by B.B. Pelletier
If you want to work on airguns, go right ahead. By all means – work on airguns. What’s that? You want to know what books you should buy? What tools to get? Well, I would recommend reading The Comprehensive Guide to Airgun Maintenance, Restoration and General Repair – and I also suggest that you buy a Sears Craftsman Airgun Repair Tool Set. I WOULD recommend them if those items existed. Unfortunately, they don’t.
When John Kennedy announced the U.S. goal to put a man on the moon and safely return, NASA didn’t flood the chat forums with requests for information about building interplanetary space vehicles and moon boots. Instead, they created a space program with a series of steps that would lead to their ultimate goal. That’s what you need to do.
“Yeah, B.B., but fixing airguns isn’t rocket science! I put a new muffler and carburetor on my lawnmower this spring and found all kinds of information, parts and tools to help me.”
To which I respond, “So, visit Sears and count the number of airguns they sell compared to the number of lawnmowers.”
“I don’t know about Sears, but Wal-Mart sells both airguns and lawnmowers.”
“Yes, they do, and how many airguns do they sell with a pricetag over $200?” The point is that Wal-Mart airguns are not the ones generally designed for extensive repairs and modification. Some can be disassembled, it’s true, but those guns, while they sell in huge numbers, are not the mainstream of serious airgunning. And, Wal-Mart handles returns by putting the guns on a pallet and shipping them back to the manufacturer. At Crosman, let’s say, the receiving department looks at those returns and makes a judgement about whether they are worth the time and effort to repair. If the repair takes more than a few minutes, those guns will be scrapped! Do you wonder where that dumpster is? Me, too!
If Crosman pays an employee $12 an hour to fix an airgun, then that employee can cost them upwards of $20 an hour – depending on the company’s overhead structure and the terms of employment of the repair personnel. If Crosman is very careful, and I believe they have to be, the cost is probably down around $15 an hour. So, an hour’s time to disassemble, repair, reassemble, test and repackage the gun comes to $28 when you factor in packaging materials, repair parts, mistakes, supplies (like CO2 powerlets or AirSource cartridges) and shipment back to the Wal-Mart distribution center (or to places like Pyramyd AIR, where they sell these guns for a big discount). We haven’t even considered the rent Crosman has to pay for the shop space where all this work is (1) received, (2) repaired and (3) warehoused for reshipment – or the software needed to track this operation or the human time involved in its administration.
The bottom line is this: Should Crosman invest $28 in a gun on which they have already spent $35 getting it to market the first time? Remember, they’ve now refunded the money received from the first sale. If the income from the resale of this gun is $46, Crosman will go out of business if they spend much more money on it.
You, on the other hand, see the same airgun retailing in Wal-Mart for $112. You would be shocked to learn that Crosman originally sold it to them (along with 12,787 just like it) for $57.33, because that would mean Wal-Mart is making $54.67 on each sale. Or are they? Doesn’t Wal-Mart also have expenses to stay in business? Things like payroll, benefits, rent, advertising (they advertise on television, so imagine how large their budget must be!) and so on. So, selling that gun for $112 doesn’t make them $54.67. It makes them $28.91, unless they mark it down in a sale. Then they make less than $15, because the power company doesn’t discount their electric bill. And, when they have to return guns, it costs them a little to put them on a pallet and ship them back. So, on average, Wal-Mart makes about $24.00 for every one of these airguns they sell. (Of course, I don’t know the real figures, but I’ll bet these are darn close!)
How to make a million!
There’s an old saying about farming that also applies to the airgun repair business. If you want to make a million dollars fixing airguns, start with five million and work very hard. You will soon arrive at your goal.
What this means to you
This situation means that companies like Crosman, which used to fix every gun they sold, is now doing business differently. It also means that the guns they sell are being made differently to support how they do business now. It used to be (in 1965) that a Sheridan Blue Streak was very maintainable, because it was designed that way and the factory (Sheridan in those days) was doing repairs. The Sheridan company no longer exists and the guns that carry that name are less repairable than they were in 1965, though they are still among the most repairable American airguns made. But, when the retail price drops below a certain level, don’t expect those guns to be as repairable or expect the manufacturer to generate technical data (schematics and illustrated parts breakdowns), tools and parts.
You’re on your own!
What that means is that if you want to learn how to repair airguns, you’ll probably have to teach yourself. There is one repair seminar I know of, and it’s taught by Randy Bimrose. Beyond that, there is very little. So get all the technical data you can, starting with this website. Pyramyd AIR has a HUGE library of owner’s manuals, some of which still have the schematics in them. Learn to make your own tools! I’ve done it and so have hundreds of others. Before B-Square made a mainspring compressor, I got the plans for several out of the Airgun Letter. They are now available on the internet, so get out there and LOOK!
Fixing airguns yourself is a rewarding and absorbing hobby. As you become more involved, you will discover that there are good resources for help. All you have to do is find them.