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Education / Training Shooting the breeze – Part 1

Shooting the breeze – Part 1

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.

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.

36 thoughts on “Shooting the breeze – Part 1”

  1. B.B.

    Safe travels… bless your journey home!

    I'm getting 1/2" groups at 150 yards with my "cow patty" launcher… best air gun I've got..

    ..they are really hard to find these days!!

    If you find one grab it fast!

    I planned ahead and bought a pallet of "Screw-Shooter" barrels and 10 bullets.. so I'm ready for the next century!!


    She was too much for you to handle??? I'm surprised… maybe you were too young back then?
    Oh… she was probably wearing the snake skin dress.. their club is suppose to save that for the second date..

    I can see why that would put you off, being the good boy that you are!!

    The "Billabong Screw-Shooters' Girley Society" (BSSGS) has been loosing members lately… I guess the snake skin outfit doesn't provide enough warmth, and membership is drooping..

    Wacky Wayne, MD.
    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  2. B.B.,

    Thank you for all the information and I apologize in advance if this belongs in a different post.
    My question is this:
    I have owned a Sheridan C series .20 cal since I was a young man and recently inherited a 347 .177. Both great american made plinking guns. I've been using the .20 against our annual ground squirrel garden invasions and it has proved to be moderately accurate (fitted with a scope & bipod) and dependable.
    I have decided to move it up a notch (or two) and upgrade. I was really hoping to stay american made but soon realized (and was confirmed by the customer service lady at Pyramid) that there isn't an american made springer that can compare to the imports. I had been looking all along at the Benjamin Super Streak .22" thinking that it was still made on home soil. I am of strong German heritage and would have no problem going that direction, but for some reason am drawn to the aspects of this rifle. So finally the long awaited question; is there any reason not to get this rifle? would you suggest something else that compares in performance, price and style or should I just get over the made in China thing and "pull the trigger"?

    Thanks in advance for your help,

  3. B.B.,

    Please tell me that you still have Professor Elvis B. Phargone's e-mail address. I desperately need to contact the learned professor about his most brilliant use of the surplus Gatling gun motor.

    I am currently working on a multbarreled spring powered air machine gun and would like to talk with the Professor about the feasability of using the motor to cock the barrels.

    As you can imagine its been quite an engineering feat to develope the mechanism to cock and load six .25 caliber springer actions configured as a Gatlin gun.

    We hope to get spring fatigue under control so we don't have to go to some type of gas spring. We're all purests at heart here.

    Some of us want to refine the Wischombe rifle and turn it into a two barreled repeater that only requires a single cocking stroke . I mean the gun has two pistons. Why not two barrels?

    Thanks for your help!

    Mr B.

  4. Schroeder,

    Didn't the sales person tell you about the Nitro Piston Short Stroke made in the Crosman plant in East Bloomfield, NY?

    It's a wonderful rifle, made in America, powerful, ideal for taking critters, remarkably quiet, quite accurate, the spring will never take a set because it's a gas spring, it's relatively light weight so you can sit & wait for critters without growing weary, and it won't cost you an arm & a leg.

    There's a 4-part blog about the NPSS rifles that will make you want one even more!


  5. Schroeder,

    I'm not B.B. but have a couple of suggestions.

    Have you read B.B.'s 3 part series on the Super Streak? Here's the link to part 3.
    Parts 1 and 2 can be clicked on at the top to read them in order:


    Since you like german engineering have you looked at the rws diana 34.
    Same price range as the super streak (after you add a good scope and rings to the rws diana 34)
    and the 34 is offered in synthetic stock and wood stock. Here's a link to the synthetic stocked
    version but Pyramyd AIR also sells the wood stock version. Once you copy and paste the link look over
    to the right to see "Review/article/latest/buzz". Click on that and it will take you to the
    4 part series B.B. did on this wonderful gun:


    Sorry if this makes the decision tougher.



    This is just way too funny.

    Wayne, what weight are the cow patties you use? Do you weigh each one on a scale? What tolerances do you expect?

    And how to you shape each cow patty to a uniform shape and get a good ballistic coefficient also? And how do you measure the group size? I mean these projectiles have to fling the dung everywhere on impact! And how do you obtain really good pellets (uh patties I mean)?

    Sounds to me like you are just flinging some cheap s**t all over the place there! 🙂

  7. Wayne,
    Since you are a serious FT shooter, I assume you wash your cowpatties before sorting and weighing:)? For me, the bull droppings works better than cow droppings.

    I used to use the free ones that just lie around, but I found a neat place online that sells European bull s–t for $10/kg.

  8. Kevin,

    Ha… No this is all very good information. And thanks for the links. I really am just waiting for someone to tell me not to buy this gun, because with the exception to the China thing I really like it. Aside from the trigger upgrade (GRTIII) do you know of any other upgrades that can be done?

    And please don't hold back, I am new to this and it is all very helpful.

    Thanks again,

  9. Schroeder,

    I've learned a gun is a very personal choice so I never tell someone to buy or not to buy. Just try to provide enough information and options so you can make up your own mind.

    Once you read the articles you'll probably notice that the trigger on the 34 and NPSS are much better than the super streak. IF (I don't know for a fact that it does) the GRTIII trigger fits the super streak that would be an improvement. Almost all "out of the box" spring guns can benefit from a lube tune to smooth out the firing cycle which in turn makes it easier to shoot (read, easier be more accurate with).

    The NPSS wouldn't need a lube tune since it's a gas piston power plant not spring. NPSS has a wonderful trigger after it's adjusted and has an adjustable cheek piece.

    There's a drop in kit for the 34 that improves this gun and a (supposedly) new drop in kit coming to the market soon that testers are raving about.

    Read the articles so you know what you're getting "out of the box" before you make a choice.

  10. Well, I actually had been thinking about mounting little airguns on my rc airplane which I successfully launched last week. Outside of this blog, I don't know who I could tell this to. 🙂

    On the subject of wild inventions, I was doing my regular gun research at the local Safeway and came across an article about a rifle called the P-308 produced by Patriot Ordnance Factory POF. It's a piston-driven AR in .308 and is quite a strong performer. But what is overshadowed by the piston and the caliber modifications is the claim that this rifle never has to be lubricated or maintained (apart from cleaning the bore). Well, we've heard this one before. When they made this claim during the Vietnam War, the result was disaster. This time around, the claim is based on coating all metal parts of the gun with a sort of teflon like substance. So, from being a maintenance headache like most ARs, this one is virtually maintenance free.

    Airguns are virtually maintenance free anyway, but maybe this technology could eliminate lubrication someday.

    Incidentally, as deep as my prejudices go against the AR, I must say that this gun is very impressive. They appear to have solved all of the problems with this platform except for the magazine feeding which has been there from the beginning. But still….


  11. BB,

    Reminds me of a story I wrote for my trap & Skeet club's newsletter once: the inventor combines a container of Red Dot with a .17 caliber bullet in the action of a scaled down, surplus recoilless rifle. Early problems to be sorted out include the barrel, which disintegrates with each shot, and the prey, which likewise vaporizes.

    Your style of humorous writing reminded me of my own.

    Happy to see you're taking the extra day to get home.

  12. Matt,

    When we were qualifying with the M16, we were told that if we had heard of the squad of Marines (who were overrun and massacred by the VC while using the new gun) had been killed because they foolishly held down the triggers on full auto and the subsequent recoil caused the barrels to rise until they were shooting straight up. The investigators determined this by the bullet holes in the leaves of the overhead trees. This was meant to re-instill our confidence in the M16.

    Who knew a .22 caliber round could generate such recoil? Wow.

  13. Joe B.,

    If that story was supposed to generate confidence, I would hate for them to be pessimistic. I've heard similar stories about the recoil of the M16A1 on full-auto and think it had to do with the ergonomics of the early design and higher pressures for the cartridge.

    Anyway, this new model, the P308, does seem to have all of the problems licked at long last except for the magazine design.

    Reloaders, can you tell me what is the importance of bullet seating depth? Is it just to fit the cartridge into a magazine size or does it change performance?


  14. Schroeder,

    depending on your budget, you may want to move up to a PCP. Crosman also makes two excellent PCP's – the Discovery, which is a single shot air rifle and the Marauder, which is a multiple shot. What's good about the Marauder is it comes with a shrouded barrel, like the Crosman Nitro, so is very quiet – an important factor in suburbia. Another American made air rifle is the Air Force Talon SS – also a shrouded barrel but a bit more expensive than the Discovery and I think somewhat more than the Marauder (most PCP's are). As for upgrades, there are legions of followers for all these rifles on the Yellow Forum who discuss all manner of upgrades.

    I think that about covers it for American made rifles. There are other rifles that Crosman, Daisy, Remington and so on sell that would fit your needs but they are just re-badged foreign made rifles (from China, Turkey, Spain, Mexico and even the UK).

    Happy hunting and welcome to the blog.

  15. Chuck,

    that $259 price tag for the Disco doesn't include the pump. So if you don't have a SCUBA tank or a high pressure pump, you need to buy the Discovery and pump and that price is $399.

    Schroeder, keep in mind you need to fill a PCP with high pressure air (or CO2 for these three rifles). That requires either a special, high pressure pump which runs about $150, a SCUBA tank with appropriate fittings (figure $250)or a bulk CO2 tank and fittings (no idea of cost here). A typical refill for a SCUBA tank runs around $7 plus once per year, a visual inspection is required (another $7) plus every 5 years a hydrostatic test of either tank is required ($35?).


  16. Fred,
    I said they were basic basic. None of the rifles I listed included a pump or a scope or anything. They were basic. All the amenities will cost you, of course. :>)


  17. Schroeder,

    "Is there any reason not to buy a high power springer"?????

    Well, I can think of one.. shooting accurately.

    Save your money and time, when you can afford it get a PCP. Even a Discovery with all the goodies if noise is not an issue… But really wait..(keep pumping your Sheridan) until you can afford a scuba tank setup and a Marauder..

    Your not really "stepping up" as you say with a springer, the next step from pumping the gun is a PCP and pumping the air tank… (or letting the scuba shop fill your tank)….

    not a high power springer with all the recoil and loss of accuracy that comes with it!

    Wacky Wayne, MD. Ashland Air Rifle Range

  18. Cow pie pellet mold…

    I followed B.B's blog on melting lead into bullets last month… using the same method for making "cowpie pellets"..

    of course the mold must be slightly larger and one must start with very fresh pies.. Bull diapers help with this issue, but removing them in a timely manner is very important… and a delicate matter…

    My book on this subject is available on request..

    The trick is the hardening process… the most cost effective way I've found so far, is lighting matches and holding them under each pellet.. this produces three pellets per day.. so any ideas to help here would be great! .. especially since I have to keep the matches at a distance or we have explosions on occasion..

    Group sizes have to be measured center to center of course..

    POI has new meaning… and there really is no "zero" because they shoot so flat… must be the gas holding them up as they move through space and time…

    You really have to shoot careful, because if you miss, they never fall back to earth!

    Wacky Wayne, MD. Ashland Air Rifle Range

  19. Fred,
    To be fair I should show what it took for me to outfit my marauder to make it work on HPA. And, maybe what it will take to make my Talon SS work on air.

    A lot more/less than the Disco and a lot of pumping, for sure, maybe, how much pumping can you stand before set shooting aside for good? Eh? Scuba rules!!!


  20. Schroeder,

    Unlike my good friend Kevin, I am not reluctant to tell someone what to buy. A poorly made Springer can be frustrating, but a nice one is a wonderful tool. I would recommend the HW30S in .177 or the HW50S in .22. I have owned both, along with many others and they are both finely crafted pieces from Germany.

    As Wayne points out PCP’s are the easiest to shoot and I would not be without one for anything, but it is still hard to beat just grabbing a spring rifle and pellet tin.


  21. Schroeder,

    Listen to Volvo. He's an experienced springer owner/shooter.

    If I owned today, all the springers that have been in his stable at one time or another, I would retire a wealthy man.


  22. I'd like to offer a hearty congratulations to Mike Driskill.

    Recipient of the Honored Airgunner Of The Year Award given at Roanoke.

    Well deserved Mike Driskill. Thanks for being there for me. Appreciate all your help and guidance especially in the vintage arena.

    kevin lentz

  23. Shroeder,

    Nay! Nay! PCP the way to go!! Why on earth would you need more than 40 shots hunting in the woods? Why on earth would you want to put up with sensitive hold? Poorly made springer? Yeah! Poorly made PCP? Uh, where?


  24. Just to be clear I enjoy my PCP, but a Spring rifle is just a different animal.

    Here are some comparisons:

    Spring is to PCP as:

    * Whiskey is to wine cooler

    * Black coffee is to a splash of coffee with of sugar, cream and a shot of flavored syrup

    * Med rare T-bone steak is to Sushi

    * Manual transmission is to an automatic.

    The more powerful the Springer, the stronger the black coffee. Get it?


  25. I would add to my enjoyment of a springer vs. the simpicity of a pcp:

    Springer is to PCP as:

    Cavity back golf clubs are to blades.

    bmx motocross is to riding a honda goldwing cross country

    tequila is to vsop delamain cognac

    bait fishing with a bobber is to flyfishing

    Heavy Metal is to Beethoven.

    The more powerful the sound the more you have to let go. Get it?

    I like both and couldn't live without either.


  26. Jane, Herb, Matt61,

    Thank you for your replies yesterday. I was away until now. Your explanations helped me to understand better about the uneven weight and effect on the pellet flight.


    The article, "A 'Clean' Barrel", in American Rifleman made me think about you. Maybe the author has been reading this blog. Hope you had a good trip home.


  27. Volvo,

    You´re a wise man. The not-so-subtle differences between springers and PCP's couldn´t have been better explained. One can smell the love form your words.

    That's why I love my Fwb 124. I still wait to drive an 1954 Mercedes 300SL or a Porsche 356. Is the simplicity, the romanticism maybe… But whenever I hear about airguns, I still remember my old breakbarrels… Is like remembering my old school days, you know…

    Greetings from the land of tequila and wide-eyed women 🙂

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