by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The four smallbore calibers are .177, .20 (5mm), .22 and .25. But have there ever been others?
Yes, there have been other smallbore calibers. Crosman produced their galley air rifles in the 1940s in .21 caliber. I don’t know if anyone knows exactly why they chose that caliber; but given the immediate post-World War II timeframe, I would bet they did it to corner the market. In other words, you had to buy your pellets (in this case round balls) from them because nothing else would fit these guns.
They also made the same guns in .22 caliber, and those are the more popular examples today. And a great number of .21-caliber rifles have been converted to .22 caliber in the half century that’s passed.
Quackenbush (Henry Marcus, not Dennis) also made a .20-1/2-caliber pellet gun for which he supplied pellets. Same reason, I’m sure.
Of course, there was the .118-caliber BB gun made by Daisy, Wamo and the several Sharpshooter catapult gun makers (about 5 in all). We refer to those guns as .12 caliber, but they’re really a whisker less. They mostly shot No. 6 birdshot, but Daisy actually produced copper-plated steel BBs, as well.
A few years ago, there was an abortive attempt at making a .14-caliber pellet rifle. It happened at the same time that the .14-caliber rimfire round was being explored, and I feel confident that the pellet gun maker was hoping to ride the coattails of the rimfire development for the barrels. I didn’t hear a lot about this one; but the claims were higher velocity, flatter trajectory and (hopefully) lower cost for the pellets once the millions of dollars of development cost had been paid to create the small pellets to begin with. People never seem to take that into account when dreaming up these schemes!
What the world needs is an accurate BB gun
That was the ongoing theme of my misspent youth. And the logic is completely sound. You see, a BB is very inexpensive, so little boys can buy lots more of them than pellets that cost a small fortune. Rimfire ammo we allowed out parents, uncles and grandfathers to purchase because that took paper money rather than coins.
But BB guns weren’t very accurate — at least the ones we owned weren’t. But somewhere in the world there were accurate BB guns. In Germany, there was a special Diana model 30 gallery gun that shot steel balls so uniform they might be considered ball bearings. Those guns were accurate! They also had counters on them that tallied the number of shots fired, because they were used by shooting gallery operators who charged the public by the shot.
A Diana model 30 was priced at $1,000 in the U.S. in the 1970s. It didn’t cost that much in Germany, but that was what one costs over here. And the ammo? Well, forget it because the gun violated the entire reason for an accurate BB gun. It wasn’t cheap!
Then there was the VZ 35 bolt-action rifle that was a pre-war training rifle. They were hard to come by in the U.S. and didn’t shoot BBs…they shot 4.4mm lead balls. However, in the 1990s, Compasseco imported a bundle of VZ47 airguns that were a post-WWII production of the same gun. They were just as accurate as the earlier rifles, if not as well-finished. But they cost $250, and who in their right mind would pay $250 for a BB gun?
Then there was the Mars 110 and 115 trainer, the Anschütz 275 and the Haenel 310 — all of which were accurate lead ball shooters. The Haenel sold used in the U.S. at $59 at one time.
Finally, there’s the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun, also known as The world’s most accurate BB gun. Surely, that would qualify as what we want?
Well, yes, except that one only shoots 250 f.p.s. and it’s a single-shot. What we want is something very powerful, and it has to be a repeater. Besides, the 499 sells for $126, so it’s not cheap.
Let me get this straight. You want a Fender Starocaster guitar for $250 — right?
Well, only if it’s not made in China.
What you want is a time machine because the things you want only exist in the past!
Why are air pistols so weak?
What I want is a powerful air pistol so I can go hunting in the woods and not have to lug a heavy rifle around all day. Why doesn’t someone make a powerful air pistol?
AirForce Airguns makes the TalonP air pistol. It generates over 50 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and can keep 10 shots in six-tenths of an inch at 50 yards. How about that?
First of all, the TalonP is too big. You can’t put it in your pocket like you can a real pistol. Second — it costs $411. Come on! What we want is a gun like the 1377, only one that has some serious power, is a repeater and costs under $150.
I’m going to defer to you readers to tell this person why what he wants is impossible.
Have you ever tried using a primer to power a pellet?
This great idea pops up about every 5-10 years. I even tested one called the Convert-a-Pell, which failed miserably. The velocity ranged from 250 to over 600 f.p.s., and the accuracy through the .22 rimfire liner they supplied was on the order of 2.5 inches at 10 feet!
But there have been many others. Mendoza made guns that used a small blank cartridge to propel pellets and/or BBs. I tested one and found it also failed miserably to do anything other than make lots of noise.
David Pedersoli has a pellet gun that uses a 209 shotgun primer to push the pellet, but I know nothing more about it. Pedersoli has a good reputation for making fine firearms, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this one.
There is also a company caller PrimeGun making a BB gun that uses a 209 primer. They claim “hypersonic velocity,” which is what I always want from my round-ball shooters [sarcasm alert]. They talk a lot about the advantages their guns have over conventional airguns, but they never once mention the extreme difficulty of obtaining shotgun primers in the current market when reloading supplies are limited.
So, the answer is, “Yes,” I have tested primer-powered pellet and BB guns and found them to be poor substitutes for real airguns.
The bottom line is that the laws of the physical world have to be obeyed, no matter how much people may want them repealed. And the laws of economic possibility must also be observed. If they weren’t, we could all drive Ferraris and live in mansions.
53 thoughts on “Did you know?”
Sorry I’m always off-topic, but you wrote that if we want questions answered we should ask in the current “comments” section.
So here I am!
Another Sheridan question: why does it say “CB9” on the box and on the Crosman website, but only “C9a – Series” on the actual gun?
The word “Sheridan” doesn’t appear anywhere on the gun… is this normal for Sheridan?
As of this year (2013) the Sheridan brand of dead. There will be no more Sheridan airguns.
I don’t know if that answers the question you asked, but it’s all I can tell you.
Thank you, B.B.!
It appears, then, that Crosman is continuing to make the .20/5mm, just not under the Sheridan name.
Mine was made in February 2013.
Today’s blog is a good one, in that it reminds us of how we got to where were at. It takes a lot of effort and failed dreams to get a product on the market that people will want to buy. In the early 80’s, the archery world was entering the dreaded realm of speed. The first portable chronographs were showing up at ranges, and people lined up to see how their equipment stacked up to another’s. If memory serves me well, I believe my Checkmate 2 wheel compound, was clocking about 220 fps. One of the faster bows in the club. It seamed almost overnight, Bear, Jennings, Hoyt, and others, were offering the public, the words fastest bow. The magic number was 300 fps. With a combination of cams, carbon limbs and arrows, over draws, etc., 300 was eventually achieved. Your new $400.00 bow became obsolete. The walls of archery shops became filled with near new bows no one wanted simply because they were too slow. This resulted in dealers offering you next to nothing on a trade up. The one thing that stayed constant, was the scores. They were increasing, but mostly due to better coaching and training techniques, and not in relation to just speed.
I see airguns doing the same thing today. People want speed and high tech designs that do nothing for accuracy. Gamo and others are simply giving the people what they want, at an affordable price. The fact that these producers offer a brand new line of guns every two years, seems to get lost in the shuffle. That is why I am so hyped on the new Walther LGV. The .22 you tested, B.B., was slower then most quality .22’s available today. So how can the price be justified? Because it offers accuracy that only a handful of airguns can consistently achieve, straight out of the box. With this accuracy, you get cutting edge technology that actually does what it is designed to do. Give you a smoother, quieter gun, that is easy to cock. All this being said, I say let each to his own. In the end, it is you that shoots the gun you buy. So as long as you are happy with it, good for you. You have something to be proud of.
Sometimes it takes the words of another person for me to see what I am trying to say. I would say that you read today’s report and understood exactly what I was trying to say.
You also said it better than I did.
“Hypersonic velocity”? Are they seriously claiming a velocity in excess of Mach 5?
When you bring up the Fender Strat I have to point out that finding a decent to really good guitar for a very low price is remarkably easy nowadays (though it will be made in China, Korea, Indonesia) compared to how it was during the 60’s. Fenders were great back then but a lot of the less expensive guitars were kind of bad. Funky and fun to play with but often not great examples of the luthiers art. Is the market for airguns anything like that too? I know there were great guns available in the 60’s and 70’s but how do they compare with what’s currently available when the prices are adjusted for inflation?
Wow! What a peach of an idea for a blog!
I need to think about what you have asked and see what I can do with it.
BB, Well ,I for one ,would still like to see a .25 or .30 cal BB gun, rifled for round ball only repeater.A quality MSP or CO2 gun that I could cast my own ammo for, or buy bulk lead shot by the pound for. It could be done on the existing platforms of the past or present designs. I remember reading your article in the Shot Gun News about the Shark CO2 .22 pump repeater a few years ago, that was easy to fill and fun to shoot. Wish it was readily available here. We need USA availibility, fun and cheap to shoot, and we need airguns to be airguns that stand on their own merits. Not for them to be wannabe RF guns. That Walther LGV from yesterday is a good example, a air rifle that improves on whats needed in a quality breakbarrel .
I remember a long time ago that Benjamin made multipumps that shot lead ball and had a long magazine along the side of the gun. They made a lot of different kinds of pumpers back then. They all fell by the side of the road somewhere along the way. Maybe because of a lack of ammo, or a lack of availability in the local stores. Maybe both.
TT, I remember those . When we were kids ,my younger brother got a new Benjamin in .22 cal with the tootsie roll forearm,and in the little folder included with his gun, there was an advertisement for the RB repeaters. I would like to see a modern version in at least .25 cal. .30 cal for the .310 Hornady RB would be even better. It’s been done on a one off custom airgun before, but would be nice to have a factory version. Around 650-700fps in .30 cal would be about right.
Love these “questioning the norm” articles.
I have one of those Sharks which work as repeaters with .22 lead balls (30 shots) and as a single shot rifle with pellets. They give about 18 joules with balls, and up to 23 joules with heavy (22 gr) pellets. They are very noisy, and I understand that they waste a lot of CO2, as a full charge of about 80g allows the same number of shots that my Crosman 2260 can give with a 12g capsule (with a bit more power in the Shark, though). I would say that the 2260 is more precise, at least up to the distance where I have compared them (about 20 m, both with medium weight pellets). While a couple years ago the price here in Argentina was reasonable if not a bit high ($300) now they are too expensive, in my opinion ($500).
Off topic (as usual)…….this ain’t good….
I pulled out the tripod that I have been using with my chrono so I could take pictures of a coin collection this morning and found this……….And it looks bad. I am going to have to clean out the chrono before I use it again. I am sure I know which rifle is the culprit.
As for BB guns that use a primer, don’t forget the parlor pistols that used a percussion cap. Dixie sells a Pedersoli Remington Rider Deringer that fires a .17 lead ball propelled by a percussion cap:
On calibers, CBC (Magtech) in Brazil has introduced a 6mm pellet. As a matter of fact, it is due to legal restrictions, that consider .25 caliber airguns “restricted” (don’t ask me why our government thinks a .25 caliber airgun should be restricted to military-only).
I don’t know anyone else producing a 6mm airgun (not taken airsoft guns into consideration, of course)… do you?
That one is news to me. A .243 pellet?
Yeah, that’s right… I would like to send you details, let me know how I can do it. Don’t wanna put a link in your blog to a product line that Pyramyd Air doesn’t sell.
JUst send it to email@example.com
Your comment about the lack of accurate, repeating, powerful BB guns brings out the not-so-deep thinker in me. In other words, I become one of the simple-minded malcontents that get you frustrated.
I dream of a BB gun that is like the Avanti 499 but just a bit . . . more. I don’t expect a BB gun to be accurate at 30 yards, but accurate out to 30 feet would be nice. If the 499 shot at, say, 350-400 fps., just how accurate do you suspect it would be at 10 yards, twice the distance that the 499 is very accurate at?
And I like the muzzleloading “feature” of my 499. It makes the whole shooting process more meditative, more relaxing. I feel there’s a lot to be said for going slowly and deliberately.
Repeaters certainly have their place, however, which leads me to wonder. Just how inaccurate was the Daisy model 99? Did it share the exact same tube/barrel as the 25, or was it made with a smaller diameter barrel?
I can’t increase the velocity, but I can certainly test the 499 for you. I’ll test it at 5 meters, which is the distance it was made to shoot, and again at 10 meters.
That would be excellent! Thank you very much!
Perhaps at the same time you could test it with different brands of BBs. The assumption has always been that Avanti BBs are bigger and therefore better than Crosman Copperheads, but the Daisy Premium Grade, Umarex, and Marksman Laserhawk BBs might give the Precision Ground Shot a run for its money, at least in the 499.
I will test it with other BBs, but I have done that in the past and Avanti Precision Ground have always worked the best.
I don’t have Marksman Laserhawks, but I think the others will show what you want.
Oh, I’d like to see that test!
See if it lives up to its claim of being “the world’s most accurate bb gun.”
The kids here shoot the 499 in shooting class and competitively against other 4H clubs.
Problem is, all participants are required to shoot the same model guns (although they are allowed to bring their own guns, as long as they are the same model, 499). So there is no comparison between different models. Of course, the idea is to eliminate the gun as a factor by keeping them all the same.
But it makes it impossible to test the claim. “Most accurate” compared to what?
These guns are Red Ryders, but with only single-shot capability and peep sights. It would be interesting to compare them to other similarly-priced bb guns. But since you do not do head-to-head tests, it would mean running similar tests on other guns individually. While the 499 is not an expensive gun, it is considerably more expensive than entry-level bb guns.
I’ve wondered if it would be possible to replace the spring in a 499 with a Red Ryder spring. I’ve never chronied my Red Ryder, but it definitely packs a punch compared to my 499. I suspect my Red Ryder (a new model) is about as powerful as my 25.
I can guarantee you that the 499 will shoot rings around any Red Ryder. I have tested it that way in the past for other things.
But I wonder if it’s possible to replace the mainspring in a 499 with a new Red Ryder one?
A more powerful mainspring may not increase the power of an airgun. We have discussed this many times in the past, but my favorite was the blog called Steel Dreams, where a guy made a spring rifle that cocked with 75 pounds of force, yet was the same power as a Beeman R1.
Yeah, I forgot about that. All of this snow shoveling made my brain soft.
Maybe a tighter barrel for the Red . . . aw, the heck with it. I still badly want to see how well the 499 can do at 10 meters.
On a hunch I once cocked my Red Ryder and then muzzle loaded it with 4.4 lead round balls I bought from John Groenewald. Hard to say if they were much more accurate, although I recall that they were slightly better. To my surprise the tighter fit made the extra weight of the lead ball not matter much regarding velocity. I might even have the Chrony printout somewhere. I did like what they did to pop cans! A satisfying “Thwack” and big holes ripped through both sides
As far as the 1377 goes, I can turn it into a nice lightweight squirrel killer if you like. But that means I’m going to have to totally strip the thing down, guve it all new valves, barrel, breech, springs ect. When I’m done You get a very nice gun that is very accurate and has enough power to take a squirrel at around 30 feet. The catch is all that is going to bring the price of that $50 pump gun up to somewhere in the neighborhood of around $650 depending on how nice you want me to make it look. Everything I do to it adds to the cost. So by all means, get hold of me and I’ll build a 1377 into the gun of your dreams if you are willing to pay the price and wait for it to be built. Or you can just spend that $650 and buy an AK47 from me, or spend that money on a Walther LGV. i hear that has plenty of power and decent accuracy.
I’d like to see one thing that I don’t think would be that expensive to do. But maybe it would. I’d like to see a .357 cal barrel for my condor. I’d love to see something like that tested and available. As it is now I have to buy a Sam Yang or go big bucks through a FFL dealer for something like the Rogue which I’ve been salivating over since it was first shown. The price has kept me away from that one though. I set myself a monthly price limit for airguns since I’m kind of an airgun addict with my addiction spilling over into powder burners trying to pick up parts for the guns on my dream gun list before politicians try to pee on my list.
Now, that HAS been done and it works great.
They use them in big bore matches.
Where do i get one of those barrels? I need one for some pests I am tasked with hunting.
It’s more than just n a barrel, which you can buy as a barrel liner from Brownells. The gun has to be extensively modified to use the larger caliber.
Go to Eric Henderson’s website and ask around. Someone there will know how they do it.
I was kind of hoping for a barrel like the ones commonly available for the condor…Lothar Walther. Remove .22 barrel from gun slide in .357. But if it just can’t be done without modifying valves and whatever, I’ll stick with what is available and look at a Sam Yang Recluse then. I wasn’t wanting to do much more than cosmetic stuff to “Mad Madam Mim” I’ll put that idea to bed now. I have a feeling that I’d wreck My best pest gun for all my other purposes if i tried it. Not something I want to risk. Way too much money invested in making it a nice accurate and quiet gun right now.
I recently bought a .177 Benjamin Marauder. I’ve been bench testing it using a bi-pod and sand bags to keep it very steady. I’m shooting .177 JSB Match Diabolo 10.34gr pellets, indoors at 10 yards. The gun seems erratic to me. I expect the Marauder to put the pellet in the same hole just about every time from 10 yards, but the shots are an inch apart in all different directions. I tried using two different scopes in case one wasn’t holding it’s zero, with the same erratic results. It’s very disappointing, but I can still exchange it for another Marauder if I feel it’s defective. Am I expecting too much from the gun or do you think there is something wrong with the gun or something that I’m doing?
I have a Marauder in .22 caliber. At 20 yards the pellets form a slightly ragged hole. Assuming that your shooting fundamentals are solid, I would expect pellet holes to be touching, at least.
When shooting, do you see your cross-hairs stay steady throughout the shot (i.e., are you certain that you’re not pulling the shot off during trigger squeeze)? Are you following through (i.e., are you continuing to watch the cross-hairs for a few seconds AFTER the shot is down-range)?
Have you tested these two scopes on other rifles?
At 10 yards all those pellets should be in one tight hole. It sounds like some pellets may be touching one of the baffles on their way out of the shroud.
Try this: unscrew the shroud, dump out the baffles then examine them for bright spots. Then assemble the shroud on the gun and shoot another group. Sometimes realignment is all it takes.
You are using the best pellet for that rifle.
At 5 yards (the distance from my front door to the hallway closet, when I was still in the PRCa), my .177 Marauder could stack three pellets tightly enough to punch out the back of a “silent pellet trap”.
I’ll concede the 50 yard outdoor range didn’t pack them that well… Besides the time it took to get onto the bull and some cross wind, I had four rifles to sight in and was running out of time (BB would be ruined — the range ran only 15-minute shooting cycles followed by 15-minute “clear” to examine targets). My most “accurate” at 50 yards was the squirrel killer (all the shots would have hit a standing squirrel) — a BOSS equipped Browning A-Bolt II Varmint model in .308Win… Someday I’ll find a range to sight that at 100 yards and THEN play with the BOSS adjustments.
I’ll likely pull the Marauder and Condor down to 25 yard zeroes rather than the 50yd.
Forgot to mention — I was using H&N Barracuda Match 10.7gr
Everything you described applies to me (gun, rest, scope) except the following: I’m using Crosman Premier Lights from the cardboard box, and I shoot at 10 meters, not 10 yards. I am getting 0.70 inch 10 shot groups and .40 inch 5 shot groups. I suspect if I switched to the JSB Match Diabolo 10.34gr my groups might shrink 20 percent. Also, my groups are slowly getting better as I become more acquainted with the gun.
My basement range is set up so that the target is very bright, and everything else is in semi-darkness. Also, as I have a few FWB 10 meter rifles, I make the most of the two stage trigger that the Marauder has, slowly drawing back to the stopping point that is the second stage, concentrating on aligning the crosshairs, and taking note of my breathing. Then I squeeze off the second stage. Be sure to get your lighting and trigger technique as close to optimum as possible.
I am not getting great results because I am a lousy shot (although I will do the baffle thing B.B. suggested). With my FWB 300s and 601, I regularly get 10 shot groups of 0.27 – 0.30, and five shot groups that are 0.23 -0.26. I am using aperture sights, however, not a scope. With a scope on the 300s (the 601 cannot be scoped) I would expect 10 shot groups of 0.21 – 0.23. In a vise, either rifle would shoot a 60 shot group of 0.19 or so, I’d imagine.
I don’t know if that could be a valuable addition, but besides mod. 310 I remember there were several East German Suhl (Haenel) airguns that also shot 4.4 mm lead balls, spring-fed from magazine into the rifle or single shot using a sort of valve loading mechanism.
On my progress with new cylinders for my FWB C62 rifle – I finally decided to make them from stainless steel (CO2, humidity, freeze/fill cycles and so on – carbon steel seemed to be cheaper, but technologically more difficult solution due to strict conditions of chemical treatment to prevent rust) so today they went to laser welding. I hope to have them ready (pressure-tested and assembled) by the end of this month.
I finally have enough time to start again on my Duscombe project – tweaks, tests and so on. Let’s see if I’ll be able to squeeze some more accuracy from this baby. And, perhaps, squeeze some more weight off it 🙂
Good to hear from you again. I though you were buried under a snowdrift! 😉
Ah, this is a deep question. Someone asked awhile ago why are there so many different calibers? It would be equivalently interesting to ask why the few mainstays are what they are. In part it is history. The .223 is no doubt so popular because of the military use. But are there deeper performance nodes such as the 6mm for benchresting and the .30 caliber for 1000 yard shooting? The same questions apply to the airgun calibers.
NRS, how about that, an actual dealer in the motorcycles! You hit it right on the head with a surprising answer. I actually have never seen one with the machine gun mounted, so I would never have guessed that there was a tactical use. So, that’s why you see so many of the darned things everywhere and in some rough terrain too. The British SAS were started as a hit and run organization in North Africa so the Germans had the equivalent. My only criticism of this machine as a tactical weapon is the lack of armor for the riders but I guess that was the “run” part of hit and run.
Interesting! I might be able to eek out a blog from that.
Maybe do a blog at some point about just how far you can push a 1377 as far as mods that someone could do as well. Add flat top piston and pump, extended probe, hollow probe in breech, power adjuster ect. People might find it interesting to see what the humble 1377 can do when you throw some money at the gun. I’d be happy to help you put one of these high performance rat rods together just to see what it can do when you put the spurs to it.
If you want to, why don’t you build up a 1377 and test it for us?
Only problem with that is I do not have a chronograph. I’m fairly certain with no accurate chronograph readings your readers wouldn’t be happy. I will however chronicle a few of my builds for future reading though. Bit too late for an AK47 build , but I can do a future 2240 co2 to pcp later on. That might get some interest.
Never saw a pellet launcher using primers… I’ve seen primer powered practice ammo (those plastic wadcutters are dangerous — my father put a nice hole in the back of a dining room chair… ).
Hmmm, that was in about 1979/1980, just before I moved to the PRCa to work at Lockheed… I get laid off, move back, and he takes out a basement window firing an AEG M-14 AirSoft at a paper bag hanging from the ceiling… Do two events 34 years apart constitute a trend?…
ONCE is an incident.
TWICE is a trend
At three it begins to be a habit.
You know, I may have seen one of these rifles that use a primer. A few years ago, my wife and I took a cruise along the Mexican coast, and while on land ran into a couple stores that had these strange rifles. I couldn’t figure them out, but considered the possibility that they used a primer for power. It just seemed very strange, and I wouldn’t have given it any thought until this blog. I wonder why they sell those down there?
Your mention of the VZ 35 reminds me that I have one that shoots very weak; as in sometimes the ball won’t exit the barrel. I have a VZ 47 as well so have a good idea of how the thing should shoot. I had entertained the idea of working on it until I read your old post on that gun and the advice to not tackle one. I haven’t found anyone who works on these guns. Do you have a suggestion? It would be great having this shoot well. It is a blast to just cock,shoot, cock, shoot. Very addictive.
That’s a pretty intricate air rifle, but someone must know how it works.
I will ask around and get back with you in the blog if I find anyone.