by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Stephen Carolyn Donahue says this about his winning picture: “Most of our children, posing with air rifles purchased from Pyramyd Air, three years ago. Please note that none of these weapons were loaded in this picture.”
I am attending the NRA Annual Meetings in St. Louis today, so I’m asking the veteran readers to watch out for new readers who need their questions answered before I can get to it. I’ll be back in the office on Tuesday.
Today, I want to talk about mixing airgun features that don’t go well together. I see this in two main ways. One is a thread on a forum in which someone touts a certain feature, such as a 24-inch barrel on a CO2 rifle. The thread that follows looks like a line of lemmings stepping off the same cliff as the originator of the thread. What if 24-inch barrels don’t do well on CO2 guns? No matter! Off they go in a race to change over all their CO2 rifles to 24-inch barrels, and someone wonders aloud where he can get a 30-inch barrel.
The other way I see this is in questions. They never come out and say what’s really on their mind, but a careful reader can usually see it just below the surface. “Where can I get a 6,000 psi nitrogen tank?” […so I can fill my PCP rifle to 6,000 psi so it will shoot faster, flatter and straighter — won’t it?] Or they ask where they can get something “repaired.” I have a Sheridan Blue Streak that needs the barrel attached.” […because when I mounted a 24x scope on the gun it cracked the solder joint and the barrel fell off.]
I gave you all a good look at what happens when someone acts on an idea they have without thinking it through. Remember Steel Dreams? That was an oversized Beeman R1 through which the builder planned to shoot .22 pellets as fast as a .177 R1. In other words — break the sound barrier. If you recall, the rifle weighed over 11 lbs., cocked with 75 lbs. of effort, had an Anschütz match barrel and was no more powerful than a normal R1.
And so it goes
But these stories don’t dampen the passions of the armchair tinkerer, because in his world all it takes to invent something is to imagine it. No metal is required, no machine time, no need to test whether that longer spring will even fit into that “underpowered” spring gun. Just the knowledge that he is right sends him off to the races.
Writer Ladd Fanta once wrote of a reader of his who “invented” the perfect airgun. It had to be fully automatic, have a plastic body so all the parts could be seen and cost less than a hundred dollars. He wasn’t talking about an airsoft gun, either. No, sir! he wanted a full-blown accurate and powerful pellet rifle with all those features.
Comedian Tim Allen got it right when he recognized the male need for more power in everything. What he missed entirely was the male resistance to doing work to get it! I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard something like the following. I bought the new Dragon Spittle Extreeeeme because I thought it was the most powerful air rifle made. But I can’t cock it! I am a healthy 15 year-old and large for my age, but my father can’t even cock this rifle more than once. Why do you sell such a powerful rifle that is impossible to cock? He might as well have asked why sports car seats are so small or why 180-lb. beer kegs weigh so much!
You meet this same guy on a double diamond ski slope with his face planted firmly in the snow.
I want the most accurate, most powerful pellet rifle made, and I don’t want anything made in China or Turkey. And it has to cost $125 or less. Well, start working, Bunky, because you will be the first to build one, if you can!
Why don’t they…
… make barrels longer? Because everybody knows that longer barrels are more accurate. Oh, really? Then why, pray tell, are Olympic target rifle barrels 16 inches long, when the barrel shrouds that house them are 25 inches long?
… make better hunting air pistols? Could it be because it takes a long barrel to produce the power needed for a hunting airgun? And what’s wrong with the TalonP?
… make PCPs that sell for under $100? I’m actually working on that one.
… turn 10-meter target rifles into more powerful rifles for field target? Everyone knows 10-meter rifles are the most accurate in the world. Actually, Walther did just that about a decade ago. I worked on it through Smith & Wesson. They called it the Dominator, and it was supposed to sweep the field of all the prizes. The other competitors didn’t get the memo in time, I guess.
… make a BB gun that’s accurate? They did and they still do. The Diana model 30 was such a gun and is still sold in Europe, but the thousand-dollar price scared away American buyers. The Daisy Avanti Champion 499 is still a very accurate gun, though it competes at just five meters.
I’m as guilty as anyone
Many years ago, I had an “idea” that it would be nice to own a reloadable .22 cartridge that performed like the long rifle, but one for which I could cast bullets. So, I set out to build it. First, I ordered an E.R. Shaw .22 barrel with a 1:10 inch twist and forced them to chamber it in .22 Hornet. They balked because the Hornet twist is supposed to be 1:14 inch, but I knew better. They did what I asked and afterward they announced they would lo longer make .22 Hornet barrels!
I envisioned driving a 50-grain lead bullet at 1,200 f.p.s. and having the equivalent of the .22 WRF (or better still, the much older 22/45/10 single-shot from which the .22 Hornet was derived). Twenty-two ammo was up to $20 a brick and this was a chance to stick it to The Man. I never checked the availability of .22-caliber bullet molds (there aren’t many) or of custom mold makers who make .22 molds (there are next to none who do). I just assumed all the molds I needed would be there when the time came.
What I ended up with was an inaccurate .22 Hornet that didn’t like cast bullets or jacketed bullets, either. I had the barrel rechambered for .219 Donaldson Wasp — another cartridge that is supposed to have a 1:14 inch twist. I’m still playing with that one — trying to get it to work, because underneath everything there is a fine custom E.R. Shaw .22 barrel.
So, what gives?
Why do people want things that are impossible? I think I know. I think they read a few “facts” and become fixated on them to the exclusion of everything else. You can’t tell them anything because it’s way too loud inside their heads. They “know” they’re right and that others have simply missed the wonderful thing of which they’ve dreamed. Until they attempt to do something about it, they will never know the truth. They sit back and view the airgun world as one large buffet, putting things from every dish on their imaginary plate. From this, we get requests for pocket-sized air pistols with 50 foot-pound power and minute-of-angle accuracy. Or 30 foot-pound spring rifles that cock with 20 pounds effort and cost less than $150.
I’m just ranting now; I don’t expect an answer or think this will ever change. It must be part of human nature.