by B.B. Pelletier

First things, first. Two days ago, I showed you a teaser photo of the new PCP from Pyramyd Air. I said it is a derivation of the Benjamin Discovery, and in fact I was shown an early prototype of this rifle very early this year when the American Airgunner TV show visited the Crosman factory. At that time, they were toying with the idea of an upgraded Discovery, but since then the marketing plan changed.

The new rifle is called the Katana–named by Josh Ungier, for whom it was ultimately built. Actually, that name is attached to the blurred photo we teased you with on Wednesday. Paul Capello caught it, and I wonder how many others did without saying?

Follow this link to the Katana page. As soon as I get one, I’ll review it for you. The low price puts the new rifle in a very good position among the new crop of high-value PCP rifles.

Now, on to today’s blog report. Yes, this really is both Parts 1 and 2. I’m doing this because this is Friday and I like you to have something you can chew on for the weekend.

Haenel 310 is a bolt-action round ball rifle.

The Haenel 310 is a curious airgun. It shoots 4.4mm round lead balls instead of BBs or pellets. Before you get your knickers in a knot, 4.4mm lead balls are easy to get. Just contact John Groenewold. He sells them by the pound. He hides them on his website under “Shootable Ammo” and further under “JG Ammo,” but here’s a link to the exact page. Just buy 5 lbs., and you’ll wind up with a lifetime supply. You can use them in a variety of other airguns and BB guns, so it’s a long-term investment. I figure that if you’re going to shoot a Haenel 310, you’re going to be involved with a lot of oddball airguns in your life.

I reported on this model back in February 2007. That gun was different than the one I’m looking at now, but the layout is identical.

Haenel was a German company that wound up in East Germany after the war; and, when the Iron Curtain dropped in 1989, tons of airguns came out of there. A pawnshop located in South Carolina bought several containers of surplus stuff in the mid-1990s from the East German secret police (Stasi), among which were several thousand airguns. Most of them were Haenel 310, 311 and 312 models. The pawnshop contacted us at The Airgun Letter, and we helped put the word out about these guns. We bought several, as did many of our subscribers.

One person who bought many of these 310s was my good friend Earl McDonald. Over the years, Mac gave some away and traded others until he was down to his last example, which he took to the 2009 Roanoke Airgun Expo to sell. Several times people had the rifle in their hands but always they laid it back down again. The rifle was still with us at the end of the show, when Mac gave it to me to test for you.

Mac kept this one because it was the best one he saw out of those he received. It’s a far better example than I ever saw from this source, so I’d agree that he got lucky in the surplus lottery.

The 310 is a spring-piston rifle that cocks via an articulated bolt. By articulated, I mean that it’s hinged to stick out to the right side of the “receiver” when at rest, but it flips up to become part of a longer cocking lever. You pull it straight back to cock the rifle, but what really happens is the lever pivots at its base, inside that triangular metal cover under the stock. At the top it pulls the piston straight back against a powerful mainspring. It’s not an easy rifle to cock, taking 29 lbs. of force according to my scale. While that doesn’t sound too bad, you’re doing is with just your hand instead of your entire arm. Adult men will find it difficult to cock. Most younger teenagers may be challenged.

When the bolt is down like this, the rifle looks conventional.

Flip the bolt up like this to make a handy cocking lever.

The bottom of the bolt is anchored deep under the stock in this triangular metal cover. When you pull the bolt back, it rocks in this fulcrum.

The rifle is 40.25 inches long with a fixed 14.25-inch rifled barrel. The length of pull measures 13.5 inches long, so a larger-youth-to-adult size, but trust me– smaller kids aren’t going to be able to cock this one very easily. This one weighs 5.75 lbs. That’s 4 oz. less than the other one I tested, which could be the weight of the wood. Since I now use a balance beam scale to weigh guns, I’m inclined to think it’s due to the better accuracy of the scale.

The rear sight adjusts for elevation, only.

The front sight is a simple barleycorn covered with a globe. It can be adjusted sideways in a dovetail.

It’s a repeater!
While the triangular metal cover under the stock looks like a magazine but is not, there’s a tiny magazine located under the stock directly under the rear sight. The normal removable magazine holds 6 balls, but there are also 12-shot magazines around. I used to own one. They’re not as reliable as the 6-shot mags.

The 6-shot magazine is another engineering marvel. Just press down the lead balls from the top.

Prior to starting
First thing–I oiled the piston seal. I believe it’s leather, which is consistent with the time and place of the gun’s manufacture. And, once it’s oiled, it responds in the same way as other oiled leather seals. I put 10 drops of Crosman Pellgunoil down the muzzle of the rifle and stood it on its butt for 30 minutes. Then, I worked the piston back and forth with the cocking lever and a slurping sound came out of the muzzle, which is what leather seals do when they’re absorbing oil. Thirty minutes after that, I loaded the 6-shot magazine and shot the first rounds–being careful of the carpet because I knew oil droplets would be coming out of the muzzle. Kind of like a sneeze.

The oiling was to refresh the leather seal, of course, and also to get it ready for velocity testing. Leather seals tend to last a very long time and keeping them oiled is one thing that helps preserve them. Just use a good petroleum oil. Pellgunoil is made from 20-weight non-detergent motor oil and works fine.

Talk about quiet!
Apartment dwellers and others who are concerned about sound, the Haenel 310 was made for you! This little rifle makes a Benjamin Marauder sound loud. One of these coupled with the Air Venturi Quiet Pellet Trap, and you’re rigged for silent running! And it’s the perfect scale (velocity, range of accurate shooting) for indoors. What a wonderful house gun it makes. As for critters, it might take a small mouse or perhaps a bad insect, but don’t even think of it for general hunting.

Okay, not a lot of different 4.4mm lead balls to check. And a certain-sized sphere made of pure lead tends to be pretty much the same from brand to brand. Mac gave me a container of lead balls that I assume came from John Groenewold, so that’s what I used for this test. The average was 345 f.p.s., but one low shot of 303 brought that number down. Without it, the average was 351 f.p.s., with a spread from 325 to 362.

The other 310 I tested in 2007 averaged slightly over 400 f.p.s., so this one is obviously a little slower. That happens with spring guns.

While all lead balls of the same size and purity may weigh the same, they aren’t necessarily all uniformly round. I had one jam while firing–something that’s never happened to me with this model before this test. So, using good undamaged ammo is a real plus.

Of course a 4.4mm lead ball weighs more (7.6 grains) than a 4.3mm steel ball (5.1 grains), so this rifle is a little more powerful than the average Red Ryder. It should also be a lot more accurate, but we’ll look at that in Part 3.