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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.

Beeman’s R1
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!

Daisy’s 499
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.

IZH 61
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.

Webley Tempest
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!

15 thoughts on “Today’s classic airguns”

  1. Hi B.B.
    Really love reading your blog. I’m brand new to airgunning and am learning a ton. Just about through all your past posts. Two questions.

    I’ve been waffling between a Sheridan Blue/Silver streak vs a Benjamin 392 for getting rid of pesky rabbits as my first air rifle. I prefer the .22 over the .20 but web info & price suggest the “Streaks” may have better trigger /accuracy / quality? True?

    In your March 17 post, you said: “Now, I’m not saying this is the absolute BEST spring air rifle out there, but the RWS Diana model 52 is a hard gun to beat.” Hope you’ll let me get away with this question … What IS the absolute BEST .22 (and .177) springer air rifle? You’ve shot a lot of springers. Not looking to start something; just want your personal opinion. Accuracy/crisp trigger and medium to high energy would be my priorities.

    Many thanks to you and your readers! What an education….


  2. alot like fishing lure questions that I answer, “Best” always ends up being “best for what”

    how about a “best” survival gun…

    although not a springer shooter (yet) I’d like your oppinion Re: the one “best” multi-pump pneumatic (or would you insist on a springer?) that you’d trust most in a long term survival situation prioritys may not be a super smooth trigger pull, but more like: calibre, bb or pellet, what do think can handle the elements and abuse best, shoot resonably well to secure food, high on the priority list might be the ability to be repaired w/ field tools ect.

    What would you want with you if you were stuck in the field for over a year B.B.?


  3. Dear BB,
    I’m going to enter the fray also. I just have one “springer” but I’ve found that they are hard to shoot accurately and after I started to shoot a PCP (TalonSS) I have about given up on the springers. I pulled it out a few days ago and although I tried to follow all your excellent suggestions for shooting them I just couldn’t get very enthused. Mine seems so crude in comparison to the PCP that I went back immediately to the latter. I do agree that the IZH 61 is a fun gun. I bought one on your recommendation and have not regreted it. I use it a lot to teach my grandchildren how to shoot and they think it’s a hoot, particularly since they can cock it themselves.

  4. Thats what I mean about a reliable gun to forage with long term Doc. If it’s a survival situation it seems a hunting gun shouldn’t be a springer…odd angle shots up in the trees will change your hold…quick one shot chances…ammo at a premium (till it comes to shooting pebbles). I don’t know what to think.


  5. Turtle,

    Your fishing lure analogy is spot on when asking for “best”. I thought my question might draw some fire, so maybe a better choice of words would have been all time “favorite” and let the gun define itself. And I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing about favorites in many catagories: pumps, springers, pcp’s, survival, target, etc. In any case, I’m looking forward to the upcoming posts ….


  6. Not trying to fire at ya Will, just looking for my own answers too. It’s tough to get a specific question across in these quick format posts.

    In fact I’ll even elaborate on my own question as well.

    B.B. I’m concerned with the weight and space factor Re: recharging of a PCP in the “survival” gun question. So how about mention of the best survival multipump along with with the obvious choice in PCP.

    Also, my question re: multiple lead balls was centered on shooting several balls down the barrel of any pneumatic gun, including one high power, like a talon. Is it dangerous? would it hurt the barrle?

    Heck, do single lead balls hurt a high quality rifled barrel for that matter?!?


    ps. Yeah, there may be no stupid questions…My dad used to say “the only stupid one was the one you don’t ask”…but it sure takes more time to answer them than ask em’…we all appreciate it and are fine with waiting B.B.

  7. Turtle,

    From your comments I believe my choice of survival airgun will be a surprise!

    Yes, I’m going to do the shotgun thing, too. Now you have added another question about multiple balls in rifles. I will try to get to that separately.

    Keep it up and I may never have to come up with another topic on my own!


  8. BB – I very much appreciate your blog. You write well and are extremely well informed. I have purchased both an IZH61 & Benjamin 392 since reading this posting. Oh..and love both. IZH61 can be kept at shoulder cocked and fired no problem VERY accurate. The Benjamin 392 a bit hard to pump but for a single shot I find loading 22 much easier than 177 (must have big fingers). Shouldering the 392 was like putting on an old pair of boots just polished with new soles. Never shouldered a rifle has felt like an old friend from the first shot. Right out of box centered 3 shots within size of dime at 25 feet.


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