Diana 240 Classic:Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 240 Classic
Diana 240 Classic.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • The test
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Trigger
  • Tune in a Tube
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • RWS Superdomes
  • Evaluation

Today I’ll shoot the Diana 240 Classic at 25 yards. This is a delightful little air rifle that’s perfect for those who want something lightweight, easy to cock and accurate.

The test

I’m shooting the rifle rested directly on a sandbag at 25 yards, using the open sights that came on it. You might want to read Part 3 again, as I shot 10 shots into a smaller group than 5 shots. That’s a one-in-a-thousand occurrance, but it did happen. And that was how I selected the first pellet to try at 25 yards.

JSB Exact RS

First to be tested was the JSB Exact RS pellet. I got a stunning 0.428-inch ten-shot group at 10 meters last time, so I thought things would continue at 25 yards. Alas, they didn’t. Ten RS pellets went into a very open 1.311-inch group. I was surprised, because I had expected a 0.90-inch group from this pellet.

Diana 240 25 yards RS group
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 1.311-inches at 25 yards from the Diana 240 Classic.

Trigger

I must comment on the trigger of this rifle. It’s light and crisp. It may not be a Rekord, but it sure is nice!

Tune in a Tube

You may recall in Part 3 I squirted some Tune in a Tube into the mainspring. That calmed a slight buzz and now the 240 feels wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about that product.

Air Arms Falcon pellets

Next I tried some Air Arms Falcon pellets. Falcons are often the best in lower-powered air rifles. This time, though, the results were both stunning and confusing. Ten pellets went into 1.85-inches at 25 yards. That’s hardly encouraging. However, 6 of those pellets are in a tight group that measures 0.383-inches! What’s happening?

This is why I shoot 10-shot groups, rather than 5-shot groups. I have no idea what’s going on with this group, but it sure makes me want to scope this little rifle and try again!

Diana 240 25 yards Falcon group
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets made this 1.85-inch group at 25 yards. Six shots went into a tight 0.383-inches and I would like to know why.

RWS Superdomes

For the final pellet I tried some RWS Superdomes. Ten went into an open group measuring 1.612-inches between centers. I would normally say it isn’t the pellet for the 240, but I think I’ll wait to see how it does when it’s scoped.

Diana 240 25 yards Superdome group
Ten RWS Superdome pellets went into this open 1.612-inch group at 25 yards.

Evaluation

The Diana 240 Classic is a fun little air rifle to shoot. And, if you were plinking at cans at 25 yards, you probably would have connected with every shot. I don’t think these results are terrible — they just look bad because they are on paper.

I certainly want to scope this rifle and try again at 25 yards. That 6-shot group of Falcons has me intrigued.


Umarex Embark breakbarrel spring rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Unarex Embark
Umarex Embark air rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The first shot
  • My test methodology
  • SAR Journey pellets
  • Sig Ballistic Match Alloy pellets
  • Switch to lead pellets
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • Evaluation so far
  • Last target
  • Summary

Today is accuracy day and I’m looking forward to it. Not only do I get to test the Embark air rifle that Pyramyd Air now sells, by the way, I also get to test the lead-free Journey pellet that was developed especially for the Student Air Rifle program (SAR).

While talking to Jake Hindman, the president of SAR, I discovered that they developed their own official target, rather than using a 10-meter rifle or pistol target. He told me they made the scoring rings large, which made me think of the 10-meter pistol target, but when I looked at the targets in their instructor’s guide, I saw the bulls are similar in size to 10-meter air rifle targets. The width of the scoring rings just needs to be enlarged for SAR.

The first shot

SAR uses Shoot-N-C targets with a 6-inch bull for the first 10 shots a student fires. They feel the student needs to gain confidence in what they have just been taught, plus the reactive target allows the instructor to see what is happening from the firing line, without making the range cold to walk forward. Once a student is confident shooting the rifle and is on paper, they switch to the official target.

My test methodology

I’m writing this part of the report for newer readers, plus anyone from SAR who might read it. I shoot 10 shots from a rest to determine the accuracy potential of most airguns. Five-shot groups are often seen in gun articles, but not in competition, where accuracy is concerned. Five shots just give an approximation of the accuracy of a gun. Ten shots are statistically valid with a high degree of confidence.

I don’t care whether my shots hit the center of the bull at which I’m aiming. Of course a target shooter does care, for that is how the scores are determined. My focus is on the size of the group, because I can always adjust the sights to get the airgun hitting where I’m aiming.

I shoot off a rest, and with lower-powered air rifles like the Embark, I rest the rifle stock directly on the sandbag. Since SAR shoots at either 10 yards (30 feet) or 10 meters (33 feet), I tested at 10 meters. I believe by mixing yards and meters they are allowing for the variability of the spaces different schools may have. With higher-powered rifles I use the artillery hold that isolates the airgun from the sandbag, but I didn’t think that would be necessary with the Embark. Let’s get started.

SAR Journey pellets

The first pellet I tested was the official lead-free Journey pellet provided by SAR. I used a 6 o’clock hold on a 10-meter air rifle target. SAR also teaches this sight picture. When I saw that the first pellet hit the bull in the 8-ring, I was satisfied and fired the next 9 rounds without looking again.

Ten official SAR lead-free pellets landed in a group that measured 0.701-inches between centers at 10 meters. I think that is phenomenal — both for a lead-free pellet and also for an inexpensive spring-piston breakbarrel rifle. If you understand the SAR program you will agree this is all the accuracy that’s needed.

Unarex Embark SAR pellet target
Ten SAR Journey lead-free pellets landed in a group measuring 0.701-inches between centers at 10 meters.

Sig Ballistic Match Alloy pellets

The second pellet I tested was the Sig Ballistic Alloy Match pellet. Because the SAR program requires the use of their own official lead-free pellet I wanted to put it up against a lead-free pellet that I believe leads the pack. Ten Sig pellets made a group that measures 0.848-inches between centers at 10 meters. That’s correct, the SAR pellet beat the Sig pellet by a comfortable margin! I was surprised, but it tells me the SAR pellet is well-suited to the Embark rifle, despite being very loose in the breech. And, because I shot 10 shots, I don’t have to keep shooting groups. SAR pellets win.

Unarex Embark Sig pellet target
Ten Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets made a 0.848-inch group at 10 meters. Pay no attention to where they hit the target — the group is larger and, by adjusting the sights, the SAR pellet would score higher.

Switch to lead pellets

Most of you readers will never compete in a SAR match. You are interested in how accurate this rifle is with world-class pellets. I’m not going to test all of them for you because that’s not the thrust of this report, but I did shoot a group with H&N Finale Match Light pellets with 4.50mm heads. If they go into a group that’s half the size of what the SAR pellets shot, we know that the rifle prefers lead pellets.

Ten Finale Match pellets made a group measuring 0.775-inches between centers. That is very telling, because the SAR lead-free pellets did better. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a lead pellet that might outshoot them, but it does show that SAR pellets can hold their own!

Unarex Embark Finale Match pellet target
Ten H&N Finale Match pellets with 4.50mm heads made a 0.775-inch group at 10 meters.

Air Arms Falcons

I was asked by readers to test the Embark with a domed pellet, as well. Domed pellets cannot be used in target shooting because they are too difficult to score. Also, in the case of the Embark, only the official SAR Journey pellet can be used in competition.

The Falcon pellet from Air Arms is often very accurate in a lower-powered air rifle, so I thought I’d give it a try. Ten of them went into a group measuring 0.543-inches between centers at 10 meters. And 9 of them are in 0.337-inches. Yes — that is a screamer!

Unarex Embark Falcon pellet target
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets with 4.52mm heads made a 0.543-inch group at 10 meters, with 9 going into just 0.337-inches.

Evaluation so far

The Embark is a great little shooter and the official SAR lead-free pellet is well-suited to it. I also felt that the Embark’s trigger pull was no hinderance to accuracy. All things considered, this is a very nice package!

But I wanted to do one more thing. I had mentioned to Jake Hindman that he might look at 10-meter pistol targets for his program. They already exist and are being printed on quality target paper that’s much easier to score. So I wanted to try a group on one of those targets, as well. For this test I selected the official SAR Journey pellet.

Last target

On the 10-meter pistol target, 10 Journey pellets landed in a group measuring 0.654-inches between centers.

Unarex Embark SAR pellet pistol target
The last 10 SAR Journey pellets were fired at a 10-meter pistol target. Ten went into 0.654-inches. This was the best group of Journey pellets and the second-best target of the test!

Summary

Now we know a lot about the Embark air rifle and its lead-free target pellet. We know they are accurate because we have two ten-meter 10-shot groups measuring 0.701 and o.654-inches between centers. For those new to this blog that would make any 5-shot groups in the 0.4 to 0.5-inches range.

The Embark has sights that are well-suited to target shooting. Sure, a rear peep sight would make it easier to train new shooters, but it would also add a large amount to the cost of the rifle.

The weight of the rifle, plus the cocking effort are both suited to young shooters. And the trigger pull is as good as can be expected at this price.

All things considered, the Umarex Embark air rifle and the SAR Journey lead-free pellet are both well-suited to the SAR program.


The Beeman C1 — Part 3 The rifle that created the artillery hold

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
A history of airguns

This is an oldie from 2009 that I recycled because I was out of town, attending to my sister several weeks ago. Today we look at Part 3.


Despite the size of this photo, the C1 is a small rifle. The western look was unique in its day. The scope is a 2-7X32 BSA.

Today, I’ll test the Beeman C1 carbine for accuracy. You will remember that it was shooting on the slow side when I tested it in Part 2. That shouldn’t affect accuracy, though. You will also remember that the C1 has a single-stage trigger that many of you say you prefer. This one came from the factory rough and creepy but broke in to be smooth and sweet, if not exactly crisp.

My rifle is scoped with a BSA 2-7×32 scope. The C1 has no scope stop, so the rear ring is butted against the end of the 11mm dovetails, which end at the end cap. It’s not a good way to stop a scope, but it’s all this Webley had.

You may recall that when I got this rifle it had the scope mounted. I always wonder when I get one like that if the scope was just thrown on for looks or perhaps it lived on the rifle for many years and is sighted-in to a gnat’s eyelash. I’ve never found one of the latter, and this one certainly never knew this scope before I started shooting it. It was off by about a foot at 23 yards! What I’m saying is people don’t often sell sighted-in rifles.

I painstakingly adjusted the scope until it was hitting the point of aim–sort of. Actually, the story is much more interesting, so why don’t I tell you?

To make a long story short…
This is the first pellet rifle I have not been able to shoot well. It simply refused all my attempts to shoot a group no matter what I did. I tried a total of seven different pellets over a period of several hours and nothing worked. I tried holding it tight, loose and not at all. I shot it off the flat of my palm, the backs of my fingers and straight off the sandbag–nothing worked.

 

Best group of the session was this horrible showing. Notice, though, that three pellets are touching. While they aren’t even a great group for this close, they do show that the rifle has promise.
 

 

This is what the average group looked like.
I cleaned the barrel and encountered the tightest barrel I’ve ever seen. The brass brush was so bent after cleaning that I threw it away–the first time I’ve ever done that. But even after that cleaning, the rifle remained inaccurate.

I checked the screws and they were all as tight as they would go. I wiggled the scope and it was tight. While many shooters blame their scopes for inaccuracy, I have found that it’s seldom them that causes massive inaccuracy. This scope may still be bad, but I’ll not blame it yet.

Then I wiggled the muzzle. To my surprise it rocked from side to side a quarter of an inch! Then I cocked the rifle and positioned the barrel halfway up (closed). It would not remain in position on its own. The baseblock is loose in the forks. No way is that rifle going to be accurate until that’s fixed. I’ll examine some other things before testing the rifle again, too.

By this time, I’d spent the better part of a day on this rifle, so I decided to call it quits and make my report. There’s more work ahead before this problem is resolved, so we will have a part 4.

Editor’s note: There never was a Part 4. I was so discouraged by that rifle that I got rid of it. I know the story would beb better if I had persisted and finally won, but sometimes you just have to walk away.


FWB 124 air rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

FWB 124
This FWB 124 Deluxe is not the exact gun I’m writing about, but it is the same model.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Cocking is so easy!
  • Shot one — Premier lites
  • RWS Hobbys
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Expanded test
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • RWS Superdomes
  • The dime
  • Summary

Today I start looking at the accuracy of the FWB 124 I picked up at this year’s Findlay airgun show. I had already shot it on the set of “American Airgunner” several times, but this will be the first formal test where I can actually see how it’s doing.

The test

It’s 10 shots per pellet at 10 meters off a rest. I used the artillery hold because the FWB 124 is the poster-child of spring-piston air rifles that lunge forward when they fire.

For the benefit of our newer readers, the artillery hold is how we hold spring-piston air rifles so they will shoot their nest. Here is an article about how to do it and here is a video.

I held the rifle on the flat of my off hand, just in front of the trigger guard. And that hand was resting on a sandbag.

Cocking is so easy!

I had forgotten there was ever a time when we didn’t need to slap the muzzle to break open the barrel of a breakbarrel air rifle, but with the 124 you don’t have to. The ball bearing breech detent holds the barrel shut, yet opens easily. And cocking, which in Part 2 was measured at just 18 pounds of effort, makes this rifle feel like it was made for kids.

124 breech
The spring-loaded ball bearing holds the breech tight, yet makes it butter-smooth to open.

Shot one — Premier lites

The first shot at the 10-meter air rifle target with Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets struck just beneath the bull. I was using a 6 o’clock hold — aiming at the bull where 6 o’clock would be is the black bull was a clock face. To move the pellet to the center of the bull I slid the rear sight elevator forward about halfway and raised the rear notch. Shot number two landed close to the 10-ring. Sight-in was over.

Now that I knew my pellets were hitting where I wanted I shot 4 more before looking again. These five were tight enough that I finished the group with another five.

Crosman Premier lite target
At ten meters 10 Ten Crosman Premier lite pellets went into a group that measures 0.447-inches between centers. The shot at the bottom was the first shot before the sights were adjusted.

That was a great beginning! I had forgotten just how nice a 124 can be. This one performs beautifully and has none of the usual 124 spring buzz. And the trigger is very nice, now that I’m shooting for accuracy.

RWS Hobbys

The second pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. Nine of them grouped together but one was a little outside the main group. The overall group measures 0.609-inches between centers. Nine are in 0.492-inches

Hobby target
Ten RWS Hobbys went into 0.609-inches at 10 meters.

JSB Exact RS

Next up were JSB Exact RS pellets. Ten went into 0.483-inches at 10 meters. This pellet cracked with each shot. I don’t know what it was because they were certainly traveling nowhere near the sound barrier. Maybe it just got to the target quicker and that was what I heard.

JSB RS target
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.483-inches at 10 meters.

Expanded test

I normally test accuracy with three different pellets. Since I shoot 10-shot groups, this gives me a pretty god idea of whether the rifle/pistol is accurate or not. It doesn’t tell the absolute limit of accuracy unless one of the pellets happens to be the best in that airgun — it just gives a general idea of how accurate it might be.

Well, this 124 is a special rifle. It’s special because it’s a 124 and also because I plan to keep this one. Of all of the 124s I’ve ever owned, this is the one that will be for sale at my estate sale. I just don’t want to be without a 124 ever again, and this one has the best tune of any I’ve tested. So, I decided to shoot it a little more.

Air Arms Falcon pellets

This domed lightweight is a pellet that often proves the best — especially if the rifle/pistol is an accurate one. And from what we have seen already, this one is.

Ten Falcon pellets went into 0.474-inches at 10 meters. That’s the second-smallest group of the test, and very close to the best one!

Falcon target
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets went into 0.474-inches at 10 meters. It’s the second-smallest group of the test.

RWS Superdomes

The last pellets I tested were RWS Superdomes. They did not do as well as the other four. Ten of them went into a vertical group that measures 0.727-inches between centers. If you look carefully you’ll see there are two distinct groups. It appears like 6 pellets went into the larger group below and the other 4 went high. I don’t know what to make of that, other than Superdomes may not be the best for this rifle.

Superdome target
Ten RWS Superdome pellets made this vertical group at 10 meters. It measures 0.727-inches between centers

The dime

I know someone is going to notice that the dime I used for size comparison in the photos isn’t my usual one. What’s the deal? Well, I recently had the cataracts removed from both eyes and my near vision isn’t what it used to be. I could see that this was a dime when I picked it up from my desk drawer, but I couldn’t see that it wasn’t the right one — the one I wrote about several years ago. I still have the other dime and will use it in the future.

Summary

There you have it. I suspected this 124 was a shooter and I think this first test proves it. I plan to back up to 25 yards next and shoot with open sights again. Then I’ll scope the rifle and shoot a final test at 25 yards. Those two reports might take a while to happen because I have a lot more old airguns to show you.

The Feinwerkbau 124 is an all-time classic air rifle. Even today it holds its own with the best of them. It’s the sort of airgun that made this sport what it is!


Answering GrandpaDan — the biggest blog ever!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

    • GrandpaDan
    • BB’s response
    • What can you do?
    • Velocity is not at fault
    • GrandpaDan continues
    • Staying with the brand name doesn’t always work
    • Back to GrandpaDan
    • BB responds
    • The solution?
    • GrandpaDan concludes
    • BB sums up
    • Geo791
    • BB’s last word to GrandpaDan

You readers tell me you like it when I write about general topics. So, when I get a question from a reader, I try to answer him in this blog. Today’s report will be the biggest report I’ve ever written, because I’m going to include much of what the new reader has asked as the lead-in to my answers. I’ve also included another reader’s comment from the experimentation he has done to achieve more-or-less what the new reader is asking.

Here we go.

The new reader’s handle is GrandpaDan, and he signed-into the blog this past Monday. Here is his situation.

GrandpaDan

“I’ve been reading and researching airguns for a while. This grows out of frustration with my Gamo Hunter 440 in .22 cal. that I bought about 4 years ago to kill chipmunks. That year we were overrun with the critters. I had been running a trap-and-release program and had trapped 21 chipmunks when the state game folk told me that was illegal. Oh well, I’ll just get a spring gun and shoot the pests.

“Just to allay any concerns, I was not dumping the trapped chipmunks on neighbors. We live in a rural area, about 10 miles from town and are surrounded by active farms and state forests and hunting land. Mine was a humane relocation program for both man and beast.

“More recently squirrels have become a nuisance. I’ve managed to do away with a couple but that has been more by luck than any ability that I have to predict the shot placement. Who knew that airguns would be so finicky? Pellet choice, shooting hold, lots of break-in shooting, and more. WOW! Back to the Pyramyd Air Blog.”

BB’s response

GrandpaDan’s situation is much the same as that of many new airgunners. He buys an airgun to do a job — in this case eradicate chipmunks. He doesn’t want to learn everything there is to know about an airgun, any more than someone buying a claw hammer wants to learn how it was made and the history of claw hammers. He wants to do a certain job that, before buying the airgun, seemed reasonable to him. Now he discovers he has entered a strange new world where he has to learn other things to make his new “tool” do what it is supposed to do.

Because many people come into airguns this way — thinking that the guns are exactly what they imagine, and not realizing there will be things like the artillery hold, pellet head sizes and loopy trajectories to learn. This happens all the time. I jumped on this opportunity because it allows me to address the problem from both sides — before and after it happens.

GrandpaDan — it would have been better for you to have bought a different air rifle than the Gamo 440 Hunter. The 440 is accurate and powerful, but it is very twitchy in its operation. A better rifle would have been something less powerful and easier to shoot accurately. The Diana 34P would have been a good choice and the Air Arms TX200 Mark III would have been the best choice. Here is a rule to go by — if you buy a .22-caliber spring-piston rifle for pest elimination, make certain it shoots at 900 f.p.s. or less. All that’s needed is about 700 f.p.s. with a medium-weight pellet to kill the animals you are after, with squirrels being the toughest.

What can you do?

The best thing for you to do at this point is to de-tune your rifle. Make it shoot slower. That will calm it down and start giving you the accuracy it’s capable of. If you must have all the power it has, then you need to shoot about 10,000 shots to gain the experience you need to be as accurate as you want to be. Yes, the Gamo 440 Hunter is an accurate air rifle, but it takes a huge amount of skill to realize its potential. It’s like playing a Stradivarius — you don’t want to learn on one!

You probably don’t want to take your rifle apart. The easiest way to de-tune your rifle is to squirt the mainspring full of something viscous like Tune in a Tube grease. Enough of that stuff can slow your gun down 150 f.p.s., or so, with the side benefit of it becoming dead-smooth.

You can also slow the gun down with heavy pellets. Try H&N Baracuda Magnums for both accuracy and slower velocities. Remember Baracuda Magnums come in head sizes ranging from 5.50mm to 5.53mm, so try them all to find the most accurate one for your rifle.

Velocity is not at fault

I’m not saying that too much velocity makes an airgun inaccurate, because velocity by itself doesn’t hurt accuracy. But too much power in a spring-piston powerplant makes any gun very sensitive to things most guns aren’t bothered by — things like the hold. That’s why those mega-magnum spring guns are so hard to shoot well.

GrandpaDan continues

“Before I bought my Gamo 440, I had done some research, including reading some (obviously, not enough) of the Pyramid Blogs. I learned that 22 cal was a better choice for a humane kill. I also learned that not just any scope would survive a spring gun recoil. I bought a Leapers UTG airgun rated 3×9 AO scope and mounted it carefully. Since I was buying a Gamo airgun, I bought 5 tins of Gamo Hunter pellets as well. Reading now, those probably were not the best choice, but what did I know?”

Staying with the brand name doesn’t always work

GrandpaDan learned the hard way that staying with the same brand for both the air rifle and the pellets isn’t always foolproof. Sometimes the company that sells the pellets doesn’t make them. Beeman is an example of that. Beeman makes nothing. They buy everything from outside sources. But the higher-end Beeman guns and pellets are made by quality manufacturers like Weihrauch and H&N, so buying a Beeman brand can be a reassuring thing. Just don’t use brand names as your buying habit, because it doesn’t always work that way. GrandpaDan knows that now.

But congrats on the UTG scope. That was the right choice.

Back to GrandpaDan

“At this point I’ve been chasing the point of impact around the target with the scope settings. Shoot 5 shots adjust scope, shoot 5, adjust scope and on, and on… Shooting a fair amount but not with any improvement in repeatable accuracy.

“Recently read a blog by BB that explained the internal mechanics of a scope sight. I think that I may have done what BB described, having backed the settings so far out that the tube and reticle is floating with each shot.

“If that is the condition of my scope, then I need to get “control” of the reticle movement. I’ve read of “centering” a scope sight by backing out both settings out fully, then turning them in fully, while counting the turns, then backing out half way. I think that should stabilize the reticle, though I’m sure that the POA and POI will be far apart. Any thoughts about that?

“Read a series of three articles by BB regarding accuracy in which he pointed out that a “true” barrel is not a given. If I understand the article correctly, a “true” barrel is less rather more likely. So rather than just parking the scope on the gun and assuming that it and the barrel are in correct alignment, I bought a 22 cal laser bore sighter. I am thinking to try to shim the scope to get close to the laser dot as a place to re-start my quest for accuracy. I also bought a tin of the JSB Test pellets.”

BB responds

Okay, let me simplify this. You are chasing the point of impact around by adjusting the scope? That screams just one thing to me — that the scope is adjusted too high in elevation (or too far to the right) and the erector tube is now “floating” on top of the relaxed erector tube return spring. That’s the spring that’s inside the scope that moves the reticle (inside the erector tube) when the knobs on the turret are adjusted. Adjust too high or too far to the right and all the tension will come off that spring. After that, your erector tube will bounce everywhere when the vibration of firing jars it. You will be chasing the point of impact that seems to change at will.

The solution?

If your rifle has open sights, take the scope off and shoot some groups with the open sights. If those groups are small but with a scope mounted they are large, your erector tube is floating. The solution, 99 times out of 100, is to jack up the rear of the scope, either by shimming or with an adjustable scope mount. That allows you to crank the elevation down and get some tension in the erector tube return spring.

If you don’t have open sights on your airgun, crank in a LOT of down elevation — maybe 60-80 clicks — into your scope’s adjustments. Then on a large piece of paper, shoot a group. This groups will be very far below the aim point, but if your groups are also tight you know the problem was caused by a floating erector tube. The scope needs to be shimmed again. Go back and jack up the rear of the scope as described above.

GrandpaDan concludes

“At this point I just want to be able to dispatch marauding squirrels. I think that Gunfun1 said, “I like to plink accurately.” So while my primary goal is not punching super tight groups of holes in paper targets, I think that is the path along which I will need to travel in order to find the kind of accuracy that I want.

“I welcome any suggestions, recommendations from the forum. There are forum contributors who have decades of experience and significant mechanical skills (and workshops). I’m hoping to short-cut some of those years by hitch-hiking on the generous sharing of the experience of others.
Are there things that are must-do to improve the gun other than selling it and buying a much better quality airgun?”
GrandpaDan

BB sums up

GrandpaDan is not interested in becoming a diehard airgunner. He just wants the airgun he owns to work for him. If his refrigerator conked out or got too cold he would not look into taking extension courses in refrigeration. He just wants things to work. I don’t think he is asking too much. But in the world of spring-piston airguns, things are not always straighforward. To GrandpaDan, we airgunners sound like we are telling him to put boiling hot water into his ice cube trays when he wants to make ice!

GrandpaDan wants to cut through all the lore and insider stuff we talk about and just get his air rifle to hit what he aims at. We don’t know whether he is a natural shot or a guy who thinks shooting means spraying and praying, but when we read his comments it becomes clear that he at least has given a lot of thought to what he is doing. He seems to be a careful guy. Enter reader Geo791.

Geo791

Geo791 is another newer reader who has been communicating with several other readers in the comment section of the blog over the past several weeks. He has been immersing himself in the same kind of experiments GrandpaDan has been reading about. Yesterday he posted this huge comment.

“Geo791
May 23, 2017 at 11:39 pm Edit

“B.B

I posted this in response to twotalon’s suggestions yesterday and wondered what your thoughts are also. The JSB Exact 15.89 pellets are fitting loosely in the breech of my RWS34 P .22. If I don’t seat the pellet deep into the breech until it engages the rifling, the pellet will fall out if I de-cock the rifle.

“twotalon,
Yes, the RWS 34P combo came with a Hawke 3-9x50AO IR scope with an RWS one piece lock down mount. I removed the scope today and will do some work on it to make sure it is centered optically in it’s range. Then I will attempt some groups with the open sights.

“Okay, I inserted a JSB 15.89 gr pellet into the breech and then used my cleaning rod to push it on through. For the first 6″ or so, the pellet pushed fairly easily. Then there was very little resistance until it reached within about 1″ to 2″ from the muzzle. Then there was a moderate amount of resistance towards the end of the muzzle, almost like the barrel was choked. Then I viewed the pellet with my jeweler’s eyepiece and there were no perceivable marks on the head from the rifling. The skirt had some slight marks and the skirt was crushed down to the same O.D. as the head.

“I thought the resistance felt strange going from slight resistance, to no resistance, and then back to moderate resistance. It’s like the bore is barrel-shaped (no pun intended) on the inside, meaning it’s larger in the center than on either end. I would say it was on the loose side but not bumpy or rough.

“Next I did a pellet analysis. I use my 1″ micrometer and jeweler’s eyepiece to carefully measure the head and skirt on 20 JSB 15.89 gr pellets. These are the ones that are fitting loosely in the breech.

“The pellets were very consistent. The heads measured 5.49mm to 5.50mm on a 20-piece sample. The skirts measured 5.69mm to 5.72mm on the same sample. Seems like the head size is a little small to me.

“I measured a sample of CPHP [Crosman Premier hollowpoint] pellets 14.3 gr. Heads measured 5.50mm to 5.54mm with one pc at 5.38mm (that’s probably a flyer). Skirts measured 5.61mm to 5.64 mm on (10) pc sample.

“I measured some left over RWS Superdomes I had enough for a (10) pc sample. Head measured 5.51mm on all (10) pcs, very consistent. Skirt measured 5.73mm to 5.74mm on (10) pcs.

“I also noticed that the RWS and the JSB pellets were of a much higher quality. They were more consistent and roundness was better than the Crosman Premier HPs which have a noticeable parting line from the molding process [Editor’s note — Crosman Premiers are swaged cold, not cast. Molding implies a cast pellet.]. I had some domed pellets and they are the same crude looking pellet. I was a quality inspector for forty years at a hydraulic pump division so I know quality.

“After I removed the scope from the rifle I cleaned the barrel again with JB bore paste and a brass brush as per Tom Gaylord’s instructions. I was advised to clean the barrel again after having shot the CPHP pellets through it and then re-season with the JSB pellets. That’s all I had time to accomplish today. Welcome your thoughts on my findings. You have at least lead me down a different path than most of the other posters.

BB’s last word to GrandpaDan

Now you know that you aren’t the only one who is chasing accuracy in his spring-piston air rifle. And Geo791 is shooting the RWS Diana 34P I recommended to you!

Let’s see if we can get your Gamo 440 Hunter to shoot well for you. Gamo makes a good barrel and they also make good airguns. The more powerful ones like your 440 Hunter are very sensitive to shoot, but when you learn what they like they can be wonderful.

One thing I can tell you is that Gamo triggers wear in, not out. After 3,000-4,000 shots your trigger should become very nice and light.

I’m sure our many readers have suggestions for you. One last thing, GrandpaDan. All of us all have partially used tins of pellets that we discovered did not work in our airguns. You may have to sort though some pellets to find what works best. But you probably do the same thing at the grocery store when you buy your food every week. That’s just how life works.


Umarex Embark breakbarrel spring rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Unarex Embark
Umarex Embark air rifle.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • New development
  • RWS Hobby
  • Journey pellets
  • One more pellet test
  • Firing behavior
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far

New development

Last time I told you that the Embark air rifle was not available from Pyramyd Air. Well, that has changed. As of this week you can buy the Embark from Pyramyd Air. They list it as a youth rifle, which it certainly is, but I have a feeling a lot of adults are going to want one after we test it.

After I published the first report I was contacted by Jake Hindman, the president of the Student Air Rifle Program (SAR) and we had a nice conversation about his program. Some of what I will share with you today is a result of our talk.

We also discovered that one of our readers, Robert from Arcade, has a son in the SAR, and he gave us his views on how the program is benefitting that school. As he said, with SAR schools can have a safe marksmanship program in their existing facilities and the cost is not prohibitive. That’s exactly what SAR is designed to do!

Today we will look at the velocity of the Embark. This will be a strange test because I have never before tested an air rifle that was specifically intended to shoot lead-free pellets. To overcome resistance to the program, SAR mandated that a lead-free pellet be used and they worked with Predator International to create such a pellet. They named the pellet Journey, and at this time, JSB who makes them, can only provide enough for the program. Eventually they will be available commercially, but lead-free pellets are a challenge to make. For the time being they will only be available to schools and shooters in the SAR program.

The Embark is based on the Ruger Explorer that has a muzzle velocity of 495 f.p.s. That allows it to comply with Canadian law that requires unregulated air rifles to have a velocity of less than 500 f.p.s. Knowing we are about to test the Embark with lead-free pellets that are lighter than lead, we understand the velocity will increase, but so do the Canadians, so their law also provides for a muzzle energy threshold of 4.2 foot-pounds (5.7 joules). To be considered a high-power airgun and fall under the provisions of their Firearms Act, both thresholds must be exceeded. So special situations like this are accommodated.

RWS Hobby

The first pellet I will test is the RWS Hobby. At 7 grains, this lead pellet is one of the fastest pellets available in general use today. This is the type of pellet that would have been used to test the Ruger Explorer.

Ten Hobbys averaged 498 f.p.s. The spread went from 491 to 515 f.p.s. and at the average muzzle velocity the Hobby generates 3.86 foot-pounds (5.23 joules) at the muzzle. So the Embark is well under the Canadian threshold with this pellet.

The Hobbys fit the breech tight as they often do. That might make it an accurate pellet in this rifle, because it will grab the rifling well.

Journey pellets

Jake Hindman was kind enough to send me a tin of Journey pellets to test. Since this is the only pellet that may be used in competition, it is important that I test it in the Embark.

Journey pellets are supposed to weigh 5.5 grains, according to the label on the tin. I weighed several and found the weight spread between 5.4 and 5.7 grains, with 5.5 and 5.6 being the most common.

Unarex Embark Journey pellet tin
SAR Journey pellet tin.

Unarex Embark Journey pellet
Journey pellets.

Ten Journey pellets averaged 540 f.p.s. with a spread from 520 to 555 f.p.s. — so, a 35 f.p.s. spread. At the average velocity Journey pellets generate 3.56 foot-pounds (4.83 joules) at the muzzle. Because of that, Canadian law would not classify the Embark as a high-powered air rifle.

Journey pellets fit the breech very loosely. They fall into the rifling about 1/32-inch. Both the head and the skirt are undersized for the Embark bore. What effect that has on accuracy at 10 meters remains to be seen.

One more pellet test

Since shooters who are not in the SAR program cannot purchase Journey pellets yet, I wanted to test the Embark with another lead-free pellet that is available. The Sig Ballistic Alloy Match pellet is a proven lead-free target pellet, based on many of my tests with 10-meter target rifles.

This pellet fit the Embark bore very well. Both the head and skirt appear ideal for this barrel. This pellet cannot be used in official SAR competition. But for practice and for those who buy the rifle but are not in the program and want a lead-free pellet option, it may be viable. We will see.

Ten 5.25-grain Sig match pellets averaged 582 f.p.s. The spread went from 573 to 600 f.p.s., so a range of 27 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.95 foot-pounds (5.36 joules) so it is also under the dual thresholds of Canadian law.

Firing behavior

The Embark fires with a little buzz that isn’t disturbing. A shot of Tune in a Tube grease would certainly smooth it out.

Cocking Effort

The Embark I am testing cocks with 14 lbs. of effort. That makes it one of the easiest-cocking spring-piston air rifles I have ever tested. I believe a Walther LGV (the vintage target rifle — not the sporting rifle that’s currently sold) cocked with 11 lbs., and that was the lightest.

Trigger pull

The Embark trigger is non-adjustable. It’s two-stage and breaks at between 3 lbs. 7 oz and 3 lbs. 9 oz. There is quite a bit of creep in the second stage, but it’s light enough not to be a problem.

Evaluation so far

The Embark is turning out to perform exactly as I imagined is would. If it works as well as the Ruger Explorer I tested in 2009, this will be a fun test.


Blowguns — the first airguns

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This is a guest blog from reader Hiveseeker. Today he reflects on the very first airguns — blowguns

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Now over to you, Hiveseeker.

Blowguns — the first airguns
by Hiveseeker

This report covers:

  • Airgun history
  • Blowgun calibers
  • Blowgun length
  • Popular .40 and .50 caliber darts
  • Popular .625 caliber darts
  • A word about blowgun hunting
  • Blowgun accessories
  • Make a blowgun target
  • How to blow that blowgun
  • Aiming a blowgun
  • For further study

lead photo
Modern-day blowguns come in .40, .50, and .625 caliber. Note the accessory dart quivers.

Airgun history

Here at the Airgun Academy blog B.B. has done a great job of sharing his passion and knowledge of airgun history, deepening our appreciation for our favorite sport. Today we’ll be traveling even further into the past as we delve back to the earliest roots of airgun history — the blowgun! B.B. took us there in 2007 when he wrote about The blowgun Where it all began, and observed that “As airgun collectors become more interested in their hobby, they eventually start acquiring blowguns.”

Blowguns have continued to grow in both popularity and technology since then, and, as an airgunner and a blowgun enthusiast myself, I felt that an update would be interesting. Lest you doubt the relevance of this topic, I point you to the authoritative pages of the Pyramyd Air catalog:

catalog graphic
The Pyramyd Air 2013 catalog informs us that the very first airgun used lung power! The blowgun is considered to be at least 6,000 years old but some reckon it to be even older.

The blowgun is thought to have been invented at least 6,000 years ago. The blowgun is such an ancient weapon that there are few early records. However, the evidence suggests that the blowgun was invented more or less simultaneously in South America and Malaysia. From Malaysia it spread to Indonesia, the Philippines and eventually Japan, where blowguns were reportedly used by ninjas! I was also extremely surprised to learn that the blowgun was used by the Cherokee and Iroquois Native Americans, right here in the United States.

Fast-forward to modern times. In the 1960s the Jivaro blowgun company was popular, but disappeared within a couple decades. Then in the 1990s a number of different blowgun companies emerged on the scene, and today we have a wide selection of quality blowguns and darts available.

Blowgun calibers

Historical native blowguns were nearly all about .50 caliber. Today, the .40 caliber blowgun is the most popular size, but .50 and .625 caliber blowguns are also available. Popular brands of .40 caliber blowguns include Terminator, Bunker Buster, and several Avenger lines including the Avenger Warrior and Avenger Ninja.

The .50 caliber blowguns are fewer in number, with popular brands including the Commando, Extreme Ultra Pro, and Extreme Precision CT. The Extreme Precision CT (Close Tolerance) blowgun has a slightly narrower barrel that hugs the .50 caliber dart more snugly and is considered by many shooters to provide superior accuracy.

Cold Steel is the sole manufacturer of the .625 caliber big bore blowguns. These blowguns are in a class all their own. They are my favorite to shoot but they require good lung capacity.

Blowgun length

Native blowguns were often 8 feet long! Modern blowguns come in lengths from 2 to 5 feet. Short blowguns 3 feet or less are cheaper and much easier to find. However, I prefer longer blowguns 4 to 5 feet in length when available. Just as a longer barrel can give you faster velocity in a CO2 gun, a longer blowgun can give you faster dart velocity and a flatter trajectory.

The more time the dart accelerates in the barrel, the faster it goes until it exits the muzzle. The exception to this rule is the .625 big bore blowgun, which requires a lot of air to blow correctly. If you run out of breath before the dart leaves the barrel, dart velocity drops rapidly. For the .625 blowguns I recommend that female, youth, or small-framed shooters choose the 4 foot models over the 5 foot models; a shorter blowgun may be better in this case.

Popular .40 and .50 caliber darts

The earliest blowgun projectiles were small round stones or clay pellets. Sharpened wooden darts were invented later. For the modern-day blowgunner there is a bewildering array of darts available, but we’ll sort out some of the most popular and most practical. We’ll examine the .40 and .50 caliber darts together because they are so similar. In fact, the shafts of these darts are usually identical, with the only difference between them being whether a .40 caliber tail cone or a .50 caliber tail cone is affixed to the end of the dart. There are a wide variety of .40 and .50 caliber darts available, but these are the most common and popular.

— Stun dart: (.40 caliber only; the rest are available in both .40 and .50) This fun plinking dart is all-plastic. It’s not really big or heavy enough to stun anything, but is fun for plinking at toy soldiers or aluminum cans. It’s not a good target dart, though, because it won’t stick into the target.

— Super stun dart: Similar to the Stun dart above, but with a metal-tipped head that provides more mass and impact.

— Target dart: This is the standard blowgun dart and the most popular, and nearly all blowguns will come with a selection of these. The Target dart is very accurate and is the kind most used in blowgun competition shooting.

— Spear dart: This dart is longer than the target dart and has a flared spear point. Functionally it is nearly identical to the Target dart, but will wear out your target backing a bit faster due to the spear point.

— Broadhead dart: Despite what the name suggests this is really not a hunting dart. It has a plastic broadhead that is not suitable for target shooting because of the damage it causes to the target backing, though it does not do enough damage for humane hunting either.

.40 and .50 caliber darts
The most popular .40 and .50 caliber darts include (left to right) the Stun, Super stun, Target, Spear, and Broadhead darts.

Popular .625 caliber darts

I mentioned that the .625-caliber blowguns are in a class all their own, and so are the unique .625 darts. All the big bore blowguns come with a nice dart selection. Note that, even though some of these names are similar to the names of the .40 and .50 caliber darts above, the .625 darts are very different — so try to keep them straight!

— Stun dart: This is one of the most fun blowgun darts of all! It won’t stick in a target, but is fun for plinking at aluminum cans or stuffed toy animals. It will also work small-caliber firearm spinner targets. This dart is actually heavy enough to stun or kill small targets like house sparrows or starlings.

— Bamboo dart: This is the bantamweight of the .625 darts and the one I recommend for women or youth shooters because it is so light and easy to blow. It works only as a casual target dart because the shafts on many of these are not very straight and its light weight makes it easily diverted by wind, though it sticks into a target readily enough. These are also fun for popping balloons or shooting aluminum cans.

— Mini broad head dart: This is the standard .625 dart and a great all-around performer. It is an accurate target dart as well as a plinker that will also do a number on aluminum cans, balloons, and stuffed animals. However, despite the name, the flared broadhead is not wide enough to make this a humane hunting dart.

— Razor tip broadhead dart: This is the only commercially available dart besides the .625 Stun dart that I consider to be a legitimate hunting dart, and, of the two, the Razor tip broadhead is definitely superior. The broadhead is wide enough to do significant tissue damage in small game up to squirrel or rabbit sizes. This dart has very little other use, and will rapidly tear up a target.

.625-caliber darts
The .625 caliber darts are fewer but unique and include (left to right) the Stun, Bamboo, Mini broadhead, and Razor tip broadhead darts.

A word about blowgun hunting

I have already mentioned hunting more than I want to only because many of the dart names specifically imply it, and because this topic ALWAYS seems to come up when blowguns are discussed. Let me state categorically that a modern airgun is the superior hunting choice. Only those who have acquired a great deal of skill and experience in shooting a blowgun should even consider hunting with one. Limited accuracy and power confine blowgun hunting to a range of about 10 yards. If you wish to pursue this topic you should check your state regulations regarding the legality of hunting with a blowgun first, and then join one of the blowgun forums listed below for some experienced advice. Also, be aware that blowguns are outright illegal in California, Massachusetts, New York City, and Canada.

Blowgun accessories

Most blowguns will include quivers that mount on the barrel for carrying darts. Other accessories (which may or may not come with the blowgun) include foam barrel grips, vertical pistol grips, slings, crosshair sights, laser sights, and red dot sights. While some sight types (like red dot sights) are really designed for use on pistols and rifles and don’t function well on blowguns, I have found laser sights to be very effective.

blowgun accessories
A wide variety of blowgun accessories like foam grips, quivers, sights, and slings are available.

Make a blowgun target

I have not found a good commercially available blowgun target. Dartboards or plywood are too hard to remove darts from. Archery targets or various foam sheet products can work but have to be just the right density to stop the dart from burying itself all the way up to the dart cone, but still be easy to remove the dart. You can make a cheap and effective target by filling a flat box such as a large pizza box with at least 8 layers of cardboard. This is enough to stop the dart, but is also not too hard to remove the dart. Target darts work best with this type of target backing, with the Spear dart, Bamboo dart, and Mini broadhead also working well.

How to blow that blowgun

Nearly all blowguns come with an anti-inhale mouthpiece, but just like a gun safety you should depend more on good safety practices than on a mechanical device to keep you safe. Never inhale through a blowgun! To reduce the possibility of inhaling a dart you should inhale away from the mouthpiece before shooting. Of course, all your basic gun safety rules apply to blowguns as well.

Blowguns are simple and fun to use but they are not toys! To shoot, many blowgunners just puff or blow into the mouthpiece, but you can get significantly faster dart velocity and a flatter trajectory by saying “Tuh!” forcefully into the mouthpiece as you blow. This technique is called tonguing and pre-compresses the air in your mouth to release it in a focused burst. This method will also help you to achieve more consistent velocity from shot to shot and therefore better accuracy.

Aiming a blowgun

The most different thing about aiming a blowgun is that you do it with both eyes open. This creates a double image of the blowgun barrel, which provides a very helpful aiming point to center the target between. Then, all you need to do is hold steady and adjust for elevation until your darts are hitting the bull’s-eye!

blowgun aiming
Aim a blowgun with both eyes open. You will see a double image of the blowgun barrel, between which you center the target.

For further study

I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of what blowguns — the first airguns! — have become in modern times. There is a lot more to the sport than what we’ve covered here; a Blowgun Basics video provides further information. You can also learn more by joining one of the popular blowgun forums, the Lefora Blowgun Forum or The Blowgun Forum. Blowgun competition shooting has become increasingly popular in the United States as well as Japan, France, and Germany. For rules check the United States Blowgun Association. Have fun, and remember — shoot responsibly!