Posts Tagged ‘Trapdoor Springfield’
by B.B. Pelletier
Adrian Cataldo Beltran is the BSOTW.
This is the second time I’ve used this title for a blog. The last time was a blog I did back in July 2007, almost five years ago. In that report, I was mostly addressing the expectations of accuracy that new airgunners have and how they relate to reality. Today, I want to look at something different.
Today I want to look at our secret hopes — those unspoken agendas that push us and direct us toward gun purchases that can sometimes disappoint us. I had one of these happen to me just this week.
When I was a boy back in the 1950s, I loved the Winchester model 61 slide-action .22 repeater — what we kids called a pump gun in those days. I loved it because every time I got to shoot one, which wasn’t that often, the rifle spoke to me. It was just the right size, with a slick action that seemed to bespeak rapid-fire accuracy. Since I never shot at anything smaller than a soup can, I don’t suppose that real accuracy ever came into question, but that gun just SEEMED accurate to me.
As a young adult in the middle 1970s, I had the opportunity to buy a 98 percent model 61 that had been produced in 1953. It still had the original box and cost the exorbitant price of $250, but I knew it was worth every penny. I didn’t actually shoot it that much, but I shot it enough to know that my childhood imagination had amplified the rifle’s true capabilities. It was accurate enough for what it was, but it was no tack-driver. Anyhow, the day finally came when I was forced to sell it before I apparently fulfilled my fascination for the gun — because a couple years ago I had a chance to buy another one in very good shape (call it a 75-percent gun) for just $550. This time I could afford the gun, but I didn’t act quick enough and the opportunity passed.
Last week I passed the pawn shop where I had seen the model 61 for sale, and once more the same childish thoughts flashed through my mind. And here’s the point of what I’m telling you. I now own a Marlin model 39A that is even slicker than the Winchester, and a Remington model 37 target rifle whose accuracy can embarrass almost every other .22 on earth. So why does my heart still yearn for the old pump gun that I know can’t compete with the guns I have? I think it’s that eternal desire to return to my childhood!
I had the exact same experience with a Daisy No. 25 slide-action BB gun, only this time I actually acquired nine of the things — all in beautiful, collectible condition. Owning them for over two decades allowed me to purge the demons from my past; and a couple years ago, I started quietly selling off that collection. The void in my heart had been filled.
At one time, I had the itch for a Colt Woodsman .22 pistol, because as a youngster I shot my uncle’s gun and did very well with it at 25 yards. From the prone position with a two-hand hold, that pistol grouped like a fine .22 rifle! But I’ve owned several Woodsman pistols over the years, and the experience has filled that pothole in my character. I know now that a Ruger Mark II can be just as accurate and just as reliable for one-quarter the price.
The longest itch I ever had was for the M1 Carbine, because I still have it even though I own one! I have owned several, and all have been good shooters — if not terribly accurate. But something about the little semiautomatic action that’s still impossible for gunmakers to build (no semiautomatic rifle has ever been made that was as light and powerful as the M1 Carbine) turns me on! I cannot pass one by. It’s as though I need to own them all, even though I have whittled my own “collection” down to just one good gun.
The strangest itch I ever had was for one specific gun. Years ago, I acquired a Trapdoor Springfield rifle that was in NRA antique good condition. It wasn’t anything to look at; but the bore was great, and it was fun to shoot. But I tired of that hard-kicking rifle after many years and eventually traded it away. Then, seller’s remorse set in. A year later, when I saw it up for sale, I bought it back. And I had it for several more years until I traded it away a second time. Then, a couple months later, I learned that the new owner intended selling it because the barrel was too long for him, so I traded for it, again. I also own a really accurate scoped .45-70 rolling block that I shoot all the time, but apparently I cannot stand to not also own this tired-looking old Trapdoor. Like a prized horse that’s been put out to pasture, I guess this one will remain with me until my estate sells it!
The point of this report
What I’m driving at today is that all shooters carry some baggage. For me, it’s the Winchester 61 and the others I’ve mentioned; but for you, a Browning Auto 5 may light your fire, or perhaps you find Lugers fascinating! I know that Mac has a soft spot for any shotgun in .410 caliber. Somewhere on the path of life, we have an experience or even just a fascination, and it starts the pot inside us brewing with lust.
Old B.B. Pelletier still has a couple voids left in his soul besides the Winchester. One would be a beautiful blue H&R model 999 Sportsman .22 revolver. There’s just something mystical about that break-open design that fascinates me! I have the good sense to know that I couldn’t possibly shoot it any better than any other top-quality revolver, but something about it still haunts me. I have never even fired one shot from a 999, so of course the thing is really buried deeply under my saddle! I fantasize about breaking open the action and watching those nine empty cases extract from the cylinder, as if by magic. It’s not a healthy wish, but this one’s on my bucket list.
For some asinine reason, I’m fascinated by the Johnson semiautomatic battle rifle of World War II. They’re all selling for way over $2,000 these days, and good ones go for much more; so this is an itch I don’t ever expect to scratch — but it’s still there. I would probably be underwhelmed by one if I shot it, because I’ve shot the Garand (another itch that has been satisfied many times!), but I guess you want most the things you can’t have.
Oh, and for some dumb reason, I find I cannot look away from an 8mm Hakim battle rifle. I know it’s because I’ve owned so many of the air rifle trainers, but the phrase “the poor man’s Garand” has sunk its hook firmly into my lips. I’ve come very close to pulling the trigger on several fine-looking Hakims in the past but was always put off by their poor bores that resulted from firing corrosive 8mm military ammunition.
In airguns, my secret desire is to own another Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic. I owned one years ago and learned that it was no more powerful nor more accurate than a simple Blue Streak, but something about the robust styling of the gun still attracts me. Years ago, I was forced to sell the one I had for economic reasons, so the fascination was never completely satisfied. And I sold it just after the prices began to rise. I told myself I would buy another one when I could, and then I encountered the super-inflationary price increases of recent years.
A couple years back, I had the chance to buy a nice Supergrade at the Roanoke airgun show and I even (momentarily) had the money to buy it! But something inside stopped me from forking over the cash. And that was two weeks before I made the landmark trade for my Ballard rifle — so I guess the still small voice I listened to was the voice of reason that time! I had to use the cash to buy several things that were used in that trade, so it was either the Ballard or the Supergrade.
To quote Minnie Pearl, “I’m done playin’ now!” I want to spend the rest of this weekend reading about what turns YOUR crank!
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s test is shooting the Crosman MAR177 at 25 yards, both with and without the magazine. We’ll also shoot it with the best wadcutter target pellets and the best domed pellets to see what differences there are.
Rather than shoot the rifle myself, I let Mac shoot it this time. He is the better rifle shot between us, and I just wanted to see what the rifle would be like in his hands. He shot it off a bag rest at 25 yards indoors. Ten pellets were shot from the magazine, then another 10 of the same pellet were shot using the single-shot tray. Mac tested both domed and wadcutter pellets, so we get to compare the relative accuracy of both today. And the results did not turn out as I expected.
I’d noted in an earlier report that the particular 10-shot magazine I’ve been using has two chambers with tight entrances. Mac found the same thing without being prompted by me. I had him use the same magazine as I did so I could compare his results with all other variables remaining the same.
You’ll recall that I mentioned not liking magazine guns because of how they handle the pellets. So, today was also a test between the magazine and loading each pellet as you shoot. I’m not saying that all pellets have feeding problems, but that some magazines may have a problem. But when you load each pellet singly, you have less chance of damaging the pellet.
That said, the MAR177 has a gap at the front of the single-load tray that can catch the nose of certain pellets and make it very difficult to load. The H&N Field Target pellets that were the most accurate in an earlier test had this problem and had to be exchanged for a different domed pellet. The H&Ns have a semi-wadcutter rim around the head that just catches in the gap on the tray and causes the pellets to flip up and possibly get damaged on loading. I substituted 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellets that fed perfectly through the tray.
On to the shooting
Let’s get right to today’s test. First, Mac tested the domed pellets at 25 yards.
Mac tried the H&N Field Target pellets first, and they were very accurate, but a couple of them refused to feed through the magazine. But the Falcon pellets fed flawlessly, so we changed the test to use them as the domed pellet of choice. Once again, I want to say that in another magazine this pellet might have fed better, but this is a quirk you get with mags that you don’t get when loading singly.
Clearly the single-loaded pellets are more accurate than those loaded by the magazine. That may not hold from magazine to magazine; but for this one mag, you’re better off loading the pellets one at a time. Let’s see how the rifle does with wadcutters at 25 yards.
The trend continued with the wadcutter pellets. The R10s grouped even tighter than the Falcons at 25 yards, and those that were loaded singly did much better than those that fed through the magazine.
What have we learned?
First, we’ve learned that some magazines do influence the accuracy of the gun with all ammunition — or at least with the pellet types used in this test. A different magazine might well give different results, but one thing it will never do is outshoot loading the pellets by hand, one at a time. As a 10-meter shooter, I knew this going into the test. But it was nice that we were able to demonstrate it so clearly.
Next, we see that wadcutters were more accurate than the domes in this test. Even though both pellets were very accurate, the wadcutters had the edge. That was the part that surprised me. I’d expected the domes to take over at 25 yards.
The bottom line
The Crosman MAR177 is a valuable addition to an AR and a wonderful target rifle in its own right. It was held back in this test by the use of an AR National Match trigger, which is by no means as good as a target trigger on an air rifle. Even so, we see accuracy that any 10-meter precision rifle would be proud of.
I think Crosman has made a winning rifle in the MAR177. And when they bring out more powerful versions of it in the future, it’ll be all the greater justification for owning an AR! My thanks to Crosman for the loan of this MAR177 for both this test and for the feature article I am writing for Shotgun News!
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the Crosman MAR177 upper shooting domed pellets at 25 yards. I’ll be using the 10-shot magazine, so we’ll get to see that in action, as well. I’ll tell you right now that today was a learning day that spawned another report that’s still to come. Read on to learn what it is.
As you know, the Crosman upper receiver is attached to a lower receiver that I built on a Rock River Arms lower receiver shell. I used Rock River parts, and the trigger is an upgraded two-stage National Match trigger, also from Rock River.
To the uninitiated, the term National Match sounds like the finest possible precision. Well, it isn’t! A National Match trigger in an AR is about like a John Deere tractor — strong and effective, but as far from real precision as it is possible to get and still have a good trigger. My trigger has a light first stage and a crisp release in stage two, but it’s not what any target shooter would call precision. The break point is right at 5 lbs. My Trapdoor Springfield, which was made in 1875, has a trigger just as nice. My 1879 Argentine rolling block’s trigger is lighter and crisper, now that I have replaced the heavy service-grade trigger return spring. So understand that National Match does not mean the same as precision. You owners of Rekord triggers don’t know how good you have it.
The National Match AR trigger is quite a bit better than the single-stage trigger that comes standard on a military or civilian AR, but it isn’t a target trigger by any stretch. I tell you that so you’ll understand what I had to deal with in this test.
The MAR’s magazine is the same one that a .177 Benjamin Marauder uses. It’s wound under spring tension as it’s loaded and advances by spring power as the bolt is worked for each shot. Remember that on the MAR, the bolt is retracted by pulling back on the charging handle — the same as all other ARs.
The 10-shot magazine comes from the Benjamin Marauder and is completely reliable, as well as quick and easy to load. Here the last shot is in the magazine, holding it in place. The clear plastic cover is rotated to drop in the other 9 pellets.
The mag loads easy once you know the right procedure. A couple of the chambers were tight, so I used a mechanical pencil to push in the pellets. Once they cleared the lips of the tight chambers, they dropped into place easily. There were no feeding problems throughout the test, which entailed about 90 pellets, give or take.
I mounted a Leapers 4×32 mini scope on the rifle. It’s not a scope that Pyramyd Air stocks, but it would be similar to this Leapers scope. You may criticize my choice for some lack of aiming precision; but when you see how good the little scope looks on the rifle, I think you’ll understand why I went with it. It allowed me to use medium scope rings and still clear the magazine that stands proud of the receiver top. If I were hunting feral hogs with a 300 AAC Blackout or a .50 Beowulf cartridge, this is the scope I would use. No, it doesn’t magnify as much as a good 3-9x scope, so we may have to take that into consideration when we look at these groups.
I sighted-in at 12 feet, using my 10-minute sight-in procedure. If you haven’t tried this yet, you need to. It took just three rounds to get on target; and although a bit of luck was involved, this sight-in procedure always cuts time from the front-end of my scope tests.
Air Arms Falcon
I used the 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellet to sight in. The scope seemed right on for elevation, but off to the right. I dialed in some left correction and shot again. Almost there, but not quite. One more adjustment put me at 6 o’clock, as far below the aim point as the center of the scope was above the bore axis (approximately). I knew I was safe to back up to 25 yards and start shooting.
The next 7 shots made a group measuring 0.422 inches between the centers of the holes farthest apart. It was an auspicious beginning for the test!
It was also the best group I shot with the Falcons. The other two opened up to over three-quarters on an inch, so although they made a good first impression, Falcons were not the best domed pellet in the rifle I’m testing.
JSB Exact 8.4-grains
I also tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes. They put 9 pellets into 0.495 inches, but threw the tenth shot low and right, opening the group to 1.047 inches. I detected no reason for this wild shot, so I’ll have to chalk it up to the pellets — maybe.
Next I tried some BSA Wolverines. This is yet another JSB dome that sometimes out-performs anything else. But in the MAR, they were just satisfactory, putting 10 into 0.642 inches.
JSB Exact RS
Another tantalizing group was made by JSB Exact RS pellets. We’ve learned over many tests that the RS is one of the best pellets for low- to medium-powered springers, and the MAR177 shoots at the same velocity, so I wondered how well it would do. Nine shots went into 0.474 inches, but the tenth shot opened that to 0.874 inches. It was a second instance in which 9 shots were tight and the tenth was a flier. I cannot say where in the string the wild shots occurred, though, because the scope couldn’t see the pellet holes as they were made.
H&N Field Target
Next, I tried H&N Field Target domes. A reader recently asked me why I don’t try these, as he had good success with them. I responded that I had, and had not experienced the same success; but when I checked my pellets, I discovered that I’d been shooting H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. The Field Target pellet tin was unopened. See what confusion a small name change can make?
These 8.5-grain domes gave me the best 10-shot group of the test — a stunning 0.441 inches between centers! This is a pellet I will work into future tests, you can be sure. This also serves to demonstrate that although the scope only magnifies four times, that’s good enough.
I was starting to tire from all the concentration, so this was the place to stop. I would say that the MAR177 made a good showing, but also raised some questions.
What comes next?
The performance of the rifle in this test was so intriguing that I want to reshoot the same test, only using the single-shot tray next time. Then I will know for sure whether or not the magazine has any influence over the group size. I’ve always had reservations about magazines in any rifle, and I really want to see if there’s any discernible difference. If there is, I may have to do a lengthy test of magazines vs single-shot operations in PCPs.
The next test that will also offer an opportunity to pit wadcutter target pellets against the best domes at 25 yards. I’ve always maintained that 25 yards is about the maximum distance at which wadcutter pellets are accurate, and we even shot a segment on the American Airgunner TV show in which we put that to the test. The domes were clearly superior to wadcutters at 35 yards, so this test will be at a closer distance and indoors. It should prove interesting.
by B.B. Pelletier
Rich says that this is Ben, who’s 11 years old. He’s getting ready to shoot the reset paddle on his Gamo trap. He’s using the Air Venturi Bronco.
Today I’ll begin a look at a big bore precharged air rifle that most of you will never see. The Quackenbush .308 is a classic from the central Missouri airgun maker.
This air rifle may not be mainstream; but just mention it to airgun hunters, and you might as well have pulled the starter rope on a hotrod snowmobile! The noise starts immediately as people break up into discussion groups, some to explore the potential accuracy or the best bullet and others to recount the dozens of game animals that have fallen to their rifles.
I’ve personally seen 150-lb. goats dropped at 140+ yards with single shots from this rifle, though I wouldn’t recommend it for that distance or for that size animal. But it did work, and I saw it do that twice in one day. But hunting is the purview of others. I’m going to do my usual review of the rifle and let you readers decide how best to use it.
Dennis Quackenbush is both a shooter and a hunter. Besides making several hundred airguns each year, this man “gets it.” He knows that if an air rifle is a .45 caliber it either has to be a .451 that can use common pistol bullets or a .458 that uses common rifle bullets. He would never think of foisting a .454-caliber rifle on his customers, because Dennis knows that the .454 pistol caliber died before World War II. As a shooter, he understands the importance of making rifles in calibers for which there are a wide variety of lead bullets, because not everyone casts their own.
He chose the .308 caliber for the obvious reason that it’s the most popular-sized .30-caliber bullet here in the U.S. There are .310 and .311 lead bullets available for the SKS, AKM and the Mosin Nagant — but they’re not that popular. You have to search to find them. But .308 is money in the bank here in the U.S. You’ll find dozens of different styles and weights to try in your rifle.
I once asked him why he didn’t go with 9mm when he brought out this rifle and he responded, “Ballistics. You know there are very few 9mm lead pistol bullets available on the market; and of those, the heaviest is about 125 grains. That gives you a short, fat bullet with low sectional density and poor long-range performance. But in .308, a 130-grain rifle bullet is reasonably long and has a much higher sectional density than the short 9mm pistol bullet. And my rifle can drive a 130-grain .308 bullet up to respectable velocity, making that caliber well-suited for hunters.”
Quackenbush .308 rifle is handsome even in this lowest-grade version.
My .308 is made on a Long Action Outlaw receiver. I tested a .308 Exile back in 2005, but the rifle I tested was made on the old action with a shorter striker spring and striker travel. The long action allows the striker spring to be longer and the striker to travel a longer distance. Both increase the airflow through the valve, which equates to power.
My article reviewing the Exile is up on the Quackenbush website, so I’m able to compare the performance of this current long action gun to what was done in the past. That old rifle shot a 128.6-grain bullet at 860 f.p.s. on the first shot — generating 211.25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. It did take some shooting to get the rifle up to that velocity, as the moving parts do need to wear in a bit, but I’ll also lubricate them before the velocity test starts with the new rifle, which will put me on better footing than I was in the old test.
The rifle is blued steel housed in a figured walnut stock. I selected the lowest-grade gun Dennis makes, but you can see from the photo that it’s still something to be proud of. It weighs 8 lbs. exactly without a scope, and the rifle comes without sights, so a scope is required. It comes with Weaver bases installed, so you need Weaver rings to match.
I’ve used the Leapers Bug Buster scope and other compact scopes in the past on these rifles, but the long action of this particular rifle needs a scope with a longer tube. The plan is to install a long eye-relief scope and see how it works. After my success with the Evanix Conquest at 4x, I’m suddenly interested in lower-power scopes — especially for workman rifles like this.
The rifle is just shy of 44 inches long, and has a 26-inch barrel. The pull is 13-1/2 inches. The action is different from what you may be used to, though it’s not unusual. Dennis uses a separate cocking bolt to retract the striker against the heavy spring, leaving the loading bolt for just the single function of inserting a bullet. This design was popular back in the 1980s with several vintage British precharged rifles but is seen less often today. In powerful big bores, however, it offers the advantage of providing good purchase on the cocking handle, while leaving the loading bolt normal-sized.
The black handle cocks the striker. The knobbed bolt is just for loading.
Dennis makes all his own barrels and the rifling buttons that cut them. At one time when he was experimenting with twist rates, he was hand-cutting the rifling; but now that he has the data he needs, button-rifled barrels are easier and faster to make, as well as smoother after production.
I’ve made several references to using lead bullets — now let me explain why. In big bore air rifles, you want to eliminate as much friction as possible. Jacketed bullets have too much friction and will slow the velocity way down, plus they wear the soft steel of the barrel much faster. This holds true for vintage firearms, as well, which is why I would never shoot a jacketed bullet in a Trapdoor Springfield or in my old Ballard. People do shoot them in vintage guns, but they’re wearing out barrels much faster than they should.
These older guns have much softer steel in their barrels. While they’ll reasonably give 50,000-100,000 shots with lead bullets if properly cared for, shooting jacketed bullets will wear them out in as few as 5,000 rounds. I’m speaking about firearms now — the airgun barrels do not wear out at the same rate, and nobody knows how many shots they could conceivably get.
Dennis builds airguns for thinking owners. You don’t just pull one of his rifles from a box and fill it to 3,000 psi. You experiment, which means you need to have access to a chronograph. I’ve found his Outlaw actions can tolerate 3,200 psi up to 3,500 psi very well and give optimum performance. Others have claimed fill pressures up to 3,850 psi in their guns. The point is that you experiment until you find the fill pressure that gives the greatest number of high-power shots with the bullet you’ve selected to use. I’m hoping to get four or possibly five good shots on one fill of this rifle.
Quackenbush rifles all fill from a standard Foster male fittings. He provides a stainless steel fitting to prevent the ball bearings of the female fitting from impressing themselves into the metal of the male fitting at high fill pressures.
The rifle is filled through a common Foster male fitting. It’s very standard around the world.
Dennis has very definite thoughts on what makes a good airgun. Though he also builds parts for aerospace companies and test fixtures for other manufacturers, he keeps his airgun technology firmly planted in the 1950s. By that I mean he’s going to use steel for the metal parts and walnut for the wood.
He buys his stock blanks in large lots, so there will always be enough for his production needs. And he shapes the stocks on a pantograph to save time and keep the shape consistent.
Quackenbush always has several hundred walnut stock blanks on hand.
We’re in this together
I have owned this rifle for about four years and have never fired it. My .458 Quackenbush always takes precedence, so this adventure will be just as new to me as it is to you. I’m inviting you to watch over my shoulder as I get to know this classic big bore.
by B.B. Pelletier
Sometimes, I just need to blow off steam by writing about the things that interest me, and today is one of those days. There were a lot of oddball guns I could have written about, like my 1860s gallery dart gun that I showed you a while back. I took it to the airgun show at Malvern, Arkansas, this April and airgun collector/writer Larry Hannusch disassembled it as fast as I might field-strip a Garand. And almost as easily. I watched so I could do it again on my own, and I discovered that the gun is lacking its volute springs — the very things I was worrying about breaking if I shot the gun. So, I can now fix it with a coiled spring and a new cocking arm from Dennis Quackenbush. But that will be a future report.
David Lurch Primary New York City gallery gun.
Today, I want to talk about something that’s both very contemporary and yet wonderful at the same time. It’s one of those airguns that people either love or hate, though I’m about to show you some things you never saw before that might make you like it a little better.
The rifle is an AirForce Talon SS (cheers from our reader, twotalon), but it’s a look at the SS in a way that’s never been seen in print. I’m going to take you inside the walls of the AirForce company and show you what I was playing with when I was their Technical Director several years ago. This isn’t just any SS. It’s my SS.
After the Condor came out and most of the launch hooplah died down a bit, I realized that we now had a 24-inch barrel that would also fit the Talon SS. You get a 12-inch barrel with the gun when it’s new, and that barrel is totally enclosed inside the tubular frame of the rifle in the same way that a shroud fits other PCP airguns. Only, when the SS was designed, it was built that way on purpose, for those were the days before barrel shrouds became the rage. The Talon SS was the first production PCP to intentionally use a shrouded barrel to quiet the muzzle report.
But, I want to talk about the 24-inch optional barrel, because that was what was new to me in 2004. I knew that the Talon, with its 18-inch barrel was quite a bit more powerful than the Talon SS, by virtue of the extra six inches of barrel, so the question was: How much more powerful would it get if we added another six inches?
About that time, the phones started ringing at AirForce, asking the same question and I was tasked with finding out. We know that a .22-caliber Talon SS can pretty easily pull 25 foot-pounds with accurate pellets. I’m not claiming that to be the maximum power the gun can generate, but back in 2004 that was about the best we could do with accurate pellets. And, I plan to show you what “accurate” means in a future report.
Move to the longer-barreled Talon, and the same powerplant will generate about 32 foot-pounds under the same conditions. That gave me some hope that the 24-inch optional barrel might boost the SS up to 36 or possibly even 38 foot-pounds. But that estimate turned out to be conservative.
I did the testing and discovered that the SS with a 24-inch barrel could easily generate 39-41 foot-pounds of muzzle energy with good accuracy; and, if I used the heaviest pellets then available, it got up over 45 foot-pounds! Because it was capable of launching them so much faster with the longer barrel, the rifle became a good platform for the heaviest pellets. Whatever accuracy they were able to deliver that was decent — but not the absolute best — was a realistic thing for the modified rifle.
I’ll do a velocity test for you in the next part, but for now let’s just leave things there. I now had a 40-45 foot-pound air rifle that also got 35-40 good shots on a fill because I was still using the conservative SS valve. This was no Condor that blasts out all its air in 20 powerful shots. This was an air-sipper that also got great power (with the longer barrel) as well as a high number of shots per fill. It was difficult for me to justify putting the 12-inch barrel back on the rifle. Except for the noise.
My rifle is a lot longer than the standard Talon SS. It has a 24-inch, .22-caliber barrel and an aftermarket silencer tube that extends the frame of the gun past the muzzle. I’ll tell you about the scope in part 3 of this report.
Because the 24-inch barrel sticks out past the frame, the SS is no longer quiet when the longer barrel is installed. But fast-forward a couple more years and that problem was solved. A device that at the time I bought it was called a “frame extender” became available. It was now possible to again enclose the barrel. When installed it, I discovered that this rifle is even quieter than the stock Talon SS, while producing about 10 foot-pounds greater muzzle energy.
I had my cake and was able to eat it, too! Except for one thing. The modified rifle is now very long. Many people said it was too long in this configuration. Well, excuse me, but I am the guy who also shoots a Trapdoor Springfield and a Remington Rolling Block rifle. Don’t tell me how a long a rifle should be!
The rest of my Talon SS is absolutely stock — most of it the way it came from the factory back in 2001. You would think that working at AirForce, where I had access to all the very best parts, I would have built up a special rifle for myself, but that wasn’t necessary. The parts they produce are all so uniform that I never had to do anything to my rifle in thousands of shots. I did replace the striker and its two bushing/bearings with a newer version, but that was only so I could test it extensively before AirForce started shipping it in guns. After the test was finished, I was too lazy to change back, so my rifle has a striker from 2004. The valve is untouched, just the way I got it back in 2001, and I used to build the valves when I worked at AirForce. If there was something better, I would have had one.
The trigger in my rifle has never been apart, let alone worked on. I learned very early that AirForce triggers are best left just as they come from the factory. One of my jobs was to spray the various trigger and safety parts with a dry-film moly that lubricates them for life. If you put oil or grease on an AirForce trigger, it will attract dirt — and that’s the quickest way I know to foul it. Trigger parts inside the frame channel have to be able to move as the gun is cocked and thus they need to be left absolutely dry.
So, my rifle is stock except for the addition of a long silencer on the end. Does the silencer work? Yes, it does! When my SS is generating over 25 foot-pounds, it makes the same noise discharging as a relatively weak breakbarrel like a Bronco.
What makes me like this air rifle so much? Well, I hope to demonstrate that to you in the coming reports. You’ve heard of a busman’s holiday? Well my Talon SS is the rifle I built for myself when I could have had anything I wanted, and I want to show you how well it works. The cool thing is that you can have one just like it, because my gun is entirely off-the-shelf!
by B.B. Pelletier
Okay, there has been a lot of interest in this series, and many of you have been champing at the bit to see what I think is wrong with the three photos I gave you as homework last time. So why don’t we begin there?
The three things I see wrong with the above photo are:
1. It’s too small. You can’t see any detail on the gun, which leaves any potential buyer to imagine what the condition might possibly be. It seems dishonest to me.
2. The gun is too dark. The seller made no attempt to clarify the photo to show wood grain, etc. This was so obviously wrong that several readers re-did the photo in software to show us what could be done.
3. The seller used flash, which usually ruins the image. It produces a bright flare on the central metal parts and allows the darker wooden parts to go black.
This is a better shot, but it’s still not good for selling. The perspective is off because we’re looking up on an angle from the butt. Because of that, a 50-inch rifle will look the same as a 32-inch carbine. You have to learn to show the gun from the side, on a 90-deg. angle.
What? Is this a girl at a dance and you’re afraid to walk up to her? GET CLOSER! Fill the frame with your subject. Learn how to use the macro function on your camera. Don’t you hate those old family photos of you at the beach where you stand a quarter-inch high in the middle of all the scenery? Can’t even see that it’s you.
The classic mistake of putting a dark blue gun on a white background, to make certain that no detail from the gun shows through. If the gun is dark, make the background medium dark, and then learn how to set your camera to over-expose the image, so the details pop out.
Okay, all of those mistakes plus the out-of-focus pictures that come from not knowing how to use the macro function or from being too cheap to buy a tripod are what I will concentrate on today.
Think about what you’re doing
When you want to sell an airgun, you have to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What about your gun is unique and good, and how do you show that to a buyer? The photos should make the buyer salivate when he sees them. And, they should match the words you write.
As far as the photos go, show both sides of the gun and use the largest size image you can. On this blog, we’re limited to pictures 560 pixels wide, but there’s no height limitation. That’s why I often rotate a long gun so it’s standing on an angle. That way, I can show you much closer detail while still showing the entire gun. A few people will balk at this approach because it makes them scroll…and they don’t like to scroll. The majority of people want the photos to be as big as possible, and they’ll handle the scrolling.
Show me the details. If you’re selling a revolver, show me the gun with the cylinder opened. If you have nice wood on the stock, please show me a closeup so I can appreciate it. Don’t use flash that leaves bright spots right where you don’t want them. In short, SHOW ME THE GUN!
A way to cut bright shiny spots that come from overhead lighting and even from sunlight is to stand in the way, so you cast a shadow over the shiny area. With digital cameras, you get such fine preview images that you can do this as you shoot, but only if you have a tripod.
Use the countdown function on your camera. I usually set mine to 2 seconds, which gives me time to stand in the right place before the image is taken.
I know this subject means different things to different people, and I also know that no one can impose their own standards on anyone else. When selling an airgun, one thing you want to avoid at all costs is after-sales issues that have to be resolved. Some of these come from damage in shipment, which cannot be avoided but can be offset with insurance. Having a customer regard the gun you sent as less than described can cause problems that go on seemingly forever.
Let’s face it — some people are pickier than others. A year ago, I was selling a S&W Model 37 snubnosed revolver to a man who lived in Texas, but four hours away. He was a collector, so the last thing I wanted was to have him drive all that way only to reject the gun because of its condition. The gun was in 99 percent finish, but it had a tiny bump on the sideplate, where someone had disassembled it. There was a drag mark in the blued finish of the cylinder, from a dragging cylinder bolt.
Both of these things are common on fine revolvers, but I didn’t want this man to be surprised. I took macro shots of both situations and sent them to him. I sent them as 12-inch wide photos, optimized for the internet, which is a trick I advise all prospective sellers to learn how to do. Doing that makes the file size much smaller, while still showing all the detail you want to show. Instead of photos that are 250K in size, mine are 36K, so they’re much easier on the server on both ends.
The images you see here are a little over half the size of the ones I sent him.
The bump is along the curved gap of the sideplate, right where the light and dark meet. It’s on the right of the photo, about two-thirds of the way down from the top.
This photo shows the drag mark on the cylinder of the S&W model 37 revolver. It actually looked a lot less conspicuous than this in real life.
He saw the images and decided the gun was still in good enough condition to make the trip worth it. When he finally saw the gun for the first time, he remarked that the marks were far less conspicuous than he thought they’d be. The drag mark didn’t even penetrate the bluing. That made him very happy, and we completed the deal.
The lesson here is to learn to use the macro function on your camera and to describe any damage in detail so the buyer is prepared for it. For gosh sakes, get a tripod and learn to use it, because sharp shots like these are impossible without one. You should be able to pick up a good workable tripod for under $20 at a pawn shop. Consider that to be one of your tools for selling and trading airguns.
Show the whole gun
Let me illustrate why showing the entire gun at a large size is so essential. Note that instead of a beige carpet background, I used a darker red background. That was to lighten the gun in the foreground.
I know there’s a flare (specular highlight) on the comb of the stock. I had to use direct light because the dark finish ate up too much light to show wood grain detail. You can see that one of the two stock screws in the forearm is missing — something I would have mentioned in my description.
Look at the “folk art” initials carved into the checkering on the forearm! A real condition-killer. Notice the varnish scrape above the triggerguard.
Here’s the Falke 90 I acquired at Roanoke this year. When I bought it, I was aware of the horrible condition of the stock, but not the fact that the gun won’t cock or shoot. I also didn’t know that fewer than 200 of this model were ever made. Mine is number 39. This rifle is far rarer than the fabulous Colt Walker revolver that sells for $150,000 up to a million dollars.
The stock finish is so dark that I had to over-expose these two images by two F-stops and to use direct lighting, which I almost never do. Most digital cameras allow you to over- or under-expose images somewhere in the menu.
Well, that’s the lesson for today. Please let me know what you would like me to discuss in this series. I want to help anyone who wants to start buying and selling airguns to get off on the right foot.
by B.B. Pelletier
In case you haven’t had a chance to view Pyramyd Air’s 2010 Xmas video, here it is!
Before I start today’s blog, please note that I’m undergoing another outpatient procedure this morning and will be out of the loop much of the day. Edith will monitor the blog and answer comments as she’s able. I would appreciate it if the blog readers could help out by answering the comments from new people and others who might usually get an answer from me.
The covert deal
I call this report the covert deal because that’s what it’s about. I’ll explain a few of the uncommon deals I’ve made as an airgun collector/buyer and seller. I’m doing this to encourage those among you who want to get out and try this for themselves but haven’t gotten up the courage to try it, yet. Hopefully, you’ll see from what I am about to tell you that there are plenty of great airgun deals still to be made. Okay, here we go.
While you’re standing at your airgun table at an airgun show, someone comes up and offers you a firearm. He tells you that he knows nothing about firearms and he recently inherited one that he wants to get rid of right away. Without saying so, you gather that he is uncomfortable around firearms, and he sees you as his chance to get rid of this one.
Think it can’t happen? I’ve had it happen many times at different shows; so much so, in fact, that I am now prepared to talk to this person, because I know exactly what he wants and where he’s coming from. I won’t bore you with all the details; but the quick and dirty is that he somehow feels owning a firearm makes him a marked man, and he wants to keep this transaction as quiet and private as possible. That’s what you need to know — keep things quiet and private and let this fellow go his way, unencumbered by any firearms.
He says he has in his car what looks like a Civil War musket, and the plate on the right side just says Springfield with an eagle and the date 1873. There appear to be additional words on the gun, but they’re impossible for him to read. You can relax, because what he has is not considered to be a firearm by the ATF. It was made before 1898 and is classified as an antique. This is no M4 that was used to rob a liquor store last week, then thrown into the bushes during the getaway.
Also, if you know that the American Civil War lasted from 1860 until early 1865, you know that this isn’t a Civil War gun. With that date of 1873, it’s most likely a Trapdoor Springfield.
Now, this could either be the real deal from the late-19th century, or it could just as easily be a modern reproduction. You won’t know until you see it. The genuine rifle in overall good condition should be worth about $700. A modern replica in excellent condition is worth about $800-900.
You wander out to his car which you notice he’s parked far from the show entrance. He asks you to get in the back seat, where you find the rifle wrapped in a dirty beach towel. It turns out t0 be the real deal, so you ask him what he wants. “I saw something on your table that I’d like to trade for, if that’s okay. He describes it and you know he’s interested in an IZH 61 that you have priced at $75.
This is a real Trapdoor Springfield.
The nickname “Trapdoor” comes from the way the breech bolt operates. This one is in just good condition, because all original finish is gone. But, the barrel is clean and shiny with sharp rifling. That means that if the rest of the rifle is in good condition, it’s safe to shoot with vintage-powered ammunition.
You answer, “Sure, I’ll do that, plus I’ll throw in some pellets and targets to get you started. Let’s go back inside, and I’ll show you how it works.” You take the Trapdoor over to your own car and lock it in the trunk. Then the two of you head inside to finish the deal.
Have you just taken this guy to the cleaners? I used to think so, until I came to realize that he has absolutely no interest in guns, and you’ve just done him a big favor. That Trapdoor Springfield is worthless to him, and every time he has to venture out in public with it is a big risk, as far as he is concerned. Besides, you may not get a fair market price for it if you decide to sell it, because the market is severely depressed these days. Yes, you’re going to make money on the deal, but since you didn’t define the terms of the deal and, indeed, didn’t look for the deal to begin with, accept what has happened as a little windfall.
Now, had the gun been a prime German Jaeger hunting rifle with engraving, gold inlay, fluted barrel and bas-relief carving on the wood, it would have been worth four times as much, and then I think you should have given him some money to boot. But the point is, you didn’t seek this deal out. He came to you, and if you have satisfied his needs, then you have done him a kindness.
Here’s the big question. Why did he come to an airgun show? The surprising answer is that people who don’t like firearms also can’t discriminate between them and airguns. Everything at your show looked like a firearm to him. He doesn’t know exactly why airguns are not regulated the same as firearm, but he does know that they aren’t, and he just felt under less pressure at your low-profile airgun show. Bottom line, he had a gun to get rid of and he knew that you were the right guy to turn to.
The desperate seller
It’s getting on toward the end of the airgun show and a man you don’t know walks briskly up to your table. He’s holding several boxes, plus a nickel-plated Daisy Targeteer. “I want to sell you all of this stuff and I’m going to price it right. How about $100 for everything?”
“That’s all the money I have at the moment. I’m flying home in three hours and I’ll need some money in my pocket for that,” you respond.
“Aww, you can probably resell this for three times a hundred dollars in the remaining time the show is open. Come on!”
What he is offering you is a nickel-plated Daisy Targeteer in 98 percent condition, a blued gun that’s in 80 percent condition and a very early 100-percent blued gun in the box with everything. On top of that there are seven red-white-blue metal tubes of Daisy .118 copper-plated steel shot. Each of the shot tubes is worth at least $10 , the boxed gun is worth $150, the nickel-plated gun is worth $90 and the other blued gun is worth at least $50. This whole package is worth $360, or just a little more than he estimates.
You pull out all your money and buy it. He is happy because he needed gas money to get home. And you now have a quick sales job to do. Just because something is worth a certain amount doesn’t mean that anyone at this show wants to buy it. Mr. Desperate knew that when he came to you.
So the safest thing to do is lowball the whole deal away. You sell the Nickel Targeteer, the 80-percent Blue Targeteer and six tubes of steel shot to a Daisy collector for $100. You keep the boxed pistol and one tube of shot for yourself. Mr. Desperate hasn’t left the building before you have your money back and people are wondering why you are selling so cheap.
The boxed Targeteer is worth more than the asking price for the whole package.
The buyer with specific tastes
Here’s another one that I don’t have a picture for. A guy comes up to your table and offers you a Weihrauch HW 55 target rifle for your Diana model 24 youth rifle. You tell him that his gun is worth five times what yours is and he responds that it’s okay, because he still has three more 55s and he has been searching for a 24 like yours all year. You do the trade and everyone is happy.
Sound impossible? I can assure you it isn’t. Sometimes having a surplus of certain models can devaluate them in the owner’s mind. Familiarity breeds contempt.
In fact, all of these stories are true ones and the guns shown are the very ones that came from the deals described. I have changed the description of the deals to disguise the other party, but these exact things have all happened to me.
Things like this can happen to you at an airgun show, so always be ready to step into prosperity.
Now for a small homework assignment. I’m going to show you several bad images that were recently used in auction sales. I want you to discuss them amongst yourselves, and be ready to critique them so we will be ready for the next part of this report.
I see three things wrong with this picture. It’s so insulting that it might stop me from doing a deal with this seller.
The photographer was so close on this one. He just missed one thing.
This photographer has made the classic mistake. Can you tell what it is?
Another classic gun photo mistake. What is it?
Alright, that’s a wrap for today. In the next report, I’ll get into the fundamentals of taking good pictures to sell airguns.