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

I’ve wanted to write a blog about several different subjects for a long time, but I didn’t know what to call it. What I’ll do today is clear the boards of a couple small, unrelated things.

American Airgunner
As you know, I spent most of last week in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, filming the 2014 season of American Airgunner. I’m in a segment of the show called “The Round Table,” where a bunch of guys talk about different subjects. This year, we did some hands-on work that was more exciting than last year, but I’m not going to tell you what that was. You’ll just have to watch the show like I do!

We worked with 5Star Productions — an award-winning video production group based in Ft. Smith. I’ve worked with several video companies over the years, and I can tell you that these guys are first-rate! We knocked out all 13 episodes in three days of filming and even shot some bonus footage because they were so efficient. Getting out of the office is hard for me these days, and it’s such a pleasure when I get to work with professionals who know exactly what they’re doing!

American Airgunner studio
The Round Table set on American Airgunner.

On the last day, we filmed on location at a large ranch in Oklahoma. The four of us — show host Rossi Morreale, Steve Criner, Rick Eutsler and me — were very loose and somewhat tired. Rossi was talking to Steve about how he seemed to change whenever he was on camera. And that’s when this happened: Behind the scenes outtake.

Now, on to the blog.

I got this new airgun and…
Pyramyd Air gets a lot of customer feedback about the guns they sell. Recently, a gentleman wrote in to complain about the accuracy of a Crosman Fury Nitro Piston rifle he’d purchased. He said he was a 1,000-yard benchrest shooter, so he knew how to shoot, but he could not get the Fury to group.

No kidding! I bet he also couldn’t get a rack-grade Marlin 30-06 to shoot well at at 1,000 yards — either! And Corvettes make lousy pickup trucks!

Come-on, guys. When is a $120 breakbarrel springer ever going to give you dime-sized groups at 30 yards? Maybe the Air Venturi Bronco can do it, but not too many others. And, when you stuff a gas spring (the Nitro Piston) into a budget-priced rifle, it’s going to push everything way beyond the limits. Sure, it’ll work, and you may get wonderful velocity numbers. But tight groups? I think not.

Pyramyd Air, however, gave the gentleman the more civilized answer.

A few things to try. (1) Your gun may have barrel droop and might benefit from an adjustable mount that helps compensate for droop. (2) Try JSB or H&N domed pellets. You should see a significant difference. When it comes to pellets, you get what you pay for. (3) Tighten all stock screws. You’d be surprised how many guns have loose screws after just a few minutes of shooting. Many people use blue Loctite on their gun screws so they don’t have to stop shooting every few minutes to tighten the screws! (4) Springers often require a break-in period. Many people don’t see consistent groups until 500 or even 1,000 shots. In fact, when Dr. Robert Beeman owned Beeman Precision Airguns, he stated in his catalogs that springers needed 500-1,000 shots. While springers these days may not need quite that many, they DO need some break-in time. If you don’t have a lot of shots thru your rifle, you may want to put some pellets downrange to see if accuracy increases. (5) Lastly, how about using another scope? Not all scopes are created equal. Get a different scope (one that you know has good glass and can stand the 2-way recoil of a springer) and see if accuracy improves. Hope these suggestions help.

These are all things that experienced airgunners do with any new rifle they get. We expect to have to do them and are pleasantly surprised when we discover that one or more of those things isn’t required. But the bottom line is what I said at the beginning. Don’t expect inexpensive airguns to group tight — and be very thankful if they do.

I can’t win
I recently tested a Daisy 880 and got criticized for not testing a brand new gun. I was told that my reviews influence a lot of people, and I should always test new guns that represent exactly what the customer will get.

When I write a report I put a lot of words into the article. It this particular report I wrote the following words:

The rifle I’m testing for you is about 13-14 years old, but it probably has fewer than 500 shots on the clock.

That means the rifle I’m testing is not new. I imagine my readers don’t always know what I do, but they can read and understand what I’m saying.

In the second report, after showing the velocity numbers and remarking that the velocity varied widely, I said:

The Daisy 880 varies greatly in velocity from test to test. You may think this is because my 880 is an older one. I can’t argue that. If you want to run the same test with a more modern 880 and submit your results, I’d be glad to see them; but please back up any claims you make with chronograph results.

I wrote that paragraph so the readers would know the possible reasons why the gun I was testing was acting like it did. I never anticipated that anyone would use parts of each of my reports as material for a debate on ethical writing! But, seeing that it happened, I thought it was important to point out everything that was said.

Some folks worry too much about the other guy, and forget to watch over themselves. I like to let each reader ask his own questions and not let one reader speak for a group that may or may not exist.

However, there was enough discussion on this topic that I requested a brand new Daisy 880 from Pyramyd Air, which I’ll test when the test of my old rifle is finished.

This sort of thing sticks in my craw because it happens both ways. When an older rifle doesn’t do as well as it should, I get criticized for testing it. And, when an older rifle does better than it should, I’m told that I shouldn’t test an airgun that is so well broken-in. That happened when I tested my TX200 Mark III. I was told that my older rifle shot faster because it was so well broken-in. Now, I’m told the Daisy 880 shoots so poorly because it’s an old air rifle.

You know what I think? Air Arms guns get better with age — or at least that’s what people think. And Daisys wear out over time, or at least that’s what people are saying. Maybe there’s some truth hidden there?

When I get this new airgun, where should I get it tuned?
This comes up all the time. People buy a brand-new airgun; and, because of the reading they’ve done, they assume it has to be tuned to work for them. I’ll admit there’s some wisdom in this philosophy, but I think something more needs to be said. Why not shoot the gun awhile just as it comes? I have a story to illustrate this.

Many years ago, I bought a Ruger 10/22 rimfire rifle for an article I was writing on silencers. But I figured I could test the rifle in different ways and get even more stories out of it. Well, the story I got turned out to be quite different from the one everyone thought.

My late friend Mac had a 10/22 that was a tackdriver. He’d sent it to Connecticut Precision Chambering for a target chamber, a headspacing job and a trigger job and reckoned they could do the same for me.

When I first tested that rifle, it wasn’t that accurate. It grouped about 1.5-inches for 10 shots at 50 yards with the best ammo available. I was glad to send it off for the work. I figured this was how Mac had gotten his rifle to become so accurate. When it came back, the trigger was wonderful, but the rifle still wasn’t that accurate. Ten shots would now group a little larger than one inch at the same 50 yards.

This puzzled Mac, who was sure my rifle would become a tackdriver after the customization. A tackdriver would put 10 shots into about a half-inch at 50 yards. I still own that rifle, and it’s never done better than an inch for 10 shots. But I bought an aftermarket 20-inch Badger bull barrel for it that gives 10-shot groups under 0.6 inches at 50 yards. Then I acquired a Ruger 10/22 Target rifle that has a hammer-formed barrel, and that one would put 10 into 0.540 inches at 50 yards with the best ammo.

Now, about 12 years after all of this has passed, I recently chanced to pick up a 10/22 Deluxe in a trade at a gun show. The Deluxe is the standard rifle but with a walnut stock that’s checkered and a bolt that’s polished. The trigger is still hard and creepy. When I shot it I was amazed. Finally, I have a 10/22 that’s a potential tackdriver right out of the box. No, it hasn’t put 10 into a half-inch yet, but it has certainly gone under an inch with no modifications.

Here’s the point I’m making. Before you invest serious cash in any gun, make sure it’s got good bones to begin with. Otherwise, you’re just putting lipstick on a pig.