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B.B.’s bag of tricks for twitchy airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we begin, I’d like to share my Christmas with you. I didn’t get any airguns or firearms this year, but I did get a wonderful reloading tool. It’s a Pope-style capper and decapper for priming and depriming cartridge cases while at the rifle range. You do that with the old-fashioned target rifles like my Ballard, and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. But until I actually saw the tool and held it in my hands, I had no appreciation of how neat and handy it was!

This loading tool is a Pope-style capper/decapper. It’s cartridge-specific and very handy to use. This one is for .38-55.

This will help me shoot the Ballard in the style it was shot when the gun was new. It also eliminates a lot of extra clutter needed to load the rifle. I’m still waiting for a custom bullet mold that I’ll need before I start shooting the Ballard again (it’s on the way but didn’t arrive in time for Christmas).

Edith, however, did get a gun from Santa. It’s a full-sized Glock made of milk chocolate! It came in a pistol case and really looks the part. Edith calls it death by chocolate!

A chocolate Glock that came in a hard pistol case. Edith loves it! She also got a chocolate hand grenade. Death by chocolate takes on a whole new meaning.

I hope all of you will share your gun-related gifts with us in the comments. It’s like being invited to your homes for Christmas. Now, let’s get into today’s report.

As much testing as I do, I run into lots of airguns that are difficult to shoot. Spring-piston airguns are the hardest to shoot as a class of gun. The preponderance of them are breakbarrels; and of those, the more powerful ones are harder to shoot accurately than any other kind of rifle — firearm or air-powered. Naturally, I always begin by using the artillery hold, but often something more is needed to get the rifle shooting its best. Let me show you what I do when this happens.

Adjustments to the artillery hold
I’m assuming that ya’ll know about the artillery hold; for those who don’t, here’s a brief article and video that explain it.

Most of what I’m about to say is also in the video. If the normal artillery hold isn’t working, try resting the rifle on the backs of your fingers. This provides a narrower fulcrum and often removes some of the randomness you get from holding the rifle on the flat of your palm.

Whether the rifle is resting on my palm or the backs of my fingers, I usually start out with the rifle rested as far back toward the triggerguard as possible. If I can’t get accuracy there, I slide the fulcrum forward until the groups tighten. One word of warning about using the backs of the fingers: many rifles are heavy enough to hurt when rested this way. Though it may prove to be accurate, it may also be inconvenient.

Disregard the artillery hold
In very few cases over the years, I’ve found certain guns that needed to be held tight — like a deer rifle. These are extremely rare; but if all else fails, grab on for dear life and pull the stock tight into your shoulder.

Clean the barrel
This is an old standby that simulates breaking-in the barrel. And you only do it with steel barrels. Brass barrels should never be cleaned this way. Run the correct caliber brass or bronze bore brush loaded with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound through the barrel 20 times in both directions. You need to use a solid or sectional cleaning rod for this, as a pull-through will take forever.

When cleaning rifles that have sliding breeches like the TX200 and the RWS Diana 48, you’ll want to use a pistol bore brush because they’re shorter. They will clear the breech of the gun when loaded from the muzzle, making the reverse cleaning stroke much easier. You really should use a brass pistol brush, because nylon pistol brush bristles aren’t stiff enough to properly clean rust deposits from a steel rifle barrel.

This works sometimes because barrels are either full of foreign material and dirt, or they’re actually rusted. Bluing solutions will cause a barrel to rust in storage and shipment. I used to clean all the Lothar Walther barrels at AirForce after they came back from the bluer, and you would be surprised at what came out! I always left them with a film of a commercial product called Rustlick that we bought by the gallon, yet sometimes even then they would continue to rust. You never can be sure without cleaning the barrel.

If you just shoot your gun when it’s new, eventually the pellets will clean the barrel for you. They’ll also remove any burrs that are standing proud of the rifling. But to speed up the process, nothing can beat J-B Bore Paste!

Tighten the stock screws
This ought to be your first step even before attempting to shoot the gun. But we forget or we grow complacent. Many of the newer guns are designed with stock screws that just don’t loosen as much as they used to, and some companies like Gamo apply Locktite to their stock screws. Still, give those screw heads a try.

This task goes much better if you use something like a professional screwdriver set. I owns several sets like this, and they’re in constant use at my house. You’ll find that one set will have that extra-narrow Phillips bit you need for certain jobs, while another will have the wide, fat slotted bit for those huge screw heads you sometimes encounter.

Tighten the scope screws
You would not believe how many times I’ve encountered loose scope screws! It happens on firearms as well as airguns. And it’s always a detriment to accuracy. To find out if the screws are loose, I do two things.

First, I grab the gun by the scope and shake it. If the mounts are loose, this will tell you immediately that something’s wrong. But to be absolutely certain, I do physically check every screw. I’ve had the embarrassing situation arise that after doing a big article that had an accuracy section, when I’m removing the scope I discover one or more loose screws. That always makes me wonder if the gun shot as well as it could have.

The place where this is especially evasive is on mounts that are adjustable. The adjustment screws that oppose each other (I’m thinking of the B-Square design now) are often not under tension. That can lead to a problem even when the mounts are tight on the gun and the scope is tight in the rings.

The breech
On a breakbarrel air rifle, the breech is the area of greatest concern as far as accuracy problems go. A pivot pin that’s too loose can cause groups to open up, and a breech seal that stands too high can cause inconsistent closing of the breech. In fact, this is such a sensitive area that I pay particular attention to it when setting up a rifle for accuracy testing. If the barrel wobbles on the pivot pin, as so many Chinese-made breakbarrels do today, there’s little that can be done (outside of major gunsmithing) to tighten the breech. A gun with a wobbly barrel is not going shoot accurately regardless of how tight it may feel.

Along that line, someone asked about the Whiscombe I shoot. It’s both a breakbarrel and an underlever. The underlever cocks the mainsprings, but the barrel breaks open for loading. John Whiscombe designed a very positive method of enclosing this breech so it cannot get loose while the gun is operated. That’s why this spring rifle shoots almost as accurately as a PCP.

Here you can see the Whiscombe breech broken open. There are two chisel detents holding the breech shut, and a bar welded to the underside of the barrel is clamped by them. Those chisels will be on top of the bar when the breech is closed. The barrel opens and closes independent of the rifle being cocked.

You also have to look at the breech seal. Not because the gun leaks air at the seal, because that’s relatively rare, but because the breech seal often stands so high that it doesn’t allow the breech to close the same every time. So, a flat breech seal is not as much of a problem as a tall seal might be. When this is the problem, and it’s relatively rare, then you need to reconfigure the breech seal, which can take some time. I don’t have a handy rule of thumb guide for this, but the height of the breech seal can affect accuracy when it gets too high.

These are the things I do when accuracy isn’t what it should be. As I said in the beginning, the problems happen mostly with spring-piston guns; and of those, the powerful breakbarrels are the worst of all. If a CO2 gun or a pneumatic is inaccurate I suspect the barrel before anything else; and if the gun is a cheap one, it may just not have a good barrel to begin with.

I used to oil my springers a lot more than I do today. I now think over-oiling the compression chamber leads to accuracy problems more than a dry gun.

There may be a few other tricks I know, but these are the ones that come to mind when I think about guns that are difficult.

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.

59 thoughts on “B.B.’s bag of tricks for twitchy airguns”

  1. I received a Forester reloading press for Christmas. The idea came from Tom on this blog man o man Tom what a great press. It replaces my 42 year old pacific press. The Forester is a Cadillac. Thanks for a great Blog. I love starting my day with it.

  2. B.B.

    That back of the fingers rest does not get it for me. Maybe for someone with fatter fingers. The shape and weight of my 97K makes this hold very painful for me even with gloves on. Too unpleasant with different rifles too.

    On the trigger hand placement…..
    On some rifles like my R9s, I like to have my little finger right at the edge of the bottom of the grip. This gets my trigger finger in the right position that I pull the trigger with the right amount of finger and at the right angle.
    The 97K is a bit tougher because the grip flares at the bottom . It likes my little finger to be about falling off the bottom.

    Thumb placement makes a difference. Have gone to mostly laying my thumb off to the side. My 48 taught me to be careful not to lay my thumb straight along the top. It hurts when it punches the safety into the end of my thumb.
    Did someone say one time that springers only have foreward recoil? My thumb does not believe it.


    • This problem comes up in 10-meter rifle competition too. Everyone’s got different shaped hands. A friend of mine could fold his fingers back onto his palm, they’d go back to his wrist, and flat! He’s rest the rifle on that and could not figure out why anyone else wouldn’t try his excellent method. Gary Anderson used to hold his rifle on his fingertips. Most rest their rifle on some form of a balled-up (but not tense!) fist.

      Besides the 10-meter shooters, looking at smallbore metallic silhouette shooters may help, since they’re using either “Hunter” or “Heavy” .22 rifles, and they’re trying for the same relaxed sort of hold, and have the same left-hand problems.

  3. “First, I grab the gun by the scope and shake it.” OMG I almost fainted when I saw that (maybe the fact that I went to bed at 3am and got up at 7h30 has something to do with it, I will need massive caffeine intake) I always tought it was a HUGE no, no to grab a gun by the scope, in fact I Always tried to avoid even touching the scope and not have it touching the safe wall went it was in storage.

    Sadly no gun or airgun for christmas for me but my birthday is in a few days and I have high hopes.


    • J-F,

      I don’t do chin-ups with it! I just grab it and shake. You have to use common sense when doing this.

      But when I shot field target there was a guy at a match who pumped his Blue Streak by holding onto the scope as he pumped. That was too much.


  4. I received a Diana 35 with the model 65 aperture sight from my brother inlaw – someone had it for sale very cheap and he could not resist, even though I do not need any more airguns. All it needs is a new breech seal.


  5. Hi, BB!

    WELL…I did get a firearm for Christmas, a beautiful sporterized Swedish Mauser that was originally made in 1900. Actually, the Christmas gift came to me a little early so that I could check her out and resolve any issues before Dec. 25th. Happily, there were none, and she’s beautiful. She’s dead on at 100 yards, and at 200 with no adjustments to windage I can still hit the bottom of an 8-inch wide “deer” kill zone. Her name is Ruby. Are there any other Swede Mauser fanciers out there?

    • Walton,

      Yes, I’m one! I own a model 1938 short rifle that will group five shots in less than two inches at 100 yards. The 1896 Swede is a classic rifle that always seems to amaze its owners with seemingly unwarranted accuracy.

      If you reload I’ve found that 20 grains of H4198 behind a 129-grain boattailed spitzer is both mild and accurate.

      Congratulations on a fine acquisition.


    • Walton,

      The 6.5x55mm Swede is the one that got away from me. A long defunct sporting goods store had them by the barrel back in the 80’s for $50 each. Didn’t have $50 at the time, and when I finally did, they were gone. Shortly after that, the store was bought out by another chain and they never did get them back. 30 years later, I’m still waiting….

      On the lighter side, I got muzzle brakes for my Discovery and my 2240! 🙂


      • Yes, I got one from an estate sale last fall. It’s a M96 made in 1899. The condition is execelent. It has either been back to the arsenal or was never issued, it’s that good. It even still has the muzzel cap which is most often gone. I’ll be giving it a try on the range next spring. I had a M38 like BB’s in the past but it when on a gun trade years ago.


  6. My only gun related Christmas gift was a vintage Tasco (Japan) 8-32 scope with target dot. It has a Gloss finish, target turrets and came with the finely machined, screw in, metal dust covers. Thanks honey.

    Todays article could be called, “Is your springer inaccurate or is it something else?” To the great checklist that B.B. started and twotalon added to (terrific suggestion about experimenting with trigger hand placement) I’ll suggest that you suspect your scope. Maybe it’s been over adjusted and the erector tube is floating. Maybe the scope is history. Removing the scope and shooting with open sights is one way to test. If the gun lacks opens sights mount a different scope that you know is working.

    Happy Holidays everyone. You can’t see me but I’m raising my mug of tom & Jerry in a toast and hope that the myth of 2012 is unfounded.


    Congratulations on the slick looking capping/de-capping tool. Nice looking cast bullet. Looks like you’re taking some time with those. Hope the custom bullet mold results in another leap of accuracy for the ballard.


  7. BB,
    I don’t know if you have ever shown a picture of the Whiscombe barrel locking detent mechanism before, but it is truly impressive. I like the little side lever that pops the barrel up to expose the breech. With the redundant chisel detents, I’d say someone wanted to leave no doubt as to the security of the breech closure. I am more impressed with this gun each time I see a new detail.

    • Lloyd,

      John Whiscombe definitely took a “braces and belt” approach to airgun design! Everything is over-designed. The only bad aspect of the entire gun that I have been able to identify is the fact that the wood on the forearm has to be spread about 2.5 inches to take the action out. Eventually the wood will dry out and split when this is done for maintenance.


  8. Well, for Christmas (actually an early Christmas…a week ago) we added the Savage 93 to our collection.
    As of yet it’s not really ‘official’ (the Canadians on the group will understand).
    I don’t have my firearms aquisition license yet (taking the test Jan 7th…the paperwork takes about 2 months thereafter). The gun was purchased by a friend of mine who is licensed and resides at his home till I’m legal at which point he will transfer the gun to me.
    But there is a huge airgun related ‘plus’ to this…we’ll no longer be limited to 500fps 🙂
    Already have my eye on an HW97 (the one with the blue laminate stock).

    On Saturday we took a quick trip to the range (it is unseasonably warm here) with the 631 and the Exact RS pellets I ordered a few weeks ago. They had looked good in the basement…5 shots went into one hole at 30’…though in the past the gun always was a tack driver at short ranges.
    But lo and behold at 30m my first 10 shot group was under .75 inches…noticeably better than before. A second group was about the same (I’d like to say a little less…but it is harder to measure groups shot with domed vs wadcutters). The third group opened up but if anything this was due to not being able to feel my fingers!! (it is unseasonably warm, but still slightly below freezing).
    So at the moment I’m a happy camper…I’m sure if I had proper sandbags and such I could start getting those .5″ groups I read so much about on ‘that other site’.

    Anyways…looking forward to another great year of the blog…I hope everyone here has a safe and happy 2012.

  9. I got a few ‘mandatory’ accessories for my new titan gp. Charlie da Tuna trigger, a. better scope and rings. The Titan is right on the edge of being an ‘interesting’ rifle and I want to give it every opportunity to succeed!

  10. Howdy B.B. & Edith,
    Thanx alot for this article. As a rookie, most of my accuracy challenges are my lack of knowledge of basic shooting mechanics, Your article & the “Gangs” comments are a great help. Thanx ya’ll! Biker Clause brought me a Bug buster scope & rings for a 1377 I’ve modified & 8 tins of pellets. Thanx again & Happy New Year to all.

  11. Afternoon B.B.,

    A wonderful Christmas was enjoyed by us. Santa was good to me with a bunch of shooting related stuff: a Laserlyte universal bore sighter, a Wheeler crosshair leveling kit, a pair of E-Max electronic stereo hearing protection muffs and a Nitrex 6-20 x 50mm AO scope. Sure wish the scope adjusted closer than 25 yards.

    I’ve gotta agree with Lloyd. Those chisel detents sure got my attention also!


    • Mr B,

      A belated Merry Christmas from us to you.

      So, are you going to return/trade the nitrex scope or just re-parallax it yourself so it will focus to less than 25 yards?


      • Hi kevin,

        Thanks. I was thinking about a past Christmas and a printer for a chrony along with a Uberti SSA in 45 cal.

        Yeah, I will try to reparalax it myself. If you have you done that yourself are their any mines I need to watch for? How’s Daniell, hope I got that right, and the skiing doing this year?

        Looks and feels like 2012 is going to be a very interesting year with a chance to make a very real change in the direction of this very great nation of ours.


        • Mr B,

          No hidden “mines” in re-parallaxing a scope. B.B. did an article awhile back.

          Loosen the retaining ring on the front objective of your scope (I’ve always been able to do this by hand with my scopes) then rotate the lens carrier out until you’ve got a crystal clear image at whatever range you’ll most likely be shooting. Then re-tighten the front retaining ring and you’re done. It is a bit of a balancing act. Set the focus too close (~7 or 8 or maybe 10 yds) and you’ll lose clarity at the longer ranges.

          Rotating the lens carrier can most times be done with your fingernails or a butter knife but in extreme instances you need the correct tool which is a spanner wrench like this:


          Nice of you to ask about Danielle. No, we haven’t been skiing yet. My wife had some emergency surgery and eliminated our plans of spending our usual Christmas at the cabin which always includes skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, etc. We hope to get to the cabin in a month or so.

          Be well.


  12. Humbug! I didn’t get anything new in the way of gun items this year. Looks like some of you did pretty good. I have a lot of family members, including many of those little ferrets some people call children, over on Christmas Day, and the past 5 Christmases since I retired and moved from a condo to this house. (I know, where is the wisdom in that?!). So the only airgun related events I had this Christmas is that I must cover up my indoor-range targets to disguise them and make sure my airgun is out of sight and securely locked away. No sense in asking for trouble. It is impossible to keep an eye on those cute little ferrets and they seem to be able to get into all the things they shouldn’t be getting into as soon as you turn your back. I think this could build a case for the existence of invisible gremlins that can lead kids to the very things in your house that are the most dangerous. Anyway, I guess Santa thought I had a enough gun stuff. Hah! Like that’s a possibility.

  13. Merry Christmas to all. As for related gifts, I did get a Green Mountain .40 cal. 11/8″ barrel for a BP target rifle I want to build, plus a couple of long rifle books (building my library, esp. on Southern long rifles).

    Kevin’s advice is right on about the scope! Also, while it’s off, you may notice that shooting becomes more enjoyable again, so don’t be in a hurry to replace it :).

      • Mike,
        GM’s are my favorite MLer barrels and worth more than they charge even after the increases last year or so. I put a GM on the .50 cal. flintlock I built last year, and I like it a lot; very accurate and almost perfect internal finish. One of my friends just got a drop in .40 for his TC and it is excellent also — really good shooter.

  14. For Christmas, I received some more firearms related books that I wanted to add to the library. One on Mossberg guns and the history of that company , two more on RF’s and shooting them for accuracy, and one more on old rifle sights and scopes and their values. On the Swedish Mausers, me too! Great guns.

  15. Well.

    several weeks ago, I stumbled onto a re-manufactured Marauder in .22 which I couldn’t pass up. Got a chance last weekend to shoot it at 30 yards but with a red dot. Accuracy was so-so and I was blamed it on the red-dot. Then I read this blog. It suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea how many pellets had been down that Marauder’s barrel. Time to break out the JB bore paste! Otherwise, I have 4 tins of pellets and a couple of scope rings on the way from PA. Best of all, I’m off this whole week.

    Fred PRoNJ

  16. Hey Beazer,

    welcome to the blog. Quick question – do you still own or ride any BSA’s? By the way, we do have a few “bikers” on this blog. Seems that guns and motorcycles do go together.

    Fred PRoNJ

    • Howdy Fred,
      Thanx for the welcome. Been on here for awhile, just skeered ta open my yap when you guys are discussin’ velocity vs. accuracy & I’m still tyin’ ta figure out which end of the scope ta look through!?! Can tear my sled down & put it back up w/my eyes closed, but air gunnin’ is a whole new challenge & I’m lovin’ it, thanx to B.B., Ms. Edith & you guys/The Gang. Have never owned a Beezer or any British iron but would love ta own an Ariel Square 4 & a Vincent Black Shadow, after I get my knuck. Started on metrics & got my first H-D in ’78 & never looked back. Yup, a graybeard. H-D/guns, peanut butter/jelly. You ride?

      • yep. About 10 years before you got your first Hot Dog – 1968 I started. I’ve owned two Harleys over my riding career. Now I have a ’96 Triumph Sprint and a 2006 Vee-Strom. Lot more air rifles than bikes, however.

        Fred PRoNJ

  17. Ya know BB…

    Not everyone has an “Edith Gaylord” to buy em presents..
    .. so askin “what gun stuff ya got fer Christmas” is kinda a “setup” contest.. don’t ya think?

    but, gosh.. that’s a cool little tool, no own could even come close to topping that one.

    Only problem I see with the chocolate glock, is you being such a hot dude, Edith would get excited any time she picked it up to try and protect you and it would melt before she could protect your supply of US FTs:-) .. actually, maybe that was a great gift after all..

    Wacky Wayne

  18. I know this is unrelated, however does Tom ever plan to republish his book on the Beeman R1?
    If not, is it available to download, on a disk, or is there a xeroxed copy available? Thanks.

      • Do an e-book for $20 or even $10, if the user wants, they can print it out themselves and bind it, which will cost ’em another $20. You’ll be selling making a *good* profit since electrons are cheap, but where it’s going to be hard for a bootlegger to make any kind of money printing and binding them, sure a few, but effectively your copyright will be safe.

  19. Edith,

    Since it was printed in 1995, it still must lurk on a hard drive / disk somewhere. Did you know
    that there are quality print on demand publishers that only print copies when ordered. Turnaround
    for single book orders is usually less than a week. No need for expensive short runs. Doesn’t
    sound like a coup to me if you have the book on disk or hard drive!!!


    • Steve,

      I have all the text. When the original printer ran the book, he imposed the images on the plates (it was not digital printing at that time). That means I must rescan all the images. Also, the software is an old one that isn’t used much today…and I would have to buy the new version. All fonts would have to be replaced with a current one and all text would have to be reflowed.

      I already work so many hours/days for Pyramyd AIR that they’ve asked me to take time off. As you can see, I don’t follow directions very well 🙂

      I figure it’ll take me AT LEAST 80 hrs to scan all the images and redo the text. Then we have to determine if we want to do a short print run or print on demand (I’ve actually been investgating POD for a while).

      I’d say it might happen in the next few years, but I’m not promising anything!


  20. Edith,

    Regardless of the old software involved, there are programs and computer gurus that can get the
    job done in a fraction of the time. Maybe somebody knowledgable reading this blog could help.
    I bet some tekky at Pyramyd AIR could do it. Heck, have Mr. Ungier delegate his authority!
    …Just a thought!


    • Steve,

      No computer gurus are needed. In fact…and this may be hard for anyone to believe since I’ve been using Mac computers exclusively since 1985, I AM the guru for print publications at Pyramyd AIR. I have more experience and more knowledge about various layout programs and printing than all the other people at Pyramyd AIR combined. I had my own desktop publishing business for 18 years and published everything from newsprint to books. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, wore it out 🙂

      Knowing something about programming will not make any difference when it comes to the page layout software, so the Pyramyd AIR programmers (who program websites, not page layout software) are not helpful. Also, this is not a Pyramyd AIR project. This is a personal project.

      I’ll do the R1 book when I have time. If I don’t have the time, it won’t get done. It’s not a top priority. It might be a medium priority.


  21. Hi BB,
    I enjoyed this article. I think I have had all of those issues affect me. One more thing to add is to keep trying different pellets. I have owned several FWB124 over the years. Most shot CPLs and JSB Exacts well. At one time I had two 124s. One of them shot great and the other I just could not get to group. I was out trying to figure it out, going through all the types of things you suggested plus things like changing out the scope and mount but nothing worked. About that time I ran out of “good pellets”. I ran up to the store and picked up some cheap Crosman Pointed Pellets. These “cheap” pellets were all it took. It was now shooting very nicely like my other 124s shot. Crosman has now replaced those pointed pellets with a different one but I have collected a stash of the pellets that shoot well.

    Now down to being practical. If you have a gun that will not shoot well the way you want to hold it, rest it, and shoot the ammo you want to use, do yourself a favor and sell it and buy something else. I have decided over the years that it’s more trouble than it’s worth to have a bunch of guns that have to be shot differently from each other.

    I know that BB cannot do that in his testing. He needs to give every gun the opportunity to shine. And, if you follow this blog you will know that he goes way out of his way to try to wring the best out of each gun he test. I really appreciate that.

    David Enoch

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