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Education / Training Christmas gift list 2009 – Part 1

Christmas gift list 2009 – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Blogger tanked big-time on Monday, and I can’t easily access the past reports I need for research on today’s blog. So, I thought I’d take today to start my Christmas list for all of you who have presents to buy.

I’m going to recommend specific presents in certain price categories. You can use this to jog your own memory about what to ask for, or you can point your gift buyers to this report. Pyramyd AIR has a Holiday Gift Guide that does the same thing I’m doing, so be sure to check it, as well. I am going to give the reasons for my selections, which makes my list more personal to me and, I hope, to you.

Whenever I look in my gun closet, I see guns–both firearms and airguns–that I treasure and wouldn’t want to give up, and then there are others that I don’t value as much as I once thought I might. In some cases, the gun wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped. In other cases there’s just something I cannot put my finger on that makes me like or dislike a particular gun. The point is–I don’t like every gun I own, and that applies to both airguns and firearms.

But there’s another category of equipment besides the guns. This is the equipment I use to enjoy all my guns. While they aren’t guns themselves, these things magnify the shooting experience. They’re like that favorite old pair of boots or shoes you love to wear because they’re so comfortable. Or, for me, it’s like my ’93 Ford F-150 pickup that looks outdated to most people but is a source of pleasure to me because I know it will start every time and will take me where I need to go.

I’d like to start this gift list with some equipment like that. Things you may not know you need until you have them, and then you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.

The first item is a chronograph. I resisted buying a chronograph for many years. I thought they were stupid and useless. Who needs to know how fast their pellets are going? What we need are pellets that hit their targets and do what is expected of them.

Then, I wanted to write a book about a Beeman R1. Suddenly, I needed a chronograph, because who ever heard of a modern gun book without some velocity information? I also had experiments I wanted to perform. Things like testing how fast the rifle shot out of the box and again after a 1,000-shot break-in. And testing the power after leaving the mainspring cocked for a month. For that, you need a chronoghraph.

At the Winston-Salem airgun Expo in 1994 I bought a used Chrony from Paul Watts. It was well-used and an older model that had cardboard stands in front of the two skyscreens. I used it to start the R1 book, but one day, while testing the rifle at some point in the break-in, I got a velocity that was 150 f.p.s. too high for the gun. About 20 shots later it did it again. That was when I learned about holding the barrel perpendicular to the angle of the skyscreens for accurate results. I found I could fool the Chrony into artificially high numbers simply by changing the angle at which the pellet passed through the skyscreens.

That was what led me to purchase the Oehler 35P chronograph. And it also left a bad taste in my mouth for the Shooting Chrony. I was certain that such an inexpensive chronograph could not be accurate.

A second test
A decade later, I tested another Shooting Chrony for this blog. What a difference a decade made! This chronograph was one I found I could use and trust. It was not as sensitive to light as my old one had been and, though there are slight differences in velocity when the barrel isn’t perpendicular, gross errors are no longer possible.

While testing the Chrony, I accidently hit and dented the back of the aluminum case with a pellet. When I told Pyramyd AIR about it they told me to just keep the machine and use it, which I readily did. In the three years I have had it, the Alpha model Shooting Chrony has become my most-used office chronograph, and the Oehler is now just for taking to the field.

Many uses
I can tell you that, once you own a chronograph, you’ll find a hundred uses for it that you never imagined. I can tell the state of a spring gun before and after certain repairs and modifications, such as the breech seal test I ran on the Diana model 27. I never could have known the difference the new seal made if I didn’t have a way to measure velocity.

Shooting Chrony and Ballistic Printer
I’m recommending the Alpha model Shooting Chrony chronograph as a great Christmas present for an avid airgunner. If there’s more money in the budget, I recommend the Shooting Chrony Ballistic Printer that connects to the chronograph and prints the results as you go. It’s such a time savings to not have to write down each velocity in a long shot string!

World’s toughest pellet trap
You all know that I test a lot of airguns. Many of you met me here on the Pyramyd AIR blog, which I’ve been writing since 2005. But a few of you go back two more years when I was the editor of Airgun Illustrated magazine. Some of you were even there for the nine years before that when I published The Airgun Letter newsletter. Throughout all that time, I’ve used but one pellet trap as my primary trap. It was expensive when I bought it in 1993 and it costs even more today, but the Heavy Duty pellet trap is a lifetime investment. I’ve shot over a half-million rounds into mine, and it’s still in great shape. It will still be in great shape 40 years from now, when two or three other owners have given it their lifetimes of use on top of mine.

They say this trap can stop a bullet from a .22 long rifle. Well, I’ve done that, plus hitting it with bullets from Farco air shotguns, Big Bore 909s, Career 9mms, Career Dragon Slayers and other powerful airguns for which nothing else will suffice. Want a pellet trap with boat-anchor reliability? This is it. No, it isn’t flashy and exciting. It just does its job and keeps on working, decade after decade. You’ll never wear one out.

Blue Book
From the expensive to the not-so-expensive, we now go to the Blue Book of Airguns. This is the book that makes all of us smart about airguns. I keep mine on my desk and not a week goes by without a couple questions that have to be researched. Don’t think of the Blue Book as a price guide, because it’s usually wrong. Airgun prices have been in a state of upward flux for the past five years and just this year the prices flattened and rolled back in response to the increasingly poor economy.

Use the Blue Book to learn more about your hobby. Discover great airguns you never knew existed. Get smart before you visit that pawn shop or gun show and see an airguns you know nothing about. Find those “same as” models that sell for lower prices–like the Hy Score 807 that’s really a Diana 27. All of this and more can be done with the Blue Book.

Well, that’s a start on my Christmas list for you. Next time, I’ll look at some real value-packed guns.

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.

30 thoughts on “Christmas gift list 2009 – Part 1”

  1. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Some of you might know that Ben Franklin lobbied long and hard at the Continental Congress to make the wild Turkey (the bird, not the drink, Kevin), our national emblem. He argued that the eagle was a scavenger and a carrion eater while the turkey was a wily and cunning bird that made a very difficult prey for a hunter.

    Pass the drum stick, please.


  2. BB,

    Looks like I already have all the things on your list. And I agree with the assessment of the alpha chrony and the pellet trap. Both are top notch. I am considering sending the chrony back to them to have it upgraded to the top model and getting a printer for it.

    Have a very happy Thanksgiving. Hope we both get all that is on our Christmas wish list!

  3. Knicked the chrony? A couple of weeks after I got mine (5 years ago), I'm calling the manufacturer to order a new LCD display module. Even though it's not a normal 'user replacement part' (it has to be soldered in), they had them on hand. Apparently they get a lot of requests for those…

  4. I have a Champion Target Trap that is, I think, identical to the one Pyramyd is selling. I concur — it is the last trap you will need (even if you shoot .22LR). I have left mine out in the weather for years with no rust (although I bring it inside in the winter for my indoors range). I originally got a Beeman trap that I shot through fairly quickly. The only other trap I would recommend is the Gehmann (although limited to pellets, it is an excellent value, too).

  5. BB,
    So far you're right on the mark with your Christmas gift ideas. They are both excellent choices. I have the chrony with the printer and I couldn't agree more with you on those. I haven't tried this trap, yet. I have the Beeman but it is not very big and it won't handle .22 rimfire (except maybe once).

    I'm anxious to see what else you have for us. BTW, send me you email address so I can send you my home address when I select the present I want, Santa.

  6. The Dive shops have their own fittings and will attach to the DIN or whatever valve the tank is equipped with. They don't use your yoke or foster fitting. Typically, many dive shops have the large, industrial compressed air tanks and use those to fill the smaller SCUBA tanks.

  7. B.B.

    I could have sworn that in the last PA print catalog that I received, there was a lavish ad for some kind of flashlight to be used for shooting in the dark called an LD.4 or 5. It sounded impressive but I can't find it on the PA site.

    On the subject of flashlights, I had a disturbing incident happen. The other night, I went out running and grabbed my Surefire G9 flashlight. I figured I would have it if I needed to look at the trail and self-defense was in the back of my mind. While walking out to the trail, an enormous dog bounded towards me. It was one of those great danes, and a big one; it looked like a small horse. It was dark gray so it seemed to materialize out of nowhere. It wasn't charging but it was bounding and circling in a way that was not friendly. Finally, it came too close, and I unleashed my weapon as I had imagined many times: a beam right into the face. I could see the brown iris of its eye light up. The result? Nothing. It just stood there, looking at me. Then, after a second or two it moved off. I guess I got what I wanted, but this was not the immediate, yelping, panicked retreat that I was looking for. I was operating from a testimonial from the Surefire website where some guy had shined a flashlight at a cobra and made it back off. I figured a dog would be much more sensitive. Maybe my batteries are going, or maybe I was expecting too much.

    Fred, bald eagles are apparently very nervous, unstable and temperamental which is not exactly what you are looking for in the national symbol. As for the scavenging, that's true. The real hunting eagle is the Golden Eagle which would have made for an impressive symbol. However, symbols are heavily visual, and the bald eagle certainly looks good. It's quite aggressive too and holds its own against the Golden Eagle when there is a conflict.


  8. But how does it taste?

    BB wants to know. 🙂

    Anonymous paintballer – I have no idea how these shops fill. The one shop I do go to which services paintball guns and air rifles, uses the large industrial tanks I referred to. He uses his own fittings to attach to the customer's tank.


  9. I have to say that PA offers some of the best customer service on the planet. See below…

    On Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 1:56 PM, Joseph wrote:

    Hi. Thanks for the order.

    I'd like to make a suggestion. 2 of the 4 pkgs of Avanti Ground Shot came open in transit (see attached photo). In the future you might consider placing them in ZipLoc baggies, or wrapping scotch tape around them. This is in no way criticism. I am really pleased with the service I've received with PA.

    I would like to request that you offer USPS Priority Mail as an option for those of us in Hawaii and Alaska…$30-40 for a $20+ item is extravagant. Tom Gaylord jokes that I live in Paradise and so have no right to bitch about shipping costs. Still, I would purchase more from you if the shipping costs weren't so prohibitive.


    Joe on Maui

    And the reply…

    Thanks for writing. I have created you a replacement order for the opened bbs. This order will be shipping from our site on Friday.

    Unfortunately we are not able to ship with USPS as they do not wish to carry our products.


    This was totally unexpected. The spilled BBs were no big deal…I just poured them from the box into a large Pyrex measuring cup, then back into their packages and taped them up. These are good folks.

    I was also happy to finally get a reason why PA cannot ship by snailmail.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  10. BB,
    Not bad suggestions, although I'm dreading the spate of velocity strings we'll get after Christmas with new PCP's and spanking new chrony's:). Might I suggest that folks import the strings into a spreadsheet and provide a graph if they intend to subject us to a string:)?

    I thought you were going to pull out a .45 ACP:). I was harassed by a couple of "pets gone wild" while doing some fencing in a remote spot. The 25 lb. rock bar (6' iron with useful tips) left me in charge of the affair, although a little shaken. They scared off easy:). I think you could find one at Orchard Supply or a home store.

  11. Hey, evvabuddy! I think PA has a typo on the delivery date for some of the items in BB's blog.

    They give information on how to accept delivery on those items by Nov 1st. HG Wells has been vindicated!

    I hope everyone has a safe, delightful Holiday.


  12. b.b., heard back today from BKL mounts on which mount I need for the Slavia 630 (400 series, 14mm). I'll be placing my order for one in the next few days. Also, which scope that Pyramid carries would you suggest. Most of my shooting will be in the 30-40yd range, mostly at paper. Would like something that is easily adjustable for making corrections due to distance and wind drift. Price range not over $200.
    BTW…BKL can't say enough nice things about you, which I have to agree with.
    You must have enough Karma built up for years to come 😉
    CowBoyStar Dad

  13. Anonymous, thanks for the LD3,5 reference. That's exactly what I meant. The price is out of my range, but I'm trying to think about how they would be used. The ad was for nighttime hunting. I suppose a flashlight is no good since the prey would be spooked or would be stunned into immobility which is not sporting. Real night vision is too expensive. I suppose the laser gets you on target without spooking the prey, but that assumes you can see it in the first place which I thought was the original problem.


  14. CSD,

    I get really scared whenever people ask me to recommend scopes. For some reason and scope is a very personal thing.

    And when you say under $200 I get doubly scared, for I would recommend a scope for well under $100 for a Slavia 630.


    I hope those mounts are one-inch and that they are high enough for this scope!


  15. Bald Eagle – tastes like chicken. I like mine with a side of mashed potatoes and squirrel gravy, that way the squirrel can be on the outside for a change.

    Dogs – usually doesn’t take much to scare one off. Just in case I carry my Ruger Single Six when air rifle hunting. Probably not as big of a deal with a multi shot PCP but the R-1 was pretty slow to reload. Also the coup de grace is another invented reason for the SA on the hip. Truth is I just like playing cowboy.

    Bg – farmer – you are becoming predicable. I knew the Chrony would pull you out. I concur that the 99 count shot strings are of little value, but take pleasure in not studying them therefore canceling out the authors efforts. However I have to agree 100% with B.B. that a Chrony is indispensable overall. Prior to them becoming common place people shot into boards or splattered pellets on metal to gauge illness or the power level of an air rifle. Should we really return to that simpler time? I know zippers are evil technology advancement, but didn't think the Chrony was the devils work.

    Safe and happy Thanksgiving to all


  16. Volvo,

    Always enjoy your comments!!

    You are someone that makes me laugh and in this economy that is rare. 😉

    I hope that you and yours have a very safe and pleasant holiday. Nothing like a gathering of many personalities to revive the soul.

    We're hosting the feast again this year. 31 people and I'm excited. Not because of 31 people but because it's supposed to be 60 degrees in the Denver metro area tomorrow so up goes the 10 meter target, up goes the reactive target at 25 yards and I'll put the Caldwell Shooting Gallery at 30-35 yards.

    Shooting pellet guns bring all people together. Even pilgrims and indians.

    Most of our guests fall into the pilgrim catagory.


  17. CSD,
    PA has a pretty limited scope selection. Hint. Hint. I have the scope below and it is pretty nice, other than being a little hard to turn the AO. Also, it is not as easy to use focusing to figure the distance as the Bushy’s, but I still feel it is one of the best offerings they have. It is very clear and only 15.6 oz – some 4-12x are almost twice as heavy.


  18. CBSDad,
    This one looks like my favorite (Tasco Golden Antler 3-9×32) short of the target turrets:
    If it is similar, should have no problem on anything you can get it to stay on, and should be about right for the ranges your looking at.

    Well played — I will let you think you won for the holidays. Enjoy the Wild Turkey with your Eagle tomorrow:).

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