The Golden Rule

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The foundation
  • Airgun Breakfast
  • How things developed
  • Next year
  • Undaunted
  • Progress
  • AirForce
  • Time marches on
  • Back to Crosman
  • Challenger PCP
  • Summary

I’m using the history section for a special report today. It’s history, but also very recent. Last Thursday when I started the report on the Diana Stormrider, reader William Schooley asked me the following question.

“Thought this might might be an interesting 3P juniors PCP rifle until you reported the 20 FPE and 26 FPE numbers. Something tells me that this rifle will exceed rule 4.1.7 limit of 600 fps muzzle velocity.

Will someone please explain why there are no sporter class PCP’s on the market that have been submitted for inclusion on the approved rifle list (Rule 4.2.1) at a $200 price point?

When that happens, that will be a PCP rifle a junior can purchase with their own allowance and odd job money and shoot at 3P and 4P matches.

With all the new $200 PCP’s coming on the market, are there any rumors about any PCP manufacturer detuning a $200 PCP to be 3P rules compliant and then submitting for inclusion on the approved rifle list?”

I told him I had been part of a movement to do just what he suggested for over 10 years and I saw some of the things that happen behind the curtain that make such a thing difficult to impossible. Today I will share that with the rest of you.

The foundation

Americans who attended public schools know that in most school buildings children are assigned a locker to keep their things in while they are in class. They can store coats, umbrellas, books they don’t need and even their lunch in these lockers that have locks for security.

So, let’s say you are a manufacturer of small lockers and are aware of the need schools have. On the plus side, there are millions of kids attending public schools, so they need a lot of lockers. On the minus side the kids use the locker for one school term, then they move on. They may or may not return to use a locker again at the same school next year. The number of kids in school drives the need for lockers, but it is not a direct connection. The kids are cycling through; the lockers are fixed.

Also, lockers are durable. They don’t wear out that fast. A million lockers may service the needs of 40 million kids throughout their lifetime. Now, let me tell you why I told you that.

Airgun Breakfast

In the late 1990s the NRA had a person whose duties included junior airgun marksmanship programs. This man was an organizer who knew how to get things done. He contacted me and told me he wanted to hold an Airgun Breakfast at the SHOT Show, to meet and communicate with the leaders of the airgun industry. Would I please help him determine who to invite? He already knew the people at Daisy and Crosman very well, because they were marketing the heck out of his segment, but he wasn’t familiar with the other players. The NRA had a solid junior marksmanship program that was running quite well, but this man wanted to expand it and to improve things.

So, we put a list together that included all the serious players and invited them all. Here was my criteria for a serious player. If a company had a booth at the SHOT Show and if they made airguns or sold them in a big way, they were serious. If, however, they attended the show but had no booth, as many companies from Asia, eastern Europe and South America did in those days, they were not invited. Those were the “anything for a buck” guys who would promise you the world but had no idea what the world actually looked like. None of us had the time or patience to school them.

Pyramyd Air came to this breakfast, as did Airguns of Arizona and Air Arms, Daystate, FX and many other names you don’t often read in this blog. I tried to make the list as all-inclusive as possible, but I also limited it to the real players.

How things developed

For the first several years the breakfast was more of a social thing, with companies that normally don’t talk to each other getting together for a pleasant morning meal. The main part of every breakfast was a presentation from the NRA on the state of youth marksmanship in the United States. In the beginning these presentations were thin and syrupy, but within several years they began to give us the numbers — big numbers! I remember one breakfast where we were told there were in excess of 74,000 junior marksmanship programs in the U.S., and they had over one million kids competing! That woke up the room!

Now, remember those school lockers? Here is the connection. Daisy had been selling their model 853 target rifle to the NRA junior marksmanship clubs for many years, so there were a lot of them already out there. It wasn’t a mandatory equipment requirement like the Champion 499 is for the BB Gun Championships, but it might as well have been because there wasn’t anything else. But the announcement of these large numbers awoke the sleeping dragon. How could someone get a piece of that great big pie? The native drums began to beat!

Daisy also was surprised by the announcement — not so much by the numbers, because they were already in that market — but by the fact that the numbers had gone public! Oh, no!

Next year

At the next breakfast I noticed several things. First, the attendance was up! It wasn’t nearly as difficult to get people to show up. In fact, I believe we had standing room only that year. And now the people in the room were the general managers and owners of the respective companies. Interest was piqued.

Air Arms brought a sample of a youth target rifle the world had never seen (and still hasn’t 15 years later, to the best of my knowledge). It was sexy! I wanted one!

But Daisy hadn’t been sleeping, either. This was the year the NRA placed price limits on the guns the kids could use. The limit was $500, which was quite reasonable, because no one wanted this to become an equipment race. That would eliminate tens of thousands of kids whose parents or school districts could not afford to buy the rifles.

Undaunted

Air Arms said they would need close to a thousand dollars for their prototype, so the new price limit ruled them out. Sure they could eliminate things, but they didn’t want to do that, and neither did anyone who saw that prototype. But two other companies took the bit between their teeth and decided to give it a go. They were AirForce Airguns and the Crosman Corporation.

Progress

Crosman struck first with a CO2 target rifle they called the Challenger 2000. It was based on their AS392 (an obsolete CO2 rifle), but had target sights, a different stock and perhaps a few other differences. However, there were some shortcomings. It had the same trigger as the 392 which is fine for plinking and hunting, but not so good for 10 meter target work. Of course you can say the same thing about the Daisy 853 triggers, but after working with them for almost 20 years coaches had figured out how to make those triggers better. Crosman’s new rifle went up against some highly modified 853s.

The greatest downfall, though, was the barrel on the Crosman rifle. It was the same one they were using on the sporting rifle, and quite frankly was not up to the task. You can put target sights on any rifle — that doesn’t make it a target rifle.

At this point, all 74,000+ (the program was expanding) coaches got involved. If there were going to be new target rifles to consider, they jolly well wanted a say about what they were (and weren’t)!

The breakfasts kept happening, year after year, and the controversy grew. The NRA was pushed into making a set of specifications for what the junior marksmanship rifle had to be. Cost was still a large part of it, but other things were now under scrutiny.

Daisy had also seen the handwriting on the wall. The (quiet, wonderful, fat) days of the 853 were coming to an end. They had to innovate or get off the pot. They came out with new models of their own. The models 887 and 888 (now obsolete) were introduced. And, Daisy learned some hard lessons with these airguns. Coaches who knew the 853 single stroke inside-out had to be trained to deal with CO2 for the first time. Sure, the guns said Daisy on the outside and everybody knew Daisy, but they didn’t know the rest of it. Long, steep learning curve.

AirForce

Meanwhile, AirForce had been watching things grow and heat up and they finally made the decision to build a target rifle. They started with essentially a clean sheet of paper, though critics will say their Edge borrows from their sporting rifles. In form (air reservoir is also the butt, straight-flow valve, aluminum extrusion for the frame) it is, but almost no parts I can think of came from their sporters. The Edge is as much like an AirForce sporting rifle as a Porsche Carrera is like a Porsche tractor!

Time marches on

As the years passed and the breakfasts came and went, things were happening. The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) was getting into the mix at the national level, so now there were two sets of rule-makers to satisfy! The NRA had to create an ad hoc team of people to evaluate each new target gun, to ascertain whether it met all the requirements, and so did the CMP. To many it looked like Daisy had a stranglehold on progress, but they were as confused as everybody. It was the corporate inertia of two large organizations — the NRA and the CMP — plus one huge informal organization (the outspoken coaches of all the junior marksmanship teams around the U.S.) that slowed things down. AirForce designed and built their Edge in record time, but it took three years to sift through the infinite filter I just described!

Back to Crosman

Remember the Challenger 2000? Well, Crosman was not about to be put off. They agreed about the shortcomings (accuracy and bad trigger) of that model, but something wonderful had happened to them as time was passing. The Benjamin Discovery had been created! Ed Schultz was the head engineer at Crosman in those days and he knew what he had just done. After I pitched the idea that became the Discovery to Crosman and Ed built two quick proof-of-concept rifles from 2260s to prove it worked (running a PCP at 2,000 psi instead of 3,000 psi), he was already talking about the gun that became the Challenger PCP.

Challenger PCP

Crosman brought out the Crosman Challenger 2009 in 2009. They later changed the name to the Challenger PCP. It’s accurate, has a nice adjustable trigger and gets lots of shots (100+) on a fill to 2,000 psi. And it sells to recognized marksmanship clubs for the right price, just like the AirForce Edge.

Summary

The story is still unfolding, William, but that is what it takes to get a target rifle into the “system”. Because in truth, there isn’t a system. There are many people who can say, “No!” and no one person who can say, “Yes.” To be blunt about it — it’s simply too much trouble to something that there is no guarantee will ever work.

This is the reason I believe the Student Air Rifle Program (SAR) has gone about it the right way. Don’t invent the sport and don’t invent the equipment. Invent the governing organization first. That’s the most effective way to get what you want. It’s called the Golden Rule. He who has the gold makes the rules! (rim shot)

46 thoughts on “The Golden Rule

  1. B.B.,

    Thank you for that deep peek behind the curtain. What about William’s question in regard to the “de-tuning” of existing models to meet the 600 fps rule? That seems like a reasonable and common sense approach.

    Chris


    • Chris,

      Remember Air Arms’ entry? It was too expensive. I have an Edge. At ten meters it will give any air rifle a run for it’s money. Any air rifle. Yes, there are air rifles that will shoot better than it, but almost all of them cost a lot more. What are you going to detune and have it perform like an Edge or a Challenger?


      • RR,

        My first thought is the Maximus, which I have. The trigger is adjusted very fine. I wonder what just a lighter hammer and/or a lighter hammer spring would do? No messing with valve. Springs are easy enough to get and even the hammer could be drilled out in multiple areas to be lighter (think Swiss cheese). Lower fills? Maybe change spring within the valve? I don’t know,.. just ideas.

        Sounds like a good project for Gunfun 1.



          • RR,

            74,000 youth shooters maybe?,… that can move on to higher end products? All done with a few new drop in parts on an already existing platform. Plus, if bought right, the Maximus can be had for a good bit under 200.

            Considering how easy it would be, it is baffling. B.B. even said so. All considered, the entire process sounds quite convoluted. Convoluted is not my first choice of words by the way.

            I felt that the article came to an abrupt end. At least that is the way it felt. Surely, there must be more. Then again, maybe not. Maybe that is just the way it is,… at least for now. In the end, I guess I just felt a bit sad for the kids.


            • Chris,

              What I would like to see is AirForce develop a drop in trigger unit and such for the Edge so as to use it for entry level 10 meter precision. If a kid already has the Edge, with a few drop in parts they can take it to the next level.

              As far as the Maximus is concerned, you will likely have to change out the barrel to make it truly competitive.


      • RR,

        I do not have an Edge. The Maximus, when I first got it over the early Winter, would put 3 shots in a nice tight,overlapping clover and the remaining 7 shots would just go through the same hole(s),.. at 41 feet. That lasted about a week, if that. It got quite boring. I was outside doing 25 and 50 every decent day there was after that.

        I think that William’s question/request is quite reasonable. There should be a 200$ air rifle out there for kids to buy/shoot at home and compete with.


    • Chris,

      The technical side of it is easy. It can be done and it will work. But the process of getting approval has left such a bad taste in everyone’s moth that I doubt anyone would be willing to go through it. Maybe in another 5-10 years.

      B.lB.


      • B.B.,

        Crosman does (or did, I haven’t checked) offer a lower-powered version of the Maximus. I tried to buy one direct from them a long time ago, but their checkout system rejected my order. Even with .177 air guns, maybe they do not ship to Illinois. I tried e-mailing them, but never heard back. I do not recall why I didn’t pick up the phone. Perhaps I should have.

        I like really nice triggers; however, and I would have had to send it to someone for a trigger job, so maybe it was no big loss.

        Michael


        • Michael,

          That sounds like a gun made for Canada. They have to shoot slower than 500 f.p.s. If so, Crosman would not sell it in the U.S. because very few would want it at low power. So their software would reject a U.S. order.

          B.B.


          • B.B.,

            It might be easier to buy a rifle in Canada than in the U.S.? I have to get this off to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. It’s the perfect example for the word “irony.” ;^)

            Michael


            • The ironic part to me is that we could just take a couple made for Canadian shooters, “off the shelf” for our American Target teams, but only because they are so looked we would never be able to buy them here, even thought they are made here… And shipped there…


              • Qjay,

                ARE they made here? Some are assembled here, but where are the parts made? Assembly without fabrication (I think I’m using that term correctly) isn’t entirely manufacturing, is it? A McDonald’s hamburger is assembled in Peoria, IL, but where were all of its parts made? Where ANY of them even from the U.S.?

                Michael



          • I looked it up it comes without the silencer same as the Hunter version. So that is not the case. I read fine print on shipping and they do not ship air guns to Illinois.

            Don


            • Don,

              Incredible. They ship thousands of .177 airguns to Walmart warehouses in Illinois which supply Illinois stores.

              The only regulation on air guns in Illinois is the over .180 caliber code. Over .180 caliber (except airsoft, Nerf, etc., which are fine) is treated as a firearm in Illinois. So every BB gun and .177 pellet gun Crosman makes is legal in IL, and they are sold in every big box store in the state. And people wonder why American companies are in so much trouble.

              I won’t buy another Crosman branded (do they actually manufacture in the U.S., or do they merely assemble foreign made parts?) product in my life. Actually, other than some pellets and one $85 Chinese springer with their name on it, I stopped buying Crosman junk years ago when it became evident the Turbo Aire was no more real than sideshow gaff. They sure didn’t make even one Turbo Aire pump that I’ve seen evidence of. The SHOT Show one was just a photo prop, a Fiji Mermaid of air gun accessories..

              Michael



    • Yogi,

      Spring guns have been out of the target arena for almost 50 years. The FWB 300 was the last one and it stopped being competitive in the late ’60s.

      The 240 as it exists needs a lot of modification (better trigger, easier to cock, better stock, better trigger). Remember, some shooters are 9 years old and have to cock their rifles while laying prone.

      B.B.


  2. Hi to all from sunny CT. Sorry I have not been around here much but I’ve been indulging myself with some powder burning firearm purchases. It is now time to let the VISA card cool off a bit! 🙂

    Great story Tom, it was a very interesting read!

    Kevin in CT


  3. B.B., Gunfun1, Decksniper, and Chris USA,

    Yesterday I shot my Gamo Recon G2 Whisper (.177) rested at 22 yards. In my backyard I could have extended that to 25 yards, but I would have had to move my shooting bench into a spot at the corner of the house where from behind I would have been visible from the street, and I live in a quiet suburb. The Gamo Recon G2 Whisper looks like a serious, “black gun” firearm, so I didn’t want to draw attention. (I decided if I end up shooting it a lot, I will paint the entire plastic stock neon yellow for this reason.)

    I ran out of the Gamo pellets Saturday dialing in the scope, so I shot Hobbys, Crosman Premier Lights from the box, and RWS Superdomes. All fit snug in the muzzle but I could seat them with my thumb without damaging the skirts. Ten shot groups onto white copier paper with a black target drawn on it.

    This is a low powered air rifle, so I was interested in seeing how it would do beyond the 15 yards I shot it earlier. There is quite a bit more drop now, so I will at some point take Chris’ advice and shim the rear ring with a strip of old toothpaste tube.

    But hold was what I really wanted to experiment with. For each pellet I shot one group with my off-hand extended to the end of the forearm and a flat palm. Then I shot a group with the same hold except had my off-hand fingers vertical, holding the forearm in a gentle grip. With the Hobbys the flat palm was best, so I used that for the third group. The CPLs and Superpoints both did better with the light grip instead of the flat palm.

    Please keep in mind that I am an awful shot at distances over 10 meters, even rested on a bench. I shot three groups of each pellets, but my bad ones were poor enough I am embarrassed to share them with you.
    The Hobby’s I shot were easy to measure, being wadcutters, but they scattered to 3 inches even in their best “group.” The Crosman Premier Lights from the box did significantly better at just over 1 3/4 of an inch. OK, I’ll call it 1 7/8 of an inch. ;^). At this distance with the Recon they were traveling slowly enough that the paper was slightly torn.

    The best pellets by far were the RWS Superdomes, which provided my best of the six groups, 1 ½ – 1 5/8 inches. I can’t be more precise than that because they were slightly “keyholed.” Still, they stayed together in a rounded group two of the three times I shot them.

    I did take note that the Hobbys, which did the worst, were also the pellets I shot two of three groups with an open palm. I am open to the theory that the gentle grip hold might actually have been better if I had tried it more times with Hobbys.

    As a frame of reference my two best springers (other than my FWB 300s and FWB 150, which I consider to be different animals and not fair for comparison) are an FWB 124 and TX200 MKIII. With either of these I have shot 1 ¼ inch groups, perhaps a couple smaller, at 25 yards if I really take my time and concentrate.

    I bought this Recon G2 as a cheap, easy-to-cock backyard plinker. I had hoped for a lighter trigger and a quieter powerplant, but at this price, there really is nothing to complain about. I am confident that at the 15 – 20 yard distances I plink at it will do fine.

    Michael


    • Michael
      How was the wind? And did you try directly on the bag? And if so did you try with and without your off hand on the gun steadying it. And last thing. Did you try with different grip pressure with your trigger hand?


      • Gunfun1,

        Usually the wind is pretty bad here, but it happened to be not at all bad for a change. A handful of times I had to wait a minute for it to die down, but that was it.

        I always shoot off of a bag on a bench with my hand between the forearm and the bag. I do not have the buttstock or grip on a bag, just the front of the air rifle.

        My grip hand had a very loose grip, and I had the buttstock end just barely touching my shoulder for every single shot except for the first few last weekend, when I discovered the only significant differences were when I altered my offhand grip.

        I didn’t experiment with those elements beyond that. Every combination of those three hold variables times three different pellets times twenty shots per pellet times two for open sights at 15 yards and scoped at 22 yards plus about five shots for sight-in and five shots for scope dial-in would have required 1090 shots by my arithmetic. At a rate of one shot per 90 seconds (just a guess), that would have come out to 27 hours of shooting, without even one rest period, spread out over two days.

        Nope. = ;^D

        Michael


        • Michael
          You know how you said you were not worried about the aim point.

          Well don’t worry about all the other pellets. Worry about one pellet brand and shoot it with different holds.

          You are throwing in to many different variables by adding more than one pellet.

          Remember your trying to find what hold works the best. Not what pellet.

          Seriously you need to try different holds. That’s what the test is about. Then when you do find that hold that works the best for that one pellet. Then find out if you can repeat the group’s with that hold and that pellet on multiple days.

          Do you now see what I’m talking about testing. I want to know if a paticular hold works the best with a given pellet and if that group with that hold and pellet can be repeated day after day.

          What I’m trying to get across is that you can grab your gun and make it do the same thing every day.


  4. Michael

    If you are just competing informally as I do why not stay within the confines of your current shooting setup? As long as the playing field is level the competition between one rifle and another is fair. Plus the neighbors stay friendly.

    The Recon G2 group sizes are good in comparison to your TX and 124 considering the $90 price.

    The two holds you use both work for me depending on the rifle. A couple of very hold sensitive springers I have give dramatic POI differences with these two holds. Group sizes are similar, location is not.

    This is not for everyone but I enjoy trying to get the best accuracy out of anything. It has been awhile since I’ve shot my HW30s because it is better than I am.

    Decksniper


    • Decksniper,

      Excellent point regarding the comparatively small difference between the Recon on one hand and the venerable TX and 124 on the other. In the hands of a good shot the differences would be greater, of course, and at 50 yards the differences would be enormous.

      I’ve read of the TX doing respectably on a calm day at 100 yards!

      But for me the differences are minor on the paper, true. With the Recon I have to struggle with the trigger with every shot, however. If I were to practice a lot at this distance with real targets with the TX or FWB 124, I believe my groups would shrink maybe 15%. With the Recon, I suspect the improvement would be less.

      Michael


      • Michael,

        My 50 yard with the TX200 is around 2″(10 shots). Some of the better groups are 8@26mm, 7@11mm, 10@38mm, 9@33mm. A respectable 100 yards? I do not think so. Then again, I am not sure what is considered a respectable group at 100 with a TX200. I have done 75 and can hit 15 oz. cans more often than not. Mine is a .22.

        Glad you are going to try the tooth paste tube shim idea. If you consider the bottom of the rear ring to be 180 degrees, I use the center 60 degrees, full width, front to rear.


        • Chris,

          One thing to keep in mind, and which I have never before mentioned here, is that the biggest issue in my technique, aside from my failing eyes, is increasingly in the past few years I have tremors in both hands that affect my shooting, even off a benchrest. (Long gone are the days I could shoot off-hand except with a very tight hasty sling hold and acceptance of shooting at 25 feet or less with so-so results.)

          This means air guns that have very short strokes and/or exceptionally quick lock times are less of a problem for me than are other air rifles. That is why I bought my Recon, which cocks at only slightly more than 90 degrees, and my three FWB 10 meter air rifles. The less time for the shot, the less time my hands have to vibrate the air rifle. At 15-20 yards I would shoot better with my TX than Recon, but at 25 yards I know that the Recon would give it a run for its money with me being the shooter. The TX is smooth because of its precision tolerances and design, but it has a long stroke to develop its power.

          Anyway, this works out well enough for me regardless, as I have never had an opportunity to shoot at a distance greater than 25 yards, and even that is a chore for me to set up, hence 22 yards this weekend.

          I admire your marksmanship. I can only imagine what shooting at 50 yards must be like, but I am confident my groups would be many times larger than yours regardless of what I were shooting.

          Michael


          • Michael,

            Use what you have and have fun. That is the main thing. I compare only to myself. Other’s results are just a reference. Front (and rear) rest can be a huge help. Play with that if you have not already done that. My parents are 80, so I can relate to different aging issues. Hang tuff.


            • Chris,

              Thank you for your words of encouragement.

              I do think I’ll get a rear bag to use in addition to the front one. That could only help steady my hold.

              Michael


              • Michael,

                ((Anything)) in the back will be a (huge) help in making steady better. Store bought or something homemade. Best wishes on trying something new and please keep us posted as to anything that you try and any results.

                Chris



                  • GF1,

                    I do not. I do not have a rear bag or front bag for that matter. My front rest is hard, with some foam gasketing on top. If I want a rear rest, I will shim under the pistol grip. Then, top that with about 1/4″ of gasketing which has some compression to it. The idea is,.. at rest, the crosshairs are below the target. Press down a bit and the crosshairs come onto target and is real steady. I usually only do that when shooting/trying long distance or when evaluating a new pellet or gun. At that point, I want to see what the gun/ammo will do with less influence from me.

                    Hey, it works for me. 🙂


                    • Chris
                      And yep another technique you described you use.

                      Maybe technique and what a person is use to is what makes a difference in how they shoot.

                      Maybe why certain holds work for some and not others.


    • Decksniper, Gunfun1, and Chris,

      The “groups” I was too embarrassed to mention with the Hobbys were more than the 3 inch one which was the best. With my Recon, anyway, the Hobbys simply were strangely wild. Also, I have shot this air rifle more times in a shorter period of time than is typical for me lately. I think I might be developing an unconscious feel for it, if that makes any sense.

      Michael


  5. B.B.

    So I guess we are stuck with the Daisy 853. What is wrong with that!
    If only they could improve the trigger and use a metal cocking lever…

    -Y
    PS Good article on the sad state of human organizations.


  6. Mr. Gaylord:
    Thank you very much for today’s post. It was very enlightening. It shows what drives new products to market. That may make economic sense for the manufactures. But my fear is that if the price of a 10 meter PCP doesn’t come down to about $200 where each junior can afford to buy their own rifle, there’s going to be a big switch sometime in the future, to .22LR sporter class shooting by juniors.
    CMP has Savage Mark II’s for $257
    http://thecmp.org/cmp_sales/rifle_sales/22-target-commercial/
    and the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22 goes for $200 – $250. And both are rules compliant for sporter class events.
    Respectfuly
    William Schooley
    Rifle Coach
    Crew 357
    Chelsea, MI


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