The single stroke pneumatic

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • What is a single stroke pneumatic?
  • The pump head is critical
  • Quick fix
  • How much power?
  • More power
  • Low-cost plinkers
  • Great single stroke
  • Summary

This report was requested by reader Chris USA, and I expect it will be helpful for a number of other readers, as well. Today we’re going to talk about the single-stroke pneumatic, which was the most recent airgun powerplant to be developed. As far as I can determine, the first commercially successful single stroke was the Walther LP2 pistol that was offered in 1967. That pistol’s name tells us a couple things. Was there an LP1? Probably, but I find no record of it in the literature. That tells me it probably wasn’t sold commercially, or if it was, it was withdrawn and replaced by the LP2 soon after launch. So Walther probably developed the single stroke design in the early 1960s or even the late ’50s.

What is a single stroke pneumatic?

You are familiar with multi-pump pneumatics that use a pump attached to the gun to fill an onboard reservoir with compressed air. When the gun fires, all the air is released with the shot, though there have been multi-pumps that could shoot several times on one charge of air.

A single stroke pneumatic is also a pneumatic, but it will not accept more than one pump stroke. Instead of an onboard reservoir, it has a chamber that the pump head slides inside. When the gun is pumped, the pump head compresses air in this chamber. The pump head holds the pressurized air inside the chamber — there is no inlet valve like you would find on the reservoir of a multi-pump. If you were to open the pump handle for a second stroke, it would fly open from the force of the pressurized air inside, and all the compressed air from the first stroke would be released.

The pump head is critical

The pump head is critical to the operation of a single stroke. It is flexible, so when the gun is pumped, the compressed air in front of the head squashes the sides of the head outward to seal the compression chamber tightly. This is good, except being flexible, the head cannot hold the compressed air very long. It’s not like the inlet valve of a multi-pump reservoir that uses the air pressure inside the reservoir to help hold the valve shut. Air is constantly trying to escape from the chamber in front of the pump head. That is why most manuals say to not leave a single stroke pumped for longer than 5 minutes.

IZH 46 pump head
This is the pump head from an IZH 46. It looks like a spring-piston seal, but is much softer.

Oil is critical to the operation of the pump head. I use silicone chamber oil since the guns are pneumatics. The oil improves their sealing and velocity right away.

Quick fix

The pump head may dry out and stiffen over time. When that happens, it won’t flex enough to completely seal the pump chamber and the gun’s velocity will drop. I found a temporary fix for this several years ago that adds velocity to the gun. Simply pump it several times without completing the stroke. In other words, do not put any air into the gun. This will warm the pump head by squashing it repeatedly, putting some flex back into the material. I demonstrated this process on American Airgunner in the 2010 season. I think we got the gun shooting 60 f.p.s. faster with 20 partial pump strokes.

How much power?

What will a single stroke do? The LP2 produced around 350-375 f.p.s. That’s about what a Daisy 747 does. Modern versions of the powerplant can put lightweight lead pellets out of a target pistol muzzle at around 450-500 f.p.s. That’s ideal for a 10-meter target gun. Because of this power level and also because they don’t recoil, single strokes evolved rapidly in the world of target shooting.

Soon after the LP2, Walther brought out the LP3 — a refined version of the earlier pistol with a more reliable exhaust valve. It hit the streets in 1973. No extra power was created; the pistol just became more robust.

A year later Walther brought out the LGR, their first single stroke target rifle. It was so well developed that it lasted from 1974 until 1989. The LGR launched medium weight target pellets at around 575 f.p.s., so it was hotter than the pistol.

More power

Sporting shooters looked at the single stroke with envy and wanted one of their own. The thought of pumping an airgun just once attracted them. But they wanted more power — naturally. What they got, instead, was the Parker Hale Dragon — a science experiment in a stock!

Parket Hale Dragon
I saw this Parker Hale Dragon at the 2008 Little Rock airgun show. Its operation is quite complex.

 

Parker Hale Dragon step 1
First the button is pushed to open the bolt for loading. This keeps the firing valve closed during pumping.

 

Parker Hale Dragon step 2
Next, the cocking arm is pulled back and out to unlock it from the action.

 

Parker Hale Dragon step 3
Then the cocking arm is rotated about 105 degrees so it is past the muzzle. There is still about a foot more travel to go here. Then the arm is rotated closed and locked in place. The rifle is loaded, the bolt pushed home and locked and the rifle is ready to fire. It’s slightly less work than loading a flintlock rifle!

The physics of a single stroke powerplant do not lend themselves to sporting power. To get everything they have to offer requires a gun that is cumbersome to operate and expensive to make.

So, sporting guns are out, but target guns are definitely in. Daisy has had the model 853 and its variants in their lineup for the past 31 years. The first one was built in 1984. At one time this one rifle dominated NRA Sporter Class marksmanship programs until other manufacturers realized what a plum they were missing. Over one million shooters participate in the NRA/CMP programs each year.

The 853 features a Lothar Walther barrel and can hold some respectable groups, owing to the lack of recoil. The trigger is a bit heavy, but coaches have discovered ways of improving it so it meets the required specifications and still breaks cleanly.

Best of all, the 853 is affordable. New airgunners may be put off by the price, but anyone who shoots 10-meter competition knows what a bargain it really is.

Low-cost plinkers

Another type of single stroke is the low-cost plinker. Daisy makes guns like their 845 Mentor and Gamo came out this year with their new Cadet. Both rifles shoot either BBs or pellets. The best thing they have going for them is the easy pump effort. Airguns like this make far better choices for younger shooters than heavier more expensive multi-pumps like the Benjamin 397.

Great single strokes

In the late ’90s the Russians started exporting their IZH 46M target pistol. Well, it was just the 46 in those days. They stretched the compression chamber and boosted the power to 500 f.p.s. to create the M. What makes this gun so neat is its pump linkage. It has a moving fulcrum bearing to keep the effort under control. When your hands are in the best place for strength, the pistol reaches its maximum effort.

That’s wonderful but it’s not what makes this gun so great. The greatness comes when you realize this is a pistol that can compete at the regional level against target pistols costing three times as much. The adjustable trigger is very good and the sights are exactly what you need to compete.

If there is a drawback it’s the weight of the pistol. Today’s target pistols all weigh around 1,000 grams or less. This one weighs 3 grams shy of 1300! That’s too much for for most shooters. But if you want a wonderful target pistol and don’t plan to compete — I can’t think of a better gun.

While I have been writing this report the FedEx man dropped a box on my doorstep. Inside was a Gamo Compact — another wonderful value in a single stroke. I plan to start testing that one soon. It weighs just 885 grams, so nearly anybody can shoot it!

I competed with the IZH46 for about a year before buying a Chameleon CO2 target pistol that was my go-to gun for the rest of the time I shot in NRA matches. I didn’t mind the weight of the Russian pistol as much as most folks, but I never did get the trigger to break cleanly at 510 grams. There was always a tiny bit of creep in stage two. Still, most shooters have never used a trigger as good as this one, and it may take some time before they notice anything but a smooth light release.

Summary

There you go, Chris. Single strokes are good for target guns and for low-cost plinkers — not for hunting. Keep them well-oiled and they will last a long time. If they ever start slowing down, you now know what to do!

59 thoughts on “The single stroke pneumatic

  1. Thank you both! Very Best report or explanations for the Single stroke pneumatic! Very well written and easily understood! I have many single stroke pneumatic s! My family prefers them over other air guns! Semper fi!


  2. First Pellet pistol that I bought was the Beeman P17. I keep it well lubed with Crosman Pellgun oil Very inexpensive, accurate shooting fun. I am looking forward to your test of the Gamo Compact. Points that I am interested in are ease of loading pellets and cocking effort compared to the Beeman. Many thanks for informative blogs.
    Harvey


    • Harvey,

      I have a pair of Beeman P17 and have been very impressed with them. Considering they are $40 from Pyramyd Air they show very consistent velocities around 400 fps. With a bit of spit and polish they are quite serviceable. Lots of instructional videos on the web.

      The pellet loading can be greatly improved by removing the sharp edge at the breach-end of the barrel. The breach is machined square to seal against O-ring which creates a sharp edge that snags the pellet as it is being loaded. I used a counter-sink bit to lightly (by hand) remove that sharp edge and create a slight (.010”) chamfer and polish that edge with a bit of 400 grit sandpaper – the pellets load smoothly now.

      To address the cocking effort for my 93 year old my Father-in-Law I made a loading jig out of some lumber and a hinge for so that he can load the pistol easily. Works great!

      I am considering modifying one of the pistols to reduce the cocking pressure. We use them for close range plinking so I can trade some velocity for ease of cocking. The pistons are solid aluminum so it would be easy to drill away some of the material opposite the air-port to increase the chamber volume and reduce pressures.

      Vana2


      • Hi Vana2. Thank you for your information on P17s. It sounds like a simple fix for the loading problems.
        Also great on your cocking aid for your father in laws pistol. I have considered something similar, but still getting by. I am 78 years old. For ease of loading and cocking nothing I have beats my little Browning break barrel springer, “the Buck Mark”, how ever it is not near as accurate as the Beeman, but still fine for pop cans.Have fun and shoot straight !
        Harvey


  3. B.B.,

    Thank-you for that fine article. As I read on, I learned one fact after another that I had no clue on. Your “warming” the seal tip from a short while back makes sense now. I was not aware that the single stroke was the latest addition to power plants as well.

    After my previous questions, I went to the P.A. site to check out single strokes. I was surprised that most were low cost. The 853 did grab my attention. The peep and globe as well as the wood stock is what I liked. The Champion 499 was my first “taste” of peeps and globe sights. I loved it from the start. The only draw back would that most seem youth sized, but not sure about all.

    Since getting back into airguns,..going on 1 year now,..single strokes were 1 area I completely over looked. After playing with some quality springers for a few, the idea of no-recoil and it’s accuracy benefits is starting to have it’s draws. While still trying to master the springers, an 853 may be in the future or even one of the lesser priced ones.

    I guess it would be fair to say that the single strokes and multi pumps could be considered a poor man’s PCP. You get all the benefits of no recoil, without the added cost of pumps, tanks, etc.

    Thanks again,..learned a lot,….and got me thinking of spending more money. ;( { As Edith said on several occasions as I found myself getting sucked into the air gun (Vortex),…..” Resistance is futile” } She was right! 😉

    Chris


    • Chris
      There are three models of the Daisy’s to choose from in the 753, 853 and 953 models.

      The 753 has the wood stock and pistol style grip as well as the LW barrel and spacers to add length to the LOP to suit your size preference.

      The 853 has three models to choose from in the 853 with wood stock and conventional butt shaped stock, 853C which is a 5 shot repeater by use of a sliding clip with the conventional stock and the 853CM which is a repeater as well with the Monte Carlo synthetic stock. All have the LW barrel and butt stock spacers to add to the LOP also.

      The 953 in two versions of one with fiber optic sights and one with target peep sights and Monte Carlo synthetic stock but no LW barrel or butt stock spacers to add to the LOP and is the cheapest of the different models.

      I have a 853 in a 753 tiger wood stock that was given to me by my gunsmith that had it sitting around in his shed collecting dust and a badly mildewed stock. I rubbed the stock with brake clean to kill and remove the mildew and then liberally coated it with linseed oil and you cannot tell it was ever mildewed at all and bought a 10 dollar rebuild kit from Daisy and resealed it and it shoots 510 fps and is very accurate and easy to pump for all day shooting fun. I have it sighted in at our local CMP range on their electronic target system and it is capable of hitting 1/4 inch groups at 10 meters all day long if I do my part.

      BD


    • Chris,

      Just a little trivia for you. The Hammerli 850 AirMagnum, a CO2 powered rifle, has held the title of “poor man’s PCP” for several year’s now. You seem to love little bits of info like this, as I do. I’m a whiz at Trivial Pursuit.

      G&G


    • There’s a 853c on GB right now for a nice price, it’s listed as being “mint” and appears to have everything in the box. If you want an inexpensive yet competition level gun about$100 will get you in!


  4. BB,

    I had so hoped that Webley was going to bring out their SSP sporting rifle, but it never happened. Like you said, it was probably cost. The valve system was fairly complicated, it was a bear to charge, there was a good chance of pinching your fingers when you did such and it was probably a maintenance nightmare.


    • Can I ask why?

      You have the downside of a dump valve, which costs efficiency. The pump on board, meaning extra weight and complexity. Also likely high cost. I just don’t see the attraction when the discovery and pump kit are so inexpensive.

      Tuned for lower power, you should be able to get one shot for each pump. Just that pump is a separate part, so when It breaks you can keep shooting using another air source. Plus you can pump it up, then go hunting without needing to make loud and large movements that might alert game.



        • Aah, The one that never was. That was supposed to be 2010 & it looks like they’re still stringing us along but I didread where someone finally got a response from them saying the project had been aborted.


          • Webley does not make any airguns anymore. They just rebrand Hatsans. I think you can buy a Webley shotgun also, but it is really a Beretta if I am not mistaken. I guess the new owners figured if Robert Beeman can do it, so can we.


          • I had hoped they would have someone to build it for them, but as you can see in the diagram of the action, that is one complicated air rifle. It would have been very expensive to build.

            They also cheated because it is not a true SSP, but a hybrid. It is a sproinger with a stored air supply under pressure.


  5. Wow! They brought the Compact back?!?! Awesome! Now that is one Gamo I would not mind owning! I might even consider selling my Izzy for one. Well, maybe not. But I would like to have a Compact.


  6. B.B.,

    A quick question on cleaning,…will a barrel “look” dirty? With around 3000 shots each on the LGU and the TX, when using a bore light,…the barrels look shiny and new,…with all the grooves clearly visable. Neither have ever been cleaned. Am I missing something?

    Thanks, Chris


    • Chris,

      Are you ASKING for a dirty barrel? If you keep poking at something it will eventually become a problem.

      However, here is the definitive way of examining the cleanliness of a barrel.

      Using a strong light (200 lumens or more_) shine the light into the bore on an angle (from the side) and look at the bore on an angle (also from the side). If there is leading, you will see it this way, where you will never see it by looking straight through the bore.

      B.B.


      • B.B.,

        Real cute! 😉 Of course not. I will note your tip and check it out. Under levers are a bit trickier, but I’m sure I will manage. I got 2 good flashlights and both are in the 150 Lumens range without checking. Just thought I would ask. Never shot Crosmans and after 3000 or so on each,…I wondered,….maybe?

        While it’s been awhile since reading cleaning articles, I do not remember that tip being given.

        Thanks again, Chris


  7. I would have thought a pump head with a double or single O ring sealing system would retain air pressure longer than the parachute seal type, easier to replace as well. But i could be wrong, i understand they are more effective for the ones that have been designed to replace the hard to find Sharp Innova pump heads. I know the Innova is a multipump but i can’t see why it wouldn’t benefit a single stroke system, I’m happy to be proved wrong mind you. Excellent article by the way, thank you.

    Wing Co, over and out.


  8. B.B.,
    The Weirauch HW75 is a fine SSP pistol. I’m surprised you didn’t mention it. I don’t recall ever seeing a blog on it. I don’t have experience with match triggers to compare with, but it’s light and crisp. The sculpted grip feels wonderful in the hand. It’s all metal and wood, giving the impression that it’s made for a lifetime. The muzzle is recessed somewhat into the frame, taking the edge off the report such that it doesn’t crack as sharply like the P17.
    The HW75 in .177 shoots a JSB 7.33 grainer around 400-410 fps. I can’t remember the actual extreme spread from my chrono testing, but it’s small. I use a scope on mine because it’s way more accurate than I can aim with the open sights.


  9. SSPs are awesome!

    I have a FWB100 10-meter match pistol and the FWB603 10-meter match rifle – both are singles stroke pneumatics that are very pleasant to shoot and extremely accurate.

    I like shooting at reactive targets, usually Honeycomb cereal suspended on a string – these SSPs are definitely “Cherrios” guns 🙂


  10. If only there was a single stroke airgun with a power of 1000fps, i think that will be the peak for airgun development.

    If someone invented that rifle tomorrow with easy operational parts and that was lightweight, would that make him an instant millionaire?


  11. There is also the John Bowkett designed Titan Mohawk from the early 1990s as an example of a 12ft lb single stroke rifle. I’m not sure if they were sold outside the UK.

    The pair I have (.177 and .22) are great fun to shoot though the cocking effort is high. The cocking arm can be part opened for lower power plinking.


  12. Nice blog…

    I guess I wouldn’t mind owning a non-recoiling pistol one day. But there are so many choices:

    HW40 (P3)
    HW75 (P2)
    Gamo Compact
    Zoraki HP01 (Webley Alecto)
    “Izzy” 46
    FWB 65 or 80
    Diana LP6

    The Röhm Twinmaster also looks very interesting and might be worth a review.

    but then I’m not in any hurry. I’m still improving with the HW45…

    Stephan


    • Can you still get the Izzy?

      I was thinking of selling mine and trying something else a bit, but it shoots better than I could ever hope to and now that they are no longer imported, the value has skyrocketed.

      Now I might trade it for a mint Diana Model 10 and I really would like to have a Lincoln Jefferies.


  13. My two most accurate guns are on your list, my Avanti 853 and the Gamo Compact.
    Both have won me local competitions and both have thousands of rounds through them with minimal upkeep.
    If you value accuracy above all else (they aren’t good for pest control) they are excellent value, easy to cock and shoot great value for the money.


  14. BB– Daisy 747 problem–If I follow the instructions, cock the pistol, then swing the lever forwards, the pistol acts like there is a vacuum in the cylinder. If I swing the lever forward first, then cock and load, the pistol works . I have 2 Daisy 717,s ( bought in the 1970,s) that work as per instructions. What could be causing this problem? Ed PS- I bought the 747 in 2000, It has had to be repaired 4 times! The 717,s have never had a problem. I still shoot them, as do guests and family. They have been shot a lot more than the 747 !



    • Ed
      It sounds as thought the with the gun cocked first it is allowing the poppet to seat on the back of the chamber and the spring pressure on it is greater than the suction of the piston thereby not allowing air to be drawn past the poppet as you pull the cocking arm out to the extended position. By extending the arm first and then cocking you are seating the poppet by removing the strikers weight and spring tension on the poppet and allowing the air to be compressed into the chamber.

      Try to pull pump the arm with out cocking it and see if it will pull out without the vacuum feeling and if you can hear air being sucked in past the poppet and then close the pump arm to see if you feel any resistance like you do when you cock it after extending the pump arm. if you feel resistance and can then cock it and it shoots the poppet is not being held off the seat by the striker and spring, but if it has no pressure to shoot with then the poppet is not resting on its seat until cocked and by cocking first you are not allowing for air to bypass around the poppet when extending the pump arm and hence the feeling of a vacuum being created.

      Which just means the poppet is sealing very well and the proper way to shoot the gun is to extend the pump arm then cock then compress the air.

      BD


  15. Yes, with the wide demand for power, the single stroke pneumatic is at a considerable disadvantage. The only way to generate force to compress the air sufficiently is with an extremely long lever throw. That recalls the memorable description of kids cocking the 853 in prone looking like slugs in salt. I don’t see how the Parker Hale rifle gets around that problem. And I don’t quite understand the IZH pistol solution although that would be limited to target velocities.

    But within the target regime, this powerplant can do quite a bit. The only Feinwerkbau gun that I remotely considered was an Olympic rifle with this powerplant, but sadly it was discontinued. And on the subject of target pistols, what is the highest level at which you could use a Daisy 747? If the IZH, which costs something like $600, is considered a bargain for serious competition, I’m guessing that the 747, for all its accuracy, is really for plinking.

    Matt61



  16. BUD– I think that your explanation is correct. The poppet valve is not on its seat until cocked. Is there any advantage (or disadvantage ) over the way it is supposed to work? The accuracy of this pistol does not seem to be affected . Thanks for explaning how the poppet valve workings . Ed



  17. I’ve always wanted a single pump gun that would shoot around 635 fps (with pellets) our of a rifled barrel. Since I’m not looking for 800+ fps, you’d think someone could do it.


  18. I take it the Daisy single pump rifles don’t have a flexible? On reader on here and several on the web have filled the pump head on these with an epoxy. I would think after doing that, they wouldn’t be very flexible? Thoughts? I have often thought about buying one and doing this epoxy trick to get closer to the 625 to 630 fps rifle I’d like. But I’m chicken I’d mess it up somehow.


  19. Tom,

    While I can understand the limitations of a single stroke to small calibers, I don’t understand multi-stroke limitations to larger calibers. At your convenience could you review the physical hurdles that limit the production of a larger caliber (say 9mm) multi-pump air rifle with 900fps+ capability and or list any commercial air guns that fit this descriptions.

    It seems it would be a matter of more pumps into a bigger chamber? Or a larger single stroke cylinder with a multi-stroke mechanical advantage that incrementally compresses the piston with each stroke. This seems to be missing from the market. IMO – PCPs are just too much of a complicated process (gun, storage tank, pump/compressor) not to mention stupidly expensive at about $3K for a decent setup – to be practical for any thing more than occasional hobby shooting. Thanks for all the great articles. Please reply at your convenience to dugwood@gmail.com).


    • Dug,

      It has been done (in .25 caliber — the Yewah BBB Dynamite) and it wasn’t pretty. 100+strokes for one shot at high velocity. I imagine a Quackenbush would take 500-10000 strokes per shot.

      We already have a hand pump that people don’t like to use. And it is many times more efficient than an onboard pump would be, unless you would settle for your 9mm weighing 15 lbs. And then “they” would go to work on the weight and in the end get it down to 11 lbs. for a $4000 gun.

      I’m throwing these big numbers around to illustrate there will always be a tradeoff when technology gets pushed. Either it will perform well and be too heavy and cost too much or it will be light enough but fail to perform and cost too much. Whatever happens, the makers will try to recoup the costs, which will kill sales..

      The multi-pump that compresses the piston has also been done. $3000 per rifle and he may have sold 20.

      B.B.



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