by B.B. Pelletier

This post is for Jason, who was intrigued by the HW Barakuda EL 54 ether-injection spring rifle that was mentioned in the posting on Baracuda pellets It’s also for CF-X guy, who asked what the maximum velocity might be for a dieseling gun. Since the EL54 works by dieseling, I thought I would address it here.


The ether-injection system attaches the the right side of the receiver to turn an HW 35 into an EL54.

An early attempt at magnum power
The EL54 was an early attempt (1954-1981) at achieving magnum power in a spring-piston air rifle. It is an HW 35 with an ether injector attached on the right side of the compression chamber tube. A medical ether ampule was inserted into the device and crushed. Each time the rifle was cocked and loaded, a shot of ether was injected into the compression chamber, where the heat of compression ignited it, raising gas pressure in the compression chamber.

The device was hell on pellets, blowing out their heads and leaving the bodies trapped in the barrel, so round balls were the only recommended ammo. It also blew the leather seals out of the early guns. It was very difficult to get medical ether ampules in the U.S., so the system was never popular. Most of the guns seen today are in new or nearly new condition.

The claim was that the rifle could drive a 15-grain .22 caliber ball to 1,000 f.p.s., but the only publicized test, done by writer W.H.B. Smith in 1957, used a rifle with blown seals, so the results were disappointing. One-thousand feet per second with round balls was smokin’ in the 1950s, but an AirForce Condor would exceed it by at least 150 f.p.s. today.

Forced dieseling is NOT SAFE!
This is for CF-X guy and anyone else who wonders what can be done with a dieseling airgun. It’s all been done before, and the facts are well known. Dieseling destroys spring-piston airguns. They aren’t made to take the pounding of the repeated explosions. The EL54 lasted because people couldn’t get the ether ampules. Yes, there are ways around that, and they have been tried – and they destroy guns, too. Shooters have been injured when their guns blew apart or pieces flew off at high velocity. This is not a road to go down. If you do, a lot is known about what will happen, and none of it is pleasant.

A safe alternative
If you want to experiment with loads and velocities, try handloading firearm cartridges. You can do a lot of experimentation, and it’s all very safe – as long as you stay within the published guidelines.