by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• The trigger
• Be careful!
• Adjustment is fine
• The best thing you can do with a new airgun
• Final recommendation
This report is written at the request of Jennifer Cooper Wylie, a follower on my Facebook page. A few days ago, she asked me to address this subject, and I thought it would make a wonderful report for all the people who are new to airguns.
This subject is large, so I’ve broken it into powerplants. Today, I’ll address spring-piston guns, only. So, when I say airgun today, I’m talking only about springers.
You have a new airgun. What can you do to make it better? Even if it isn’t brand new, you may be able to find a manual for your gun, and that’s where you should begin.
You hear some people talk about polishing or stoning the sear in their airgun — is that something you should do? Definitely not!
I used to work on airguns at AirForce, and some of the trigger parts we made were case-hardened for long wear. Then, I sprayed them with a dry moly powder that was baked-on in an autoclave. If left alone, this coating will last the rest of your life. If you stone your sear, you risk removing all the moly particles, plus the thin shell of case-hardened material that will then expose the softer metal underneath. Then, your trigger will start to rapidly wear out!
Stoning refers to using an abrasive stone to smooth metal. It’s similar to sharpening a knife, only you aren’t putting an edge on the parts. If done correctly, it can turn a mediocre trigger-pull into one that’s fabulous. Unfortunately, about one person in a hundred knows how to do it right. The other 99 will do a botch job that runs the gamut from no change to a downright dangerous trigger that can slip off the sear by itself.
To correctly stone a sear or trigger requires precision jigs to hold the parts being stoned and sometimes even to limit what the stone can touch. Anyone who says they can stone a part by hand and eyeball it is in the 99 percent group that isn’t doing it right.
This is one-half of the tooling needed to stone the sear on a 1911 firearm. You don’t have to spend the $50 to buy this Ed Brown jig and feeler gauge, plus the several hundred more to get the hammer fixture with microscope to stone a 1911 sear and hammer; but you do have to be able to machine jigs like it that are just as accurate!
So, stoning is out, but there are things you can do. Lubrication comes to mind. I generally lube the engagement surfaces of the sear and trigger with moly-impregnated grease like Air Venturi Moly Metal-To-Metal Paste. This plates the surfaces with moly particles that don’t wear off — just like what AirForce does for their trigger parts.
Some spring guns, such as the Octane, have trigger pins that readily fall out. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve helped put their triggers back together when this happened. So, if you don’t know what you’re doing and cannot find instructions you can follow, leave the trigger lubrication alone.
Some other triggers — such as the ones found on vintage BSF rifles — are made from steel plates that are sandwiched and then riveted together. They’re less than precise. These triggers are famous for wearing in and then wearing beyond the point of safety. They should not be lubricated with moly!
These sandwiched steel plates form the sear and trigger on most BSF spring guns. Don’t use moly on them!
Adjustment is fine
Some triggers allow adjustment. Some, like the Diana 27, can be adjusted to a razor’s edge of performance. Follow the directions, and your trigger should turn out well.
The T06 triggers Diana now installs on their rifles can also be adjusted very well, though not as fine as the old ball-bearing sears on the 27. Take the time to try the adjustments and see what you can do, rather than tearing into the mechanism and perhaps screwing things up.
If there’s anything that’s overdone on a spring gun today, it’s lubrication. That’s because piston seals and breech seals used to be made of leather and really did need frequent lubrication. But modern synthetic seals don’t, and it hurts the gun’s performance to over-lubricate.
A modern synthetic piston seal gets along fine with just a single drop of Silicone Chamber Oil every thousand shots. And if the gun has been lube-tuned, it might not even need that.
But what if you do own a gun with leather seals, such as an older Diana, BSF or even an older Daisy BB gun? They do need lots of frequent lubrication. For the guns that shoot below ~750 f.p.s., I recommend using household oil that contains petroleum. For the more powerful guns — and let’s face it, there are only a few — you want to use silicone chamber oil to keep the detonations down.
I oil such guns about once every couple months or if they haven’t be shot in a long time, I just oil before I shoot. Depending on the gun, I drop from 5 to 10 drops of oil down the air transfer port. Or, in the case of the Daisy, I remove the shot tube and drop the oil into the barrel jacket. Then, stand the gun muzzle up for about an hour before you begin shooting.
One last thing on lubrication that deals with the underlever and sidelever guns that have linkages and sliding compression chambers. I lubricate those joints and sliding chambers with Ballistol. It both lubricates and protects against rust.
The best thing you can do with a new airgun
I should have started the report with this. The best thing you can do with a spring airgun is just shoot it. And keep right on shooting it! Old El Gamo rifles were famous for being rough from the factory, then wearing into silky smoothness. Their crude triggers also wore into near perfection. Those who own an old one will know what I’m saying.
I bought a Beeman C1 brand-new in the early ’90s. That was a Webley breakbarrel spring gun. It was harsh, hard to cock and had a rough trigger right out of the box. After about 3,000 shots, though, that rifle slicked up into a very smooth-shooting airgun. It just seemed to get better and better the more it was shot.
My Beeman P1 pistol was detonating when it was new. A detonation is an explosion that sounds like a gunshot. I called Beeman, and service manager Don Walker told me to dry-fire the pistol a couple times. The P1 has a Teflon piston seal that needs to be squashed to fit the bore of the compression chamber, and dry-firing is how the Weihrauch factory does it. I did what he told me, and the gun hasn’t detonated since!
In the old Beeman catalogs, Robert Beeman told us that European spring guns wear in, not out. That lesson took a long time to sink in. After 40 years, I think I have it!
Just shoot the gun! Forget about tuning or lubricating it unless there’s a problem. And don’t look for a problem, either! It’ll find you if it’s real.
Wipe your gun with a cloth that has Ballistol on it. Have enough on the cloth that it leaves a shiny surface after it has passed over the gun. Wipe the wood and metal parts. Even if the gun is older, a wipedown with Ballistol is a great rust prevention technique.
I know this probably isn’t what Jennifer Cooper Wylie was thinking when she asked for this series. Yes, there are things that other powerplants do need when they’re new. I just wanted to progress through the powerplants logically without missing anything, and spring-piston guns seemed the right place to begin.
Jennifer was looking for tuneup tips and possible modifications that owners can perform. I promise I’ll get to that in the future reports. But when it comes to spring-piston airguns, keep it simple and just shoot the guns!