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Education / Training Beeman R1 – Part 1

Beeman R1 – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald

The R1 Elite Series combo comes with a Bushnell 4-12x40AO scope mounted.

Well, we had to get to the Beeman R1 before long. After all, it’s a Weihrauch rifle and probably the one model that American airgunners are the most familiar with. Back in its heyday, which was the very early 1980s, it was, for a brief time, the most powerful spring-piston air rifle around. It was also the first airgun to be designed by a CAD system.

The engineer who did the computer work for Dr. Beeman meets me every year at the Little Rock Airgun Expo, and he sometimes tells me tidbits of what that development was like. At the time, they didn’t have a large body of test data to design from, so they modeled all sorts of possible performance enhancements until they found the correct blend.

The R1 sprang from the HW35, which was, and still is, a large spring-piston air rifle that doesn’t seem to live up to its size. Tuners back in the 1970s found there was very little they could do to boost the power of the HW35 powerplant much over what the factory puts out. The rifle was a 750 f.p.s. rifle in top trim in .177 caliber at a time when the FWB 124, Diana 45 and BSF 55 rifles were all topping 800 f.p.s.

The solution turned out not to be a more powerful mainspring. In fact, when the R1 was Lazerized by the Beeman company about a year after the gun was first offered, the cocking effort dropped several pounds as the power increased. The solution turned out to be swept volume of the piston. The diameter of the piston could not get much larger than it already was, because the HW35 compression tube was already quite wide. The piston stroke was where most of the increase had to come from. Beeman called the new rifle the R1, short for the first Beeman-specified model air rifle. HW called the gun the HW80, which records the stroke of the piston in millimeters.

The R1 was developed by Beeman in cooperation with Weihrauch, but when the time came for the first rifles to be built, the R1 stocks required a larger piece of wood than the HW80 models, so the HW80 rifles actually hit the market several months before the R1 while they waited for custom-ordered stocks. The HW80 had to be set to the power limits of whichever country it would be sold in. For Germany, that would be 7.5 joules, which is about 6 foot-pounds. That’s such a low power level that you can see there wasn’t much incentive to build a new 9-lb. monster breakbarrel rifle. In the United Kingdom, the power limit was higher, at 12 foot-pounds. Even then, the HW80 was huge for the power it put out.

Only in the United States, where airgun power is unrestricted, did it make sense to build an air rifle this large and heavy. Therefore, the HW80 took an instant back seat to the much more powerful R1 when it finally came out. When it did come out, it was awesome! The reigning power champ of the day was the FWB 124, just barely topping 12 foot-pounds, or in terms more airgunners can understand, a muzzle velocity of about 820 f.p.s. with medium-weight .177 caliber pellets. Suddenly, the new Beeman gun was cranking out 940 f.p.s. Before another year had passed, the 1,000 f.p.s. threshold had been passed for the first time by a spring rifle.

Did I mention that the R1 is large? Compared to it, a Winchester model 70 in .30-06 seems like a scout rifle, weighing several pounds less and extending several inches shorter. When you heft an R1 to your shoulder, you know you’re holding something. Even though I’ve been in airgunning seriously for many years and have held hundreds of different air rifles, every time I shoulder an R1 I’m impressed all over again. Factor that into your desire to own one. It’s not an all-day plinker by anyone’s definition.

The gun Mac is testing is actually the Beeman R1 Elite Series combo that consists of the rifle with a Bushnell 4-12x40AO scope that comes mounted from Pyramyd AIR. The one on Mac’s test rifle sits in Sportsmatch rings, and he notes that the scope sits close to the spring tube, as you would expect.

Mac’s test rifle is .22 caliber. We decided to do that because of the power potential of the gun. He reports that the wood has the same checkering as the HW97. The staining could be nicer on his test gun he says, but the red rubber buttpad is fitted very well. There are no open sights on this model, as the scope will be the sighting system.

The metal is deeply blued and highly polished. The muzzlebrake is just over four inches long and provides the ideal handle for cocking the rifle. As a safety precaution, remember to never let go of the barrel when it’s open.

The barrel is nearly 20 inches long, as less than a half-inch of muzzlebrake sticks past the true muzzle. This barrel is a full-diameter steel barrel, rifled in the traditional style. So, you’re getting quality that harkens from three decades ago and isn’t seen that often today. I mention that to help explain the price, which is $600 for the basic rifle with no sights.

What about the price?
This needs to be said. The R1 is not a cheap air rifle. For the price, you get a German-made rifle with the world-famous Rekord trigger, a solid wood stock, a full-diameter steel barrel, one of the largest powerplants on the market today, a world-class telescope mounting platform and a metal finish that puts most other spring rifles to shame. You do get what you pay for, but with all the Chinese competition coming in around $150 less, many shooters are not going to see the value here.

The R1 was expensive when it first hit the streets back in 1980, and it’s always been on the high end of the spring-gun range. If you don’t value the features it offers, it’s not the air rifle for you. If you find the physical size too imposing, it may also not be a good choice. Choose an R1 because you know what it is, and it’s what you want in an air rifle.

This will be an interesting report, because Mac has made a discovery that many of you have also made by following this blog. It worked for him just as I know it’ll work for you. I won’t tell you what he discovered until we get to it, but it makes this report quite interesting.

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.

83 thoughts on “Beeman R1 – Part 1”

  1. Yes, BB is back in the saddle,delivering another cliffhanger! I hope your health continues to improve! Can You tell me your thoughts on a R1 laser MK1 in .20…is it something you would consider worth the 1,000$ bluebook price? Or do you think a new R1 W/ proffesional tune would be money better spent? I guess when the stock is figured in,the Goudy laminate makes it worth it?

    • Frank,

      A thousand dollars is too much to pay for a Laserized R1, but the presence of a Goudy stock might just make the difference. The Goudy is a classic and well-proportioned, and I really enjoy classic stocks.

      But the Laser tune isn’t up to the standards of what is possible with the R1. I’ve done a couple of them and while they turn out well, they cannot compete with a piston that has been buttoned.

      The good news is that the Blue Book price is just a number. A real seller may ask a lot less, if he hopes to sell his rifle.


      • Thank you BB,if he is greedy I will slap him around and then make him read your answer! This guy is thinking everything is the Hope diamond.I guess he was caught snoozing on the Aeron B96 for 275$.

    • I can say something for the two guns i have(D.34 still waiting for a spring) 631 and 634 (i have said this twice before 🙂 )-they have made piston shorter but the powerplant is same lenght and diameter like 631(basically completely same) , and shorter piston(and maybe stronger wire but i am not sure) made 634 stronger -631 170m/s and 634-220m/s and i think that this can be postulat for all others airguns ,or maybe not i dont know ,but correct me if i am wrong 🙂 ….!!!???

        • No really Dave i will buy one more ( old ) Slavia just to tune it up 😉 (1000fps yeah),and here they arent so expensive and parts are easy to find here in fact you can buy parts in every market place here… but this project have to wait for Diana 34 project to finish- and areally i am loosing intrest….

            • Pete -i like to put a hole in a bottle cap 🙂 and this is 17 cal rifle and there is huge difference between 720fps in 17 and 22 cal -i know that you know that 🙂 but for everybody else i can now compare destructive power of Diana 34 22 cal(sure they say that 34 is 800fps ,but it is more like 740fps at best ) and Slavia 634 in 17 (720fps),and yes there is less chance for riccochet with a stronger gun if i place pellet in a wood 😉 😉 170-220 m/s in my opinion best for plinking why 220 m/s i dont know man but i didnt regret buying it 😉

            • And Pete we have here some strange law about airguns -we can own any air gun (no matter what the power is)but we can t hunt with air weapons -basically everything that is not fire weapon is against the law to be used for hunting …

  2. A buttoned piston is when small round “buttons” are glued onto the rear and sometimes the front of the pistons circuference, to prevent metal to metal contact between the piston skirt, and the inside of the compression tube. They are usually made of delrin, and are often turned down on one end that is then pressed into holes drilled in the piston skirt. this makes the gun cock smoother, and eliminates vibration, and doesn’t rely on just lubes to make this happen ,like in the laser tune, Robert.

  3. Hmmm, now you have me thinking, BB. Perhaps I can find someone at Roanoke who would do a trade – my RWS350 for an R1 plus a player to be named later – or some green stuff? All kinds of interesting ideas are now occurring to me. I do hate to get rid of the 350 after all the work I put into it.

    Corona, you say?

    Fred PRoNJ

  4. BB: good luck with your 788, and please give us a report on it. Those loads I use are a soft recoiling ones, and pleasant to shoot. I believe the .30-30 will do anything with cast bullets that it will do with jacketed ones,Robert.

    • Robert,

      Yes, I will definitely give a report. I’m doing the .30-30 test partly to verify some things I think I know about airguns, so it ought to be interesting.

      However, I haven’t been to the rifle range since February and there are 9 guns in the que that I haven’t even shot yet. One of them is an 1862 Peabody that was converted to .45-70 for the state of Connecticut. I will be loading up some of my soft loads of 4198, which is clean-burning and gives super results in both my Trapdoor Springfield and my .43 Spanish Rolling Block.

      I like that the loads you gave are soft-recoiling. The 788 is a light little rifle and I don’t need the punishment. I want to free-float the barrel before I shoot the rifle again, because it was shooting factory loads all over the place when I shot it the first time.


  5. B.B.,

    Just went back to Friday’s article to look again at your terrific custom walnut goudy style stock on the R1. With all due respect to the current R1 pictured in todays article there’s no comparison. Wow that’s a nice stock on your R1.

    Frank B. opened the door this morning to R1 tuning……

    Setting sentiment aside, do you prefer a .22 caliber R1 with a venom lazaglide tune or a vortek gas spring?


    • Kevin,

      Between those two I would have to go with the Lazaglide. Are you referring to the Venom Mag 80 Lazaglide tune? If so, it is the finest tune I have eve tested for the R1. Unfortunately I tested that mainspring to destruction in my mainspring failure test, so I lost that tune forever. But for power and calm shooting, it had no equal. It shot like an R7, yet pushed 23 foot pounds out the spout.


        • Kevin,

          I gave the entire kit away to a friend. It still had 96 percent of the original power and it only vibrated slightly from a small cant the spring had taken. He has been using it for many years.

          Is the entire Mag 80 kit still available?


          • B.B.,

            Supposedly the entire Mag 80 kit is available. Many airgunners, much more experienced than me, say that Steve Pope (formerly of Venom) sells the kit formerly known as the Venom Mag 80 but now calls it the V-Mach FAC Tuning kit. If you click on the link I provided above, then click on “V-Mach FAC Tuning Kits” you’ll hopefully be able to tell better than me whether it compares to the Mag 80 or not.

            I’ve never been fortunate enough to own a gun with a Venom Mag 80 Lazaglide tune and have never seen the V-Mach kit in person so I’m just passing along what I’ve read. For the refresher Lazaglide tunes that Mac 1 does he allegedly gets his kits from Pope but for the refresher Lazaglide tunes that Watts does he uses a different spring. Everyone sings praises for both and say that their guns feel just like they did when their Lazaglide tune was new.


    • twotalon

      “Is there any reasonable substitute for ‘black tar’ for spring grease?”

      There may be some very high viscosity substitute, try a web search as so many spring gun tuners have created their own “recipes”. Still, at the end of the day, the black tar like substances are for dampening of the coil vibrations, not for lubrication.

      The very best, high-end springer tunes don’t require grease or tars. The springs, guides, top-hats and other refinements made during the tune are the methods used to reduce/eliminate vibration and twang.

  6. Please vote in our blog poll. In the RH column of any blog page, you’ll see a poll (scroll down…it’s the last thing listed on the right). Please make your choice and click VOTE.


  7. Mrs. Gaylord??

    I’ve noticed that there’s a box on the right side of the blog that allows us to VOTE on whether we think the images posted on the blog are too small, too big or just right. I voted but am in the minority.

    I know you’re busy but will offer some food for thought anyway.

    Other blogs images have the ability to be clicked on thus resulting in enlarging the picture. In many cases, if you click once it’s enlarged, click twice and the picture is enlarged even further allowing crisp viewing of great detail.

    I’m not suggesting that this be done (since it’s a hassle?) for every photo but for some (like today’s picture of the new R1) it would be nice. Seems todays photo was borrowed from the PA site so this may not be possible in this case.


    • Kevin,

      No decisions are easy when it comes to airgunners and/or the blog:

      1. Airgunners, especially those who read this blog, tend to be older. Previous surveys have shown an inordinately large number of people 50+, with an even surprisingly larger number who are 65+. Because of the age level, we’ve found that many airgunners are not as computer-savvy as many other web surfers. I would like the blog to be very straightforward so there’s little additional training involved…like clicking thumbnail images to enlarge them.

      2. Every time we add another feature to the blog, we run the risk of “offending” one or more browsers. The person who put the poll in place for me works for Pyramyd AIR, yet the entire RH column winks in and out for his version of IE. I don’t know how many other IE users have that same issue now.

      3. At the same time we uploaded the poll, we also uploaded a way to include images in comments. That little episode shut me out of the entire Airgun Academy site with Safari…but not Firefox. We took off the image app but will try it later this week. If it doesn’t lock me out again and we get no complaints from other blog readers, we may get to keep it.

      I agree with you about the R1 image. It IS large, but I can easily make it smaller. No image we present on the blog comes straight from any other source. All are resized and controlled by either Tom or me. So, we could make the gun horizontal instead of angled and that would make it smaller. I have no issue with that, as there’s not a bunch of detail you can see in that image.

      On the other hand, I have to wait to hear how the majority of our blog readers feel. I’m the one who told the expert hired by Pyramyd AIR that the images were not too big. I believe our readers like the larger images. Let’s see how people vote.


      • Mrs. Gaylord,

        I know you’ve had your hands full with this transition. I was one of your many “projects” when the blog format changed. Thank you again.

        I’m one of those “tend to be older” that read the blog and voted for larger pictures first because I like to see detail in many of the vintage guns that B.B. blogs and second because my eyes “tend to be older”.

        After your recent experiences I understand a hesitation about adding another feature. With or without the ability to enlarge photo’s I’ll remain a devotee.

        Below is a link to another blog that is a good example of what I was talking about. If you scroll down to the second photo of the buttstock in the article you can click once to enlarge and a second click for very close up detail:


        This may be a waste of your time since I was in the minority when voting for larger pictures.


  8. The photo is so large now that it is covering up the menu and I assume the poll you are referencing. I vote for clickable images. That way if there is something that catches our eye like the stock on B.B.’s R1, we can blow it up and really get a good look. Even with the larger embedded image, it’s not big enough for a really close look. The old dogs can learn a new trick I’m sure.

    Also, I just noticed that B.B.’s quote ‘There are no stupid questions.’ is gone. Did someone finally prove you wrong? Perhaps it was the one about whether cleaning the barrel is 20 strokes in, 20 strokes out or 10 in and 10 out…

    • Fused,

      The width of the blog text portion is wider than the width of the R1 gun, so I’m surprised that the image would overlay the menu. Are you viewing the blog by enlarging the text? I do that and sometimes it gets so big that words overlap. All I have to do is make it one click smaller and there’s no overlap. Which browser version are you using? Have the images always overlaid the RH menu or is that a recent thing?

      There’s no longer an author mini-bio because that was a Blogger thing, not a Word Press thing. There are still no stupid questions.


      • Then I will continue asking!

        The covering of the text portion is new just this afternoon. In fact, I noticed that when the page just now loaded up the menu flashed on screen for a split second and then the image covered it up. To be specific the image and the menu showed up as it always has for a split second, then it appeared that the image moved over (neither image nor text actually got bigger) and covered up the menu and the text below reformatted to fill in a wider margin, aligning with the edge of the revised image size. Strange…

  9. B.B., I seem to remember that the R1 has a tendency to buzz. Is that right? Swept volume is interesting. That seems to be a combination of size of piston and length of travel. Are airguns still designed by computer? Is CAD related to AutoCAD that I’ve heard about from mechanical engineers?

    So, you’re a pilot too! How about that. Judging by the number of times that I’ve crashed my rc planes, I believe I’ll stick with them instead of the real thing. And just when I say how rare bad landings are, you see what happened in China. That is a pretty dirty trick for that guy to interfere with your landing. I can see why NASCAR drivers get out of their cars and punch each other out for behavior like that. I’ve visited a few flight simulator forums on the internet and have not been overly impressed by the personalities there although there is a range like everything else. They sound like the kind of guy who would take over your runway.

    Kevin, mostly I squirt Ballistol on the outside of my guns. But I also use it in the action and run it through the bores when I’m not shooting the firearms for awhile. It seems to work although I wouldn’t know if it didn’t unless the guns started rusting away. I was convinced by the way Ballistol removed rust from my Winchester 94 and by the published story that B.B. mentioned. Can that many European machine gunners be wrong? 🙂


    • Matt,

      No, I’m not a pilot. I got past my solo, but didn’t have the money to continue to get my certificate. That was before the Sport Pilot certification was available. But having soloed, I have sort of been there and done that. Sort of.

      Yes, an R1 can be buzzy. the older ones were, at any rate. Mac tells me his is shooting very smooth, so something may have changed.

      AutoCAD is a popular software package that supports CAD engineering. Computer Aided Design is just the practice of using computers to design products.


      • BB,

        Something we have in common – never having completed pilot’s training. In my case I had passed the written test, soloed, and was planning my cross country when the FAA hit me with a color blindness light test that I failed. They wanted to put a rider on my license banning night flight, and I ended up deciding that it was pointless with that constraint – especially here in MI with the changing weather and very short days half the year.

        Their primary concern was that I would not be able to interpret light gun communication if my radio failed. I argued their case case way I could think of, including offering to carrying full back up portable radios, but they wouldn’t budge. To this day I have not met a pilot that hasn’t honestly admitted that they wouldn’t know the signals if they were in that situation.

        One of the most disappointing chapters of my life as I loved flying. But life goes on.

        Alan in MI

    • Matt61,

      Thanks for the input regarding ballistol. I’ve always used it on the outside of my guns. I’ trying to simplify my life so may try ballistol on the inside.


    • Let me know if you continue to have problems seeing the RH menu column. If you have problems, let me know. I’d also like to know which browser version you’re using & if it’s Mac or Windows.


  10. Pete Hallock,

    Please contact me at edith@pyramydair.com so we can get your R1 serviced. I posted this under the blog where you originally mentioned that you couldn’t get service, but have posted it here, too, just in case you’re not monitoring the older blogs.


  11. Everything is fine for me using Safari on my iPhone and it’s also fine under chrome/Windows XP BUT I’m losing the RH menu when using IE still with windows XP.

    Do you need to know anything else ?


    • J-F,

      Thanks for the info. Very enlightening. It appears that IE is the culprit.

      Perhaps people who are having issues with the blog might want to try Firefox or Safari. Neither one of those appears to have loading issues. I have both on my Mac and both are available for PCs, too. I feel that Safari has a much better RSS reader than Firefox and offers options that Firefox doesn’t have.



      • I know I’m late to the discussion. I use Safari on my Netbook with IE8 as a back up, never had much of a problem with Safari other than the occasional hiccup. Just today though my wife, who primarily uses IE8 has had continuous problems with her Farmtown/Farmville. I told her to start using the Safari I had installed on her laptop, right now she’s a happy camper. So I would concluded, maybe incorrectly that IE8 is having some problems other than just this blog.


  12. I only have heard good things about Firefox but I haven’t tried it personally. Google chrome I have tried and adopted, it’s working great and quite easy to install.


  13. BB,

    quick question for you – the Roanoke airgun show is listed for Oct. 22nd and 23rd but the 22nd is a Friday. Is that correct?

    Edith, I’ve had no problems on the RH column with IE7, Chrome or Firefox – FYI.

    Fred PRoNJ

  14. Edith
    There is no menu on the right of my screen. I am also using IE 8. The text on the blog also occupy more that a screen view. I had to reduce the size of the text to read without scrolling across!

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