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Education / Training Photographing airguns – Part 5

Photographing airguns – Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Just in case you missed this announcement before….Pyramyd AIR is having a garage sale Saturday & Sunday, Sept. 20 & 21. If you can’t make it, have a look at their used products. However, the garage sale will have much more than just used products, so it’s worth attending even if you’ve got a ways to travel.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Today, we’ll look at showing printed details on a gun – one of the most difficult shots to take, but with digital cameras it has become a lot easier. Like all photography, it all comes down to light; and, with printed details, how the light strikes the subject is extremely critical.

You can easily see the printed details on guns because you’ve learned how your eyes work. Without even thinking, you turn the gun until the ambient light strikes it in such a way that the printed details stand out. On some guns, though, the print is very thin and small, and you really have to work the light to see them. Certain airguns such as Daisy BB guns are the worst of all.

Print is hard to see
Print on guns is usually stamped into metal surfaces or molded into the synthetic parts. On some guns such as the first run of BSA underlever rifles (ca. 1905-1914), the print is put on by acid etching that may have blended into the patina by now. AirForce rifles have laser-etched text that is very shallow and doesn’t have much contrast once the white ash left by the laser is wiped off.

This is the hardest!
I think the most challenging camera shot of a gun is photographing the rounded top of a Daisy receiver so the printed details are visible and legible. The light just doesn’t want to wrap around that curved surface to let you see all the print. You can use reflectors, but they have to be close to the subject to work.


This is how most people would take this picture. One strong overhead light source and ambient sunlight from the left. It leaves a lot to be desired. The bottom line of the text–“Plymouth, Mich. U.S.A.”–is almost invisible. I used a white paper reflector that wrapped completely around the bottom of the gun and reflected from both sides.


This shot is a highly processed version of the first shot. It’s only slightly better, and it shows mottled surface patina that makes the image confusing. This patina problem is very common on rust-prone guns like old Daisys.


By shooting a strong light from the right side, the letters show up clearer, and the bottom line now becomes visible. I used a tactical flashlight for this, which is a field expedient at best, but it does illustrate the concept.


Chalk in the letters is an old standby, and you can see why. It makes the letters jump out. I used sewing chalk that’s used for marking garments because it’s what we had (it also crumbles less). If you don’t have any chalk, I recommend this stuff over blackboard markers.

Light angle reveals a lot of detail
Anyone who has ever done photo intelligence knows that the camera angle is very important. It can conceal or reveal important information. Look at the two photos below to see what I mean.


The back of the Daisy target trap from yesterday–taken in light that was almost overhead. The depth of the BB dents is difficult to estimate.


By angling the light from the left side, the dents come into sharp relief. Notice the highest dent on the left is actually two dents very close together. That was impossible to see in the first picture.

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.

35 thoughts on “Photographing airguns – Part 5”

  1. Morning B.B. Thanks for getting back to the photography. I wouldn’t have thought to “wrap” the white paper around the receiver for a reflecter. An off topic subject please. I want a very accurate, very quiet PCP to shoot in my back yard. I also want to be able to hunt woodchuck size game with it. Single shot is not a problem. Price $500-$1000. What do you all recommend? Thanks very much Mr B.

  2. I sold a Daisy 747 with some paint issues last week. The earlier tips helped me get some good photos so I could be honest with the buyer.

    I have not been able to try our too many tips but I this series is very helpful to buyers and sellers.

    I want to sell a Gamo with a grey stock. Taking photos os this has been a disaster in the past. I’m lookng forward to trying it again.



  3. Everything was black. No definition. No contrast. I have not tried again since last winter.

    I plan on rereading and trying again.

    This gun is in very good condition. With the pistol I didn’t want any buyer to be surprised. With this one I want to document the opposite.


    Although I had already established what were the best pellets in my tuned 54, and was able to achieve excellent accuracy, I was curious how an ultra lightweight Crossman Silver Eagle Wadcutter would perform, and whether it would crack the sound barrier. What a surprise when I began working with these pellets!

    Out of the tin, I weighed about 20 pellets, and right away discovered a totally unaccepatable range of 4.96-6.06 grains! When I shot an unweighed group of 6 at 10 yards, it came out to 1 9/16.”

    To give this sorry pellet the benefit of the doubt, I weighed and grouped two sets of heavy (5.9-6.0) and light (5.0-5.14) pellets, and shot groups of 7. The light pellets grouped 14/16,” and grouped about 1/2″ above the Aim Point. The heavy group produced also 14/16,” but this time grouped about 3/4″ below the aim point. If you put these two really poor groups together, together they produce approximately the dismal results of an unweighed group.

    The sonic blast never happened.

    I am curious if this 20+% range of weight is normal for this pellet? I wonder if anybody uses this pellet successfully, and in what (pistol, I assume)? I may try it in my CO2 pistol and see what happens. – Dr. G.

  5. Bruce,

    The longer the exposure, the more the black will contrast against the gray – to a point. Then all colors will head towards the gray and even values.

    Try a medium-brown background and indirect light, like an overcast sky or shade on a sunny day or reflected light from a white ceiling.

    This is also a time to experiment with flash, though on some cameras that will make it worse.


  6. At August 28, 2008 12:19 PM, kevin said…
    Dr. G.,

    Wow a 3 part answer to my questions. Thank you very much. Very interesting. You have heightened my desire to tune my RWS 54. My 54 is .22 caliber. Not sure if your .177 pellet experiment will translate into .22 but I appreciate knowing about the Air Arms Diablo Field pellet that performed so well in your gun. I haven’t tried that one. Did you try the crossman premiers in the cardboard box?? Out of approximately 2,000 rounds and trying 10-12 different pellets these perform best in my .22.

    Dr. G., sorry to be so needy but if you don’t mind a several more stupid questions:

    1-Did you try to adjust your trigger before sending it to rich in mich?

    2-Did you talk with other tuners before deciding on rich in mich? ken reeves or ed krzynowek perhaps?

    3-Did you talk with rich in mich about the carbon fiber shroud he’s doing on RWS 54’s? If so, what is your opinion about this modification?

    4-Did I understand you correctly that even after 300 shots you’re still getting a “burning oil smell”?

    Thanks again. Really respect your time spent and experience with your 54.


  7. Hi B.B. Thanks for your recommendations. Do I want to get an 18″ or 24″ barrel? What’s the difference between the TalonSS with the optional barrel and bloop tube compaired to the Talon with a bloop tube? Again thank you for your time–Mr B

  8. Mr. B.,

    You want a 24-inch barrel for greater velocity or better use of air.

    No one has ever tested a Talon bloop tube, so I can’t tell you how that works. The Talon isn’t a popular rifle – though it is a good one.

    The frame of a Talon SS is the same length as a Condor frame, so ther Condor/SS bloop tube will work.


  9. Mr. B

    I bought a Airhog Condor bloop tube a few weeks ago. I was going to put it on a Talon with the 18inch barrel but found out it doesn’t work. It made my Talon very quit but it doesn’t align right becuase the 18inch barrel is too short to slide into a bushing in the tube. If you are interested I would sell it to you for a good price.


  10. Jeff/Mr. B.,

    Just don’t get a moderator from Talon Tunes. What a hassle that guy Anthony is to deal with, and his moderator is no better than airhog. Stick with reputable folks, such as those already mentioned above, and you won’t go wrong.

  11. B.B.

    I was very surprised to learn that prior to the Winchester 94, lever action rifles used pistol calibers (still the case in cowboy action shooting I believe). Is that right? If so, why bother with the hassle of a long gun? Are the muzzle velocity and accuracy sufficiently better? Not with Elmer Keith around….


  12. Wayne,

    my most sincere apology for the comment I made during an earlier blog, should it have offended you. You are one of the most entertaining and vocal contributors, who should not have to hold back. If I do have a beef, it’s that you mentioned on several occasions that you have an IZH 61 sitting in its box. This is blasphemy. Get that gun out and see what you can do to a 10 meter target!

    W. PA

  13. Matt61,
    A rifle barrel can increase 38 Spec to near 357 mag velocities and 44 Spec to 44 Mag. But in the days of black powder the gain was even greater, not to mention that the accuracy was far greater in a rifle. Common pistols of the day had no real sights. They usually had a notch in the hammer spur or the frame as a rear sight and a front sight that was as wide as the notch. On top of all this the early cart. that interchanged were largely rimfire balloon cases which were rather weak. The 44-40 only pushed a 200 grain lead slug to 650 fps from a pistol,and about 1000 fps in a rifle.


  14. Kevin,
    You are persistent and patient, and so here are the answers you have been awaiting to your self proclaimed “stupid questions.”…

    1.) Of course. It improved about 10%.

    2.) Of course. Rich is faster than anyone that I spoke with. I would be willing to wait for Ken Reeves, but no more than 6 months.

    3.) Rich supplied me with the shroud, and it really did alter the rifle’s sound so that all you heard basically was the action. It also makes the rifle look customized.

    4.) After 500 shots the inoffensive odor has been reduced about 2/3. Nothing to be concerned about, just a curiousity.

    – Dr. G.

  15. Kevin,
    Re. the Crossman Premiers of the famed Cardboard Box…I had tried them with nothing better than mediocre results in my .22 CO2 powered 850 and in my .22 PCP Rapid. Actually, the pellets were really good at leaving dirty deposits on my fingers. I figured that if they did that to my fingers, then they would do that to the bore (unless I lubed them, which I am not about to do as I am not a completley crazed airgun enthusiast), and about the last thing that I want to have to do is clean out the bore.

    So, I gave up using the Cardboard Box pellets, and cannot recall whether I even have a box in .177. Since I found several brands/types of really accurate, clean pellets that are effective in these rifles, I cannot foresee ever using the Cardboard Box pellets. I know they have a great reputation – that is in part why I purchased them – but my results are my results.

    The Air Arms Diabolo in .22 also work the best of about 18 pellets that I tried in my Rapid. Clearly, a well manufactured product. – Dr. G.

  16. Dr G.

    I sent my FWB 124 to Rich in Mich based on your positive reviews. (Also Mr. Watts is not currently accepting any new guns this month)

    Since I have 3 Watts’ tuned airguns, it will be interesting to compare and contrast the work. Admittedly, it would be better if one were another 124. I may purchase a second, just to conduct my own amateur comparison.

    Paul does not need the endorsement, but I have been nothing but 100% satisfied with his work, and I think about 3 months is the max time I’ve ever waited.

    Wayne – as promised, when I received your CFX today with the gas ram I managed to ruin it in less than two hours. I think I used the wrong lube on the piston – clear stuff from JM- I believe maybe it should of been the Moly paste or the Black tar? No matter, it sounded like .22lr when I fired it and the breech will no longer rotate. I doubt that it is worth repairing.

    But I was able to disassemble and re-assemble the rifle.

    Baby steps.


  17. Matt61,

    The Winchester 1894 rifle is made in mostly rifle calibers, with the Winchester .30 caliber centerfire (.30 WCF or .30-30) being the first. It has been chambered in a few pistol calibers in recent years, but that is because Winchester no longer makes the 1892 model, which was pistol calibers only. So was the 1873, the 1866 and the 1860 Henry.

    Back in the days of those rifles, it was popular for a man to own both a rifle and revolver chambered in the same caliber, with .44 WCF (.44-40) being by far the most popular. Cowboy action shooting has brought that back. Sam got it right when he said the longer rifle barrel gave superior power, because in those days, all cartridges were loaded with black powder, only. Like pneumatics, the longer the barrel the more velocity you get.


  18. Jeff,

    Pyramyd will probably have another sale in the future. They get returns and repaired guns and things that just don’t sell, and this is a way of clearing them out to make more room. They did virtually the same thing at the Roanoke airgun show last year.


  19. Volvo,

    Don’t give up yet. Pull slightly back on the underlever to take the tension off the rotary breech and it may open. Maybe it got stuck with the explosion (why did you lube the gas spring? I doesn’t need lube.) and just needs to be jarred loose again.


  20. Dr. G.,

    You’re a gentleman. Thanks for the input. You’ve pushed me over the edge I’ve been teetering on as to tune the 54 or not. The carbon fiber shroud is an interesting option. Based on your pellet tests last week I ordered the Air Arms Diablo pellets in .22. Your results make me anxious to try them. Unfortunately Paul Watts won’t touch a .54 so my options are Ed, Ken or Rich and based on your experience I’m leaning toward Rich. When the snow flies here my .54 will fly off to a tuner. Thanks for your guidance.


  21. B.B.

    I will give the CFX another try like you advised. I “buttered” the gas spring like you showed in your R-1 book. The CFX had no vibration, but was the loudest I have ever heard in a break barrel – hence the generous application.

    Since I it only made it for 3 shots after re-assembly, it is now very very quiet.


  22. B.B.

    You are a genius. I tried pulling the cocking lever half way, and breech rotated effortlessly. It is actually slightly discolored from the explosion.

    You may be able to guess the next question. After I strip and degrease it, any tips to quiet it down? I have the 3-lube sample kit from JM, if that helps.

    I would like to change my status as Dean Martin of air gunning.


  23. Volvo,

    I’m no genius. I just had the same thing happen to me and somebody else who knew better told me what to do.

    On the sound, I will tell you what I know. Gas springs have the reputation for being loud. Many shooters say they can hear a crack when the gun fires. It’s not a supersonic wave from the pellet, but apparently comes from the gas spring unit.

    I have never heard this sound, because I have both hearing loss and a ringing in my ears. But I do know that there is nothing that can stifle the sound I’m describing. Buttering the gas piston didn’t work because that wasn’t what caused the sound. You may either have to put up with it or get rid of it – if you are describing the sound I’m talking about.


  24. B.B.

    Right on the money with the crack at firing. I would guess my hearing is not up to par either, as I don’t recall wearing protection until the 1980’s.

    I value quiet as I often shoot at night when others are sleeping or in my suburban backyard, out of the city limits, but with many neighbors.

    If this is typical of the gas ram, I’m glad I found out now, before I had one installed in my BSA.


  25. W.PA,

    You did no harm. I crossed the line and got way off subject.. I am going to think more before commenting.. Thank you for your friendly reminder… by the way, I should really call my self a Jeffersonian/Independent

    The Izh61 has been used by Josh and his kids for the last month. They say it’s great after the magazine issue worked itself out.. They had to help feed the magazine for the first 100 shots or so, then it was fine.


    Glad your having fun and learning at the same time.. who knows it might turn out great, you got more guts than me by far…if it shoots good again, don’t forget to do the trigger.. Let me know when your ready to tear into my HW-55T, just to see what’s inside..


    I will buy your Airhog Condor bloop tube, if you still have it.. I would love to quite down my Condor, it is super accurate…. and so loud on full power.. let me know if you need my email.

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  26. Wayne,

    thanks for the encouragement, but I would not subject a classic HW to my novice dissecting. I haven’t even attempted my own higher end rifles.

    Dean Martin never wrote his own songs or music, but was arguably a great entertainer.
    Maybe not tuning or working on my own airguns is not so bad. Once I’m done with the CFX, it will not be a keeper for me.

    BG Farmer,

    I think I read you like underlevers? I know you are talented enough because you did a “how to” blog before. Let me know if you’re interested in a CFX – for a song.


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