BSA Meteor Mark I: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSA Meteor
BSA Meteor Mark I.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Tune in a Tube
  • Baseline the Meteor
  • A second tune?
  • Disassembly
  • The compressor
  • What did I find?
  • The rest of the powerplant
  • Offset transfer port
  • The pivot point
  • What’s next?

Ho ho, hi ho; inside the gun we go! Today’s report brings a lot of topics together on one stage.

Tune in a Tube

One reason I’m doing this is because reader RidgeRunner has been touting Tune in a Tube — or at least I think he’s one. This is getting confusing, so please bear with me. Tune in a Tube is a tube of viscous grease that comes in an applicator that makes it easy to squirt the grease into the spring gun powerplant. It’s a type of lube tune that is simple and supposewd to be very easy to do. I want to find out if it’s a product that does what it says, because if it is there are quite a few spring guns that could benefit from it.

Tune in a Tube
Tune in a Tube looks simple and straightforward. Let’s hope it works!

Baseline the Meteor

Before I start working on the Meteor Mark 1 though, I thought it would be nice to establish a baseline of performance. I’ve done some of that already. In Part 2 of this report I tested the velocity. We know my rifle is very powerful for a Meteor and that it is also very buzzy. We don’t know anything about the accuracy yet, but as I have said many times, a tune does not affect the accuracy. Maybe it makes a gun more pleasant to shoot, but that’s all.

Today we’ll have a look at the parts of the Mark 1 powerplant, so we know the condition of the gun before I apply the grease. After we look at them I will assemble the gun again and apply Tune in a Tube — following the directions to the letter. I have to tell you that I have already read them and they are both simple and straightforward. The manufacturer doesn’t make any outlandish claims. So far, I am impressed by the product.

Then I will test the rifle after Tune in a Tube has been applied and give you a complete report. Except for accuracy. I won’t test that just yet.

A second tune?

After that I may tear the rifle apart again, clean it and do a more thorough tune; one like I did for the other Meteor in that 9-part series. I must tell you that this Mark 1 is quite a bit different than that Mark IV Super Meteor. We may be comparing apples to oranges. I’l know more after we look inside this gun today.

So that’s the plan. At least to this point. Let’s get started. Oh, and I will be using the new Sun Optics mainspring compressor that I reviewed for you yesterday to take the gun apart. If there is anything noteworthy there, I will mention it.

Disassembly

Before I started I read Part 2 of the Mark IV report. That was most helpful! It cut the time to do the job to a minimum and also saved some embarrassing missteps. The Mark IV and Mark I are different in some ways, but they come apart the same way.

The first step was to install the barreled action in the mainspring compressor. That took 5 minutes of adjustments. Then I was ready to begin.

I will cut to the chase and tell you to read that Part 2 I just linked to, because everything I did to this rifle is in that report. It took me 15 minutes to completely disassemble the rifle — including photography! With this new mainspring compressor the job is a snap, though I will now note some things about the compressor.

The compressor

It would have been better to have been able to use the new pusher block that has the pin, because my plastic pusher block walked around the headstock cup a lot. Also, I do lament the lack of a locating bump in the center of the tailstock to anchor the muzzle. Other than that, the new compressor works beautifully. The bridge bolts work a lot better than the leather belt I have to use with my older B-Square compressor. I’m going to look for some plastic cap nuts for my bolts.

What did I find?

Can you say “dry as a bone?” And rusty! I don’t think this rifle has ever been apart. The mainspring appears to be a stock one and it’s still very straight. There is some wear on the coils from rubbing over the years, but overall it’s in fine condition.

mainspring
The spring is straight and dry. The trigger parts are dry and gritty.

I was surprised to see that the construction methods of the Mark 1 piston, i.e. folded metal that’s welded top and bottom, are identical to the Mark IV Super Meteor piston I worked on. That one was just broken in several places from a lot of abuse. This one seems to be fine and intact, but dirty and rusty!

piston top
This is the top of the piston, where the seal attaches. The spot-weld is visible.

piston bottom
The bottom of the piston may or may not be welded. If it is, it’s a very precise spot-weld. It may just be punched into shape.

rusty piston
The piston body is rusty!

The piston seal is leather and did have a little oil in it when I took the gun apart. It needs a lot more and I think I will oil the rifle through the transfer port after the rifle is assembled — just as I would if I never took it apart.

piston head
The piston seal is leather and looks good. It has a little oil, but needs more. A good cleaning is also in store — but after the Tune in a Tube.

piston head attachment
The piston head is keyed into the top of the piston. And that’s not an optical illusion. The piston top is really out of round. The head is larger than the piston and that’s all that’s necessary to keep the seal centered in the compression chamber. This is mid-century economical engineering at its best!

The rest of the powerplant

The trigger parts are dirty and gritty and desperately need a cleaning. The mating sear surfaces seem to be shaped well and they seem to be properly case-hardened. I can tell that because they are not overly worn from use. I will NOT stone them! Case-hardening is too easy to remove with a stone — I don’t care how careful you are. Besides — I already told you this trigger is very nice. I will lubricate it with some moly grease, and I’ll also oil all the pivots.

Offset transfer port

I peeked inside the compression chamber to confirm that the walls are smooth, which they are. I also wanted to make sure there wasn’t any excessive dirt or smashed pellets that dropped through the air transfer port. People will sometimes load a .22-caliber pellet rifle with .177 pellets and you’ll find them at the end of the compression chamber, smashed into a wad. Thankfully the chamber was clean and clear. But what’s this? The air transfer port isn’t in the center of the chamber!

I guess I never paid attention to the Mark IV, but the transfer port has to be offset to align with the rear of the barrel. According to airgun tuners, that lowers the rifle’s power potential just a little. Nothing to do about it — I’m just pointing it out.

offset transfer port
From the front the offset transfer port is obvious.

The pivot point

Remember that I had to repair the barrel pivot joint on my Mark IV? Well, this one seems fine, even though it’s the same construction. It’s dry, so I will moly it after this first test. For now I’ll just oil it.

pivot point
The pivot point is plain and has no washers. It needs some moly, but it seems tight. Look at that detent that has popped out!

What’s next?

The rifle is assembled just as it was before. I will oil the pistol seal and the pivot point, but the next big thing will be applying the Tune in an Tube. The next report will be immediately following that, and I will give you velocities to compare as well as my impressions of the smoothness of the shot cycle.

I will definitely tear this rifle down a second time, to clean out all the rust. Yes, I left it all in the gun, except for a little that flaked off when I touched the parts. It felt like fingernails scratching a chalkboard, putting those dirty, rusty parts back in the gun, but how else am I going to test Tune in a Tube fairly?


Mainspring compressor

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

mainspring compressor
Mainspring compressor.

This report covers:

  • Can you make a mainspring compressor?
  • BSA Meteor
  • Description
  • Bridge
  • Headstock
  • Tailstock
  • Legs
  • General

Today I’m going to show you a mainspring compressor that I will use in tomorrow’s blog. I was asked this week by a new reader to show the tools needed to safely disassemble a spring-piston airgun. Here is the request.

Sir,
Great web sight!  As a “newbee” to air rifles, I find it a wealth of info!  Having a hard time trying to start a new post in the blog forum..  Specifically, I’m looking to find out if anyone makes proper tools for the correct disassembly of the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1500.. Looking for a proper end cap removal tool, and a spring compressor.  I was an armorer for years in LE, with an incredible amount of proper tools for “firearms”.  Just want to make sure that maybe there’s a place to purchase proper tools for air rifles out there.

Thanks…
samoneshotout

I didn’t answer him that gas springs, which the Crosman/Benjamin Nitrop Piston is, usually do not require mainspring compressors, because I knew this blog was forthcoming. I wanted to work it in, so I told him I would answer him in a blog later in the week.

The truth is, gas springs — and, yes, that is the correct generic name for all of them, be they Nitro Pistons, gas rams, gas struts or anything else — are usually under no preload when they are in the rifle. If there is any preload (spring under pressure when it is in the gun) the travel is no more than 1/2 inch or so. So usually you can just drift out the pin or remove the bolt that holds the end cap in the spring tube and the gas spring drops out as a unit. Don’t disassemble a gun unless you know for certain how it comes apart, but this is what you will usually find.

We are here today to learn about a mainspring compressor that can be used to disassemble almost any spring-piston airgun that has a conventional coiled steel mainspring. I have been using a compressor like this one for over a decade and in fact I helped with its development. This compressor was invented by B-Square, under the direction of the company owner, Dan Bechtel. I consulted with him during its development and the result was a tool that hundreds of airgunners now own. But to be honest, mainspring compressors are not very exciting, so airgunners tend not to buy them. They tell themselves that can make one if need be, and then I hear all the whining and crying when the day finally dawns that they really do need one.

Can you make a mainspring compressor?

Yes, you can make a mainspring compressor. In fact building a mainspring compressor is so easy that hundreds of them have been made by shooters over the years. Some guys have even made them for resale, but every one of those guys stopped when they discovered how poorly mainspring compressors sell. A mainspring compressor is like a good pair of pliers. When you need a pair almost nothing else will suffice, but when you don’t need them you never even think of them. No, I will go even farther. To a person about to disassemble a spring gun a mainspring compressor is like a bench vise. It is absolutely essential.

Don’t get me wrong — airguns can be disassembled without using a compressor. Some guns, like the Air Arms TX200 Mark III, are so easy to disassemble that a compressor is never used. But they are the exception. Most spring guns do require a compressor if you want to be safe and have no more than two hands.

BSA Meteor

Tomorrow I’m going to use this new compressor to disassemble my new BSA Meteor Mark I for you. This is so you can see what the innards look like before I start the Tune in a Tube test. That test will be followed by a real tune, so we can compare the results after each tune. If you want to know more about how a BSA Meteor comes apart, read the 9-part report.

Description

This new compressor is sold by Sun Optics. It is fully adjustable and is designed to disassemble the barreled actions of spring rifles and pistols that have been removed from the stock. The parts that contain the action (called the tailstock and the bridge) adjust up and down stainless steel tubes which is what all the holes are for. Sun Optics has even made some improvements over the compressor B-Square made. The B-Square compressor used steel conduit for the legs instead of tubing. The holes in the legs of the Sun Optics compressor are all chamfered for smoother adjustability. I noticed the difference right away.

chamfered holes
The new stainless steel tubes (top) have chamferred adjustment holes. I had to grind the burrs around the holes on the old compressor myself (bottom).

Bridge

The bridge is the part of the compressor that keepss the spring tube from flexing to one side when the mainspring is no longer trapped. This flexing is the second biggest problem you’ll have when you disassemble spring guns. Controlling the end cap is the only task that’s more important.

The bridge has screws that adjust to center the spring tube in line with both the headstock and the tailstock. That gives you the most working room around the barreled action.

On the old compressor the bolts on the bridge were all left raw. I protect the finish of my guns by wrapping the gun’s spring tube with a heavy leather belt that the screws cannot scratch through. The new compressor has plastic tips on each of these screws.

bridge
The tips of all the bridge adjustment bolts have plastic caps. No more leather belt to keep from scratching the spring tube!

Headstock

One feature of the original compressor that made it the best on the market is the rotating headstock. It allows you to rotate the barreled action from side to side while still maintaining pressure on the end cap and therefore on the mainspring. This allows the positioning of the tube so pins can be aligned and/or drifted out. This is the key to the compressor, because many spring gun actions are held together by pins. The new compressor headstock rotates in the same way as the old one.

The new compressor headstock also has a hole in the center for a pin to a part the old compressor didn’t have. It’s a pusher block that’s used to disassemble certain spring gun actions, notably BSAs. Unfortunately this block is slightly too wide to fit inside my Meteor spring tube, so I will have to use the plastic pusher block I made when I disassembled my other Meteor. But if I owned this compressor I could easily shave the new block down to fit.

I will also have to enlarge the hole in the headstock, because the pin in the pusher block is too large to fit. It does fit the hole in the tailstock, but I don’t know anyone who would use it that way.

headstock
The headstock turns to allow access to different parts of the gun’s spring tube. This new headstock has a hole (arrow) for the pin of a new pusher block.

headstock with block
New aluminum pusher block comes with the new compressor. The pin at its base is too large to fit the hole in the headstock, so some drilling will be needed.

Tailstock

The tailstock is where the muzzle of the action rests. It adjusts along the two steel rods to fit the gun you are working on and give the headstock screw lots of room to travel. It also has a hole for the pusher block, though I cannot think of a reason to use it that way.

The new tailstock also lacks the raised bump the old tailstock had. That was inserted into the muzzle of the barrel, to keep it from walking when the action was under pressure.

tailstock
The tailstock adjusts for the length of the gun. Hole is for the pusher block pin, but I don’t know how it would be used on the tailstock. Gone is the raised bump the old compressor had to keep the barrel from walking.

Legs

The new compressor can work like the old one, or you have the option of installing 4 longer bolts that also serve as legs. Two fit the headstock and two fit the tailstock. The compressor then stands up away from the work table. This gives even more access to the spring tube.

legs
The longer bolts that serve as legs have been installed. See how they elevate the entire compressor?

General

The compressor comes with no instructions. Like a bench vise, you should know how to use it if you own it. That doesn’t mean you automatically have to know how to disassemble every spring gun mechanism. I doubt if anyone knows that. But spring guns belong to different groups that have similar features. With experience the worker learns what to do with any action to take it apart. The compressor is just a tool for a specific set of tasks within that body of work.

Is it “worth” it? This compressor retails for about $200. Is it worth the price? Pyramyd Air does not carry the compressor at this time, so you will have to go directly to Sun Optics. Pyramyd Air probably remembers how people complained about paying half the price of this one for the old compressor.

The thing is, if you work on a lot of spring guns a compressor of some sort is good to have. This is the best one I have seen, and I have seen dozens of different ones, besides designing and building one of my own that I documented in the R1 book.

For a few workers this compressor is worth the price. And you had better get one now, because who knows how long they will be available?

Tomorrow I’ll disassemble the BSA Meteor Mark I using this compressor. If anything stands out as I do that I will be sure to include it in the report for you.


Air Venturi Rockin’ Rat target: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Rockin' Rat
Rockin’ Rat.

This report covers:

  • Knocked down
  • Together in 3 minutes!
  • Instructions
  • Three minutes and done!
  • Now what?
  • Directions
  • Why the Rockin’ Rat?

Say hello to my little friend! I saw the Air Venturi Rockin’Rat target at the 2016 Pyramyd Air Cup and asked to have one sent for evaluation. This is the kind of product I would like to write about more, but how can I make a story out of it? This one looks so interesting that I’m going to try.

Knocked down

The target comes knocked down in a lithographed box. As a man, those words “some assembly required” started screaming in my head. That’s what took the fun out of many Christmas mornings for me when my family was young. Everybody else was passed out from their sugar comas, listening to carols, while I looked at sheets of papertelling me to “press tab A into flange B”. My most memorable moment was when I bought a youth bicycle wrapped in plastic shrink wrap, and all I had to do was straighten the handlebars and tighten one nut. Hurrah!

But the Rockin’ Rat is more complex than that. Today I’m going to fool with tabs, flanges and fasteners. The box weighs 3 pounds, so you just know there’s a hornet’s nest of parts inside!

Together in 3 minutes!

Oh, phooey! This thing is so easy to assemble that I had it completely together in less time than I’ve spent complaining about it. But I have a report to write, so I’m going to drag things out in excruciating detail. First the parts.

Rockin' Rat parts
The parts. Not too many, but there’s that bag of fasteners that no man wants to see!

And of course there is a spanner for all the fasteners. Or, if you are an American, you can call it a wrench, because that’s what it really is. It’s thin and small and you think it can’t possibly do the job, but like I said — three minutes and the whole thing was together. The nuts have lockwashers on one side, so you tighten the bolts from the head side, which is the outside of the target.

Instructions

As a man I do not read instructions. Women don’t understand because they were never taught that in school. Some men missed that class, as well. They are the nerdy ones who always do things right the first time. How are they ever going to learn if they never make mistakes? As for me — I am a perpetual student! But the Rockin’ Rat is just too simple to fool anyone. Read the instructions and you’ll see.

Rockin' Rat instructions
This is not how to write instructions for anything that must be assembled! There are supposed to be three pages of gobbledygook words and weird names for all the parts. And there should also be a few fasteners missing! But when there are only 4 nuts and 4 bolts, it’s hard to be confusing. At least they called the wrench a spanner.

Three minutes and done!

I was all revved up to give you a long sob story about how difficult this assembly is, but I finished as soon as I started. It takes me almost as long to assemble a field-stripped Garand.

They even sent the crossbar with the nuts already in place. And their washers are attached to those nuts, so they cannot be misplaced. I don’t think the Air Venturi target designers went to design school. Either that or one of them is a former Ikea employee.

Rockin' Rat crossbar
The nuts were already on the crossbar. Loosen the outer one (that contains the washer) and slip the bar into both sides of the target. This is really too simple.

And then the target was together! It was as if I was watching a television show about a guy assembling a car engine and they speeded up the film. Only it wasn’t speeded up and I was the one doing it. It just didn’t take long!

Rockin' Rat assembled
Like it or not, my Rockin’Rat was together in three minutes!

Now what?

I had hoped for a lengthy struggle with this target, so you could all praise me for hanging in there, but this was about as hard as closing a zipper! So, I thought I would take it out to its natural habitat and show you what it looks like.

Rockin' Rat quartering
Looking from the left front, you see how the target will rock when the face is hit.

Rockin' Rat straight
This is how the target will appear to the shooter. The object is to hit either one of the yellow paddles.

When you see the target as it will be shot you see that when the paddles are hit they will move more than the rest of the target. But if the face of the target is hit (the body of the rat), the whole target will rock, alerting you to the miss. That may not seem like a big deal when the target is freshly painted like it is here, but after sebveral hundred pellet impacts, you will see why the Rockin’Rat is such a good idea. Anyone who has shot field target will get it straight away.

Directions

The directions for use are on the box. If you don’t understand how the target works by looking at it, they are just as straightforward as the assembly instructions.

Rockin' Rat directions
If the target isn’t obvious, these instructions are on the box.

Why the Rocking’ Rat?

A lot of you tell me you would like to shoot field target. Well, the Rockin’Rat is a type of field target. But it’s one that doesn’t need to be reset after every hit. It takes care of itself by the way it works. You can set it out in the field and just shoot at it all day if you want to. There are no strings to break, no paddles to jam and you don’t even need to repaint it if you don’t want to. Just set it and forget it — except for shooting it, of course. This will be the best twenty bucks you ever spent on your hobby!

The instructions say to keep the guns you shoot at this target to under 22 foot-pounds. I’m going to revise that downward a bit. I’d keep them at 15 foot-pounds or less. More than that and the metal will bend with time.

I made this a Part 1 because I intend coming back and shooting this target for you. I know — it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!


Air Venturi Air Bolt: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Air Venturi Air Bolts
Air Venturi Air Bolts turn a .50 caliber big bore into an air bow.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Broadhead performance
  • How fast do broadheads fly?
  • Can a broadhead be stopped?
  • How to load broadheads
  • Robin Hood!
  • What about the Wing Shot?
  • Wing Shot accuracy
  • Summary

This is a continuation of the report I started last week. Although it’s titled Part 3, think of it as Part 2, because I’m finishing things I didn’t tell you last week.

Broadhead performance

We looked at the performance of the Air Bolt from Air Venturi with target points. Now let’s see what they do with broadheads. Last week I showed you those lethal points that open as they penetrate the target. When I was researching this report I heard all sorts of claims for them. First, that they penetrate so deeply that no arrow stop in the world can stop one — they will pass right through. Also, they are heavier and will drop a couple inches more as they fly. Also, they are less accurate because they have those razor blades hanging out in the breeze as they fly. And finally they are so sharp that there is no way to attach them to an arrow without a wrench.

How fast do broadheads fly?

I did chronograph one broadhead immediately following a fill. Where the target points flew 492 f.p.s. from the Dragon Claw following a fill, a broadhead went out at 445 f.p.s. Yes, they do fly slower.

Can a broadhead be stopped?

This was the one that really scared me, because everyone I polled said the same thing — arrows tipped with broadheads cannot be stopped by an arrow stop. I told you last time that I bought the best stop the archery store had, but it was only rated for target points at 400 f.p.s. But we have already seen that is stopped target points flying a good deal faster than that. How would a broadhead do?

Air Venturi Air Bolts stop
This is the arrow stop I used for this test. It has stopped hundreds of arrows so far and not one has passed through. All 6 sides are usable, and I imagine it’s good for several thousand shots.

Yes, a broadhead can be stopped by this bag. They do penetrate deeper but they are also easier to remove. I think the people telling me they can’t be stopped are using inferior bags.

Air Venturi Air Bolts broadhead stopped
The arrow on the left has the broadhead. It went much deeper than the arrows with the target points, but it was stopped and did come out of the bag easily.

Broadheads do drop a couple inches lower at 35 yards, but that’s because of their lower initial velocity. The little testing I’ve done shows them to be just as accurate as target points.

How to load broadheads

Loading broadheads from the muzzle is simple and safe. Just don’t attach them until after the bolt is loaded in the gun. They screw in, so after the bolt is in place, just screw one down into the tip. I wouldn’t say it is completely safe and a head wrench would be a good idea. I plan to get one! Buyt be careful and you’ll do fine. If you are accident prone, use a wrench at all times!

Air Venturi Air Bolts arrow loaded
Here is an arrow with a target tip loaded. In place of the target tip, screw in a broadhead. Remove the knurled cap for more access.

Rossi Morreale, the host of American Airgunner, showed me a neat trick about loading. Remove the knurled muzzle cap and get more access for loading. That will really help with broadheads!

Okay, that’s it for the broadheads. Let’s look at some other things about the Air Bolt.

Robin Hood!

I loaned the target and my arrows to Rossi Morreale at the Texas Airgun Show, so he could sight in his rifle for a pig he was going to the next day. I don’t know how many arrows he shot, but one of them was a Robin Hood. Naturally it was Rossi who did it and not me. Still, it does demonstrate the inherent accuracy of the Air Bolt.

Air Venturi Air Bolts Robin Hood
This arrow hit the base of another arrow, sliding the rubber o-ring of the first arrow all the way up the shaft of arrow number two! You can even see some of the base of the first arrow still caught under the o-ring. A perfect Robin Hood.

What about the Wing Shot?

In Part 1 I mentioned the Air Bolt also works in the Wing Shot air shotgun. So I also tried that. Since the wing Shot is a smoothbore, the Air Bolts go out even faster. Here are some shots wirh target points.

Shot…………………….Velocity
1………………………….520
2………………………….533
3………………………….584
4………………………….502

As you can see, the arrows do go faster from the Wing Shot, but there is also one less shot because the air reservoir is smaller. Still, no hunter should need more than 3 shots for one animal. But what about accuracy?

Wing Shot accuracy

Pyramyd Air tells me they are getting better accuracy at close ranges with the Wing Shot than with the Dragon Claw. But after 30 yards the Dragon Claw takes over.

The Wing Shot I was sent to test came without the dovetail base, so I wasn’t able to attach an optical sight. I could have removed the base from the Dragon Claw and probably made it work, but since I was still testing it, I left the Wing Shot without a rear sight. So I moved up to 25 yards and shot using the front bead, only.

The aluminum head of the Air Bolt does not fit into the muzzle of the Wing Shot, so I shot with it sticking out of the muzzle. Even then I was able to put four arrows into a handspan of about 5 inches at 25 yards.

Air Venturi Air Bolts shotgun target
The high arrow on the right was fired from 10 yards, to make sure the gun was on target. The 4 arrows below were shot on a fresh fill from 25 yards offhand with a monopod rest.

The arrows from the Wing Shot dropped a lot more than those shot from the Dragon Claw. An optical sight would correct that, plus tighten the group a lot!

Air Venturi Air Bolts Tom shooting
The UTG Monopod made offhand shooting a breeze!

Summary

The Air Venturi Air Bolt has no competition in the world of air bows. For no additional expense your big bore rifle or shotgun is turned into an accurate arrow launcher that is currently the most powerful one on the market.

In all my testing that included hundreds of shots, I never lost an arrow. One arrow was fired into a railroad tie at 100 yards by another shooter at the Texas Airgun Show and could not be pulled out! Rossi’s Robin Hood destroyed a second arrow and I lost one while pulling it too aggressively from the target bag. But I saw where each and every arrow went.

Would I buy a set of Air Bolts? Certainly — if I wanted an air bow and also a big bore air rifle or shotgun. This is a combination that has no rival. As an air bow it cannot be beat!


Sheridan Supergrade: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sheridan Supergrade

A history of airguns

Sheridan model A, also called the Supergrade.

This report covers:

  • What is a Supergrade?
  • First sight
  • Only .22 caliber airgun Sheridan made
  • My impressions before owning one
  • Materials
  • Must be cocked to accept a charge
  • Power and accuracy
  • I no longer own a Supergrade

For many years I lusted after the iconic Sheridan model A, which is known among airgunners as the Supergrade. It was the first Sheridan air rifle to be produced and production commenced in 1947 — the year of my birth.

What is a Supergrade?

I was unaware of the existence this fine multi-pump pneumatic at the time when it was being sold, which ran from 1948 until sometime in the middle 1950s. Production ended in 1953, but stores continued to sell guns until their stock ran out. Supergrades sold for $56.50 in 1948, when Winchester model 61 slide-action rifle were selling for $44.50. Today a 61 that’s excellent in the box will bring $1,800-2,500, and a Supergrade in the same shape brings even more. This is one air rifle that has appreciated in value. According to the book, <i>Know Your SHERIDAN Rifles & Pistols</i> by Ronald E. Elbe, 2130 model As were produced.

A Supergrade in working condition with some finish, and one that has not been hacked up in any way, will fetch $1,200-1,500 all day long. Unfortunately there are a lot of Supergrades that have been “customized” by former owners, and have been reduced to parts guns. Nobody wants a scope on a Supergrade!

I only became aware of the rifle in 1976, while serving with the Army in Germany. I bought volume 1 of Airgun Digest, by Robert Beeman, and my journey with the Supergrade began.

First sight

It wasn’t until my first airgun show in Winston-Salem in 1993 that I actually saw one up close for the first time. When I did, two different thoughts surfaced. First, the rifle is surprisingly small in person. It’s no larger than a Blue Streak. It’s bulkier, and the wood is shaped better, but the overall size of the rifle is about the same as a Blue Streak. However, the Supergrade is way beyond the Blue Streak in appearance. It has a real raised cheekpiece and all the wood is shaped better than the wood on the Blue and Silver Streaks. The rear sight was always a peep sight that sort of defines the airgun. And the large cast aluminum receiver really stands out from the gun, when contrasted with the Streak receiver that’s just s the pump tube.

Sheridan Supergrade cheekpiece
Supergrade cheekpieces were raised.

The bolt handle is another place where the Supergrade stands apart from the Streaks. It is comparatively long and curved down, where the first Streak bolt were short and straight. Both of them operate the same though, cocking the rifle when lifted and pulled all the way back..

Sheridan Supergrade receiver
The receiver is a large part made from cast aluminum. Note the long bolt handle.

Only .22 caliber airgun Sheridan made

During the prototype period, the men who developed the Sheridan, E.H. Wackerhager and Rorert Kraus, used at least one .22 caliber barrel before standardizing on .20 caliber for the gun. There is at least one Supergrade in .22 caliber, if not more. There is no advantage to .22 caliber, but to a collector such a rifle would be quite valuable.

My impressions before owning one

You guys know how you build expectations of what an airgun will be like before you actually try one. That’s what I did with my Supergrade. As far as I was concerned, the Supergrade was the most fabulous airgun ever produced and nothing else could compare.

Sheridan used to show ads of their rifles penetrating up to one inch of wood with variable numbers of pump strokes, and at the time read those ads I was still shooting BB guns that bounced off any wooden surface. I was as yet unaware of the Supergrade model that was out of production by that time, so I assumed the ads referred to the Blue and Silver Streaks that were selling. No matter, though, because the Supergrade and Blue Streak are almost equal in power. If there is a slight edge it goes to the Supergrade, but the difference isn’t that great.

Materials

The Supergrade barrels and pump tubes were made from phosphor bronze, where the same parts in the Streaks were made from red brass. Knowing nothing about metallurgy, just the names of those two different metals make the Supergrade sound better. All Sheridan rifles had walnut stocks up to the end of production and sometimes the Streaks can have highly figured stock wood. I never saw a Supergrade whose stock had anything but plain grain, so this was the one area where the Streaks were actually better.

Must be cocked to accept a charge

One thing really surprised me when I finally got my Supergrade and that was the fact that it has to be cocked or the gun won’t accept a charge. This is not that unusual and simply relates to how the firing valve it set up to operate. It’s neither good nor bad — just different.

Power and accuracy

I know you want to know everything right now, and I’m going to give it all to you. Just not today. When I got my Supergrade all I had to go on was the writeup in Smith’s Gas, Air, and Spring guns of the World. Smith was able to get the Sheridan pellet up to 712 f.p.s. on 10 pump strokes. Well, the Sheridan pellet was all they had in .20 caliber in 1956 when Smith wrote his book and the “chronograph” he used for his test was a room full of electronic equipment that was run by a technician in the H.P. White Laboratories. A hundred-dollar chronograph today has much more computational power and precision than was in that entire room!

That peep sight gives the impression of extreme accuracy, and I will reveal in a future report what my tests showed. I envisioned that phosphor-bronze rifle barrel capable of infinite accuracy before testing one the first time. This should be a real eye-opener for you readers!

I no longer own a Supergrade

Alas, Edith and I fell on hard times when The Airgun Letter ended and we had to refund all those unfulfilled subscriptions. I had to generate some cash fast so I sold my Whiscombe, my R1 and my Supergrade. I have since bought back both the Whiscombe and the R1, but the Supergrade is still missing. So this repoort is based on the testing I did years ago.

However, there possibly might be a good substitute. A friend who is local just acquired a Supergrade and has asked me if I would like to test it. I jumped at the chance! He will evaluate his new rifle when it arrives and, if it is in good condition, I might actually be able to do an updated test for you. We shall see!


Crosman 600 air pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Crosman 600
Crosman 600 CO2 pellet pistol.

A history of airguns

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • First up — Crosman Premiers
  • Hobbys are next
  • Adjusted the sights
  • JSB Exact RS pellets
  • Where does that leave us?
  • Conclusion

tom at bench

Me shooting a Crosman 600 CO2 pellet pistol at the Pyramyd Air Cup. Photo courtesy of Bryan Lever.

Today is accuracy day for the Crosman 600 semiautomatic pellet pistol. Before I get to that, however, let me tell you about my experience with one at the Pyramyd Air Cup a few weeks ago. Bryan Lever brought one for me to try and we were virtually alone on the range while the competition was ongoing. We both got to shoot as much as we wanted.

Bryan’s 600 is much like mine except it had a knob on the safety switch that I had never seen before. It turns out this knob is supposed to be there, but it’s one of the first things to fall off. It does make operating the safety a lot easier because you can both feel and see where it is.

Crosman 600 safety
Sorry about the poor quality but this is an enlargement of an image off the web. That button is small and is missing on most of the 600s out there.

Bryan’s pistol performed much like the one I am testing for you. We got 3 magazines of 10 rounds each, but the final few shots were very weak. So it really got about the same 25 shots per CO2 cartridge that I’m saying mine gets. His gun was shooting very high at 15 yards, but we held off the spinners and managed to connect. That led me to wonder where my sights would be in today’s test. Let’s see.

The test

I shot from 10 meters with the pistol rested across a sandbag. Since the 600 is a gas gun, there is little recoil and vibration, so resting on a bag will work.

I shot 5 shots per target at first, hoping to find one or more pellets to test further. I had no idea of what to expect, as far as accuracy was concerned, because the 600 pistol varies so much from gun to gun.

First up — Crosman Premiers

The first pellet I tested was the Crosman Premier. In the 600’s day we shot the “flying ashcan” pellets that Crosman made, and I have always tried Premiers in every vintage Crosman gun that I test. With some airgun makers it isn’t as important to match the gun with the maker’s pellets, but with Crosman I’ve found it a good place to start.

Crosman 600 ashcan and Premier
Two oxidized Crosman “flying ashcan” pellets on the left and Premier pellets on the right.

The target shows 5 pellets in 1.632-inches at 10 meters. Three of the shots are clustered in a tight 0.396-inch group, but I don’t attach much value to it. It just shows why 5 shots are more realistic than 3.

Crosman 600 Premier group
Five Crosman Premier pellets went into 1.632-inches at 10 meters. I don’t think I will try these again in this pistol.

Hobbys are next

Next up were RWS Hobby pellets. When I saw that 5 of them went into 0.636-inches at 10 meters, I knew this was the pellet for this gun. I would return and try 10 of them.

Crosman 600 Hobby group
Five RWS Hobby pellets made this 0.636-inch group at 10 meters. This is the pellet to beat!

Adjusted the sights

You have noticed that the pellets are hitting the target low and to the right. My aim point is 6 o’clock on the black bull, but I want the pellets to climb into the center of the bull. So I adjusted the sights. A small flat-blade screwdriver is all it took. Remember to move the rear sight in the same direction you want the pellet to move. I didn’t know how far to move the notch, so I guessed.

JSB Exact RS pellets

Next up were JSB Exact RS pellets. These showed such promise during the velocity test, but alas, they are not that accurate in this pistol. Five of them grouped in 1.583-inches at 10 meters. The only good thing was my sight adjustments appear to have been about right. But the pellets are not worth pursuing.

Crosman 600 JSB RS group
Five JSB Exact RS pellets went into 1.583-inches at 10 meters. Not the pellet for this pistol.

Where does that leave us?

At this point we have to ask whether this 600 is accurate or not. If it is not accurate you can always put a different barrel on it, though it’s not exactly a simple thing to do. But the machining isn’t too challenging, so you can end up with a gun that’s accurate and smooth-shooting, if that’s what you want.

For me, though, the Hobby group of 5 is enticing enough to try a 10-shot group — just to see what I get. So, that’s what I did. Now that the sights have been adjusted the pellets hit higher on the target. Nine of them landed in a 1.294-inch group, but a lone stray landed off to the left, opening the group to 1.515-inches between centers. Given that I was shooting all of this with my bad right eye, I am satisfied with the accuracy the way it is.

Crosman 600 Hobby group
Ten RWS Hobby pellets made a 1.515-inch group, with 9 pellets going into 1.294-inches. This will do for me.

Conclusion

The Crosman 600 semiautomatic pellet pistol is an all-time classic. It is one of the few truly semiautomatic pistols that are not blowback, and it features an exceptional trigger. The sights are adjustable and the gun can be very reasonably accurate with the right pellets.

The grip is form-fitted to your hand and allows the pistol to be pointed as naturally as a Luger. The pellet feeding of my personal test pistol is flawless.

Like the other classic airguns, the 600 is a pistol you should try to experience, if not own.


Why can’t I shoot better ?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Why can’t I shoot better?
  • B-I-L speaks
  • Plateaus
  • What could make me advance?
  • Better equipment?
  • The end

This is a question I am asked from time to time. Why can’t I shoot better? Recently several readers asked the question and my brother-in-law, Bob, asked it privately. I told everyone I would address this issue, and today is the day.

Why can’t I shoot better?

This is a question that’s not unlike the one we all asked as children, namely ” Why can’t I grow any taller?” Of course today you recognize that you were growing all the time, but the progress was so slow it was impossible to see. Someone, probably your mom, may have marked your height from time to time with a pencil mark on the woodwork of a door frame. As a kid you didn’t think too much about that process, but as time passed you had to admit the marks kept going up.

Now you’re an adult and you’re in the same position with your shooting, only mom can’t help. Your progress isn’t measured by marks on a wall, but by scores in a record book. That’s assuming you keep records. If you don’t keep records you will never be able to see progress. I would guess that most of you asking this question don’t keep records. You remember your scores. The problem with that is your remembery isn’t as good as you think it is. Most of ours isn’t. Either we only remember the best things, like Pollyanna, or we remember the worst — like most of the rest of us.

Until you keep accurate records you will never know if you are getting any better. In fact, keeping records tells you what you must do to get better, as in, “I have shot 514 and 519 out of 600 in the last two matches, but today I shot a 528! If I keep that up, my average is going to increase.”

I can talk to a serious 10-meter pistol competitor and ask how well he shoots and his answer goes like this, “Well, I’m averaging 8.9 points a shot in practice, which is a 534 (600 possible points for a men’s match), but in competition my average drops to 8.7 points (522/600). I need to work on my concentration during the matches.”

If I ask a non-competitor how well he shoots he might say, “I’m pretty good. I keep them all in the black most of the time and I get at least five 10s in every match.” In other words, he hasn’t got a clue how well he shoots.

Now, before I get a lot of comments about how you only shoot for enjoyment and your score is incidental, please remember the title of this report. If you really want to shoot better you have to know how well you shoot now. Otherwise the title would be How to enjoy yourself while shooting. I’m talking to the guys who think there is a cap to how far they can improve as a shooter. I’m telling them there isn’t — at least not a cap they will ever reach.

B-I-L speaks

My brother-in-law, Bob said this about his shooting, “The great golfer, Lee Trevino, as a teenager, used to gamble with other golfers by using a Dr. Pepper glass bottle and broomstick as a “club” and usually won the bet. He was a “natural” and played well no matter what equipment he used.” Bob was lamenting his seeming lack of progress in the field of shooting.

I will admit there are natural talents in every field of endeavor, including shooting. I’ve told you guys how Crystal Ackley outshot a national airgun silhouette champion with his own rifle on American Airgunner in the first season. Viewers never saw it because it was edited out. She also outshot me with a pistol, and I think that did make it to the air (naturally). Guys — I’m pretty good with a pistol. She did it while I was supposed to be teaching her how to shoot! Talk about an ungrateful student!

Seriously, it’s better to have talent for something than to not. But just because you don’t have a lot of talent does not mean you can’t practice until you are very good — even great! I used to “coach” a man who lived several states away in 10-meter pistol. He had a hard time breaking 400 out of 600 when we started. Within a year he was averaging over 500 out of 600, but then things slowed down. It took him another year to get up to a 530 point average. That’s 100 points advancement in the first year and 30 points in the second. What does that mean for his future?

Plateaus

The stopping places along the road to improvement are called plateaus. How long we remain at one depends on many things, but the principal blame always comes back to us. Let me tell you about one of mine to illustrate.

I was competing in national matches run by the NRA many years ago and my average was creeping up steadily. I went from an average 505 points per match when I started to an average 534 points per match in about a year of competition.

I stayed at that average for more than a year. That was my plateau. Then something happened during training. I discovered what the experts mean when they say the front sight is the most important thing in sighting, and I learned how to focus on it. When I got that lesson internalized, my average practice score jumped over 540, with 545 being my all-time high in practice. I was one of those people who do as well in matches as they do in practice, so I looked forward to advancing from the top of the Sharpshooter class (85.0 to 89.99 points out of 100 possible, which is 510 to 539.94 points out of a possible 600) to Expert (90 to 94.99 points out of 100 possible). That 540/600 would have bumped me up to the bottom of the Expert class.

But things in my personal life arose at that time and I stopped competing rather suddenly. So I never made it to the Expert class. But I was about to! In all it took me about three years of shooting to go from novice to that level.

What could make me advance?

This question always arises. Can anything help me advance, when I reach a plateau? Do I have to remain where I am or is there a way to break through? I always thought a better target pistol would have added some points to my score. But I knew there were shooters with pistols even cruder than mine who were out-shooting me. So in reality, the pistol was not the problem.

More dry-firing was what pushed me into the next class — or would have, if I had continued to compete. I was spending an hour each day dry-firing at a target. Top competitors spend up to five times that long, from what I have learned. It was during a dry-fire session that I discovered the importance of the front sight.

Better equipment?

Does better equipment really help? Part of what started this discussion among you readers was that whomptydoodle rifle Al Otter shot at the Pyramyd Air Cup a few weeks ago (see it in the Pyramyd Air Cup report Part 1). Several readers asked if Al won the match. No, he didn’t. I shot with Al for several years at the DIFTA field target club in Maryland and we were about equivalent, with him having a slight edge over me. Today I’m sure he is better, not because of his equipment but because of all the shooting he does.

Al and I both shot with another guy who was famous for spending a fortune buying the latest and greatest equipment. At one time I think he owned 5 field target rifles worth over $2,000 each. And that was back in the late ‘90s. He had the best stuff, but his scores were always in the middle of the pack.

Another guy who shot with us only owned one rifle — an HW77K with a 6-power scope. That guy usually placed in the top 3 spots and nearly always won the spring gun honors. Oh, did I mention that he only shot offhand? I have seen him hit 4 for 4 one-inch kill zones at 50 yards — OFFHAND!

The end

You can pursue the latest fads if you want, but don’t expect them to make you a better shooter. I will close with a joke I heard back in the 1960s. A tourist in New York City needed directions to a concert for which he had tickets. So he asked a beatnik who was playing bongos on a subway landing, “Can you please tell me how to get to Carnagie Hall?”

The beatnik responded, “Practice man. Practice.”