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Education / Training Healthways Plainsman BB gun – Part 3

Healthways Plainsman BB gun – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Before I begin today’s report, I neglected to show pictures of our cats on Christmas. So, here they are…the Gaylord feline herd.

Punky is a recent addition to the herd. He was living outdoors under the neighbor’s car until we invited him to join us and win the kitty lottery. He’s a tuxedo cat, though he doesn’t act snooty. He’s the real puppy dog of the house–demanding attention and petting all the time.

Dale Evans was our first new kitty in Texas. She is a feisty calico who rules the house.

We got Roy Rogers as a kitten to be Dale’s playmate. Now, he’s a 25-lb. Baby Huey with the voice of a kitten in the mass of a bobcat. He’s very shy and only Mirfee Ungier, Josh’s wife, has ever been able to pet him on the first attempt, though Wacky Wayne got to meet him this fall.

When they were younger and Roy was smaller, both cats often posed for pornographic photos. We were about to make a calendar when they both got scruples and started behaving in public.

Now, on to today’s report.

Healthways Plainsman is a very comfortable air pistol. It has a light, smooth trigger.

Well, it’s been a while since I last reported on this pistol. November 5th it was–Guy Fawkes Day, for out British readers. For the rest of you, look up the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. How appropriate!

The last time I had the Plainsman in my hands, I was doing velocity testing for you with a gun that had a fast leak. Still, on low power, it got an average of 385 f.p.s., which is not too shabby. On medium power, it got 415 f.p.s.; and on high power, it went an average of 437. So, this big pistol can really cook when it wants to. And, even on low power, there’s plenty of velocity for a lot of good shooting.

However, it had the aforementioned fast leak, and this is the real crux of today’s story. For the 50-odd years I’ve been shooting airguns, and the past 15 during which I’ve been an active airgun writer, there hasn’t been anyone in the United States who fixed this gun. Or, if there was, they were ensconced in the Witness Protection Program and known only to their neighbors in Wyoming.

So, all of you who wisely waited until 2009 to get into airgunning have avoided a lot of downtime if the Plainsman BB gun was the object of your desire. Because now there’s a fixer. Doug Vorenkamp out in Washington State fixes these guns and has earned a spot on my growing list of valuable airgun repair stations that really do fix airguns and aren’t just dabbling. Contact him at airguns@comcast.net or call him at 360-656-5123.

Doug told me originally that he would have to convert my gun from the 8-gram CO2 cartridges it used to the more plentiful 12-gram cartridges because he was unable to get the right o-rings for the original valve. He did replace the original valve with a new one, but left the cartridge size as it was, so I still use the smaller cartridges.

There was a Healthways Plainsman 12-gram adapter that came out in the 1960s, but my ’50s-vintage gun didn’t have it. Those guns that had it could use both sizes of CO2 cartridges. I’m glad to be running with the smaller cartridge, because that keeps me sympathetic to all those who have to use them. It just means that I can’t buy CO2 for this gun at Wal-Mart. I order it from Pyramyd AIR.

What I want to find out today is how well the gun works after Doug’s been inside. Let’s get right to it, shall we? First, I’ll test the pistol’s velocity on low, medium and high power with Daisy BBs.

Low power
Well, low power really IS low power this time! After Doug’s rebuild, the gun averages 268 f.p.s. on low power, which is not too far from what I estimated it would be based on the advertised number of shots per cartridge (100 on low). The spread went from 257 to 276, which if you read Part 2 is about what I estimated it to be. This is not bad. Doug has simply returned the gun to where it was when it came from the factory. It gives medium power and high power somewhere to go.

Medium power
The gun averaged 377 f.p.s. on medium power, so now there really is a significant difference over low power. The spread went from 362 to 395, though I did notice a cooling effect if I shot faster than one shot every 15 seconds. That was in a room at 79 degrees F.

High power
High power averaged 435 f.p.s., with a spread from 426 to a high of 456. Another significant power increase. The gun now has a real personality on each of the power settings. You’ll note that high power now is right where it was on the original valve before the work was done. So, nothing was lost on the overhaul. In fact, a whole lot was gained because now the total number of shots on low power will be close to the 100 advertised. I shot about 55-60 in this test, because many failed to register on the chronograph. And I’m still grateful for my Christmas present of the Chrony printer, because now all I have to do is shoot.

But this test isn’t over until I test the gun with Daisy Avanti Precision Ground Shot. Now that we know how that shot boosts the velocity, it has become a part of every BB gun test. On low, the average is 262 f.p.s., so not much difference. The spread was tighter, though, running from 259 to 265. On medium power, the average was 370 f.p.s., with another tight spread from 367 to 375. Once again, not much difference from the standard BBs. On high power, the average was 445 f.p.s., with a spread from 441 to 449. So, again, no real increase; just tighter spreads. Maybe the accuracy testing will show a real difference between the two BBs.

I have to pronounce the Vorenkamp overhaul a success, and we’re now on track for the accuracy test.

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.

22 thoughts on “Healthways Plainsman BB gun – Part 3”

  1. Nice article, BB. I especially like the beginning, since I'm very into cats. At one point I had 8! Unfortunately, I now only have 3, due to both old age and wolves (I live right next to the forest). I loved the last comment about the cats :p.

  2. Twotalon,

    Punky goes crazy over catnip. Even the cheap store-bought stuff sends him over the top. It's the only time he will stand up to Roy and even get in his face.

    The stuff you sent is so strong he can even smell it inside the freezer, where it is stored. We sell it to him in one-gram packets, cut with cornstarch 10:1.


  3. I see Roy is stretching out to diminish the appearance of what must be a sizable gut. What a cheater.

    I must say that I am shocked and a little outraged to read that you used to peddle kitty porn!;^)

  4. Slinging Lead,

    Roy stretches out like that to reveal his belly so that he can entice people to pet him. He loves to have his belly rubbed & frequently flips on his back in the living room waiting for rubs. Naturally, we oblige every time.


  5. Edith and Tom,

    I was so honored to have Roy Rogers come so close… I almost got a pet in!!

    He is for sure a "king" of a cat, only the chosen few get a touch.

    Your cats make a house.. a home. Much fun and laughter… a good thing!

    I won't tell about the porn show I got as a distraction while trying to trade with Tom…

    …as you can tell folks, they work as a team on any poor soul making a deal for part of their prized inventory…

    ..but hey, the experience will stay with me forever! .. I still have nightmares about being staked out with the fire ants..

    Wacky Wayne, MD. Ashland Air Rifle Range

  6. BG_Famer,

    Dale is actually quite trim. She's full of energy & will probably never be heavy.

    Roy is our "kitty cow" 🙂

    Punky was bald & quite thin when we adopted him. He buried his face in the food bowl for several weeks. He'd never seen canned food before.

    I adore animals but have a special place in my heart for cats, although I will help (and often adopt) just about any needy critter that finds its way to my door. My mother was the same way…that's why she & my father had 52 cats when they lived in Turkey in the 1930s.


  7. Edith…
    We have extra critters around here.
    Don't mind feeding the stray cats outside, but the possums and skunks this fall have been a problem…..
    I would guess that a possum eats about as much as a half dozen cats put together. A skunk eats less than one cat would.
    Starting with two possums…one bought the farm and the other one finally quit coming around.
    Appears to have been four skunks. Two of them have been relocated a few miles down the road, but the other two are still around. Really need to get rid of them before spring and they hatch out a bunch of little ones.
    They may be fun to watch, but they do pose a few…uh..hazards inherent to their breed.


  8. Edith,
    Judging by picture #1 of Dale Evans and picture #1 of Roy Rogers I'd say they had pretty compatible personalities (-: (Uh, that's a picture of a feisty cat? What does she look like asleep?) The pic of the two together got me laughing so much at BB's caption. I can't get the image of a calendar out of my mind.

    Glad to hear you're finding the chrony printer useful. I mean, how often does one (co)give a Christmas present that the recipient really wants? Were you able to find single rolls of paper? I had to buy a pack of twelve but as much as you shoot-n-test twelve probably wouldn't last long.

    Good to know men like Doug Vorenkamp are around.


  9. Fred,

    I know of someone who uses a .25 Air Force Condor for skunks and coons.

    A well placed .22 'may' be effective as well. As long as its a well placed head shot with enough energy at the point of impact.


  10. Air Guns will work on skunks. I have used my old Crosman 160 .22(tuned for more power) on Coons with JB pellets. The range is close, about 12 to 15 yds and head shots only. They just drop.


  11. BB, Edith,

    Really enjoyed seeing your cats. I have a tuxedo male with me in my New Mexico place, and he has two "evil stepsisters" he hasn't met yet back at my Nebraska home.


  12. Thank you both for the long awaited unveiling!!Cats are the best.BB,you suprised me with the term CAT LOTTERY…It's a term we have used when adopting feral kittens in Louisiana.It couldn't be more accurate.We also had intermediate cats,outdoor porch,fixed,and very apreciative!One girl who is calico with long soft hair likes to hang on the window of the door and peek in…if you open the door she won't come in,she just hangs there getting a good look!!!

  13. Frank B,

    Tom frequently reminds the cats that they've won the lottery. Punky used to sit on our back porch in 100+ heat. He'd look in our LR window and scream his head off. He was bald & he was hot. Tom said, "Bring him in. He's breaking my heart." While Tom was off in NY filming, I opened the door & invited Punky to join our family.

    Now, every morning when I sit down in front of my computer, he sits on my lap for about 30 minutes of head & ear rubbing. For me, there's nothing more wonderful than a furry little beastie who smiles up at you, content to be yours.


  14. Fred,

    I got 2 skunks with air guns. One was in a box trap I built when I was a kid with a Crosman 760. Had to burn the trap in the middle of the street with my father's blessing….

    The other one I got with a Crosman 1322 after he came out of a pipe on the hill in our back yard and stepped in a Victor leg trap (ok, so I enticed the little egg-thief into the trap with some salami). I went out with my son and his friend (teenagers at the time) to make sure he was dead. I had no shirt on, it being the middle of summer, and the skunk had expired, after turning around and trying to get back in the pipe. The skunk smelled pretty bad up close, but I don't think he had sprayed yet. I turned around to go get a shovel when the "friend" decided to put one more round into him with his Sheridan, "just to make sure". About 10 feet away and down the hill, I suddenly felt some drops on my back and then the thought hit me, "Oh no! It's not rain! There isn't a cloud in the sky! What was that?!?!?" A few seconds later I found out what "that" was… (betcha wondered why I was telling you I had no shirt on…) The next day, my neighbor told me that his dog, a St. Bernard, was trying to hide under the couch, the air reeked so bad!

    I stunk for over 2 weeks after that. Whatever they tell you about tomato juice, lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, boraxo, and so on is a bunch of BS. None of it works and cologne doesn't help either. The mixture is putrid! That smell has to wear off…


  15. Thanks to Tom Gaylord for Doug Vorenkamp's contact info. Just got Plainsman .175 from brother and needed confirmation about the small screw at the base of the handle. Thought it was for firing pressure and he confirmed it for me.

  16. Great info on the famous Healthways Plainsman pistol (I don't know too many guys who didn't have one).
    I have had several and am in the process of restoring one at this time. It is good to see that there is a fellow Washingtonian who does it for others. I might have to look him up and see what he uses for spare parts.
    I have always been amazed at how these 'space age' pistols send a BB so far and so fast. Many people have quit shooting them because of the small cartridge size. Nitrous Oxide, used in the restaurant business, has always had the 8.5gr cartridges available. I cannot remember when I last shot CO2 out of one of these.
    Alas, one of my prize pieces (a model 175) complete, in the box with a holster and several vintage tubes of BBs, has shown up missing after some extreme house remodeling (thus the refurb of an older model). The misplaced model was like new and had very few BBs shot through it.
    Thanks for the testing of these pistols here and the contact for repair. I cannot think of a pistol that would feel as 'at home' with a Daisy Red Ryder. The Daisy rifle and the Plainsman pistol were standard gear in my old neighborhood.

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