The Roanoke airgun show: Part 2
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today I’ll show you more of the airgun show that was held in Roanoke, Virginia, last Friday and Saturday. I’m going to jump around just like you would if you walked the aisles at the show.
Let’s begin at Larry Hannusch’s table. Larry has been an airgun writer since the 1970s, and he has a great collection of fine guns. This year, he displayed some of his ball-flask guns, giving show attendees a chance to see airguns that no American museum has.
Not many people have ever seen this many ball reservoir airguns in one place. Larry Hannusch collection.
How do they fill those ball reservoirs? With vintage hand pumps like this one. Dennis Quackenbush and I experimented with these pumps and learned they can develop up to 1,000 psi when the right technique is used. And they don’t have piston seals — just lapped steel pistons!
Larry also had a sales table with some fine vintage guns that were actually for sale. One was a BSF S54 underlever target rifle with a peep sight the size of a satellite dish. The one thing you can count on with guys like Larry is that they always bring out the rare and wonderful guns that most of us have only seen in books.
Across the aisle from Larry was Lloyd Sikes — the man who invented the electronic valve that went into the Benjamin Rogue. In fact, it was at a Roanoke airgun show years ago where Lloyd shared his idea for that valve with me. And the rest is history.
Lloyd has made quite a name for himself by producing Benjamin Marauder pistols with dual air reservoirs. His company, Airgun Lab, started making the P-Rod Double last year and then moved to the Disco Double — a Benjamin Discovery with 2 reservoir tubes. This year, he’s bringing out a Disco Double with 2 aluminum reservoirs that, as far as I can tell, is as light or even lighter than the original Benjamin Discovery rifle on which it is based.
When I picked up the prototype lightweight Disco Double at his table, I was amazed! It can’t weigh much more than 5 lbs.!
I’d promised to do a project with Lloyd last year and never got around to it, but this year a wonderful thing happened. A man who had purchased a new Discovery last year from Mac came to my table and wanted to return it. I explained that Mac had passed away, but then I thought that this might make the perfect rifle for a project with Lloyd. It was leaking, but that’s not a problem because it will have to be sealed anyway after the conversion. And with the 2 aluminum reservoir tubes, I should get about twice the number of useful shots per fill. And that’s a 2,000 psi fill, mind you.
So, I bought the gun and gave it to Lloyd for the conversion. As we talked and refined the details, I decided to also install a Marauder trigger on the rifle, which will give me what I always wanted — a single-shot rifle with lots of shots, a great trigger and superior accuracy. There — that’s 1 of the 4 airguns I bought out of the way!
I was also located next to Ingvar Alm, a collector/dealer from Minnesota who always has wonderful stuff at these shows. He’s one of the major contributors to the Blue Book of Airguns. I could spend an entire blog on just the stuff on his table; instead, let me share with you the one gun that really caught my eye. It’s a dart gun from 1887!
The “Harmless” pistol. Wouldn’t you just love to see this at a Congressional hearing on toy safety today? This was on Ingvar Alm’s table, and he let me load and cock it for this picture!
Lest you BB-gun collectors feel left out, there were also plenty of desirable guns that you love at this show. I saw at least one model 40 with a bayonet, and I believe there was also a scarce model 140 Defender on the same table.
Yes, there were plenty of rare collectible BB guns at Roanoke, too. And the prices were just as reasonable as the rest of the airguns.
What’s REALLY rare? How about a 1923 first model Crosman pneumatic with a front pump? There are seldom any at a show, but at this show there were at least 2! One of them had a price tag of $1,250, which is almost half what I’ve seen them bring in the past.
There were 2 of these 1923 Crosman front-pump pneumatics at the show, and both were for sale. This is something that’s seldom seen.
Okay, I guess it was blog reader Bradly who asked if there were any air shotguns at this show. Yes, there were. I saw a Farco air shotgun on one table. That’s the 28-gauge shotgun from the Philippines that Davis Schwesinger (the Roanoke show promoter) used to kill a wild pig several decades ago.
Gun on the left is a Farco air shotgun. Gun on the right is a Crosman 102 repeater. Yawn. That’s what happens when you’re surrounded by riches.
What guns did B.B. buy?
You already know about the Disco, so what other airguns did I get at Roanoke this year? The first one was something I just couldn’t pass up. A Diana model 25 for $75! It’s the model without the ball-bearing trigger and the cosmetic condition isn’t that great, but it’s all there and seems to have a powerful mainspring. I felt the gun was undervalued, so I paid a little more than was asked but still got a great bargain.
This Diana 25 was a real bargain! You’ll see it in the future.
Before I came to the show, I was thinking about buying a BSA Meteor. I’ve always heard good things about them but have never pulled the trigger on one. This was the time.
At the show, I saw Meteors from $30 (junky) to $125 (excellent condition), and the average price was around $60. I bought one from Don Raitzer and will test it for you in the future.
This BSA Meteor was my only planned acquisition.
The last gun I bought was a flight of pure fancy. My money was mostly spent; but when I saw this rifle laying on the table I really wanted it — not because of its rarity or value, but just for the neatness factor.
It’s a Falke model 70, and it’s not much like the model 90 underlever I already have. This one is a breakbarrel that comes with an adjustable trigger and a barrel lock. The stock has been refinished, and the metal is mostly patina. But the rifle looks and feels solid. The dealer, Dave Bingham, said it reminds him of a Diana 27. It looks heavier and more powerful than that to me, but I suppose we’ll find out when I test it. I got it for $100, which I think is a wonderful deal.
This Falke model 70 was on the same table as the model 80. This one is intriguing and I will be testing it for you soon.
Davis Schwesinger, the promoter of the show, had several tables full of vintage airguns. I’m going to show just a few that convey what was there.
Dave Schwesinger’s tables just went on and on. Here you see a Hämmerli Cadet, a VZ 47, a pre-war Diana model 30 and a Swedish Excellent. Where do you see airguns like these, except at shows like Roanoke?
Jan Kraner had a table displaying the most beautiful wood-stocked rifles. Most of them were not for sale, but they were a feast for the eyes. Jan uses them to showcase his talent as a stock maker, and believe me — it works!
Jan Kraner’s stocks stopped people in their tracks.
I saved the best for last. In recent years there haven’t been too many Sheridan Supergrade rifles showing up at these events. But this year John Ford had a nice one and the price was just $1,250. That’s hundreds under what they have brought in recent years.
A Sheridan Supergrade for sale is a rare thing. And this one was affordable.
The show was over before I knew it, and another year had slipped by. This one was different, as my pal Mac wasn’t there to share the excitement. But as I am reminded every time I go to one of these things — nothing is forever. We don’t own any of these airguns. We’re just their custodians for a time. In the future, these prized possessions of ours will be in someone else’s collection. That’s how we got them in the first place.