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Education / Training Interesting gun designs: Part 1

Interesting gun designs: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • M1 Carbine
  • Investment casting
  • The Swedish Luger
  • Weak steel alloy
  • No criticism intended
  • Airguns are next

This is Part 1 because there is are additional parts planned. I have wanted to write this report for many years, which will come out as the story unfolds.

Mention interesting gun design to anyone 60 years and younger and sooner or later the AR-15/M16 will enter into the discussion. They’ll call it the Mattel-o-Matic and other derogatory terms. It deserves much of that derision, not because of the gun’s design, but because of the unsuccessful way in which it was launched. It was tested in just a cursory way and then quickly modified and shoved out the door to satisfy political pressure. It was proven (field tested) in battle, where tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines paid a very high price for the shortcomings of the initial design. In the half-century since that time the design has evolved into something robust, reliable and very adaptive.

M1 Carbine

I don’t want to talk about that platform today. I want to start the discussion by talking about the M1 Carbine. This is a rifle that was designed in record time (through competition that the M16 never had) and the produced in record numbers (over 6 million) in a few years by 10 prime contractors and hundreds of subcontractors. The production program was a model of logistical achievement, as parts were shipped around the country so that each gun would be as alike the others as was possible under the time constraints of that day. The only prime contractor who failed to deliver a gun was actually a gun contractor — Irwin Pederson Arms Company — whose contract was terminated and given to a division of General Motors to complete.

M1 Carbine
The M1 Carbine was one of the most advanced development programs of WW II. Not only was technology pushed, the big news was how advanced the program management was.

The M1 Carbine was decades ahead of its time. Even today the gun industry does not build guns as lightweight and compact as the Carbine that have so much firepower. But that’s not what I want to talk about, either.

Investment casting

What I want to talk about was a sub-project within the Carbine program. The Army was trying to make gun parts through investment casting! They had a material they called ArmaSteel that flowed well and could cast parts to tolerances so accurately that many of the machining steps did not have to be done. That saved hours of manufacturing time, and would have sped up the Carbine production significantly. The only problem was, the parts made this way could not stand up to the gun’s operation. They broke under fire.

To their credit, the Carbine program managers never released any ArmaSteel parts to troops in the field. They continued to test the parts at the arsenals and proving grounds and let the soldiers have the guns made by proven conventional production methods. ArmaSteel was used for other applications where it did work well, so the project was not a failure. They just weren’t able to make guns with it.

Investment casting eventually did get perfected for firearms and Ruger has a large state-of-the-art production casting facility in New Hampshire called Pine Tree Castings. Today things like sintered parts and Metal Injection Molding (MIM) are hot items in the world of gun production, and, while there are still areas where improvements have to be made, the process of casting steel parts has advanced very far. The M1 Carbine program would have benefitted greatly from today’s technology.

Now let’s look at another firearm development project. This one had an unusual problem — a supply that could not be met!

The Swedish Luger

The term Swedish Steel is known the world over. It means some of the best steel obtainable. In 1894 the Swedes adopted the Mauser rifle design for their own use and built some of the finest bolt action battle rifles the world had ever seen. In fact, when they contracted with Mauser of Germany build their rifles, they specified that Swedish steel had to be used. The Germans dedicated a building they called the Swedish building to the contract. German steel wasn’t able to perform as well as the steel the Swedes supplied.

In 1898, however, the Germans leapfrogged past the 1896 Swedish Mauser with their own model 1898 — a design that is still in commercial production today. It is even stronger than the Swedish rifle, and has endured the test of time.

Our tale does not deal with the Swedish Mauser, though. It looks, instead, at a sidearm the Swedes were forced to make because all their supplies of reliable sidearms were cut short by World War II. The Swedes thought that WW I was the last war that would ever be fought, so they were caught without a lot of military capability when WW II dawned. Initially they purchased a number of pistols from Germany, but when the war began, Germany stopped selling arms and the Swedes had to look elsewhere. They considered building the German pistol that became the P38 under license in Sweden, but when they studied the design it was found to be too complex.

They were also familiar with the 9mm Finnish Lahti M35 pistol and thought highly of it, so they adapted it for their own manufacture in a simplified form they called the M40. This pistol has the same ergonomic shape as the P08 we Americans call the German Luger, but put the 2 guns side by side and the M40 Lahti is much bigger. It is also quite a handful to hold. The Swedish soldiers who carried one called it “the iron stove” — a nickname that would translate to “boat anchor” in the U.S.

M40 pistol with Luger
Swedish M40 Lahti pistol above a German Luger. The Lahti is much larger and heavier than the Luger.

M40 pistol apart
The Lahti M40 pistol is very simple and quick to disassemble.

Weak steel alloy

There are a couple interesting things about the M40. The first is that the Swedes, who are recognized for making the finest steel in the world, had to put much weaker steel into this gun. They simply didn’t have enough of the good stuff to go around. The metal they used was a molybdenum steel alloy that was used for the bolt and slide and other critical parts. It barely worked for the gun when standard 9mm pistol ammunition was used, but often cracked when high-pressure submachine gun ammo was used. Europeans have lots of 9mm guns and not a lot of thought was given to which kind of ammo was issued and used — until the bolts and slides started cracking.

Of course when this was discovered the word went out to use pistol ammo, only, in this handgun. They didn’t have enough of the right kind of steel to change the specification with the war going on. Anyone who buys an M40 today should examine the bolt and slide for cracks.

Bolt accelerator

The other thing that’s curious about the M40 is the bolt accelerator. The Swedes were concerned about their cold weather affecting the gun’s operation. It is a semiautomatic, after all. So they continued to use the bolt accelerator that Lahti designed into the original M35 pistol. The accelerator gives an extra push to the bolt to ensure that it goes all the way back when the gun fires. But the accelerator made the bolt cracking problem even worse — to the point that many pistols had their accelerators removed.

Bolt accelerator
The bolt accelerator (arrow) is a lever that strikes the frame of the gun as the slide moves back in recoil. When it hits the frame, it pushes the bolt back with additional force.

The Swedes had examined the U.S. M1911A1 pistol, but rejected it because it didn’t have a bolt accelerator. They felt it wouldn’t be reliable in their cold weather. This, despite their neighbors’, the Nowegians, experience with the 1911 that was very satisfactory in extreme cold. You just lubricate the parts less!

No criticism intended

Please understand that I am not condeming anyone. I am simply explaining the subtleties that can happen during a weapon’s design. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize those who are tasked with building something. It’s far more difficult to get the work done and the product out the door.

Airguns are next

I know today’s report was all about firearms, but I wanted to get you thinking about gun designs before I start talking about airguns. It’s also easy to trash-talk the M16, but the truth is, history is replete with stories about failed gun designs — designs like the French Chauchat (pronounced show-shah) machine rifle of World War 1 and the Gyrojet pistol of the 1960s.

The point is that people who design weapons (and airguns) need to also try to use their guns in realistic conditions. Test programs need to be rigorous for military arms, and they need to be thorough for sporting firearms and airguns.

The next part of this report will be about some airguns many of you have never heard of. And I won’t be looking at poor design. Just the opposite. I’ll be looking at a design that works very well, but was never given the chance to succeed. Because of a quirk of fate, I was never able to formally test and report on this design during the brief time it was available. It’s an interesting story and one I have waited 5 years to tell.

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.

63 thoughts on “Interesting gun designs: Part 1”

  1. B.B.,
    Here is a good one for you. If you have a copy of Small Arms of the World, check out the French MAS 1938 SMG. It has “barrel droop” engineered into the design. I can only assume that this was to compensate for barrel rise when firing full auto, but can’t imagine it being necessary for a weapon firing an anemic .30 caliber cartridge at a cyclic rate of 700 RPM. I have fired a 1928 Thompson many years ago and the Cutts compensator really works! It is no wonder that one of it’s nicknames is the Chicago Typewriter, with a little practice and a C drum, you could probably write your name in cursive!
    Who coined the phrase ‘barrel droop”?


      • B.B.,
        Who is Tim McMurray?
        I believe that the Daisy VL rifle firing the 29 grain caseless ammo begs to be a part of this blog, unless you have already done it. If so, please supply me the link to it. I didn’t realize until this morning that the propellant was ignited by dieseling, (I have been aware of this for years, but assumed, incorrectly that the rounds were fired electrically) which means that with a little ingenuity, the ammo could be fired from many .22 caliber airguns! PERSONALLY, I WOULD NOT ATTEMPT TO DO SO, NOR ENCOURAGE ANYONE ELSE TO! Best case scenario, the rifle could be severely damaged, worst case, the shooter also! Ain’t worth it!
        I believe that a small firearms manufacturer should purchase the rights from Daisy and re introduce the product! Most of the R&D has already been done, the ammo, since it has no case and consequently no head space issues could be quite accurate. PLUS, since the ammo has only two components instead of four, it should be able to be manufactured very cheaply! Use at least a 40 grain projectile possibly even a SWC design and keep the load subsonic.


        • The VL does have a lotta cool factor but the attached prppellent is very vulnerable with no case for protection.it wasn’t long ago that I discovered it was a sproinger as well but have seen how the charge can easily get gradually chipped away whole bouncing around in inside a pocket.

          • Reb,
            FYI, the original rounds came packaged in a sealed tube of ten,ten tubes to the box. The LOA is .525″, the bullet itself weighs supposedly 29 grains and is of flat nose bore rider design, similar to a miniature artillery round. If you are not familiar with that term, it means that the forward part of the projectile is bore diameter, and rides on top of the lands, in this case, .220″ diameter. The base of the round has a driving band which is .225″ diameter which engages the rifling upon firing.

            As far as carrying a bunch of loose rounds in your pocket, why would you want to? You are just asking for problems and possible damage to the bore of your rifle/pistol especially with outside lubricated lead bullets! Want proof? The next time you change your denim jeans that you have had for awhile, turn the front pockets inside out and use a stiff nylon brush on them and observe all the debris which comes out! Dirt, sand, lint and bits and pieces of the environment you have worked in since you started wearing them.


  2. Hmmm, what could the mysterious item be?
    —Could it be the legendary BMF Activator, the hand-cranked device thumb-screwed to the trigger-guard of virtually any firearm, converting it into a near full-auto repeater? The only one I ever saw in real life was attached to a .50 caliber Hawken muzzle-loading rifle with the owner wondering why he wasn’t getting his promised “up to a thousand rounds per minute” cycle rate.
    —Perhaps it’s the military rocket launcher, AKA “Bazooka”, notorious for its ability to be not only fired “THAT way or 180 degrees THIS way” depending only on the persistence and creativity of generations of third-world users. Either way, often generating unanticipated destructive results. Darn that pesky back-blast.
    —Or maybe the truly legendary “Atomic Hand Grenade,” we, in the Atomic Weapons Ordinance department, would occasionally discuss the AHG in hushed tones. It would seem no one had actually ever seen one, nor even met an experienced training Officer. Nor even an experienced Non-Com.
    The truth of the matter seems to be one could only throw it about fifty yards or so. Considering it allegedly left a hundred yard crater, it was difficult to recruit experienced users.
    Later I found user authorization for the AHG was forbidden for pay grades above E-4 or O-2..
    Being less than either of those exhaulted positions, I became skeptical of those asking the to “take this over there, put your sunglasses on, pull the pin, and count to…”

      • Ah, fun memories. There was an actual “Atomic Annie” at the artillery museum while I was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma during the late 60’s. I recall it being parked near an M3 Stuart, and an amphibious “LVT” both armed with the pitiful 37mm cannon. While I have it on good authority that the M3, with a few purely American tweeks, could exceed 50 mph on the flats, and the LVT “didn’t need no stinkin’ bridges,” it was otherwise an interesting comparison to observe the possible difference “cannon-armed” could encompass.
        We just had to make do with the “Dial-A-Bomb” 8 inchers in those days.
        I’m going to assume “Atomic Annie” was a DEWAT by then, but then one never knows, do one?
        By the time I got to my Mom’s old stamping grounds, Okinawa, I think the really big guns were gone by then. I was doing different stuff so we had to make do with the occasional Nike launch, dawn Blackbird afterburner take-offs, and suprise discoveries of 16 inch duds from 1945.
        And yes, my Mom, had a few interesting tales to tell from her time as a combat nurse in 1945 Okinawa.
        How many out there had the experience of learning “Land Mines, Booby Traps and Basic Infantry Tactics” from your Mother?

  3. The Gyrojet would be a fun discussion. How many things did they not think of while developing it. Velocity greater down range than it was at the muzzle. The possibility of starting grass fires or forest fires. The high ammo cost would make it a bad idea alone. If you want to see one shooting, see the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice”. Take notice that they show the gun being fired several times, but it is always the same scene used every time. I wonder if it was too expensive to shoot, or it was too dangerous to fire inside the studio more than once. The rifle version looked very good compared to the handgun. I believe I saw that the ammo was easily fetching over $100 a round now. Even fired rounds were going for over $50…

    • Johnny C. Kitchens,
      All four models of the Gyrojet rocket handgun and carbine are listed in the # 59 1968 edition Shooters Bible. The plain Jane model pistols, with your choice of a 2″ or 5″ barrel retailed for $ 165, which was a lot of money at the time, a New Frontier Colt SAA cost the same. Colt Pythons, SAAs, Gold Cup NM, S&W model 29s and 57s were less!
      The ammo could be purchased in six packs, triple six packs and a 24 pack at $ 9, $ 24.30 and $ 31.20 respectively.
      I purchased my first handgun in 1965, a Colt Government model in .38 Super. At that time it cost me $ 76., and the father of a close friend gave me a Remington Rand 1911A1 nickel plated .45 for a graduation present with a brand new in the foil wrapper spare NM barrel!


        • Edith,
          Thanks for the information (Tim McMurray) and the link to his business! Also thanks for retrieving one of my replies to Mr Kitchens, there were in fact actually two different ones.


  4. Sometimes needs drive the design and construction of a gun. Sometimes it can be a regional favoritism. Interestingly most of the airgun makers in Luzon prefer making external hammer design with a swinging breech block (popularized by Eldyfonso Cardoniga in the 1960’s who produced a line of airguns named LD, you can visualize it by looking at the USFT) airguns either using a CO2 or PCP as powerplant. While those in the Visayas region prefer making airguns using the traditional bolt or side-lever action.

    • Philippine “LD” CO2 airguns with external hammers and swinging breeches came in many forms. These soldered together, “high tensile” brass airguns were made in rifled barrel, pellet firing; smoothbore, ball bearing firing; smoothbore, shot catridge firing and combinations that utilized a rifled barrel insert that went into the smoothbore barrel. They were quite simple, ingenius, and generally safe, even though I never saw any evidence of any formal mechanical engineering design work or laboratory testing put into it. LD guns were “machinists works” made mostly with TLAR “that looks about right” over design, engineering. I guess that’s why they were quite heavy airguns. I’ve never heard of any catastrophic failures of the thousands of LD stye guns (All sorts of copies have sprung up.) made so far. The only things I thought it really needed was a transfer bar system for the hammer (they will fire if your hand slipped while cocking), and a metal trigger housing (the triggers mechanisms were housed in the wood stock). LD airguns also used all sorts of rubber, plastic, and leather seals. They would leak if not used and lubricated regularly, but were easy to fix.

      I encountered one of LD’s former machinists still producing them in 2004, long after LD passed away. He was producing the classic external swinging breech versions in a 2-car garage size workshop with nothing but handtools, a drill press and a lathe. Everything was built there using these implements including the wood stocks. This guy was also building LD’s semiautomatic pistol and long gun models, using CO2 and and ball bearings in this tiny shop.

        • Edith,

          In case you didn’t know, Tim McMurray still sells a pistol that he has named the Mac1 LD. It is a CO2 gun that starts with a used Crosman Mk I or Mk II pistol which he then makes many modifications to. On his website he says that 1″ groups at 50 yds are possible with this pistol. If that is true I am really impressed. He does not say but I assume these are 5 shot groups.


          • G&G,

            I am well aware of the LD guns from the Philippines, but many people in the U.S. are not aware of them. I guess I was just making a point that the LD mentioned in that comment was probably not Larry Durham, who’s known in the U.S. field target circuit. I didn’t want that comment to be the origin of any unfortunate rumors 🙂


        • Edith,
          LD was a play on Eldyfonso Cardoniga’s first name (as it is pronounced). We are irrepressible punners here especially when the two languages (English and Filipino) mix. Local lore has it that Larry Durham was inspired by the design that led to the USFT when he allegedly visited here.

        • Could you kindly look in your spam folder. I made a post with a link to an article on the blog in reply to Lioniii and was refused by the blogging software.

          Thanks in advance.

          • Siraniko,

            No, it posted by itself. I looked for it in the spam folder but didn’t see it. And then I saw that it was already live. Do you see it here:


            • Yes I did. I was initially redirected to a page indicating my posting was not accepted. Maybe the software is getting smarter realizing the link was not external but to a page in the blog archives.

      • Lioniii,
        And they still do it that way. I agree with the TLAR “that looks about right” construction. It actually ties in with our history. When our then President Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 that wiped out any chance of possessing firearms. The laws were so draconian that until recently, 30 years in fact, airguns were considered as firearms (that is why probably a lot of us went over there for the freedom to own and use firearms). As time went by the observance of the law relaxed and airguns were considered a grey area and given a wink and a nod by the local law enforcement. The licensing procedures to produce airguns were as onerous as producing a firearm, just less expensive. With the brief popularity of Farco shotgun in the ’80s airgun making became a cottage industry to which it remains to this day which is why most airgun makers are as you described making them in the equivalent of a two car garage size workshop with nothing but handtools, a drill press and a lathe. Armscor was one firearms maker who actually had the CNC tooling set-up capable of making a world class PCP which they previewed at the IWA show–that’s the European SHOT show in 2009 as reported in /blog/2009/03/news-from-the-2009-iwa/ but they or their accountants decided that it was not economically viable to produce them, so I believe they stopped production after 30 units were produced. Until our laws relax so that airgunning becomes more popular there is no way anybody here can believe that they can make money producing airguns without considerable risk.

        • I met LD in Manila around 1983. His hammer cocking, swinging breech, bulk-fill CO2 air rifles were known for their affordability and power, (around 750 fps with .22 cal. pellets). His secret was using large dump valves and long barrels to make the most of CO2 expansion. They were also quite accurate enough for bird hunting, inspite of having crudely cut unpolished rifling. The basic formula for no-leak CO2 bulk-filling was using plumber’s Teflon tape to seal the brass fill fittings and threads! These airguns became industry standard during the late 1960s through the 1980s. He patented this system along with all existing airgun systems from around the world with the Philippine Patent Office in an attempt to corner the Philippine market. This included pneumatic pumps, break-barrel spring pistons…….etc….etc. But to no avail, numerous local copies and all sorts of imports continued to spring up anyway. When I met LD, he was dabbling in firearms production for the military. He showed me a select fire, fully automatic capable .22 cal. machine pistol, that was about the size of a Colt 1911 with a folding stock. It drained a 30 round magazine in about a second! LD designed it with special forces use in mind The Philippine Armed Forces chose not to buy his invention however.

        • The Armscor PCP was impressive. I test fired it at their factory site when I was making enquiries about exporting it. The machining and finishing was superb plus it was very accurate. I was doing a one hole group at about 25 yards with one of their prototypes. And this was in during a heavy rainstorm on an outdoor range! Had to stop short when the wind, downpour and lightning got too intense.

          Only thing was the single shots price was prohibitive at $400 wholesale (comparable to a multi-shot Benjamin Marauder), and it needed some kind of transfer bar safety at the valve pin to keep it from firing if your hand slipped during cocking. I also suspect that Armscor really just wanted to concentrate on their firearms exports. Their 1911 clones are famous worldwide.

          The Philippine airgun industry has much promise, if only government didn’t saddle it with such vague rules. LD used to stress that airguns were “toys” just to get around the regulations. To day it is still illegal in the Philippines to produce airguns than can penetrate a 1/4″ thick piece of plywood. Quite vague, as no specifics as to the distances involved, plywood specs, the type of projectiles and propulsion mechanisms are stated in the law.

  5. Looks like fun so far! I’m very interested in “interesting gun designs” and I hope we have a chance to see more about “outside lock” and other cammed airguns.

    • Good idea!
      I’d be very interested in understanding the intricacies of outside lock design! It just looks a lot easier for an average person to fabricate or cobbled together than Trying to stuff it al on the inside of the receiver.

  6. “Test programs need to be rigorous for military arms, and they need to be thorough for sporting firearms and airguns.”

    I’m probably going to draw flak for this, but in my opinion that should read “Test programs need to be insanely rigorous for military arms (say 100,000 rounds w/ zero stoppages in-spite of the worst environmental conditions imaginable and zero cleaning/maintenance) and need to be extremely rigorous for sporting firearms, and rigorous for airguns.” If I’m going to spend a reasonable amount of money (several hundred dollars or up), I expect a gun function correctly every time. And for military arms where the user’s life depends on the gun working, I expect the gun to function correctly every time regardless of how much abuse it takes.

  7. BB,

    I just loved the Chauchat! No, I would not want to carry one into battle, but it was a mechanical marvel in motion! It would be a great Steampunk weapon! The open locking bolt recoil operated action was a wonder to behold! The mud of the trenches pretty well insured that it was not going to operate properly most of the time and when it did, it had a very slow rate of fire for an automatic rifle, but it was the first. The even chambered some in .30-06 for the American Expeditionary Forces.

  8. The M-1 Carbine is a neat light rifle. With hollow point bullets it can be very effective. I have an early war Inland that is great fun to shoot. I even won a local three gun match with it a few years back. It was a hoot to beat the tricked out AR’s with it.


      • The barrels on most M-1 Carbines appear to be less than desirable in finish on the inside. Making so many in such a short time probably insured a little less in quality, but consider it was to be an improvement in effective firepower over a handgun, then consider how many would have trouble making a three inch group with a 1911, and it starts to look like they were right in their thinking. A short handy rifle that would be easier to use than a handgun. The M-2 version is considered by some to be the United States first assault rifle. With its’ lack of precise accuracy, it would be the original version of spray and pray firepower…

        • True, I think the AK 47 design represents a conscious decision to give up some accuracy for reliability that made sense. On the battlefield I doubt that there is any practical difference between 5 MOA and 1MOA unless you’re a sniper.


          • Most of the time that is probably true. Use of tactics like a “Holding Attack” requires a large volume of fire to pin the enemy while the maneuver group closes with the enemy. This was the main tactic used by the US military during WW II. In fact, it was the only one often taught!


      • Very true BB. My M-1 is a really good shooter. It shoots about 1 1/2 inch groups at 25 yards. The match I used it in was based more on speed than accuracy. The targets were large and close for the carbine stage. It was only 30 yards. So, even a 3 inch grouping M-1 Carbine would have been fine. BTW, I used a .45 (A Norwegian 1913) for the handgun and for the long range portion, an M-1 Garand.


        • Mike,

          I have owned 2 Carbines that were more accurate than the average. One of them I still own, and for that reason. But 10 shots do go into about 3 inches at 50 yards.

          I have seen Garands that would do marvelous things. My own Garand is accurate, but it’s more of a 2.5-inch gun at 100 yards.

          Now my O3A3 Springfield is a real tackdriver!


    • I am starting to think I resemble that remark.

      It’s likely a stage of progression through our airgun addiction, between “denial” and “buried in airguns”.

    • Joe,

      Oftentimes, customers see things mfrs don’t because many companies are staffed by people who are not necessarily interested in shooting or guns. When such a company recognizes their shortcomings and listens to customer feedback, then that’s different.

      I always think of golf. I’m guessing the people who design golf clubs play golf. They do that because there’s a lot of money in golf tournaments. That kind of money is missing in airguns. It exists in firearms, though (Bianchi Cup, etc.). If money ever hits airgun competitions, the mfrs will scramble to find the best designers and consultants money can buy. Til then, we have to depend on aftermarket tuners and boutique makers to carry out our dreams.


      • Edith,
        Your comment is right on the mark. Money talks! Until airgun companies KNOW that buyers will spend big bucks to buy the best airguns, they have no incentive to TRY and produce it. From looking at Pyramydair website, most buyer are not willing to spend more than $1000 per airgun.

        • Joe,

          To be honest with you, it appears that most airgunners are unwilling to spend more than $250 for an airgun. And I think once a price hits $150, certain types of consumers think about the “insanity” of spending that kind of money for a “BB gun.” By the time you hit $250, that’s the make-or-break point for people who understand that it’s not a glorified BB gun they’re buying. Pricing is just about everything, and every successful company knows the point at which their target market won’t buy their guns.


          • Edith,
            Thanks for that info. If most buyers won’t buy an airgun costing more than $250, then why do I see so many airguns begin on sale for more than $250?
            Even a few cheap China airguns are being sold for more than $250.

            • Joe,

              When you see new, expensive guns coming out, they’re hitting a niche part of the airgun market. So, let’s say 25-30% will buy guns over $250 (and I’m not sure it’s that high). The rest is the overwhelming majority that’s not buying guns over $250. Look at the airguns sold in big box stores. They’re not $1000 guns or $500 guns. The big box stores also know what the vast majority of airgunners feel comfortable spending. That’s why they stock the less-expensive airguns.


    • Well… the military probably considered a 4″ group acceptable <G>

      It was, after all, meant to provide something a bit more effective than a 1911, without being too burdensome, to those personnel who normally would not be issued a rifle (at the time, probably an M-1 Garand).

  9. I really like this type of article!

    Having worked in design (mechanical and electrical) my whole life I have a pet peeve with items that are designed such that they work in a sterile lab environment but fail miserably when put into the real (hot/cold/wet/dirty) world where they are intended to be used.

    I have often said that Murphy (of Murphy’s Laws fame: What can go wrong Will go wrong at the Worst possible time) is a friend of mine because he keeps me on my toes.

    Great stuff, looking forward to the next part!! Thanks BB!!

  10. What exactly makes people consider swedish steel to be so great?

    From your description it sounds like the steel used in this application may simply have been too hard and as such brittle. Instead of somehow flawed in its creation.

    • BB

      To bring this back to airguns, I think Airforce did an incredible job of designing the air tanks to be part the butt of the gun. Also, being able to purchase and use different barrels between all the models was well thought out.

      I have a Talon SS because of your many reviews of the airgun. I knew in advance exactly what I was buying. It has WAY more power than I’ll ever use. I can see why owner’s of the Condor and Edge models for a better term ‘de-tune’ their rifles by using the micro-meter tanks.

      I think that Airforce really thought out their rifle designs that allow the owner to quickly change barrels, caliber, and power. I don’t know why, but my Talon is not picky about what pellets I shoot. My RWS 34 is real picky about different kinds of pellets. I don’t know how Airforce accomplished this but I’m glad they did. The Talon is a blast to shoot.

    • StevenG,

      This is something you need to research on your own. The answer would take a book.

      And, no, it wasn’t the hardness that was the problem. The steel used didn’t have enough resistance to impacts. Another thing to research.

      In brief, what made Swedish steel the best was the level of purity and repeatability of the steel. Better steels exist today, thanks to computers.


  11. I know of Swedish steel only by reputation. But my understanding is that the Germans made great advances themselves, especially in steel hardening at the Krupp factory. The reason that the postwar M48 Yugo Mausers are more massively built to different dimensions is that they lacked this capability.

    I actually thought that the M16 was tested quite thoroughly and that the testing was rigged to favor the M14. Then over time, the M14 proved its worth while the M16 faltered. That probably says more about military testing procedures than anything. Actually, in trials by the U.S. Marines, the Garand failed compared to the Springfield in reliability, and the Marines found out the hard way that the Garand was a superior battlefield weapon. The M16 also suffered when the army substituted a different kind of powder from what was tested, but I still tend to think that speaks to the reliability of the design.

    The M16 story is even more convoluted than this. Eugene Stoner himself actually built a model with a piston called the AR18 that did great in tests, but for a variety of reasons was not adopted by the army. This gun went on to be used enthusiastically by the IRA and then served as the basis for the highly successful G36 assault rifle and I believe the SCAR rifle as well as the British bullpup design. Most modern rifles are built with this design while the U.S. Army continues to slog on with the Direct Impingement system which has not been adopted by any subsequent design. Even worse, gigantic effort has been put into designing a new piston version of the AR when that has already been done by Eugene Stoner. Special forces spent an enormous amount of money getting Heckler and Koch to reinvent the wheel, and the commercial version of these guns is still way too expensive for most people to buy. Thousands of pages have been written debating the virtues of the piston retrofit and wondering how to solve issues of bolt-carrier tilt that have been solved long ago with a gun that retailed for less than the cheapest AR. And I just found out from ArmaLite the other day that is no longer even possible to build an AR18 out of parts from their site because some key components have been discontinued. This is insane. A huge number of people are working hard and spending a great deal of money for no reason.

    Oh well, I have too many guns as it is. And this weekend, I will announce something that will freak everyone out!


    • For what it’s worth, the reason the Springfield was more reliable than the M-1 in the Marine tests was due to the Gunny Sgts. making them jam. This was because the M-1 brought with it a course of fire making it more difficult to shoot expert. Those that shot expert got an extra $5.00 a month. Those Gunnies were NOT going to risk their $5.00 bucks!


  12. One of the reasons I often do well in our local matches is because of airguns. They let me put in the trigger time. I shoot at least a little about six days a week. There is not need to go to the range, I can shoot at home. I have also attended some really good shooting schools over the years so I have learned a lot from some folks that are really good. In our Cowboy Action Club I’m not the fastest shot. That said, I often can win because I don’t miss when the fast shots do. If I attended a national match, I wouldn’t win……….but I sure would have a great time!


  13. B.B.
    I was just getting out of the Army (1969) when the M-16 was on it’s way to replace the M-14. I thought the M-14 was very accurate I had mine for 3 years and found it very accurate (no problem hitting targets out to 350 yards). I also thought it was very easy to field strip when you needed to fix it in the field.I loved my M14. What did you think?

      • Hmmm, sounds like me and the M14 at Fort Lewis in 1967 learning to shoot a bit low to spray up mud clods and rocks to knock down the (supposedly) infallible automatic resetting 400 meter targets. Perhaps that was cheating but I suspected whether a semi-animated target or a viet-cong, either would find the sudden face-full spray of really fast moving rocks pretty discouraging.
        In any case, I bought an M1A as soon as I could afford one and 30 years later on certain spring Sunday afternoons (like today,) there we are at the range again. It’s still a better shot than I am.

  14. No revelation with battle rifles there, our SA80 was met with joy because of the weight and accuracy, which soon turned to dismay when it jammed readily in dusty conditions and had a tendancy to disassemble itself with the lightest of taps, in it’s third incarnation now and the reliability issues are totally resolved but it’s reputation as unreliable lives on despite most servicemen loving it.
    Properly accurate though, not just battle rifle accurate, it always had that.

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