Knowing what to do – Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
So, I was on the range with a couple buddies day before yesterday and one of the guns I wanted to try was a new (to me) M1 Garand. Garands have always been reliable in my experience, so imagine my surprise and disappointment when this one failed to allow the bolt to come all the way back when I cocked it! And when I finally succeeded to get it all the way back, I was stunned that the rifle would not accept an enbloc clip of ammunition. I couldn’t load it!
For a moment, I thought about Matt61 and the guy he sent his Garand to for accurization. And then it hit me. This is a Garand! And I was taught to field strip one blindfolded and how to care for each part that came out! At one time, I could do that while being yelled at by a drunken fat man. Later on I became the fat man.
This should have been no challenge at all!
After that awakening, I did what I knew how to do so well–I field-stripped the rifle in less than a minute right there on the range. After that, I could see more clearly what the problem was. The rifle was entirely dry!
The term “light coat of oil” was ingrained in me during my misspent youth. Dress blues, tennis shoes and a light coat of oil was the joke uniform of the day in my ROTC unit. And this rifle was dry. So I went to my range box and looked. Did I have any oil? Of course not! It wouldn’t be much of a story if I had oil.
Then, I did something that quietly amazed my two shooting buddies–both of whom are my age and both have served in the military. I pulled the dipstick from my truck’s engine and proceeded to oil the contact surfaces of the moving parts with the little bit of oil that remains on the bottom of the stick. I had to pull the stick out twice to get enough oil for all I needed to do. How did I know to do that? Because when I taught Maintenance Management at the Armor School, that was one of a thousand little gems we passed along to our students.
It’s a trick right out of McGuyver’s notebook, but one that works and one that was presented to students as they slumbered in classrooms with their eyes open on lazy summer afternoons, waiting for the final bell to dismiss them to a better life. Tricks like using a jeep wheel as a powered windlass to winch vehicles out of trouble. How to tear a web belt in two with your bare hands. That last one is also a bar bet.
After assembling the rifle again, the bolt operated perfectly, and I loaded a clip. The rifle then fired two clips without fault. That got me thinking about all those little problems we airgunners have. I was reading PurcHawk’s plea about the failure to eject the last round of his Marlin model 60 autoloader. My model 60 started doing things like that when it got dirty, so that’s what I told him.
Okay, a Marlin 60 isn’t an airgun, but here are two that are. They’re both Slavia 622s and both in .22 caliber, but they’re not identical guns. The one that I believe is earlier has a serial number of R27887E stamped into the underside of the wooden buttstock (!), instead of on the metal anywhere. The one I believe to be the later gun has the number 93353 stamped on the left flat of the baseblock. There are small differences between the rifles, but they share a common problem. Low velocity!
How low, you ask? Well, I chronographed them shooting RWS Hobby pellets. The earlier one averaged 295 f.p.s. for 10 shots after a three-shot warmup and the later one averaged 274 f.p.s. after three warmup shots. The earlier gun had a spread from 290 to 301, while the later gun went from 266 to 281.
The early gun was a little harsh on firing, though only in comparison to the later gun that was incredibly smooth. The early trigger is creepy, while the later trigger is better. Neither trigger would win an award, though, because these are economy guns at best.
What am I leading up to? Just this–in this blog, we’ve learned many lessons about the performance of spring-piston airguns. We learned about cleaning the barrels, we learned what tightening the stock screws does to velocity and we learned the all-important relationship of the breech seal to velocity.
The rest of the airgun world doesn’t know what we know about springers. They know how to over-oil their compression chambers and how to put too-strong springs into their guns to make them harsh and objectionable, but they don’t know the subtleties we know. Let’s see if any of this stuff means anything, shall we?
I traded for these two rifles from my buddy, Mac, who said he did everything he could think of, yet they still don’t shoot very well. We know from testing the Haenel Model 1 that .22 caliber spring guns of small proportions are never very powerful, and I don’t look for these to get any great boost from whatever we might do. But let’s just see what can be done with a few simple tricks we’ve learned from working on other spring guns. It should be an interesting time!