by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Today, we have a guest blog from our blog’s master mechanic — Vince. For those who don’t know him yet, Vince is our “go-to” guy for fixing all sorts of strange vintage airguns, including my Falke 90 that I’ll tell you more about tomorrow. Not only does he fix airguns, he also tells great stories, so I’ll leave that to him.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.

Take it away, Vince!

The Relum Telly: Part 1

by Vince

My new Relum Telly!
Like a bowl full of jelly,
You gimme an ache in my belly.
But at least you’re not smelly,
My new Relum Telly!

(And it’s all downhill from here.)

I was perusing the Gun Broker auctions for no particular (good) reason when I saw a listing for something called a “Relum Telly.” Thinking it sounded like some sort of early British video receiver, I couldn’t help but look it up and, well, in fairly short order, I wound up owning my first Hungarian air rifle.

 Hungarian! Old Europe! Old World craftsmanship! But wait! Post-war Hungary. Commies! Oppressed workers! Poor quality! WHAT exactly was I gonna find?

I was to find out soon enough, as the gun arrived a week after the auction ended. First order of business, of course, is the initial grand tour. It’s intact — sort of — let’s just say it’s been “rode hard and hung up wet.” All the pieces are there (including the sights, thank heaven!); and even though there’s a lot of superficial damage to the bluing, rust doesn’t seem to be a big problem. But let’s take a closer look, unravel the ravages of time and try to get a feel for what this rifle must have been like back when it was originally used to swell the coffers with capitalist cash.

Relum Telly
You never know what you’ll get from an online auction. This Relum Telly came to me.

The rifle is virtually identical in size to a Diana 25, which places firmly in the medium-sized proletariat range of shooters. But (unusually for this period and demographic) the gun seems to be trying to lift itself a notch or two higher in some respects.

The most obvious thing I see is that pronounced, raised cheekpiece. It may seem like no big deal now; but back when this gun was new (1960’s?), manufacturers didn’t tend to do a lot of sculpting on their air rifle stocks. Look at a contemporary Diana 25, and you’ll see what I mean. To make sure the cheekpiece is noticed you’ll see a “Telly” inscribed into it.

Relum Telly cheekpiece inscription
Not only is there a raised cheekpiece — they even thought enough of the gun to put the model name on it!

As we start looking more closely at the gun, I find that there IS something missing, at the bottom of the pistol grip.

Relum Telly pistol grip
Yep — something’s missing.

The triggerguard (surrounding a trigger of an as-of-yet-unknown type) is held in place by a normal wood screw at the rear…and something kinda funky at the front.

Relum Telly triggerguard locking screw
Funny way to do a lock screw, I thought. The triggerguard screw on the left has a locking screw in its center!

Anyway, moving to the breech, we see an integral sling mount, an articulated cocking link, a dovetail-mounted rear sight with elevation adjustment and a six-position locking-breech pivot bolt. That sling mount is positioned well. It’s so close to the pivot that there’s little chance that tugging on the sling will pop the action open (as it would on a Slavia 619 of the same period).

The front of the cocking link, if you notice, is also secured by a small machine screw. I DO notice something a bit curious, though — the cocking link seems to want to hang down from the action rather than sitting up tight. I wonder why that is?

Relum Telly breech area
We see a lot of nice features in the breech area. But why does the cocking linkage hang down?

No matter! Continuing on with our tour — the front sight is also dovetail-mounted, and I imagine it had a hood around it at one point.

Relum Telly muzzle
The front sight also sits in a dovetail. And the grooves in the barrel on either side are an indication there was once a hood over the sight.

So, we seem to have a fairly well thought out junior air rifle here. Since the Gun Broker listing stipulated that the gun “shot good,” the next logical step is, of course, to actually shoot it.

But obviously that’s wrong. It’s odd how we often take shortcuts in our use of language, with the result that our descriptions are technically inaccurate. As we all know, the next step is not to shoot the gun. The next step is to cock the gun — and what a formidable step it turned out to be!

The first attempt resulted in my giving up about 90% the way through the cocking stroke. Something was seriously wrong. The way the effort stacked up exponentially at the end of its travel, I first thought I had cocked it all the way and the sear simply didn’t catch. But that didn’t seem to be it. I tried again and got the barrel a little further back, but still no sear catching. Finally, with a rather Herculean effort (if I say so myself), I got the barrel all the way back and got it to latch. This little rifle required more than 60 lbs. of effort to cock!

Then, it’s pellet in, pull trigger, pellet hits trap. Rather anticlimactic, really. After all that effort, I was expecting at least a small mushroom cloud at the point of impact.

The worst part was the feel of the cocking stroke. It felt like metal-on-metal galling. In retrospect, I should have quit as soon as I noticed something wrong. Doesn’t matter now. I sure ain’t gonna try THAT again!

Apart comes the action. Immediately, I stumbled across problem No. 1: The front stock screws are stripped out.

Relum Telly stripped holes
Great! Both front stock screw holes are stripped out.

Just great, but that’s the least of my problems right now. Why on Earth does a 6 foot-pound gun cock with over 60 lbs. of grunt? So, I pulled apart the action and found…a big, fat nothing. Piston looks fine. Tube looks fine. Springs look fine. Seal looks — wait! SPRINGS?

Yes, another Hungarian eccentricity. Mainspring-S — as in plural. And not counter-wound springs mounted end-to-end like in Wacky Wayne’s old BSA underlever (oh WHY did I let him have that back?), but concentric springs — still counter-wound. One was inside the other. Could they be binding? A quick reassembly with only the outer spring proves that they’re not. Cocking is nearly as bad. Side note: The outer spring wasn’t happy being cocked with the inner spring removed. Apparently, that inner spring (which contributes, maybe, 25% of the energy) works together with that outer spring, and they keep each other straight without a rear spring guide.

Well, now my attention turns to the cocking link. Could it be binding where it slides in the slot? There’s a lot of wear in the cocking slot area that leads me to believe it is.

Relum Telly slot area
Heavy wear in the cocking slot of the spring tube.

I remember how the cocking link didn’t want to sit up tight against the spring tube. Upon closer inspection I find that it’s bent.

Relum Telly bent link
The cocking link is actually bent!

I straightened it, reinstalled it and — not much better.

I reconsider my probable causes and keep coming back to friction. A quick check on the scale shows that the effort to cock the gun is about 20 lbs. higher than the effort needed to merely hold the barrel in place. That’s a 20-lb. friction load — quite a bit — and a much more powerful Gamo 220 (which also has an articulated link) only has about a 5-lb. friction load.

Back to that cocking link. I noticed some wear. Because this linkage is articulated, the rear link that connects to the piston passes through a guide that’s attached to the spring tube. The link is sitting crooked in the guide and rubs up against the side of it when cocking the gun – THAT can’t be good!

Relum Telly wear on link
That shiny stripe is where the link has worn from rubbing against the guide.

I straightened it out, reinstalled it and — I can’t tell the difference.

At this point, I’m almost ready to believe that the gun is just jinxed. But upon closer inspection, I noticed this:

Relum Telly tube wear
The cocking link has made a deep groove in the spring tube.

The thing about articulated links is that the rear link is pushed hard into the spring tube during cocking. There has to be some sort of nylon or Teflon pad, or a roller or SOMETHING to mitigate that friction. If friction is, indeed, mitigated, you don’t get galling like that. So, there’s something seriously wrong here.

In a moment, you’ll see the rubbing pad that the factory installed in the rear link. Could that be the problem? To find out, I did two things. First, I polished up the rubbing surface on the tube — but that one scratch was WAAAYYYY too deep to remove. The next picture is very revealing.

Relum Telly tube polish
This picture shows how deep the scratch is. I polished the metal around it, but that scratch can’t be polished out. I know it looks like a folded metal tube, but it’s really solid. The cocking link has dug that deep trench through many cocking efforts.

Next, I popped out the rubbing pad that came with the gun and made a new one out of some nylon stock.

Relum Telly old rubbing pad 1
The anti-friction pad, or what I’m calling the rubbing pad, that came on the Telly is not very slick.

Relum Telly old rubbing pad 2
Here, I have popped out the old rubbing pad from the cocking link. The replacement has to fit in that cutout.

Relum Telly replacement rubbing pad
The replacement rubbing pad is made from nylon.

I can’t quite identify the original pad material, but it sure doesn’t seem all that slick. Put it all back together, and — success! Well, relatively speaking, anyway. The cocking effort is now just 45 lbs. instead of 60, and the static friction is down to about 8 lbs. That, I think, is probably about as good as it’s going to get. From what I can see, the link geometry just stinks and the mechanical advantage takes a nose-dive in the last part of the cocking stroke.

Next problem: Those stripped holes! My first inclination was to drill them oversize and install a threaded insert. But after checking the OD of inserts and the Heli-Coils that are available, I don’t think there’s enough meat to work with. That leaves me with one option: the cheapest but also the messiest — weld up the existing holes, grind down the welds, redrill, retap.

Despite the severe heat that this sort of welding puts into the work, I decide to weld up the holes with an oxy-acetelyne torch rather than a stick welder. I’ll spare you the ugly pictures — mainly because I forgot to take any. Once I got everything ready for redrilling, I installed the spring tube in the stock and used the existing screw holes in the stock as a drill guide.

Relum Telly drill guide
I used the stock screw holes as a guide for drilling the new holes, which will be threaded to receive the stock screws.

Soon, I had a pair of nicely aligned holes with good, clean threads that I can properly tighten up. Now that all the curveballs have been batted away — well, save one, but I’m not going there just yet — let’s poke around the rest of the gun.

Editor’s note
And that is where we’ll leave this report for today. The next installment will finish the story, and there are many more pictures to come. Thanks, Vince, for an insight into an airgun that many of us will never get to see.