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Education / Training They have the wrong twist rate!: Part 2

They have the wrong twist rate!: Part 2

usby Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Been awhile
  • New airgunners
  • A better way
  • Doing what works
  • The point
  • Sharpening straight razors

Been awhile

Part 1 of this report was written way back in the beginning of February. I think the reason it’s taken me so long to get back to it is I titled it wrong. I will discuss that as we go, but first let me define who “they” are. In the words of comedian, Red Green, “They” are everybody who is not us. Now that that’s clear we can continue.

Part 1 was a treatise on twist rates and how they affect accuracy. As many of you are aware, I use this blog to school both new airgunners and also airgun manufacturers — who are often as ignorant of the facts as new airgunners, but cannot or will not admit it. No engineer who has just been hired by an airgun company is going to admit there is something he doesn’t know about guns! Heaven forbid! And neither is any CEO or owner of a company, because in their minds they are in a position of authority and should therefore know!

So I write these blogs and they read them and they learn, just as you do. And, let me set the record straight — I don’t know everything, either. When it comes to collectibles I turn to guys like Mike Driskill and Larry Hannusch. When I need to know about manufacturing I turn to John McCaslin and others. Yes I know a lot about airguns. When you are interested in something and exposed to it for a long time, things soak in. But there is also a lot that I don’t know.

But I do know about rifling twist rates and how they relate to bullets and pellets. That was what made Part 1 so good. I suggest you read it so I don’t have to cover the same ground today. I ground that axe down all the way in Part 1, so today we will look at something else — what every new airgunner needs to know. Hey — that’s not a bad title!

New airgunners

I noticed that both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s reports this week were aimed at newer airgunners, so I thought I would just continue in the same vein today. We always ask new airgunners what they intend doing with their airguns when we are trying to help them decide on what gun to get. I think that’s wrong. If there is anyone who doesn’t know much about airguns and what can be done with them it’s the new guy, so how can they predict what they will do with one? It’s like asking 5-year-olds what they want to be when they grow up. And it forces many people into thinking they have to decide how they plan to use the airgun before they get it. That leads to a lot of couch time and time on the web, where they try to envision something they can only barely describe. And they then think they need to make their choice based upon this incomplete notion they’ve dreamed up.

A better way

Wouldn’t it be better to just put a nice airgun in their hands and let them experience it for themselves? Here is the new person who is all hyped up from reading about velocity and shooting tiny groups at impossible distances, and you hand him a CZ 631 breakbarrel to plink at plastic bottlecaps on the far bank of a stream 30 feet away while he tells you about the benefits of going hypersonic with a .177. After a hundred shots he turns to you and asks about the rifle he’s shooting because it seems like so much fun.

Maybe he will get that mega-magnum one day, but after experiencing the sweet little breakbarrel (or a Benjamin Discovery or a Diana Stormrider) he learns that there is more to shooting a pellet gun than just numbers. Maybe a better title for this report would have been, There is a better way.

Doing what works

I remember a .458 Winchester Magnum rifle I once owned. That’s an elephant rifle caliber, but the fellow who sold it to me also sold me the dies to reload it, about 100 cartridge cases and the bullet mold for a 558-grain round nosed lead bullet. Most importantly he gave me his loading information and told me if I followed it exactly the rifle would put bullet after bullet through the same hole at 100 yards. That just happens to be what I am interested in doing, so I did as he said and, sure enough, the rifle worked as advertised.

Even though it was an elephant rifle caliber the soft load made the recoil very light because the bullet moved so slowly. I didn’t own a chronograph back then but my guess would be the bullet left the muzzle at no more than 1,200 f.p.s., and probably not even that. If I had ever known the velocity I probably would have been dissatisfied, but all I saw was bullet after bullet going into an incredibly small group at 100 yards. I was very happy!

I was happy because of the results — the small groups in the targets — not because of numbers on paper. I was happy because I knew whatever I shot at, if it was 100 yards or closer, I was going to connect! Maybe the title should have been, Doing what works.

The point

Why am I telling you this? Well, if you are new to airguns, or if you want to get into precharged pneumatics but have been afraid to take the plunge because you have read about all the possible expenses, then the last two day’s reports were for you. You don’t need the mostest-powerfulest airgun on the planet to start having fun, and shooting 1,600 f.p.s. with pellets is a myth. It’s a science experiment with a tank of helium tethered to a hopped-up air rifle, but it’s not for the average shooter — any more than an AA fuel dragster is for trips to the grocery store.

What it boils down to is this — why are you interested in airguns? What has caught your fancy? I don’t care what you think you want to shoot — why are you interested? Would you like to shoot at things and hit them? Does being able to drop a pest humanely with one shot sound attractive? Or, is there a shooting sport like field target, silhouette or 10-meter (bullseye) that intrigues you?

For some of these things the airgun is nothing more than a tool — a means to an end. The pest shooter doesn’t need to love his airgun. It just has to work for him. The bullseye shooter is the same. He or she doesn’t have to fall in love with their target gun. They just want to use it to poke holes in paper as close to the center of the bull as humanly possible.

On the other hand, the field target shooter has to learn a lot about his or her equipment. They will be shooting at different unknown distances, over different terrain that forces them to use different holds. Even the elevation (both positive and negative) of the targets drives equipment needs (inclinometers). Their scopes will be greatly affected by changes in temperature, and nothing in their sport will be static. Even the way they fill their airgun with air (assuming it’s a PCP) will drive a need for other ancillary equipment. For a sport that seems so organized and simple (hit targets at unknown distances between 10 and 50 meters), field target is actually a complex endeavor with ever-evolving equipment.

You, the new airgunner, have all of this and a thousand times more ahead of you. Don’t think you have to choose exactly what you need for every possible situation. Just make a choice to get into the hobby quickly so you can discover what’s there for you.

Sharpening straight razors

As you know, I have been writing a blog series titled, How to sharpen a straight razor. Initially I thought it would be fairly straightforward to learn to do that and I would be exposed to what it feels like to be the new guy. Well, I definitely found that out! It’s been three months since I started and I now have several new hobbies — sharpening straight razors, shaving with straight razors, using advanced waterstones to sharpen things, collecting straight razors, collecting safety razors, collecting the equipment to sharpen double-edged safety razor blades….

I wish there had been someplace for me to go to learn some of this stuff without actually doing all of it, and not so many blind alleys to walk down (or invest in!). I’m still a newbie with straight razors but now I’m a dangerous newbie who knows just enough to get himself in trouble. I am trying in this blog to spare you from a similar experience with airguns.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

41 thoughts on “They have the wrong twist rate!: Part 2”

  1. B.B.,

    Happiness is an accurate airgun. I think that you need to change the title. You hardly talked about the twist rate, if at all. Then again this can serve as the set up before the volley.

    PS: Section The Point. Second paragraph last sentence, “They just want to us (use?)”


  2. BB,

    Excellent! As a well known sneaker company says, “Just do it”. Eventually, that is what you have to do, most especially these days with so many choices for whatever you want to do.

  3. B.B.,

    A nice re-focus. Interesting story on the .458. I did go back and refresh with the Part 1.

    You do great job of keeping us out the ditches and on the road. Not to mention, giving us all some solid info. when we come to a fork in the road. Going from springers to PCP’s might be an example of just such a fork.

    Good Day to you and to all,… Chris

  4. B.B.,

    Your Red Green (must be one of the greatest joke names in the history of show biz) quotation reminded me of Walt Kelly / Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    And in response to your reflection that you are “still a newbie with straight razors but now . . . a dangerous newbie who knows just enough to get himself in trouble,” that, Sir, is what styptic pencils, Band-Aids and blood transfusions are for. ;^)

    Soldier on with our support and gratitude,


  5. I am a person that likes to tinker. And field target allows me to tinker with my airgun. The sport is all encompassing. Aerodynamics ,science ,math ,metallurgy ,optics. Weather, geography, springs,oil ,coeficents of friction and drag. Metal working skills ,woodworking skills, mechanical skills. Even Socal skills like wining and loosing at sports can be learned. Plus it’s a fun day outdoors.

      • I have been a mechanic all my life. But when I started racing motorcycles. Setting landspeed records. I had to push myself past my limits. At first I was full of confidence. I had decades of knowledge and experience. I would never have tried otherwise. Once I began competition at a high level. I quickly realized I knew nothing. It is the same thing with any sport . Competition teaches you what you don’t know.

            • Racer X
              I was wondering about your blog name. Don’t know if you know this. But there use to be a cartoon in the 70’s called Speed Racer. He was a kid that had a car called the Mach 5. There was a racer that was named Racer X. It was Speed Racers older unknown brother that would always seem to show up and get speed out of trouble. Anyway that’s what I thought about when I seen your name.

              And kind of cool what you do. I grew up flying radio control air planes racing them. As well as I raced Moto cross from about 10 years old till I turned 16. Then got into muscle cars a d built them and ran them at the dragstrip. Even did some SCCA racing.

              But always shot some type of guns growing up on the farm as a kid. Hunting with firearms or pesting with air guns. Now I live out in the country and have my own feild target course in my back yard. I can shoot out too almost 500 yards. So do alot of 100 yard plus air gun shooting.

              But as far as competition goes it can take the fun out of things depending on how deep you go. I just relax with my air guns. Although modding is in my blood. So do tend to do that to my air guns. 33 years working in a machine shop does help with that too.

              But yep definitely learned some things competing.

              • I also watched the cartoons. Long story how I became Racer X
                I also raced Pylon Q 500 planes for many years.
                Yes competition can take the fun out of things. But I love to compete. I don’t like to beat others. I like to compete with myself and have others to compare my performance. It is all fun for me.

                • Racer X
                  Yep the good ole Quicky 500’s. Was heavy into nitro planes back in the late 80’s to mid 90’s. You probably know what the Rossi and Nelson engines are then probably. Both excellent engines back then. Don’t know if they still make them. I switched over to electric flat foamy 3D flying probably about 14 or so years ago. But that’s what I still fly now. Got some helicopters too.

                  But yep with you on the competing. That’s how I see it too. Always loved going out to see how I did way more than who I beat.

                  I probably always been harder on myself when I try to accomplish something bc rather than worried about what the other guy is doing. Although it is nice when you win. 🙂

  6. Mr. Gaylord:
    Could you please supply a bit more detail on that “tank of helium tethered to a hopped-up air rifle” thing?
    Pictures and details would be nice.
    Oh and some safety information too. If it’s not too much trouble. 🙂 🙂 🙂
    As for the airgun as a tool, I’d like to think that for some juniors it’s the key to college scholarships and advanced education
    William Schooley
    Rifle Coach
    Crew 357
    Chelsea MI

    • William,

      I don’t have any pictures, but it’s just a commercial helium tank attached to an air rifle by a hose. Helium is thinner than air so it flows better, meaning faster. One AirForce customer bought a Condor and converted ut to helium. He claimed to drive .22 caliber pellets over 1,700 f.p.s..


      • Mr Gaylord:
        Me thinks such a set up just might fall afoul of of a couple of 3P rules. Like Rule 4.1.5 prohibition against rifles, devices, equipment, accessories or apparel that could give an athlete an advantage over others, or Rule 4.1.7 600 FPS Velocity Restriction even if the base rifle is on the approved list. 🙂 🙂 :0
        William Schooley
        Rifle Coach
        Crew 357
        Chelsea MI

        • Gf1,

          Me too. The P.A site says it will do 1250 fps in .22. 1700 seems a bit of a stretch, but maybe not. I have never researched Helium conversions at all, so I really have no idea what is possible. I wonder if it would require any valve component changes?

          • Chris
            1250 is very right for the Condor. They come with a long 24″ barrel if I remember right and a higher flow valve on the bottle. They are probably the most powerful small bore gun AirForce makes.

            So if the helium is thinner and flows faster then yes the 1700 fps was probably pretty easy to hit.

            I just would like to know how it grouped at 1700 fps.

            • GF1,

              Yea,.. I looked real quick check and read through some of wording on the P.A. site. I was (not) aware that tank changes were recommended (required) when switching calibers and barrels. Maybe just caliber? Something about the valve being on the tank.

              I thought real hard about one prior to getting the M-rod. I do like the looks but am not sure of the high scope rail. I think that a repeater tipped the scale in favor of the M-rod. I would not want any negative effects from the high rail. Maybe due to the low profile,.. that may be the very reason for it? If it was a repeater, the Air Force line might just be my next one.

              It is a bit curious that Air Force has not evolved the Talon, Condor, Escape line into a repeater of some sorts.

              • Chris
                The AirForce guns are cool guns. I had a couple Talon SS’s.

                You should try one at some point in time. Very accurate guns. The .22 caliber one I had would shoot as well as the .25 Marauder I had out at 100 yards. And the high scope hight will help with long range shooting.

  7. Ah yes, the elephant gun Springfield that has always puzzled me. The light load loses all the power which was the original purpose of the cartridge. To make a target rifle, most would go with a smaller bullet and a flatter trajectory. I have heard that the .458 Winchester magnum is quite an accurate caliber, but still, I’m puzzled by the rifle design.

    On a related subject, I’ve been getting into Charles Bronson movies. He’s kind of an unlikely hero who looks like an old man and kind of moves like one too. He’s tough though and apparently was in real life with extensive service as a gunner on bombers in the Pacific. It seems like a lot of the old movie action heroes were tough guys in real life. I’ve heard this about Robert Mitchum and even Alan Ladd who was extremely short. Anyway, the Bronson character, at least in the Death Wish series, lives in a pretty terrible environment that seems on the edge of social collapse. In response, he uses a custom pistol (that looks like an Automag) that shoots a .475 Wildey cartridge. When asked about the .44 magnum in comparison, he scoffs and says that it is no comparison to the .475 which is a shortened version of a big game cartridge. Anyone ever heard of this cartridge or is it strictly fodder for the movies? That gun choice makes no sense to me since a disintegrated person is no more dead than any other kind. And that’s not even the limit for Bronson who uses a Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) rocket on one villain.

    Here’s another question about the Springfield design. Does anyone know if this rifle was intended to be fired offhand without taking it off the shoulder? That is the preference for rapid fire, and the Lee-Enfield rifle can do that very well. However, it is more difficult with the cock-on-opening design. I believe that for prone, the army’s method was to keep the elbows planted and then roll the rifle out to the right to get more leverage to work the bolt, but I’ve not seen any footage of offhand. As an approximation, I’ve looked at German soldiers shooting Mauser rifles which are almost the same design. It seems that they preferred to drop the rifle down to waist-level to cock which seems awkward. But never have I seen them operating the rifle from the shoulder. They certainly would have had plenty of practice and time to develop expertise. In other video I’ve seen, the WWII German soldiers showed high skill and clearly knew a great deal about follow-through. During the battles for the Demyansk Pocket on the Eastern Front, the Russians were reportedly amazed at the marksmanship of the SS soldiers they were fighting.


    • I have a friend who used to shoot competition. He had almost every caliber rifle from a .170 to the .458.
      He let me shoot the .458 one time. I will say it was not fun. As I recall that thing had a recoil of 125+ lbs. He said that a guy once tried shooting it from a prone position and it broke his shoulder. It’s like getting hit in the shoulder with a sledge hammer.

  8. BB, I had a .458 Win. Mag at one point. It was in a Ruger No. 1 Tropical. I always shot .45-70 class handloads in it. It too was very accurate. But, it left many gun trades ago. Perhaps again someday. I still have the reloading dies and brass. One thing for sure. Most guns in this caliber have not been shot much!


  9. B.B.

    Well I recon I learned a bit today, from Part 1 and Part 2 and comments. But what really struck a nerve for me was the ‘Just Do It’ approach. So true. How does one know that starting from wishing to protect the bird feeders one will progress to the joy of punching holes in paper, to the challenge of increasingly tighter groups, to whatever comes next.

    Thanks for the memories and expectations.


  10. I only became interested this subject two times. First when I was made aware that my AR-15 A2 had a 1/7 twist rate instead of 1/12 and second was the smooth twist barrel in my FX Independence. Had to look into both.
    I figured the manufacturers knew what they needed to know to decide what was best but now I see there is no “One size fits all” when it comes to all the various ammo available. Eye opening information.

    A saying I use often is “I know enough about it to know, I don’t know enough about it” ( to be proficient at it )
    Part of the reason I left the stock market for laddered five year CD’s.

    The subject matter may be very interesting but is it worth the trouble of spending a lot of time, and sometimes money, to become knowledge about it. Most times I decide no. It would be nice to know but not worth the trouble without a significant reason or need.
    After reading todays blog I believe I can say it again. Way too many related items to be knowledgeable about to get a perfect shot. Gaining more respect for Snipers and target shooters.
    I’ll rely on BB, blog members and other experts for advice or to answer questions I may have about the subject.

    Kind of fits in with my old aircraft troubleshooter job. You don’t need to know everything about everything but you do need to know how to find out what you need to know …. fast !

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