Selling (or buying) the right airgun
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
A.J. Stewart submitted this week’s winning photo for BSOTW. There probably isn’t a person reading this blog who hasn’t experienced the same elation as this boy!
I was at a gun show a few weeks back and a couple incidents struck me as odd. They got me thinking and ultimately prompted this report. How often do people sell or buy the wrong airgun?
The first incident happened when a man happened by my table and showed an interest in an M48 Mitchell’s Mauser (a variation of an M98 Mauser bolt-action military rifle) I had. Mitchell’s Mausers are reworked guns that have a new appearance, though they may have been made 60 years ago. Mine was a Yugoslavian M48 Mauser that had been made in 1948, and then stored in an arsenal since that time. Mitchell’s found them in the 1990s and had them all restocked with teak stocks and all the metal reblued to look like new. Since they were never used, their bores were pristine, which is very unusual for an 8mm Mauser, because most military 8mm ammo is corrosive.
I’d dragged this rifle to numerous gun shows before this one, and everyone who saw it fell in love with it for its sharp looks. But when they learned that it was a Mitchell’s Mauser, they all put it down as though it was somehow infected with a disease. They knew that it was a “doctored” gun, and they wanted no part of it.
But the guy who bought it, bought it to shoot and didn’t care about its pedigree. To find a “real” 8mm M98 Mauser in the same condition, he would have to spend over $2,000 — and this rifle was selling for a tiny fraction of that. Everyone else had commented on the rifle’s good looks, they just couldn’t abide the fact that it was somehow tainted.
What this gun needed was someone who just wanted a good shooter and wasn’t looking for the history. I should have known that, but it didn’t occur to me until the right buyer came along.
The funny thing that made this incident really stand out in my mind was the fact that another guy who was walking the floor had tried to sell me his genuine (but really beat-up) 98 Mauser for very little money. But his gun had a mismatched bolt and a bore that was shot out. It was neither a shooter nor a collectible. It was the worst kind of value — which is no value at all.
At this same gun show, there was a Colt AR-15 pre-ban rifle for sale. It was made without a forward assist, which put its manufacturing date back into the early 1980s timeframe. What made it a pre-ban gun was the fact that it had a bayonet lug that’s now banned on civilian rifles. Buyers kept looking at this rifle because it was a “Pre-Ban Colt” and sounded highly attractive. Then they picked it apart because of the lack of a forward assist and the fact that the carry handle was permanently attached to the upper receiver. But both those details are part of what makes it what it is!
Here we had the reverse of the Mitchell’s Mauser. This was a collectible rifle that the buyers wanted to be a modern shooter. They liked the idea of a “pre-ban” gun because it sounds cool, but they had no idea what that actually meant! Seeing that drama unfold, coupled with the Mitchell’s Mauser incident, caused me to think about numerous instances at airgun shows over the years, where I’ve seen the same thing.
There was the young man with his baseball cap on backwards who ran up to my table at a show, picked up an FWB 300S and said to me, “How many FPS?” I could tell from the way he asked the question that he had no idea of what he was doing, so I decided to have some fun with him.
“What does FPS stand for?” I asked.
“I don’t know, man. It’s got something to do with how fast it goes. Is this a fast one?”
“You wouldn’t like this one. It’s not fast enough.”
“How fast, man?”
“About 640 feet per second.” And, no, it apparently never occurred to him that I had just explained what FPS meant.
“Six-forty? That’s too slow! I want a thousand, at least.”
“What do you want to do with it?” I asked.
“I want to shoot field target. There’s a club in Damascus (Maryland) and I want to get something real fast and accurate so I can shoot field target.”
I happened to be the match director at the club he was talking about, but I didn’t tell him that. This young man had no idea of what he was doing. He’d obviously been reading things on the internet and wasn’t interested in the facts, so I let the matter drop. I didn’t have anything on my table that went a thousand f.p.s., and I told him so. I never saw him again, not even at the field target matches.
And the point of this anecdote is that this young man was looking for something that didn’t exist. He wanted a spring rifle that shot a thousand f.p.s. and was good for field target. He might as well have been looking for a Shelby Cobra with a three-point hitch to plow his fields!
Another time, a shooter asked me numerous questions about how he could fit diopter target sights to an Air Arms TX200 air rifle I was selling. I explained that the TX200 is made for a scope, and he replied that he wanted to shoot 10-meter target with one because it was so accurate and had such a good trigger. Yes, a TX200 is accurate and yes, the trigger is good, but had he ever considered an FWB 300S that was already set up to do exactly what he wanted and has a far nicer trigger than the TX? Yes, he thought about that, but he wanted to try the TX200 because nobody ever had and wouldn’t that give him an edge on the competition? Wouldn’t the extra velocity be good? No, it wouldn’t. What the extra velocity would do is get his rifle disqualified from competition, because it would be too powerful for the target traps they use!
Or the guy who wanted to buy a Crosman 2260 rifle, so he could convert it to run on high-pressure air. When he was told he would need to upgrade the reservoir to a piece of seamless steel tubing that would cost him about $50 (for the correct length machined to fit on the gun) and add a pressure gauge that costs $12 if you buy a thousand but $35 if you only buy one, he balked, saying, “I’m going to have to pay someone to put this thing together for me. That’s going to cost me at least $100 for just the labor. I might as well buy a Disco!” The funny thing is, a Benjamin Discovery is a Crosman 2260 that has all of those improvements (and more) already done to it!
I sometimes get a question that goes like this: “I’m interested in the IZH 46M pistol, but I need it to have at least 12 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and come in .22 caliber. What modifications do I need to make to get what I want?”
You need to change your mind! You don’t want an IZH 46M. What you want is an air pistol with the accuracy and the good trigger of an IZH 46M, but also one with a minimum of 12 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. And you want it in a caliber larger than .177, which the 46M will never be, because it’s a target pistol. So I answer with this:
“Have you looked at the TalonP pistol?”
“Yeah, I have. It sounds great but it is too large and it also needs a scuba tank.”
“What about the PPK/S pistol? Have you considered that? It fits in your pocket and yet it produces more than 200 foot-pounds at the muzzle.”
“Where can I get one of those!”
“At a gun store. Just ask for the .380-caliber PPK/S.”
“But that’s a firearm. I want an air pistol.”
“No, you don’t. You want an air pistol in size and price, and a firearm in power.”
We have been here before
Edith says I have written this report before when I told her what I was working on. I suppose that’s true, but why does it keep coming up as something that needs to be done if I’ve already addressed it? I guess I should try to answer that before I end this report.
The fact is that if we focus on the reasons why we want a certain thing rather than the thing, itself, we may get a better picture of what will satisfy our need. For example, if I really want an accurate field target rifle, maybe I don’t have to buy a 10-meter rifle and spend a thousand dollars to get it converted to shoot field target. Maybe there are already good field target rifles that have everything I want.
And if what I want is a powerful air pistol, maybe one already exists. Maybe I don’t have to modify anything except my attitude to get what I want. Maybe the reason people say that a certain air rifle is the best is because it really is. And instead of buying something that is close to it, and then trying to change it to be the gun I really should have bought in the first place, maybe it would be easier to just go with the flow, buy the right gun and be done with it.
Maybe you can’t have a gun that cannot be touched for fear it will lose its value and yet still be a wonderful shooter at the same time.
Last story and I’m out of here. A while back at a gun show, a guy came by the table with a Winchester model 92 lever action rifle for sale. I love Winchester 92s. But this one had been modified from 25/20 caliber to .357 Magnum. “I want a thousand dollars for it,” the seller informed me.
“But Winchester never made the model 92 in .357 Magnum,” sez I.
“Yeah, but I couldn’t buy 25/20 ammo anywhere. Now it shoots a cartridge I can buy everywhere, and it’s still a Winchester!”
“No, it isn’t! What you have is a $450 Italian lever-action rifle that’s been made out of a collectible Winchester. The fact that it says Winchester on the gun means nothing, because it’s been modified. It would have been worth your thousand dollars if you’d left it in the original caliber. Right now, it’s worth $450 and only that because the bore is pristine.
I could tell by his facial expression that I wasn’t the first person to have told him that. He lowered his head, tightened his grip on the “Winchester” and trudged on down the aisle — looking for an enlightened person who could recognize the wonderful thing he had done.