The Crosman 118 – A gallery rifle that went public

by B.B. Pelletier

Update on Tom
I visited Tom last night, and he’s been moved into the ICU. His infection is getting worse, not better. After I visit him this morning, I will update you in the comments section.–Edith

Now, on to today’s blog, which comes to you from Airgun Revue #2, which was published in 1998.

The Crosman 118 looks mundane, unless you know what it is and how it works.

In the early 1950s, most American airgun buyers were not very discriminating. Their tastes ran to Benjamin and Crosman pneumatics, as well as to the ubiquitous Daisy BB gun. Most knew nothing of the fine precision airguns being made in the UK and Europe, and only a few more were aware of the fine Sheridan model A (Supergrade) that was being made right here in Racine, Wisc. It was a time when .22 rimfires held sway among the largest number of shooters, because rimfires were so easy to shoot almost anywhere. So, when the Crosman Corporation brought out a new CO2 repeating air rifle–the model 118–at a price of $34.95, it must have shocked many people.

Actually, we now know that the gun that became the model 118 was not originally offered to the public. It started out in 1947 as a .21 caliber gallery gun with a hose connected to a bulk CO2 tank under the counter. In that configuration, it was designated the model 117. That gun was made at roughly the same time Crosman was also plying companies with its shooting gallery, which is a long story in its own right. The short version is that Crosman was selling complete shooting galleries, including the guns that went with them, so companies could start shooting leagues for their employees. The guns used in these galleries were the CG-style rifles. CG stands for “constant gas,” as the 4-oz. bulk tanks held enough gas for many shots. The public couldn’t buy just one CG rifle over the counter, either; they came as sets with the galleries.

Crosman developed the 117, which connected to a bulk tank via a hose from the underside of the fore end, just in front of the gun’s internal valve. Except for how the gas got into the gun (and the caliber), the 117 looks identical to the 118–a fact that airgunner Steve Gibbons recorded on film at a SHOT Show and shared with The Airgun Letter readers in 1995. In 1996, airgun writer/historian Dean Fletcher documented it, again, with a different photo and a brief history, which appears on page 182 of his big book The Crosman Rifle, 1923-1950.

The 118 was the first of three so-called bulk-fill CO2 rifles that Crosman sold to the public. The single-shot models 113 and 114 were accepted much more readily because they sold for a price of $21.95, which was much more affordable in 1952. But the 118 was never a big seller; and by 1956, it was gone from the inventory.

Let’s now take a look at this curious American classic, and see what makes it tick. Our subject rifle was purchased at a local flea market, and the former owner–an airgunner who had never heard of bulk-fill guns–unscrewed the filler cap to see where the Powerlets went. When he discovered that the reservoir was too small to accept Powerlets (which a bit of pre-measuring might have determined just as well), he wrote off the whole thing as a bad idea and sold the gun.

The first order of business, therefore, was to get the rifle resealed. Normally, a Crosman bulk-fill gun will still have great seals when you buy it used, especially if the former owner was smart enough to leave it charged with gas. But this one had been tinkered with and was leaking heavily. Precision Pellet resealed ours for $20, which is less than the 1952 purchase price. If that’s not a bargain, I don’t know what is.

The 118 is much the same kind of airgun as the Crosman Town & Country, in that it’s a short rifle that has some thickness to the stock. Curiously, both guns sold for a premium when they were new and were contemporaries in the early 1950s. Our test rifle weighs exactly 5 lbs. and measures a scant 38.5 inches, tip to tail. The 22-inch barrel is steel, as is the reservoir tube underneath. But the bolt handle, filler cap and front sight are all brass parts, which is a reversal of what one might expect. The caliber is .22. American airguns of the 1950s were very much based on our national awareness of the .22 rimfire cartridge at that time. We wanted a smooth transition from airguns to firearms, so .22 was by far the favored airgun caliber. Although .177 guns existed, collectors note that it’s usually harder to find American airguns in that caliber. And single-caliber models, like the 118, were invariably .22. The in-line, spring-fed clip requires the use of flat-nosed pellets for reliable feeding. I tried pellets with slightly rounded noses because they often do work in other airguns having in-line clips–but not in the 118. Apparently, the shearing action of the carrier that strips off the next pellet in line is pretty abrupt.

The bolt lifts straight up and back to cock and load. It’s easy to learn and delightful to do in rapid fire.

The bolt isn’t a typical Mauser-style crossbolt, either. If you examine the photos, you’ll notice that the bolt handle is pulled straight up and back to cock the gun. Lowering it loads the pellet in the barrel, which makes it ready for firing. The actual loading operation takes place beneath that rectangular plate on top of the action, but you probably don’t want to know! It works smooth enough, but our rifle did require some oil on the moving parts before it fed reliably.

I had feeding problems with Crosman wadcutters, and even more with Premiers because of their slight dome. RWS Hobbys worked okay and H&N Match worked the best. The cadence at which the bolt is cycled is also important. You have to work it like a gallery gun–with a fast and definite action; no hesitation or indecisiveness. After the final shot, the clip follower enters the pellet feed arm, effectively locking the action until the rifle is reloaded. This probably also carries over from its origins as a gallery gun.

Both the receiver and the removable clip have windows cut into their sides so you can see at a glance how many pellets are left, if care is taken to align them when loading. The clip on our rifle was missing a part–the keeper to hold the follower when the clip is loaded. It was still possible to load without the keeper, but I had to use my thumb to restrain the tiny follower projection that protrudes through the vision slot. Once the clip is fully inserted in the gun, the follower is held in place by the pellets, which rest against the feeding mechanism. The line of pellets advances only one pellet at a time into the carrier for transport to the back of the barrel. Spring pressure from the follower pushes the next pellet forward, once the hole in the carrier aligns with it.

Some features found on the more common single-shots carry over to the 118, such as a crossbolt safety that runs through the stock above the trigger. The trigger is a simple notch that retains the hammer against the pressure of a coiled spring. It’s possible to slick up a bit, but it’ll probably never be in the great category. The one on our test rifle is stiff and creepy.

At the back of the receiver is a power adjustment screw that allows the shooter to increase or decrease power at will. All it does is change the tension on the hammer spring, but that’s all it takes! You might wonder why anyone would want less than maximum power; but indoors, at close range, low power is quieter and gives more shots.

Speaking of the number of shots–for some reason, the rifle I tested was a little gas hog. Where our .22 caliber 114 single-shot often gives 60 full-power shots, the 118 pooped out somewhere between 30 and 40. Of course, there could be some differences in the valves of the two rifles tested, but a difference of roughly 40 percent is too wide a variation for that to be the only reason. I believe the feeding mechanism requires more gas because it provides a less positive seal. At any rate, you’ll want to keep a 10-oz. tank around when you shoot.

Velocity was a bit on the staid side, with Meisterkugelns going 586 with a 17 f.p.s. spread over 10 shots. That was at 67-deg. F, which is on the low side for CO2 guns. CO2 is a very temperature-dependent gas, with pressure rising and falling in a linear relationship. At 70-deg. F, the pressure is around 900 psi, which is a good operating point.

Not a great 10m group, but it’s in the right place.

Sighting is also a trifle lackluster on this rifle. There’s a peep, but it’s crude and adjusts by sliding parts and friction locking. Hence, there’s no real precision. The best groups I saw were with H&N Match pellets, which yielded five-shot groups just under 1/2″ spread, center-to-center. This could be more a function of an imprecise sight picture, rather than the fault of the gun. I didn’t spend a lot of time shooting it for the record.

The Crosman 118 was certainly short-lived. Probably the high price and the use of an exotic (for that time) gas mitigated against its acceptance by the general public. With their popular pneumatic rifles selling for around $20, there was, perhaps, too much of a jump in price up to the 118, which cost about 43 percent more. And, CO2 was far from being a popular power source in the early 1950s. Until the advent of the ever-popular Crosman Powerlet many years later, carbonic gas occupied only a minor niche among airgun powerplants, and bulk-fill guns were at the bottom of even that stratification because of the extra work they entailed. So, the rifle that might well have revolutionized the shooting gallery trade was mostly a flop when it came to the general populace. But for collectors of vintage American airguns, the Crosman 118 stands apart as one of the key pieces in a rich tapestry of airgunning in the mid-20th century.

The Sheridan model E CO2 pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement from Edith Gaylord
Tom/B.B. will be out of commission and offline for at least a week. Yesterday, he had another gallbladder attack. I took him to the ER, where we discovered that he also had acute pancreatitis. The pain was so excruciating this time around that three shots of morphine did little to relieve it. The pancreatitis will be treated with antibiotics over the next three days (he can’t eat or drink anything, either). Then, they’ll remove his gallbladder. If you happen to have Tom’s cell phone number, please don’t call him.

Whatever you blog readers can do to answer questions will be much appreciated. Of course, I’ll answer as many as I’m able. I’ll keep you posted on Tom’s progress!

I’ll be providing blogs from previous articles Tom’s written for one of our former publications. Here’s a neat one from Airgun Revue #2, which was published in 1998. Enjoy!

This Sheridan pistol is finished as nicely as any airgun from “the good old days.”

“They don’t make ’em like they used to!” Have you ever heard that said about airguns? Do you say it yourself? If you do, perhaps you haven’t yet had a chance to see or shoot Sheridan’s model E CO2 pistol. It’s as well made as any of the airguns of the past and better than most. Although it was discontinued recently, there are many of them laying around just waiting for you to connect with a piece of Americana.

First, let’s clear up some confusion that originates with the manufacturer. Until January 1977, there were two separate companies–Benjamin and Sheridan. Benjamin’s history goes back into the 1800s with the St. Louis Air Rifle Company, which became Benjamin during the first decade of the 20th century. Sheridan is a relative newcomer, starting in 1947, with the first offering of their Pneumatic Rifle, which has since been known as the Supergrade.

So, Benjamin/Sheridan have been two separate companies until Benjamin purchased Sheridan. Although they’re now one, and wholly owned by another airgun maker–the Crosman Corporation–there still are differences between the two brand names. Caliber is the biggest difference. Sheridan pioneered the .20 caliber with their first rifle and have sold their airguns with the same caliber ever since.

Benjamin guns have been offered in both .177 and .22, with public preferences of one over the other at various times. In the 1950s and ’60s, .22 was by far the favorite; but in the ’80s and ’90s, .177 was dominant.

I’ve been discriminating between guns made by Benjamin/Sheridan, therefore, by caliber. If it’s .20, it’s a Sheridan; if not, it’s a Benjamin. Our subject pistol is a bright nickelplated .20 caliber CO2 single-shot Sheridan model E. More on this in a bit.

One of the first things to disappear after the golden age of airguns ended was the use of good, substantial materials with corresponding finishes. The older Benjamin guns of the ’30s through the ’50s had black nickelplating over silver nickel–all on a solid brass base metal. Whether they were brand new or without a speck of original finish, these guns looked (and still look) like a million dollars. It’s true that they sometimes look a little scuzzy when the black is just left in the corners and some of the silver has begun to show brass, but that’s just a larval stage that can give way to a golden-trumpet sparkle with a little polishing. When contrasted against an oiled brown walnut stock, the all-brass look is my favorite.

Crosman was more conservative with finishes, applying black paint instead of plating; but their guns also looked snazzy, either new or buffed to a shine. Although they did produce some steel-tubed/barreled guns, many–if not most–of them were all brass like the Benjamins.

In the 1960s, American industry began to find less expensive ways to build products, and brass gave way to pot metal first and then plastic in airguns. Finishes weren’t as durable when marketing departments and comptrollers began reining in their production departments. The reasoning of the day was that airguns are temporary possessions, after all. So, why build them to last forever? When that thinking took over, airguns became the very temporary items that it dictated. Airgunners will tell you that the golden age was over–not to be resurrected in the US, again.

But the Sheridan model E, made for just a little more than one year, beginning in 1989, belies that philosophy. It’s heavily plated with beautiful nickel over a metal base that has been well-prepared. Nickel looks so nice on a gun, having a slight gold cast that can only be noticed by holding it next to something plated with chrome. And a good nickel job will outlast a good blue job by many years. Chrome, by comparison, is brittle and will soon begin to flake off in unsightly patches.

The rear sight of the model E is adjustable for both windage and elevation. Although the method of adjustment is crude, it works perfectly. The entire unit slides left and right in a groove and is held in position by a single slotted friction screw. Elevation is via a headless slotted screw running through the horizontal leaf. This same method has been used for air pistol sights since the 1930s and is just as precisely accurate as more expensive click-adjustable units, if not as easy to make fine adjustments.

You might think that accuracy in a gun selling for under $90 would be quite low, but the Sheridan is really quite the shooter. In fact, it was this aspect that caused us to look at it in the first place. One of our readers sent us some targets he had shot with his Sheridan model H multi-pump pneumatic (different powerplant than the model E, but similar in other ways) that were quite eye-opening. He had several five-shot groups fired at 25 yards that measured under an inch! That isn’t bad for a rifle, let alone a pistol. For a pistol costing so little, it’s very good!

He had scoped his gun with an inexpensive Tasco, but I preferred to try ours with the factory iron sights. Shooting at 10 meters (33 feet), I got one five-shot group that measured under 3/8″, and several others were just a smidgen larger. The most accurate pellets were the .20 caliber Crosmans that come in a red plastic belt-loop box–the same as the .177s.

This is the kind of accuracy I got from a rest at 10 meters. Not a target gun but certainly a good plinker.

Shooting from a rest, I noticed a very pronounced flip-up at the muzzle with every shot. The escaping CO2 works backwards on the gun (like a rocket), once the pellet has cleared the bore. I adjusted the sights to a six-o’clock hold, and lighted the target well, so my nickel sights appeared totally black. The sight picture was less than precise because the front blade is many times smaller than the rear notch; but by focusing on the front sight and not the bull, I managed to keep a decent sight picture.

The trigger on the pistol we tested was a bit stiff, at more than 5 lb., but it broke without creep. A bit of moly lubrication on the sear and the bearing pin lowers this by about 1 lb. I wouldn’t recommend any stoning of the sear in this gun, as the parts are not as hard as those found in some firearms. The moly grease makes a large difference.

Regular Crosman .20 caliber pointed pellets went into a tight group under 3/4″. Crosman Premiers, a pellet that usually shoots best in most guns, lagged behind in this one, keeping them all in a group just over an inch. This is why it is always recommended that a shooter try all different types of pellets in a gun. Barrels will vary from gun to gun within the same brand and caliber, so it always pays to try out everything you can lay your hands on.

64-deg. F • Point blank
Crosman Pointed Pellets

High…..412 f.p.s.
Low…..384 f.p.s.
Avg…..398 f.p.s.
Ext. Spread…..28 f.p.s.
Beeman Silver Sting
High…..444 f.p.s.
Low…..423 f.p.s.
Avg…..429 f.p.s.
Ext. Spread…..21 f.p.s.

I found that shooting rapidly did cause the velocity to drop along a regular slope, but waiting 15 seconds between shots allowed things to stabilize and velocity to rise to the average. Many CO2 guns exhibit this phenomenon, which is caused by their internal parts being cooled by the steady flow of CO2, a refrigerant gas. The vapor pressure of CO2 drops when things get cooler, which puts less pressure behind each succeeding pellet. So, it’s often a good idea to allow a CO2 gun to warm up between shots.

In all, I must say that I was most impressed by this Sheridan pistol. It has the genuine quality that we all look for in older American airguns. Too often, today’s guns do not measure up to that same standard. This one does. If you’re looking for an inexpensive American-built gun, try either the Sheridan or the Crosman line of CO2 and pneumatic pistols. The CO2 gun now comes in a dull painted finish only, but the pneumatic is still finished in bright nickel.

RWS 92 – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, don’t forget that on April 8 at 8 p.m., Eastern, I’ll have a special Q&A session on Pyramyd Air’s Facebook page just for you. Please join me then. You must have a free Facebook account and be a friend of Pyramyd Air to participate.

Part 1

Before we begin, I have an airgun-related story for you. Edith and I own a Select Comfort bed–the kind that is called a Sleep-by-Number bed today, but 15 years ago it was just Select Comfort. The air compressor that inflates both mattresses finally went belly-up this past weekend, so we ordered another. But while trying to fix this one, air was let out of both mattresses, and the bed was unusable until the new compressor arrives.

I used a CO2 bottle to inflate one mattress, but I ran out of CO2 before the job was finished. So, I used a scuba tank to finish the job. It did the job in less than a minute, and although I have to admit that it was not convenient to do, I was sure glad we were able to do it, because I love that bed. I would not have enjoyed sleeping on a lesser mattress for even a few nights. In the past I have also used a bulk tank of CO2 to extinguish a car fire, and now this. It’s just one more reason I’m glad to be an airgunner.

Today, we’ll take a look at the power of this RWS 92. Several readers were familiar with this airgun, so this should be a revealing day for them.

RWS model 92 by Cometa.

Getting right to it
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets averaged 618 f.p.s. The spread was from a low of 596 f.p.s. to a high of 638 f.p.s. That’s 42 f.p.s., which is pretty high for a spring gun. That computes to an energy of 6.7 foot-pounds.

Next, I tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets. Being heavier, they should be slower; but being made from softer lead, they may be close in velocity. It came as only a small surprise that they averaged 635 f.p.s. The spread went from a low of 626 to a high of 647, so just 21 f.p.s. separation. The rifle’s more at ease with this pellet, though we’ll have to await the accuracy results to know for sure. The energy is a more lively 7.52 foot-pounds.

Then, I tested some RWS Hobbys. As a lightweight lead pellet, they should be pretty good in a gun like this. They averaged 693 The spread went from 675 to 707, so 22 f.p.s. The energy worked out to 7.47 foot-pounds.

The power fits in with my observation that the 92 is 7/8 of an FWB 124. It’s a great place for a plinking rifle to be. A little less than advertised but still very useful.

Firing behavior
The rifle is fairly calm when it fires, but there’s a jolt. The barrel was too loose when I tested because it would not remain in any position after being cocked. I took the action out of the stock and found the locking screw for the pivot bolt that Vince told us about. I tightened the pivot bolt, but then it didn’t align with the locking screw with or even without the spacer he put in, so I removed the pivot bolt and reshimmed it to torque the bolt a little more. It doesn’t change the velocity, but it may help the accuracy when the time comes. I see what Vince means about those notches being hard to align when doing this job, so I was glad for his fix.

Here you can see the barrel pivot bolt locking screw clearly, and how it must fit into one of the scallops cut into the periphery of the pivot bolt head. If it’s off, the locking screw won’t fit. A small shim under the pivot bolt head causes it to end its rotation earlier than normal. You can also see that the next notch is very far from this one, so the shim must be much thicker.

I did slice my finger while working on the action outside of the stock, which is a reminder that the metal parts on many spring rifles have razor-sharp edges unless you take the time to dull them. Normally, that’s part of a tuneup. It’s not the sexy part nor does it add anything to the bottom line, but it’s the thing to do for your own peace of mind whenever you work on the action again.

The two-stage trigger-pull breaks at between 3 lb.., 2 ozs. and 3 lb.., 14 ozs. I attribute the large difference to the second-stage creep, as you would expect on a rifle in this price range.

When out of the stock, the 92 also resembles the FWB 124 more than a little. I would expect disassembly would be similar to the German gun. Looking through the cocking slot, I noticed that the mainspring was coated with moly paste, which confirms that this rifle was lubed after it came from the factory.

Moly grease on the mainspring is a giveaway that the rifle was tuned after the factory lubed it.

So far, so good. It looks like the RWS 92 is a fine plinking pellet rifle that was a great value when it last sold at $100. Next time, I’ll check the accuracy, which will be interesting with these all-plastic sight parts.

Beeman R1 update report

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, don’t forget that on April 8 at 8 p.m. Eastern I will have a special Facebook session on the Pyramyd Air page just for you. Please join me then.

And don’t forget the Arkansas airgun show is fast approaching. Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, are the dates, and this website gives all the particulars. I hope to see a lot of you there.

Today is Friday, and on Fridays I like to write about things that are of special interest to me. Do you know that I’ve been writing this blog for almost five years, and in all that time I haven’t done a single report on the Beeman R1? I wrote a book about it, but I’ve never blogged it until today. I assume that veteran airgunners know the rifle well, but the newer readers may never have heard of it or given it a second thought.

The R1 book has test results from two brand-new R1s.

To clear up a rumor that people used to try to spread, the Beeman R1 did not grow out of the Weihrauch HW80. In fact, it was just the opposite. The HW80 is copied after the R1. It came to market first because the longer R1 stocks were not ready in time to build the rifles. And the nomenclature HW 0 means that the piston stroke is 80mm. The R1 was the first air rifle to be designed in part by a CAD/CAM system, and those who attend the Arkansas show next month may well have the chance to meet the engineer who designed it for Dr. Beeman–E.H. Epperson.

Back when the R1 first came to market, the FWB 124 was the fairest in the land. It had broken the 800 f.p.s. barrier and nothing else could hold a candle to it. Then, the R1 burst on the scene, delivering 940 f.p.s. in .177 caliber. Before a year elapsed, the Beeman company had tuned the .177 R1 past 1,000 f.p.s. and every dedicated airgunner wanted one. I know I sure did.

The trouble was that I had recently bought an expensive 124, and as a family man could not justify spending that much more money for another new air rifle. Robert Beeman taunted me with the Rekord trigger, the beautiful stock and of course the power that I thought I needed to be complete. So, I pined for an R1 that would not be mine until more than a decade passed. Wife No. 2 turned out to be much nicer than No. 1 and gave me one for Christmas in 1991.

The Rekord trigger had a lot to recommend it in the early 1980s. It still does.

My new R1 was in .177 caliber, of course, because I wanted the speed. But I quickly learned what I now tell other new airgunners–velocity without accuracy sucks, and you give up too much power by getting a powerful airgun in .177 caliber. So, I decided that I wanted a .22. Enter The Airgun Letter.

Starting in 1994, I wrote a monthly newsletter about airguns. Then, I hatched a plot that I would write about an R1 and all the various tunes one could do to it. It would provide the newsletter with many interesting articles (more than nine in the final tally). To do that I would have to get a brand-new R1 that I could break in and report on as I did. Cutting to the chase, that R1 served as the platform for many newsletter articles and was the basis for my book, which was published in 1995.

For those who have never read the book, there were actually two R1s. The first one broke a forearm stock mount that Beeman had to weld back on, and in the process they “gave” me a free moly tune, because they had to clean out the compression chamber before welding. That was great except for one thing. I was in the middle of a protracted break-in and test, which they ruined by tuning the gun. So, after some discussion, they replaced the rifle and I got to break in a second .22 caliber R1. It’s all in the book and the remarkable thing is how close the two rifles turned out after a 1,000-shot break-in.

That second rifle is the one I still have today, though I did trade it away for a period of three years. The same man got my Whiscombe rifle when we needed the money, but was glad to sell them back to me three years later because I included his (and my) favorite M1 Carbine in the deal. While he had the gun, he made a beautiful walnut stock for it, which is a bonus given the level of my woodworking skill. Although it isn’t checkered, I leave it on the rifle for the beauty.

My R1 has undergone a huge transition from new. This is how it looks today.

Isn’t that nice figure in the butt?

How does a Beeman R1 differ from other magnum air rifles?
For starters, there are no synthetics visible on this rifle. None! The piston seal is synthetic and so is the spring guide in a current R1, but the guide in my rifle is steel. The trigger uses machined parts. The major stamped part is the box that holds the trigger components.

When I picked the rifle up to examine it, I was shocked by the weight. It’s over 10 lbs. with a scope and Vortek tunable muzzlebrake. Yet it delivers only about 14.5 foot-pounds. I’ve detuned it for smoothness and because I simply do not need it to be a supermagnum air rifle anymore.

This muzzlebrake from Vortek has a moving weight that allows you to “tune” the rifle to the best vibration nodes. You can adjust the barrel vibration for every different pellet you shoot. This accessory is no longer available, though Vortek may still have a couple that were unsold.

It shoots smooth, though compared to a Bronco or Benjamin Legacy there’s still some vibration. That could be cured by either tighter fitting of the powerplant components (mainspring, piston, spring guides) or with the application of black tar, but I haven’t done either and I doubt I will.

The Rekord trigger on my rifle is adjusted about as light as I dare go. It releases under 8 oz., yet cannot be bumped off the sear. It’s so light that my analog trigger-pull gauge cannot measure it. After a light first stage, the second is the equivalent of a target release. Paul Watts lightened the trigger return spring, which helped stage one, and he gave me a polished trigger blade.

The R1 was one of those rifles for which the artillery hold was developed. Without it, you’re looking at five-inch groups at 50 yards. With it, the groups can be one inch and sometimes slightly less. All that I’m saying applies to the .22 caliber rifle, only. The .177 and .20 caliber rifles should be equally accurate, but I don’t have enough experience to comment. The .25 caliber rifle was never as accurate as the other three calibers.

My dream gun
In the R1 book, I ended by telling the readers what my dream gun would be. Well, I never built it. And in the 15 years since the book came out, I’ve discovered that I really don’t have a dream gun. I like to change the tunes of the guns I keep as the mood strikes me. So, the tune that’s on this rifle now probably won’t be there a decade from now. It had a gas spring before this, and now it has a light steel spring tune. If I could find the parts, I would go back to a Mag 80 Laza tune, but those parts aren’t being made any longer. So, I’ll get interested in something else and make it into that.

The R1 in 2010
The R1 design is getting old. It’s like a ’57 Chevy. It still goes fast and it still looks nice and we enjoy the nostalgia, but the R1 is a dated design today. However, like the Chevy, it’s dated in the retro way that serious airgunners appreciate. The stock is real wood and the trigger hasn’t been cheapened. The barrel is all steel and full-sized. While many magnum rifles today are more powerful, they only exist because they stand on the shoulders of this rifle that paved the way to the first true magnum spring gun status.

Whether you need an R1 or not is entirely up to you, but I don’t think it’s as essential as it once was. The TX200 is an essential airgun because nothing in the world can do the same job it can, as well as it can. But that’s not true of the R1. For power, there are other spring rifles that overshadow this one. For accuracy there are several others that exceed it. But if you want to own a ’57 Chevy, then this is the only game in town.

A customer’s review of the Makarov CO2 repeating BB pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

Reminder: Pyramyd Air has a spring-gun sale going on right now–and today’s the last day! If you’ve wanted to pick up any of the desirable guns listed there, do it today! See it here.

Blog reader Chris Schaefer wanted to share his experiences with the Umarex Makarov CO2 BB pistol with the rest of our blog readers.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Now, let’s get on with Chris’ review.

by Christopher Schaefer

As firearm ammunition prices remain high and time and finances limit trips to the range, I began looking at ways to practice at home. The goals: affordability and ease-of-use–easy enough so all my family members could practice with it. I already have a single-stroke Beeman P17 pneumatic pellet gun; and having seen excellent results at the range, I began looking for a repeating BB pistol that I could use for firearm proficiency training (for home defense).

I decided on the Umarex Makarov CO2 pistol replica of a Russian-made Makarov PM from Pyramyd Air. Why did I choose this particular pistol? The search began much in the same way I would go about finding and fitting a firearm. The factors included grip size, ease-of-use and action (revolver vs. semiauto). My wife and I, being of smaller stature, wanted a pistol whose grip would be comfortable. And with the expectations that my children would eventually be trained to use it, the smaller-framed Makarov quickly rose to the top of the list. Since it’s a replica of a semiautomatic pistol, it gained points, because I was already competent with firearm semiautos at the range.

The Umarex Makarov BB pistol is small and easy to shoot. Just right for me and my wife.

Home defense was the primary motive for using a BB repeater. The pistol had to be similar to a firearm in weight and size. Additional bonuses would be if the BB pistol could be maintained and cleaned similarly to the firearm it copied, and the Makarov from Umarex is all of those things. The construction is top-notch with solidly built components such as the slide and frame. The drop-free stick magazine is well-made of metal. It loads and slides into the grip with similar action to that of a firearm. The pistol’s slide cocks the action, and it can fire in both single-action and double-action modes: a benefit to all the shooters in my family. And the Makarov PM disassembles nearly identically to that of its firearm counterpart. These combined factors sealed the choice in my mind. I could clearly see that this would serve as a wonderful training piece for me, family members and friends of like mind.

The metal stick magazine drops free from the front of the grip.

Still, some questions remained. There were so many other repeating BB pistols on the market with copious features. One particular feature was the blowback action found in other Umarex products as well as the competing models of other manufacturers. If I wanted to experience the recoil of a real firearm, shouldn’t I consider blowback? The jury’s still out, but I would soon discover that proper grip, trigger control and general practice would weigh in considerably. And what about pellets vs. BBs? From experience I knew that pellets could give better target performance. However, I already owned an airgun for target shooting. While accuracy was still desired in home defense I had set acceptably lower limits for it.

Perhaps you’ve undergone similar research. Various on-line forums and blogs were exceedingly helpful. And the useful feedback from generous souls sharing their opinions in customer reviews–ice those found at Pyramyd Air–helped immensely. Likewise, Pyramyd Air’s blog. All of these opinions and observations helped me decide which repeating BB pistol I would start with.

As the expression goes: the proof is in the pudding. Would the replica Makarov really perform to my requirements? Would it be easy? Would it be affordable? Let’s see.

A primary home defense question is, Can you quickly get the pistol into operation? That involves disengaging the safety, bearing on target and accurately squeezing off two or three quick rounds. To put my Makarov to the test, I began with a homemade indoor BB and pellet trap capable of posting 8.5″x11″ paper targets. Abundant styles of targets are available online for just the cost of printing!

Shots were taken from a multitude of defensive stationary positions and while moving. Tests were performed at distances between 5 and 20 feet. The 18-round magazine ensures plenty of opportunity to practice without reloading, and the lack of blowback in this particular pistol gives me 90+ decently powered shots. It’s definitely an affordable pistol. With the right trap, I’m able to retrieve and re-use many of my BBs. At 20 feet, I’m capable of consistently grouping all shots within a 6.5″ diameter target. At closer ranges, I group less than 2 inches. This is the sort of accuracy I’m looking for.

While the front and rear sights are not adjustable on the Makarov, I learned quickly that my particular pistol shot a little high and to the right. While annoying, this is easily compensated for. Also, a factor in the pistol’s accuracy is the trigger-pull weight difference between SA and DA modes. Long, spongy creep takes up the first stage, although it’s slightly less pronounced in single-action. Both modes have a moderately crisp letoff with little left in the squeeze. This would be my only complaint at this time. Regardless of the creep, in a defensive situation I’m fully capable of engaging the trigger easily and following through with the shot. The grip, however, is an entirely different matter.

The pistol’s grip is one piece and plastic-injected molded. The texturing is fair. Because the grip covers the CO2 cartridge, it’s designed to easily slide away from the frame. Over time, the grip loosens. As a form of preventative maintenance, a rubber band secures the grip with little interference.

Rubber band keeps the sliding grip anchored when I’m shooting.

Addressing the grip of this pistol is the same as with any handgun. Its smaller stature, for a two-handed grip, presents little challenge for my smaller hands but would offer some difficulty for larger hands. My palm, thumb and index finger quickly find their resting place with plenty of room left for the remaining fingers to support. The pistol’s safety, the same location as on the firearm, is easily activated by my thumb. And the slide spring offers reasonable resistance should one wish to rack it prior to firing. The magazine release differs from the real-life Makarov PM; there’s a spring-loaded catch at the bottom of the grip. The magazine drops free due to gravity only. A spring-loaded follower in the magazine can be slid and locked down, which makes loading very easy.

For fast shooting with a BB gun, this is a very good result, even from close range.

Disassembly for cleaning or just for training purposes is particularly easy with this pistol. The triggerguard pulls down, hinged at the rear, and the slide can be slid and canted off from the frame guide and barrel. The slide spring then slides off the barrel. Besides that, there’s little else the average user would need to perform for disassembly. As another preventative maintenance technique, I always use two small drops of Crosman’s Pellgunoil on the tip of every new CO2 cartridge before loading. This ensures proper lubrication.

As a semi-related note, I treat this BB repeater just as I would any firearm. And that extends to where and how it is stored. Since we have small children in the home and because we desire to train them with sound gun-handling skills, I take the needed precautions now so they get in the habit of treating this BB pistol the same as any firearm. Hopefully, that will fully carry over when they begin learning how to use it.

Since owning this BB repeater, I’ve had much more freedom in practicing various home defense drills. The obvious benefit is that Im practicing safely in my own home. The pistol carries easily, has many different holsters available for it and builds confidence in general firearm handling. But the one surprising aspect to owning and practicing with this BB repeater is discovering that my wife is a natural shot! With the proper care, we hope to get many years of enjoyment from Umarex’s Makarov PM repeating BB pistol.

IZH MP655 BB and pellet pistol – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

There’s a great spring gun sale at Pyramyd Air right now through this Thursday. Some very nice guns are on the list. See it here.

I’ve done a lot of spring guns recently and many of them were vintage, so today I’ll get back on track with a product you can buy. It’s the new MP 655K CO2 pistol pistol from IZH.This pistol shoots either steel BBs or lead pellets, depending on how you set it up.

Unlike the new air handguns of the recent past, this one is an entirely new model, and one that we’re not familiar with. Like many new airguns, this one is a copy of a firearm, though, once again, a model that most of us are not familiar with. It was requested by the Spetsnaz (Similar to, but not exactly the same as American Special Forces. The translation of the name is “Special Purpose.”) to replace the Makarov, and it’s very different from that pistol. The MR 445 Varjag is a departure in thinking from the traditional Soviet/Russian view of sidearms. Until now, sidearms were considered useless by Russian forces, and all their thought has centered on the rifle or carbine. But this one changes everything.

The MR 445 is a modern tactical sidearm. It’s chambered in .40 Smith & Wesson, which represents a huge departure for the Russians or indeed, for any European military or police force. The 9x19mm Luger round (or 9×18 Makarov for the Soviets/Russians) has been so entrenched in the thinking of European forces for the past century that it has been unthinkable for them to consider another round. And, if they did, it was invariably lower-powered, like the 7.65mm that we call the .32 ACP. Big bore handguns were not the thing in Europe throughout the 20th century.

The MR 445 also has a rail mounting system under the slide and in front of the triggerguard to accept tactical flashlights and lasers. So, this is a serious handgun designed for serious use, rather than dead weight on the soldier. It has a 15-round magazine, in a double-stack wide grip. It has a vestigial hammer buried deep within the slide. And the trigger is a strange, solid piece of metal with a crescent cutout for the trigger finger. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen.

As sexy as this new firearm is, Baikal, the makers, just released an airgun equivalent called the MP-655K. Powered by CO2, this pistol holds either 100 steel BBs in a reservoir inside the slide or eight lead pellets housed in a circular clip. There’s another separate BB storage compartment in the grip. BB gun shooters are going to want to check it out.

I took a new photo of the 655K because it doesn’t look exactly like the one on the Pyramyd Air product page. The controls are silver-colored for one thing.

An ambidextrous thumb release on the side of the grip behind the trigger releases the CO2 system and separate BB storage container for servicing. An ambidextrous 1911-style safety switch can be operated one-handed by all shooters. The slide release is extended, but on the left side of the frame only; however, a lefty can easily operate it with his trigger finger.

The slide release is extended back so you can operate it with your thumb (trigger finger for southpaws) and the safety is ambidextrous.

This is a handgun that owners are going to have to study before use. It has so many unique and unusual features and operating quirks that it’s going to challenge most shooters to learn its ways in the beginning. The BB reservoir in the grip is just a container that does not feed BBs into the gun. It’s simply there as an additional supply of BBs. When you want to actually shoot, BBs are poured into a space in the top of the slide called the BB accumulator. Those BBs move by gravity to the magnetized circular BB clip that accepts them for shooting. To load pellets, you must swap the circular clip inside the pistol’s metal slide with a pellet clip. The gun comes with a cleaning rod that’s also the clip removal tool. I’ll show all of this when I test the velocity in Part 2.

The “magazine” contains both the CO2 cartridge, the gun’s valve and a separate BB container. That container does not feed into the gun. BBs must be poured into the real reservoir on top of the slide.

What looks like the barrel in this photo is just a sliding plastic barrel cover. It’s made to resemble the barrel of a firearm. It even has fake “rifling” cast into the end. The real barrel is the smaller hole on the bottom.

The frame is synthetic, of course. Since that’s the common practice with firearms today, I don’t think anyone can complain. If they do, no one will care that much. I see in this month’s Shooting Times that Taurus is bringing out a plastic version of their Judge revolver, so plastic is now the material of choice for both airguns and firearms.

The MP-655K’s frame is molded with rounded corners to make a “one shape fits all” configuration. Obviously, a lot of thought was given to ergonomics in the design, which is more evidence that they meant this pistol to be used.

The slide, which the owner’s manual calls the barrel jacket, moves freely on the frame; but the pistol doesn’t have blowback.

The rear sight is fully adjustable and delightfully plain. A square notch in back with a front square post. The steel barrel is rifled with six lands and grooves, so good accuracy should be possible. The action is both single- and double-action, though cocking the hammer is more like pressing a button.

The rear sight is fully adjustable and very nice and conventional.

The hammer is buried deep inside the slide but still accessible for single-action operation.

You must be astonished by the price of this gun, for it sells for three times what a BB pistol should cost. But you have to remember that this gun also shoots lead pellets, so perhaps the best way to think of it is like an Umarex pistol. It remains to be see if the gun is accurate and how well it works and what the shot count from a CO2 cartridge might be, but that’s what these tests are for.

I will say this–if IZH has managed to make an accurate pistol and one that functions well, they may have a real winner in the MP-655K.

The Bronco from Air Venturi – Part 7

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Air Venturi Bronco.

My best friend, Mac, got his Bronco a week ago and went through a tin of pellets in a day. He was amazed with the accuracy at 25 yards, and he loves the trigger.

Mac owns a Mendoza peep sight that he mounted on his Bronco first thing. Of course, he ran into the too-high thing right away, but not at 25 yards. He’ll increase the height of the front post to offset the problem until the front sight spacer becomes available.

Today, I’ll look at the Bronco with the new Crosman peep sight mounted. You’ll remember that it’s the lowest peep sight on the market right now. The sight almost clears the stock on the left side, but not quite. If I were going to keep this sight on this rifle, I would relieve the stock just a bit so the sight could sit flat. As it is, it’s canted to the right. That doesn’t affect my test, but it means that the windage adjustments will also include a bit of elevation and vice-versa. No owner will like it the way it sits now; but with a relief slot cut in the left side of the stock, it’ll look fine.

Crosman peep sight hits the stock on the left side of the gun and sits canted as a result.

Oh, what the heck, I decided to cut the relief myself. I routed it out with a Dremel tool and a rasp. The work was fast and easy and the sight now sits squarely on the receiver. So the test will be legit.

The area to be removed is marked with a Sharpie

Wood has been removed to allow the sight to sit square on the receiver.

The Crosman sight sits so low on the receiver that sighting was a problem for me until I got used to it. Those with slender faces will find it easier to do, I’m sure. Also, the aperture in the sight is large for shooting targets. While that doesn’t cost any accuracy, it does require a more careful hold and use because it’s easier to get off target with such a large hole. On the plus side, though, the hole admits a lot of light, making it okay for hunting.

Mac reported to me that he loves the trigger. I do, too. At only 30 oz., it’s light yet entirely safe. I enjoy the two-bladed action for both stages.

This is what the rifle looks like with the rear sight removed and the peep sight installed.

Let’s shoot
Sight-in put me on paper at 10 meters, but the rear sight needed a lot of elevation to get up into the bull. The first I tried were the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. They shot to the right of center but grouped very well.

Five Premier 7.9 lites grouped well at 10 meters. This was the best group in the session.

JSB lites
JSB lites shot almost as well as Premier lites. They load more easily than Premiers and may be smaller in diameter, so they sit deeper in the breech.

JSB 8.4-grain domes did well, too.

A sight adjustment brought the group closer to the center of the bull.

What’s the verdict?
The Bronco works well with the new Crosman Peep, but the stock does have to be modified for clearance. It adjusts much than anyone will ever need, but it also has the elevation you need for farther targets. Of all the peep sights currently available, this one is the best I’ve tested. It makes a good addition to the Bronco, and I believe I’ll leave it on the rifle for awhile.