the weight of magnum spring rifles; but if the heaviest rifle you’ve ever held is a Winchester model 70, this one will feel like an elephant rifle in comparison. At first, the weight seems oppressive, but wait until you’ve shot the gun a thousand times before wishing it was lighter. That weight adds stability that modern rifles don’t have. Sporting (hunting) rifles of a century ago weighed 10-12 lbs. as a rule, rather than as the exception.

The trigger is entirely different than the Rekord. It is two-stage, and the triggerguard houses the release button of the automatic safety. The Rekord trigger has the safety release button at the back of the receiver. While the safety comes on automatically, you can take it off any time and put it back on without recocking the barrel, as must be done on all rifles having the Rekord trigger. Simply depress the lever in front of the triggerguard (so THAT’S what that lever is!) until you hear the safety click back on. If the click bothers you, such as while hunting, simply depress the safety button until you have pulled the safety release lever all the way, then slowly release the safety button and the gun will be back on safe without making a sound.

The RX-2 trigger is not a Rekord. However, it has an automatic safety that can be reapplied without recocking the rifle: simply pull back on the lever in front of the triggerguard.

I tried the trigger only a few times for today’s report, but that’s enough to tell me this is no Rekord. It is creepy in stage two. Whether or not I can adjust that out remains to be seen. The pull is set at several pounds of effort, so we’ll see if I can change that, as well.

Lock time
Everybody makes a big deal out of the quick “lock time” of this rifle, but all the reports I’ve read prove that the authors who say that don’t actually know what lock time is. The term lock time comes to us from the days of the flintlock, which has a definite time delay from the moment the powder in the pan explodes until the main charge explodes and sends the bullet out the barrel. If the delay is a long one, the shooter would develop a flinch — anticipating the force of the main charge and wincing in response before the gun fires. The result is a movement of the muzzle before the bullet exits, which throws the shot wide. If the gun was a musket that wasn’t expected to hit a man beyond 35 yards, it didn’t matter that much; but with the advent of the Kentucky-style rifle that was capable of very precise shooting out to much longer ranges, lock time became important. And the best gun makers soon learned how to make flintlocks that fired almost instantaneously. Hence, the real importance of lock time.

Today, many airgun authors are saying that this rifle has a fast lock time and is therefore more accurate. Hogwash! In a spring-piston rifle, the term lock time refers to how long it takes from the instant the piston is released by the sear until the piston comes to a dead stop. In that sense, the RX-2 does have a very fast lock time because a gas spring drives a piston faster than a coiled-steel counterpart. But it makes no difference to accuracy.

What they fail to appreciate is the fact that the pellet is still in the barrel when the piston comes to a stop. It takes the pellet several more milliseconds to traverse the barrel and leave the muzzle, and that happens after the lock is finished working. So lock time in a spring-piston airgun is meaningless. But follow-through, which is holding the gun on the target after it has fired, is all-important. If you can do that, you can forget about the supposed advantage of lock time. And the artillery hold is what helps you follow through.

There are no sights on this version of the rifle. The Elite series combo I’m testing comes with a Bushnell Trophy XLT 4-12×40 AO scope mounted in two-piece rings. I’ll report more on the scope when we get to the accuracy test.

A Bushnell Trophy XLT 4-12x40AO scope comes mounted as part of the combo package.

10-for-$10 certificate
As I mentioned, the test rifle was tested in the 10-for-$10 offer, and it was included in the package. So, I got a certificate telling me the velocity the Pyramyd Air technicians got from this rifle using H&N Field Target Trophy pellets weighing 20.06 grains apiece. The test gun ranged from a low of 618.07 f.p.s. on shot 7 to a high of 634.13 f.p.s. on shot 11. There were 13 shots recorded in all. So, the rifle I have generates about 17.4 foot-pounds as it comes from the box. That’ll change with each different pellet I shoot, but it gives you an idea of where we are.

The stock
The laminated stock is stained brown, setting off the black metal parts in an attractive contrast. Though the stock is made for right-handed shooters by virtue of the cheekpiece that’s only on the left side of the butt, the rest of the stock is uniform enough that the gun can also be shot by lefties. The pistol grip is cut-checkered on both sides, and the forearm is smooth.

The finish on the wood is transparent, allowing the laminated grain to show. It’s most attractive, and the brown color adds to the masculine look of the rifle.

The metal
The rifle is a Weihrauch, and that means that the metal parts are finished smooth with an even black finish. The polish isn’t high — just enough to promote pride of ownership, and there’s a contrast between the spring tube that’s polished higher than the barrel. A solid metal muzzlebrake provides a handy place to grab when cocking. The trigger appears to be gold-plated.

The benefits of a gas spring
Gas springs never take a set. They can continue to work at full power even when compressed most of the time. You know that from your experience with cheaper versions of them in the automotive world. So, this is a spring gun that you can leave cocked for many hours at a time without worrying about any degradation of power.

Gas springs also work well in very cold weather because they do not require the level of lubrication that a steel spring would need. Therefore, there isn’t as much grease to stiffen as the temperature drops — leaving the powerplant free to operate at its full potential.

Gas springs do not vibrate nearly as much as steel springs, so having one in a gun is tantamount to having a good tune. They do recoil quite quickly, but that can be offset by holding the rifle as lightly as possible, which is part of the artillery hold anyhow.

The small downside
The greatest fear with a gas spring is that it will develop a leak, leaving the owner high and dry. Where steel springs can be obtained through many commercial channels, gas springs are unitized with the piston and specific to the gun. If one does go bad, it must be repaired or replaced. Theoben gas springs have an enviable track record for reliability in this area, but nothing is perfect. The owner will find gas spring replacement easier than steel spring replacement in most cases; but as I said, he will need to find the right set of parts.

That’s all I’m going to look at for today, but I’ll return to this rifle soon for the velocity test.

Top-notch springer
Air Arms TX200 air rifle

When it comes to spring-piston air rifles, the Air Arms TX200 Mk III is a favorite of many airgunners, including airgun writer Tom Gaylord. His favorite caliber is .177. While the gun will initially impress you with its beauty and superior craftsmanship, you'll be even more impressed with the incredible accuracy! Tom claims this is "the most accurate spring gun below $3,000." Beech or walnut, left-hand or right-hand stock. Isn't it time you got yours?

All the fun, none of the hassles!
Uzi CO2 BB submachine gun

You've seen tons of movies with guys spraying bullets from their Uzi submachine guns and probably thought it would be a blast. Except for the cost of ammo! You can have all that fun with this Uzi BB submachine gun at just pennies a round. Throw shots downrange for hours on end with all the fun, none of the firearm hassles and a fraction of the cost.