Posts Tagged ‘Whiscombe’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Happy Thanksgiving! This is the day Americans set aside to remember the things we’re thankful for as we eat a feast of traditional turkey.
A couple days ago, blog reader Rob asked for my list of most-favorite spring guns and why they’re my favorites, so I thought today would be a good day to do that. So, here goes. I’m doing only the springers, because that’s what he asked for. What you’re about to read is by no means a complete list of airguns that I like.
Diana model 27
I bought my first Diana model 27 air rifle from a pawn shop in Radcliff, Kentucky, when I was stationed at Fort Knox in the 1970s. It was tired-looking and rusty but still shot like every 27 does — smooth and straight. This one was a Hy Score 807. I never tuned it because I didn’t know about such things in those days. I just shot it offhand as a plinker. That rifle cocked so easily that shooting it was like eating peanuts — I just couldn’t stop! I never did figure out the trigger, though. It wasn’t until I read the owner’s manual for a Diana 35 about 20 years later that I figured out how to adjust the trigger on this rifle. Today, I own 2 model 27 rifles and a model 25 rifle that I’ve been testing. And these are some of my favorite airguns.
Because of my involvement with airguns, I’ve owned quite a few target air rifles over the years. There have been some real beauties, including FWB 150 rifles, Diana 75 airguns and Anschütz 250 air rifles. Because I’m always buying and selling, there have been several of each. But the FWB 300S, which I got a couple years ago from my good friend Mac, has come to stay. That’s because it’s the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned. By “most accurate,” I’m being extremely critical. I’m talking about the last thousandth of an inch. I have other 10-meter air rifles that are very accurate — and over the years, I’ve had many more that were also very accurate — but for some reason, this particular rifle is the best one I’ve come across.
Okay, here’s where I’ll have a problem as a writer. I’ve just said the FWB 300S is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned, yet this R8 is a phenomenal shooter, as well. You last saw it in the report titled First shot: Yes or no?, where I fired 10 first shots at 25 yards to see how accurate they would be. But I did a three-part report for you back in 2010, where I showed the rifle to you. This rifle was a special gift that came at a particularly rough time in my life, and just the thought that came with it is enough to make it a favorite. But the way this finely-tuned rifle shoots makes it a keeper on its own merits. It cocks easily and puts each pellet exactly where I want it to go. The Tyrolean stock fits me very well, and I just smile every time I pick this one up. I cannot say enough good things about it. I’ve never even seen a plain Beeman R8 before, so I have no idea if they’re worthwhile or not. All I know is that this tuned one is a keeper!
I bought the Whiscombe air rifle to use as a testbed for airgun articles, and that’s how it’s been used over the years. You’ve seen it several times — most recently in the 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test. Unlike my other favorites, I don’t shoot the Whiscombe that often. The size and weight of the rifle plus the need to cock the underlever three times per shot makes it less than convenient. But I rely on it a lot and would not like to be without it.
Air Arms TX200 Mark III
One spring rifle I own and love that is still available new is a TX200 Mark III. The Air Arms TX200 is simply the finest spring rifle being made today, in my opinion. It’s heavy and can be considered hard to cock; but it has the best trigger on the market, and the rifle is deadly accurate. This is another air rifle I don’t shoot a lot anymore, but that’s because I’m always testing something else. There is no time left to enjoy the stuff I really like. This is the last spring rifle I used for field target competition; and as far as I know, it’s second to none in that capacity. The thing I like best about the TX200 is that I know I can recommend it to someone and they won’t be disappointed. Right out of the box, it shoots like a finely tuned air rifle.
Daisy has changed the name of this BB gun several times over the years, but the Avanti Champion 499 is the gun I’m talking about. It’s a BB gun that can put 10 shots through a quarter-inch hole at the regulation competition distance of five meters — offhand! Like the TX200, the 499 is still available and is one of the best buys in airgundom, in my opinion. Adults can shoot it and have as much fun as the kids for whom it was built.
Air Venturi Bronco
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Air Venturi Bronco on my list. This is a rifle I had a hand in creating, and I did so with the Diana 27 in mind. I wanted a modern rifle that incorporated as many of the 27′s fine features as possible and still held the price low enough to enjoy. The Bronco certainly is that rifle. The two-bladed trigger is especially clever and tells the shooter exactly when the shot is going off. I know some folks don’t like the blonde stock or the Western lines, but I personally like both features. There are too many air rifles with muddy brown stocks on the market, and every one of them seems to have a Monte Carlo comb. But not the Bronco. It’s an individual air rifle that stands on its own.
The one that got away
There’s always at least one, isn’t there? This one came and delighted me while I had it. It’s the Sterling HR-81 that I got in trade at the Roanoke airgun show. It wasn’t working well when I got it, but Vince fixed it for me; and afterward, it was a wonderful shooter. This rifle had sights that were cheap and prone to break, and the ones on my gun were already gone when I got it. But a scope fit well, and the low recoil of the gun made securing it to the rifle an easy task. The trigger is light and (after Vince looked at it) crisp.
The firing behavior is good, though the rifle has a pronounced forward jump. Besides that, the rifle lies dead in the hand when it fires. And the accuracy is quite surprising — fully equal to my Beeman R8. When you cock the underlever, the spring-loaded bolt pops open giving access to the loading trough, making loading very easy and convenient.
What the future holds
I currently have the Falke 90 stock being restored, which will be a blog of its own. If the job turns out well, I can see that rifle becoming a favorite. It started as a gun that was practically forced on me at an airgun show. It was so dog-ugly that despite the extreme rarity (fewer than 200 are believed to have been produced) that even collectors who know very well what it’s worth declined to even make an offer on it when I had it for sale at this year’s Roanoke show. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll have it restored and then we’ll see what people think. Blog reader Kevin turned me on to a wonderful stock restorer who has the entire rifle now. There are a huge number of critical faults with the stock, so he’s really up against it; but if he can do even half of what I see he’s done for other damaged stocks, this project will turn out very well.
What I didn’t include
What about the Beeman R1? I wrote a book about it, for gosh sakes. Surely, it has to be one of my favorites! Sorry to disappoint, but no, it isn’t. I still like it a lot, but it isn’t the gun I pick up when I want to have fun.
What about an HW55? They’re so accurate! Why aren’t they on the list? Don’t know, for sure. They just aren’t.
OMG — I overlooked the FWB 124! No, I didn’t. I thought about it a lot, and it just didn’t make the cut.
Rob asked me for my favorite spring airguns, and I’ve listed them. Maybe I forgot one, but I don’t think so. No, there aren’t any spring-piston pistols that I consider to be favorites.
Among my firearms, I have several rifles that are tackdrivers. Then there’s my dog-ugly, but nearly-new No. 4 Enfield. It’s not super-accurate and certainly no beauty. But for some reason, I can’t bear to part with it. So, it remains in my collection, getting shot once a year or so. Something I can’t define makes it a favorite, and I guess that will just have to suffice.
I have one last thing to say. Two years ago, I was recovering from a serious illness that brought me pretty close to the brink. I still had a drain in my pancreas, and there was an undiscovered hernia festering in me that wouldn’t surface until the night I was due to fly to the 2011 SHOT Show. My eyesight was degraded from dehydration and serious anemia, plus I was suffering from undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes. In short, it was a bad time.
You readers banded together and supported Edith and me for the long months it took to get through this tunnel of horrors. You put up with a lot, and we owe all of you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. For what you all did for us, we are very thankful.
by B.B. Pelletier
I was in Wal-Mart the other day and a guy was looking at the airguns, so I struck up a conversation. He was looking at a Crosman M4-177 for eliminating pest birds; and when I tried to steer him toward a more powerful breakbarrel in .22 caliber, he had a fit over the price. Apparently $145 is the Rolls Royce of airguns for him!
So, today I thought I’d reflect a bit on the cost of things — some expensive and some cheap, but all very good. We have a growing contingent of firearms shooters who have found this blog and I’m doing this for them.
The most expensive?
Well, let’s be realistic. There’s only one air rifle that was carried by Lewis & Clark, and Dr. Beeman has donated it to the U.S. Army War College museum. It’s value is well over a million dollars; but since there’s only one, it doesn’t really count in today’s discussion.
I’m also not talking about the collectible airguns that are available in greater numbers. A complete Plymouth Iron Windmill BB gun, the predecessor to the Daisy line, has commanded as much as $10,000. But second model Daisys are even rarer, because they were so prone to break. I’ve seen one change hands for $16,000, and that was close to a decade ago. But, for today, I want to talk about guns that are generally available.
When Edith and I bought our JW75 with four barrels and the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) on each of them, the cost was $2,100. That was in 1996. The cost did increase after that; but when John Whiscombe stopped making his rifle several years ago, the price took off like a rocket. Today, it’s hard to find a single-barrel Whiscombe rifle with no frills for under $3,000, and full sets like ours will certainly bring a lot more.
You can’t buy a new Whiscombe rifle anymore, so used rifles command top dollar.
So, are Whiscombes the most expensive air rifles? Hardly. There are all sorts of custom airgun makers around the world who offer almost whatever the traffic will bear. I’ve seen single rifles in Europe priced at over $8,000, and that was five years ago. Who knows where it all ends? The point is, air rifles can cost a bundle if that’s what you’re looking for.
Back to earth, some of the more expensive production air rifles today are made by the target rifle companies, where top models retail for nearly $3,000. And they’re built for a specific purpose — not for general shooting. The FWB 700 Alu, for example, is a very expensive air rifle that cannot be used for most popular airgun pursuits like hunting and plinking. But for punching holes in paper, it’s one of the best. The same can be said for top target rifles from Steyr, Walther, Anschütz and a couple others.
For the sport of field target, it’s difficult to top the Air Arms EV2 precharged competition rifle. It has won and placed at the world level many times in recent years and is one of those rifles shooters tend to covet.
In sporting rifles, Daystate and FX Airguns are among the most expensive brands. And now their top models are around $2,000 or less. Fifteen years ago, the number of makers of these rifles was much greater, but many brands have left the market.
Do you have to spend so much?
Of course you don’t! There are plenty of fine air rifles that cost considerably less than those mentioned and still deliver a boatload of options and value. But that isn’t today’s topic. We’re looking at the most expensive and the least expensive.
How low can you go?
Speaking of the least expensive, what can you get for very little money? How about a Beeman P17 pistol? For under $50, Pyramyd Air will sell you an air pistol that’s so accurate you cannot outshoot it — I don’t care who you are. This is a pistol that you can learn on and use to take your handgun shooting to the next level. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Beeman doesn’t triple the price and bring this out as a pseudo-10-meter target pistol! All the foundation is there. Gamo did the same thing with their Compact pistol, and this one costs one-fifth as much! They could easily add target grips and sights and have a wonderful, inexpensive target pistol, but I guess they just don’t see the potential.
I wish I had an air rifle to list for under $100. They exist, but none of them are what I would call really exemplary. But the Air Venturi Bronco is the finest low-cost air rifle I know of. It has accuracy equal to or better than a Beeman R7, a great trigger, nice size and is generally a fine rifle for older youth and adults.
The bottom line
And now you’ve guessed my agenda with this report. It wasn’t just about the most expensive and the least expensive. The guns I listed are also among the best of their types in the world. Sure, I could compare the Benjamin Marauder to some of the expensive PCPs and make a case for it being just as good functionally, but that wasn’t what this report was about. It was to define the limits of cost in our hobby for all the new readers who come over from the world of firearms.
by B.B. Pelletier
Dammion Howard (left) shows off some new airguns he found under the tree this year!
Happy New Year from Tom & Edith!
One nice thing about watching a TV program is that it only takes an hour or less to view. You have no sense of the man-weeks of work that go into a short production on screen. Sometimes, the same thing happens in the world of airgun blogs.
I won’t say I’ve been dreading today’s report; but from past experience adjusting the HOTS on the Whiscombe rifle, I knew it might take longer than anyone could imagine to get a good result. It’s easy to say, “Adjust the HOTS for optimum performance with a certain pellet.” Actually doing it is where you discover if it’ll be easy or hard. The report I have for you today was very hard.
I allotted several hours to the actual testing and adjusting that would have to be done. And with my past experience with the Whiscombe, I knew shortcuts the average shooter wouldn’t think of. Let me lay the groundwork so you understand what’s happening in this process
The Whiscombe harmonic optimized tuning system (HOTS) consists of a weight that can be adjusted in or out along the axis of the bore. A jacket around the barrel is threaded to receive this weight. The threads on the weight are very fine, and one turn of the weight moves it a millimeter in either direction. One complete turn of the weight constitutes 1mm movement of the weight.
Besides the weight, there are two other metal parts. One is a short collar that locks the weight in position after it’s been adjusted, and the other is a much longer cover that encloses the entire HOTS from sight. This longer cap doesn’t need to be removed from the weight to make adjustments, just provide access room for the special wrench that moves the weight.
Here you see the HOTS mechanism. The threaded weight is turned in or out of the barrel jacket by the wrench. Once the weight is where you want it, lock it down with the knurled collar on the barrel jacket. Then, install the long cap, and the job is done.
Where to start?
The problem is always the same: Where do you start adjusting the weight? The simplest way is to start right where you are — with the HOTS in the last position it was set. Shoot a group at that setting and go from there. I had that data, of course, from the earlier part of this test, so that’s where I began. Because the last transfer port is still installed in the rifle, the Beeman Devastator pellet still develops about 772 f.p.s.
When I shot a group at this velocity in the earlier test, 10 shots went into a group measuring 1.073 inches between centers. I was looking for a group somewhere near that size this time, too. It might be a little smaller or larger; but if it was a quarter-inch group, there was a problem with the results of the last test. The same care was taken with each shot; to do any less would have skewed the results or made them unreliable at the very least.
The first group shot in this test, shot with the same HOTS setting, measured 0.953 inches between centers. That’s 0.12 inches smaller than the group from the last test. I would call that in the same ballpark and therefore a confirmation that the last test was sound.
Adjusting the HOTS
Whiscombe says that there will be several sweet spots throughout a one-inch movement of the weight, which is approximately 25 full turns. He also says that one spot will be better than the others, and that’s the one to look for. He just doesn’t tell you how to find it, other than by adjusting the weight one turn at a time. But my experience told me that the sweet spot was probably not where the weight was at this time, so I turned it in (toward the receiver of the gun) four full turns and shot a second group. This is where my experience with the Whiscombe was supposed to pay off.
I wasn’t going to waste my time shooting 10 shots if the first 5 were spread out. Why bother? I wanted a tight group, and if inside 3-4 shots — or even 2, on one occasion — there was already a large separation, it was no use going further. I turned the weight in 4 full turns and shot another group. This group teased me with the first 5 shots in less than a quarter-inch, but the final 5 expanded that to 0.977 inches. Can’t be certain because of measurement errors, but no improvement at all.
Next, I tried the weight 5 turns in from the start point. The group was worse. I backed out to 3 turns in and got about the same size group as with 4 turns in.
At this point, I experimented with some subtle adjustments on a half and then a quarter turn. At 3.5 turns in, I got a group that was slightly smaller than the one at 4 turns, but it had one called flyer. I tried another quarter turn in and got 4 shots in a group measuring 0.998 inches between centers. Obviously, I wasn’t going the right way.
Okay, this wasn’t working. I adjusted the weight out in the other direction 9 full turns past the initial setting and shot another group of 10. This time there was some success, as the group measured 0.794 inches between centers. I wanted to call that the end of the test; but looking at the group, I knew it wasn’t enough of a difference to impress anyone. Even though it does show improvement over the baseline group, I would like to show a larger change since one of the Devastator groups in the earlier tests measured 0.616 inches. This group was too much larger than that. The gun should be able to do better if harmonics and not velocity was the main driving force behind accuracy.
By this time, I’d fired 49 shots in about 90 minutes. The test work had lasted much longer than expected, and I had to quit for the day.
A happy accident
The next morning, I was back at the bench and trying to complete the work. I figured I would adjust the weight out from the initial setting by a certain amount but as I tried to do that a happy accident happened. The front cover got stuck together with the weight; and by the time I noticed it, I’d already adjusted it 15-20 turns. Except, I had no way of knowing how many turns it was. I had to start all over, and this time from a random place that bore no known relation to the initial start point. Not that it mattered, except I didn’t want to waste all of the work from the day before.
I adjusted the weight at a point that looked to be well away from the initial setting. Then, I shot a group as a baseline. Or I should say I began to shoot a group. After 3 shots, I had a spread of 1.153 inches between centers — the largest spread of the entire test to this point. No sense finishing that one!
Past experience has shown that the sweet spots are often a couple turns in either direction. I guessed and turned the weight back in three turns from the starting point. And that was when it happened. The clouds rolled back, the angles sang and the rifle grouped like I knew it could. Ten shots went into 0.523 inches. That’s not only the best group of this little experiment with the HOTS, it also beats every group fired with the rifle during the main test conducted earlier.
With this kind of data in hand, I can say with some confidence that harmonics and not velocity is the main driver in how accurate a spring gun can be. I say this because the worst group shot during the velocity test was adjusted harmonically into the best group of the test with this pellet. There’s no chance in this group — it’s clearly much better than it was in the beginning.
Could the rifle shoot this pellet even better? Maybe. But it isn’t necessary to prove the point we were trying to prove.
Next, I want to adjust the rifle for Beeman Kodiaks at a higher velocity and test pellets straight from the tin against pellets that are sorted by weight. Today’s report should give everyone the confidence that, if a difference in accuracy is noted, it will be because of the pellets and not the gun.
by B.B. Pelletier
Kevin Currie is shown shooting a tuned .177 Gamo CFX with his son and dog. He says his CFX is scary accurate!
For those who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas from Edith and me! This is our last opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas before Sunday, but I would like to hear on Monday from anyone who received an airgun, airgun-related gift or a firearm for Christmas. I’ll tell you what I got, too.
Today, we’ll look at the results of this test to see if there’s a direct inverse relationship between pellet velocity and accuracy. I’ll start with the results by pellet and see where that goes.
A word about the shooting technique
The first accuracy test I did was in Part 2 of this report. I found fault with that test, though, because of how I was shooting. I wasn’t using the scope level on the gun all the time, and I also wasn’t “seasoning” the bore by shooting several shots before starting a group. Some pellets seemed to need the seasoning, while with others it didn’t seem to matter as much. I reshot the entire first accuracy test and seasoned the bore for every pellet, plus I paid attention to the scope level.
The need for seasoning seemed to go away as testing progressed, but the scope level was always consulted for every shot. I know that the level improved the performance of every pellet that was shot. The jury is still out on the seasoning issue.
All the accuracy results seen here are not from the first time I shot the rifle, but the second. All were shot at the velocities indicated. Just the shooting techniques were adjusted as indicated.
In this test, the 7.1-grain Beeman Devastator was the “little pellet that could.” From the start, when it was averaging 1,216 f.p.s., this lightweight hunting pellet produced 10-shot groups under three-quarters of an inch at 25 yards. That went against the popular belief that supersonic velocities are harmful to accuracy.
The Devastator turned in the following performance at 25 yards.
Velocity (f.p.s.)….Group size
Okay, you don’t need a graph to see a problem here! This pellet is obviously way more accurate at 1,123 f.p.s. than it is at 772 f.p.s. Theory says that shouldn’t be because the first velocity is breaking the sound barrier, which is where all the accuracy gremlins are supposed to live.
Looking at the group size in relation to the velocity, it appears that 1,123 f.p.s. is the most accurate velocity for this pellet in this gun. That would entirely negate the theory that velocity destroys accuracy. So, if there is such a relationship, it must be subordinate to and less influential than some other influence. I think that other influence might be vibration, but that’s just a guess.
Crosman Premier lites
The 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite was the next pellet I tested. Here are the results of all four tests at 25 yards.
Velocity (f.p.s.)…Group size
The Premiers did give a linear relationship between velocity and group size, though the two groups from the middle two velocities are so close in size that they could be the same. Measuring error is greater than the difference between these two groups.
The group at the lowest velocity is obviously the best of the four and by a wide margin. The data from this pellet isn’t clear as to what is causing the accuracy improvement. It could be either velocity or vibration. However, at 915 f.p.s., the pellet is going slow enough to be out of the transonic region, while at 1,057 f.p.s. it isn’t. I would have expected to see an accuracy gain at that lower velocity that’s greater than what we see here if the real problem is just velocity.
Next, I shot the heavyweight Beeman Kodiak pellet. It proved to be the most accurate pellet of this test and the only one that turned in a group smaller than a half inch. Please bear in mind that these are all 10-shot groups and are about 60 percent larger than they would be if they were only five shots. I didn’t shoot 10 shots for that reason — but because, in doing so, I reduced the probability error significantly. In short, I can trust that the group sizes shown are closer to reality that if I had shot two 5-shot groups and averaged them.
Kodiaks shot tight right from the start, even though the first group of pellets was actually close to or just within the transonic range. Since I didn’t keep atmospheric data for each day I shot, I can’t say where the sound barrier was exactly; and the transonic region, which is 0.8 mach to 1.5 mach, is calculated based on that. In practical terms, I know that 992 f.p.s. is pretty darn close to transonic, because the sound barrier can be anywhere from 1,050 f.p.s. to 1,125 f.p.s. depending on the temperature and humidity where I shoot.
Velocity (f.p.s.)…Group size
However, the groups don’t seem to support the velocity/accuracy relationship very well. It’s true that the first and second groups are too close to really say which is larger than the other, but the velocities at which they were shot are very important. One borders on the transonic, while the other is probably slower than transonic.
But look at that third group! When the velocity averages 819 f.p.s., the Kodiak loves this rifle! Is that a velocity thing or is that influenced by the harmonics of the rifle at that power level? I’m inclined to think that it’s the latter, though we do not have enough data to prove it.
The last group is the worst, though the velocity is getting pretty low for a pellet this long and heavy. We don’t know much from these results, either. But if it does turn out to be harmonics over velocity, then this pellet is probably the best one for the rifle, and the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) needs to be adjusted for it at around 900 f.p.s.
The 16.1-grain Eun Jin pellet is too heavy for the power potential of this air rifle. Although the Whiscombe JW 75 is a 30 foot-pound air rifle — that’s only in .25 caliber — when the heaviest pellets are used. In .177, it’s much closer to 20 foot-pounds and is, therefore, too weak to drive the 16.1-grain .177 Eun Jin fast enough for accuracy.
Velocity (f.p.s.)…Group size
Starting with the second group, I could tell that the Eun Jins weren’t going to do well. Like the Kodiaks, they’re also too long and heavy to make any conclusions regarding velocity versus harmonics. They just don’t give enough speed in this rifle to properly examine the velocity question.
A different look at the data
The “sweet spot” was different for every pellet. Each pellet had one velocity at which it grouped the best; disregarding the actual velocity, it went like this:
Fastest was best—>Eun Jin
Second fastest was best—>Devastator
Third fastest was best—>Kodiak
Slowest was best—>Premier lite
That, by itself, is a pretty good indicator that supersonic speed isn’t a problem, since the Devastator was supersonic when it produced its best group. One thing you cannot do is compare the group sizes…one to another…between the pellets. Let each pellet stand alone because there are far too many variables to make a cross comparison like that.
Was the Whiscombe a valid testbed?
Some thought the Whiscombe was the wrong gun to use because it’s so inherently accurate. I disagree. I think its accuracy makes the results all the more valid. Besides, controlling many of the magnum breakbarrel springers is too difficult and gets in the way of testing. They require perfect hold technique for every shot. The Whiscombe is much easier to control, which takes that variable out of the equation.
Some felt that only a pneumatic should be used since harmonics seemed to be causing accuracy errors. Well…that was the point of testing! Now we know a little more about how the pellets respond to supersonic speed, and it seems to me that it doesn’t matter as much as many, including me, have believed. People don’t just shoot PCPs. I do plan on testing this same sort of thing with a PCP whose velocity I can control over a wide range, and those results will also be interesting — but they don’t negate the value of testing a springer.
I used the Whiscombe for this test because, even when I altered the velocity, the harmonics of the gun remained the same. The powerplant always ran at full power, regardless of how fast it shot. And the barrel was always the same, too. The only thing that changed was the velocity.
What comes next?
I’m sure some of you will have additional interpretations to make about this test, and now is the time to make them known. My next step is to use the rifle as it is currently set up and adjust the HOTS to see what I can do to the size of the Beeman Devastator group. I’m thinking the HOTS can be adjusted to shrink it significantly. I have a procedure in mind to cut the time it takes to adjust the rifle because this can take hours if you aren’t careful! I’ll share that procedure with you in that report.
If I’m right about being able to tune the HOTS to get a small group at the average of 772 f.p.s., then the next thing I’ll do is shoot another group with the bubble level taped to hide the bubble. I won’t intentionally try to enlarge the group, but I just won’t be able to consult the bubble for every shot. That will result in another group that can be compared with the best group I’m able to shoot when the HOTS is tuned, because it will still be tuned for that group.
Finally, perhaps one additional test is needed. I’ll set the rifle to shoot Kodiaks in the high 800 f.p.s. range and adjust the HOTS for the best accuracy. When I get the best group, I’ll shoot one group of weight-sorted pellets against another group of pellets selected straight from the tin.
When all of this is completed, I should be able to state what I think are the most important components of accuracy. You’ll be able to see how much difference these things really have on group size. Most of you can’t adjust the harmonics of your spring guns, so you need to find the one pellet that shoots the best. Perhaps it’s time someone made a generic harmonic tuner for springers, again.
by B.B. Pelletier
Joel’s winning photo is of his niece, Paysen. He was teaching her to shoot a Crosman 66 over Thanksgiving weekend.
Today, we’ll complete the testing of the four pellets at four different velocities in the Whiscombe rifle. The premise of this test has been to explore the effects of velocity on accuracy by shooting the same pellets in the same pellet rifle at four differing velocities. I will make today’s report and comment on how the test went, but this will not be the final installment of this test. There will be at least one more summary report that puts all the data into perspective. And if there are side issues to explore, maybe there will be more reports.
At this point, I think I know what I’m going to find when I look at all the data, but there have certainly been a few surprises in this test. And the surprises continue in today’s report. Let’s get right to it.
This time, the Beeman Devastators were averaging 772 f.p.s. Since this is a very lightweight lead pellet, at just 7.1 grains, I would have thought this velocity would be about as ideal as it gets. The pellets thought otherwise. Ten shots went into a 25-yard group that measured 1.073 inches between centers. You’ll have no problem counting all 10 shots, because none of them seemed to want to go to the same place.
However, I do want to draw your attention to the upper right portion of the group. There are 5 holes in a much smaller group measuring 0.399 inches. This is what the best 5 out of 10 shots looks like, and it’s a temptation to say that this is what the rifle/pellet can do. Think not? Well, in a national magazine, a popular gun writer who traditionally shows three-shot groups when talking about accuracy, recently published an article about .22 rimfires in which all the groups were 5 shots — very uncharacteristic for him. But when he reported the group sizes, he twice mentioned the size of 4 out of the 5 shots in those groups! In other words, he couldn’t resist the temptation to make the gun sound better than it really was — even when the evidence was right out in the open. That’s why I most often shoot 10-shot groups.
Beeman Devastators did not stay together this time. This group measures 1.073 inches between the two farthest centers. But look at the much smaller group of 5 in the right-hand corner. They’re both legitimate and a fraud at the same time. They were legitimately shot by the rifle in this test, yet they do not represent the true accuracy of the rifle at 25 yards at this velocity.
Crosman Premier lites
Next, I shot a group of Crosman Premier lites. They did just the opposite of the Devastators — grouping the best they did out of all four tests. The group measures 0.593 inches between centers. That says a lot for this pellet, but perhaps not everything. The velocity at which they traveled was an average of 732 f.p.s. Is it the velocity or something else that makes them so accurate? We shall just have to wait and see.
All shooting was done with care
Lest you think I relaxed at any time during this test, I assure you I did not. Each shot was fired with the same care as all the others. The bubble level was consulted each time just before the shot was taken. I now have the trigger breaking at less than 8 oz., so it’s perfection. I’ve even concentrated on my hold to make it as much the same from shot-to-shot as I possibly could.
Next up were the Beeman Kodiaks. These were the pellets that had proved to be the most accurate up to this point in the test. This time, however, they opened up to 0.864 inches between centers. You can see that 8 of the 10 shots are in a much tighter group, but let’s not go there yet. The group you see represents how well these pellets did at an average velocity of 658 f.p.s.
We have long since passed the point at which the 16.1-grain Eun Jin super-heavyweight pellets are accurate; but just as the United Nations continues to grant its chairmanship to members of the smallest third-world countries, so we continue to shoot this pellet with each test — pretending that is has some part to play. Last time, Eun Jins printed some two-plus inches below the aim point. This time, with the velocity averaging 501 f.p.s., they dropped 6-3/8 inches! They were so low that I had to reorient a target to see them print on the paper.
The group measured 1.724 inches between centers. That’s larger than last time.
Like I said in the beginning, I’ll look at today’s results right now, but there will be another report dedicated to the entire test. I want to know what you readers think about this, because a lot of what I do ultimately comes from you.
What I see in today’s results sort of implies that accuracy falls off at lower velocities. Now, I don’t happen to believe that’s the case; but except for the Premier lites, that’s exactly what happened today. That suggests that something else is causing the larger groups. Perhaps vibration? Maybe that needs to be explored.
Looking at the Beeman Kodiak group, and to a lesser extent the Premier lite group, it seems like pellet selection might improve these two groups significantly. I shot all the pellets exactly the way they came from the tin or box. No special sorting technique was used. Would accuracy have improved if I had weighed these pellets and examined them critically before shooting? That’s a question so intriguing that I’m almost compelled to test it next.
On the other hand, no weighing or sorting will improve the groups made by the Beeman Devastators or the Eun Jins that much. They’re just what they are, as the openness of their groups suggest.
If I didn’t have a lot of experience shooting pellets at lower velocities, I might be tempted to make up some sort of explanation as to why they did so poorly. But I’ve shot other slower air rifles that exhibited excellent groups at 25 yards, so it seems like it must be something else. That’s where the thought of vibration comes in. With the Whiscombe, I can alter the vibration nodes with the Harmonic Optizmized Tuning System (HOTS).
That makes me think of something else. You know how we always say that to find the best pellet for a given gun you have to try them all? Maybe what you’re doing is finding the pellet that responds best to the way the airgun vibrates!
You tell me what you think I should do next. I won’t promise to do it all, but I will read with great interest what you have to say.
by B.B. Pelletier
Aaron’s winning photo. He’s holding a GSG 92 CO2 BB pistol made by an airsoft manufacturer that now also produces realistic lookalike airguns.
This is an exploration into the theory that high velocity reduces pellet accuracy when it reaches and exceeds the transonic speed region, or about Mach 0.8 to 1.2. We have thus far examined four different .177 pellets at three different speed levels, produced by shooting them in a Whiscombe JW75 spring rifle. Because all pellets have been fired in the same barrel and powered by the same powerplant, the conditions have remained the same, except for their velocities. That was altered by the use of air transfer ports of varying sizes, that passed the compressed air at differing rates.
In this fourth test, I’ll reduce the velocity of the four pellets even more, to as low as I am able to go with this rifle. Then, we’ll have four sets of groups to examine for each of the four pellets. While that isn’t enough testing to prove anything conclusively, it should provide a good indicator of what happens when pellets are both within and outside of the transonic velocity range. The current theory says that pellets are not designed for transonic or supersonic flight and will be less accurate at those speeds than they will at speeds that are less than transonic.
I’ll record the velocities of all four pellets today and then shoot them for accuracy in the next report. We’ll have at least one additional report in which all the results are compared and, to the extent possible, analyzed.
Pause to reflect
Before I start today’s test, I’d like to take a moment to reflect. Although what I’m doing seems normal, but in 50 years it may seem quite exotic. By using a handmade air rifle like the Whiscombe, it’s as if I were shopping for a violin on the streets of Cremona in 1710 and was able to sample the works of Antonio Stradivari as they came fresh from the maker’s hand. Or perhaps more to the point, as though I were able to buy a target rifle with all the supporting equipment directly from Harry Pope. From the accounts I’ve read, shooters who were able to do just that back in Pope’s time revered his rifles as much as today’s airgunners revere a Whiscombe.
What will readers of the future think about our familiar association with an airgun that, by then, will have assumed an elevated cult status? Indeed, it’s almost in that position today. It’s also the perfect tool for conducting the very experiment I’m now reporting, because it can do everything we need while avoiding bias.
Some readers have suggested that just the fact that it’s a Whiscombe brings bias to the table. They say that because this rifle is so well made, it doesn’t necessarily represent most airguns and may be able to tolerate and even ignore the physical constraints we’re testing. I disagree.
The most accurate rifle in the world is still subject to the laws of the physical world. A bullet or pellet in free ballistic flight doesn’t know or care what sent it on its way. If that projectile is unstable for any reason, it’s going to behave just like a top spinning on a flat table. It’ll wobble and move in the direction in which its instability forces.
In fact, because the Whiscombe is so accurate it should be even easier to see those natural laws in action — if they actually work the way we think they do — because the gun doesn’t have all the extraneous “noise” that normally accompanies a spring-piston airgun. By “noise,” I’m referring to the extra vibrations that influence a rougher gun at the moment of, and just after, firing.
The transfer port limiter I installed for this test is the same one that was in the rifle when it was sent to me. So, we should see a large drop in the velocities of all four pellets. Accuracy testing should then prove very interesting.
The first pellet tested was the Beeman Devastator. They averaged just 772 f.p.s. with this transfer port limiter. The spread went from a low of 767 to a high of 779 f.p.s., so 12-foot-seconds from low to high. At the average velocity, they were generating 9.4 foot-pounds. That’s a velocity loss of 200 f.p.s. from the last test, which should do something to the group size.
Next, I tried Crosman Premier lites. This 7.9-grain domed pellet was pretty accurate pellet in the last two tests, but this time the velocity dropped to an average of 732 f.p.s. That’s about 185 f.p.s. slower than last time. It will be very interesting to see what effect, if any, that has on their accuracy. The spread went from 726 to 736 f.p.s. and the muzzle energy was also 9.4 foot-pounds.
Next up were the most accurate pellets thus far — the Beeman Kodiaks. These averaged 658 f.p.s., with a spread from 655 to 661 f.p.s. That’s an extremely tight 6 foot-second difference between the slowest and fastest pellet in the ten-shot string! And they generated 10 foot-pounds on the nose! That’s more than the two lighter pellets, which isn’t supposed to happen in a spring-piston gun. But it’s exactly what happened last time, as well, so there is consistency.
The final pellet I shot was the heavy 16.1-grain Eun Jin dome. This pellet is really too heavy for the powerplant, when it is set at this level, but we want to see what happens to all pellets on all power settings, so we have to test this one, too. They averaged 501 f.p.s. and ranged from 499 to 504 f.p.s., a five foot-second difference. They weren’t too accurate last time, and I expect them to get worse this time. The muzzle energy was 8.98 foot-pounds, which puts it last in terms of power. That remains the same as it has been throughout this test.
This sets us up for the next accuracy test, which should be most interesting, given the great velocity reductions we’re seeing. But I wonder if people will accept the results, knowing that they were obtained with a Whiscombe. As I said in the beginning of this report, all I think the Whiscombe does is give us a clear picture of the results. But we shall see.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin today’s report, I want to reflect on a truth that helps explain why we’re sometimes dissatisfied with things when we get them. I was at the range last week testing some airguns, and I was using my Celestron 70C spotting scope, like I always do. This scope is good at 50 yards, but becomes marginal at 100 because it cannot resolve the smaller bullet holes. I don’t mean pellet holes, I mean .22-caliber bullet holes in the black bullseye at 100 yards.
A friend brought his Burris spotting scope to the range for me to compare, and the difference between the two was night and day. His scope was sharp enough to see small spiders walking on the target paper at 100 yards!
That same day, I shot a couple rifles my other friends had brought to the range. One of them was a fantastically accurate custom 6mm/.22 that can shoot a half-inch, 5-shot group at 100 yards. But it’s scoped with a BSA 4-24X scope that isn’t available at Pyramyd Air for good reason. It’s so dark and muddy that I couldn’t see the bullet holes as I shot this very accurate rifle. And I was shooting at a bright orange dot on white paper! I couldn’t see bullet holes on that! The scope was set at 16X because anything above that caused the image to go white from flare, and we were shooting in total shadow under a covered roof!
Another friend had a Lyman Super Targetspot scope that was 10X, and I could easily see all the holes his .220 Swift was making at 100 yards on the same kind of targets. So with six fewer magnifications, I was able to see the holes because of the superior optics. The Lyman scope is no longer made and a good used one will fetch about $800, while you can probably buy the BSA for under $200 all day long.
Back to the spotting scopes
My Celestron spotting scope has 30X, 60X and 90X power available. Where do I have it set? Between 30X and 60X, which is about 45X. Because anything greater than that muddies up the image too much — even at 50 yards. My friend’s Burris spotting scope only goes up to 45X maximum, yet it’s many times clearer than my Celestron. And I found on this day that only 10X was actually required to see .22-caliber holes at 100 yards on a light target. A black bull is probably harder to see with just ten power, but with 45 power it is easy!
So, I went home and researched that Burris spotting scope. It sells for about $175 at Midway, where the Celestron C70 Matsukov I have sells for about $80. But what good is it if it doesn’t do its primary job?
That got me thinking about shooters who purchase air rifles on the basis of velocity, alone, without appreciating all the other variables that come in the package. Things like smoothness, a good trigger and, most importantly, accuracy are pushed aside for velocity and low price.
I rant on about these things because they are also among my personal flaws. I’ve always tried to buy the cheapest of everything, and often the “mostest powerfulest,” too. So, I’m constantly drawn back to them whenever I find that I have made another dumb blunder.
On to today’s report
This was a day of great learning. When I summarize this series of tests, today will mark a big turning point, I believe. I learned a lot of things — all of which I will now show you.
As always the first pellet tested was the lightweight Beeman Devastator. I’ve been amazed at the performance of this pellet from the start of this test, and last time I predicted that it would shoot even smaller groups this time.
Sorry, but that didn’t happen. The first four shots seemed to confirm the need to “season” the bore before shooting each new pellet. I’m showing that target here so you can see what I saw.
This sight-in target for Beeman Devastators fooled me. Shot one was the upper right. Shots two and three were in the same hole on the left and shot four was between that group and the first shot. At the time, I felt this was demonstrating the need to “season” the bore before shooting a group with this pellet.
Shot one was the on at the high right, then the tight group of shots at the left were the next seven shots. Just when I was about to proclaim a universal law of bore seasoning had been discovered, shots nine and ten fell between the first shot and the group at the left.
Now, I was in a quandary. If the last two shots had strayed from the group in the same direction as the first shot, what was it telling me? Maybe the bore didn’t need seasoning. Maybe the Devastator just doesn’t like this velocity. Only another group would tell me for sure.
I believe that this particular velocity is one the Devastator pellet doesn’t like. As you know, I haven’t touched the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) on the barrel of my Whiscombe during this test. And I won’t. I don’t really care how accurate the gun is with a certain pellet. I was trying to see if there is a linear relationship between velocity and accuracy, and these two groups suggest that there isn’t. You’ll have to read the rest of this report to fully understand what I mean.
Crosman Premier lites
Next, I shot 10 Crosman Premier lites at 25 yards. This time, the target was very good, but the point of impact moved about a half-inch higher than last time. I was prepared to shoot four shots to season the bore, but the pellets kept going through the same hole, more or less, so I just completed the group without any seasoning.
This is a nice group of 10 Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets at 25 yards. It measures 0.747 inches and is actually slightly larger than the smallest group of Devastators. It’s almost identical to the last group shot during the previous test, so no big change in group size with this pellet.
The change of impact point was another big lesson this time. I’d seen it earlier, but not as dramatically as this time. The overall size of the group remained the same as before. That’s another indication that this is a barrel vibration issue and not one that’s driven by a change in velocity.
The next pellets I tested were the Beeman Kodiaks, which have performed so well to this point. This time, the point of impact shifted up about three-quarters of an inch, but the group remained very tight. This time, 10 shots went into a group measuring 0.472 inches at 25 yards, which I believe is currently the best group of this entire test. Last time, they gave us a group measuring 0.628 inches.
And, now, it’s time to report the performance of the super-heavyweight 16.1-grain Eun Jin pellet. Last time, they made the worst showing and that continued into this test, as well. What was different was the fact that the point of impact dropped more than two inches with what was just a slight reduction in velocity.
I was aiming at the center of the bull above, where they impacted! This was a dramatic change of impact point from the last test. Group size for these 10 Eun Jin pellets was 1.27 inches between centers. That’s a little larger than last time, but the change of impact was far more noticeable.
What have we learned?
Well, nothing has been linear in this series of tests — the way I expected. But what the vibrations are doing seems pretty obvious. So, the next test is both needed, as well as anticipated.