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Education / Training How and why guns wear out: Part 1

How and why guns wear out: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

• Introduction
• Firearms first
• Two factors to consider
• Metallurgy
• Design
• Summary

I made the statement last week that some action pistols wear out with use, and it set off a huge round of discussion. Some owners have already experienced what I was talking about, and others were incredulous that their guns could ever wear out! Ever! Today, I want to begin a series that explores how and why airguns wear out — and believe me, some do.

Before you run screaming through the halls, shouting, “I knew it was too good to be true,” please leaven what you are about to read with some common sense. All airguns do not wear out in the ways I’ll describe. I’m looking at specific guns and types of guns, so factor that into what you read.

Do airguns wear out? Of course they do! Some more often and faster than others. Maybe the best example of a fast wearout is the wooden Markham Chicago breakbarrel BB gun that was made in the 1880s. By now, most of these have dried out,  and their wood has cracked in splits that follow the grain. The pistons have hammered themselves through the ends of their compression chambers, which relegates the gun to a wall hanger. But what can you expect from a gun that’s built mostly of wood and screen-door hardware?

Markham BB gun
Markham’s first BB gun was mostly wood.

Markham BB gun open
Broken open, the Markham give us the perfect reason it’s called a breakbarrel.

Markham BB gun hinge
The Markham’s hinge is a perfect example of screen-door technology.

Firearms first
Before we get into modern airguns, you need to know something about the firearms of the past that are also well known for wearing out. Yes, I said firearms! I know that some readers are not that familiar with firearms, so we need to review this first.

Two factors to consider
Many things contribute to the wearout of a firearm, and most of them can be classified as abuse. All armies around the world have to factor abuse into the life cycle of the guns they buy; not because their soldiers deliberately abuse them, though that does happen, but because of the conditions under which they’re used. You and I know to come in out of the rain, but a soldier often has no opportunity to do the same. That’s why one test of a firearm that’s going into battle is to function fire it in a spray booth. Many guns spent months in redesign because they couldn’t pass a shooting test when wet. The M1 Carbine was notable in this respect.

But I don’t want to talk about abuse in this discussion. I want to talk about guns that wear out under what are best described as normal conditions. A great many firearms will wear out and become unsafe just by using them as intended. If that sounds wrong, then this is a report you need to read!

I have identified 2 main factors that allow (or cause) a firearm to wear out under normal use. The first is metallurgy. Guns weren’t always made of steel, you know. In fact, as much as I deride the “plastic” guns of today, they are far superior to some guns that were made of metal and wood! That’s because the metal wasn’t right for the application.

Many of the percussion rifles made between 1830 and 1900 are well-known for their metallurgical weaknesses. Instead of steel, the parts of these guns were made of iron that has less tolerance to the hot gasses produced when gunpowder ignites. As a result, they’re often found all but eroded away from the flames of ignition. Even my Nelson Lewis combination gun, which was made as well as most guns of the 1960s, has flame erosion around the bases of both nipples.

flame erosion
The flame erosion seen on this musket is moderate. I’ve seen some guns that are almost worn away at this point.

The solution was well-known in the day, but it was expensive. Use a material that doesn’t erode with heat. Some of the finest flintlocks of the time have flashholes made from platinum! They’ve often lasted for centuries and are still useable today. But the average gun owner couldn’t afford such luxuries, so they just accepted the fact that their rifles would eventually wear out. How many shots did they get? It depended on the gun’s design, but 20,000 shots was considered more than a lifetime.

Okay, let’s say you agree with what I’m saying about the older percussion guns. What does it have to do with modern guns? Well, the metallurgy of modern guns is just as subject to early wearout as it was in Davy Crockett’s time. Let’s consider a pistol made in Sweden for World War II.

The M40 is commonly called the Lahti. It’s a 9mm pistol made for the Swedish forces and also used by several other countries. Though it operates in an entirely different way, it looks similar to a P08, or Luger, so it’s often called the Swedish Luger.

Lahti M40 service pistol is a good gun, but it’s right on the edge when it comes to strength. Use of hot ammo will break the frame and bolt.

The Swedes were concerned that the frigid conditions in their country would freeze the actions of standard semiautomatics, though a test of the Browning-designed M1911 proved them wrong. But they still added an accelerator to the Lahti’s bolt to boost the rearward push. It worked fine with pistol ammunition, but when hotter submachinegun loads were used, the bolts and frames cracked!

The Swedes are world-famous for making some of the finest steel known. Indeed, Swedish steel is more than just an accolade. It was proven by the Swedes to Mauser that Swedish steel was stronger than German steel, when used in the 1896 Mauser bolt-action rifle. So, when Mauser contracted to make some rifles for Sweden, they had to use Swedish steel in their plant in Germany. Talk about a bitter pill!

But in 1940, Sweden was gearing up for World War II like everybody. Their need for steel exceeded the supply. So, they made the bolt and receiver of the Lahti pistol from a steel alloy that was marginal. People have a hard time understanding how things like this can happen; but when the entire nation is mobilizing and handling millions of different tasks, some of them have to fall by the wayside. Besides, as long as the hot 9mm ammo isn’t used, the Lahti pistol functions fine for a very long time.

The last thing I will say about metallurgy will be to remind you about the Webley revolver. Remember the Mark I revolver I showed you in part 2 of the Webley Mark VI BB gun? It was made for black powder cartridges and will not stand up to the pressure of smokeless powder cartridges. They’ll loosen the gun rapidly, until it falls apart at the hinge. The difference between the Mark I and the Mark VI, which does stand up to smokeless powder, is metallurgy.

Design is the second factor that contributes to early wearout under normal operation. This is when a product is just made wrong in some way(s). The best firearm example of this might be the Remington double derringer that was the longest-running Remington product in the company’s history. The hinge lugs located at the top of the gun were just too small and are extremely prone to crack. Metallurgy may also be involved as well. Today, it’s rare to find a derringer that doesn’t have at least one cracked hinge lug.

Remington double derringe
The Remington double derringer chambers a weak .41-caliber rimfire round that was deadly at close range. Like most of them, this has one hinge cracked and cannot be shot anymore.

Another gun that suffered greatly from design flaws is the U.S. Army’s .50-caliber M85 tank cupola machinegun. It’s an enlarged version of a successful .30-caliber gun that has a very short receiver. The M85 is short, but the fact that it seldom worked is the reason why the Browning M2 machinegun is still in military service after almost a full century on the battlefield.

Two things contribute to the early wearout of a firearm or airgun — materials and design. In the next report I will continue this theme and discuss airgun wearout with you.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

75 thoughts on “How and why guns wear out: Part 1”

    • Rob,

      The Markham is not primitive, it is absolutely ingenious. Think about it.

      Although it is made of materials that would guarantee it would not last very long, if you have raised children you know that their attention spans do not last very long either. You are not going to want to invest a lot of very hard earned money into a toy that your son is going to abuse for a short time, especially since this was made before the people organized unions and forced the robber barons to pay fair and equitable wages.

      The first Daisy BB gun was expensive when you put it in the context of the times. A dollar was a lot of money. The half cent was still in use, was it not?

      My 1906 BSA was a very expensive air rifle. Ten or fifteen guys would form a shooting club, pool their money and buy one air rifle. In competitions they would take turns shooting the same air rifle.

      We bemoan the cost of ammo these days, but what about the cost of lead balls and black powder when you live on the extreme edge of “civilization”? “I’ll give you six beaver pelts for a pound of black powder.” Also, iron is a lot cheaper and easier to work with than steel. It can cost an awful lot to equip an army for war. Just look at the Mattelomatic.

        • RDNA,

          You’re right. The “standard” BB of the 1890s, when this gun was made, was a lead BB shot. That is nominally 0.180-inches in diameter and they do vary by several thousandths because they are dropped shot. I don’t know how much sorting was done in those days for air rifle shot. Most kids just used some of their father’s loose BB shot that came in a burlap bag.


    • HiveSeeker,

      I will tell you right now the U.S. Army has records of Daisy BB guns lasting longer than 20 million shots! They did mention oiling the guns occasionally and replacing shot tubes when necessary, so the shot tube is the part we don’t have any information about.


    • This is an area where metallurgy has amazed me. I’ve put over 100,000 Daisy BBs through an aftermarket hardened rifled steel barrel on my Drozd and there is no sign of wear whatsoever. I even chrony’d the gun, and performance hasn’t dropped off at all. However, the stock barrels are known to become oversized smooth bores in a short amount of time on these guns.

  1. BB, there is also another factor to consider: every time a gun is fired, it is going to expand due to the heat, and contract back to its original dimensions. In time, this expansion-contraction cycle will also modify the dimensions on critical areas and tolerances of moving parts will enlarge, therefore accelerating wear. I know this from my years in the plastic injection industry, when tooling would be submitted to thousand of cycles in a matter of months, requiring constant maintenance to work properly, until the day when it would be no longer feasible to maintain them, due to wear, and the entire tooling had to be replaced.
    Even with single shot guns, it is a fact of life that the steel will expand and contract, and that, in time, these repeated cycles will wear them out.

  2. I’m proud that I’ve shot a few bb guns so many thousands of times that they finally failed. A simple Daisy Buck will give you tens of thousands of shots before you have to fork out another 20$ to replace it.

  3. Another factor why guns wear out is simple neglect. If I hadn’t stumbled on this blog most of the airguns we have in the house which are CO2 powered would be door stoppers. We had been using them without lubrication applied when filling them. Now I know why most seals fail. I have also seen some rather horrific rust inside some units that have also stopped working.

    • I’m actually amazed at how long my CO2s lasted before they were given any oil/love at all. I’ve got a Daisy that has been going for 35 years… And didn’t get Pell gun oil until about 5 years ago. Still going strong.

      • Rob,

        That is pretty remarkable.

        I once bought a Crosman 111 pistol in the box at a flea market and when I got it home it was still holding gas. The lady who sold it to me told me it had laid in a drawer for at least 20 years before she sold it to me.

        I immediately oiled it when I charged it from the Crosman model 110 gas tank that came with it and was still half-full! That pistol held gas for about 18 months more before needing seals.


      • Rob, I’ve got a Daisy C02 200, no telling how old it is, that would no longer shoot no matter how much pel gun oil I put in her. Then B.B. discussed putting ATF Stop Leak in them. I was told not to by several folks. Well since it wouldn’t hold air anyway, I tired it. Still holding air and shooting well to this day!

      • More likely the problem is compounded by our hot and humid climate here in the Philippines. Fortunately most makers of CO2 rifles still use brass and stainless steel which is more tolerant. The ones who used ordinary steel though they are the ones really prone to rust.

        I am going to spread the word around regarding maintenance of CO2 rifle here, mostly based on articles written by BB. I have been doing research and what I have read elsewhere compared to his pales in comparison for ease of reading and understanding. Hopefully that will reduce the incidence of problematic leaks.

        I found a source for Pellgun Oil here but the guy wants $10 a tube, for those who can afford it well and good, but most can’t over here which is why I will end up advocating either straight ATF or ATF mixed with STP Oil Treatment for my compatriots. I have been looking for months already for a bottle of any brand of Transmission Stop Leak for use both in my guns and vehicle but no such luck, but I will keep looking.

        • I gave up on my mission to explain pellgunoil because people tend to believe whatever they want, but since you are stressing about it, I’ll try again.

          First, go here and look at the MSDS for pellgunoil:

          You will find it is Lubrication Engineers 8430 Monolec GFS 30W Engine Oil. This is simply an HD engine oil complete with detergents. The only truly unique thing about it is a red dye, which may have been a reason that Crosman uses it and has caused endless speculation.

          I use whatever 30w oil I have on hand. I doubt ATF would do any harm, but it is usually 10 or 20 weight equivalent viscosity at best. JD303 tractor fluid would be closer and cheaper, but still more expensive than 30 weight oil.

          • My problem is there is no 30w Oil here to my knowledge (maybe I just have to look harder!). We’re in a rather urbanized area with a density above 700 people per square kilometer (more than double the national average [I have no idea how to translate that to a unit that you are familiar with]), so tractor oil is not something I can easily find on the shelf. That is why the mixture of STP Oil Treatment and ATF is offered as an alternative. Most can’t find and afford Crosman Pellgun Oil.

            I’m just starting my campaign thanks for steering me in a better direction. I’ll have a look around when I go to our provincial areas.

            • The tractor fluid isn’t necessary or even the best match. 30W engine oil is out of fashion for most cars, but still used in big diesels and small aircooled engines, such as lawnmowers. It should be available wherever you get the atf, and probably cheaper. Good luck!

  4. We were issued M1 rifles in college ROTC in 1960. Talk about worn out!

    My other example of worn out is the old damascus twist double barrel shotgun that has been handed down in our family for several generations. Not only are the barrels unsafe with modern ammo, but the shotgun does not lock tight when closed. It is still a great wall decoration.

  5. BB,

    I really like articles like this one, as it covers information on both air guns and powder burners, with history to tie them together.

    That Markham reminds me of zip gun technology. More in common with a hardware store than a gun shop.


  6. Funny thing about metals wearing out…

    When two metals run together it is normally the harder metal that wears away.
    The reason is that abrasives (dirt, grit, etc.) embed in the softer metal and wear the harder metal out. A good example is in an engine where the aluminum piston wears away at the (normally) cast iron cylinder.. Another example is a plain babbit bearing. A crankshaft actually rides on a thin cushion of oil. If the crankshaft and the bearing ever come into direct contact the bearing will suffer permanent damage but the point is that the soft babbit bearing will absorb the imputities and abrasives and wear the hard steel crankshaft.



    • This is really fascinating. This sounds like the same process whereby a synthetic cleaning rod is supposed to do more damage to a bore than a stainless steel rod. This controversy seems to be unresolved.


      • Extremely hard steel is more brittle than a softer steel. I would then presume that a stainless handgun is, everything else being equal, of a lower life-span than the same model in standard blued steel. Of course, the blued one would need to be maintained well so that corrosion wasn’t a factor.

        If my presumption is correct, here here for BB’s blued over stainless preference!


        • Michael.

          I had to go online to double check my information. what I found confirmed by belief that stainless steel is actually softer than carbon steel. what I read was more about bolts. Grade 8 is probably the more common high grade hardened steel bolt. It said that stainless steel should not be used in applications requiring Grade 5 or higher because the stainless cannot be made hard enough for these applications. I used to live in Los Angeles and work in a motorcycle shop one of our racer buddies was a CHP motor officer he carried a stainless Colt Python… I could not believe the amount of holster wear the gun had. You might have thought he dragged it behind him.



          • BRASS,

            I should have been a LOT m,ore careful and precise in my post. I should have simply written that harder steel is more brittle than softer steel. It’s the old “bend or break” dichotomy.

            I work on the second floor of a building of two stories. There is a palpable wobble if I (at 350 pounds) stand in the middle of a large room and jump up and down. Others in the room can feel the floor go up and down a millimeter or so each time. The building was built with trusses designed to give slightly. Other trusses are designed not to give at all.

            There’s a survival training guy on youtube who does seminars and even occasionally trains Special Forces members. Among other things, he teaches handcuff-breaking techniques. He argues and demonstrates that $50, name brand handcuffs, such as ones manufactured in the U.S. by a certain prominent gun-maker, are much easier to break than are $8 Chinese made handcuffs from ebay.

            The U.S. steels just snaps after a minute or two, whereas the cheap Chinese steel bends and bends and bends until after five or six minutes (and more than a little torn skin) the cuffs twist apart from gradual metal fatigue.


  7. What about chisel detentes and hing points on break barrel guns.

    And trigger components. And cocking mechanisms in spring guns.

    It amazes me how long they will last. Well and some don’t do as well either.

  8. I got two reasons for airgun wear out. Materials and lack of quality control. I have had a break barrel fall apart in my hands before after a couple shots. That was a Ruger Explorer…made in China where I have learned they don’t even have a word for quality. But that’s about all I can expect where factories need to install suicide nets to prevent employees from jumping to their deaths off the tops of the factories. Another company I take issue with is Crosman who I have found have even bested china for crappy quality. And now they are coming out with a plastic gun for $999. We are talking toyota quality with a rolls royce price. No way I’d pay almost $1000 for the Armada. At best I’d call that MAYBE a $400 gun if in fact it does use magpul parts which I highly doubt coming from the company of empty promises and solid plastic junk guns.

  9. Now this topic couldn’t be timelier. In thinking about surplus military guns, it makes you want to buy from the winning side. The natural focus then would be on the Mauser 98k, a great design that was definitely on the losing side. But apparently, the Germans with their country falling apart were able to keep the standards high right until the end. Apparently, their Krupp arms plant had ways of hardening the steel that were lost such that the Yugo Mausers built after the war had to be overbuilt with a lesser quality of steel to compensate.

    103David, the low number Springfields of WWI if they really were caused by production pressures would be an example of problems on the winning side. That’s an interesting statistic that no Springfield has blown up from normal use that you know of. I’ve heard the same about the Mosin which would be an astonishing feat given the 20 million rifles, some of the manufactured in the direst circumstances. I hope this perfect record is not an urban legend.

    But to your more general point that receivers designed to last bazillions of rounds cannot fail, I’m not sure that’s so obvious. The life of rifle barrels is often figured in terms of round count, generally between 6,000 and 10,000, depending on your purpose. Any idea how long is the time duration of all those shots together? According to famous long-distance shooter Nancy Tompkins, it adds up to about 1 second. The process is equivalent to firing a blowtorch down the muzzle for that time period. Barrels do take the direct stress of the discharge in ways that receivers do not, and one receiver can have a number of barrels. But it seems possible that the stress may tell eventually. Still, I feel safe with new manufacture guns and older guns that have been inspected properly.

    On the general subject of safety, I was able to follow up on the topic of storing reloading components at my last visit to the shooting range. The range officer who was taking all my .38 special cases for reloading was telling me that he was hoarding powder and ammunition because of continuing shortages. But he said that this was nothing compared to people who he knew who had hundreds of pounds of powder and thousands of rounds of ammunition in their houses and garages. Actually, I think there is some law that says that more than 20 pounds of powder qualifies as an arsenal and has to be stored according to a procedure. Anyway, the guy said there was no danger because the powder canisters were designed to split open under pressure and all of that powder would disappear in a flash with no explosion. I told him what I heard about fire inspectors investigating a fire and voiding all insurance if they found any trace of accelerant. This seems to have caught him by surprise, but then he said that it would all burn up so that there would be no evidence. I’m glad to hear reassurance, but I’m maintaining my sandbag bunkers all the same.

    I want to send out a shout for Leapers and their customer service rep Ming Qian. If there is better customer service than theirs, I’d like to see it. Last night, as promised, they replaced my 4X32 scope as part of their lifetime warranty even without my original receipt. They also enclosed my old rings that I left on the scope that I returned as well as including a free set of their own. And they threw in a Leapers’ patch in the bargain. How cool is that! The scope is a beauty. They have solved the problem of turrets with earlier models with dials that have such solid clicks that there is no need of a locking mechanism. The AO even adjusts down to 5 yards which is almost at the Bug Buster level. I was a little worried about a floating erector tube syndrome at this distance, but the scope adjusted without any sense of strain and stayed zeroed. The view through that scope is as nice a picture as I ever hope to see with its clarity and brightness. It also opened up a new dimension for my B30. It’s performance had probably been colored over a period of time by the failure of the old scope and with the new one it was dropping the pellets on top of each other. You couldn’t ask for better. I wonder if PA has ever thought of returning that line. Gunfun1, with respect to the perfection of the TX200, I don’t think you were on the blog when the B40, which copies the TX200, outshot B.B.’s copy of that rifle. We were all waiting to see if the B40 could repeat that feat which was accomplished under epic circumstances with gnats in the eyes–you really should read about it. But the BAM line got dropped before that could happen. Anyway, the great product with the great customer service is not a common thing, and Leapers is the best.


    • Matt, I must say I’m quite annoyed that you would attribute statements to me that I never made.
      –Whoever happened to be on the “winning” side vs the “losing” side historically has little or nothing to do with the quality of the small arms. Or even medium sized arms. (See the analysis of the very advanced ME-163 fighter that managed to kill more german pilots all by itself than the 8th Air Force ever did.)
      –or highly vaunted “first assault rifle,” way too big, way too heavy, and fatally way too tall StG 44 that probably killed more German infantry than the Mosin-Nagant ever did. Don’t believe that? Try holding one and realize what a tank it is. It ain’t anywhere near the size and weight of an AK, despite looking similar in the pictures. But try firing one from the prone position. In your (certainly) final moments hovering nearly 1.5 meters off the ground because of the magazine, your delicate head will very much be in the line of fire.
      But, as they say, history is written by the survivors.
      Me? Just real life experience talkin’. I’m likely the only guy you’re going to communicate with today that’s really (unpleasently) fired one.
      –I never said “no Springfields had ever blown up from normal use.”
      The records will indicate that some did (maybe, possibly, conceivably, probably) but the early methodology of analysis was highly questionable. Much like early 20th-century mass manufacturing processes.
      –I never referred to the Mosin-Nagant, nor used the phrase “Perfect Record.”
      –I never said a “receiver ‘cannot fail.”
      –There’s more, but hopefully the point is taken.
      I have no problem with you saying whatever you need/want to say, but please don’t (mis)represent and (mis)cite what I say.
      And now, for something completel different…but related.
      Just as a cautionary note, ’cause I don’t want folks to get in trouble;
      Your Range Master, while undoubtably having the best intentions, is extremely ill-informed.
      While the content and packaging, of reloading components such as powder and primer, is indeed
      designed to not explode, most folk carefully will store these items together in, say, a military ammo can, thusly likely turning said ammo can into what we would call, a “pipe bomb.”
      –anybody that stores many, many, many, many pounds of gunpowder in their atta
      ched garage or under their bed, probably deserves whatever happens to them. (Gee, think random static-electricity discharge, lightning-strike, flipping an un-grounded light switch…)
      Maybe YOU’RE careful and knowledgable and all, but is your idiot son-in-law? Is he the kind of guy who’s dumb enough to still be smoking in the 21st century and the kind to flip-his-bic to see how much gas is left in the mower?
      –Your somewhat impaired Range Officer somehow fails to mention that while, say, touching off a few pounds of Win 231 won’t go blooey, it will go “WHOOSH” for several seconds (with a very pretty orange color) and cheeryfully light anything within a very few feet on fire, perhaps even you.) Not something you want going on in your unsupervised attached garage. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
      –Perhaps you may want to Invest in a 1 pound bottle of your favorite powder, take it out to your driveway or a spot on the back patio that you don’t mind manufacturing a largish scorched mark on and drop a match…and quickly run away. This is what we call, “A Real Life Educational Experience.”
      –The “Law” on storage of powder and components is entirely a matter of local juristiction, eg, State, County, or Municipal, not normally Federal. In other words, check your local law.
      More succinctly, don’t EVER take the word of your (obviously) impaired range officer, or your local cop-on-the-street.
      Seriously, the NRA website (used to, probably still does) have information on proper storage of various types of gunpowder.
      TIP: Never-Ever store gunpowder and primers in the same container.
      And by the way, your dealings with your insurance company have little to do with the fire department. The FD can only file a report, not adjudicate a settlement or anything related.
      TIP: Don’t EVER be bullied by your insurance company. They (supposedly) work for you.

      Re-reading your comment on Nancy Tomkins, somehow I think the math may be severely skewed, but at best, simply wrong. I
      You can’t attempt to prove a point in a vacum. You know, pesky things like, where was Nancy standing, air-pressure, ambient temp, you know, stuff like that. Nancy would appreciate that.

      • No, your point is not taken at all. It is not true that I attributed to you anything you said I did. You have mischaracterized my remarks, and I do not take any responsibility for your sense of grievance.


        • Sorry, Matte, but you did say what you said.
          And you got caught.
          Anyone can say what they want here, and that’s okay, that’s your opinion, but I insist you not attach my name to it.

  10. B.B. et al,

    I’m going off topic so please excuse. But, has anyone heard any news about the Sheridan 2260MB CO2 Rifle?
    I am very curious about velocity, accuracy and build quality. Thanks for any info any one of you may have.


  11. Hi guys,

    very interesting article… Looking forward to part 2…

    I have a suggestion for another article: Reasonable expectations for newbie airgunners.

    /blog/2013/08/getting-started-in-airguns/ This one has a lot of good information, but it could be worth looking at this topic from another angle.

    I have been toying around with this stuff for about a year now and I am beginning to notice that in the beginning, it is very hard to judge the “hardware” you’re using or your own skill level.

    You’re basically fighting on several fronts at the same time:

    -You don’t have the proper technique and experience
    -You have to adjust your sights or scope which is hard if you can’t shoot consistently
    -You don’t really know which pellets work well in your gun
    -You may not understand things like the artillery hold or basic ballistics
    -You’re often uncertain what is causing a problem and might be tweaking the wrong thing
    -You may have bought the wrong product in the first place (airsoft or BB guns for precision shooting, starting with stuff that is just too cheap, too powerful gun, etc.)
    ==> You don’t know what to reasonably expect. You see great groups shot by experienced shooters, maybe from a rested position and you are unable to do the same thing.

    I hope I’m making sense here, but maybe it would help beginners to give them some reasonable goals to set for themselves.

    For example, I used to have problems keeping shots inside the “4” ring of a standard pistol target at 5 meters using a Hämmerli S26 CO² pistol. Now I can often do better than that with an HW45 at 9 meters.

    It wasn’t much easier with rifles until practice, technique and the right pellets finally started working for me and I can now often keep the shots within the “8” ring of the target mentioned above. I know there are many people who are much better than this, but I’m seeing some progress at last.

    I’m probably asking a thing that is hard for the veterans to do, but some explanation of the common troubles of new airgunners and reasonable training goals might encourage some people who may be frustrated or confused.

    Kind regards,

    • Stephan,

      Welcome to the blog.

      I have a saying that I believe sums up what you said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

      That’s why it’s best to have an instructor, or at the least a mentor to guide you though the minefield.

      I started as a pre-teen, reading gun magazines. Then my mother enrolled me in an NRA marksmanship program, which was a “learning to handle guns safety” course disguised as a target shooting course. That served me well for all my life.

      But the books and magazines I read did the same. I learned from the writings of Elmer Keith how to shoot handguns. So when I was old enough to own and shoot them unsupervised, I believed what Keith said and didn’t waste any time on the macho stuff that doesn’t work.

      When I teach others to shoot handguns I start them out very close to the target. I started my father-in-law out at 5 feet, shooting a Diana Model 10 target pistol in my apartment in Germany. Within a short time, he was back to 19 feet (the maximum distance we could get in government quarters) and he was hitting the bull on every shot. You can read about that here:


      Ask any questions you want here and we will try to answer them.


      • All I can say is,….that I can relate!!!

        I’ve got more Airgun Academy articles saved to my “favorites” than all the favorites I’ve saved in the last 5 years.

        Scope info. is my latest “study”. Wow is there a bunch to learn! I feel very lucky to have a sight such as this to get me up to speed and make a wise choice on how to spend some hard earned bucks.

        Read, read, read! Best of luck in your journey.

        B.B.,…….this blog is REALLY cutting in to my shooting time! 😉

      • Hi BB,I can identify with what cptklotz is saying.Also,I liked your answer.From that line of thought,I still have an area where I feel at a loss.There is shooting off hand,a kneeling position,a sitting position,and a prone position.I think these are four basic positions.I would like to learn the proper way to execute these shooting positions.The only one I have found info. on is shooting off hand,but still have questions.I have no idea of when I should switch to a different position.Obviously if I can’t hold on a target in a position,then I should switch to a more stable one.But what is a realistic expectation of distance and group size for each position given a decent gun like maybe an RWS 34 or a Benjamin Marauder?If I knew this I would know what my realistic goal is and how much to practice,and maybe not go nuts trying to achieve what most people can’t do anyway.I want to understand these positions and how to practice them and learn to use them like the right tool at the right time for the job at hand.Can you help me get there?-Tin Can Man-

        • TCM,

          I have seen Ray Apelles shoot groups at distance from the sitting position that are as tight as any I can shoot off a rest. So it can be done. I had a friend who was the Maryland centerfire rifle champ who could put five shots into three inches offhand with an M1A rifle. So that, too, is possible.

          But most of the rest of us do best shooting prone and worst shooting offhand.

          Like the cab driver said, when asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, “Practice, man. Practice!”


  12. Very interesting so far. I can guess that there might be a “few” parts to this report.

    A thought I had today at work was,…at what price level do I have to pay for an air pistol or rifle that will last with regular use? Yes, there are a lot of different makers, but at some point there must be some generalizations that can be drawn. Maybe not.

    $800.00 seems to buy a good air rifle that is acclaimed by not only you, but others.

    The $250 for my Beretta 92FS seems like a price point for a quality air pistol, but then again maybe not. You get the idea.

    Another item is, the difference from mfgr. to mfgr. on schematics and parts. Some it would seem want to “keep it in house”, while others “put it all out there” so to speak. You get the idea.

    Just a few more ideas that are related to the difference in quality air guns vs others that are not,…or at the very least, not as much.

    Thank you, Chris

    • Chris,

      It really has nothing to do with the price. A Daisy 499 costs $130 and you can’t wear one out in two lifetimes. A Bronco is the same.

      But get a gun that’t poorly designed, or one that uses improper materials, or worst of all, get a gun that has both problems, and it will wear out quickly.

      When I go into airgun companies and tell them they can build a quality gun for very little money, they always resist me at first. But after I walk them through the process the right way, they agree that it really can be done.

      The right way is to leave the bean counters and salespeople out of the room. Design for purpose — not for style, popularity or anything that doesn’t contribute to holes in the paper. Learn what makes an spring-piston airgun powerful (swept volume) and what makes it bad (loose tolerances). Then design it from the ground up to hit the target.

      After you get it where it works, THEN go after the cost.

      This is a quick summary of something the U.S. Army calls Value Engineering. They use it to save millions of dollars in weapons systems development.


      • Mr.Gaylord once again you are right on target . This article is teaching me how important basics are . What good is a gun that costs thousands of dollars if you can only use it a few times because of low quality materials. I can’t understand why more air gun companies won’t listen to you . All I want is an air gun that I can take out of the box and shoot without any kind of modifications needing done . I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for ,well maybe it is ? This is great reading keep up the great work.

        • I agree that at any price point, why sell something inferior? If its a 100$ gun, make it the best 100$ gun… seems to be across any type of product that companies want to compete with a handful that are doing right by doing it fast, difference is the first guys spent a year putting it together and the rest spend a month or two to get their version on the shelf next to it. Always gonna happen and you just have to buy on reputation and others telling their experience with a certain thing. Problem is the half cent cheaper isn’t worth the halfassed effort that saved it, but getting what you pay for is a happy dance when you get the thinking mans product.

  13. BB, I remember the blog about your father-in-law. I suppose starting at close range is one way of countering frustration.

    After reading a lot and firing many thousand shots, I think I am slowly “getting there”, but some info on things like typical group sizes for beginners would have helped. Usually, the people who show their groups are already quite good 🙂

    Well, maybe this is too personal anyway and depends on many factors, including talent.

    In the long run, the complexity if this sport may actually be a good thing because there’s always room for improvement and something new to try…

  14. B.B.

    After reading the comments and the original post again, I might add a third reason to the Summary of How and Why Guns Wear Out …. In real life it could be more significant than design and materials.



    • Hence the need for good tear down info……but that is up to the mfgr., so the hopes that most mfgrs. would do it is probably a pipe dream.

      I can tell you for FACT,….tear down and parts info. will be at the forefront of future purchases!

      B.B.,…….maybe an item to bring up at the next mfgr. meeting? Just a suggestion.

      An amusing story, but 100% true,…..I got my first 20″ bike at 8 yrs. old for Christmas. Within a week it was torn down 100% on the garage floor. Satisfied that I figured out how everything worked, I put it all back together.

      • Now that’s a good practise, teach the kids nowadays to figure things out, and do the buses really stop at every house??! I will never get over that, I ain’t that old but we were just on the line for not getting bused for elementary and middle school and that was a long walk. Obesity epidemic they cry, bus at every house…. :/

  15. BB
    I think the Lahti or L-35 was a Finnish pistol and superior to the Swedish (Husqvarna M/40) copy because as you said of poor (surprisingly) Swedish metallurgy. The bolt accelerator is only Lahti from what I’ve read.

  16. B.B.

    I’ve got a question about something you said in a previous blog, but that still relates to the current topic. You mentioned in a previous blog, or perhaps it was on American Airgunner, that there are two types of foam used in gun cases, foam with closed cells and foam with open cells. Your point was that the open cell foam absorbs moisture that eventually promotes rust on the gun. I have several of my air rifles and air pistols stored in Red Head brand hard cases from Bass Pro Shops. So far over the last two years of storage in these cases I have not found any rust on the guns. Nevertheless, how can I determine what type of foam is used in these cases?

    • Charles,

      I actually said it in both places. If there is no rust after two years you can be sure those cases have closed-cell foam.

      Closed-cell foam looks denser and tighter than open-cell foam. Open-cell foam looks like all the foam bubbles have burst.

      I don’t have any open-cell foam on hand or I would show you in a report. I think the green floral foam that flowers are arranged in is an example of open-cell foam.


      • B.B.

        Thanks. I could send you a picture of the foam if that would help you identify it. However, you example of the foam used by florists is a good one. I have seen and handled that foam and that is not what is in my gun cases. As I was re-inspecting my guns today, I was reminded that my Hammerli 850 was shipped with a 3″ x 3″ cloth desiccant bag that I still keep in the rifle case with it. However, none of my other air guns came with any kind of desiccant pouch in the packaging. Is that 3″ x 3″ cloth desiccant bag an option that Pyramyd AIR could sell as an accessory? I might want to consider adding some more of them to my gun cases anyway.

        • Charles,
          The dissicant material works by absorbing water from humid air. It is there to simply get the item to you from the maker without rust or other corrosion. Usually/often that means overseas shipping on a boat and possibly/probably some extended time at sea.
          Here’s the important part; by the time you get it, it’s completely used up. It’s absorbed all the water it can hold.
          While it’s possible to “recharge” the material by heating it in an oven or microwave, that’s usually more trouble than it’s worth. Or, if you have enough of it, maybe it is worth it. You decide. Time & temp info can be found on the internet, but cautionary note the first is that after slow baking the stuff in a microwave, it’s literally “boiling hot” when it comes out of there. Handle with care.
          Cautionary note the second, once outside the oven, it will immediately begin trying to dehumidify the entire atmosphere of the planet earth. It will fail at this but you’ll be left standing at square one and having to start over again. In other words, get it into an air-tight container as soon as possible, not to be opened until you’re ready to dehumidify.
          An easier method is to call your local chandler (aka supplier of boating supplies, aka seller of stuff for your yacht) where you can buy dessicant by the pound.
          In any case, get rid of the original stuff that came packed with your Leica, or Feinwerkbau, or Rolex or whatever.
          (You know, I always wondered why they’d pack dessicant in with dive equipment…)

          • the first is that after slow baking the stuff in a microwave, it’s literally “boiling hot” when it comes out of there. Handle with care.

            No surprise there… Microwave ovens work by vibrating the water molecules to generate heat. But they don’t really drive moisture out.

            Use a regular oven — the heated air will draw out the moisture better than just making it warm.

            Which reminds me — it’s probably time I locate my tin cans of silica gel and refresh them (they change color when “dry”).

            • Baron,
              Actually, I have to disagree on the one point. Once the water molecules hit 100 degrees C or 212 degrees F, they change to vapor and are likely sucked out via the fan in the microwave. But the main point remains, “Hot, Hot, Hot! Handle with care!”
              There’s an identical product called “The Bed Buddy” that’s designed to be heated in the microwave just before one retires for the evening on a cold winter night. Think a large sized sock, filled with sand, and sewn shut. After a minute or two in there, the damp coming out is pretty noticable. While not quite as nice as a toasty companion, it’s still pretty nice.
              (Ain’t nothing that says you can’t have one of each, either.)

  17. 1 thing comes to mind is barrel life, look at a 220 swift.early fast caliber excellent accuracy, long range varmit caliber but barrel life was short.later years metal improvement helped a swift but 22-250 came in and kinda hurt the swift.
    As for another that lasts good is the 6.5 sweedish mauser.

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