by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The questions
  • Some answers
  • The risk
  • The good news
  • Sheridan Blue Streak
  • The point

I received this comment to an older blog yesterday.

The questions

“Am I alone in wanting a Single-Stroke Pneumatic with more authority than a 10 meter or Canada-friendly option [power/velocity]? The gun I want the most would be:

1. A side lever or forearm lever single stroke pneumatic, to eliminate the need for the artillery hold and the kick of a springer and the barrel alignment issues of a break barrel.

2. Powerful enough to hunt small game humanely. Since the current 10 meter offerings seem to top out at under 5 ft./lbs. I would probably buy anything over 2/3 the muzzle energy and of comparable quality and price to the Diana 350 Magnum or Gamo Whisper Fusion 1300 springers I currently own.

3. A multi pump pneumatic built for a stronger person might be viable. But, I hate pumping a gun 10 times for 6-7 fpe. How about something that gets 15 fpe with 3 or 4 pumps?

I wonder if the reason no one makes my gun is the potential of it dieseling and possibly even breaking the operator’s arm or jaw during charging. Would a gun with an axial slide forearm pump overcome this concern if it exists?

Do you have any insight to the availability of a manual stroke pneumatic that outperforms 10 meter and 12g CO2 guns in the field? But, Not one that takes 7-10 strokes to do it?”

Some answers

Wow. That’s a lot of questions. I will try to address most of them in today’s report. Let’s start with the first one.

1. A sidelever or forearm lever single stroke pneumatic with decent power. Let’s say that is at least 12 to 15 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

This has been done — several times. But the physics involved have always dictated that the design of the gun had to compress a lot more air than most single strokes do — a lot more! The Parker-Hale Dragon was one such gun that I reported on in July of 2008. It was a 12 foot-pound single-stroke pneumatic air rifle that required a 135-degree stroke of the pump lever to charge the gun. Several steps were needed to prepared the action to receive the charge, with the result that the gun operated like a science experiment, rather than an air rifle you could use.

A You Tube video from December of 2016 shows a new release of a single stroke that develops up to almost 20 foot-pounds of energy in .22 caliber. It seems to use a variant of the butterfly pump system that was first shown on the Benjamin 392 pump-assist rifle. I tested that one for you in December, 2016. You may recall that I showed you a video of me pumping that rifle. It’s at the end of a different report, so scroll down to watch it.

So, apparently what you want is possible and it looks like someone is doing something about it. Will you be willing to pay for it when it gets here?

3. Multi-pumps can be more powerful with fewer pump strokes, too. I owned one back in the 1990s. It was a Daystate Sportsman Mark II that generated almost 25 foot-pounds with 5 pump strokes of a sidelever. It was very accurate. The pump strokes took 55 to 77 pounds of effort. That might be reduced by a clever linkage that uses a sliding fulcrum in the same fashion as the pump assist Benjamin, but still, the cost of the rifle was around $1,000 in today’s money — maybe more. Are you willing to pay? Apparently not many people were, fbecause that rifle never really succeeded in the market. The current FX Independence that retails for $1,700 is another high-tech multi-pump that sells to a few key buyers, but it’s hardly a mainstay.

But let’s look at this more closely. Just because all the guns like this to date have cost a lot of money does not mean they have to. Any company that can produce a Benjamin Marauder that retails for $500 can certainly make one of these for close to the same price. There must be some other reason airgun makers aren’t making them.

They aren’t making them because they don’t sell! That’s the reason. Whenever I hear someone say, “Everybody wants…” I think to myself, there is a person who doesn’t know the market very well. The airgun market is very fickle. If you build one certain gun, people will stand around with their hands in their pockets and say, “If only they would just ….., I would buy one today!” Well, the truth is, they won’t buy one today and so they don’t, and that is what limits the airgun market. Whatever you build, they will want something different.

Everybody may want something, but only a few are willing to buy it when it becomes available. Right now there is an ongoing discussion on this blog among several readers that Crosman should invest the time, money and effort to turn the Benjamin Marauder into a multi-pump pneumatic. Could they do it? Yes — without question. Would it sell? That’s the question nobody can answer. The people who want it say it will sell, but they are risking nothing to say that. Crosman, on the other hand, has to risk the time and cost to develop the gun, plus be willing to not develop other products that might sell well (because they are tying up their resources on this project).

The risk

Here is the dilemma. If company G is making a lot of money selling the same airguns under different names on the basis of advertising and high velocity claims, why would company C want to invent something that has never been seen before? Both companies make the majority of their sales and revenue in discount store sales. Making guns “everybody wants” is a dangerous and risky sideline for them. However, every once in awhile one of those risky projects is undertaken and is a home run. It allows them to enter a piece of the market they may not have been in before, or it expands their share of a segment they are already in.

The downside of home runs are the companies that no longer exist. Many of them were just generally mismanaged, but some of them made airguns that “everybody” wanted.

The good news

Everything I’ve said to this point sounds like a lecture about not wanting more than already exists. But that’s not the end of the discussion. These circumstances have set up the potential for someone to succeed in a major way. That You Tube video shows what it looks like when someone takes a chance. Let’s look at one more.

Sheridan Blue Streak

In 1947 the Sheridan Pneumatic was born. It was later called the Model A and today we call it the Supergrade, but in 1947 it was just the Sheridan Pneumatic. It retailed for $56.50, which doesn’t seem so bad today, but at the time the popular Winchester model 61 slide action .22 rifle was Selling for just $44.50. A single shot air rifle was priced $12 more than a very popular slide action .22! That’s more than 25 percent higher.

Sheridan ad
This ad is from the 1948 Shooter’s Bible. It’s the first ad for the Supergrade. Notice the price.

Winchester 61 ad
A Winchester model 61 is selling in the same catalog for $12 less than the Sheridan!

When Sheridan revised the Model A (within a very short timeframe), in an attempt to lower the cost, they did so through sharpening their manufacturing processes and shaving some of the materials. The model B Sporter retailed for $35, but it still wasn’t enough. Sales were even worse!

Then, in a stroke of what was later shown to be genius, Sheridan looked at the entire design and made huge changes. The costly bronze barrel and pump tube were changed to cheaper red brass, and the complex double ball valve was exchanged for a more conventional pneumatic valve design. Power remained the same, accuracy stayed the same and the wood parts were still made of walnut, but the retail price of the new rifle was cut to $19.95. The model C Sheridan Blue Streak was a better design that gave up nothing except style and preserved the Sheridan company for another 60+ years.

The point

The point of today’s report is this — it is possible for better airguns to be made. There are plenty of areas for vast improvements. But each of them involves taking a risk. Sometimes a company will take that risk and, if they know their market well, it can pay off. But the downside of risk can be ruin, and no company wants that.