Today’s classic airguns
by B.B. Pelletier
One of our readers commented on yesterday’s posting that he likes the historical stuff. I do, too, which is why I do it. But I want you to know that the good old days aren’t over yet. There are a number of classic airguns available – brand new – today that will be sorely missed when they’re gone. Let’s take a quick look at some.
Sheridan’s Blue & Silver Streaks
When these guns are gone, anyone who owns one will be envied. The Silver Streak dates clear back to 1949, and the Blue Streak came out just a few years later. Yes, the company has changed hands twice and moved from Wisconsin to New York, but the guns sold today perform exactly like they did 50 years ago. The fit and finish is just as nice as it ever was, so you don’t give up a thing by buying modern. I suppose I should say the same things about the Benjamin 397 and the 392, for they are in much the same boat – modern airguns with deep roots in the past.
The Beeman R1 was the gun that supplanted the FWB 124 (yesterday’s post) by delivering 1,000 f.p.s. in .177 for the first time. It’s still with us, and, frankly, I’m surprised that it’s lasted this long. It is outclassed by many other more powerful springers, but the R1 is a classic that refuses to go away. However, I note that Weihrauch, which makes the R1 for Beeman, did away with the splendid HW55 just a few years back. If that one were still available, it would be on this list! Let me add the Beeman R7 to our list, as it’s a little honey, too! Ten years from now, will we be lamenting the loss of these two great air rifles?
The HW 77
When Robert Beeman sold his company to SR Industries in 1994, some employees who remained with the new company did everything in their power to erase the Beeman legacy. That included dropping the HW55 immediately. Shortly thereafter, the HW 77 got the axe. Yes it’s a heavy gun, and, no, it isn’t as powerful as some, but the HW 77 is THE air rifle that made field target a sport. Before there were PCPs that could bust aspirin at 50 yards, there were 77s that shooters all over the world tuned to a gnat’s eyelash. When Air Arms set about to make a real spring air rifle (moving away from their somewhat bizarre sidelevers with Middle Eastern names), who did they copy? The HW 77! Believe me, you’ll miss this one when it’s gone!
When the Avanti Champion 499 leaves the building, there will be a cry of epic proportions! For the present its place is safe because Daisy and the Jaycees use it for the world BB gun championships. But nothing lasts forever! Where else can you buy an airgun that’s less than $100 and accurate enough to win the world championships? Don’t blame me if you miss out. I got mine.
Here’s a newer classic spring rifle that’s been with us for less than a decade. For under $100, you can buy an IZH 61 repeater with a barrel so accurate that more than one airgunner has lavished over $500 on sights and wood furniture to turn it into a 10-meter gun! I have a friend who has purchased 23 of these at last count. Whenever he shows off one to a friend, the friend buys it and he has to replace his gun! That speaks volumes about the quality they don’t charge you for.
The Tempest is a direct descendant of the first Webley pistol that came to market in the early 1920s. Yes, it’s been modernized with aluminum and plastic, but it still cocks in the same quirky way as the first pistol 80 years ago. The Webley Tempest has been on thin ice for several years, and I think its time is almost up. Look at those all-plastic single-stroke pneumatics that are far cheaper to construct in the UK or Asia, and you’ll see where I’m coming from. I’ll add the Hurricane to this list, too.
So, there you are. A fine list of modern classics, any one of which would be sorely missed if it weren’t available. Maybe, someday soon, I’ll do a companion piece on guns that are recently extinct. If I missed a favorite of yours, let me know about it. Your comments are what drive this blog!