by B.B. Pelletier

I’m still on the road, traveling back from the airgun show in Roanoke, VA. The following short articles come from The Airgun Letter archives. These are meant to humor and entertain…they’re not serious. Some Airgun Letter subscribers thought these were serious pieces and called me to get more details and contact info for the individuals mentioned. All names, businesses and locations are fictitious. Enjoy!

February 1995
Readers will be pleased to learn that noted airgun experimenter Elvis B. Phargone of Breakwynd, Indiana, is recovering nicely after his recent test of the dynamite-ram air rifle. Though the gun fired only a single shot, inventor Phargone reports, “She was a doozie. I only wish the chronograph had survived, so we’d know for sure how fast that li’l hummer was a-goin’.”

Patterning his experiment after the dynamite cannons used by American forces in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, Phargone now believes that the dynamite should probably not be used to power the gun’s piston but to be the projectile, instead. “Them reports wasn’t too clear on that,” the convalescing scientist noted from his hospital bed.

The Airgun Letter wishes a speedy and complete recovery to the man who is the living embodiment of his own motto: “I find the solution before others find the problem.”

March 1995
The 1995 Arctic Circle Invitational Field Target Match
Distinguished airgun designer Elvis B. Phargone has done it again–or so says Alaskan field target champion Gelbert Schnee. Readers will recall that Mr. Schnee won last year’s Arctic Circle Field Target Invitational held at Point Barrow on December 26.

According to Gelb, the newest Phargone invention is a single-stroke pneumatic rifle producing approximately 40 ft-lbs of energy–not at the muzzle, but at the target! “We really need this kind of performance in polar competition,” said the three-time Arctic Circle champion, “because the crosswind is seldom less than 20 mph on clam [sic] days.”

Constructed from an M79 grenade launcher, the new gun propels a two-inch, 454-gram round ball at 30 f.p.s. It is ideally suited to the unique requirement of the northern competition. The Point Barrow range is completely vertical, with firing points on the catwalk of the town’s communications tower, where Schnee is employed as an antenna cleaner. Gravity boosts the ponderous projectile to about 200 f.p.s. by the time it reaches the highly modified targets below.

The new gun also has a broader attachment point for sights, which Schnee praises. “In the Arctic Circle/Tundra Airgun Association (ACTAA), we mount surplus Norden bomb sights on our guns instead of scopes. The new rifle accommodates them perfectly. Now, all we need is to get some shooters from the lower 48 to come up here and compete with us.”

Readers who are interested in competing in this year’s festivities should contact Gelb Schnee through the newsletter. Entrants must submit a court certificate of competency and pay a non-refundable $1,500.00 entry fee. Accommodations at Point Barrow this year will consist of separate cots in a heated U.S. Army GP Medium tent. Travel arrangements must be booked through Whiteout Tours, which operates a weekly supply/mail service into Barrow, weather permitting.

May 1995
The screw-ram air rifle
The threshold of airgun technology rolled a back a bit further, recently, when Professor Elvis B. Phargone announced that he has finally perfected the screw-ram air rifle. The well-known inventor has secretly been working for more than a decade on his creation, which he now says is almost ready for market. The heart of the Phargone idea is the replacement of the conventional coil mainspring with a piston driven by a worm screw. “It was a mite slow at first,” admitted the Wizard of Breakwynd, Indiana, in his converted chicken coop/laboratory.

“I was usin’ the screw offa my bench vice, and the motor took a couple seconds to drive the piston home. Then, I hit on the idea of usin’ one of them Army surplus Gatling gun motors. They’re real fast! That piston slams home like a bear trap. There’s a little problem with the screw not stoppin’ in the right place an’ extrudin’ the piston crown out the transfer port, but I’ll get to that next. I’ve just about got it.” Phargone’s ever-present gallery of well-wishers agrees that he does, indeed, seem to “have it.”

The next step is finding a backer for the invention. That may prove difficult, since, with its ancillary gear, the rifle weighs 55 lbs. and requires a tractor battery for power. In the scientist’s own words, “It shore [sic] don’t recoil as much as it used to!”

June 1995
The Billabong Screw-Shooter
The Billabong Air Gun Company of Laleche, Wisconsin, announced today their latest sporting air rifle–the Screw-Shooter. Long plagued by the rising cost of quality barrels, Billabong President Harleigh Werthit revealed that his company’s latest creation isn’t rifled at all! In fact, it doesn’t really have a barrel in the traditional sense. Although the new design is closely protected by patents, The Airgun Letter was able to learn that the revolutionary Screw-Shooter is based on studies recently completed by famous airgun researcher Elvis B. Phargone, in which some of the functions of the barrel and projectile are exchanged. In Phargone’s latest triumph, the barrel is a hollow tube of soft lead encased in a plastic pipe, and the pellet is made of hardened steel with a reverse rifling pattern machined on the outside. When the pellet travels down the bore, its spiral “rifling” grabs the soft lead walls of the barrel and literally screws its way out of the gun. “Concerns over barrel quality have become a relic of the past,” said the Billabong chief.

The company expects sales of the new gun to boom once thrifty airgunners realize they can reuse the same pellet hundreds of times. The need for frequent barrel changes offsets the savings a bit, but optimistic company officials see a day when shooters will buy replacements like they once bought tins of ammunition.

From the company that gave the world its only commercial cow-patty launcher, now comes the Billabong Screw-Shooter–an honest attempt at ending the airgun quality race, forever.