Fun at the flea marketFinding a Haviland & Gunn BB pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

One of the things I miss about the days of The Airgun Letter was the local flea market my wife and I attended every Sunday for two decades. It was a gold mine for rare and vintage airguns–some of which I bought and others I let slip through my fingers. Today, though, I’d like to tell about the gun my wife, Edith, found. It turned out to be the best deal we ever closed at that market!

I have told this tale briefly in the blog twice before, but today you’ll read the entire thing.

The Columbia, Maryland, flea market was held in the parking lot of the Columbia Mall. Once every month, it expanded many times in size and called it Super Sunday.

On the day in question, the flea market had actually become smaller and less exciting for us. It had already given up many super finds, and I guess we’d become jaded by our success. You know how it is. You go there with the idea of finding a new-in-the-box Sheridan Supergrade and are disappointed at having to put up with not one but two tinplate Sentinel BB guns for $100 each. As well-worn as they were, they were only worth about $600-800 each, so you wisely passed them up. Thank goodness they never had the bad manners to ever appear again! Unfortunately, neither did that Sheridan in the box.

On the Sunday in question, I’d gone to the flea market and made a quick pass-through on my own in the morning. Gotta get there early if you wanna get the worms! But this day, Edith was also set on going, so I went back with her that afternoon.

She was eyeballing the contents of a glass case filled with an assortment of trinkets…Avon containers, jewelry, scarves, wrist watches, plastic squirt guns and more. She saw a shiny object sticking up through the jumble and carefully dug in to pick it up. As she pulled it out, she noticed it was a gun. It didn’t look like any gun she’d ever seen, so she asked the vendor if he knew what it was. He thought it was a metal squirt gun that was missing the stopper on the water reservoir. Edith turned to me and said that she didn’t think it was a squirt gun, then offered the guy $5–and he was glad to get it.

Small cast iron pistol was a puzzlement to the vendor who sold it.

The pistol was a small cast-iron gun with screw threads in the bottom of the grip. I noticed that the base of the butt had a spring retainer plate screwed in, so I unscrewed it. Out came the spring retainer, a coiled steel spring and a steel rod with a leather washer in the shape of a fat doughnut between two metal plates. That was a spring-piston powerplant, no doubt. It had nothing to do with water!

Disassembly revealed a spring-piston powerplant. No doubt this is an airgun!

The pistol has a breech that is obviously sealed by a part this gun was missing. I assembled the parts after oiling the leather seal, then I loaded a .177 round lead ball in the barrel and held my finger over the breech. When the gun fired, the ball came out with some force! This was definitely a BB gun.

A breechblock is missing. It fits in the groove at the base of the breech to seal the air generated by the piston–another leather breech seal.

The Blue Book of Airguns wasn’t published in those days, but if it had been I would have learned that we had a Haviland & Gunn model of 1872. According to the price guide in the latest book, the value today is about $500 for what we had, though a buyer might be willing to pay more, because of the rarity of the piece. The spring retainer plate is stamped with a May 21, 1872 patent date.

The gun is cocked by pulling down on the steel piston rod. Seeing those threads in the base of the grip, the vendor thought a water hose was supposed to be attached to the gun. It fit the story he made up, and I guess he believed it.

After showing the gun around at the next Roanoke Airgun Expo, collector Roger Blaisdell told me a friend of his would make a breech for the gun if I wanted. I had it made and the little gun actually fired after a fashion

Three years after Edith made her find, a friend of mine bought a rare Pope air pistol at the same flea market. My own list of finds from there runs into double digits, with some of them being quite remarkable. But nothing ever equaled that penny-on-a-dollar find Edith found that Sunday so many years ago.

A look back in time – the Beeman SS2 short scope

by B.B. Pelletier

You readers seem appreciative of the vintage airguns I show you from time to time, so today I want to show you something else that’s old and wonderful. The Beeman SS2 is a short scope made for Beeman by Japanese scope manufacturer Hakko. When it sold from the mid-1980s until well into the ’90s, it was part of a trio of short scopes Beeman offered. The SS1 was a 2.5×16 scope that was the smallest of the trio and the SS3 was a 1.5-4×16 scope that was just a quarter-inch larger. The SS2 was the largest and most feature-filled of the three.

The Beeman SS2 short scope looks right on this Diana model 27. It would need some kind of scope stop to stay in place.

At just a quarter-inch under seven inches long, the SS2 was one of the shortest scopes of its day. It was available as a 3x and a 4x fixed-power scope. Both had 21mm objectives; and because the mounts were built-in, their entire optical package was the same size. Despite being smaller than a one-inch tube, the SS2 has a bright exit pupil and the image appears full-sized.

The SS2 had adjustable parallax, and I was surprised when researching this report to discover that it went down to LESS than 5 yards! My own example seems clear at 12 feet. Shades of an early Bug Buster. In fact, it was the SS2 that primed me for the Leapers compact scopes when I first saw them at the 1996 SHOT Show. They were priced in the $35-50 range back then, while the SS2 was selling for $305 to $370! Yes, the SS2 was expensive.

AO rings goes well past the 5-yard mark. This scope is clear enough to see screw threads from 12 feet away. An early Bug Buster?

Illuminated reticle
The top-of-the-line SS2, designated as SS2L, came with an illuminated reticle. In those days, illuminated reticles were not common, so this was considered an important feature. Of the three SS2 scopes I’ve owned over the years, one had the illuminated reticle, plus I had all the color filters that went with it. The reticle was illuminated by a skylight overhead that brought ambient light to the reticle. Colored filters let the user change the reticle color to suit personal taste. There was no electric illumination, but a frosted dome was screwed over the skylight to gather ambient light from every direction. This proved very effective until the ambient light failed altogether.

Optically, the SS2 is a bright, clear scope. The low magnification guarantees that to a great extent, just as it does the close focus, but the optics were still very good for their day. Collectors will still pay premiums to get these scopes for their small bright optics, though I have to observe that a Leapers 4×40 Tactedge scope is just as bright and clear.

Integral mount
Another good feature of the SS2 is its integral mount. The 11mm jaws are held parallel by a set of pins that can be swapped to fit any size base in the 9.5mm to 13.5mm range that 11mm scope bases may be. Different length pins held the tops of the base farther apart or closer together and allowed the base jaws to be perfectly parallel and square to the receiver. Because the scope and mount are one, the scope tube cannot be rotated to level the reticle, so being square to the receiver is important. Many of the scopes that still exist will not have their pins any longer, so look for them if you want a complete set.

Here’s the thousand-word picture. The pin you see is one of two (the other one is still in place) at the top of the mount to keep the jaws parallel and the scope reticle aligned. Every scope came with a set of pins of different lengths for different width scope bases.

The one drawback of this scope is the lack of a scope stop. It’s ideal for pneumatic and CO2 guns, but there’s nothing to prevent it from moving in the rails of spring-piston guns. However, there are many solutions for that. You can use either a separate scope stop, which will position the eyepiece farther forward. That must be taken into account. Or you can jam something in the scope stop holes on the gun and have it make contact with the integral scope base. That isn’t the best solution, but it could be made to work in a pinch.

The duplex reticle was fine for the lower magnification offered by the scope, but many would find it coarse today. It’s certainly not a target reticle.

Though the years have passed and other great scopes have entered the market, airgunners still hold the SS2 in high regard. It continues to command a value of several hundred dollars in trades at airgun shows. I have no idea what one is actually worth today, but I think it’s more a case of what someone is willing to pay. Usually, it’s safe to say that optics keep getting better with time, but this is one scope that may be an exception.

Diana 27 – Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today, we’ll look at velocity after fixing the Diana 27 breech with a new leather seal. Vince is our resident spring rifle expert, and he voiced some concern about the new seal being cut flush with the breech face. I admit to the same misgivings, but when I looked at other vintage breakbarrels, I’ve noticed they all look the same–a flush seal. And they all work well. I think maybe the leather acts in a dynamic way when hit with the high-pressure airflow from the transfer port. It moves to seal the breech.

At any rate, I tested the same pellets that were used in the failed velocity test before, so we have a direct before and after comparison.

Eley Wasps
Before the seal replacement, Wasps averaged 444 f.p.s. before oiling the piston seal and 225 f.p.s. after.

The Eley Wasp is not readily available anymore in the U.S., but I still have a few tins set aside for tests like this. It’s very oversized for the .177 Diana breech. As a result, a considerable portion of the bottom of the skirt remains outside the breech. The Diana breech is cut on an angle; so when the pellet is seated, the bottom goes in last. The Wasp doesn’t go in all the way. When the breech is closed, the pellet is actually damaged at this point.

Eley Wasp is a domed pellet that’s large in both .177 and .22 calibers. It’s not a premium pellet in price but does shoot surprisingly well in many guns.

Wasps are large and don’t go into the barrel as deep as they should. Because the breech face is angled, this lip sticks out and gets damaged when the breech closes.

When the breech closed, it bent the lip of the skirt up. That’s hard to see in this photo, but you can see where it smashed the side of the lip against the breech face. It actually did this on both sides of the skirt, but the field of view is so narrow that the opposite side is out of focus.

Because of that (I think) the velocity with Wasps was very erratic. They recorded several in the 588-620 f.p.s. range, but others went 242-269 f.p.s. I wondered about that and decided to seat them deeply in the bore with a ballpoint pen. That put them about 1/8″ into the bore, where no skirt damage was possible. But it also delivered only the lower velocity range, and there was usually a spray of oil from the top of the breech. When I seated them just by finger pressure, there was no spray. Wasps don’t seem to be a good pellet for this rifle.

RWS Basics
The RWS Basic is a wadcutter that weighs 7 grains. Before the breech seal was replaced, they recorded an average of 475 f.p.s. when the piston seal was dry and 212 f.p.s. after it was oiled.

After the seal was replaced, they averaged 658 f.p.s., with a tight spread of 650-666 f.p.s. They fit the breech very well and may turn out to be a great pellet for this rifle.

Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets
Before breech seal replacement, light Crosman Premiers recorded 580 f.p.s. before oiling the piston seal and 321 f.p.s. after. After seal replacement, they recorded an average of 588 f.p.s. with a spread from 577 to 595. They’re a very good fit in the breech and will possibly be another accurate pellet in this rifle. Notice that they came the closest to the after velocity before seal replacement. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s worth noting.

RWS Superdomes
RWS Superdomes seemed to be the least affected by oiling the former bad breech seal. They recorded 412 f.p.s. before oiling the piston seal and 393 f.p.s. after oiling.

After breech seal replacement, Superdomes averaged 591 f.p.s., with a range from 582 to 601. They fit the bore well and look like yet another candidate for an accurate pellet for this gun.

This breech seal replacement seems to have worked well. The rifle has all the power we expect from a Diana 27, and I note that much of the spring twang is now gone. That must mean the internals are in good shape.

The rifle has gone from average to excellent with just a breech seal replacement and a trigger adjustment. The next step is to pull it all apart and dive into the internals.

I’m currently under the gun on several deadlines, so the next report isn’t going to happen soon. But I want you to hold me to it, because this is one rifle you will all want to see revealed.

Diana 52 – the tactical version Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Guest blogger
Mo’s finishing up his Diana 52, as he converts it from a mild, unassuming air rifle into a tactical gun. If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them) and they must use proper English. We will edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Diana 52 – the tactical version
Part 2

by Mo

Part 1

In this segment, I’ll paint the metal parts, reassemble the gun and add some tactical accessories.

Before and after pictures of the triggerguard.

The breech before and after sanding, cleaning and rubbing. I put more work into the breech after I disassemble the rifle.

Now, I’ll prep the barrel.

I used double-sided tape to seal off the muzzle. Trim off the ends (before attaching the tape) so the front of the barrel gets an even coat. Use masking tape for the end that contacts the action. Always cover a large part as the paint tends to fly onto parts you dont want to coat.

Here’s the barrel after 1 coat of primer, 3 coats of paint and 2 coats of clear. I removed the paint from the barrel due to a large scratch, then repainted it.

The cocking arm needed attention too. I did not disassemble it from the
action since it needed only a touch up. I covered the surrounding parts
with paper and masking tape. If yours needs a proper paint job, disassemble it and pay close attention to the joints and hinges. Painting them could hinder free movement. Quickly clean off those parts after each coat to prevent sticking. A light coat of mineral spirits on these parts before painting will prevent the paint from adhering.

The cocking arm painted and drying.

Now, to the buttpad, which is made of three parts:

1. A white plastic spacer that contacts the stock wood.
2. A black rubber spacer that contacts the plastic spacer.
3. A thick brown rubber end that contacts the black spacer.

It takes a bit of work to separate these components. I cleaned the black rubber and the white plastic thoroughly to get them back to their original condition. Then, I installed only the white plastic sleeve and the black rubber part. The end pad was discarded so it doesn’t spoil the new look. Plus, the scope relief feels better and so is the hold because the rifle now has a shorter pull. Of course, you may not like a shorter pull, so you’ll have to consider that when you transform your rifle. The only flipside is that the buttpad cannot be rested on a smooth surface since only the screws make contact.

Here’s the finished rifle.

Here are some general tips I’d like to pass along to you. If you’ve done a lot of painting, you may already know this:

Each coat should be a full coat to maintain consistency.

DO NOT paint the stock in installments as the coats may dry as different shades.

Monitor how the paint responds to different holds, distances, etc., and use it to your advantage for a perfect the job.

Once all the coats have been completed, give it a couple of days to dry
completely. Paint may appear dry on the outside, but will need 12 hours to fully dry. Leave it for a few days and then apply the clear.

Once the painting is done, give it a couple coats of clear following the same guidelines. Just because it’s transparent doesn’t mean you can slack off. If not done properly, clear coats will ruin all your work. If done properly, they’ll preserve and showcase the finish for a long time.

Wait for a couple days before reassembling it and shooting.

To complete the look, I fabricated a muzzle weight/suppressor and had it painted in matte black. It’ made of steel with aluminum alloy baffle inserts and is secured with two grub screws. A suppressor is legal in England but illegal in the US unless licensed. More info about silencers and airguns can be found here.

Seen here with the silencer attached. It’s the same diameter as the action and 20cm long.

I do a lot of my shooting seated. The 52 is very forgiving when it comes to hold, so decided to attach it to my camera tripod.

Tripod mount that attached to where the sling stud used to be.

This is the tripod. It’s a Sony VCTR640 and extends from 20″ to 60″ high. Costs $49.99.

Here’s the rifle mounted on the tripod. The groups didn’t suffer one bit.

Now I can say for sure that the rifle shoots as good as it looks!

Diana 27 – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

If you can remember back to the .177 Diana 27 I started testing in December, you’ll remember that the breech seal was destroyed and needed replacing. Several readers suggested I use a modern synthetic breech seal, but I wanted to keep the look as original as possible, so I opted to try a leather breech seal first.

This is the old breech seal. Bits of leather have torn out and an oil spray comes out of the breech with every shot.

You can see the groove the new seal must fit. This photo is like an Escher print until you decode it in your mind. We’re looking at a breech that’s pointing up–away from us. The groove for the seal is wide and flat and there’s a stub of the barrel in the middle. This is where the new leather seal has to fit.

I was going to cut out the new seal with a razor knife, but someone pointed me to a set of nine punches that Harbor Freight sells for $5, and I could hardly argue with that price. Of course, shipping more than doubled the cost, but it was still a no-brainer. What I wasn’t prepared for was how nice the punches would be. They are well beyond my expectations and went a long way toward making this job an easy one. They took a couple weeks to arrive; and when they did, I went straight to work.

Nine good punches for five dollars is too good to pass up.

I knew the leather belt I used would work for this job because I’ve used it for similar projects in the past. But for those who wonder, I measured it with a dial caliper and found it was thicker than the depth of the breech groove.

I measured the leather belt to make sure it was thick enough to make a good breech seal.

I foolishly thought this job was going to be straightforward and quick. Boy, was I in for a learning curve! The hard leather belt chosen for the seal material resisted the punch, making it impossible to cut. However, I’ve worked leather before and know wet leather works better than dry, so the belt went into the drink for several days. After that, the punches cut it like warm butter. I backed it with a 4×4 timber when punching, and that soaked up the force of the blow so the punches didn’t dull.

The outside diameter of the seal was easy to cut, and there’gs a punch in the set that is within a few thousandths of being the exact size. When I tell you how I work the seal into the groove, you’ll appreciate that a few thousandths is immaterial–it’s an exact fit. So, the outside was easy to punch out. It was the inside hole that fought me.

There’s an inside punch that’s also very close to the outside diameter of the breech stub. That one will cut the inner hole–making a leather doughnut to fit into the groove at the breech. But this time there was a real problem. The outside of the punch is tapered. When it cuts the hole, it also squeezes the leather away from the hole it has just cut. That makes the hole too large. It took several attempts to discover this.

The taper on the outside of the punch spread the inner hole too much when cutting the leather. I had to use a smaller punch to get the hole the right size.

Once I discovered how the job was done–a thoroughly wet leather and cutting the inner hole first–the job went fast. Notice that the bottom three seals are torn. That’s because I cut the inner hole last and used too large a punch. The top three seals don’t look nice, but any of them will work well, because they will be mashed into the seal groove.

Also, no matter how carefully I worked, I could never get the center hole in the exact center of the outer hole. It just didn’t want to cooperate. So I sat there wondering what to do next, and that’s when it hit me. I was working with leather! Good old pliable, malleable leather. It didn’t HAVE to be centered! The way to finish this job is to pound the leather seal into the groove and trim it to the right height. The wet leather will flow into every crevice that way, and when itll be the perfect shape when it dries.

To get the best possible shape from my work, I cut the inside hole first. If it looked good, I then cut the outside. Doing it the other way ruined every seal I made.

I selected a seal that was close to the fit I wanted and pressed it into the open breech seal groove of the gun, with the finished side of the leather down toward the bottom of the groove. I used a plastic mallet to hammer the seal into place until it seemed to go in no farther. The hammering spread the leather in all directions, so I know it fits the groove perfectly. At that point, I had a mass of leather spread out all over the breech, but you would have thought from a glance that it would never fit properly. The final step was to trim the leather flush with the breech face, giving me the fit you see here. For this trimming, you need a razor-sharp knife, and maybe some of you will remember that we had a lively discussion on this blog about sharpening knives. I used an Opinel kitchen paring knife, sharpened on my Warthog sharpener that I reported on at the end of this report.

This is what is in the gun now. It’s flush with the breech and looks good.

After trimming, I oiled the seal heavily over the next several days. The oil soaked into the new seal, giving me what you see in the photo.

And how does it work? Well, you’ll just have to wait for the next report to find out!

VZ35 and VZ47 – two interesting military trainers

by B.B. Pelletier

I promised this report to Chuck late last year, and now we have another annonymous reader who wants a military “BB gun” with more power than the Crosman M1 Carbine. Well, neither one of these rifles is really a BB gun, but the round lead balls they shoot look enough like BBs that many people think of them that way. These two air rifles are perhaps the finest military trainers of all time!

Please forgive the black and white photos. I took them from the files of The Airgun Letter, because the color slides are too time-consuming to locate. But the color images I show convey the warm look of the VZ35.

VZ35 is a handsome full-sized military trainer. This one is missing the upper handguard.

VZ47 looks nice by itself, but suffers next to the older 35.

After World War I, the allies imposed restrictions on the defeated nations regarding the firearms they were allowed to make and use. They also imposed limits to the types of forces they could raise and maintain. At first there was strict adherence to the rules, but over time the guard was relaxed and creative things were done to circumvent the restrictions. The military training airgun was a direct result of this, though there had been a BSA artillery trainer several decades earlier. But the two Czechoslovakian airguns we will see today are intended as airgun analogs for military service rifles. They look the same, and the earliest one–the VZ35, could accept the same bayonet that was standard on the CZ 24 Mauser rifle of the era. I owned an example of both rifles for several years, which gave me the opportunity to test and shoot them at my leisure.

VZ35 has a bayonet lug that accepts the same bayonet as the CZ24 rifle. Note the robust end cap!

In contrast, you can see how the 47 was made to be cheaper to produce. No bayonet lug and look at the stamped-metal end cap.

The VZ35 was made by the Czech State Arsenal in Brno before World War II. The label VZ35 means model 35, or something to that effect. It was a stand-in for the Czech service rifle, the Mauser CZ 24 that some experts consider one of the finest model 98 Mausers ever made. Certainly, no one can fault the Czech arms-making ability then or now.

The air rifle is full-sized, weighing over 9.5 lbs. and measuring 43.5″ overall. It’s the same size as the Mauser it copies. The stock on mine appeared to be made of blond ash or oak, but many of them seem to be made of dark beech. All the metal is highly polished and deeply blued except for a few parts, like the rear sight leaf, which are left in the white. The stock has two sets of sling swivels, allowing the soldier to sling it underneath or along the left side.

The VZ35 butt has two sets of sling swivels

VZ35 forearm has a matching set of swivels. You can see the place at the top of the band where the upper handguard goes.

The bolt-action is unique. At rest, the bolt sticks straight out to the right side. When you want to cock the rifle, swivel the handle straight up, where it aligns with another length of lever concealed inside the stock and action. Aligned like that, they make one longer lever that is pulled back and down to pull the powerful mainspring and piston into lockup with the sear. It takes a powerful pull to cock this rifle.

Lift the bolt handle up like this, then rock it straight back to cock the rifle.

Gravity-feed magazine
Both rifles have a gravity-feed magazine that I used when helping Daisy fight their lawsuit from the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which tried to claim that Daisy’s gravity-feed BB magazine was flawed. With these two examples and a Gatling gun, I showed them the weakness of that argument, which proved to be the last argument in their case. They reached an out-of-court settlement shortly after their lawyer was shown how reliably such mechanisms work. Since you have to hold the rifle in a certain position to work the bolt when cocking, the BB was always ready to drop into the loading trough once it opened. On the 35, the magazine is a fancy steel funnel located atop the receiver. You pour 4.4mm lead balls into the space until it’s filled, then snap the spring-loaded cap in place to secure them. After that, the rifle can be fired as fast as the shooter can work the bolt.

VZ35 magazine is gravity-fed through this hopper. Those are 4.4mm copperplated lead balls.

On the 47, the makers simplified the flip-up magazine cover to a sliding sheet metal cover.

The firing mechanism is a classic BB gun type–part catapult and part spring-piston. The catapult gets the ball moving, then a sharp blast of air accelerates it to its 425 f.p.s. top speed.

A rifled barrel imparts a spin to the ball that delivers half-inch groups at 5 yards and decent groups at 10 meters. The rear sight is graduated out to 25 meters, but I found accuracy dropped off pretty sharply after 10. Since everything works on both models, they can be used to teach safe gun-handling techniques with far less danger, not to mention cost. When the soldiers were ready to graduate to their 8mm Mausers, the 5-lb. trigger-pulls must have seemed light compared to the 11-12 lb. pulls on the air rifles.

Airgun writer and collector Larry Hannusch wrote about seeing a sporter variation of the VZ35. It lacked the upper handguard and the military end cap/bayonet mount. He thought that was a special model, since the ones he’d seen were missing the national crest, but my own 35 was also missing the crest and the upper handguard. And mine had all the military mountings on the stock. I think there was some kind of soldier send-back program that caused the rifle to be disassembled and that’s where the handguards went. As for the missing crest, I can offer no explanation.

I had occasion to completely strip and overhaul the VZ35, which is how I learned about the BB gun nature of the internal parts. The mechanism is very complex, and I don’t recommend anyone following in my footsteps. No velocity improvement seemed possible at that time.

After WW II, the Czechs produced a simplified second model they called the VZ47. In function, it copies the VZ35 closely, but many corners were cut to lower production costs. The 47 does not accept a bayonet, and all the hardware is made from stamped metal instead of forgings. Everything is thinner and lighter, resulting in a rifle that weighs about 8.5 lbs.

The finish is also noticeably of a lower standard on this rifle. The bluing is matte and not as deep as on the older airgun. The wood finish seems lacking and nondescript. However, if a VZ47 was all you saw, you’d be impressed. Only by association with the 35 does it suffer.

An importer brought in several hundred VZ47 rifles in the 1990s, and I helped them spread the word. The first batch retailed for $225 and the last batch for $260. The rifle was just as accurate as the older airgun, and many of them had unit markings on the stock.

Production air rifles will never again be made to this quality level, which is why I go to the airgun shows as often as I do. You wanted to see some bolt-action air rifles? Well, here are two of the best.

.177 Gamo Big Cat – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

First, a big THANK YOU to all the volunteers who are answering reader comments for me. Your help has given me back a couple hours a day, and it has made a difference.

Today, I’ll look at velocity of the Gamo Big Cat. Before I do, I want you to know that I spoke with the new Gamo CEO Lou Riley at SHOT, and he confirmed that the company is now finishing the trigger parts better than before. That’s why I noticed such a big improvement in the trigger-pull during the first test, and you will, too. The trigger is now a real two-stage with a repeatable first-stage stop. It comes out of the box feeling like a vintage Gamo trigger with 4,000 shots on it. I can’t say enough good things about how much better it feels.

Second, I remember that the Whisper was a delightful gun because of easy cocking. Well, the Big Cat is exactly the same. The breech detent is light but smooth, and cocking is a dream. Only 26-27 lbs. is needed to cock the rifle–almost as easy as a youth gun. With the power potential Gamo advertises, that’s a Beeman R9 by another name. No Rekord trigger, of course, but it’s also less than one-third the price.

Air Arms domed field pellets
Air Arms domed field pellets are made by JSB, I believe. They weigh 8.4 grains and are ideal for a spring rifle of this power. They averaged 906 f.p.s., and the spread was from 899 f.p.s. to 919 f.p.s. That’s just 20 f.p.s. for a brand-new spring rifle! The energy calculates to 15.31 foot-pounds for the average velocity.

RWS Hobbys
The 7-grain RWS Hobby is the vintage speed-demon of pure lead pellets. It averages 983 f.p.s., with a spread from 971 to 996. Gamo advertises the Big Cat at 1,000 f.p.s. with lead pellets and this is pretty darn close! The muzzle energy comes out to 15.02 foot-pounds.

Gamo’s own 5.2-grain Raptor is the only lead-free pellet I tested. It averaged 1151 f.p.s. with a low of 1133 f.p.s. and a high of 1167 f.p.s. That’s a total spread of 34 f.p.s. for a pellet close to the sound barrier. Not too shabby in my book! Muzzle energy averages 14.71 foot-pounds for this one. Gamo advertises 1,200 f.p.s. with PBAs, so it’s off by a little but in the same neighborhood. I tell you guys and gals, I’m pretty impressed by all the performance I’m seeing here.

Gamo Master Point
Another Gamo pellet, the Master Point, was the only one of the four that fit tight in the breech. It’s a pure-lead pellet that weighs 7.9 grains, so it’s in the same weight range as the Air Arms dome. They averaged slightly slower than the Air Arms pellets at 905 f.p.s., and I think the tight fit is the reason for that. The spread went from a low of 893 f.p.s. to a high of 919 f.p.s. Muzzle energy calculated at 14.37 foot-pounds.

The test rifle shoots with almost no vibration. The easy cocking, smooth trigger and smooth shot cycle combine to make the Big Cat a winner in my book. It’s easier now to see where all the good customer reviews are coming from. There is but one more hurdle to clear–accuracy.