by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Diana 23 refinish project
  • What next?
  • An Airgunner’s library
  • Blue Book
  • Others?
  • Are there more?

Diana 23 refinish project

Yesterday, reader Errol asked me this.

“Hi B.B.
What happened to the Diana 23 that you were going to fit a new barrel, blue & tune up some time ago. Just happened to remember Sir.”Errol

He is referring to the Diana 23 I was refinishing for you. That came at the end of a performance test of the rifle where I even tested it out at 25 yards. It’s pretty accurate, if not very powerful.

Part 5 was published on July 2, 2015. For the next two weeks I worked on sanding down the metal even better than you see in Part 5. Then, on July 14, my wife Edith went into the hospital, and she passed away on July 26. I had other things on my mind for the next several months. When I looked at the project again I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to buff it as aggressively as I had once thought, or just blue it the way it was.

The whole refinish project was meant as a demonstration of the Blue Wonder cold blue process. I saw it demonstrated at the 2006 IWA show in Germany, and then I blued portions of airguns I owned. The 23 was just the next step in learning how to use Blue Wonder.

Over the next three years I looked at the project every few months (okay, maybe a LOT of months passed between looks), but couldn’t make up my mind what to do. I learned about a buffing wheel that I saw take rusty pitted steel and buff it to a near mirror shine. It was great, but it did remove a lot of metal and I was concerned about removing the model number and manufacturer’s name. So the project sat.

What next?

I once heard a pastor say, “A job worth doing is worth doing poorly.” What he meant was — do the job, even though it may not be perfect. At least it will be done. So that’s what I will do. I found all the parts and I’ll now see what needs to be done. Then I will do it. This report will transition into the historical section that didn’t exist back when I started. Actually this report was begun on September 24, 2013, so it’s going on five years in length. The next report will be the first segment in putting the gun back together and applying the blue.

Now, let’s talk about those books.

An Airgunner’s library

A library is most useful even in these days of instant internet gratification. That’s because some things just haven’t made it to the World Wide Web. I used to watch airgunners pass by a used Blue Book for sale at an airgun show, telling me they didn’t need to spend money to find out what things were worth. Then, a month later, they would ask someone on my forum all about the history of some arcane airgun and what they thought the price for one should be. Guys, the time to buy car insurance is before you have the accident.

Blue Book

The Blue Book of Airguns is large and full of useful information about a wide variety of airguns. People have said that it has errors. Yes, it does. Remember the saying about a job worth doing? The other general book about airgun values has no errors, whatsoever. That’s because there isn’t one! Oh, there have been small price guides that have been self-published over the years, but they are often harder to find than the guns they represent. Buy a Blue Book and learn to use your own good sense about prices.


As an avid reader, I try to buy most books about airguns and even about related subjects. I never know what nuggets of knowledge I might find. So the list I will publish is an abbreviated list of my own library. I will put the utility of each book in the brief description.

Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World, by W.H.B. Smith, copyright 1957, published by Stackpole. This is a look at airguns in the early part of the 1950s. There are pre-war guns, some from just after the war and a few from the 19th century. Get this one because of the information and the tests of some of the old airguns. This book is only available used.

The American B.B Gun, by Arni T. Dunathan, copyright 1971, published by A.S. Barnes and Co. This is the best guide to American BB guns. It was reprinted in 1997 by R&R Books and that one is the one to buy, as it is much cheaper than an original.

The Airgun Book, by John Walter, various dates and editions, published by Stackpole books. These editions are heavy into UK, German and European airguns. They contain information seen nowhere else. No longer in print.

Air Guns by Eldon G. Wolffe, apparently never copyrighted but first published by the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1958. Reprinted with additional material in 1997 by Duckett’s Publishing Co. Information on airguns of the 17th through 19th centuries, plus a glimpse at guns of the 20th century. The reprint also contains Air Gun Batteries, also by Wolffe. That provides additional information on how the valves and actions operated. The reprint is less expensive than the original, but it is not in print.

 The Practical Guide to Man-powered Weapons and Ammunition, by Richard Middleton, copyright ©2005, published by Skyhorse Publishing, New York. A look at catapult guns, including crossbows. This is an excellent treatise on how these guns perform, with some testing to document their performance. Still available.

The Crossbow, copyright 1903 by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, published unknown. This book has been reprinted numerous times and it still the number one resource on crossbows, stonebows and related items. It’s so good that Robert Beeman sold it on his website for many years. Still available.

Are there more?

There are other airgun books, but the ones listed will get you started. There are books on building a PCP in your home shop and plans for building a Girardoni repeater! There are many general books and there are many on hunting. Some are self-published, but people are starting to get them published through a publisher, too. If you see one you like — buy it, because you may never see it again.