They overstepped the line!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The history of airguns

This report covers:

  • What “they” did
  • Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation
  • Young minds go astray
  • Bad ideas abound!
  • Percussion cap guns
  • What about cartridge primers?
  • Summary

What “they” did

The history of airguns is fascinating to those who enjoy applied creativity. But sometimes when creativity is carried too far it becomes a liability. And that’s the case with today’s guns.

Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation

In the 1970s the Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation (RMAC) created a little gun for kids who wanted to shoot with their fathers. They referred to it as a .22 caliber, though it shot a number 4 buckshot that is really 0.24 inches rather than 0.223 inches in diameter. That didn’t matter because a 5-pound bag number 4 buckshot was available for a few dollars. For that you got thousands of shots.Β  Nobody worried about the size of the ball that much.

RMAC box
The RMAC blackpowder rifle was from a simpler time, as the graphics on this box suggest.

RMAC rifle
RMAC rifle.

The breech of this little gun swiveled to either side, allowing the shooter to pour a small charge of black powder into the chamber. Maybe as much as 5 grains would fit inside, together with a ball. A number 4 buckshot ball was then pressed into the front of the chamber on top of the powder and the breech was swiveled back to align with the barrel and the hammer. At the back of the chamber there was a flash hole similar to the percussion cap hole on a percussion gun. A steel cover shaped like a cup fit over the rear of the swivel chamber, covering this flash hole. When the shooter had loaded the chamber, he placed one or more toy caps over the flash hole, than slid the cup-shaped cover over the rear of the swivel chamber.

RMAC breech
The breech (arrow) swivels to the side for loading.

RMAC breech open
Swivel breech is opened for loading.

The gun has a hammer that is manually cocked after loading. Firing releases the hammer to strike the cup-shaped breech cover, mashing it down on the toy caps and hopefully igniting them. The spark from the cap(s) travels through the touch hole, igniting the charge of black powder and sending the small lead ball on its way down the bore. So far, so good.

Young minds go astray

I’m sure the young shooters were fascinated by their “real” gun for a while. But when they became accustomed to it, their minds began to wander. What if they filled the chamber to the top with black powder and just rammed the lead ball down the muzzle of the rifle like dad did with his gun? And then — what if we dropped even more powder into the muzzle after loading the chamber? The bullet would go even faster — wouldn’t it? Let’s try it and see!

Ahh, you say. It’s easy to see where this idea goes off the tracks. Good thing that “they” made it in such a small caliber. Well, guess what? They didn’t just make little ones. This rifle was also produced in .36 and .45 caliber. They used regular percussion caps instead of toy caps, but they operated the same way. Those rifles are much rarer than the smaller one, so I assume fewer were made. But here’s the deal. Any kid who knows how to shoot one of the small rifles knows how to shoot them all. If dad has a .45, junior can load it and shoot it. Bad idea all around.

Bad ideas abound!

RMAC wasn’t the only company to have a bad idea. Every few years I am contacted by someone who claims to have invented an entirely new kind of airgun — one that uses percussion caps or primers to propel a pellet or bullet. They are very secretive when they come to me, not wanting anyone to get wind of their wonderful new invention. Except there is nothing new about it! People have been doing the same thing for the past 170+ years!

Percussion cap guns

The percussion method of igniting a change of gunpowder is credited to Reverend Alexander Forsythe, who patented the scent-bottle lock in 1807. His charge of priming powder was loose and dangerous, and it wasn’t until it was made into a solid pellet and put into a convenient container — the percussion cap — around 1820, that the percussion system of ignition took off.

Around 1840 — but nobody knows exactly when — someone got the idea to use just the power of the percussion cap to launch a small lead ball from a gun. This development progressed in several different ways. Flobert designed the flanged cap that he added a ball and later a conical bullet to — making the first self-contained cartridge. From that invention, Smith & Wesson partnered to launch the .22 short cartridge in 1856.

But the percussion-cap-only guns also continued to be made. And they split into two distinct directions. One was a simple parlor gun that was a novelty, only. It was a fun gun, if you will — not that different from a modern pellet gun.

Bandle gun
This cap-firing gun made by American gunsmith Jacob Bandle was more of a curiosity than a target gun.

The other was a precision target rifle designed for indoor target practice. This latter rifle was called a zimmerstutzen (NOT a zimmer schuetzen, as some say) and evolved up to the first world war. Zimmerstutzens are still being made today and there are still indoor matches for them. You can read more about them in my article on them.

Zimmerstutzen
A zimmerstutzen like this one is a highly specialized target rifle.

What about cartridge primers?

You can’t stifle enthusiasm, so every few years someone “invents” a pellet gun that uses the primers from centerfire cartridges as the power source. And sometimes they use the larger number 209 primers that are intended for shotgun shells. Their “inventions” never work, because they are little more than bar-bet engineering, “Here, Rufus, see if this works!” I have tested some of these systems and found them lacking any redeeming qualities. But that doesn’t stop the next person from reinventing the same thing a few years later.

Summary

To summarize, most of the systems that use primers to propel pellets and BBs are useless and worse, they are dangerous. A few like the zimmerstutzen are highly specialized and do work, but even then they cannot compete with good quality target air rifles.

None of the guns in today’s report qualify as airguns. I wrote about them simply because they wind up being shoved into the airgun category by most people. I know you will encounter them sooner or later and I wanted you to know the score.

136 thoughts on “They overstepped the line!

  1. BB,

    The RMAC looks like it would be fun but I would like a more reliable ignition system. How did I miss that one in the 70’s? Guess I was having too much fun with a blue streak.

    Jim


  2. Thank you again for another fine report! I have previously read about the zimmerstutzens while I was in Germany! Also have already read your report! Zimmerstutzen! Quite long! With detail! Have a great show! Semper fi!


    • J.Lee,

      I wrote that zimmerstutzen article with the help of the late John Gary Staup — one of the foremost zimmer collectors in the world. I had access to information that few people ever saw. As a result, I believe it is the longest, most-detailed article on the zimmerstutzen in the English language.

      B.B.


  3. I never cease to be baffled at the propensity of the latest cadre of brain-dead individuals to come up with the exact same ideas that have already failed too many times to count. They are so deluded over their own misguided sense of genius, that they are unable or unwilling to do the slightest amount of research that might reveal the cruel reality of their folly from a historical perspective.

    Collectivism, single-payer health care, and gun control legislation come to mind. The abysmal failure of these policies wherever and whenever they are tried, does not begin to temper the enthusiasm for these ideas among the willfully ignorant.

    It is the same with airguns. Every time I read a post from someone lamenting that they have no smooth shooting big-bore springers to choose from, my faith in humanity slips away a little more. It’s almost enough to make me chew through my restraints, and resort to desperate measures to cull the herd.


    • Slinging Lead,

      Good points, all and one. Still,…you got to give it up for good ‘ol ingenuity, innovation and the inquisitive mind.

      You want to see some really bizarre idea’s, check out old/antique fishing lures. All you can do is sit back and smile. Patented and all. Of course, I think the idea was to catch the “sucker/fisherman” and hopefully make a few short lived $. πŸ˜‰



      • B.B.,

        What is the saying? It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or little brother.

        If the charge (better yet both charge and projectile) were sealed in a cartridge (hey, a CB cap!) this would have been a lot safer. If a child is old enough to play with one of those, which is no toy to be sure, then the child should just be given a solid, safe, single shot .22 youth rifle along with a ton of firearm safety instruction and adult supervision . Speaking of which, where were the parents of the kids who loaded extra powder into their guns?

        Kid, you’ll blow your fingers off.

        Michael



          • BB
            That’s a truthful comment if I ever heard one.

            A person wants to trust their kids. But education and safety have to be taught.

            Probably depends alot on the kid. But best thing is the gun should be put away and locked up. And the most important thing. The key is with me.

            I know when I was a kid what I did growing up on the farm. And basically had free reign to do whatever I wanted on the farm or the woods or the lake. I will have to say this. When it comes to my 2 teenage daughters be it riding the 4 Wheeler’s or go kart or shooting the bow and arrows or the guns. They don’t unless I’m there. They have asked to ride the go kart and 4 wheeler while I’m at work and the answer is no.

            I feel a little bad about being that way knowing what I got to do as a kid. But it just gives me a little peice of mind I guess.


          • Yup…

            Black-powder cannons that could fire 1/2 a pound of nails…

            Rockets with exploding warheads made out of empty co2 cartridges and aluminum cigar tubes…

            Working miniature torpedoes…

            Fun stuff πŸ™‚



    • SL
      “Wake up America” should be the slogan of the Trump campaign as thats exactly what needs to happen in this day and age, but it scares the heck out of that as you say we have to many brain dead people that think they can continue to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result. I applaud Trump for at least he has the fortitude to tell it like it is and is beholden to no one but the people and his beliefs since he is funding his campaign not big labor unions or special interest groups.

      It is up to the inventor and ingenious to do their research and due diligence to insure that their endeavors are indeed truly new and in uncharted ground instead of just trying to reinvent the wheel. but then there is a new sucker born every minute that has yet to feel, the pain of that hook in their mouth and so the world turns.

      BD


      • Buldawg, I will show restraint in what I write about The Donald as this is not a political forum. But I will say that his answer to the whole weird-hair-talk should be to simply say what David Letterman said about 25 years ago about his own weird hair: “Look, if I were going to buy and wear a toupee, don’t you think it would look better than THIS? I hate to admit it, but folks, this is my real hair, such as it is.”

        Michael


      • BD76,

        All I can say, if he does get it,…I hope he does’nt screw it up. For sure, it will not take much,.. to do better.

        A good example I heard on the radio the other day,…he approaches things as buisness man, wanting all ideas on the table, good or bad, and goes from there. Not afraid to tick anyone off and not worried about loosing votes. The average politician stays middle of the road and tries not to loose a single vote.




            • Buldawg
              It was just a joke from his TV show.

              And I can’t say that I have faith in any of them political people anymore.

              Only God knows what it will all end like. And no joke on this comment. I mean it literally.


              • Gunfun1
                It may have been a joke from his show but I am not joking as 90% of the idiots in the Whitehouse, congress and the senate need to be lead out the door and kicked to the curb for good.

                BD


        • Chris
          Yea I hope he don’t either but I just know we need someone that is not afraid to get the job done and not worry about pleasing the liberal cronies or RINOS that as you say stay in the middle of the road and are to afraid to take a stand be it good or bad.

          You cannot please all the people all the time and he is not worried about making enemies and like I said he is using his own money to campaign so he owes nothing to anyone but the AMERICAN people.

          BD


    • Faith in humanity? History tells me that is a losing proposition.

      On the other hand, grace is a prerequisite. I was working with a guy who said he was an atheist. He said humans were the problem and he is all for population control. My reply?

      “Why don’t you kill yourself then?”


  4. I have never messed with black powder.

    Was the RMAC accurate I wonder. And at what distances? I don’t guess there was any dovetails for scopes. If there was a place for a scope it looks like it would need a long eye relief with the loading breech where its located.




      • BB
        Ok in response to the 4-5″ @ 50 yards.

        Doesn’t the modern day black powder guns shoot better than the 4″ @ 50 yards?

        Again I have never shot black powder guns so I don’t know what their capable of.

        But I’m thinking if I had the RMAC as a kid. And if it was getting 4-5″ groups at 50 yards. I might of told my dad that it was broke. Send it back and get me one of those German 300s guns or whatever they where out of that old catalog that was called ARH or something. πŸ˜‰


        • GF1,

          Some modern BP rifle are more accurate than that, yes. And NASCAR racers go faster than the cars they supposedly represent.

          This gun shot a number 4 buckshot, which is not as smooth as a golf ball. Four to five inches is being generous.

          B.B.


          • BB
            Ok just trying to get this straight. So lead shot was the limiting factor to the RMAC’s accuracy.

            Was it a smooth bore or rifled barrel? And a different type of ammo could of made it accurate I guess then. And what fps do you think it shot that lead ball at.

            Weren’t the little single shot Crickett rifles around at that time. I wonder what would of made so.ebody choose the RMAC over a Crickett if they were around then.

            Sorry for all the questions. I just find the youth guns interesting no matter what type of projectile they shoot.


    • You’d probably enjoy black powder guns, there are many modern propellants to choose from and the caps as well, along with different projectiles and variable charges!
      The only drawback would be the mess left afterwards… I’ll be doing it again!


  5. And a few up dates.

    I shot the M8 yesterday with the JSB 8.44’s. It was a dead calm day. Long story short the 8.44’s grouped pretty much identical to the 10.34 JSB’s. POI between the 2 was even pretty much the same.

    That’s something I mentioned before. I think that the design of the 10.34’s allows the pellet to fly faster for its weight. It doesn’t have that restricted wrist that slows down the 8.44. Plus the 10.34 pellet for its weight has always had a flat trajectory in the guns I graphed shooting at targets at different distances. They are very comparable to the 8.44 graphs I have shot.

    Just something to think about.

    Oh and I did take the red dot off the HPA converted 1077 and put it on the M8. The M8 is a excellent can killer with the red dot. Was shooting it at 15-35 yards at cans and never missed a shot. I can’t remember if I ever tryed a red dot on a springer or nitro piston gun before. It’s a 6-7 year old Tasco red dot. So will see if it will with stand a springer recoil. Well if you call it that on the M8. I guess there’s a little recoil there.

    And last thing then I shot the 1077 open sight. Yes I tryed open sight again to see if I could get my eyes working that way again. Shot with one ye open and then both eyes open. I’m definitely better with both eyes open. Also had to take the glowy thing out of the front sight. It was messing with me. So now there’s a hole in the front post. So now I see a a outline of a square if you will when I look at the sights. It actually is working out for me now for some reason. Was hitting the cans at the 15-35 yards with no problem also.

    So pretty happy with all the results yesterday. Just figured I give a update.


  6. BB,
    Your article reminds me of the Daisy VL caseless 22. Do you have any experience with the Daisy VL? I never shot one and don’t remember how well they worked.

    David Enoch




    • The propellant was attached to the bullet and ignition was provided by a spring piston power plant, which explains to me why they suffered accuracy problems(I alwaysfigured it was due to propellant being chipped away until I read B.B’ report).
      A piezoelectric ignition would certainly have had teething problems but I think it woulda worked much better. Maybe they were trying to figure out a way to call it an airgunblog instead of a firearm?


  7. I’m reluctant to discourage these types of humans when the overstep the line since I believe in Darwinism.

    B.B.,

    I’m leaving town shortly for the weekend. Won’t have access to the internet where I’m going. Want to wish you a Happy Birthday!

    kevin


  8. B.B.
    That’s a cool report on an interesting old gun. This RMAC rifle reminds me of those Cabanas rifles that used a .22 blank to fire a .177 round ball. (some guy wrote about his here: http://www.gundigest.com/gun-collecting-firearm-collecting/mexicolove ). I never bought one, but I remember being intrigued by the ads for them when I was a kid. I wound up begging me Dad to get a me a Sheridan Blue Streak (C model with the rocker safety). Since the BATF classified the Cabanas rifles as firearms, I think I made the right choice. I fired over 10,000 of the old cylindrical “yellow box” pellets through that Sheridan; it shot great and still does today (although I used JSBs in it now…way more accurate =>). Thanks again for your write up of an interesting “blast from the past.” =D
    take care & God bless,
    dave


  9. BB,

    remember when I mentioned that I can shoot my Diana 31 directly from a bag and get good groups and you replied that it’s because of the low power? I replied that I was in fact using the “other” spring.

    I noticed that the gun has become much quieter and easier to cock which made me suspicious. When I did a “splat test” with heavy Gamo TS-10s, the pellets looked much like those that came out of the FWB300 and the 7,5 Joule HW35.

    So, perhaps you were more correct than I thought πŸ™‚

    I’m still wondering why the spring got bent so quickly without any abuse that I’m aware of (no dieseling, no dry-fires). The only reasons I can imagine are that either 6.9 grain Gecos are too light or the spring just wasn’t very good.

    Anyway, it’s very pleasant to shoot as it is, with less vibration than the weak spring when it’s new (which is strange given that it’s fairly canted). I wonder if it’ll get weaker and weaker until it fails or whether it’ll pretty much stay at this power level for a long time now. In that case, I may just leave it as it is…

    Any hint what the revolutionary mod for the 34 is going to be? Something powerplant-related? πŸ™‚

    Stephan





        • I gotta 2015 Ruger Impact that’s doing very well @ about 750 rounds and hasn’t eaten a scope yet including the one that it ce with but that’s because I kept tightening it back up when it’d rattle something else loose. It bears the name for a reason!
          Sure am glad I went with .22!


          • I have a € 40,- Leader 4×32 on the Diana. It’s actually quite ok and has lasted for several thousand shots now.

            I guess that makes it a good value.

            The mounts that come with it are too weak for a springer, though…


  10. Ok, speaking if fun but not so bright ideas…my wife just yelled fron bathroom while getting ready for work, about a “dangerous spider in here!!!”…”Bring something to kill it, one of your pistolas” as she calls my airguns. She was right, it was a brown recluse…first one I’ve seen inside the place this year.
    Result: the Colt SAA obliterated the spider…and. the wee-small hole in the baseboard, ( fe om the .177 rws PELLET),
    looks like any normal nail hole. πŸ™‚

    Denny.


  11. BB
    I keep forgetting to ask.

    Do you have any plans to test the Gamo Cadet multi-pump gun. I think it’s like $59. Just maybe it would be some competion for the Crosman 760 or the Daisy 880.

    I ain’t crazy about the Gamo spring guns. But maybe the Gamo multi pump could be a good design.


  12. BB,

    That photo of the Zimmerstutsen in the report…that rifle looks like a work of art, remaniscent of the old Pennsylvania rifles of the late 1700 and early to mid 1800’s. Obviously it’s a b/w photo so color and grain of the wood, and finish on the metalwork isn’t discernable, but if they are/were such that they follow the lines of the gun…the shape of the butt, the angle of the wrist…visually at least it’d truly be art deserving of the accuracy available from these rifles.

    Denny.



    • Reb,

      I hope you found it. We just got back to the hotel from watching the filming and eating afterwards.

      Watching the filming was fascinating. They did the entire filming in one take. I guess I assumed that there would be multiple takes with the round table broken down into short segments. They just started talking and rolled smoothly through the entire segment.

      I got to say hello to Tom and Rossi.

      Jim


      • I guess I showed up after they’d started filming but I don’t think I missed too much but I didn’t get a very good seat for listening to the conversation up on stage. Guess I’ll see it soon.






  13. Wound up with a Daisy 120 in the mix, it’s been a little rough on the outside but the good news is they were all pointed down. Noticed a couple old metal receiver/brass bolt 760s with wood furniture and a buncha 880’s most of which appear to also have metal receivers in case anyone has been looking for one. If I find a 22sg it’s on board but the 2200 is even better!-once I get the dirt dobber’s nest outta the barrel.
    If you got a little cash to blow/ investplease make your way to a gun show.


  14. The first PCP gun I ever saw was on this blog, until I built one following instruction fr this blog.
    I have no idea how many Marauders were in that building but I tried to look at all of them, twice.
    That was almost too much fun!




      • Yes Sir! And now I have an American Classic torn down on my kitchen counter, having to rest my back and reasess my understanding of my understanding of airguns.
        So far the search not catching, seems to be a pattern-failure so I’ll keep my fingers clear but if this 120 turns out like it should it’ll probably be as good a gun as the M8 I was gonna get and then there’s a little sidelever in there somewhere.
        Anybody feel like taking on a project?


      • That was money well spent too one of my biggest concerns would be that I’ll have no money to get good pellets on order for a couple days and all the pawn shops will be closed til after payday



          • Correct, it was in the bottom of that trashcan, has a sliding breech cover and cocking knob. I’m sure it’s gonna be something simple. I just got up and my back is screaming at me already.


            • OK, got it.

              When I was a young’un my parents bought the model you have to kill woodpeckers that were destroying the wood siding on the house. I was not allowed to use it. NOW LOOK AT ME! I wonder if my airgun addiction would have taken hold if my parents had merely allowed me to get my fill of shooting that danged 1377. Surely a cautionary tale to all new parents out there.

              Fast forward a few years to the point where I bought my first house, and the squirrels are destroying my houseplants and raiding the birdfeeder on the back patio. I decided to buy an airgun to rid myself of the problem, and what did I get? The 1377, of course.

              The thing is, I don’t like killing squirrels. They are cute little critters, and their ‘barking’ cracks me up. Mrs. Slinging Lead has taken to feeding stray cats on the patio, so the squirrels don’t mess with my plants or birdfeeder anymore. Problem solved! Now, what to do about all these cats…

              Regarding your 1377, you might want to check the sear spring. I highly compressed the sear spring on my 1377 so that it would take a set and make the trigger pull lighter. I compressed the spring too much however, and the sear would no longer catch. So merely stretching out the spring so that it exerts more force on the sear might work.


              • I’ll be back on it before much longer, just got the rest of the haul in for initialinspection.
                The Chinese sidelever turned out to be a QB-88 and appears to be worthy of resurrection so I’ve got the seal soaking but I’ll have to get a breech seal before I can shoot it. It was cocked when I finally got to it and it moves air because it got it’s first dryfire and sounds a lot like my QB-36. Also have a Crosman 2200 torn down that had a plastic piece broken off and floating around in the receiver. Have no idea who’d have one of those in stock?


  15. Chompin’ @ da bit here, I recall a 99 buttstock being another one that helped me make up my mind before it was too late.
    This was confirmed when I called my brother out and popped the trunk


    • Reb,

      I am glad you made it, challenges and all. Have fun and soak it all in. You never know if you will get to do again,…make it count !

      Happy for ya’,…… πŸ˜‰ Chris


      • I’ve got the 2200 & 120 here now as well as one of the metal receiver 880’s all with 3 spray& scrub treatmemts and working Pell-gun oil.
        Not sure about the 120 but it sounds like I need a “Daisy special tool #000… but I guess we’ll have to see about that. πŸ™‚



  16. Mendoza still makes primer-powered guns (“salva y municiones”). That might be a fun topic for some future article. Regarding safety – it doesn’t matter what kind of gun you have. The same rules apply to all of them. Now, I’ll admit to doing some amply stupid things in my life, and I have only the Almighty to thank for being here now. Still, as a parent you have to make the effort. My (now adult) kids still talk about how silly it was to make them practice proper carry by hauling sticks through the woods. I just smile, because they remember the lesson.


  17. BB— I went to a gun show yesterday. I saw a mint, in box Crosman 38T (.177). the dealer let me take it out to the parking lot and put a co2 cylinder into the gun. It did not leak. I bought it and took it home. 2 hours later, it was still holding gas. I loaded it and shot 9 pellets ( all in the bullseye). Then there was a wooosh and all trhe gas came out. 4 cylinders ( with pell gun oil) later, it still leaks. Do you think that it needs new seals, or should I keep trying to apply the pell gun oil treatment? Re spiders, I taught in a bklyn. school near the belt parkway. Almost every year, pupils would bring in a jar full of cute little brown spiders with orange hour glass marks on their tummies. I think that they are a kind of black widow spiders. They live in apartment house basements, and private homes that are close to the marsh that is next to the belt parkway. There are no reports of spider bites. I tought in that school for 29 years. Children are catching these spiders without any of them getting bitten. Ed


  18. Ton and all,

    We had a great time at the Texas Air Gun show. I wound up with a silver streak from the first table that I stopped at and a Colt Python replica from the Umarex booth. At the very end of he show, my wife scored a roll of ten tins (a sausage?) of JSB RS pellets for a super price.

    I’Ve been looking a PCP rifles trying to decide which one I wanted. I spent most of my time on Range A trying various rifles. I had my list narrowed down to the TalonSS, Mrod, and Discovery. Now, I’ve got to ad in the Hatsan AT44QE. That rifle can shoot and is extremely quite.

    The show was great and I’m looking forward to next year.

    Jim




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