by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Some days, you get the bear — and some days the bear gets you. This was one of those latter days.
For weeks, my Beeman R1 has stood quietly in the corner of my office, awaiting the time when I would remove the Vortek muzzlebrake and shoot tight groups with H&N Baracuda Match pellets. If you recall, in Part 4 I was trying to show how the adjustment of the Vortek muzzlebrake affected the groups, but all my groups were pretty lousy. So, I said I would set the gun aside for awhile and think about it.
Several readers responded with advice to remove the muzzlebrake because the groups looked like some of the pellets were touching the brake on their way out. So, that was what I finally resolved to do — remove the brake and shoot some groups without it. Ha, ha! Man plans, God laughs!
Removing the brake
Sometimes, things are harder than they should be, and this was such a time. The Vortek brake was held on the barrel by three Allen screws. Two of them came off easily, and of course the third one had a stripped head. I tried cutting off the end of the Allen wrench and dressing it flat, so it fit the screw head perfectly, but that was how I discovered that the head was stripped. I drilled a larger hole in the screw and used a tiny easy-out to pull the screw. To my credit, everything worked perfectly and the screw came right out, but I was now about an hour into my test time.
Once the brake was off the barrel, I saw that two of the three screws had managed to miss the aluminum shim inside that protects the finish of the barrel. And now my R1 barrel is scarred at the muzzle. So the Vortek brake will not be going back on this gun! I have another brake that will hide the deep scratches, but for today’s test I left the barrel bare.
There was no indication that any pellets had touched the inside of the muzzlebrake. Still, the brake was off, and now it was time to test.
I was so confident that it would group with the brake off that it never occurred to me there would be a problem. I did check the zero at 12 feet because the brake added a lot of weight to the barrel. The point of impact could have changed a lot, but it didn’t. The pellet was still close enough to the aim point that I knew I could back up to 25 yards and let fly with confidence.
The first pellet fired from 25 yards landed above the one fired at 12 feet, which I expected. The next pellet hit close by the first, but then the trouble started. After 10 shots, I had a vertical line instead of a group. The rifle was stringing its shots up and down. It was also shooting to the right, so I dialed in some left correction and moved to another target.
The next three shots after scope correction gave me a group larger than one inch! The rifle wasn’t shooting like I remembered. Up to this point, I’d experimented with my off hand in a glove. But all I did was confirm that the R1 is a twitchy rifle.
I removed the glove. Then I experimented with the position of my off hand back by the triggerguard and also forward under the cocking slot. The “groups” got no better. I guess pattern would be a more accurate description for what I was shooting.
Tighten the stock screws?
At this point, I checked all the stock screws. They were all tight, but the barrel pivot bolt was somewhat loose, so that was tightened. Then, I returned to shooting
And it came to me! All this time I’d been shooting H&N Baracuda Match pellets. What if my R1 likes another pellet better? I switched to 15.9-grain JSB Exact domes and was sure the problem was solved. It was for the first two shots, and then the rifle went crazy again. Even the JSBs were being thrown all over the place!
Where shall I begin? The first two holes in the white, at 5 o’clock, looked promising, but the third shot through the 10-ring did, also. Too bad they were all with the same hold! As were the final three shots at the bottom of the paper. This “pattern” measures 1.347 inches between centers. I was blowing up!
Frustration sets in
In utter frustration, I rested the rifle directly on the sandbag, thinking I couldn’t really do any worse than I had been. And of course that was when it shot the best it did all day! But the group is still a vertical line, and I know the gun still isn’t responding.
The best group of the session (though hardly a good one) was with the rifle rested directly on the bag. It measures 0.88 inches between centers. How’s that for a slap in the face of “Mr. Artillery Hold”? Something is wrong, and I just haven’t found it yet.
There are some things I’m thinking about. The barrel probably needs cleaning. It’s been several years since I cleaned it. When a gun starts shooting erratically after it’s been doing well, cleaning is always the first thing that should be done.
The scope is a very old one, and maybe it’s malfunctioning. It’s been on many air rifles in the 17 years I’ve owned it. Maybe it’s time to put it out to pasture.
I haven’t tried Crosman Premiers in this rifle, yet. Back when I wrote the R1 book, Premiers were the best pellets in the gun.
The book! That’s right — I wrote a book about the Beeman R1. And, not just any R1; this one! I’m supposed to know how to shoot this rifle!
Like I said at the start — some days the bear eats you. This was one of those days.
My plan is to set the R1 aside for a little while and consider all the things I know about it. Then, I’ll return and test it once again for you. I’m not giving up.