Sheridan Blue Streak: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
My Sheridan Blue Streak was purchased new in 1978.
This report covers:
- Not a shooter
- You’ve got mice!
- The problem grows
- The rifle
- Thumb safety
- Rocker safety
- Why so different?
- Twenty caliber
- Goodbye, Edie
Some readers asked me to do a memorial blog to my late wife, Edith. Today marks one year since she passed away, but this blog is still infused with her influence. So I thought I would tell you about her favorite airgun — the Sheridan Blue Streak.
Not a shooter
Edith was never a shooter. Even when she shot with me to get her Concealed Carry License, she wasn’t as interested in the shooting aspect as she was in self defense. But she had a soft spot in her heart for the Blue Streak and I’d like to tell you why.
You’ve got mice!
When we moved into our house in Maryland, the last thing the old owners told us was we had mice. There were woods all around us and game was plentiful. We figured with 9 housecats, there wouldn’t be any problem with mice, but we were wrong. Several cats were excellent mousers and caught a lot of them in the beginning, but they didn’t kill them right away. They would play with them, often breaking their legs and watching them squirm around on the floor. Edith had a soft spot for animals and could not abide that, so she asked me to teach her to shoot the Blue Streak, so she could finish them. This was almost a decade before The Airgun Letter was even a glimmer on the horizon.
I taught her how to operate the rifle, how to pump it and load it. More importantly, I taught her firearm safety and gun handling etiquette. You might say what I taught her was a lot like what Jack Cooper is teaching Jill. She especially liked the fact that with a multi-pump you can control the velocity by varying the number of pumps — from 3 to 8 with the Blue Streak. Field mice are small and she didn’t want to splatter them around the house.
The problem grows
Within a year the mouse population in our house approached zero. Problem solved — or so I thought. Edith was also a bird lover and she placed a pan of bird seed on the front porch to attract songbirds. One day she notice a bird had disappeared rather suddenly and she hadn’t noticed it flying away. There were also a couple feathers lying by the bird seed. So she watched. Soon another bird landed and was busy eating the seed when it was jumped by a large rat that came up from under the porch! Edith had inadvertently set the table for a family of rats!
Out came the Sheridan, which had a yellow twist tie around the triggerguard, to remind her to use the pellets in the yellow plastic box. Edith set out more bird seed, then took up a hiding position outdoors about 20 feet away. Another bird landed and attracted the big rat, but this time she popped him as he climbed up the porch wall. She called me at work, which was no small feat, because I was in a building that required a very high classification to enter. We didn’t get phone calls unless there was an emergency.
She had never called me there before and I was worried that something bad had happened, but she just wanted to tell me about bagging the rat. Over the next month Edith killed all the adults in the colony and 5 babies who were out on our front steps, sunning themselves. In all I think she killed 19 rats — the furthest being the final one that she dropped offhand at about 20 yards. I thought we were going to have to mount that one on the wall, she was so proud!
Let’s now take a look at Edith’s favorite air rifle. The Sheridan Blue Streak first came to market in 1949 — as a less-expensive model when their Model A that we call the Supergrade today, failed to sell. The Model A sold for $56.50 in 1948, while the new Blue Streak was only $19.95 when it first came out.
One quirky feature that kept sales low for year was the thumb safety. Atop the comb is a spring-loaded button that must be depressed to fire the rifle. While it apparently fits some shooters well, many complain that it isn’t easy to hold down. It’s just too far forward for most thumbs to reach comfortably. It is very common to find something jammed in the thumb button slot, holding it down permanently. This safety was so troublesome that sales of the rifle exploded when the designers changed to a rocker arm design in 1963.
The thumb safety had to be pressed down to fire the rifle. In theory it worked, but the safety button was poorly placed.
The rocker safety has a button on each side of the receiver. Press down the F button on the left side to fire and the S button on the right for safe. The beauty of this safety is once a button is pressed, the rifle remains in that state. Nothing further needs to be done. This model became the all-time classic Blue Streak, lasting from 1963 until the decade of the ’90s
Rocker safety works much better. Push down on the button you want and it remains there.
Why so different?
Why was the safety found on the Blue Streak different than the one found on the Benjamin 340-series rifles that became the 397 and 392 in later years? Simple — Sheridan was a separate company from the Benjamin Air Rifle Company at that time. Benjamin hadn’t bought them yet. Crosman did not own either company until around the 1990s, and for several years after they acquired the companies they kept each brand separate.
When Sheridan came out with their first rifle in 1947/48 they did so in .20 caliber. That was not a popular airgun caliber before they started using it, but Quackenbush had made a large number of 20-1/2 caliber guns, and Crosman had also made a few. The company line was they couldn’t find pellets that suited their airgun, which in the 1940s timeframe is very believable. They picked a proprietary caliber to control what was fed into their guns. But there is also the belief that they had the corner on the .20 caliber market. It didn’t do them any favors, though, because .20 caliber pellets were not widely distributed like .22 and .177 calibers.
Sheridan stayed with .20 caliber for the Blue and Silver Streak throughout the entire production run and through three different corporate owners. Only the Model A was ever made in .22 caliber, and those few were just testbed guns.
Naturally Sheridan said their pellets were best, and in 1947, they were. Not only were they more accurate, they also obtained a much higher ballistic coefficient by not using the full diabolo design. So they retained velocity farther and penetrated better. Today, however, the original Sheridan cylindrical pellet has been surpassed by modern diabolos that are more uniform. If anyone still shoots the older Sheridan pellets, they give up a lot of accuracy to pellets like the JSB Exact.
The Blue Streak and its nickel-plated sibling, the Silver Streak, were multi-pump pneumatics. They operated on between 3 and 8 strokes of the movable forearm. I have tested them at a greater number of strokes and confirmed that the power diminishes, however older guns sometimes gain a little with a ninth stroke. A rifle that’s operating at spec, though, tops out at 8 strokes. At that level you get a medium-weight .20 pellet traveling in the mid- to upper-600 f.p.s. range. Each rifle will be different. My 1978 rifle is old and tired and now goes about 635 f.p.s. with the Crosman Premiers that are no longer available in .20 caliber. I say they’re not available, but 14.3-grain Benjamin diabolos are Crosman Premiers in everything but name.
The Blue and Silver Streaks are small, lightweight air rifles that pack more power than their size indicates. Only PCPs have greater power in packages of similar size. The overall length is just over 36.5 inches and the weight of my rifle is an ounce and a fraction less than 5 lbs. Yet the pull is a decent 13.25-inches and the barrel is 19-3/8-inches long. That’s adult dimensions in a pint-sized package. I think size and weight were some of the reasons Edith liked the rifle.
Pump effort starts low and builds into the final couple strokes that are in the 35-lb. region. Beeman used to add up the effort for each of 8 pump strokes to demonstrate how much work shooters had to do. That’s like counting the times your bicycle pedals go around for a one-mile trip. In my mind, the figure is without merit. You either will or will not like to pump the gun for each shot — it’s not something that, when measured or put on a spreadsheet, has any real meaning.
I like pumping because it slows everything down. It’s relaxing — like shooting a flintlock rifle. But if you like an AR, a multi-pump may not be for you.
I will test the Blue Streak in the usual fashion for you, so accuracy will get defined. But I’ll say right now that a Blue Streak is not as accurate as what can be obtained from some of the better spring rifles. I’m referring to rifles like the RWS 34.
The rocker safety Blue and Silver Streaks have triggers that were designed before the lawyers were allowed to voice an opinion. They aren’t light, but they are nice for what they are — simple trigger mechanisms. And they can be made nicer with simple fixes like removing the slop in all the parts.
Besides the thumb safety, the rear sight is the second-quirkiest thing about the Blue Streak. It does adjust in both directions, but the vertical is just a simple screw and the horizontal is a weird arrangement of a push-pull set of opposed screws.
The rear adjusts sideways by loosening one screw and tightening the other (arrows).
That’s the start of my report on the Sheridan Blue Streak and also my memorial to Edith. Some of you readers may remember all the help she gave you when you first got started reading this blog. We will miss that, because I certainly can’t do it. I need as much help as any of you.
She’s gone, but the things she touched are better for it. I know I am!