Posts Tagged ‘underlevers’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Falke 90 underlever rifle is a German spring-piston gun from the early 1950s.
Cometa Fusion .22 update
Before I begin, I want to update you on the Cometa Fusion Premier Star report that I’m doing. The fifth accuracy test failed because the scope moved — again! Kevin sent me a special base that people on the internet were having success with, but alas, it did not stay put on the rifle I’m testing.
The vertical scope stop pin on this base is 0.137 inches in diameter, and the stop pin hole on the rifle is 0.111 inches; so, the stop pin cannot enter the hole. As I’ve said many times in the past — no amount of clamping pressure, alone, is enough to hold a scope base from moving, except when BKL mounts of the correct size are used. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of them with enough droop to compensate for this rifle.
I do, however, think this mount base will work because it does have the amount of droop that I need for the rifle. When I come home from the SHOT Show, my plan is to grind the base pin thinner so it will fit into the hole. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what I can do that I haven’t already tried. Remember, I’m doing this because I believe the rifle is accurate and would be a wonderful value if I can just get the scope to stay put.
On to the Falke
I started this report on the Falke 90 because I hadn’t really shot it that much since getting it in 2010. Vince fixed it for me, and Mac did the accuracy test. I got the rifle back from Mac, but there wasn’t anything to do that hadn’t been done. So, this year I had the stock restored, and that was a huge project for Doug Phillips at DAMAGEDWOODSTOCKS. Then, I thought I would test the rifle as though I’d just bought it because, essentially, that’s what happened!
I learned in Part 2 that the velocity and stability of the rifle were affected by the depth the pellet was seated into the loading tap. And the Falke’s tap is a small one, compared to other taps I’ve used, so the seating depth is more variable in this rifle with most pellets. Most pellets fall into the tap and stop at different depths, and often they aren’t in far enough to close the tap without damaging the pellet. That will become important in this test.
The first pellet I tried is the one that I always shoot in Hakim rifles, which are very similar to this one. It’s the 14.5-grain RWS Superpoint. I expected to get the same performance from this rifle as I got from more than a dozen Hakims over the years. Alas, that didn’t happen. The tighter loading tap on the Falke meant I had to seat the pellets manually to clear the tap, and the results at 10 meters, rested, were not that good. Ten shots made a group that measures 1.124 inches between centers. As you can see, it’s an open group with scattered hits that tend toward the vertical.
JSB Exact 15.9-grain
I won’t even show a target for the JSB Exact 15.9-grain domes because the pellets went all over the place. I didn’t even finish the group.
Next, I tried RWS Superdomes, but they weren’t much better than Superpoints. They did give a smaller group, at 0.861 inches between centers, but that’s only good by comparison. I’m looking for better accuracy from this Falke because I think it’s there. Oh, yeah, also because Mac got much better accuracy in his test!
The iron sights are fighting me
At this point in the test, I had to admit the iron sights on the rifle were working against me. I simply could not adjust them high enough to get the pellets centered in the bull at 10 meters. I remember that Mac used a red dot sight he mounted to the rifle, and I may need to do the same to get the groups I’m looking for. That will have to be another test because this one was already taking a lot of time and I wasn’t finished.
What did Mac do?
When Mac tested the rifle he found that the obsolete 5.6mm Eley Wasp pellet shot best. In fact, it wasn’t close. He got a group with Superdomes like I did, though he shot from 15 yards rather than 11 (which is 10 meters). So, the next pellet I tried was the Eley Wasp.
Eley Wasps are much larger than other .22-caliber pellets, so imagine my surprise when the first one fell deep enough into the tap to not require seating. After that, though, I seated every pellet to the bottom of the tap. Perhaps this is why Mac was telling me to do this! I didn’t appreciate it during the velocity test, when deep seating made the velocities more variable; but in the accuracy test, look what happened! Nine of the 10 pellets went into an almost single hole that measures 0.695 inches between centers. And the 10th shot is way low. It opens the group to 1.029 inches. Want to guess that this is the first shot that wasn’t seated deeply? I don’t know if it is, because I didn’t look at the target before I completed it. I only saw this when I went downrange to retrieve the target for photography and measuring…but I think it is.
Nine in 0.695 inches, and one below opens it to 1.029 inches. I don’t know, but I’m guessing the one I didn’t seat deeply was the stray shot.
What have I learned so far?
The Falke is certainly a different air rifle, and it doesn’t turn out to be what I thought it would be. I like the feel of Hakim rifles better than this one. They seem to shoot smoother, and their triggers are easier to adjust. Still, I don’t think I’ve completely mastered the Falke 90 yet.
This reminds me very much of a .22-caliber BSF Bavaria S54 taploader I used to own. It had a huge diopter rear sight, yet couldn’t hold a candle to a plain old Diana 27 for accuracy. Just because a rifle is a rare and vintage gun is no guarantee that it will also be a smooth and accurate shooter.
I do think that I need to try the Falke again, and this time with a dot sight mounted. And I’ll deep-seat Eley Wasps from the start and not worry about whether or not there are other good pellets.
This is a learning experience — that’s for sure!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Falke 90 underlever rifle is a German spring-piston gun from the early 1950s.
This report is my test of the .22-caliber Falke 90 underlever air rifle I acquired a few years ago. When I got it, the rifle wasn’t working, so blog reader Vince offered to fix it for me. After he finished, he took it to my friend Mac, who tested it. I’ve owned this rifle for several years and never really tested it myself, and I thought it was about time to do so.
I recently had the stock restored by Doug Phillips, who did a wonderful job. Now, I have a nice-looking underlever spring rifle as well as one that works well, so today we’re going to look at its velocity. And we’re going to do more than that because Mac told me some things about the gun that have shaped today’s test. Why don’t I share them with you now?
The Falke 90 is an underlever, which means there is a separate lever to cock the mainspring. In the Falke 90, it’s hidden by the stock — very much like the BSA Airsporter and the Hakim, which are both related to the Falke. All three rifles are loaded through a tap that rotates open automatically when the lever is cocked. That provides a place to drop the pellet, nose-first. Then the tap is manually rotated closed, the pellet aligns with the breech (in front) and the air transfer port (behind the pellet). Let’s talk about that tap for a bit.
The tap opens by a mechanical projection on the cocking linkage that pushes the tap as it passes it during cocking. I think the remarkable thing is that it stays in adjustment over hundreds of thousands of shots and scores of years of use. My tap is still aligned perfectly, so I don’t have to do anything except drop a pellet nose-first into it and then rotate it closed to align with the barrel.
There can be a problem with a tap, however. The pellet chamber in it can be so exact that pellets don’t fall all the way in when they’re just dropped in. This is what Mac pointed out to me about this rifle. My taploader experience has been with the Hakim rifle, which has a generous pellet chamber and seldom has a problem — unless the pellet skirt is bent. Then, the pellet won’t fall into the tap’s pellet chamber as far as it should; and when you rotate the tap closed, you’ll catch and bend the pellet’s skirt. But the pellet chamber on the Falke 90 tap is very small and may or may not accept the pellet as far as it needs to — to clear the receiver when the tap is rotated closed.
Mac told me to watch for that problem and to make sure each pellet made it into the pellet chamber as far as it needed for clearance. He advised me to use an instrument to push each pellet as far into the tap chamber as it would go — thus clearing the skirt when the tap rotated closed.
This pellet was dropped into the tap and failed to enter the pellet chamber far enough to clear the end of the pellet skirt when the tap is closed.
Here the pellet has been pushed into the tap as far as it will go. This pellet will easily clear the gun when the tap is closed.
This tap business got me wondering about the affect on velocity. Would a deep-seated pellet be better (faster and more consistent), or would a pellet that has just been dropped into the tap do better? I’m sure you can come to your conclusions quickly enough, so let’s test a couple pellets and see what really happens.
I began shooting RWS Superpoints when I got my first Hakim. They seemed like the perfect pellet for that rifle because they have thin skirts that will flare out from a smaller blast of air and also because they just dropped deeply into the Hakim tap. Other pellets were too small for the Hakim tap and failed to produce adequate velocity because much of the air compressed by the piston slipped past them in the barrel.
In the Falke 90, however, it’s a different story. The pellet chamber in the loading tap is very small, and Superpoints do not usually drop in far enough to close the tap. Many of them need to be seated mechanically. So, I tested them two ways. First, as just dropped in but not pushed deep and second as pushed into the tap as deep as they would go.
Very few of the pellets fell into the tap deep enough by themselves to close the tap, so even in the first test there was some pushing that had to take place. Perhaps 6 pellets had to be pushed into the tap a little while 4 fell in deep enough on their own. This string of what I’m calling unseated pellets averaged 476 f.p.s. and ranged from 465 to 484 f.p.s. That is a spread of 19 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet and loading method generated 7.3 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Next, I tried pushing the pellets into the tap as deep as they would go. Now, I bet you think they’re going to go faster than the unseated pellets. Right? Well, they did one foot-per-second faster! Yes, the average for seated pellets was 477 f.p.s., and the spread went from 461 to 493 f.p.s. So the range was 32 f.p.s. And the average muzzle energy was 7.33 foot-pounds. Not much difference, is there?
JSB Exact RS pellets
The other pellet I tried was the lighter JSB Exact RS pellet, which in .22 caliber weighs 13.4 grains. This is a pure lead pellet, like the Superpoint, and it also has a thin skirt. But the Exact pellet is smaller than the Superpoint. These pellets fell into the tap far enough to close without any damage every time.
On the first test, where the pellet was just dropped in, the Exact RS averaged 453 f.p.s. The range went from 445 to 463, so a spread of 18 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 6.11 foot-pounds. And no mechanical seating was necessary.
On the second test, where the pellet was pushed into the tap as far as it would go, this pellet averaged 457 f.p.s., but the spread was much larger — ranging from a low of 448 to a high of 484 f.p.s. So, the velocity varied by 36 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 6.22 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
What do these numbers tell us about the rifle?
For starters, I hope you realize that this was not a normal velocity test that produced standard numbers. The way the pellet fits the loading tap has a tremendous effect on the outcome. I believe that will probably carry over into the accuracy test, as well, so I wanted to try one more test. What would happen if I flared the skirts of every pellet before loading it into the tap, and then I pushed each pellet to the bottom of the tap? Wouldn’t that give me the best sealing of the pellet to the bore? Mac thought it would. But only one way to know for sure. I had to test it. And I decided to test both pellets, as I could see no compelling reason to choose one over the other.
RWS Superpoints flared and deep-seated
Superpoints averaged 474 f.p.s. when their skirts were flared, and they were then seated as deep as they would go into the tap. That puts them in about the same place as the pellets that were just dropped into the tap and those that were intentionally seated deep. But here’s where it gets interesting. The range went from a low of 464 f.p.s. to a high of 504 f.p.s. I’m not looking at the 40 foot per second velocity spread as much as I am the four pellets that topped 490 f.p.s. Clearly, flaring the skirts has an effect, but I must not have done it uniformly enough to make a difference.
JSB Exact RS pellets flared and deep-seated
The JSB Exact RS pellets are more flared to begin with. Even though their skirts are not quite as wide as those on the Superpoints, they lend themselves to flaring much better. These pellets averaged 487 f.p.s., which is a 20 f.p.s. increase over just seating the unflared pellets deeply. The range went from a low of 465 f.p.s. to a high of 501 f.p.s. Four pellets were at or above 500 f.p.s. Again, there must have been some inconsistency in the flaring, but the RS pellets did seem to respond better to the process.
Normally, I report on the trigger-pull in the velocity report, but I’m not going to do that today. The Falke 90 has an adjustable trigger that works on the sear contact area; and during the test, the trigger-pull went from being very light to not staying cocked. So I adjusted it heavy for safety’s sake. A taploader is safe because, until the loading tap is aligned with the bore, the pellet will not move; so when the gun fired on its own several times, there was no problem. But if I were to adjust it to a light pull, I might then close the tap before the gun is on target — and that’s dangerous if the gun then fires on its own! So, I’ll adopt a procedure with this rifle of not closing the tap until the sights are on target.
I’m also having difficulty with the trigger because the trigger return spring isn’t sufficient to push the trigger blade into lockup with the sear. When I cock the rifle, I also have to push the trigger blade forward to engage the safety. That may be because the new wood is a little tight in the trigger region. It’s something I need to look at.
The rifle is shooting well thus far, with the exceptions noted. The next report will be accuracy, and for that Mac has set the bar very high.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Wesley Santiago is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page. He’s holding an AirForce Airguns Talon SS air rifle.
Falke 90 before restoration.
A funny thing happened as I was writing this report. I mentioned at the end of the last part that I was thinking of restoring the stock that was so beat up, and many readers raised their voices in unison to say “NO!” Okay, I admit that I’m not the finest woodworker in the world, but you don’t all need to agree so emphatically. And so quickly!
Kevin wrote me a message, pleading and trying to reason with me that this poor old rifle had suffered enough and deserved the touch of a master’s hand rather than the collateral damage I would no doubt inflict. And he even provided me with a name — Doug Phillips.
Doug lives in Houston, as it turns out, (I live in the same state), and he works at a business he calls DamagedWoodstocks, which sounded exactly like what I had. How did he know? I contacted him after looking over the photos on his website. Turns out that he works with a lot of damaged airgun stocks, and he can work near-miracles.
I emailed him and sent along some photos to give him an idea of the scope of the job. But by my own ignorance, I omitted the really bad news and poor Doug had to discover that for himself after quoting the job. I did tell him he could revise his estimate after he saw the stock because I don’t think either of us appreciated just how much work was going to be involved. So, this report is my penance for telling such a big fib — even if it was by omission and because I don’t know enough about woodworking to start a good campfire.
The Falke 90 stock was covered with scars, gouges and cracks; it also had missing wood and the initials of some former owner. It was so ugly that it detracted from the fact that the airgun it held is rarer than a One of One-Thousand Winchester rifle! If this were a firearm, it would be worth thousands of dollars. It would be one of those you see on TV where they say, “Even in this condition, this rifle is so rare that it still commands a high price.” But it isn’t a firearm. It’s an airgun, and I was unable to get any bites on it when I offered it for $250 at the 2012 Roanoke Airgun Show a couple months ago. Several major collectors looked at it sitting on my table as though it was a carrier of the Black Plague. That why I resolved to do something.
These initials were stamped into the left checkered panel of the rifle. I considered this the major damage, but I was wrong.
The right side of the butt shows a pleasing grain, but the dark stain and heavy varnish obscure it.
That crack in front of the triggerguard is the real problem with this stock. Under the triggerguard plate, about 90 percent of the original wood is missing!
This view of the left side of the butt shows the general poor condition of the wood. See the deep gouges that had to be dealt with? They’re all over the stock.
These are a few selected views of the gun that went to Doug. I have more, but to keep this report manageable, I’m not showing them.
After Doug received the stock, we chatted via email and I learned that the trigger plate inlettting that I shrugged off was his biggest concern. I shrugged it off because I reckoned that nobody could ever do anything about it anyway, so why whine over something that can’t be fixed? That was when I found out what kind of guy Doug is. He said he would study the stock for several days and then formulate a repair plan.
This is what Doug was faced with. Ninety percent of the trigger plate in the stock is missing.
Good to his word, he did contact me a couple days later and said that he had a plan for the stock. We talked a bit about how I would like it to look when it was finished, and I opted for a warmer, lighter color for the wood and not so much shiny finish over everything. That stuff can make a masterpiece look like cheap plastic!
A week later, Doug sent me a report with a couple photos. In three of them, I saw the great lengths he was going to in order to fix the rifle’s inletting at the trigger. As it turned out, he fashioned a metal plate and set it in place for the inletting of the trigger group. Then he epoxied it in place. It is also held in place by metal pins.
The trigger plate was completely rebuilt, with steel pins to reinforce it.
Once the plate was in position, it was epoxied in place.
To strengthen the area where the crack was, he put in a cross pin.
I screwed up!
I was having the work done by someone else, so how could I screw up the job? Well, funny you should ask. Doug told me that he needed the rifle’s action to measure and check the new inletting, so I quickly wrapped it up and sent it off. And quickly is the clue, because I didn’t pack the 6 lb., 10 oz. action well enough. By the time it travelled 400 miles to him, it had punched a hole in the end of the box and dented the end of the steel end cap. Sure it was insured, but try finding replacement parts for a Falke 90!
Due to my poor packing, the Falke action punched through the side of the box and dented the end cap.
Doug repaired the dent so it’s not visible when the rifle is assembled. It wasn’t part of what he signed up to do — just a dirty little job he inherited from me.
You can’t tell the end cap was ever dented.
The things I worried about the most were probably some of the easier fixes for Doug — at least in retrospect. He used sawdust from the stock mixed with epoxy to fill in the depressions, then he smoothed down the top of the repair and recut the checkering just like the original. He even left flattened diamonds, so the work looks vintage and not new.
The staining of the repaired panel was a very touchy part of this repair, because epoxy doesn’t accept stain like the wood around it. But he managed to do it perfectly. I cannot tell where the initials ever were.
This is the panel that had the initials. They’re gone, and it doesn’t look like a new repair. The man is brilliant!
The gun is back
Doug worked diligently on this project, and it wasn’t too long before I had the rifle back in my possession. I expected the work to take much longer than it did, and I’m not promising that Doug will be able to complete every job this fast. But he communicated with me often, and I appreciated that as much as the work, itself.
The restored stock shows clear grain on the right butt.
On the left butt, the dents and scratches are gone.
The trigger inletting is the most spectacular thing that was done. Doug Phillips built it up from nothing!
This blog is supposed to be a report about the Falke 90 air rifle — a rifle that, because of circumstances, I’ve never actually tested myself. And when I started to look at it and shoot it for this report, it was very much like discovering that the mousy girl who lives next door is actually a raving beauty. I know I’m hooked, and I have Marv Freund (who initially sold me the rifle), Mac (who originally tested it for me), Kevin Lentz (who told me about Doug Phillips) and of course Doug, himself, to thank for this story.
The report will continue where I left off when this restoration project began. And if any of you have rifle stocks in need of repair, I wholeheartedly recommend Doug Phillips for the work. I purposely have not told you how much he charged for this job because every restoration will be different. If you have an airgun stock or a firearm stock in need of the master’s touch, contact Doug and find out what he can do for you.
I would say the Falke 90 looks a lot better after the stock was restored!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Connor Moynihan won the BSOTW.
My Falke 90 is a well-built vintage air rifle.
If you’ve been a reader for long time, or have read the older reports, the chances are you’e read about my .22-caliber Falke 90. I ran a report titled Shooting the Falke 90 back in early 2011. The problem is that I didn’t shoot the rifle for that test. That was back at the end of my illness, and my good friend Mac graciously stepped in and shot the rifle. Plus, he wrote up the data so I could write the test report because I couldn’t cock a spring rifle at that time. Blog reader Vince had just tuned the rifle for me back then and reported on that in a three-part report titled It’s not my Falke in very early 2011.
So, a lot has been said about my Falke 90. The thing is that I didn’t have much to do with what was said! I never really tested the gun, because as I’ve stated, I was unable to cock it. This came to my attention at the Roanoke airgun show a couple weeks ago, where Mac and I discussed the rifle at length.
Mac says the rifle feels like a .22 rimfire when it shoots. Now, if I knew he wasn’t experienced with vintage springers, I would pass off a statement like that, but Mac knows as much as I do about vintage airguns. There must be something to it.
Then, I re-read Vince’s three-part report on fixing the gun. All along, I had in my mind that the Falke was almost exactly the same as a Hakim, and there were many similarities between the two air rifles. But the Falke also has some standalone features that bear examination. I’ll point these out as I go.
So, I’m starting a look at the Falke 90 from my own perspective. I bet I haven’t shot the gun 100 times since it came back from Vince, so this will be a learning experience for me, as well as for those who follow along. Let’s begin with a brief look at the company that made this air rifle.
The history will have to be brief, because not a lot is known about the Falke company. We know they had a catalog in 1951, and the models 80 and 90 (both underlevers, with the 90 being the top model) were not listed. But in a 1952 catalog, both are listed as new offerings. The Falke company operated in Bennsigen, Germany, during the 1950s. If the 1952 date is correct (and it can’t be later than that, can it?), the Falke 90 pre-dates by several years the Hakim made by Anschütz.
We also know that the BSA Airsporter that also resembles the Falke 90 was first made in the late 1940s — so it was the first airgun to use this type of underlever design. Therefore, the chronology goes –> BSA Airsporter, Falke 80/90 and the Hakim last.
Writer W.H.B. Smith said in Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World, regarding the Falke 80/90, that no finer or more powerful airgun existed at the time (1957). He did see the BSA Airsporter, but I can’t tell if he ever looked inside one. Vince, though, has seen the inside of all three guns — the first variation Airsporter, my Falke 90 and several Hakims. It’s his opinion that the BSA is superior to both other rifles in the quality of the build. I must refrain from this discussion, since the earliest Airsporter of which I’ve seen the insides was a 5th variation. It was not up to the standards of the Falke 90 but was about the equal of the Hakim, in my opinion.
The one interesting thing about both the model 80 and model 90 is their rarity. There are suspected to be only 400 model 80s ever made and fewer than 200 model 90s. A lack of information about the company prevents us from knowing for certain how many were made, plus there are duplicate serial numbers in both model ranges. A worldwide serial number registration exists on the Falke Talk forum. My rifle is number 39…and as of this date, there’s no duplicate.
The serial number is on the lever of the loading tap, among other places.
What makes the 90?
I keep referring to the 80 and 90 together, but what differentiates them? Their actions are similar, but they do have differences. The 80 has a sporting type open adjustable rear sight, while the 90 has a precision diopter. My rifle has the sight that belongs on an 80, and I see that many Falke owners share my situation. There are more 90s than there are diopter sights for them, so either Falke sold them with the sporter sights at some time, or they have been lost over the years and replaced with the lesser sporter sight.
The sporter sight is a beautiful thing by itself, and it is one point of departure from the Hakim that has a far simpler rear sight. The Falke sight is mostly machined, while the Hakim is mostly made from stamped parts. Both are fine by today’s standards; but in a side-by-side comparison, the win goes to Falke. I wish I had a diopter sight for my rifle, but they are so scarce that people have actually machined them from steel just to have one!
Heavy and machined — the rear sight is exactly what an airgunner wants to see.
The stock is another point of departure for the Falke 90 — not just from the Hakim, but also from its own sibling, the Falke 80. We all know the Hakim has a military-looking stock, because it was built as a military trainer for the Egyptian army that was armed with the 8mm Hakim semiautomatic battle rifle at the time. The Hakim also has an upper handguard, even though it is completly unnecessary on an airgun.
The Falke 80 has a nice sporter stock made from elm. It resembles the BSA Airsporter stock a little. But the Falke 90 has an in-your-face walnut stock with thick cross-section and high cheekpiece. The wood is well-executed and hand checkered and wears the Falke logo proudly. On my rifle, unfortunately, some budding folk artist decided to give the Mona Lisa a second coat of paint, by carving his initials into the checkered panel on the left side of the forearm. Or at least he started to! Then I suppose he found a freeway overpass to deface and lost his focus. That vandalism makes my rifle look like a beater, despite the fiddleback grain in the walnut.
So, I am resolving to fix this problem, by refinishing the stock. I’ll take pictures as I go; and if you never hear about the rifle again, you’ll know I turned the stock into kindling.
This rifle is large and heavy — 9 lbs. on the nose and with a longer pull than the Hakim at 13.5 inches. The barrel measures 19 inches and the length overall is 44 inches. It has sling swivels built in, with the forward swivel attached to the fixed barrel. They’re the thin 3/4-inch European type that were in vogue in the 1950s.
Mac has already reported some velocity numbers for RWS Superdomes. They averaged 490 f.p.s. with a spread from 481 to 494 f.p.s. And the Eley Wasps he tested averaged 474 f.p.s., though their spread went from 451 to 500 f.p.s. The Wasps are fatter pellets, and Mac had better luck with them in the accuracy test — but I want to say something about that. I’ve discovered that the loading tap on this rifle is not overly large. I’m used to pellets falling into the tap of a Hakim, but those same pellets have to be pushed into this rifle’s tap. So, it may prefer different pellets than have been tried so far. I’ll have some fun finding that out for you.
Impressions so far
Like I said, I haven’t shot this rifle enough yet to know it very well, but I can already tell you that it isn’t a Hakim. It’s similar, but finish and fit is better in every critical place. I can’t say that I agree with Mac that it feels like a .22 rimfire, but I haven’t shot it for accuracy yet. That’s when I’ll know for sure — one way or the other. What I can say at this time is that the Falke 90 is a very robust and well-made air rifle that feels good to hold and shoot. I’m going to enjoy this test.
It’s a shame that my rifle was beat up so much. Not only were the initials cut into the stock, there are numerous scratches and dents put there by a lot of careless handling. Hopefully, I can restore it to some state of respectability while enjoying it at the same time.
by B.B. Pelletier
As I write this report, Edith is sitting on the couch, reading and approving customer reviews of airguns. It’s a lazy Sunday morning, and we generally try to work on things that are easy on such days. She just made this remark to me while reading another customer review, “People want powerful hunting air rifles that cock with 20 lbs. of effort or less. Isn’t that called a precharged pneumatic?”
That was what came to my mind the minute she announced what people want. But experience tells us that it isn’t what’s on the new airgunner’s mind. They want a spring rifle, because they want nothing to do with all the extra stuff that’s needed to keep a PCP running. They just want to cock the gun, load a pellet and shoot. And many of them wonder why this springer can’t be a repeater, as well.
The question that’s often asked
Surely “they” could make a powerful spring-piston air rifle if they wanted to. All they have to do is make one that will go at least 900 f.p.s. [or whatever number seems best to them] in .22 caliber with real-world lead pellets and cocks with 20 lbs. or less. If they would make a rifle like that, I would be first in line to buy one.
Don’t you think “they” have been busily trying to do just that for the past 100 years? From the first moment someone cocked a spring-piston rifle (or pistol) that was a couple of pounds too heavy for them, they started thinking about designing exactly the rifle our hypothetical new airgunner has requested. And they haven’t done it, yet!
But there have been several good attempts. John Whiscombe, for example, broke the cocking sequence down to two or even three pulls of the underlever to cock his dual-opposed piston rifles. Owners of his rifles have not one but two coiled mainsprings to cock; and their efforts, while not quite doubled, have to be increased significantly. Which is why Whiscombe broke the cocking effort into two and even three strokes of the lever. The gun cannot be cocked with fewer strokes. If you try, it will remain in a limbo of a partially compressed set of mainsprings that cannot be relaxed, because they’re held in check by the safety mechanisms. So, a Whiscombe owner can’t cock his JW80 just two strokes for reduced power. It’s three strokes or nothing.
Rutten of Belgium used a small, high-torque electric motor to cock their spring-piston rifle with just the push of a button. Wonderful, you say, except now you’re tethered to the power grid, because the rifle cannot be cocked any other way than by its motor. And when you do push the button, prepare for the sound of an impact wrench for a couple seconds, because that little motor raises quite a ruckus! That rifle sold under the Browning name several years ago, and the reception, once people saw how it actually worked, was chilly at best. So much so that there are still a considerable number of Browning-trademarked new-old-stock rifles that float to the surface every so often, as yet another person wonders, “Why not?”
One approach that did work well is employed by Weihrauch in their HW45 air pistol that also sells under the name Beeman P1. The way it works is that you cock the barrel to the first detent (sear catch) for low power and to the second detent for high power. The cocking force remains approximately the same for both power levels. All that’s different is the length of the piston stroke. It works very well, and I wonder why manufactures are not using it on a rifle today. What’s apparently lost to many airgun manufacturers is that the power of the mainspring contributes very little to the power of the gun. What matters most is the piston stroke. Many springs do stack (increase) in force the farther they’re compressed, but that’s not a universal rule. It’s possible to make a spring that provides a near-uniform force throughout its compression, as Weihrauch has done in the HW45.
Back to the question
We’re discussing why nobody makes a powerful spring-piston air rifle that also has a very light cocking effort. This is a question that many new airgunners ask, not realizing that physics stand in the way. A pellet fired from a spring-piston gun produces only a fraction of the power generated by the mainspring, so that’s the limiting factor. Making the mainspring more powerful is the brute-force way of making a gun more powerful, and it’s the practice that’s in vogue today.
What about a gas spring?
One question that often follows the main one is why wouldn’t a gas spring (gas strut, gas ram) work? To understand why it wouldn’t, you have to shoot a gun that has one. Gas springs exert their full potential from the instant you start cocking them. So, instead of a gun that requires 34 lbs. of cocking effort but starts out at 15 lbs. at the beginning of the cocking arc where the leverage is poorest and you’ll need all the help you can get, the gas spring has 34 lbs. of effort right from the start. Gas springs are never easier to cock than coiled steel mainsprings — they’re always harder, or at least they’re perceived as harder because of how they work.
Where does that leave us?
If you want real power from a pellet rifle and you also want the rifle to be lightweight and easy to cock, the precharged pneumatic is the only way to go. No spring gun ever made can keep up with a PCP in the weight and ease of cocking departments. A Benjamin Discovery weighs just over 5 lbs., yet in .22 caliber it puts out the same power as an RWS Diana 48 that weighs 3.5 lbs. more and cocks with 10 times the effort. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know about the AirForce air rifles, some of which will produce as much muzzle energy as a .22 short, with long-range accuracy that not even a $3,000 Olympic target rifle can match.
My message to new airgunners
The question that you have asked is the same one that’s been asked by airgunners for decades. It’s not that airgun manufacturers have overlooked anything or that they’re holding back, like the inventors of the 100-mile-per-gallon carburetor did in the 1960s. They’re stuck on the physics of the problem. You can’t get more work (foot-pounds of energy) from a shot than the force that’s put into the shot. With a spring-piston airgun powerplant, you’ll get significantly less energy out than you put in.
Can things be done to reduce the cocking effort? Maybe. Has everything been tried? Perhaps not. But if you want to get the greatest power from a light air rifle that cocks easily, you definitely want a PCP — not a springer!
by B.B. Pelletier
This report is in response to a comment Pyramyd Air got from a customer who doubts that fixed-barrel airguns can ever droop. His position is that they can only have droop if the barrel is heated in some way (as on a firearm that fires very fast) or if the gun is assembled in a shoddy fashion.
He said he believed barrel droop is only commonly found on breakbarrel airguns, which is why he said he would never own one. He thought that droop was mostly caused by the metallurgy of the barrel.
Today, I’d like to address the subject of barrel droop in detail. It can be caused by many things, but poor metallurgy isn’t one of them. Barrels do not bend from cocking, despite what some people may think. It is true that a barrel can be bent by human force, but the force required to do so is much greater than the heaviest cocking effort on the most powerful magnum airgun. So, poor metallurgy is not a contributor to barrel droop.
What is barrel droop?
I will explain what barrel droop is in detail later in this report. For now, I’ll just say that barrel droop is a condition in which an air rifle shoots so low that the scope cannot be adjusted to hit the target.
You must understand that most scopes cannot be adjusted all the way to their highest elevation settings and still operate correctly. This will differ from scope to scope, but generally most scopes do not work well when adjusted above three-fourths of their maximum elevation. It’s imperative that they get on target before reaching that height, and a drooping barrel can prevent that.
Throughout the first five decades of spring-piston air rifles, no one ever heard of barrel droop. It was a non-issue. That was because nobody bothered scoping their air rifles.
The sights on most breakbarrel guns are attached to the barrel, both at the front and rear, so they’re in line with the bore — as long as the bore is drilled straight through the barrel, which it seldom is. The amount of misalignment is usually measured in the thousandths of an inch — an amount the sights can easily account for.
With both the front and rear sight attached to the barrel, there’s less chance for misalignment.
In the 1960s, retailers began attaching scopes to airguns to sell more of them. Firearms had been using scopes for some time, and the general belief among shooters was that scopes extracted the maximum accuracy from any gun.
But scopes had a problem, as well. They were attached to the spring tube of the gun, which isn’t integral with the barrel on a breakbarrel airgun. For the first time, the alignment of the spring tube and barrel came into question.
It soon became known that most breakbarrel guns have a barrel that slants downward from the axis of the spring tube. In the 1960s and ’70s, breakbarrels were hand-selected for scope use when they exhibited less slant than other guns of the same model. You can read about this selection program in both the Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman catalogs of the period.
What those catalogs didn’t address was the fact that fixed-barrel airguns can and do sometimes have the same barrel slanting problems. They didn’t address it because, at the time, scoping airguns was brand new and not that much was known about it. The people scoping the guns often installed simple fixes, such as shimming the rear ring, and didn’t even think about why they were doing it.
Why the barrel droops
The comment that prompted this blog went on to say that barrel droop was caused by poor metallurgy. Evidently, the writer thought that “droop” referred to a barrel that was curved (or bent) downward — which is not the case. The term “droop” doesn’t refer to a barrel that is somehow curved. It means a barrel that points in a direction away from the sight line, so the axis of the bore and the sight line are diverging. To correct for this droop, the scope has to be repositioned to align with the axis of the bore.
We all understand that a pellet starts falling the moment it leaves the muzzle. The farther from the muzzle it goes, the faster it falls; so the line of flight is actually an arc, rather than a straight line. To align the sight line of the scope with the axis of the bore, we have to align the scope to look downward through the line of flight. To be effective — that is to get any distance over which the pellet is on target — the sight line is made to pass through the arc of the pellet twice — once when the pellet is close to the gun and again when it’s farther away.
The scope is angled down through the pellet’s trajectory. This illustration is greatly enhanced for clarity. This alignment is done the same for firearms and airguns, alike.
But the question is, “Why does the barrel point downward?” With a breakbarrel, it’s usually because of how the breech locks up at a slight angle that causes the downward slant. Some guns, most notably target breakbarrels, overcome this with barrel locks that cam the breech tightly against the spring tube in a straight line. Most guns rely on the spring-loaded detent to both align and hold the barrel during firing. If there’s a weakness, it’s at this point. When a breakbarrel with an unlocked breech fires, the barrel tends to flex in the direction the barrel is hinged. If the barrel broke upward to cock, the problem would be reversed and we would have a barrel “climb” problem.
A breech lock like the one on this HW 55 ensures that the barrel always aligns with the sights — provided the rifle is designed that way.
Do you now understand that the barrels are perfectly straight, and it’s just the angle of the bore’s axis relative to the line of sight that creates the drooping problem? Good, because that’ll make the following easier to understand.
What about underlevers and sidelevers with fixed barrels?
How can a fixed-barrel rifle have droop? Easy — the barrel isn’t attached to the gun with the bore parallel to the line of sight. Presto! Automatic sighting problem. Or the scope base that’s attached to the spring tube may not be aligned with the axis of the bore. Or the bore may be drilled off-center; and although the outside of the barrel is parallel to the sight line, the bore’s axis isn’t. Any of these three things can happen.
Bore not drilled straight
This is very common. It’s extremely difficult to drill a deep (long) hole straight through a steel bar. The drill bit can wander off-axis as it bites its way through the steel, or it can be off-axis all the way through the bore if it isn’t correctly set into the holding fixture before the drilling begins. I’ve had barrels with bores as much as a quarter-inch off-axis with the outside. Granted that’s extreme and uncommon, but it demonstrates the possibility.
The only way a barrel-maker can ensure concentricity of the bore to the outside of the barrel is to machine the outside of the barrel after the gun is rifled.
Barrel isn’t aligned with the spring tube
This problem is also common. When the barrel is pressed into the spring tube (usually into a block that’s held in the front of the spring tube), the bore isn’t aligned with the spring tube. You might think that modern manufacturing processes make perfect things time after time, but the truth is that there’s always some variation.
Scope base on top of the spring tube is not aligned with the bore
Of all the problems with scope alignment, this one is the most common. Off-axis bores are usually held to just a few fractions of an inch for which the scope adjustments can easily compensate. The same is true for barrels that are bushed off-axis. But scope bases are both short as well as attached in such a way (by spot-welds and rivets) that precision is difficult to maintain. Because scope bases are short, any small deviation in their positioning is exaggerated when extended out to infinity by a scope’s sight line. This is the one place where firearms and certain brands of airguns have an advantage over other brands, because they machine their scope bases into the receiver (of a firearm) or scope tube, rather than riveting or spot-welding the base to the scope tube. If the tooling is set correctly, the machining process ensures alignment of the scope base.
Talking about the spot-welded and riveted scope bases brings us to a discussion of one well-known company that makes highly regarded spring-piston air rifles. This company stands head and shoulders above the others when it comes to having barrel droop — both with their breakbarrels and their fixed-barrel air rifles. That company is Diana. Historically, enough Diana air rifles have had barrel droop so severe that special corrective scope mounts have been made and successfully marketed for their models. Even RWS, who exports Diana airguns, has marketed such a corrective scope mount.
But even Diana can change. Their most recent breakbarrel is their 350 magnum model in all of its various forms, and this rifle is very noticeably immune to the drooping problem. Something has changed at Diana. I would think that, over time, we’ll see this change spread to all of their models.
Firearms also have droop
Drooping isn’t just an airgun problem. Firearms have droop, too. But because of how firearms were scoped in the early days, nobody noticed the problem.
When firearms were scoped back in the 1940s and ’50s, many of them did not have optional scope mounts available. It was very common back then for a gunsmith to drill-and-tap holes into the firearm to accept scope base screws. Naturally, when a gunsmith did the job, he would align the holes in the scope mounts so the axis of the barrel was in line with the sight line seen through the scope. If there was any barrel droop, it was corrected as the mounts were installed.
Do barrels only droop (slant down)?
Before someone asks the obvious question, I’ll address it. Yes, there are airguns with barrels that slant up, plus point to the left and to the right too much for the scope to compensate. They’re not encountered as often as droopers, but they’re not unheard of. The reasons for most of these problems are the same as for droopers except for one standout reason.
If a breakbarrel rifle has been fired with the barrel open, so the barrel was allowed to snap closed from the force of the mainspring, that rifle will have a bent barrel. The barrel will be bent upward at the point it emerges from the baseblock, which is the piece that holds the barrel in the action. It’s where the pivot bolt attaches. It’s the blocky-looking piece the barrel is coming out of in both photos of guns in this report.
For this type of problem, the solution is to bend the barrel straight again. Any qualified airgunsmith should be able to straighten a barrel that has this problem, and a number of owners have learned to straighten their own bent barrels..
Most airgun barrels don’t droop
To put this report into the proper perspective, I should mention that a drooping barrel isn’t that common. I have several air rifles whose barrels are okay for shooting with scopes as they came from the factory. And, of the hundreds of rifles I test, only a small percent have a drooping problem. So, it isn’t a given that your rifle will droop.
But you may get a drooper, and you can rest assured that there are plenty of solutions to rectify the situation should you encounter it. The things to remember are:
Not all breakbarrels droop. Only a small percentage do these days.
Rifles with fixed barrels can also have droop, for the reasons mentioned in this report. It is not as common to find a fixed barrel with droop, but any air rifle that has a separate scope base that’s either spot-welded or riveted in place is a likely candidate for droop.
Firearms have droop, just like airguns. But the amount of droop is small enough that it’s corrected by the scope or by the mounts that are supplied by the firearms manufacturers.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is the day I mount a scope on the Hatsan Torpedo 155 and test its accuracy once more. Knowing how much interest there is, I decided to pull out all the stops and mount the best scope I have on hand — the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope. Because the Hatsan scope base allows me to mount either Weaver or 11mm rings — and because the Hawke scope has a 30mm tube — I decided to use a set of two-piece Leapers high rings made for an 11mm rail. The straight line of the Hatsan stock coupled with the high comb made such a high mount work perfectly.
I promised to measure the trigger pull during this test. It broke at 5 lbs., 11 oz. with a lot of creep in stage two. I don’t think this trigger is going to break-in the way I’d hoped.
The rifle was tested at 25 yards off a bag rest using the artillery hold. Each new pellet was seasoned with several shots before shooting the group.
The best pellet last time was the Gamo TS-22 dome. This time, not so much. I know they should have been at least as good as they were in the last test with open sights, but for some reason I couldn’t get them to shoot this time. When you’re testing a rifle that cocks at 54 lbs., you don’t have all day to test different pellets; so three groups were all I shot. I’m showing the best one with no comment about the size. Suffice to say, this is not a good pellet for this rifle.
Next, I tried the RWS Superdome. I was worried they would go supersonic and make too much noise for the house, but they never did. However, they were all over the paper. I tried several variations of the artillery hold, but nothing seemed to work.
The last pellet I tried was the 5.6mm Eley Wasp that’s no longer available. I figured if it would shoot well, there might be another pellet on the market I could try. They did better than the TS-22 pellets did, but not as good as they did in the open sight test.
The rifle comes with a plastic clamp-on bipod. You just clip it onto the underlever at any point. It slips forward and back on the lever as the gun is moved, and it also allows the rifle to rotate from side to side a little. It does steady the rifle, but you have to remove it before you cock the gun. So, there’s no chance for it to settle in. I found it was just one more step added to cocking and loading the rifle. When I tried to shoot a group with it, the shots went everywhere. I stopped before putting one in the wall.
I find the Hatsan Torpedo 155 underlever to be too inaccurate to recommend. It takes a lot of technique to shoot it as well as I have shown here, plus it’s a bear to cock and the trigger is extremely creepy. I think I’ve given the rifle every chance to shine in this review…and it hasn’t. It’s a very powerful spring gun, but power without accuracy is meaningless. It looks great, but it needs about 10 foot-pounds less muzzle energy to really shine, I think.