Posts Tagged ‘two-stage trigger’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It is at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through the ’70s.
On Friday, I tested the Chinese Fast Deer sidelever rifle at 25 yards, and in doing so I started the juices flowing again for the vintage airguns. One remark I made in the report was that I thought the Fast Deer might be more accurate if I fitted a peep sight in place of the open sights that are on it now. That got me thinking about other low-powered spring guns I’ve recently tested — including the Winchester 425, which is a Diana 25 by another name.
I tested the 425 at 10 meters because it has open sights and also because of the low power level. It’s a .22-caliber spring rifle that shoots in the low- to mid-400s, and long-range accuracy is not its strong suit. But after seeing the Fast Deer perform, I began to wonder how the 425 might do if I tried it with a peep sight. Kevin recommended trying it, and I was happy to take his suggestion. We always talk about how peep sights improve the aiming situation, so a peep sight ought to have some impact on even a rifle like this one.
As it happens, I have a peep sight that attaches to the rear sight base on many vintage Diana air rifles, including this 425, so it was easy to remove the open rear sight and attach the peep. I left the open sight in place until the peep was firmly anchored to the base, then I looked through the peep and adjusted it until the open sight picture looked perfect through the peephole. That told me the peep was looking at the same place as the open sight, so no special sight-in procedure was required.
The Diana peep sight fits the model 25 as well as many of the larger models. It looks simple but delivers on target!
The Diana peep sight is vintage and appears less sophisticated than the target peeps we see today; but when you use it, you soon learn that it’s as nice as any of them. It has crisp detents with very visible scales for both adjustments plus the directions are also on the adjustment knobs. They’re in German, though, so they’re the reverse of American adjustments. The sight sits low on the spring tube and is shaped to conform to the contours of all Diana rifles, so there’s very little clearance between the sight and the gun. The sight does extend back, which is helpful, but as small as the 425 is, I still found it difficult to get as close to the eyepiece as I would have liked. That’s because the stock’s pull is a sporting length instead of a target length that would be several inches shorter.
JSB Exact RS
Since JSB Exact RS domes had proved to be very good at 10 meters, they were the first pellet I tried at 25 yards. I trusted that the pellet would go to the point of aim and it did. The first shot was right on target, but there was a small problem because I was trying to use 10-meter rifle targets and the bull is too small for me at 25 yards. So, I replaced the target with a 10-meter pistol target and afterward everything was fine.
The first group of 10 pellets measures 1.059 inches between centers. Now, that sounds like a big group; but if you look at the target, I think you’ll see that it really isn’t so bad. Seven of the 10 pellets landed in 0.545 inches and that’s good.
Another pellet that did relatively well in the 10-meter test was the RWS Superdome. And this is where the difference between 10 meters (11 yards) and 25 yards really shows! Ten Superdomes went into 1.349 inches, and the group appears scattered left and right. This is not a pellet I’d use in this rifle at this distance.
Here is another example of why a 10-shot group is so much more valuable than several 5-shot groups. You could get lucky with several 5-shot groups and never know how well the rifle really shoots, but a single 10-shot group tells the tale very clearly. In the end, it saves time and pellets.
Notice that Superdomes struck the target lower than the JSB RS that preceeded them. So, I adjusted the rear sight to hit higher on the target following this test.
JSB Exact 14.3-grain domes
Next, I tried some JSB Exact Jumbo Express 14.3-grain domes. Since the RS pellets had done so well, I thought these might do well, too, even thought this pellet has disappointed me very often in the past. For some reason, the RS and 15.9-grain pellets shoot rings around this one, and I don’t quite know why.
The Diana 25 doesn’t like them, either. Though the group is well-rounded, the shots seem scattered within it. The group measures 1.288inches between centers and there is nothing to give much hope of any better performance.
At this point in the test, I was starting to lose confidence in the rifle. True, the RS pellets had shown some promise and deserved another chance, but instead I had a thought. What about Crosman Premiers? I normally don’t shoot Premiers in vintage Dianas because I like to use only pure lead pellets, but it sounded like it was worth a try.
The pellets loaded snugly into the breech, but they weren’t quite what I would call tight. The firing behavior, though, was quite different from all the other pellets I’d shot in the gun. It was harsh and a bit buzzy, which tells me the powerplant isn’t being cushioned sufficiently by this pellet.
Down at the target, though, the story was quite different. Premiers made the second-tightest group of the test and were so good that they looked like they warranted a test all their own. The vertical dispersion was 1.09 inches between centers, which is slightly larger than the group made by the JSB RS pellets. The lateral dispersion was only 0.491 inches! And the group was way below the bull, meaning that this pellet dropped many inches from the impact point of all the others. In fact, I’m not certain that all 10 shots landed on the paper because the ragged hole they tore doesn’t tell me how many pellets passed through. It just looks like they all went there.
Crosman Premiers also made a large group, but they were tight side-to-side. This is a pellet to consider further! Sideways dispersion is the gun’s fault. Vertical error is more of an aiming issue or perhaps a wild velocity variation.
Premiers struck the target much lower than the JSB pellets before them, so the feeling upon firing is also evidenced in the velocity. Remember, I’d already adjusted the rear sight higher to compensate for the Superdomes, so this second adjustment jacked it up a lot from where we started.
Observation thus far
The addition of a peep sight to the Winchester 425 was a great idea. It took an accurate and easy-shooting rifle and stretched the useful range many times. I don’t know that a scope would give results that are any better, though it might be fun to try!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It’s at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through the ’70s.
Today, we’ll learn how accurate a vintage Diana model 25 breakbarrel air rifle, in the form of a Winchester model 425, can be. I have to tell you, days like this are pure candy to me! Shooting a smooth vintage air rifle is so relaxing. Since they’re no longer sold, I don’t have to scramble to shoot my best, because only a collector will ever buy one. On the other hand, these lower-powered spring guns mostly out-shoot the modern guns anyway, at least at short distances, so even shooting relaxed I do pretty well.
We all agreed that the model 25 is a close-range plinker, so I shot from 10 meters. I used a 10-meter pistol bull since I was using the open sights that come with the rifle. By strongly lighting the target and keeping the room I’m shooting in dark, the sights appear sharp against the target. I normally don’t like the German Dachkorn-type front sight, which is a V-shaped post; but under these circumstances, it worked very well. Incidentally, I’ve always referred to this as a Perlkorn; but while researching this report I discovered that the Perlkorn has a bead on top of the tapered post.
Sitting down at the bench to shoot reminded me of just how easy this little rifle is to cock. The barrel goes down butter-smooth, and it takes only about 14 lbs. of force to do it. But when I brought it back up after loading, I discovered that the pivot bolt was a little loose. The barrel wouldn’t stay in one position after the rifle was cocked. It flopped back down again. That’s a sign that the pivot is too loose, which leads to a loss of air at the breech. I decided to tighten it, and that lead me to another wonderful feature of the Diana 25 — the pivot bolt has a locking screw!
The head of the barrel pivot bolt (larger slotted head in the photo) is cut out around its edge to receive the smaller head of the locking screw. Once set, this bolt will not get out of adjustment.
The pivot bolt has cutouts around its edge to accept the head of a smaller locking screw. Once you set the bolt where you want it, put the locking screw in and the setting will never move. This is one of those seemingly insignificant features that we overlooked when rifles like this were new, yet today even the most expensive pellet rifles don’t have it! In fact, a good number of the current guns don’t even have a pivot bolt — they use a plain pin that can never be tightened.
The first pellet I shot was the .22-caliber RWS Superpoint. I mentioned in an earlier report that I like the Superpoint for its thin skirt that gets blown out into the sides of the bore when the rifle fires. Other pellets are either too hard, or their skirts are too thick to deform with the relatively light puff of air from the model 25′s piston. The Superpoint, though, should work well in a gun like this.
The distance was 10 meters and I shot from a rest, so this report is about the rifle’s capability and not the shooter’s. That crisp ball-bearing sear was a real pleasure to use, and I didn’t waste a lot of time setting up each shot.
I used the sights exactly as they were set when I got the rifle. Remember that my friend Mac was the former owner, so it came as no surprise when the pellet landed exactly at the aim point — a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. After seeing the first pellet was where it needed to be, I didn’t look at the target again until the 10th shot had been fired. What I saw then was a surprise — even when I had been expecting good results. Ten RWS Superpoints went into a group that measures 0.613 inches between centers. It’s a one-hole group that looks smaller than it really is because the pointed pellets allowed the paper to return to its normal dimensions after they pass through. This is the same kind of accuracy I used to get from the Hakim trainers at the same 10 meters.
Ten RWS Superpoints made this 0.613-inch group at 10 meters. It’s larger than it looks because the paper flapped back after the pellet passed through.
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. This is another pellet that’s often very good in rifles that shoot at lower power. And by being fairly light, at 11.9 grains, it has the advantage of traveling faster than most other pellets. Ten Hobbys grouped in 0.538 inches between centers. It was another one-hole group. Nothing to do but to smile and hope the rifle continues to shoot like this!
Ten RWS Hobbys are even tighter, making this 0.538-inch group.
The last pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome that weighs 13.4 grains. I hoped that this pellet might shine in the little 25 in the same way the .177 version does in my Beeman R8. Well, shine it did, putting 10 of them into a group that only measures 0.38 inches between centers. Does that explain why I like shooting these little vintage spring guns so much?
The JSB Exact RS dome was the best pellet of all. Ten made this 0.38-inch group at 10 meters.
The Diana breakbarrels all have slanted breech faces; and when the barrel is closed, if the pellet isn’t seated flush all the way around the skirt, it can catch on the action and slightly bend the rim of the skirt when the barrel’s closed. This was happening with all three pellets used in this test. So I shot a fourth group of 10 with the most accurate pellets (JSB Exact RS) seated deep in the breech. I wanted to see what effect this would have, if any.
Because the breech face is slanted, the tip of the pellet skirt sticks out like this when the pellet is seated.
When the breech is closed, this is what happens to the pellet. It doesn’t seem to hurt accuracy.
Seating pellets deep in the breech (JSB Exact RS used) opened the group up and also dropped the point of impact about one inch at 10 meters.
Deep-seating didn’t work this time. The group of 10 JSB Exact RS pellets opened to 0.615 inches. It also dropped the point of impact about one inch at 10 meters. Doesn’t seem like it’s worthwhile.
I sure hope this isn’t the last report I get to do on this air rifle. What a joy it is to shoot something that’s accurate, has a great trigger, is quiet and is easy to cock. I know you have to buy these used, but it’s worth the effort, in my opinion. It doesn’t replace your modern magnum air rifles, but it gives you something to do when you just want to shoot without a lot of fuss. If you’ve enjoyed reading this report, remember that there are three different models of the Diana 25. Only two of them have the ball bearing sear, so be careful when you look for one.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It’s at the top of the youth line of air rifles that were made from the ’50s through ’70s.
Today, I’ll test the Winchester 425 (Diana 25) breakbarrel air rifle for velocity and power. When I shot the rifle, the ultra-smooth firing behavior suggested that it might have been tuned. And a faint whiff of burned grease confirmed it. I shined a tactical flashlight down into the cocking slot and saw the mainspring is coated with a thin layer of black tar — proof positive the innards have been breathed upon!
The second clue as to its past is that the rifle was owned by my friend Mac before I got it. I know he loves this platform and does not fear taking one apart to make it better.
Finally, the trigger is adjusted to perfection. Mac knows how to do that, as I described in Part 1 of this report. The trigger is two-stage with a very long first stage that stops at a definite second stage before breaking crisply at the shot. I would not call it a glass-rod trigger, because the excessive overtravel after the trigger breaks makes it feel less precise than it really is, but if you’ve never sampled a fine sporting airgun trigger, this one would amaze you. The only aspect that might put some people off is that the first stage has to be very long for the second stage to be crisp. You can try to shorten stage one if you like — but then stage two disappears, and the trigger becomes a guessing game.
The trigger return spring on this rifle is heavy enough to give the first stage a 1 lb., 1 oz. pull weight. Stage two breaks at 2 lbs., 15 oz., and I doubt you’d guess it to be that much.
One reason I love little breakbarrels like this model 25 is their light cocking efforts. This rifle has a ball-bearing detent that makes the barrel break open easier. Then just 14 lbs. of force are needed to cock the rifle. That’s so little that pre-teens will find it easy. Of course, this particular example is as smooth as they come because of the tune it’s received, but even a rusty old relic that’s been sitting up in the loft of a barn for 30 years will still cock pretty easy.
Instead of a chisel detent that has a powerful spring behind it, the Diana 25 barrel is held closed by a spring-loaded ball bearing. It is much easier to open and close the barrel, yet it stays shut when the gun fires.
Remember, this is a .22-caliber air rifle — not a .177. This is a case where the smaller caliber probably would have been the better choice, but folks with large fingers will still appreciate this one for the ease with which it can be loaded.
The first pellet I tested was that old standby — the RWS Hobby. In .22 caliber, this wadcutter weighs 11.9 grains and typically offers the highest velocity of any of the lead pellets. In the test rifle, Hobbys averaged 440 f.p.s. The spread went from 421 to 458 f.p.s., which is a fairly broad 37 f.p.s. range. They loaded firm, as if fitting the bore well, so I expect them to do well in the accuracy test. At the average velocity, Hobbys generate 5.12 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
From what we learned while testing the Hy Score 801 rifle that has a pellet seater built into the barrel, deep-seating pellets can sometimes increase velocity and also stabilize the overall range of velocities achieved. I tried seating the Hobbys deep into the breech. The result was a large loss of velocity — from 382 to 408 f.p.s. for the deep seating! That tells me the model 25 doesn’t like its pellets seated deep, so I didn’t try it with the other pellets.
JSB Exact Jumbo Express
The next pellet up was the JSB Exact Jumbo Express dome that weighs 14.3 grains. This is a pure lead pellet, and it fits the rifle’s breech very nicely, going in easier than the Hobbys. These averaged 417 f.p.s. and ranged from 414 to 422 f.p.s. That’s an incredibly tight 8 f.p.s. spread across 10 shots! I want to note that this pellet also went deeper into the breech with just finger pressure. That means the skirt was not subject to damage when the breech was closed — something I can’t say for the other two pellets I tested. This pellet produces 5.52 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
The last pellet I tested was selected for a very specific purpose. I’ve found in the past that taploaders that have large holes through their taps — such as the Hakim trainer — need a soft lead pellet with a very thin skirt so the light air blast will flare the skirt out to contact the bore and seal it against air blowby. Even the RWS Superdome has a reinforcing ledge inside its skirt that prevents this from happening. But the RWS Superpoint doesn’t. The Superpoint skirt is very thin, soft and pliable; and it seals better than any lead pellet I’ve ever used. I like to at least try them in low-powered spring guns like this model 25 air rifle because they often give very good results on paper.
In the test rifle, Superpoints averaged 377 f.p.s., and the spread was from 373 to 383 f.p.s., so only 10 f.p.s. The Superpoint weighs 14.5 grains, so at the average velocity the muzzle energy was 4.58 foot-pounds. With the first two pellets as a comparison, I wouldn’t call this a great performance.
How does the 25 compare to the Diana 27?
For no better reason than the fact that I was curious, I then tested my Diana 27 (Hy Score 807) with the same pellets. I figured it would be a little more powerful than the 25, but not a lot.
Where Hobbys averaged 440 in the 25, in the 27 they went 495. The JSBs that averaged 417 in the 25 went 449 in the 27. And the RWS Superpoints that only went 379 in the 25 actually went 458 in the 27 — exceeding the JSB pellets! I think that result was that thin soft skirt kicking in, and the 25 probably doesn’t have quite enough power to blow the skirts out like I mentioned.
Impressions so far
I wish this rifle was still being made so more of you could experience it. It’s a delight to shoot. It cocks so easily, and the trigger is a dream to use. Let’s all hope the accuracy is there, as well. I’m not looking for tackdriving accuracy at 25 yards this time — just nice round groups at 10 meters because the Diana 25 is a plinking air rifle — first, last and always.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Adam Vierra is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
I wasn’t sure there was going to be a Part 3 to this report. But yesterday, when I read your interest about the airguns with double-set triggers, I decided that it was okay to do one more, and this one will be about set triggers, match triggers and stuff like that.
As it happens, this blog is very timely for me, because this past Wednesday I was at the range shooting several firearms and a new airgun that you’re going to read about in January. One of the firearms I shot was my new Winchester high wall in .219 Zipper Improved. Some of you may remember that was the rifle I recently bought and discovered after the fact that it has a single-set trigger.
The screw that hangs down behind this trigger is the telltale clue that it’s a single-set trigger. You can either pull it the usual way, in which case it breaks at about 3-1/2 lbs., or push the trigger forward after the rifle is cocked. It then breaks at just 6 oz.
Shooting an obsolete caliber like a .219 Zipper Improved is a lot of work because they don’t make ammunition for it. In fact, they never have. This cartridge is called a wildcat because it’s always been necessary for the shooter to make the ammunition from some other cartridge. The .219 Zipper was a standard commercial cartridge at one time and is based on a 30-30 case. The Zipper Improved is based on the standard Zipper case, which means it, too, can be made from a 30-30 case. In fact, that’s how they’re made today.
Here we see a 30-30 (left) and the .219 Zipper Improved that sprang from it.
But my shooting buddy, Otho, discovered that the case dimensions of the now-obsolete but far more recent .225 Winchester are virtually identical to the .219 Zipper Improved. The rim is thinner and a trifle narrower, but it’s close. So, he thought we could make our cases from .225 Winchester cases, which are now being produced in limited quantities.
To make a long story short, the .225 case is so exact that all I have to do is prime it, fill it with powder and put a bullet in the neck. That saves me about 5 minutes of case preparation time for each case (when making them from a 30-30), and I also don’t have to clean my gun after fire-forming the new cases, which is a royal pain. Also, I lose about 40 percent of the formed cases, and I don’t think I’m going to lose any with this new method.
On Wednesday, I was at the range with 20 rounds of .219 Zipper Improved made from new .225 Winchester cases to see if this works. The measurements said it should, but since we’re generating 45,000 psi with every shot, theory and practical application are two different things.
I loaded the cartridges on the light side for safety, and I loaded only 5 with each amount of powder so I wouldn’t have to pull apart dozens of cartridges if they weren’t right. I’d seated the 40-grain bullet out as far as I felt I could and still keep it stable in the case. That’s supposed to improve accuracy — if the bullet doesn’t travel far before engaging the rifling.
The set trigger
Now we come to the subject of this report. My rifle has an aftermarket single-set trigger that releases with 6 oz. of pressure. To me, it feels like nothing. I can barely feel my finger touch the trigger blade when the gun fires. That’s as light as I ever want a trigger to be, and only then if it’s on a target rifle or a varmint rifle like this one. I want to be in position and ready to take the shot before I touch that blade.
So, now you appreciate that everything was perfect for this endeavor. If the loads I cooked up were accurate, nothing should get in the way of the results. Put the crosshairs in the center of the aim point at 100 yards, get stable and touch the trigger — BAM! The deed is done. All you have to do is look through the scope. The bullet should be moving at about 3,600 f.p.s., so the hold isn’t very much of a factor. Just make sure you have your head at the same spot every time so parallax cannot enter into the equation, and you should be good to go.
The first 5 shots included the very first shot after the barrel had been cleaned. That one went almost an inch wide, while the next 4 shots landed in a group that measures 0.51 inches between the centers of the two widest shots.
The rifle was shooting a little high so I adjusted the scope down for the next group.
The next 5 shots were with a powder charge weighing one grain more than the first load. I saw the first bullet from this batch land almost exactly on the vertical line above the center of the aim point, so I proceeded to shoot 4 more shots after it. I couldn’t see these shots through my 10x rifle scope, but the spotting scope revealed a tight cluster next to the first shot. That was worth investigating. We called a cease fire, and I walked down to look at the target. What I saw was amazing. The final 4 shots had landed in a tiny cluster measuring 0.239 inches between center. When the first shot is added, the group opens to 0.444 inches. For me this is a very good group!
Top group is the first 5 shots with the new cases. Bottom group is the second 5 shots, using one grain more powder. The group measures 0.444 inches between centers…and the smaller group of 4 measures 0.239 inches, which is less than a quarter-inch at 100 yards.
But the single thing that made this group possible — other than lucking out and picking the right bullet and the absolute best powder charge on the first time out with these new cartridges (which is at least a thousand-to-one-guess) — was the set trigger. It took me out of the equation, by virtue of making the rifle fire when all things were perfect. Even a heartbeat, which can throw off a bullet by more than an inch at 100 yards, was not an issue because I was using the M-T-M Predator shooting rest that holds the rifle perfectly on target without my help.
And that’s what set triggers do. They allow you to either eliminate the human from the shooting equation; or, conversely, they allow the human to knowingly pull the trigger at the exact instant the sight picture is perfect. That’s called sniping the target, and it’s usually not recommended; but since a set trigger doesn’t move the gun like a standard trigger does when it’s pulled, you get away with it.
So far, I’ve mentioned only the single-set trigger. The double-set trigger is more common and works just as well, if not better. Perhaps the most familiar place to see this kind of trigger is on a muzzleloading rifle, where they were favored over the plain trigger.
Double-set triggers often work like normal triggers if they’re not set. Usually, the rear trigger is pulled to set the front one, though not always. The double-set was very popular on bellows dart rifles in the 1700s and 1800s, and these are the triggers that are famous for being so sensitive that a breath of air can make them fire. I’ve owned several rifles with double-set triggers, including a five-lever trigger made by Aydt that was extremely sensitive. But I’ve never experienced a trigger so light that air, alone, can set it off.
Pull the rear trigger to set the front trigger. The rifle can also be fired by just pulling the front trigger, though the pull will be heavier.
Set triggers and target rifles
Set triggers were once an important part of all target rifles. From the days of chunk shooting, when the rifle was a Kentucky long rifle rested on a log (called a chunk), to the final days of international match shooting at 1,000 yards, the set trigger was as common as the vernier peep sight and spirit level front sight that eliminated cant.
In the sporting world, set triggers were found on many varmint rifles of the past. The double-set was more common than the single-set, but either one can be a blessing when you’re trying to do precise work. In recent years, set triggers have been making a comeback on many factory guns, but they may not be as necessary as they once were due to innovations in replacement sporting triggers. More on that in a moment, but let’s now take a look at set triggers on airguns.
For some reason, set triggers have not been very popular in airgun target shooting. Perhaps this started as a safety rule; but considering the light match rifle triggers now in production, that cannot be the only reason. The fact that set triggers do exist on target air rifles indicates that some people wanted to try them at one time, but the rules were written to exclude them from competition…just like Tyrolean stocks and tube rear sights…and today they’re seen only on vintage guns.
Here’s a prediction: If an airgun manufacturer were to put a nice set trigger in an accurate low- to mid-powered .177-caliber air rifle today, they would have a hit on their hands!
Non-set triggers that are still remarkable
This is for our blog reader GenghisJan, who asked blog reader Kevin how he would compare a set trigger to a match trigger. I believe the big difference is that you must intentionally set the set trigger for it to be light. If you don’t set it, the trigger-pull seems about normal. But a match trigger releases at just one weight, and it’s always light. How many times have I seen people fire a match gun before they were ready, simply because they were unaccustomed to how light the trigger is? It actually takes some learning to operate a match trigger safely, and some people never get it.
A Benjamin Marauder trigger can be adjusted to have a two-stage release where the second stage is light, but also positive. It’s more than the few grams of pressure that a true match trigger needs, but far lighter than most sporting triggers. This is a wonderful compromise in a trigger, to my way of thinking.
In the world of sporting guns, triggers have continued to improve until it’s possible to buy drop-in units today, or sometimes the parts to make a factory trigger as light as a set trigger. There are many manufacturers doing this — companies like Jewell Trigger, which makes sporting triggers that break at mere ounces. They’re a sort of set trigger that’s always set!
But in airguns, the choices are fewer. In the world of spring guns, there’s the Rekord that can be adjusted to release at just ounces of pressure if properly set up, and the Air Arms trigger that’s even more adjustable. There used to be some aftermarket triggers from companies that would drop in certain guns and be even lighter and better than Rekords, but they’re gone from the marketplace.
You’ll find more good triggers in the PCP world because they don’t have to restrain hundreds of pounds of force. And the state-of-the-art 10-meter match rifle trigger is at the top of the heap. With triggers this sensitive, you don’t touch them until you’re safely on target.
What’s it going to be?
I like a set trigger in the right circumstances. And since most of them can be fired without setting, I found them to be ideal for everything. But I’m just starting to experiment with the crop of new and improved replacement triggers that have hit the market. Though they’re less flexible than set triggers, they might be a good modern alternative.
As far as a true target trigger is concerned, the only place for that is on the range. And you have to train with it by dry-firing so you are ready when the time comes.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
In Part 1, we looked at single-stage and two-stage triggers. Today, the focus is on single-action and double-action triggers. Is that confusing? Does a single-action trigger sound like a single-stage trigger to you? If it does, you are in the majority, because this confuses a lot of folks — some of them are even writers in the shooting sports! Edith told me about an airgun company that doesn’t appear to know the difference…thinking that double-action and two-stage and single-action and single-stage are the same things but just stated differently.
It may help if I go back to the very first trigger and explain how it worked. In the very early days of shooting, there were no triggers at all. A lit piece of cord called a match was carried by the shooter; and when he wanted to fire his gun, the (hopefully) hot coal on the end of the match was touched to a hole located at the rear of the barrel. That’s where the term touchhole comes from. The hot match would hopefully ignite some of the gunpowder that was at the top of the touchhole and hopefully the tiny explosion would go all the way down the touchhole and hopefully ignite the main powder charge.
How many times did I write “hopefully” in the last paragraph? Four, which is my way of saying that these early hand-cannons were not that reliable. If you make one today, it’ll seem very reliable, but that’s just a comment on how good today’s black powder has become. The early powder was far weaker and harder to ignite, the matches often went out — especially in the rain — and the length, size and shape of the touchhole had a profound influence on the success or failure of the gun’s ignition.
In time it all got sorted out. The powder got better and shooters learned how to care for their matches. At some point in time, a clever mechanic attached the match to an iron rod that was attached to a pivot on the hand-cannon and shaped so the lit match end fell exactly on the touchhole. The other end of the rod was shaped to be easy to operate with the fingers of the hand that held the gun. Thus the first trigger was born. This first trigger did not have a sear. It was just a lever. If you bumped it when the gun was loaded and caused the match to hit the touchhole — oh, oh! But at least they didn’t shoot themselves while cleaning their guns — at least not accidentally!
By the middle 1500s (and probably earlier), we had triggers with sears. They were needed when the wheellock mechanism came along. A wheellock is a cigarette lighter built into a gun. It has a powerful spring that’s tensioned by winding with a lever or key. The spring causes a large, serrated steel wheel to turn; and when a piece of pyrite is held against it, sparks are generated.
The tension of the mainspring has to be restrained so the shooter can select when he wants the gun to fire. A sear is a type of dog or restraining lever that blocks the wheel that’s under tension. The trigger then becomes another lever that trips the sear (releases the dog) so the wheel can turn, generating sparks and igniting the powder charge. This kind of trigger was a single-action trigger. That means you first had to cock the gun (by winding the spring) before the trigger was put in place by another small spring to hold the sear.
With a single-action trigger the gun must first be cocked by some outside activity before the trigger can be set to perform its job. I don’t have a wheellock to show you but I do have a French 1822 flintlock military pistol that’s been converted to percussion. The trigger on this pistol works the same way I’ve described. The hammer must first be cocked or the trigger can do nothing. When the hammer is cocked, internal springs have pushed the trigger to block the sear from moving. At this point, the trigger can release the sear when it’s pulled, allowing the hammer to fall. It’s very similar to the wheellock, except that if the gun is a flintlock, the lock generates the spark for ignition through the striking of flint, rather than the dragging of pyrite against a steel wheel. In a percussion gun such as my 1822 French pistol (a flintlock-to-percussion conversion), the hammer falls on a percussion cap that explodes, igniting the black powder.
The trigger of the 1822 French martial pistol (top) just flops around loose until the hammer is pulled back to the cocked position. Then, the trigger is held in place to block the sear (on the hammer) by a small spring. When you pull the trigger until it moves out of the sear notch on the hammer, the hammer falls and explodes the percussion cap. The cowboy gun below is called a single-action revolver and works in a similar fashion, interestingly enough.
And that was how all triggers were until the mid-19th century. Don’t let set triggers confuse you. They existed well before this time, and they’re all single-action.
The double-action trigger was probably first produced in England or Belgium around the middle of the 19th century. My vote goes to England. Some clever mechanic found a way to link the trigger blade to both the sear and a second lever that pushed the hammer back against its spring. Now, the trigger could do two things. It could release the sear and could also cock the gun. And it could do both of them at the same time, with the result that the gun fired every time the trigger was pulled. Cocking the hammer first went from being a necessity to an option.
You can almost always spot a double-action revolver by the trigger positioned far forward in the trigger guard.
The advantages of the double-action trigger are many. First, it allows you to fire the gun with no other action. Just pull the trigger and eventually the gun fires. On most guns, it gives you the option of also cocking the hammer separately and firing the gun single-action. The single-action trigger-pull is much lighter than the double-action pull. All it does is release the sear. But the double-action pull also has to compress the hammer spring, and that makes a double-action trigger-pull heavier.
The effect of the trigger on shooting
Because it’s lighter and crisper, a single-action trigger-pull results in more control over the handgun. Therefore, it’s always used for formal target shooting. A double-action pull usually results in pulling the shot to the side opposite the hand that holds the gun. In other words, a right-handed shooter will pull his shots to the left when shooting double-action. It’s possible to train yourself to shoot accurately this way, however, and since double-action is faster than single-action, it’s used when revolvers have to be shot quickly.
With a semiautomatic pistol, you can have both. The gun can function as a double-action for the first trigger pull; but once the slide pushes the hammer back to the cocked position, it’s now a single-action until the gun is empty. Or, you can just cock the hammer manually for the first shot and it’s single-action all the way.
And, because double-action triggers require more effort, they’re viewed as safer in the hands of those with less handgun training. So, some semiautomatic pistols have a double-action-only trigger-pull. The Glock is most famous for this.
What to take away from this
The thing to remember is that a single-action trigger-pull means just causing the sear to let go and fire the gun. The gun has to be cocked separately and by something other than the trigger. A double-action pull means also putting tension on the hammer spring, so the gun fires with each pull of the trigger without anything else needing to happen.
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.