by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The start
  • The deal
  • The challenge
  • It is achievable
  • The Marauder
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Bronco
  • The world’s best air rifle
  • Synthetic stock
  • The deal
  • History?

…but it has in the past. Or parts of it have existed. They are very rare today, but at one time there were many airguns that were 80 percent of the way to being great.

The start

This report started this past Wednesday in an archery store. Next week I will mention why I was in the store, but here’s what happened. The older man behind the counter, after learning what I did for a living, asked me what would be a good airgun for him to get. I stood there like a deer in the headlights, running through a half-century of experience and trying to boil it down to one sentence, when he added, “…and be able to take out a squirrel once in awhile.”

I was dumbstruck. I get this question hundreds of times each year, though it’s not always worded the same. And the answer is — SUCH AN AIRGUN DOESN’ T EXIST!

You see, there is more to the question — things the person hasn’t yet stated. Things like:

Cost
Ease of use
Weight
Cost
appearance
Cost

… and others, like cost.

If I were to suggest a TX200 Mark III, which I think is the best spring-piston air rifle in the world, you all know what the guy would do when he heard the price. People who want to buy the very best are often living two to four decades in the past — when gas was under 50 cents a gallon and houses sold for $20,000. They don’t mind making $35 a hour themselves, but they are appalled to learn that wedding cinematographers (they were thinking photographers) and wedding cake bakers charge as much as they do. Why doesn’t the daughter just elope?

The deal

Here’s the deal. Even if you had an unlimited budget, there are no new airguns you can buy that are perfect for what you want. Let’s set cost aside for a moment.

What does a non-airgunner want in a first airgun?

They want perfection. They won’t come out and say it, but that’s what they want.

An air rifle needs to cock easily. It needs to be powerful enough to matter. It needs to be accurate — even if they are not. It needs to be light enough to carry. It needs to look good.

Nothing I have just said is quantifiable! What does “easily” mean when referring to cocking? How much does “light” weigh? How powerful is “powerful enough”?

“Oh,” they’ll tell you with a straight face, “I’m not sure, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

The challenge

The challenge in airgunning today is to build an airgun that many people will “know” is right when they see it for the first time.

Ain’t nothin’ new there! That’s another way of saying “Build a better mousetrap…”

It is achievable

At this point some will throw up their hands and say the task is impossible. But it’s not. Watch and learn.

The Marauder

The Benjamin Marauder came to market one year after Crosman launched the Benjamin Discovery. The Marauder was revolutionary. It sold for half what the European PCPs cost, yet had features some of them still don’t have today.

Good points

Repeater
Great trigger
Quiet
Accurate (This is conditional. There have been bad barrels)
Adjustable

Bad points

Heavy
Fat Stock

So if you were the boss of Crosman, what would you do?

Lighten the rifle — They did
Slim down the stock — They did
Fix the barrel issue — Maybe they did, but bad barrels, like bad reputations, linger forever.

And keep making Marauders! Which they are doing. The Benjamin Marauder is the single most successful PCP that’s ever been made. The marketeers are trying to ride on the coattails of its success with “upscale” versions of the gun, but if airgunners don’t perceive them as real improvements, the Marauder will continue to set sales records and the straphangers will fade away.

So — B.B. — did you tell the man in the archery store to buy a Marauder?

Nope!

Why not?

A Marauder takes an educated user — someone who is willing to learn and understand the technology. I would still be there explaining all he needed to know about fill devices, tuning the rifle, how to pick a great scope etc. And I haven’t even started on all the support equipment he would need to buy. This guy needs a breakbarrel spring piston air rifle.

Bronco

That’s what the Air Venturi Bronco was all about. It was nearly everything on the list except for not being a repeater and its inability to kill squirrels. So here it comes — my gift to airgun manufacturers everywhere. The best airgun in the world.

The world’s best airgun

It is a breakbarrel springer that is:

Lightweight (less than 7 lbs, with 6.5 being about ideal)
Easy to cock (no more than 23 lbs., with 20 lbs. being better)
Accurate (able to group 10 premium pellets in 0.35-inches at 25 yards)
Has a great trigger (use the Bronco trigger as your standard)
Has a synthetic stock with a slim pistol grip and forearm
Shoots dead smooth
Will launch a Crosman Premier lite at 825-850 f.p.s.
Has adjustable open sights with no fiberoptics

This rifle should cost under $250 retail. Forget $150 — you have to make too many compromises to get the price that low.

If someone will please make this rifle I will become their cheerleader. Because this is what people who don’t know what they want — want.

Synthetic stock?

Wait just a minute, BB. A synthetic stock? I thought you had class until you said that!

The deal

In 2018 a hardwood stock is a bank-breaker. Wood is hard to come by and wood working is beset with problems. Too much cost goes down a rat hole when you opt for a wood stock. Sure, Air Arms does it very well, but they charge for it, too. My best airgun can’t afford wood.

But BB, Sam Smellum up in Oregon makes beautiful wood stocks out of Asian pallet wood that he reworks. His most expensive stock for the QB78 is only $75.

Okay, run $75 through a production model and it comes out $189 on the other side, after loading. But that’s not the biggest problem. In Sam’s entire life he has made a total of 143 wood stocks. A manufacturer will need 1,000 stocks every 90 days if the gun sells well — maybe more! Let Sam do what he does best and give me a synthetic stock whose tooling costs $40,000 and can turn out 120 stocks in an 8-hour shift.

Besides, the Asians are about to switch to plastic pallets that cost 4 times more than wood but last 50 times longer. Ain’t gonna be no more pallet wood after that!

History?

BB — why did you put this report in the history section?

I did it because history is where today’s manufacturers will find all the things I’m talking about, except for the synthetic stocks. The parts of the world’s best airgun have already been made. They just exist on many different vintage airguns.