A million questions

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Lots of questions
  • Down to the basics
  • Shape and balance
  • Accuracy
  • What about droop?
  • Reliability
  • Which does BB enjoy the most?
  • Who makes what?
  • BB’s evaluation
  • It takes time

I get a lot of questions on other parts of the blog. Sometimes the people asking them seem frustrated by all the things they don’t know. Last week I received this comment from reader Winterz.

“Yes, I am the person who uses obscure threads to ask you questions like the dual collaborative piston breakbarrel air rifle. I also wrote you about the Forge review.

I don’t know where to ask this, and it might be worthy of a writing topic, but of the springer varieties – breakbarrel – underlever — sidelever…. which style do you most enjoy shooting? Which is the most reliable?

Sidelevers look awkward to me, and seem to add complexity. Underlevers are less attractive…but if they have a durability benefit or if droop is a serious problem in some rifles, then they could be considered.

Clearly most entry level springers are breakbarrel, and the couple i am currently eying are both that — the Forge and the Walther Parrus (might break in with the Forge, and then get a Parrus when I’m sure this is me).

A side question which may be inappropriate for you to answer in this venue…. do you feel the Umarex-Walther rifles are comparable in quality to the Umarex-RWS rifles, or nearly such?

I think I finally understand the Dana/RWS/Umarex lineage and history, but wonder if it has substantially changed the mfg of these arms.
Thanks again,”

Lots of questions

There are a lot of questions here. This is one of the reasons I am writing the report on sharpening a straight razor — because what can you do when you don’t know what you don’t know? I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a person in this predicament.

Down to the basics

I can’t address all of his questions in one report, but I don’t think he wants them all answered. They way I see it, I need to address two things. First, what do I think about the three types of spring-piston airguns — breakbarrel, underlever and sidelever. And second, I need to address the airguns made by Walther and Diana. For simplicity I will only address rifles, because they are all the Winterz is talking about in his comment. Let’s get started.

Spring-piston airguns are all the same, in that the piston is pushed by a spring (it can be steel or compressed gas), and when the gun fires the piston compresses air in front of it as it travels a short distance inside a compression chamber. The three names — breakbarrel, underlever and sidelever — refer to how the gun is cocked. In other words, how the piston is pushed back to compress the spring — again regardless of whether it is a coiled steel spring or a cylinder of compressed gas.

There are several things to consider — the shape and balance of the gun, accuracy and overall convenience. I will explain what I mean as I discuss each thing.

Shape and balance

The shape and balance means how easily can you hold the airgun. Is it fat or slim? Is the rifle heavy or light? Is it muzzle-heavy, neutral or butt-heavy? How easy is it to cock?

The breakbarrel has the potential of being the sleekest, lightest, slimmest air rifle of the three. That’s because it doesn’t have a separate cocking mechanism. The barrel handles that job. However, just because a breakbarrel has that potential doesn’t mean that every breakbarrel is sleek and slim. That is why when I report on an air rifle I try to describe how it holds and feels when hefted. Is the stock thick or thin (this is especially noticeable through the forearm)? It the rifle heavy? Is it muzzle heavy (more of the weight toward the muzzle, giving the rifle a heavy feel in the off hand when held). Muzzle heavy is common. Butt-heavy is not common, but some airguns are decidedly butt heavy, and it affects how they feel when held.

El Gamo 68-XP
The El Gamo 68 XP is one example of a breakbarrel that is butt-heavy.

Walther LGV Olympia
This vintage Walther LGV Olympia target rifle has a heavy barrel sleeve that makes it muzzle heavy.

Underlevers tend to be heavier because of their mechanisms. Beyond that, they can be just as slim as a breakbarrel, though most aren’t. But manufacturers have shortened their barrels so their underlevers don’t weigh that much more than a breakbarrel of similar power. Because the barrels are shorter, underlevers tend not to be muzzle heavy, though there are exceptions like the Diana 460 Magnum and the Diana K98.

Sidelevers are the quirkiest. Like underlevers they tend to be heavier, but also because their lever mechanism is on one side of the rifle (almost always on the right side) they tend to be a little off balance when held. When many sidelevers fire they twist in the direction of the side the lever is on. Some of that is mental, but there is some actual twisting too.

Like underlevers, sidelever tend to have short barrels for weight reduction. And since most of the cocking mechanism is located behind the off hand, sidelevers are almost never muzzle heavy.

Accuracy

I have found no inherent difference in accuracy between breakbarrels, underlever and sidelevers. My underlever  TX200 Mark III is accurate, but my breakbarrel Whiscombe JW75 (which is also an underlever, by a strange quirk of design) is equally accurate. And so is my breakbarrel Tyrolean Beeman R8. I have a couple vintage 10-meter target rifles that are breakbarrels (see that vintage Walther LGV, above) and they rival my FWB 300S that is a sidelever. On any given day any one of them can beat the others, although to be honest, the FWB 300S usually triumphs at close range, while at distance (50 yards) it’s a tossup between the TX and the Whiscombe.

What about droop?

This is the reason I am answering this question. From his questions I can see that Winterz assumes that all breakbarrels are droopers, while underlevers and sidelevers aren’t. I have spent a lot of time recently talking about the Diana 34 breakbarrel that is the king of droopers, but don’t think for a moment that sidelevers and underlevers don’t also droop. In fact — here is some heresy for you. I have seen AR-15s that drooped so much their owners couldn’t sight them in! Oh, they must have had a bad scope — so they said. That’s what I heard them talking about with their friends at the range.

When I heard that I went to their shooting bench to help and, sure enough, the elevation on the scope was adjusted almost as high as it would go. The owner told me it was a cheap scope and he didn’t have much faith in it, but when I explained about the erector tube floating, he understood right away. I bet his AR was hitting 24 inches low at 100 yards. A droop-compensating scope mount is made specificaly for the AR platform, so the industry has noticed it, too.

Reliability

I thought about this question a long time and I’m not quite sure what it means. All three cocking systems are completely reliable. And once the cocking systems are out of the picture, the spring piston powerplant is so simple it is almost foolproof. Unreliability may creep in if the gun is overstressed, such as those mega-magnums that try to produce 1600 f.p.s. But even they will settle in if the shooter handles them right and takes the time to break them in. Shooting one with ultra-lighweight lead-free pellets all the time would be wrong in my mind, because the piston wouldn’t be stopped before smashing into the end of the compression chamber. But other than that and perhaps one or two hinky trigger designs, I can’t think of how these airguns can be unreliable.

Which does BB enjoy the most?

I like accuracy, so I like the underlever TX200 Mark III. But I also like the Beeman R8 breakbarrel. If I had to pick the best feeling air rifle I ever shot it would have to be the Diana model 27 — a slim and lightweight breakbarrel.

Who makes what?

Winterz said he understands the RWS Diana Umarex lineage, but for the rest of my readers who don’t, here is a little primer. RWS doesn’t make airguns. They are a huge munitions corporation based in Germany. They export airguns made by Diana, another German firm, all over the world. They have been doing this since at least sometime in the 1970s, and people often get confused about who does what.

Umarex is a large conglomerate that owns Walther and Haemmerli, among other companies. Walther makes airguns in Germany. Umarex also buys airguns from other manufacturers and sells them under the Umarex banner. These guns are not made by Walther, but people sometimes confuse Umarex (the large holding company) and Walther (the firearm and airgun manufacturer).

RWS versus real Gewrman-made Walther airguns? A slight tip of the hat goes toward the Walthers because of finish and materials, but the Dianas give up nothing as far as power and accuracy are concerned. And there are higher-end Dianas that give up nothing at all. The Umarex airguns that are sourced in China are not in this evaluation.

BB’s evaluation

Winterz asked a lot of questions, but I will answer the one he didn’t ask. What spring piston air rifles does BB like best, and why? I like the TX200 Mark III for the ultimate in power with accuracy. I like the Diana 34P for the best value in power and accuracy. And I like the Diana 27 as a quiet rifle that’s easy to cock and fun to shoot.

Over the years I have written about many spring piston air rifles that I like. The Walther LGV Challenger (no longer made) was one that combined light weight and good accuracy in a .22 caliber rifle.

It takes time

Looking at catalogs or online websites is just the first step. To really know whether you like an airgun you have to spend some time with it. Going to an airgun show where there is shooting, like the Texas airgun show this Saturday or the Pyramyd Air Cup this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, is the best way to do this for free.

Plan on spending time finding out what it is that you like about airguns and then finding the gun that give it to you. It doesn’t happen overnight, but what else are you doing for the rest of your life?

45 thoughts on “A million questions




      • PA is still selling the LGV Ultra. I recently bought one and am breaking it in. I wouldn’t call it a light springer though.

        I’ve been told that Walther is still producing the rifle in the Master Pro version that has an ambi wood stock. muzzle break and no open sights. That’s what Krale told me although they said they had to special order in .22 cal.

        Of note is that it’s offered in 2 power configurations. One 11.8 ft-lbs and one 17 ft-lbs. I’d go with the lower power for ease of cocking and smoother shooting.

        HTH,
        Mark N


      • B.B.,

        The Walther Century GT is still being sold in Europe. It appears to be a Walther LGV Challenger minus the open sights and with a longer muzzle weight. It comes with a Walther 6x42AO scope and mounts and is very attractively priced. It is sold as a 12 foot-pound gun in the UK and 17 foot-pound in the Netherlands. The muzzle weight has a dovetail and the breech block is drilled and tapped, but I haven’t seen any optional open sights available for it. Can Walther open sights be bought in the US?

        Bob


    • Yogi,

      That is a good question. Likely the decision was based on a lack of sales. What Walther did was make a superb quality break barrel air rifle. It had two major issues though. With the superb quality comes a higher price tag.

      Also, part of it’s superb quality is it is very accurate. However, because it is accurate, it does not have ultra high velocity. The American market, likely due to the proliferance of Mattelomatics, is hung up on supersonic velocities. To achieve such in sproingers requires you to make it powerful enough that it is difficult to also be easily handled.


  1. B.B.,

    Found a Diana 35 in .22 caliber. Rather rusty on the outside, cocks easily, clean rifling and minimal twang. I’m quite interested in it and from my research it seems to be the later model with a scope rail which somebody later drilled two depressions as scope stops. Iron sights are still mounted although the rear sight might need replacement. Should I walk away from it?

    Siraniko



      • B.B.,

        Thanks for your input. Will think well upon the matter before committing to it. Might be able to bring home for a thorough going over before giving my final decision.

        Unfortunately the old HW50 that I also spotted wasn’t for sale at the time. May have to wait for the estate sale on that.

        Siraniko




  2. There is a Ruger spring piston in .22 at the big box store is this a good candidate for my first spring gun tune? I’m not sure what can be done with gas ram guns other than deburring, smoothing and cleaning up,I’m looking for something more challenging. And what is that grease again I’m writing it down this time?


  3. Looking forward to the show this weekend. I hope to see a TX200 for sale. Keep thinking I want one, but really shoot the pcp’s the most. Would like to at least hold a TX200 before plunking down that much cash. May find a used one.


  4. Right the Ruger has a coil spring. My current break barrels are all gas ram. So I was thinking for a little over a hundred dollars the Ruger might be a good gun to test the waters.


    • Coduece

      You may recall I got a Ruger Impact .22 in used but NRA excellent condition or better. Love the balance, smooth cocking and handsome stock. The safety is automatic but at least the rear location is like a Diana 34. The roller bearing lock up surprised me for a gun at this price. TIAT (instant metal spring tune up) is inexpensive and gives immediate results so do that. The fun part is finding the hold and pellet your gun wants. POI for various pellets and holds are eye opening. Mine actually prefers popular priced Crosman Premier domes. I sort mine with a Pelletgage but you don’t have to if you can live with a few more fliers. My gun requires the artillery hold with the front hand on a sandbag and under the gun’s balance point. Don’t wrap the right thumb (Gunfun1, I think)) around. Let it point up.

      You can’t go wrong at this price. Have fun!

      Decksniper




    • Coduece

      Have seen worse triggers. Not much travel which I like. It measured just over 5 pounds. It fits my hand well and does not seem that heavy to pull. Maybe that is something you can improve on if you decide to get inside one.

      Decksniper


  5. Mr. Pelletier,

    I know you just said not much tuning to gas rams (other than perhaps cleaning, gasket, and debur)….

    How hard would it be to add some weight to the piston of a gas spring gun? Do you believe this could be manipulated enough to perhaps see an increase in power?

    Second, have you ever seen a gun that put a small, tight fitting spring over the “rod” part of a gas spring?

    I wonder if this type of hybridization would shoot better/be more smooth than either “pure” spring type, and if it would add a little fpe at a bargain price?

    Again, thank you for the great thread and entry. Were only our nation represented by such grand ambassadors as our beloved sport.

    Have a glorious day,
    W


    • Winterz,

      Extremely hard. These are unitized assemblies. There is no easy way to take one apart or the charge it afterwards.

      Never saw the spring you mention but I doubt it would work. The gas spring acts so much faster than a coiled steel spring that a helper spring could not keep up.

      B.B.




      • Jonah,
        I believe you’re missing the point of the exercise.

        Which in case anyone isn’t aware, is to have walking 50 yard raccoon level power, with a little to spare. Without carrying a tank, or a hand pump, or anything else.

        The other point of course is to push the limits of air, to raise the mechanical ingenuity and capabilities of a quiet, resource efficient weapon.

        For everyone who has to engender a bit of patience when reading my posts or answering my questions, you have my sincere thanks.

        -W


        • W,

          This is probably about as close as you are going to get.

          /s/m/Beeman_RX_2_Air_Rifle_No_Sights/1896/3889

          Of course, if you do find a sproinger that will give you 40 FPE you will probably not be able to carry it very easily, not to mention that you will likely need help cocking it. As for hitting that raccoon at 50 yards, that sproinger will likely jump around like a mule eating loco weed even though it takes two healthy men to carry it.


          • RidgeRunner-
            Thank you for the link. I wonder if that rifle could handle the H N piledrivers, and how they would perform….

            I understand that given current rifles, an impossible to carry/cock rifle is what you’d get pursuing 40 ft/lb.

            I’m sure smarter men than me have tried, but I want to seek out unique ways to produce that number, and do so with smoothness.

            A multi-pump pcp like the one by FX will do what i want, but I am hoping to figure out how to lower stroke count. 1 maybe 2, and POW!

            It will be fun trying, that’s for sure.

            Thanks again,
            W


            • W,

              I seriously doubt it will do much with the Pile Driver as that is designed for PCP use. When I first started out I attempted to use the Rabbit Magnum in my Gamo CFX. That was a waste of time and money.

              The FX Independence is what you are talking about, but once again it is heavy. What you are going to find is that one air rifle and/or pistol is not going to do everything.

              When I first started into airguns I sat and talked to Gary Barnes to have him build me an air rifle. He asked me this question. “What are you going to do with this air rifle?” You need to ask yourself that question. Once you have the answer, the suitable air rifle for that can then be found.


              • Thanks for the knowledge share.

                I know I’m going to end up with 5 different rifles for different reasons (and at least 1 2240), but that doesn’t mean I won’t think about or try some engineering feats to make something spectacular, or fail spectacularly.

                Also, forgive my ignorance, but I have often read that heavier pellets (or in this case, bullets) were “designed” for PCP rifles. I can appreciate that some less powerful springers would not fire or mis-fire a 20g .177, but bringing my firearm/reloading background into this, i would think the bullet shape would fly much better with sufficient power, and surely preserve energy better.

                I haven’t dug into the physics of springers yet, but i have to think with enough energy, pcp only rounds are magnum friendly.

                Regards,
                W


                • W,

                  The thing with sproingers is you are dealing with a small volume of air that is being quickly compressed to only about 1000 PSI. A magnum sproinger is taking a slightly larger volume of air and compressing it a little faster. For this slight increase in power you have more mass in motion. With a sproinger, you have a recoil to the rear and a recoil to the front. If it has a metal spring, you also have to deal with torque and vibration. All of this happens while the pellet is still in the barrel. A gas spring eliminates the torque and vibration, but you still have to deal with the mass in motion and it is typically greater.

                  Heavier pellets also bring in another factor. It is known as piston bounce. When a sproinger compresses the air, the piston will almost reach the end of the stroke and the compressed air will cushion it momentarily before the pellet starts in motion. A light pellet will start in motion sooner, providing less or no cushioning, allowing the piston to slam into the end of the compression chamber. After a time this will damage the seal.

                  With a heavy pellet the air compresses and causes the piston to actually recoil backward slightly before the pellet starts in motion, adding another recoil motion in there. This is known as piston bounce. With a powerful enough spring this can be reduced or eliminated, but then you have to cock this thing.

                  My experience has been that the real heavies do not work well in sproingers. With a sproinger, often the ideal pellet for it will be in the mid range. With .177 that would be around 8 – 10 grains.

                  Probably the best thing you can do is buy one decent quality sproinger and shoot it for about a year. Try various pellets, holds, ranges, etc. Learn that sproinger and train yourself to use it. I shot my Gamo CFX for almost two years before I bought another air rifle. On a good day I could put ten shots in a dime size group at twenty-five yards. The best group I could ever get out of it at fifty yards was about two inches and that was with a little over a foot drop.

                  Eventually you will figure out there is a balance between power and accuracy in sproingers. It will all depend on what you are looking for.



  6. B.B.,
    very good blog today. I too have a question with the different types of spring/gas piston rifles. In general, is it true that under lever and side lever less “hold” sensitive than a break barrel? I’ve have seen people say they are, but I have never shot a under lever or side lever to know myself.
    Thanks again for another great blog.

    Doc.


  7. My two spring rifles are both sidelevers, although I didn’t plan it that way. I got both for their cheap price and value. But I’ve never had a reason to regret it since they are both plenty accurate for me.

    Matt61


  8. I can say this about the side lever .22 and .177 Air King 54’s I had along with my FWB 300’s I have and had.

    They do not seem side heavy to me. I think there is much other weight and stock design that override the side heavy feel. And they are for sure not hold sensitive.

    Now take a Diana 48 and that could all change because there is no slide recoil system on the 48 to help cancel the felt recoil. That gun could be hold sensitive and rotate when fired. Haven’t had one of those to know. But I do know that is why I never got one because it don’t have the slide system like the 54.

    I would definitely spend the extra money and get a 54 over the 48 just for the fact of the recoil system.

    And as far as under levers go verses a break barrel. Comparing a equal power version to the other I don’t think I can say that one is more hold sensitive than the other. I think the hold sensitivity increases with more power the gun is making.

    Of course design of the components like stroke and piston diameter and spring and preload and so on is what makes the difference. Not a under lever or break barrel or side lever.

    It’s easy to have good and bad in any of the types I just mentioned.


  9. BB, didn’t know where else to ask, is there a tutorial online to adjust the trigger of the RWS Model 24? I can’t seem to find anything and I imagine it’s the same as some of their other models.

    Mine has two screws in front of the trigger with a hole in the trigger guard to access them with a small screwdriver.

    thanks,

    Rob


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