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 Or, for me, it’s like my ’93 Ford F-150 pickup that looks outdated to most people but is a source of pleasure to me because I know it will start every time and will take me where I need to go.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.