A blast from the past: Balderdash, March 1994

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I’m heading to Ohio today to be at the Pyramyd Air moving sale tomorrow. Please stop by if you can, and please introduce yourselves, so I know who I have met.

The early issues of The Airgun Letter had a “Balderdash” column, where I would quote a widely held/believed myth and present evidence to either prove or refute it–a sort of early Mythbusters. Here’s the first one I wrote in March 1994.

MYTH #1:
The .22 pellet is inherently less accurate than the other calibers.

I love this one. “Why is it less accurate?” you ask.

“Well,” they say, “it just is. That’s how things go, sometimes; you know how it is. Bigger calibers are less accurate.”

Balderdash, balderdash, balderdash, balderdash! Don’t you believe it for one second! As a former U.S. Army mortar platoon leader, I can assure you that my 4.2-inch (106mm) mortars out-shot the 81mm mortars every time. And don’t tell me that it was due to the larger weapon being rifled; because on the M68 gun cannon, which is the main gun on an M60-series tank and a rifle far more accurate than any you or I will ever own, the most accurate ammunition, APDS (armor-piercing discarding sabot), is fin-stabilized to STOP the spinning induced by the rifling!

Any artilleryman can tell you that the most accurate ballistic field artillery piece the U.S. ever had is the 8-inch (210mm) gun. In fact, it’s far more likely to hit its mark than the 155mm or the 105mm–both smaller bores. And, for real accuracy, there’s the incredible 15-inch naval rifle fired from our so-called obsolete battleships, that seem to get recommissioned every time there’s a crisis.

I once had a .458 Winchester Magnum that fired 558-grain Lyman cast bullets in front of a pinch of 2400 powder. It was like shooting a big .22. Ten of those leaden footballs would spiral through a ragged 2-inch hole (outside diameter) at 100 yards any time I cared to try. I bet you could have done even better.

The reason people don’t use .22 cal. target air rifles is because we don’t have .22 cal. target air rifles. They aren’t made, so they aren’t going to be used–period. There’s simply too much inertia to overcome. If you’re still in doubt, then answer this for me: Why is it that a Beeman .177 and .20 R1 will out-group a .22 version–but so will the .25? Those are Beeman’s figures from their 1994 catalog (remember–this Balderdash was written in 1994). Is the .22 pellet, perhaps, a handier perch for demons to sit upon as they steer the pellets astray? Should smallbore cartridge match weapons also be made in .18 caliber? Or possibly .12 caliber? Or maybe 0.0 caliber? Would 0.0 caliber guns be infinitely accurate? Science demands an answer.

“Well, with all the technology available to the airgun manufacturers in the world today, don’t you think someone would make a .22 if they were as good?” Right! With logic like that, American car manufacturers would have made quality cars all along, wouldn’t they? And our educators would have insisted on a quality education for American kids, and….

Nope–it’s inertia all right. Someday, some genius is going to “discover” that the .22 pellet is accurate; then we’ll have known it all along. Meanwhile, my iron-sighted Anschutz model 1954 .22 underlever (see page 144, Airgun Digest, Second Edition) that was salvaged from the Egyptian Army continues to poke .10-inch center-to-center holes (and under) at 10 meters–off a wadded-up down comforter rest!

The airguns of my youth

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start, I wanted to tell you about a huge price reduction on the Gamo Viper Express Air Shotgun & Rifle. Pyramyd Air has dropped the price by $60. Get yours while supplies last. If you’ve got carpenter bees, this might do the trick!

Guest blogger
This is Alan’s first guest blog for us. He’s been a lover of air power from an early age. He’ll take us down memory lane today, and I’m sure this will bring up fresh childhood memories for many of you. Enjoy!

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.

by Alan

Although my family lived in a major US city, both sets of my grandparents had farms in Central Illinois. And, growing up I spent most of my summers and school vacations there.

Firearms were still a way of life in that part of the country and had been for as long as anyone could remember. On my 10th birthday, my grandad presented me with what many boys our age dreamed of…my own Daisy BB gun.

I remember my excitement opening the box and finding the Model 1776 Golden Eagle. The Eagles’ peep site was designed to look like a rifle scope and the cool gold paint finish appealed to me. Without question, they made my gun better than my cousins’.  Our country was focused on the upcoming Bicentennial, making this model even more special to me.

Ownership or possession of the gun was transferred to me gradually after much safety training and a great deal of time shooting under adult supervision.

Looking back, one of my fondest thoughts surround the time I spent learning to shoot and handle the rifle with my grandfather, uncles and father. Even after I’d earned the right to shoot solo, many evenings were spent with the four of us sitting out front engaged in friendly shooting competitions. Cans were the target of the day, and I was the designated stacker. Since it was my gun, I was also encouraged with extra shots, and shooting advice.  Well, at least until I began to dominate the competitions. Pretty soon my Grandpa was stacking cans for extra shots and my uncle was disappearing when his turn came.

That Daisy kept me busy thousands of hours. Totally reliable, it just kept shooting. Chores were paid for in BBs. Out on the farm, my cousins and I learned the ground rules of group shooting and hunting of pests that would prep us for a future of game hunting and shooting clays.

As I began to outgrow the Daisy Golden Eagle, I had a great-uncle who invited us over for a fish-fry and to show me something very special he’d purchased. Uncle Ed liked firearms very much, and his interests included target shooting, small game hunting and shotgunning sports. He had Browning 28 gauges (to be sporting), custom 12 gauge over and unders (to win) and a number of pistols and revolvers that duly impressed me.

On that night, he made me wait until after dinner before unveiling his latest purchase. After all, if he didn’t, who would fry the fresh catfish and carp that he prided himself on? It was a big summer gathering, so we were eating out on the patio. After what seemed to be the longest dinner of my young life, Uncle Ed went into the house and returned several minutes later carrying some type of rifle. Wood-stocked and deeply blued, I was unfamiliar with it’s profile. Proudly handing it to me, he proclaimed that this was the Rolls-Royce of air rifles–the Sheridan Blue Streak.

This was rural Illinois, where Daisys and Crosmans were known items, but a high-quality pump-up pneumatic was something quite special.

The rest of the evening, we sat together at the bench in his backyard range (oh, those were the days!) and he went over its operation. Soon, we were shooting it together. We continued until it was too dark to go on. 

The Blue Streak remained Uncle Ed’s rifle for quite some time. Then, one day, after one of our many shooting sessions, he handed the Sheridan to me with the simple words,” I think this should be yours now.” I was elated but struggled to hide my emotions lest they undermine my new found maturity. I thanked him sincerely as one man to another, while inside my 14-year-old head I was jumping in the air screaming WooooHoooo!

The Sheridan Blue Streak was the crown jewel of airguns. Getting one from Uncle Ed as a gift when I was 14 was one of the highlights of my youth!

By this point in my life, my parents had moved out to the country and on to some acreage adjacent to my grandpa’s farm. I had lots of opportunities for shooting the Blue Streak. The .20 cal. pellets were more expensive and harder to come by than other airgun ammo, but as far as I was concerned it was worth it. After all, they looked more like “real” bullets than other pellets. And some claimed them to be optimal over a greater range of applications. So, they did posses a certain sophistication factor.

Back then most people didn’t have access to a chronograph, so power was often defined in penetration. The hard-hitting Daisy No. 25 pump was said to put a BB through a tin can, but the Sheridan did that and more with ease. 

In looking back over my shooting life, it was my Daisy BB gun and my family that taught me to love shooting. And it was my Great Uncle Ed and the Sheridan Blue Streak that taught me how to shoot.

Like many kids of that generation, I progressed to firearms and let airguns become a thing of my past. Then, one day, as a 40-year-old man, I met an airgun that would bring them back to the foreground! But that’s a different story.

You know you’re an airgunner if…

by B.B. Pelletier

Guest blogger
In the same vein as Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck if…,” my wife, Edith, would like to share her observations of how to identify a dyed-in-the-wool airgunner.

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.

by Edith (Mrs. B.B.)

When we were publishing the Airgun Letter, I noticed that airgunners are often drawn to the same things. While going to airgun shows, my husband would find lots of common ground with airgunners on things unrelated to airgunning. It was uncanny how many guys liked the same things.

At the show in Roanoke, Virginia, a number of us joined show coordinator Fred Liady and his wife, Dee, for dinner at a great Italian restaurant. Although there were several of us at the table, the most memorable were Josh and Boris from Pyramyd Air (if you’ve spoken to either one of them, you’re nodding in agreement). The conversation somehow switched to tractors. My husband loves the old ones, and Josh mentioned that he had vintage tractors and was rebuilding them. That was the first time I realized that airgunners had a lot of common interests outside this niche hobby.

You know you’re an airgunner if…watching a stirling engine is hypnotic
From the earliest days of our marriage, I noticed that Tom was fascinated by engines. If it was well-made or functioned in a unique or unexpected way, he was as captivated as a two-year-old flushing a roll of toilet paper.

The first time I witnessed his fascination with a stirling engine was when he saw a tiny one churning away atop a cup of steaming coffee. It was as if Australopithecus had just witnessed the first spark of fire made by his own hands. He was giddy…laughing and smiling at such wonderment. Ever since that time, I’ve been forced to look at every stirling engine he’s found at flea markets or seen in a catalog. Yes, they’re unique, but we have no use for one. And, no, we don’t own one. I’ve already got a houseful of airguns, so the thought of stocking up on hundreds of stirling engines has very little appeal.

You know you’re an airgunner if…you can easily identify any vintage tractor at great distance
Tractors were just as fascinating as stirling engines. Whenever we drive anywhere, he’ll point out old tractors on the side of the road or abandoned in a field. When he sees one for sale, the first thing I say is, “No, you can’t buy it.” We live on a lot the size of a postage stamp. What are we gonna do with a Johnny-popper the size of our back porch? My “just say no” attitude hasn’t stopped Tom from seeking out old tractors, reading tractor books and talking about them in terms of endearment.

I once tested the tractor-airgun link at a show. Tom was part of a small cluster of airgunners gathered before the show opened. I walked up to one of the guys that I knew and said we’d seen a certain vintage tractor while driving to the show. Immediately, the conversation turned to tractors. I rest my case.

You know you’re an airgunner if…you can identify the make and model of most airguns at 50 paces
When we lived in Maryland, we attended a weekly flea market held in the parking lot at a local mall. It was huge, and we bought quite a few collectible airguns over the years.

One time, Tom and I were standing in an aisle and he noticed an airgun at the bottom of a pile of rakes and other assorted garden and household tools, and he said it was a Daisy No. 25. Doesn’t sound unusual? The pile of stuff was three aisles over–about 50 yards. It’s staggering how he can identify a gun by the muzzle at this distance.

Yet, at the same flea market, we often went our separate ways and hooked up again an hour later. In order to do that (pre-cell phone days), I looked down each aisle to find Tom. When I did, I would call his name every 5-10 seconds, raise my right hand and waive in an exaggerated fashion as I walked toward him. It was comical to those who observed my metronome-like behavior. Tom would slowly turn around while standing in place to identify the source of the sound and to see if he could figure out which one of the people might be me. I had to get within 10-15 feet before he’d recognize me. He has visual agnosia (an inability to recognize familiar/common faces or shapes), but that applies ONLY to me. It does not apply to friends, other family members or airguns. We’ve now been married 27 years and nothing has changed. I had the same experience at Wal-Mart just last week. He was 20 yards away but didn’t know who I was until he followed the sound of my voice and got within 15 feet of me.

Visual agnosia is not common to airgunners, as far as I know, but the ability to identify airguns by the smallest visible part from distances that would make eagles jealous is a known trait.

You know you’re an airgunner if…you think it’s okay to spend $1,000 on a gun but highway robbery to pay $5.00 for a tin of pellets
Airgunners are not stingy, miserly or cheap. In fact, they often spend large quantities to acquire their prized possessions. But, they try to economize in areas that make no sense to me. Here are some examples.

When we were publishing the Airgun Letter, a man who was not a subscriber asked if we could fax him a past article about an Air Arms gun. He’d bought the gun and heard that we’d written a lot of useful info about it. At the time, we sold back issues of the newsletter for $2.25. He could give me a credit card or send a check, and I’d send him the newsletter. He told me he couldn’t afford to buy the back issue because he’d also ordered a custom Maccari stock for the gun. In all, he had over $1,000 in this rig. I didn’t fax the article, but I would soon find out that it was not considered irrational for an airgunner to spend a huge wad while economizing on the least expensive part of the hobby.

Another airgunner called to chat. He didn’t want anything from us, just wanted to talk to a fellow collector. When I asked what he was shooting in his gun, he told me he didn’t have pellets yet and was driving up to Rick Willnecker’s place in Pennsylvania to buy some. The caller lived in Virginia, so I was surprised that he’d drive several hours to buy pellets. When I mentioned this, he told me that he could save $1.00 a tin by driving up to Rick’s. He wasn’t buying a case or a large quantity…just a few tins. Whatever he saved on pellets would be spent on gas. Because I’ve heard this rationale more than once (not just about pellets but also about scopes, rings and other accessories), I have to include it as typical airgunner behavior.

That’s it for today. I’m sure other common traits will occur to me. If so, I’ll compile them in a future blog. If nothing else, this blog should serve many of you quite well. Print it out, show it to your spouse as evidence that you are part of an elite group with distinctive traits.

Carpenter bees

by B.B. Pelletier

One of the most obnoxious pests of warm weather is the carpenter bee. They are a large insect, somewhat larger than a bumblebee, with a hard, shiny beetle-like body. The ones in Maryland that I used to do battle with had white spots around their eyes, but I’ve seen others without them. [Males have white or yellow faces. Females do not.]

They are called carpenter bees because they bore round holes in raw wood. Painted wood controls them to a great extent. We had a rail fence between us and one neighbor that was the perfect place for them to build homes. Wikipedia says they don’t destroy structures, but I had to replace several rails from their constant boring, so I think whoever wrote that never saw an infestation like ours.

Carpenter bees are also very aggressive! Ours would “guard” our front door, hovering about four feet in the air and three feet from the door. They were constantly on station, so as one would depart, another immediately took its place. Whenever someone came up to the door or opened the door from the inside to leave the house, the bee would fly toward their face, hovering six inches from their nose as long as they were near the door. They then dive-bombed and buzzed the person until they were off the front porch and down the stairs, where a second gang of bees was waiting. Though they usually missed us in these passes, they would smack into us sometimes.

I put up with this state of affairs for exactly 15 seconds, and then went to work. Since I lived in Ellicott City, Maryland, a state with no compassion for gun rights, I had to lay low while conducting my private war on these bees. At first, I tried using a raquetball racket to eliminate them, but after getting a few they seemed to wise up. After that, they were too fast to swat.

If I had lived in a more rural place I would have used a shotgun to blast a cloud of 10-20 bees in the driveway that also supplied the sentinels at the front door. But we lived in town, so I had to try something else.

I bought a Marlin model 60 autoloader in .22 rimfire and tried to eliminate them with .22 birdshot. It worked for maybe 20 bees, but it was both too loud for the neighborhood and the birdshot didn’t work the rifle’s action. I needed something else.

Out came the Sheridan Blue Streak. On three pumps I sometimes only pushed the bee out of the way and they actually recovered in flight. I saw it happen too many times. But on five pumps I got a nice round hole in every bee I hit. I have seen bees with a round hole all the way through their thorax, walking on the pavement for several minutes–just to give you an appreciation of how tough they are!

It the beginning I tried to hit the bees as they hovered, but once they caught on to what I was doing, they started flying erratically. I know this adaptive behavior sounds too advanced for an insect, but perhaps I was messing with their natural selection. All I know is whenever I got good at hitting bees, they changed what they did.

And the Sheridan was too time-consuming to use. There were maybe one-hundred bees at any one time and I was getting maybe five a day. They were hatching faster than I could shoot. Then I tried my Diana 27. Although it is a .22 caliber gun and only capable of about 475 f.p.s., it seemed perfect for a carpenter bee. I could cock and load it rapidly and shoot perhaps ten bees before they started attacking me.

I have been told that carpenter bees have no stingers, but the gang around my house was so aggressive that they could unnerve you without any. And others have told me they do have stingers–they just don’t need to use them very often. Actually, the males that guarded our front door were the ones without the stinger and the females in the driveway had stingers, but don’t sting unless provoked. What they were doing in our driveway was mating, and because we walked through their area, they attacked us for being there. The front-door thing was probably just a bunch of juvenile-delinquent male bees staking out territory.

The Diana was the best medicine I found, but the bees out-bred me in the summer. In the spring and fall, I could keep up with them, but come summer, we lost the access to the front door for a couple months. I found I could hit them by instinct rather than with sights, and that really speeded up the process.

The funny thing was, after I thinned the bees out in the fall, I got an aggressive wasp about three inches long that sat in the middle of my front steps for hours on end. Back I went to the Blue Streak, because this wasp was just sitting on the steps. We couldn’t walk past it without getting attacked, but If we didn’t approach it, it left us alone. However, there are only so many times I will walk out the basement door before I get mad.

After sighting the Blue Streak in for 20 feet, I picked off this huge wasp with one shot! The part that I found was larger than a hornet, and almost the front half the wasp was missing! Two days later, though, another wasp took its place.

Years later I learned that this was a cicada killer (a type of wasp). My front steps were apparently the perfect place for a ground burrow that wasp made to lay its eggs. It then found a cicada in a tall tree (we had thousands of cicadas!) stung it, flipped it over and glided to its nest with the body, which it buried in the ground with an egg.

After the carpenter bees, these wasps were easy to eradicate. All I was doing was clearing the path to my front door. I’m sure hundreds of wasps were still doing their thing all around us.

Anyway, that is how I used airguns to eliminate some not-so-common pests around the house! Maybe someday I will tell you about killer icicles!

Airguns – I’ll never test ’em all!

by B.B. Pelletier

I’m writing this report at 3:30 a.m., because today and tomorrow I have a television show to tape. There is no more time left to test guns and to report on them, plus do all the other things I have to do! Hopefully this schedule will stabilize within a few months, but right now I am in the eyewall of the storm, and things are pretty busy.

I just answered a question from a new reader that sounds exactly like a hundred other questions I get every month. Have I tested such-and-such an air rifle? My answer was no, I haven’t tested that one (yet), but then it hit me–I PROBABLY NEVER WILL! Looking at my blog schedule and the guns I have waiting in the wings to test plus the other tests and experiments we are running, there’s no way I can ever test them all.

Rather than being the bad thing that this may sound like, it’s actually not bad at all, and I want to share the reason why. First, let’s take a quick look at how a new airgun can “happen.”

Company A decides to offer a new model. They look around and determine there’s no plant space remaining to build a new gun, nor do they want to hire the 2.1 new personnel a new model requires, so they decide to do something creative. They take one of their existing models–the Fast Pro 66, in this case. Right now the Fast Pro 66 is a traditional .177 breakbarrel that comes in a wood stock. It shoots light pellets at 1,000 f.p.s., the same as 24 other models they “make” and sell. They are having this rifle made in China, so the plant space and personnel requirements are at the very minimum. They can easily handle another gun like the Fast Pro 66 with no additional space or people. So, they tell their Chinese plant to put the barreled action in a synthetic stock instead of the wooden one and they eliminate the open sights. A sexy muzzlebrake is added to replace the front sight. They also stick on an inexpensive 4-power scope that comes in its own two-screw-cap mounts.

Voila! A new model exists! They call this one the Hyper-Pro 77 Tactical. It costs them $3.21 more to produce than the Fast Pro 66, so they bump the retail price by $25 and the MAP price by $12.91. The smaller dealers who buy them five at a time charge retail, but big dealers buy 100 at a time so they’re cheaper. The next thing you know, there’s a “new” air rifle on the market. I don’t even know about this new rifle until somebody asks me about it. Then I look and, sure enough, there the thing is. I read the specs and often I can even decode what the company has done to create the new model, but not always.

However, the Hyper-Pro 77 Tactical doesn’t sell very well, so the company only imports 1,200 of them before they decide to drop it from their line. They’re now using the synthetic stock on three other rifles that are selling well, so there is no loss for tool-up. When they make the decision to end “production,” larger dealers have sold 271 guns and all the other airgun dealers combined have sold another 296. So, there are 633 guns remaining in inventory.

Company A then decided to stock 400 of these guns with the wood stock from the Fast Pro 66–creating a new model, the Lightning Ultra 99. They stick on a 3-9×32 scope , but they reduce the retail to just under that of the Fast Pro 66, because they have a glut of 3-9×32 scopes in inventory. The new model kills the sales of the Fast Pro 66 and the Lightning Ultra 99 never takes off, either.

A year later, Company A sells all remaining Hyper-Pro 77 Tacticals, Fast Pro 66s and Lightning Ultra 99s to a large dealer. That, however, isn’t the end of the story.

Airgunners see these guns on the website for three years. They seem to be mainstream models to us. Unless we look closely, we cannot see that these are all the same air rifle, and sometimes even then it’s difficult to tell.

One day, a large dealer decides to clean house and sell off some excess inventory (maybe have a moving sale?). The remainder of these three models are piled on tables for customers and dealers to buy.

In the meantime, I am asked whether I have tested the Hyper-Pro 77 Tactical for the blog. No, I haven’t. I haven’t tested the other two models, either. I’ve been disassembling Diana 27s and testing the penetration of round lead balls and testing a hundred other new models–some of which actually are new and revolutionary.

Here’s the moral of this story and also the reason why it’s not a bad thing that I didn’t test even one of these three airguns. The performance specifications of each one of these rifles are very close to the specifications of 10 other models of breakbarrels I did test over the past 18 months. And when you consider that there are a finite number of airgun manufacturing plants in the world, it’s very likely that several of the rifles I did test are close to these guns, if not the exact same thing! Readers can learn to extrapolate from tests that are reported to models that are not tested, but which will offer similar performance in all probability.

This is not 100 percent the case, however. Long-time readers will remember when I vicariously “tested” a Gamo CF-X on January 6, 2006. I told everyone at that time that I had never laid eyes on the gun and wasn’t actually testing one for that report, but that I had tested so many similar airguns that I was able to “test” the CF-X by surrogate. Well, I heard from more than one reader about that! And a month later I tested an actual CF-X and reported on it. There were some surprises, because Gamo was in the middle of refining their spring gun powerplants at the time. The real CF-X I tested turned out nicer than the BSA Superstar I had used as a comparison.

But, folks, I have to tell you, that kind of surprise doesn’t happen very often. I always tell you in my reports when an airgun surprises me. I tell you HOW it surprises me, so you will know what to look for. If I don’t mention any surprise, there isn’t one–at least not from the gun I’m testing.

I’ll never get to them all. And now you know why. Those of you who have been reading this blog also know that airguns are similar enough that you don’t need to have each one tested to know something about most of them.

2009 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits

by B.B. Pelletier

Every year the NRA holds its general membership meeting in a different major U.S. city to allow a portion of their 4 million members to attend. A trade-show exhibit is held in conjunction with these meetings to allow manufacturers of guns and related products to showcase their wares to the public. Admission is free to NRA members, and non-members can attend for a small fee. This year’s show was held in Phoenix.

While the space in the exhibit hall is only about one-fifth the size of the SHOT Show, the attendance is almost triple. I’m sure the NRA set a new record for attendance this year. The Phoenix Fire Marshall actually stopped people from entering the exhibit hall on Friday, the first day, because he felt the hall was over-crowded. They held things up for 45 minutes, all the while more people were walking in the front door to register. When they saw the situation was going to get worse, they opened the hall once more. And Friday wasn’t the busy day! On Saturday, a significantly larger crowd attended.

This is about one-quarter of the display floor. Late afternoon, when the crowd had died down.

One super thing about this show is the airgun range. Anyone can buy a ticket to shoot a wide variety of airguns–both rifles and pistols–on this range. The range opens before the show does, so several hundred earlybirds can have some fun while they await the opening of the exhibit floor.

In the past, the NRA has concentrated on having 10-meter guns on the range, because that’s their major focus with airguns. But Pyramyd Air took over sponsorship of the range this year, and there were all sorts of different sporting airguns–including a couple big bores that were demonstrated periodically. All U.S. dealers were invited to attend and several actually did. You could have shot a Marauder or an FX Royale or gulp–the EDGE!

The airgun range was popular all day long. This is a quiet time, believe it or not.

This lucky young lady dragged her father to the airgun range just to shoot the new AirForce Edge.

I spent a lot of time at the airgun range, because that’s where I can see the public’s reaction to airguns. This year, there was a special experience in store. I saw a blind man shoot a 10-meter target! Yes, the NRA has long had a special program that reaches out to disabled shooters, and there aren’t many disabilities they cannot overcome. Vanessa Warner is the NRA manager of Disabled Shooting Services, and she was on the range helping people learn to use the special equipment her group makes available around the country. While I was there, she helped a shooter whose aneurism had caused stroke-like symptoms.

He’s blind, yet he shoots. Thanks to NRA manager Vanessa Warner’s special equipment and coaching, this sightless shooter is able to hear the target and to hit the bullseye! This scene was shown on the local FOX nightly news. Rifle is an FX Royale. Photo provided by the NRA Blog.

This shooter was in an electric wheelchair and had difficulty with upper body strength. Thanks to a special gun rest, he shot this group with an FX.

And they didn’t limit the age of the shooters. One young fellow couldn’t have been more than five, yet he shot everything he wanted, which included the Edge, a Gamo Big Cat and a Talon.

His feet don’t reach the floor, but there wasn’t an airgun he couldn’t shoot.

At noon, 2 PM and 4 PM every day of the show, Chris Lieb of Pyramyd Air demonstrated a Dragon Slayer to the public. The range was cold and all eyes were on him as he explained about the .50 caliber rifle. To demonstrate the gun’s power, he blew up an apple and a 2×4 downrange. Chris passed around a .50 “pellet” for everyone to examine.

Chris Lieb aims for an apple with the Dragon Slayer. Everyone paid attention!

The exhibit floor was set up similar to the SHOT Show, only the booths were much smaller. I made it to all the airgun exhibitors and to a lot of accessory exhibitors, as well. Hopefully, there will be one or possibly two new lines of optics coming to Pyramyd Air soon, and the features on them are unlike any you’ve seen thus far.

My home off the range was the Pyramyd Air booth.

Crosman is almost ready to bring out the new Challenger PCP, which will be either a 10-meter rifle or, in different trim, a field target rifle.

I bought several exciting things at the show that Pyramyd Air doesn’t stock (but I wish they did!). Maybe I’ll show them to you next week–if you like.

The show ended on Sunday after, what I feel, must have been a record turnout. While riding on the Phoenix Light Rail, I listened to the conversations of folks who didn’t attend the show and heard some heartwarming comments in support of gun ownership. Of course, this was in Arizona, which is still a free state.

Many of those who attended were carrying weapons, and not all were concealed. The buzz of the show was the action taken by Montana’s governor, who defied the federal government on gun ownership on May 7. Basically, all federal laws were declared null and void for guns, silencers and ammunition made in Montana and sold and used there. There is talk that if the feds intervene, Montana may vote to secede from the union. Texas is primed to follow for this reason as well as some others. So the anti-gun movement may now come to realize how the citizens of this country feel about their actions.

A Steroid Streak

by B.B. Pelletier

Our Steroid Silver Steak had a prototype scope mount that held a Beeman SS-2 short scope.

I’m doing this report for Mr. B, but I suppose many of you multi-pump shooters will be interested. In the world of Sheridan Blue Streaks and Silver Streaks there are two modifications that make the gun different. One is the pump-assist gun, and that modification is really applied to a Benjamin 392 instead of a Streak. The two guns are very similar except for the caliber. A Sheridan Streak is always .20 caliber.

The pump-assist gun develops the same power as the stock rifle, but the pump strokes are easier–especially the last few. There haven’t been very many of them produced, and they’re no longer being sold by Pyramyd Air, so that version is now in the collectible realm.

The other modification for Streaks is the Steroid modification that increases the rifle’s power. I bought one of these and tested it for The Airgun letter, so I will draw on that experience to present this report.

This prototype scope base brought the scope back so you could hold the rifle normally while pumping.

Tim McMurray of Mac-1 Airguns developed the Steroid Streak in answer to customer requests for more power. Of course, more power is always the request, but Tim got a Streak up around 20 foot-pounds, where the standard rifle is down around or just under 14 foot-pounds. The difference is significant–especially to hunters.

Our rifle was a Silver Streak that Tim brought to Maryland when he paid our field target and 10-meter clubs a visit one year. We bought the rifle to test it for our readers. As a side note, we had also recently tested a special one-off Blue Streak made by Greg Fuller that developed up to 25 foot-pounds, but in a moment I will explain why that one was only a science experiment. It was documented in Airgun Revue #1.

The Steroid pumps just like a regular rifle except a little more efficiently. On the 8 pumps that marks the maximum for the stock Blue Steak, the Steroid developed more velocity than the standard gun. It went an average of 683 f.p.s.. with .20 caliber Crosman Premiers, while the standard rifle will usually shoot the same pellet around 645 f.p.s. But the standard rifle stops there, and the Steroid continues to as many as 14 pumps.

I was curious about the performance with more than 8 pumps, so I tested it carefully in that range. I discovered that up to 10 pumps, the rifle still exhausted all the air with the shot, which was good for 730 f.p.s. Starting with pump 12, there was some air remaining in the rifle after the shot. This increased with each additional pump until, at 14 pumps, enough air remained in the gun to fire a second pellet at 265 f.p.s.

On the Mac-1 website, it says that every pellet produces different results with air left in the gun. This is because of pellet weight. And, no doubt, every gun will differ somewhat as well.

Nothing was done to the barrel, so the accuracy didn’t change, except that the greater velocity lets you reach out farther. Our test gun had a burr at the air transfer port; after it was removed, the rifle was as accurate as any Streak.

At 10 meters, Crosman Premiers made a tight hole.

At 30 yards, the group opened to about one inch.

Tim McMurray told me the Steroid tune has two distinct advantages, and three if you want to take advantage of them. First, the rifle is capable of greater power. That’s the No. 1 reason for getting the modification. But the gun also becomes more efficient to pump after being “Steroid-ed.” The valve modifications make the gun shoot with greater authority, even when the max of 8 pumps isn’t exceeded. Finally, the modification includes strengthening the pump linkage so it can take the added stress of higher pumping efforts. And they offer additional optional things to beef up the mechanism even more. So, you get a rifle that’s more reliable, to boot.

Overlooking the greater number of pumps for a moment, the final strokes do take more effort than any stroke with a factory rifle. Pump No. 7 took 42 lbs. of effort, and pump No. 14 took 51 lbs. Let me put that into perspective by telling you about Greg Fuller’s experimental gun and valve. Greg’s rifle can accept up to 18 pump strokes to generate up to 25 foot-pounds, but the final strokes take 100 lbs. of effort to complete. That’s why I said earlier that Greg’s gun is just a science experiment.

Comparable guns
When I tested the Steroid, the Sharp Ace was a pneumatic with comparable power that sold at the same time. An Ace got about 22 foot-pounds on 10 pumps. As the number of pumps increased, so did the trigger effort. That isn’t true for the Steroid. For less money, a Steroid lets you keep the good trigger and get the same power. The trigger on our test gun broke cleanly at 34-40 oz.

Is it worth the money?
A Steroid tune costs $75 on your gun or adds $45 to the cost of the new gun. Whether or not you think it’s worth it depends on how much you value power in that gun. But this much is certain–there’s no easier way to get more power from a Sheridan Streak than by having a Steroid tune.