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

And who can I ask? That’s today’s topic. It comes from a sense of frustration I’m having about airguns.

When a question comes in about an airgun, I try my best to answer it. Sometimes, the answer involves a lot of information the person asking probably doesn’t want to know — or doesn’t know they needed to know.

Let me give you an example without pointing any fingers, but based on actual events. We got a question about using a certain precharged pneumatic air rifle for the sport of field target. This person wants to buy a certain PCP in .25 caliber that’s rated to 40+ foot-pounds. He has already checked with the distributor, whose technical people assured him it will be fine for field target.

No, it won’t! Let me tell you why. First, nobody but a fool shoots field target with any caliber except .177. The reason for that is the .177 pellet, being so small, has less chance of hitting the face of the target and locking it in the upright position as it passes through the kill zone to hit the paddle that knocks it down. Since knocking down the target is the only way to get a point, anything that jeopardizes that for any reason is avoided.

Second, nearly all field target matches have a power limit on the guns. This is both to protect the targets and to exclude the ultra-powerful airguns that just bulldoze the targets. When I competed, I once used a .22-caliber Career 707 that developed 26 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. When it hit the target, it vibrated the face so hard that it tripped the trigger and dropped the target. Even I could see that it wasn’t just accuracy dropping all those targets. So, I suggested a top energy limit of 20 foot-pounds at matches held by our club and the other club officers agreed. Soon after that, other clubs started using 20 foot-pounds as their upper limit. Today, there are international rules that limit the output of the gun to 12 foot-pounds, and American rules that go up to 20 foot-pounds.

Third, the particular air rifle that was recommended to this customer is not especially accurate. It was as if he had discovered that a Lamborghini tractor is much more affordable than a Lamborghini sports car, and he wondered if it would do all the same things. Sure! And you also get that 3-point hydraulic hitch that holds so many farm implements. Bet a Countach can’t do that!

Once I say it — it becomes the truth
Here is something I really detest. I will make a certain remark about something, and someone will pick up on it and turn it into something else entirely. Let me give you an example.

I write the following:

“The pistol I shot did not develop the power the manufacturer promised. I did discover some dirt in the inlet valve, and I wonder if some of it might have been blown into the innards when I filled the gun, gumming them up.”

A week later I read this on the Yellow Forum:

“Tom Gaylord said his pistol was delivered with dirt inside the reservoir which gummed up the action.”

A year later I read:

“This pistol never had a chance. All of them were full of dirt and never developed anywhere near the advertised power.”

What goes around…
Then this happens. A person writes in to Pyramyd Air with some off-the-wall question that no one can answer. Edith emails the manufacturer in the hopes they’ll have an answer. As she waits, I get a call from the manufacturer asking the same question. I provide the answer, they email Edith and she writes up an answer to be sent to the customer.

But when I have a question about airguns, where can I go? Believe it on not, I do have sources.

I have to break my questions down to their components, then ask my sources about those specific things. For instance, I might get a question from someone who is acting as an expert witness in a lawsuit about an airgun that blew up, injuring the owner. So, he asks me why the airgun might have blown up.

I know a few things, so I ask him to find out the schedule of tubing that was used to make the reservoir, and whether it’s seamless or not. Then, I call Dennis Quackenbush and he tells me to check to see where the tubing was made. If it came from China, it may be irregular enough to have failed, even though the spec sheet says it should have been strong enough. Or it might have been rusty when the maker installed it on his gun and the rust continued after the gun was assembled until the reservoir failed. Or the threads that held the tube to the receiver might have been too coarse for that kind of connection. Or they may have been made with a die instead of cut on a lathe and may be the wrong angle for the joint strength required. Or any of a hundred other things.

Torpenhow Hill
I love this one! There is a place in the UK called Torpenhow Hill. When the first Saxon settlers got there, they noticed the large hill nearby, so they named the place Hill, which in their language was the word Tor. The Celtic people (early English folks, not basketball players) who came to Tor noticed that it had a very large hill, which was obviously Tor Hill. Their word for hill was Pen. The Scandinavians following them arrived at Torpen and noticed a large hill that was called Torpen Hill. Their word for hill was pronounced How. Then came the final Middle English settlers, who decided to call the place Torpenhow Hill, for the prominent hill in the vicinity. And that his how Torpenhow Hill (literally hillhillhill hill) got its name. True story.

[Editor’s note: There is a report on the internet that debunks the Torpenhow Hill story, but it has been shown to be incorrect.]

Many years ago, I knew an airgun maker who was highly regarded. But he wasn’t a shooter. By that, I mean he wasn’t a person who was interested in shooting until he started making and selling airguns. So, he never learned the terminology that goes with guns. Consequently, he referred to the cartridges that are put into firearms as bullets. Lotta that happening on television, these days. So, when he started making molds to produce projectiles for his airguns, what was he going to call those projectiles? Why, bullet heads, of course.

Edith and I have heard all manner of names for the projectiles that guns launch — bullet heads, bullet tips, bullet noses. Sometimes, when we find an airgun website that gets almost everything wrong, we’ll just blurt out a combination of these names — bullet head nose tips! Torpenhow Hill.

So, when somebody in the marketing department of an airgun company decided that their new airsoft rifle with a 300-rd magazine is a single-shot because it fires only one time with each pull of the trigger — then the bolt has to be worked to cock the gun and load the next BB from the magazine — we correct them. Or when a 30-something web designer lists a Monte Carlo stock as having a raised cheekpiece, when they’re referring to the 2-level profile of the comb on the butt — we correct them. Or when they insist that double-action means single-action and vice-versa.

For most of these people, airguns are just a job, the same as real estate or banking. For us, it’s a passion.