Smell the roses!
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Price-Point PCP
- More lookalikes
- $100 PCP
- More than just guns
- Hand pumps
- Airgun technology
- Big bores
- There’s more
Today’s report came to me as I was planning to test the accuracy of the Umarex Legends Ace in the Hole revolver. I have so many tests waiting for my time, but today’s report had to come first.
Gentlemen — we are living in airgunning’s Golden Age. I know I have written that many times, but today I would like to reflect on all the good things that are happening in our world. Let me start with the Price-Point PCP.
When I got into precharged pneumatics in 1995, I was dragged into it kicking and screaming. No PCP rifle cost less than $600 in that day (think $900 today) and the high-pressure hand pump had just been invented. I had to use a 3000 psi aluminum scuba tank that cost an additional $120 and I had to beg the local dive shop to fill it for me. I actually created a release form that I signed and left on file with them to absolve them from all risk of selling air to a non dive-certificated person! That might sound extreme in 2018, but in 1995 that was the way it was done, and plenty of dive shops refused to sell us air.
Today companies are tripping over one another to give you rifles with features we only dreamed about in 1995. The regulator that comes free in a Gauntlet cost me an additional $120 to have installed in my $600 Daystate Huntsman.
You can forget silencers! We didn’t have them. My Career 707 was just as loud as a .22 rimfire, so shooting it indoors was impossible. Beside there were only 3 power levels — “powerful”, “more powerfuller” and “stand back”! I paid many hundreds of dollars to have 17 power levels put into the gun, the trigger taken from 9 pounds down to under 2 pounds and a Korick regulator installed. You get more in a Benjamin Marauder today than was available at any price in 1999.
Today it’s difficult to find a PCP that isn’t silenced in some way. You can thank AirForce Airguns founder John McCaslin for that, because he was the first to recognize a PCP could be designed from the ground up to be quiet and still remain within the law.
We whine about the good old days when Crosman made the M1 Carbine and the Marks I and II pistols. Yes, but where in 1965 could you get a fully automatic BB submachine gun like the MP-40? We cry because we can’t find a VZ35 repeater, but where in the world could we ever buy a K98 Mauser?
Umarex MP-40 is as real as it gets.
The VZ35 was realistic for it’s day, which was before WW II.
Diana’s K98 Mauser is not only a realistic looking copy — it’s also a powerful and accurate .22 caliber air rifle!
I haven’t even scratched the surface of the lookalikes! I bought an actual 9mm German Luger firearm to compliment the Legends P08 blowback pistol I have!
I could go on and on in this category. Guns like the Colt Single Action Army, the Winchester 1894 lever action rifle and all the semiautomatic pistols that have come to market in the past decade are more realistic than we ever saw years ago. Even double action revolvers like the Dan Wesson and S&W 586 are astounding to an airgunner who grew up thinking the Crosman 38T was a big deal!
In 1965 the 38T was a big deal. The pellets were loaded skirt-first from the front of the cylinder.
Remember back in 2014 when I did a 6-part series on the hundred-dollar PCP? Most people were amused, but Crosman did something about it. They did because they remembered ten years earlier when I brought them the idea that became the Benjamin Discovery. That worked out fairly well, so they thought they would give this a try and the Benjamin Maximus resulted. Then they developed the Benjamin Wildfire on their own. Now, here is the interesting thing. The single-shot Maximus costs $100 more than the 12-shot Wildfire. So the $100 PCP is possible, but it isn’t a scaled down gun. It has to be scaled up.
If Crosman would just do a top-down Demming program they could own the airgun world! Even with something as simple as the Army’s Value Engineering could work wonders for them. Only the systems engineers will know what that means, but I know some of you readers will get it.
More than just guns
The airguns we have today are truly amazing, but there is so much more. We have pellets today that can outshoot target rimfire ammunition. Sure 500 of them are costly but have you ever paid $200 for 500 .22 long rifle target cartridges?
Not all the great pellets are that expensive, either. Some are very affordable if you will shop wisely. Get rid of those fishing sinker larvae you call pellets and step into the world of real performance!
I remember 1995 when the Axxor hand pump first hit the market. I predicted it would open the world of PCP airguns. It’s didn’t, but that’s another story. Today we have many hand pumps to choose from and things like reliability and the ability for the owner to make repairs are becoming the big deals.
When I was a kid back in 2000 (relatively speaking), wealthy airgunners were using military air compressors that were converted to our use. They were heavy, noisy and expensive. People were so pleased when a good high pressure compressor became available at only $3000. Today we shudder at that, but that’s the way things went until very recently. Now companies are fighting for their share of the under-$1000 sector for high pressure air compressors.
Let’s talk about accuracy. Back in 1990 the sport of field target was just starting to heat up and accuracy was beginning to become an issue. Even today there are readers who still talk about hitting soup cans, when we know accurate airguns can put 5 shots under one inch — not at 50 yards but at 100!
The pellets are better. The barrels are better. Even the breech locking systems are better. This year both Crosman and Sig will bring to market breakbarrels that have positive breech centering and locking systems. As recently as three years ago were were discussing how a breakbarrel can wobble between the forks of the spring tube if it doesn’t have a bolt to tighten it. Well, not for long, I think!
Just yesterday I did the third report on a gas spring system (Vortek calls it the center latching air piston) that allows the user to tune his rifle from DC to daylight (a telecommunications term meaning a wide spectrum) himself! Folks, when I was a boy the Theoben Eliminator allowed some tuning of the gas spring within a narrow band, but that was it.
I still remember attending the second Winston-Salem airgun show in 1993 (that became the Roanoke show that became the Moose Lodge show, and finally died) and seeing Dennis Quackenbush selling kits to make up .410-gauge Paul air shotguns. Not complete guns — kits! Two year later Dennis started selling the .375-caliber Brigand and the race was on. Today I can shoot five shots from a .45 caliber big bore into 1.5-inches at 100 yards — each shot powerful enough to drop a whitetail deer.
Back in the olden days if you wanted to shoot arrows out of an airgun you had to pay $1,700 and put up with a 25-lb. pneumatic trigger that HAD to be jerked or it wouldn’t work! And we thought that was so special!
Today you buy a Seneca Wing Shot II and you get an air shotgun that really works, an arrow launcher and a big bore ball-shooter for a triple threat. That wasn’t available in the old days, but to buy all the capabilities took three separate airguns and enough money to buy a good used car. And none of it worked very well. Today it works fine.
And, it’s just going to get better…