by B.B. Pelletier

I’ve always been a handgun shooter, and when I discovered 10-meter pistols in the mid-1970s, I didn’t hesitate buying a Diana model 10 target pistol. At the time, it was one of the most accurate target pistols in the world – fully the equivalent of the more expensive FWB 65. So, when Daisy came out with their model 717 single-stroke pneumatic target pistol in 1981, I thought, “Why not?” It was accurate, had a self-contained power source and retailed for less than $60. The price has doubled during the intervening 26 years, but let’s see why I think this neat target pistol is still a bargain today.

Single-stroke pneumatic
The 717 was my first single-stroke airgun, and it was a good introduction to the species. Single-stroke pneumatics are just what their name implies – pneumatic guns that operate on just one pump of air. There can be no second pump, because the pump piston head is also one end of the compression chamber. Pull the pump back to put a second stroke into the gun and you’ll release what’s already inside. And, this is one kind of pneumatic that doesn’t want a charge of air inside during storage. The pump head has to be flexible to do its job, and it cannot be under pressure for prolonged periods. Daisy recommends not leaving the gun pressurized longer than an hour.

The 717 comes in .177 caliber, only, but it wasn’t always so. From 1981 to 1996, the gun was also offered in .22, as the model 722. I have always wondered how weak that gun must have been, because even the 717 only achieves 360 f.p.s. with light target pellets. It doesn’t cut crisp holes in target paper; it tears them, so you can’t use the gun in a formal match. But for informal shooting around the house, there aren’t many that beat it.

Easy to pump
After getting used to the 35-lb. cocking effort of the Diana 10, I found the light 14 lbs. needed to close the pump lever of this gun delightfully easy. Not all single-strokes are easy, however. The Walther LP II and LP III pistols require about 35 lbs. of effort to close their short pump levers. But Daisy designed a good linkage for their sidelever pump. Let’s charge the gun and see how it works.

First, open the bolt and leave it open. If you just wanted to dry-fire the gun, you could now close the bolt and the trigger would be ready to go. But when it’s time to shoot for real, leave the bolt to the rear and pull the pump handle away from the frame and as far forward as it will go. Then, close it against the side of the pistol, load a pellet, close the bolt and the gun is ready to fire. The crossbolt safety is, thankfully, manual and does not get in the way. The trigger, however, is another matter.

The pump lever extends way to the front of the gun. Good linkage keeps the pumping effort low.

I just complained about a 6-lb. Benjamin HB22 trigger, so how do you think I feel about one on a target handgun? That’s right – SIX pounds! I certainly hope this one will lighten up as time passes. It lost a full pound of pull during the first 50 shots, so it probably will. The plastic trigger blade is wide and shaped well for the task, so it isn’t as hard to use as the Benjamin’s, but shaving 3 lbs. off the pull would be a blessing. The trigger is non-adjustable and two-stage with a very short first-stage pull.

Routine maintenance
This will be worth the price of the whole blog, because the 717 does need a couple of things done to it from time to time. First, let’s lubricate the pump head. Daisy recommends using a 10-, 20- or 30-weight non-detergent motor oil, but as I have none of that laying around, I will use Crosman Pellgunoil. Daisy certainly isn’t going to recommend it, but Pellgunoil is a lot like the oil they used to sell for this purpose. Don’t use household oils, nor any spray lubricant – especially WD-40.

Put several drops on the felt wiper of the pump head assembly. It will rub off on the walls on the compression chamber and be picked up by the o-ring. There, it serves its purpose of sealing the pump against air loss. Oil the gun anytime the o-ring is not shiny with a light coat of oil, or when the gun’s power drops off noticeably.

Several drops of Crosman Pellgunoil on the felt wiper and the gun will oil itself.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to adjust the pump lever stroke, and we’ll shoot the gun.