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Education / Training What happens during a spring gun break-in?

What happens during a spring gun break-in?

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, here’s a tip I just received. Pyramyd AIR is now a direct importer of ALL Air Arms airguns! In the past they had to buy their guns through another importer who couldn’t supply guns as fast as they needed them, so Pyramyd’s owner, Josh Ungier, went straight to Bill Saunders, the head man at Air Arms, and got Pyramyd on as a primary importer.

What this means to buyers is the wait times will be greatly reduced. They will stock every American model Air Arms makes, but if you need something they don’t have in stock at the time you place the order, Josh simply tells Bill to add it to his next shipment. They talk on the phone about every other day. They have already expedited several key shipments of parts and guns this way, and they look forward to a long relationship of supplying the finest British airguns to American shooters.

Today’s question comes from Scott298, who wonders what happens during the break-in of a spring piston air rifle. I was going to answer him directly in the comments section, but when I ran the answer through my head, it turned out to be bigger than you might think, so I made it this whole posting.

When I got back into airguns in the mid 1970s, both Beeman and Air Rifle Headquarters were telling customers that the spring guns they sold needed a long break-in period before they would perform up to standard. Back in those days many airguns still had leather seals, plus some of the guns, such as those made by BSF, were being overbuilt. They had to be worked in just like a good baseball glove. I don’t have room for all the history here, but it is fascinating – if not applicable to the guns you buy today.

The Beeman R1
In 1994, Tom Gaylord and his wife started writing The Airgun Letter, a monthly newsletter about airguns. Tom needed a project that would last a long time to fill the pages of his new endeavor, so he bought a brand new Beeman R1 and proceeded to break it in for his readers. He promised to shoot 1,000 shots and to report at intervals how things were going. That multi-part series was called the R1 Homebrew. Well, the response to what he did was very encouraging, so Tom turned it into a book, which he called the Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle, which was Beeman’s name for the gun.

The R1 book by Gaylord has test results from two brand-new R1s. The book is out of print and only available used.

From that book comes the information I will now give you. His brand-new .22 caliber R1 cocked with 54 pounds of effort on the first shot. RWS Hobby pellets averaged 826.8 f.p.s. in the beginning. By shot number 200 the cocking force had dropped to 45 lbs. By shot 500 Hobbys were averaging 828.2 f.p.s. and the cocking effort was holding at 45 lbs. At shot 1,000, the rifle averaged 819 f.p.s with Hobbys and the cocking force measured 44 lbs.

Tom then removed the stock and discovered that a steel tab on the spring tube that accepts one of the forearm screws had broken at the weld. He knew that Beeman would re-weld it for him which wasn’t normally a problem, except that he had planned several non-invasive tunes for the gun before actually disassembling it the first time. To weld the tab back in place, Beeman would first have to disassemble the gun and degrease the inside of the tube, which meant that the gun would then have to be re-lubricated before reassembling it. They told Tom they would have to use moly for this because they didn’t have Weihrauch factory grease. That would have thrown all his test results out the window because it would have bypassed several things he wanted to do before getting to that point, so he requested a brand new rifle. To Beeman’s great credit, and thanks to Don Walker, their repair manager at the time, they sent him a brand new rifle.

So Tom had to break in a second new .22 caliber R1! Cocking effort measured 55 lbs. on the first shot. RWS Hobbys averaged 862.8 f.p.s. At shot 500 the Hobbys averaged 827 f.p.s . and cocking was down to 49 lbs. At shot 1,000, Hobbys were going 837.8 f.p.s. and the cocking force measured 46 lbs. Tom went on to test the Hobbys after oiling the mainspring and they averaged 847.8 f.p.s. at shots 1036-1040.

Tom was oiling the piston seal with chamber lube during the break-in. He reported that his gun honked like a goose when cocked. Today I would not advise oiling as much as Tom did. Let the seal squeak; it will get quiet on its own. But in the mid-1990s, oiling that much was common because the Beeman instructions told you to do so.

NOW, SCOTT298 – here is the important thing. A TX200 Mk III will not perform the same as an R1. It will be much smoother on the first shot and the cocking effort will not change as much as it breaks in. But after perhaps 1,500 shots have been fired, it will speed up. My Mark III increased from 895 to 930 with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers in that period of time. Today, with at least 6,000 shots on it, it still goes 829 f.p.s.

A older Gamo 440 or 890 will behave like an old BSF – needing a HUGE break-in period of 3,000 to 4,000 shots to get good. But I don’t think the newer ones act the same. I haven’t tested enough to say for sure, but they seem to be more like the TX200.

And my experience with Diana guns like yours is that if they are going to have problems they will have them during the first 1,000 shots. They used to break mainsprings, and maybe they still do, but the spring guide now seems to be more of a problem than it was 10 years ago.

Other airguns have different break-in quirks and results, and I don’t know them all. They tend to be the same for similar guns from the same manufacturer, like Weihrauch or Diana. But the minute I try to generalize, a Gamo CF-X comes along and changes everything. I love this hobby, but a lot of the fun is that nobody knows it all.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

36 thoughts on “What happens during a spring gun break-in?”

  1. I have to ask the same question. Other that quoting Tom’s test results, and velocity figures, what really happens inside the gun that finally tells you that it’s broken in (or broken)?

  2. BB, can you tell me what advantage you get with a choked barrel over a none choked one,in high power pcp guns,it seems you have to clean the barrel to get best results in accuracy every 100 to 200 shots in a choked berrel,does the talon and condor have a choked barrel , i no its like sizeing pellets through the choked barrel everytime you take a shot,but in certain guns this leads to a build up of lead in the barrel,could you not exspect the same sort of accuracy useing good pellets out of the non choked barrel.

  3. Hi BB

    i Just cleaned an AF Condor with JB paste. It made a superb job of the barrel, but being a little clumsy, i did manage to get some paste around the moving hammer. Do i need to strip the rifle down to remove this, or will it do no harm to the hammer and its movement?

  4. off topic question:

    i’m considering looking into shooting round balls. h&n offers copper-coated and regular graphite coated.
    i realize the copper-coated roundballs are made to insulate the user from the lead, but because copper is metal, does it harm barrel rifling over time, or leave residuals in the barrel that increase the need for barrel cleaning or affect accuracy?
    likewise with the graphite-coated, do they dirty the barrel quicker? graphite can be used as a metal-to-metal dry lubricant, so maybe its better? i think i read somewhere that lead pellets are already graphite coated to impede oxidation, so maybe my graphite concern is moot?
    if you had to chose only one between copper or graphite coated, which would you shoot? or would you just stick with shooting good pellets (if its not broke, don’t fix it) instead of the extra maintenance/cleaning that roundballs would instigate.

    thanks, i am really in need of help, and would rather not shoot roundballs if they are going to affect or change my current results with my rifles. but i like their extra potential penetration and they don’t experience tumble at super-sonic speeds. thanks again

  5. B.B.–scott298-B.B.–If you would like I would be happy to report on umarex’s service upon reciept of my 350. I’m sorry that you did not like the movie. B.B.-for some reason-I don’t know if it’s my computer but lately I have been loosing my blogs that I send in-sometimes I have to go thru the guessing game with your jumbled word twice before it finally goes thru and sometimes it just gets beemed into cyberspace. This is the 2nd time I’ve written this so I know I,m leaving something out. By the way would you and your wife like to adopt an “older son” I am paper trained! Thanks for everthing–Scott298

  6. B.B. you lightly touched on chamber lube and I will guess that more specifically means Air chamber lube, which is different than spring cylinder lube. The spring cylinder is where the spring resides, with it’s guides, piston, and cylinder wall. The air chamber is on the other side of the spring with the piston seal in between, and this chamber is where the air compression happens(to put it simply). I have read many articles and hung out in airgun forums for months trying to learn as much as I can. From my reading I understood that for spring piston airguns, you put a drop or two of air chamber lube in the air chamber about every 1000 shots. You use spring cylinder oil on the spring(a few drops) and from firing and hence spring movement, the oil gets distributed all over the spring, cylinder wall, spring guides, and anything else thats in the spring cylinder. Air chamber lube does two things, it creates a better seal between the piston seal and cylinder wall, and a small amount of it mixes with the air in the chamber in each firing cycle. With that information under my belt, life was good. Until yesterday. Some guy on another forum said that you shouldn’t use air chamber lube on today’s airguns because they have synthetic piston seals, and there is nowhere for the lube to soak in so it just sits on top of the piston seal and gets burned, causing dieseling/detonation. Air chamber lube is for leather seals he says.
    Please tell me that this guy is wrong? Because if he’s right, then why have I and so many others used air chamber lube in our air chambers???
    –Dave Ennis

  7. Nathan,

    Choked barrels don’t cause lead buildup. Velocity causes it. Choked barrels uniformly size the pellet at it leaves the bore, resulting in more uniform ballistics. They are the principal reason PCP barrels are so accurate.

    Yes, all AirForce barrels are choked.

    A properly choked barrel will cut group size in half.


  8. Dave,

    I wouldn’t say the guy on the forum was wrong, so much as not entirely right. You can use chamber oil with modern synthetics, but not as much as you mentioned. That’s where Tom Gaylord made his mistake with the R1. A drop every 3,000 shots is what Diana recommends. With their piston seals that works well. But Air Arms seals are better off not lubricated at all. At least I never have lubed mine.

    Now, if a gun has had a moly tune it doesn’t need any chamber oil at all. Ditto for Spring Cylinder Oil. Consider the powerplant lubed for life and rebuild the gun if and when it starts acting up. Most shooters will never shoot wenough to see it.

    With chamber oil, less is better.


  9. Steve,

    Airguns of Arizona was never the importer of Air Arms. They bought them from the importer, just like Pyramyd did.

    SAVINGS!!!?? The British pound has been climbing like a rocket against the dollar. It’s over 2-1 now. That’s 2 U.S. dollars for every 1 British pound.

    The prices you remember were negotiated when the exchange rate was about 1.75-1. Pyramyd had to talk long and hard to hold prices where they are.


  10. B.B.-Scott298-umarex got back to me concerning my rws 350. Upon putting the gun back together they only used spring cylinder oil-is that enough or upun return should I take the action out of the stock and using a q tip smear as much moly grease as i can on the mainspring? I had asked them to run the 350 thru a chronograph and they reported-using 8.2gr rws superpoints with a high of 1094fps and a low of 1075fps-what’s your take on that? Thanks as all ways-Scott298

  11. Scott,

    This is always a tough call. Umarex USA (in their roll as RWS USA) returned your rifle to as close to new specifications as they could. They didn’t tune it, nor will they.

    What you asked is similar to asking if you should do the same to a brand new gun.

    I say no. You cannot get moly into the places it need to be that way, so what you are doing is just makingt rthe rifle a little dirtier. If you want a real tune, spring for the whole shebang, and be prepared to back off the rated power to get logevity and smoothness.


  12. hi bb
    i noticed that the rws 850 airmagnum comes with a walther 6×42. is this a good scope? its only $20 more than the gun itself. would i be better off with a leapers 3-9? also with this gun do you have to cycle the bolt with each shot? im guessing yes
    Nate in Mass

  13. Nate,

    Yes, the 850 AirMagnum is a bolt-action rifle so you do have to cycle the bolt for each shot.

    As for the scope, the Leapers is better for certain, but why not get the cheapie to start with? It might be all you ever need.

  14. Thanks B.B. for clearing that up. I later realized that it may of seemed like I wanted to prove a guy wrong. Actually what was important to me is to clear up me newbie understanding. At some point, I will be giving one of my babies a moly treatment, so from what I have gathered here, there is no other lube needed when using moly. I guess moly is a very slick metal that bonds to the metal that it is applied to. I’ve been lightly experimenting with some beeman M2M paste that I got from Pyramid, and it’s pretty neat stuff.
    –Dave Ennis

  15. Does PAM actually have the Air Arms 22 cal right hand TX200MKIII (AA-TX2HRW) in stock and ready for immediate shipment?

    I’ve been burned before by bogus availability claims at the PAM site.

  16. hello again bb
    im thinking of ordering a barrel cleaning kit with that 850 airmagnum. i dont want to blow 40 bucks for a dewey rod and attachments. i notticed pyramyd carries a number of cheap cleaning kits form rws, otis, gamo and daisy. ive never cleaned a barrel befor but ive read all about it from you. which of these kits would you recomend. i probly want a flxbe rod because of the fixed barrel. ill probly only be cleaning the 850 and mabey another gun. i know i need to pick up some jb paste. thanks so much
    Nate in Mass

  17. sorry this is off suject but i am wondering approx. how many f.p.s. i would get if i put a 24″ barrel on a crosman 2240 if it shoots 460 f.p.s. would i get 100 f.p.s. thx,

    up here in canada eh!

    p.s. would i have to do seals also to get this much increase.

  18. Burned,

    As of this moment (6:55 a.m. EST) Pyramyd AIR does have a right-hand WALNUT TX200 in stock. I can’t swear that it will still be there at 9 a.m. Pyramyd ships so many guns every day that they often run out of items. Fortunately for you, they will be getting more Air Arms shipments in right away, now that the importation has been cleared up.

    How do you get BURNED by Pyramyd Air? They don’t charge a credit card until the item is ready to ship. Do you perhaps mean disappointed because something you wanted wasn’t in stock when you placed the order?

    Before you order, you had better LOOK at the TX200 again. They have updated the website with photos of the new stocks that are now shipping. They look considerably different than the old ones. Make sure this is what you want.


  19. airgundoc,

    Pyramyd carried the TDR for a long time and it was a very slow mover. I suspect they don’t want to stock it again for that reason.

    However, if you want one, I am sure they will order it for you. Like I said yesterday, they can call England and get an item tacked on to the next shipment.

    I have no idea whether Air Arms is continuing to make the TDR. If it is a poor seller in all markets, they may cancel it.

    Make the call today and I will also alert Pyramyd AIR that you are interested.


  20. Nate in Mass,

    I DO NOT recommend trying to clean the barrel of an 850 AirMagnum! The way the breech is designed, there is NO ROOM to get anything in it. It will be NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE to clean out the JB Paste.

    A flexible cleaning kit like an Otis WILL NOT WORK in this rifle. Only a rod – solid or jointed – will work, but I wouldn’t advise it!

    Just shoot it 500-1000 times and you’ll do the same thing.


  21. Canada,

    I think you will get well over 100 f.p.s. by intalling a 24-inch barrel on a 2240. Absolutely no changes in seals need to be made, as long as the new barrel is from Crosman and has the O-ring cutout at the transfer port.

    How about you tell us what happens?


  22. B.B.

    I was getting ready to order some JB Paste to clean my 850 AirMagnum so I’m glad Nate asked. However, that brings up a question.

    When you test a gun that you can’t/don’t clean with JB Paste, do you put 500-1000 shots through it before testing the accuracy? I know your test of the 850 showed lower accuracy and I was just wondering.

    In case you ever do more shooting with an 850, I read review of the .22 version that concluded RWS Superdomes were more accurate than JSB Exacts for the 850.

    .22 multi-shot

  23. .22 multi-shot,

    The use of JB Paste has been a gradual lesson for me. It’s taken eight years to fully sink in.

    The reason I try to always do it now is because I don’t shoot the test guns as much as I should, which was why I told Nate to just shoot his gun.

    As it turns out, I own the 850 AirMagnum I wrote about, but I bet I didn’t shoot 100 shots through it before testing the accuracy. So I may not have given it the fairest shake I could have.

    I wish I had the /.22 version. The .177 seems too expensive for the low power/accuracy.


  24. BB & Burned
    I think Pyramyd just switched the pictures for the MKIII and the HC. The HC has a knurled grip that makes it easier to cock.. However, AA did change the checkering, so there is some difference.

  25. Hello. I bought a small chrongraph (Mod. CB-625)in England about 3 years ago. It is just placed in the front of the barrel, and then you shoot the rifle. It is kind of accurate.

    I would like to know where can I get one of such gizmos in the US, becasue none of the big web airgun dealers have it in their catalog.

  26. Those muzzle-fitting chronographs used to be sold in the U.S. but they didn’t sell well. They won’t fit on guns with odd-shaped muzzles and the accuracy of screens spaced two inches apart is less than desirable. You do get a number, but it’s an approximation at best. Good enough for rough field work but it won’t hold up in court.

    Also, because they work on IR instead of white light, the sun often fools them.


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