Hy Score 816/Diana model 6 pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

Hy Score 816
This Hy Score 816 is a Diana model 6 recoilless target pistol. This is the photo from the auction.

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sig Ballistic Match
  • RWS Super Mag
  • Qiang Yuan Trining pellets
  • H&N Finale Match Light pellets
  • RWS R10
  • RWS Meisterkugeln
  • Why is this happening?
  • Proof
  • Summary

Today we see the accuracy potential of the Hy Score 816/Diana model 6 target air pistol I recently acquired. We had a good indication from the first group it shot.

target
This group of 5 Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets measured 0.338-inches. Shot at 10 meters.

The test

I shot off a sandbag rest from 10 meters. The Giss counter-recoil system allows for resting the pistol directly on the bag. Despite all my complaining, I shot with the pointed sight insert I showed you in Part 1. I did have a problem with it, but it wasn’t the sight’s fault and I will explain when I get to it.

Sig Ballistic Match

First up was the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellet that did so well in the first group. This time the group landed low and to the left of the bull, and I wondered why it had shifted so far, when the last time it was pretty well centered in the bull. Then I remembered — I had to remove the sight insert to photograph it for Part 1 and they never go back exactly where they were. I should have anticipated the shift, but too much time had passed since shooting that first group and writing Part 1 of this report. Today’s group measures a rather large 0.867-inches between centers, but as I noted on the target, shot number three went off early, before I was completely settled in. There was one other problem that I will discuss when we get to it. Those other tight 4 shots are in 0.461-inches, which is a lot more like that first group I shot with this pellet.

Sig Match group
Five Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets went into 0.867-inches at 10 meters. But shot number three went off before I was ready, as indicated on the target. The other 4 pellets are in 0.461-inches.

RWS Super Mag

The second pellet I tested was the RWS Super Mag wadcutter. It wasn’t intentional. I thought I grabbed the RWS Hobby tin, as both my tins are the same color, but after I had shot the group I looked at the tin more carefully and saw it was the Super Mag. These pellets weight 9.3 grains and I would never intentionally choose them for a pistol — not even one this powerful.

Still, five of them managed to go into a nice 0.574-inch group at 10 meters. And this group was about the right height but still left of center. So after this group I adjust the sights for the first time. It put in 5 clicks of right adjustment, which was just about perfect.

RWS Super Mag group
Five RWS Super Mag pellets grouped in 0.574-inches at 10 meters.

I don’t want to hear your lectures about trying every pellet — okay? I used to tell you that stuff and I sure don’t want to hear it coming back at me. Sometimes you just have to relearn all the stuff you used to know so well. Besides, more of it is coming!

Yes, the Super Mag result was a surprise. I would never have tried them on purpose.

Qiang Yuan Trining pellets

Next up were five Qiang Yuan Training pellets. I expected them to do well before the test began, but when I saw how loose they loaded into the breech I began to wonder. And it wasn’t long before I got the answer. Five went into 0.961-inches at 10 meters. But once again, 4 pellets were together and one was apart. This time I saw no reason for it, though the reason would soon emerge. The 4 pellets are in 0.492-inches. Okay all you sleuths — you now have enough information to figure out what I had not figured out by this point in the test. Have at it. But if you read much farther, I’m going to tell you.

Qiang Yuan group
Five Qiang Yuan Training pellets went into 0.961-inches at 10 meters, with 4 in 0.492-inches.

H&N Finale Match Light pellets

Now it was time to drag out the big guns and see what this pistol can really do. I tried H&N Finale Match Light pellets next. They also loaded loose and gave a very vertical group that measures 1.294-inches between centers. These pellets are clearly not suited to this pistol.

Finale Match Light group
This vertical group os Finale Match Light pellets shot at 10 meters measures 1.294-inches between centers. Not the pellet for the Diana model 6 pistol.

RWS R10

Next I tried 5 RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets — my other “big gun” pellet. They went into 0.857-inches at 10 meters. The group looks like only 4 pellets and I can’t tell where pellet five landed, so I can’t say for sure this group has a smaller group of 4 inside it. But as you will soon see, it doesn’t matter.

R10 Match Pistol group
Five RWS R10 pellets made a 0.857-inch group at 10 meters.

RWS Meisterkugeln

The last pellet I tried was the RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellet. I tried them out of desperation, because I had gotten so many good 4-shot groups in this test, only to have one of the shots fly outside the main group. I hoped Meisters would solve that. When I loaded the first pellet it fit the breech very well — not too loose but also not too tight. We will call this one the “Baby Bear” pellet.

But when I looked at the group of five — Oh, no! Another 4 tight shots with a lone flyer. The five are in 1.334-inches, with 4 in just 0.428-inches What is going on? The five are the largest group of the test, while the 4 are the smallest of any 4 shots with the other pellets.

Meisterkugeln Rifle group 1
Five RWS Meisterkugeln are in 1.334-inches, with 4 in 0.428-inches.

Why is this happening?

At this point I took all the targets and laid them out in front of me. Except for the Finale Match Light and R10 Pistol groups — okay, and the Super Mag group — all the other groups were 4 tight shots and one clear flyer. Why, that’s almost like…

…and that’s when it hit me. I had been concentrating on the bullseye and not on the front sight all this time! That is exactly what will happen when you do that! What a rookie mistake! Have I been out of competition so long that I forgot that? Only one way to find out.

Proof

I adjusted the rear sight 5 clicks up to bring the group into the center of the bull and fired one more group of 5 Meisterkugeln pellets. This time I remembered to focus my eyes on the front sight blade and let the bullseye get fuzzy in the sight picture. And what was my reward? Five shots grouped tightly in 0.537-inches at 10 meters. No more fliers! The score was a 49 out of 50, which is good, but not good enough for competition today.

Meisterkugeln Rifle Group 2
Five RWS Meisterkugeln are in 0.537-inches, with no fliers. This is what a target pistol should do when you shoot it right!

Summary

Well this entire report has been a special excursion. First I got the gun for a great price and then it didn’t need to be resealed like I had anticipated. Finally — it shoots tight like it should.

The Diana model 6 was a great target air pistol in its day and it can still hold its own in informal matches. My gun lacks the target grips that would put it over the top, but it’s nearly there everywhere else. All I can say at this point is the Diana target pistols with the Giss counter-recoil system are airguns you should try. I think they don’t change hands very often because they are the kind of airguns nobody wants to let go.


2018 Pyramyd Air Cup: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

long shot
The field target match included a number of difficult shots, like this long one.

This report covers:

  • Exotic equipment
  • Timed
  • Other airguns
  • Rich Shar
  • Youth shoot
  • Gunslynger
  • Summary

We’re back to wrap up the Pyramyd Air Cup today. We ended Part 1 with the start of the field target match that surprisingly attracted a lot of reader attention, so that’s where I will begin today.

Exotic equipment

One thing field target brings out is the odd and exotic in many of us. You see equipment you could never imagine! Some of it is not so useful but some things you wish you had invented yourself.

Hector
Hector Medina checks the zero on his Diana 54 that’s been detuned to 12 foot pounds. It’s so easy to cock!

Challenger PCP
This young lady is shooting a Crosman Challenger PCP that has, no doubt, been tuned up for field target.

scope aids
See what this shooter has done to be able to see the yard markings on his scope’s adjustable objective?

Timed

Each lane in the match is timed. From the moment your bottom hits the cushion or seat, a timer gives you 5 minutes to make 4 shots. That’s more than enough time, and it keeps things moving along. When there are 104 competitors shooting 104 shots each, time becomes critical.

crowd
This gives you a sense of the size of this field target match.

The match results were not posted by the time I wrote this report, and I left Sunday morning, too early to see the finish. Suffice to say, the match was a success and a lot of people had a wonderful time.

Other airguns

I mentioned yesterday that there were lots of unique airguns to see at this event. Not all of them were brought by Pyramyd Air, either. One was a custom LD pistol, which is already a customized Crosman Mark I or II.

The typical LD uses bulk CO2 and has a longer barrel. You scope it, because it is a tack-driver. And, with the longer barrel, you get more power.

The pistol I was shown runs on air and the owner has two different tanks he uses. As I recall, one of them gets above 12 foot pounds and the other gets above 15 foot pounds. If I am mistaken, I’m sure he will correct me.

A typical LD is held by the grip and the rear of the scope. This one, though, has a forearm. A Benjamin Tootsie Roll pump handle fits the extended frame perfectly, as you can see.

custom LD
When you customize a custom airgun this is what you get. An LD pistol running on air!

Rich Shar

One of our readers asked me whether I planned to meet Rich Shar at the Cup. Rich is the man who has spent a lot of time smoothing and improving Gamo and Hatsan rifles over the years. You may have read about him in my 2014 report titled, An airgun test you weren’t expecting.

Right after the blog reader asked me that, Rich contacted me and we did meet at the Cup. He missed a youth shooting event at his home club — one he has faithfully attended for the past 18 years — just to come and see me. And he brought me — wait for it — his latest version of a .30-caliber Hatsan 135! I couldn’t wait to shoot it.

Hatsan 135s
Rich Shar’s custom .30-caliber Hatsan 135 (bottom) and a stock one he bought for comparison.

According to Rich, his rifle is just a shell of a Hatsan 135. He has completely remanufactured the powerplant with custom parts that are too exotic to explain. It uses a gas spring, but that’s as close as it gets to the stock rifle. He added a custom TJ barrel, after discovering that his new powerplant benefitted by more length.

The stock 135 he has gets 535 f.p.s. with a JSB Exact 44.775-grain dome. The custom rifle gets 625 f.p.s. with the same pellet. As far as I could tell, the cocking effort of his rifle is identical to the one I am testing for you — 57 lbs. For comparison my test 135 got an average of 580 f.p.s. with that pellet. So Rich has boosted the rifle’s velocity with no increase in cocking effort. He’s done this by means of a totally new powerplant plus a new barrel. The original 135 barrel is 10.5 inches long and the one he has put on the gun is 20.5-inches. Usually a longer barrel does not add velocity to a spring gun, but on this one it does.

Tom shoots
I found Rich Shar’s custom 135 smooth and accurate.

Rich told me he is not finished with his work on the 135. He would like to see it shoot 700 f.p.s. and change, which for a .30 caliber breakbarrel is astounding. Whether he gets there or not, he’s forged ahead in a world where we were already pretty close to the limits.

Let’s look at another competition. This one is for the kids.

Youth shoot

On the public range Pyramyd Air hosted a youth shoot. It was an easy-going affair where the parents could watch and help the smaller kids cock the gun, but the shooters had to hold and shoot the guns themselves. They shot Li’l Duke BB guns at soda cans.

dad helps
Dad helps his daughter set up for the shot.

Gunslynger

The other big competition at the Cup was the Gunslynger. They shoot at metallic silhouettes, but unlike the sport of silhouette, the Gunslyngers do it off the bench or off a rest — their choice. There are spring guns and precharged guns. The precharged guns shoot faster (all single shot), but the springers are more fun to watch. You might think they can clear all 20 targets (5 chickens, 5 pigs, 5 turkeys, and 5 rams) quickly, but only if you have never shot silhouette. Even though everyone is resting their gun, this is a sport that requires extreme accuracy.

Just to make things harder the firing line was elevated about 15 feet higher than the targets. That means everyone had to shoot downhill, which introduces problems of its own.

breakbarrel Gunslynger
Imagine doing this 45-55 times as fast as you can and still trying to hit a tiny target hard enough to knock it off its stand!

As it turned out I happened to be behind two springer shooters who finished first in their respective matches. Of course this was an elimination match, so these guys still had a lot of shooting left.

Underlever Gunslynger
He did really well. I never saw him miss.

Summary

The 2018 Pyramyd Air Cup was a huge success, and I just received word that they plan to grow it next year. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they will have an airgun show there, as well. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you want to expand your knowledge of airguns you really should get to one of these shows, and the Pyramyd Air Cup would be a good one to start with.


The game-changing price point PCPs

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The Gauntlet
  • Desirable PPP features
  • Less desirable PPP features
  • The list
  • Growing!
  • Discovery opened the market
  • Marauder set the bar
  • The airgun market explodes
  • Tipping Point
  • Room for improvement
  • Summary

Sometimes I hit one out of the park and when I labeled the feature-laden precharged pneumatic rifles selling for under $300 as price point PCPs (PPP), I was right on the money. In fact they will do more to help our sport of airgunning than anything I can think of. Today’s report was requested by reader Vana2.

The Gauntlet

The first PPP I saw this year (actually, it was launched in 2017, but the launch had problems in the beginning) was the Gauntlet from Umarex. It was an air rifle many had dreamed about but never thought would happen.

Let’s now look at both the good and not-so-good features, because they pretty much sum up all that a PPP can offer.

Desirable PPP features

*Quiet operation
*Repeater (with single shot option most desirable)
*Available in both .177 and .22 caliber (with .25 caliber a desirable option)
*Accurate
Plenty of shots
Fill to no more than 3,000 psi (with 2,000 psi being most desirable)
Has a regulator
Great adjustable trigger
*Priced under $300

* Essential

Less desirable PPP features

Fill pressure above 3,000 psi (with over 4,000 psi being the kiss of death)
Weight above 7.5 bs.

The question becomes which PPP has all of the good features and none of the bad ones? The answer is — none have everything. There is always room for improvement. And there is something else to consider. Not every potential buyer focuses on the same things. One may hold out for a killer trigger while another wants only those guns that fill to 2,000 psi. So within the PPP category there is still a need for good marketing.

The list

Here are the airguns that are currently price point PCPs

Gauntlet
Benjamin Fortitude
Gamo Urban
Hatsan Flash

The Diana StormriderGamo Coyote and BSA Buccaneer are close, but lack the quiet operation and so miss the boat.

Growing!

But the good news for airgun manufacturers is the PPP market is growing fast. New airgunners encounter PCPs that are very well developed these days and they jump right in. In the old days we had to nurse them through the springer stage before they were willing to make the transition to precharged airguns. That’s because a good springer was selling for $200 at the time (Diana 34), while an entry-level PCP started at almost $500. The spring gun was well-supported while the PCP (except for AirForce guns) was almost exclusionary — with poor documentation and very little published on how it worked.

Discovery opened the market

The Benjamin Discovery blasted through that stigma in 2007, when it dropped the price to less than $300 and provided the level of support a new customer expects to see. And the Disco was bundled with a good hand pump that worked well, due to the fill pressure of only 2,000 psi. Plus the rifle came with full documentation and a small tin of pellets in the box! You could shoot it the moment the box was opened. Why — it was almost as though someone had thought the whole thing through before launching the rifle!

Marauder set the bar

The following year Crosman brought out the Benjamin Marauder and established the bar for low-cost precharged airguns with nice features. While the most expensive PCP guns counted their sales in the hundreds worldwide, Crosman was selling rifles by the multiple thousands, along with AirForce, who offered shooters the next step up in power and advanced features like the ability to change calibers and barrel lengths. The PCP world had opened!

However, as open as it was, the introduction of the price point PCP was a major stroke of marketing genius. That was partly due to the features the new rifles offered and partially because of what had happened to the market, itself.

The airgun market explodes

When I started writing The Airgun Letter in 1994, I estimated there were 10,000 to 15,000 serious airgunners in this country. At that time we were outclassed by the United Kingdom, where there were over 50,000 serious airgunners. Their market was mature while ours was still in its infancy. Oh, there were huge airgun sales in the large discount store chains, but very few of those buyers were or ever became airgunners. While some manufactures believe the discount stores are the key to success, this market is maturing fast and cheap airguns that underperform are only a disappointing way to risk your company. Solid growth with quality products is now as certain as it ever can be.

Airguns did become more popular in this country between 2007 and 2015. However, things progressed at a slowly, so by 2015 there were still only perhaps 100,000 people I could call serious about airguns. While that is a 10 times bigger number, it’s still not enough to get excited about.

But the ammunition shortage of 2012 was about to change all that. A result of panic ammo and gun buying that began in 2008, the shortage became critical around 2012, and shooters who didn’t reload began looking around for what they could do. Several of them started to investigate the airgun market. This happened at a time when precharged airguns were mature enough to meet their needs and guns like the Marauder and all of the AirForce smallbores started selling in increased numbers.

The makers of the most expensive models didn’t adapt to this change, so the makers whose airguns were priced lower took increased market share. But the whole market was growing, so the top boys never noticed they were loosing share.

Tipping Point

At some point airgun sales reached a tipping point and went viral — at least from their perspective. No, they weren’t selling millions of products like the makers of smart phones, but today I estimate the US airgun market to be between 300,000 and half a million serious shooters. And the price point PCPs are one of the things that are expanding the market.

I remember a time when airgunners were the cheapest people on the planet. Some wanted to reuse their pellets and more of them wanted to shoot BBs more than once. Firearms shooters, in contrast, come into airguns with a history of paying a thousand dollars for an AR-15, and they may own five of them. So, a $300 PPP is chump change to them. They’ll buy it, like it and jump into airgunning with both feet. You guys know how easy that is. So, this is one large door the PPP has opened.

But it doesn’t end there. The PPP is also finally pushing those who’ve been on the fence for many years over into the “dark side.” For them the PCP world has loomed large, mysterious and expensive. They have heard how accurate a PCP is, and now they can try one for a lot less than just a few years ago. There were cheaper PCPs like the Disco, the Maximus and some from China that had been around for years before this time, but they all had some major shortcoming — the biggest being they were not repeaters. The PPP fixes that.

So airgunning in the US is growing because of firearms shooters crossing over and also because of existing airgunners who are jumping in even deeper. There are a minimum of 5 million active firearm shooters in the US, so the pool airguns are drawing from is very deep.

Room for improvement

And the dance isn’t over. The PPP is a new concept that hasn’t sorted itself out yet, leaving a lot of room to grow. I would say the greatest growth potential lies in providing a rifle with a world-class adjustable trigger. The Marauder trigger would do it, but you can’t spend nearly half your build budget on just the trigger, so that won’t work. Manufacturers, here is your best chance to gain some market share.

The second growth potential area is to build a valve that regulates itself well. At the price a PPP sells for there just isn’t enough room for a well-made regulator. A self-regulating valve could walk away with the market if it worked well. I have seen valves that gave the shooter 30 shots with about 10 f.p.s. variation. In fact, at the gross end of this is the USFT rifle made by Tim McMurray that gets 55 shots with H&N Baracudas at over 900 f.p.s. — all on a fill pressure of 1,650 psi. So, don’t tell me it can’t be done. It just can’t be done the way everybody is trying to do it today.

Third would be to design a repeating system that doesn’t rely on a rotary magazine. Rotary mags limit the length and therefore the weight of pellets they can accept, plus they usually stand up above the top of the receiver, limiting the types of scope rings they will work with.

Summary

In closing I have to say we are living in the golden age of airguns, and the price point PCP is one big reason why. In less than 12 months they have had a major impact on our world, and it’s one I see growing faster as time passes.


2018 Pyramyd Air Cup: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Field Target meeting
A record 104 shooters receive their orientation briefing from Tyler Patner on the first day of the field target match.

This report covers:

  • The vendors – H&N
  • The vendors – Leapers
  • Public range
  • Gauntlet and Fortitude
  • Sig ASP20
  • More interesting airguns to come
  • Field target
  • Pistol match cancelled
  • World-class airguns
  • More to come

The Pyramyd Air Cup is a public event that combines airgun competitions, a public range, a chance to meet many of the vendors who make the airguns and accessories you read about and, most importantly, a chance to shoot airguns you have seen and heard about but could never try. A day at this event is worth a year of reading on the internet — this blog included.

The Cup was held at the Tusco Rifle Club in Midvale, Ohio, which is about midway between Cleveland and Columbus. It’s convenient to people living in a 500-mile radius, and this year I saw people from all over the U.S., including Florida, California and Hawaii. People had come from Canada and the UK, as well. The H&N general manager, Florian Schwartz, was there, and Tobias Schmidt represented Diana. Both men had come from Germany to be there.

The Cup is not a SHOT Show, where you are inundated with thousands of vendors representing hundreds of thousands of products. It is a rather the possibility of getting to see, hold and shoot airguns that you have only read about up to this point.

The vendors – H&N

Herr Schwartz was kind enough to give me samples of a brand new H&N Baracuda pellet the company has just started to make. It’s called the Baracuda FT, and as the name implies, it is made for field target. The pellets are hand selected for uniformity and no flashing. The weigh 9.57 grains, making them about a grain lighter than the regular Baracudas. The center of gravity has been moved forward in this pellet.

I was given samples of .177 pellets in two head sizes — 4.50 and 4.51mm. Each pellet came from one of five different production lots that relate to the specific dies they were formed in and other variables. This allows me to test them and feed the company very specific results. Naturally you will be watching over my shoulder! I wish more companies operated this way.

I would normally say more about this new pellet, but I will save that for the report that will start soon.

The vendors – Leapers

Leapers was also there and I got to see their UTG Reflex Micro Dot sight that I hope to try on the Beeman P1. I talked with Leapers engineer Nakagawa Kiyo about the sight and told him I will see if the UTG Weaver-to-11mm adaptor will work on the P1 that has a dovetail rail on top. If it does we are in business. This sight accepts bases of different configurations, but they haven’t made one for 11mm dovetails yet, so I will try to make their Weaver base work.

UTG Micro Dot
The UTG Micro Dot Reflex sight is small enough for air pistols.

Leapers shoots
Leapers came to both show AND shoot!

Public range

Competitors checked their zeroes on the public range before the matches started, and some even rechecked on the morning of the start. After traveling many miles in a car, sometimes the optics are not where you left them. You have to check!

check zero
Most competitors checked their zeroes on all their guns before the matches began.

The most interesting part of the public range is the “try-it-and-buy-it” portion. You can shoot any of dozens of airguns Pyramyd brings out and there is no cost nor any obligation to buy. They supply everything. If you want to buy something you have to go to their booth that’s set up indoors with all the other vendors and they will accommodate you with an online order at a 20 percent discount. They do have a few airguns to actually sell outright, but as large as their catalog is, there is no way they can bring it all — or even a reasonable portion.

Gauntlet and Fortitude

For example, there was an Umarex Gauntlet and a Benjamin Fortitude set up side-by-side on the same table at the public range. Shooters were able to shoot one after the other to decide which suited them best. The “hard” trigger complaint of the Fortitude melted away when shooters admitted they were comparing it to the triggers on thousand-dollar airguns. And the Gauntlet that was on the line was shooting very well from the magazine. Being at the show gave you a chance to shoot them rather than just reading about them.

Gauntlet youth
Umarex marketing manager, Justin Biddle, coaches a young man who wanted to shoot the Gauntlet. Maybe it’s a little large for him yet?

Sig ASP20

Sig was there and Dani Navickas had the ASP20 gas piston rifle in .22 caliber on the line. This one is one of the first rifles Sig made on the production line that I showed you back in July, and they had also run it through a 5,000-round endurance test. So it was well broken-in. And the results of all that use were fabulous!

This rifle now cocks with around 30-33 lbs. of effort. It is less effort than I remembered because it is so well broken in. They chronographed it after the endurance test and it was still pushing .22-caliber pellets out at 23 foot pounds.

I watched as person after person tried the rifle and all but one praised it. One man found it too difficult to cock, but he was also unable to cock the Benjamin Marauder. He was not an experienced airgunner, as far as I could tell, and this may have been his first time shooting airguns of this quality.

Ruth shoots
Ruth Kass, one of Pyramyd’s top salespersons, shoots the Sig ASP20 rifle. She has to know how all the airguns work and feel to talk to her customers.

0keystone breech
The flanges at the top of the breech (yellow arrow) contact the flanges at the top of the spring tube forks (red arrow) to make the Keystone breech tight. The barrel can be loose during cocking and still lock up like a bank vault because of this.

Dani told me Sig expects to start high rate production soon, so the wood guns aren’t far off — maybe November. They aren’t sure about the synthetic stocks yet, but hope to have them in this year.

She also told me that Sig hopes to have the new Sig Super Target pistol available  in November. I had hoped to see one at the Cup, but it’s not quite ready.

More interesting airguns to come

There are more interesting airguns to come in this report, but if I don’t at least start the field target report, we won’t get to it today. That means my report series on this show will stretch into extra innings!

Field target

Well, for starters, the Pyramyd Air Cup was over-subscribed for competitors this year. Because of the available resources, they had to limit the field target match to 104 competitors, which means that some people who tried to sign up got in too late. The facility at the Tusco Rifle Club is large, but it’s not unlimited, and time is also a constraint. Many more people came to the Cup than competed in the Field Target match, but in several key places the facilities were strained. Pyramyd Air is looking for a larger venue to hold the Cup, so more shooters can compete.

I suggested they hold a one-day airgun show concurrently, because that will really break the gates down! Maybe the Midwest airgun show can team up with them to host it?

Pistol match cancelled

The weatherman predicted violent thunderstorms for early Friday afternoon, so the field target pistol match was cancelled for that day. The weather held off longer than expected, but it did arrive at 6:30 p.m. that evening and doused the region with unwanted rain and hail. It was unwanted because that part of the country has had a very wet September.

The rifle match was held on Saturday and Sunday, with 104 shooters shooting on 13 lanes of 2 targets per lane. Since they shot 2 shots at each target each day there were a total of 52 shots per day (13 x 2 x 2), for a match total of 104. There were three classes — Hunter, Open and WFTF (World Field Target Federation). I didn’t compete, but if I had it would have been in the Hunter class. I shot Open class when I competed in the ’90s, but no longer have the flexibility to get into position and hold steady enough — especially with a 12 foot-pound rifle.

Hunter Class
In field target, Hunter Class allows the shooter to sit for most shots and to steady his rifle on shooting sticks. This broadens the sport’s appeal.

WFTF Class
When you get into the Open and WFTF Classes, the competition gets fierce! Many shooters wear custom-tailored shooting jackets to hold them steady.

World-class airguns

I listened to the public’s reaction to the fancy field target rifles and gear. Many were overwhelmed by the cost of the rifles — some exceeding $3,000, and their scopes — often above $2,000. Throw in the ancillary equipment and gear and a shooter can carry $8-10,000 on the range! Even the Tusco range safety officers who ran safety for the match were unaccustomed to guns priced so high, and certainly not airguns. Is it any wonder a shooter thinks nothing of driving 1,500 miles at compete at this level?

More to come

I’ll stop here, but there is much more to follow — more guns, more shooting and even some hints at things to come. Stay tuned!


Sharpshooter rubber band catapult gun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

Sharpshooter pistol
The Sharpshooter catapult pistol was made from the early 1930s until the 1980s by as many as 5 different companies. This one was made in the early 1940s.

This report covers:

  • History
  • Operation
  • How much value can be put into an inexpensive gun?
  • What is this about?
  • More power!
  • Next
  • Summary

Today I begin a report that I started five years ago and never finished. That was before we had the historical section of the blog. I planned to test many things about this line of unique catapult pistols and even bought the rubber bands for the extended test, but somehow it got away from me. Well, now I’m going to try it again.

You may remember several months ago I reviewed the Daisy Targeteer .118-caliber “BB” gun. You may not recall it, but when we got to the accuracy test that pistol failed miserably. These Sharpshooter pistols shoot the same small .118-caliber shot as the Targeteer, but they are powered by rubber bands and are generally much more reliable — at least the older ones are. They are still weak airguns, but I think we can have some fun with them anyhow.

History

Small things have a way of defining my life, and this is a story about one of them. When I was about 12, I bought a copy of the 1948 Shooter’s Bible in a used bookstore. It was full of guns, and I couldn’t get enough information about them back then. Unfortunately, the wonderful books I would discover on the subject like Sixguns by Keith and Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson were still decades in my future — in some cases, more than a half century. But, I had that old Shooter’s Bible — a book I still own, by the way. I read it and re-read it, unwittingly but also unerringly committing the pages to memory.

Shooter's Bible
I have owned this Shooter’s Bible catalog for almost 60 years. It defined my beginnings as a shooter.

Sharpshooter page
This page in the catalog introduced me to the Sharpshooter pistol. Boy, did I want one of these!

Then, in the 1960s, when I was in college at San Jose State College (years before it became a university), I walked into an old sporting goods store in downtown San Jose, California, one day and stumbled upon what I thought was a time capsule — two new-in-the-box Sharpshooter catapult pistols whose design and specifications I’d committed to memory a decade earlier. Imagine my shock to learn that these two relics from what I thought was the 1940s timeframe were still for sale at the original 1948 price of $4.25!

Thirty-plus years would pass before I realized these were not the same pistols that were in that old book…that the company making them had been bought and sold numerous times, and the guns I saw and purchased in the store were the 1965 versions of the gun, albeit made by someone else and to different manufacturing standards. They looked like the Sharpshooters of the 1940s, but they had plastic parts in key places. As a result, they didn’t hold up very long when used.

Sharpshooters
Over the years I have collected several Sharpshooters from different eras. The one at the upper left is one of two I bought in the 1960s. Both it and the gun at the lower right (from the 1940s) have rubber bands installed. Notice their launchers are forward, while the other guns’ launchers are back.

metal Sharpshooter launcher
The sliding launcher is what flings the shot from the pistol. The older Sharpshooters have metal launchers that last for decades. This one is about 76 years old and still works fine. That flat metal piece on the left is the sear that also opens the in-line magazine to allow one shot to fall into the launcher.

plastic Sharpshooter launcher
The metal launcher was replaced by a plastic one sometime in the 1950s or ’60s. It cannot take the strain of constant use and will fail with time. I have had two plastic launchers fail. When they fail there are no replacement parts.

When I became a serious airgunner later in life, I rediscovered the original Sharpshooter pistols. These were the real deal with all-metal parts that are still functioning today. What a difference they are from the cheapened guns! Although the two look very similar, the older ones are the Diana 27s of the catapult gun world, while the plastic-parts guns are the Chinese wannabes.

Sharpshooter sales receipt
The Sharpshooter shown at the top of this article still has the sales receipt in the box. It was sold as a Bulls Eye pistol on March 23, 1942.

Operation

The Sharpshooter pistol is a repeater. The No. 6 shot lead balls lie in a channel on top of the gun. They’re held in place by the front sight, which simply slides out of the channel so the gun can be loaded. A metal trough is provided to funnel the balls into the channel, then the sight is pressed back into place. There’s room for approximately 50 shot in the channel.

Sharpshooter front sight in place
The front sight blade holds the shot inside the channel on top of the gun body.

Sharpshooter front sight removed
To load the shot channel, the front sight is removed.

Sharpshooter ready for loading
The loading trough is attached to the pistol and shot is poured in. It’s a speedloader from the 1930s!

When the launcher is pulled to the rear, stretching its rubber band, it pushes up the sear that moves out of the way to allow one shot to fall from the channel into the launcher seat. Only one piece of shot at a time can be loaded. What the user does is pull the launcher straight back until the sear catches the trigger, cocking the gun. That holds the loaded launcher in place until the pistol is shot.

The front sight can be adjusted up and down by a small amount. That’s the elevation adjustment. The rear sight can be slid from side to side a small amount because it’s held in place by 4 small metal tabs that form a crude dovetail.

Sharpshooter rear sight detail
The rear sight is held in by 4 metal tabs. It can be slid from side to side for small windage corrections.

How much value can be put into an inexpensive gun?

I think the old Sharpshooter pistol is the perfect example of putting value into an inexpensive gun. I think it shows why people love designs like the Soviet AKM rifles. Nobody argues that the AKMs are cheap to build — but the thought that went into them before the first piece of metal was cut or bent is where the investment is. That’s what the Sharpshooter pistol shows us — the thought that’s given to a design before it’s executed can be a wonderful thing.

Sharpshooter target stamp
A rubber stamp and stamp pad are provided in the box, so the shooter can stamp out targets!

Sharpshooter targets
This Sharpshooter came with colorful Bakelite spinners. The wire clamped to the gun box with the box top as the backstop! Some guns had celluloid birds that perched on small wire stands. See them in the 1948 catalog page above.

What is this about?

This report has started like a history lesson about a vintage airgun, but that’s not what it will be. I will test the pistol in similar ways to other vintage guns on which I’ve reported. But that isn’t what got me started thinking about this gun.

I was at the Roanoke airgun show maybe a decade ago, sitting at my table by myself, when my eyes fell on my vintage Sharpshooter pistol — the one pictured above. In a moment of weakness I had offered it for sale, but after what I’m about to tell you that madness disappeared forever.

I was bored, so I loaded a few shot into it and fitted a rubber band. Then I cocked the gun and fired it at a styrofoam coffee cup sitting on a chair about 12 feet from me. I hit the cup once, then twice then a third time, and I realized that you don’t need 50 foot-pounds of energy to have fun with an airgun. I doubt this gun has more than one five-thousandth that much energy (a 1-grain shot going 60 f.p.s. has 0.01 foot-pounds of energy), yet it’s pleasing to see it hit a small target some distance away. In some of the vintage ads, like the one I have posted above, there were claims of being able to hit houseflies at 16 feet with these guns.

More power!

That got me thinking about springs, and how new airgunners think more powerful springs will increase the energy of an airgun. We know from testing that they often don’t. The rubber band of a catapult gun is a type of spring. What kind of “spring” will have the greatest effect on the velocity of the gun — a big thick one or several smaller ones?

Think about this — which spring will toss you higher — a normal one found on a pogo stick, or a larger coil spring from a car suspension? The pogo stick spring works well because it’s been selected to work within the parameters of the expected weight for which the pogo stick is designed. The car spring is rated to many hundreds of pounds, which makes it more powerful, but not a better choice for a pogo stick.

pogo stick
A pogo stick spring is lighter than a car spring, but because it is selected for the weight range of a person, it works better.

car spring
A car spring is stronger than a pogo stick spring, but it doesn’t work with people.

Sure, you say, it’s obvious the bigger spring won’t work as well on the pogo stick, or even at all. But what if it wasn’t that big? What if it was only a little larger than the spring that’s on the pogo stick now? The answer is that it might work, but maybe not as well as you think. The pogo stick spring was chosen to do its job with weights inside a certain range, and a heavier spring may not improve things.

The same holds true for airguns. Whether we’re talking about coiled mainsprings driving pistons,  compressed air inside a reservoir or even rubber bands, there’s an optimum range that works the best with the other parts of the gun. Anything outside that range is probably not going to work as well.

Next

I plan to examine that thought using the Sharpshooter catapult pistol. This will be a normal test, with something more added.

Summary

The one nice thing about this pistol is I already know it is accurate. How accurate remains to be seen, but that’s what this blog is all about.


Benjamin 310 BB gun: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

Benjamin 310
A Benjamin 310 multi-pump BB gun from 1952.

This report covers:

  • Hollow bolt
  • All that I want to test
  • Steel BBs
  • Lead balls
  • Darts
  • Traditional airgun darts
  • Non-traditional airgun darts
  • Pellets
  • Velocity test
  • Sad BB!
  • Next day
  • Discussion

I’m at the Pyramyd Air Cup today. Veteran readers please help the new guys with their questions while I’m gone, because I won’t have much chance to answer email. I will be back in the office on Monday.

Today we begin looking at the velocity of the Benjamin 310 BB gun. There have been so many comments and requests for me to test different things with this gun that I won’t get through the whole velocity portion today. But I will get a start.

Hollow bolt

I mentioned the hollow bolt nose that differentiates the 310 from other Benjamin air rifles, but I don’t think all of you understood what I was talking about. I remember the first time I encountered this as a kid, it fooled me, too.

The 310 has a hollow bolt for the single BB, or lead ball that’s loaded. We learned in Part 1 that the 310 was made from 1940 until 1968. By 1940, Daisy had replaced lead Air Rifle Shot with steel BBs, so all BB guns made after about 1930 were made for steel. That means the makers of this gun were anticipating a BB of 0.171-0.173-inches in diameter. Now you are going to see why that matters.

The 310 was made with a hollow bolt nose that the BB was pressed into for firing.

Benjamin 310 bolt
It’s impossible to see in this photo, but the inside of the bolt nose is chamfered to accept and retain a BB.

Benjamin 310 bolt loaded
The BB is pressed into the bolt nose, where it sits until firing.

All that I want to test

Before I begin the tests let me discuss everything I intend testing. First up are steel BBs

Steel BBs

I will start with Daisy BBs that are a standard BB gun ammo. They will establish the baseline for the 310. I will also test the Hornady Black Diamond BB that has proven so accurate in a variety of different BB guns in recent years. I couldn’t really say that I had tested the 310 unless I tried them. And of course there is the Daisy Match Grade Shot that is made specially for the Daisy 499 Champion BB gun. We know this shot is slightly larger than other BBs and as such may fit the bore of the 310 better. I have to try it to know.

Lead balls

Steel BBs are fine, but they aren’t all I will try. I also have to try some lead balls, starting with the H&N Smart Shot that is essentially a lead BB. Gotta try that because it’s the same size as a steel BB and the Benjamin 310 is a single shot. If it was a repeater like the Benjamin 700, lead would not be good because it can get jammed in the feed mechanism, but you just saw how this gun is loaded. There is no way you can jam anything and not be able to clear it easily.

Smart Shot isn’t the only lead ball I will try. I have some 4.4mm balls that measure 0.173-inches in diameter, so why wouldn’t they be okay? And what about the 4.45mm balls I recently acquired to test the Daisy Number 12 Model 29 BB gun? That gun failed during its test, so I still have a generous supply of those balls that measure 0.175-inches. The 310 may not accept them, but at least I’m not afraid of jamming the gun. I probably won’t try anything larger than that, but I do have other ammo if I need it.

Darts

Reader Mike in Atlanta also asked me about shooting darts in the 310. It was made for them, so why not? But I have shot darts in airguns before, so I know some things most shooters don’t. You don’t want to shoot airgun darts very fast, unless you have an unlimited supply of them and only want to shoot each one once. Darts get stuck in targets and get damaged when they are pulled out. Darts are not high-velocity airgun projectiles.

When I was a kid I thought just the opposite. Darts are sharp and I figured they would penetrate deeper, which they will until the point buries up to the body. Then they stop. I also thought they would be great on small game, which they definitely are not! Don’t ask!

Darts are for fun, and only for fun. They are for use on targets. They make weak airguns capable of shooting targets. Most Marksman 1010 owners learned to shoot darts because they were the only thing that worked well in those guns.

Airgun darts need good targets to keep from burying themselves too deeply in the target. A dartboard will work, but only when you shoot at the lowest velocity. That’s not what you expected — was it?

Traditional airgun darts

Traditional airgun darts like Air Venturi airgun darts have steel bodies and tips with colorful short fiber fletching. The colors are so you can score the target and know who each dart belongs to. The fibers also bunch up and help seal the dart in a smooth bore.

Benjamin 310 Air Venturi darts
Air Venturi darts are the traditional kind.

Non-traditional airgun darts

Benjamin 310 Marksman airgun darts
Then there are non-traditional airgun darts like Marksman airgun “bolts” are dart-like projectiles with which I have no experience.

The non-traditional “darts” come with information that is confusing at best. It says they are for smoothbore airguns, which is fine. But then it says the plastic fins grip the rifling. What rifling? Smoothbores aren’t rifled. Are they trying to say you can use them in both smoothbore and rifled barrels? If so, they left out a few important sentences.

Benjamin 310 Marksman info
Anyone hazard a guess what that is trying to say?

Pellets

And I will also test several pellets in the 310, as well. Not too much to say about that — yet!

Velocity test

Now you know what I’m trying to test. Let’s get to it. We aren’t going to finish today, but we will get started. First up — Daisy BBs.

Pumps……..Velocity
2……………..480 (what?????)
3……………..561
4……………..600
5……………..643 !!!!!

Something isn’t right. There is NO WAY two pumps should produce a velocity of 480 f.p.s. with anything. I was just goofing around, shooting the gun with two pumps. Then I tried the other strokes seen above and got those velocities. Something wasn’t right. So I tried 5 pump strokes a second time and got 647 f.p.s.

What I haven’t mentioned is that there is air remaining in the gun after it is shot on 2, 3, 4 and 5 pumps. I was careful to exhaust all of it before the next test shot. I was about to record the velocities of the follow-on shots when I noticed a hissing sound coming from the breech. Oh, no! Another oldie has bit the dust in the middle of one of my tests!

Sad BB!

I was taken aback by this turn of events. This near-pristine BB gun that has been so lovingly cared-for all these years has given up the ghost in the middle of my report. I pumped the gun up and two minutes later it was empty. I was sad all the rest of that day and into the evening.

Next day

The next morning it hit me. What would I tell someone else who had such a problem? That’s right! I would advise putting several drops of automatic transmission fluid sealant in the gun and seeing if it would fix the seals. So, that’s what I did!

It took about 4 hours and multiple pumps and shots, but the ATF sealant did the trick. BB got his gun back! At least enough to continue the test. Still shooting Daisy BBs.

Pumps……..Velocity
2……………..514 air remaining — shot out all of it
3……………..594 air remaining — shot out all of it
4……………..651, 537, 377
5……………..561, DNR, 462, DNR
5……………..655, 598, 456, DNR
5……………..579, 581, 433, DNR

Discussion

The valve does seem to be holding. That’s the good news. At the end of today’s test I put 2 pumps in the gun and shot it 36 hours later to see if it held. It did. So, I emptied the gun and then put in another 2 pumps and shot a Daisy BB through the chronograph. After that I pumped it once and shot it again and again.

Pumps……..Velocity
2……………..567
+1……………538
+1……………522

Okay, the gun is very powerful after two pumps. I can shoot, then give it another pump stroke and shoot again at a similar velocity. And another after that. I am wondering if this is the way to conduct an accuracy test? I sure don’t need more velocity than the mid-500s.

Point number two — this gun seems too powerful to me. But I don’t have that much experience with Benjamin 310s, so the high velocity with BBs might be normal. But retaining air like it is isn’t normal for a single shot. At least not until they get over-pumped and the valve starts locking.  Every shot should dump all the air. This gun is acting like the Benjamin 700 repeater we looked at several weeks back.

A weak striker (hammer) spring could account for the air retention, but the gun shouldn’t be as powerful as it is if the spring is weak. I am puzzled.

Now that the gun is holding air I don’t want to get it resealed. The finish might suffer during that process. On the other hand, what should I do? Well, that’s where you all come in. I am listening.


Hatsan 135 QE Vortex .30-caliber pellet rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 

Hatsan 135 30 caliber rifle
Hatsan’s .30 caliber 135 QE Vortex is a large breakbarrel — both in size and caliber.

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight in
  • JSB Exact 44.75 grain
  • JSB Exact 50.15-grain
  • Predator Polymag
  • Next
  • JSB domes at 25 yards
  • Predator Polymags
  • Polymags with the tips removed
  • Summary

This Hatsan 135 QE Vortex .30-caliber pellet rifle is full of surprises and today is no exception. I scoped it in preparation for a 50-yard test. Today was confirmation at 25 yards.

I installed an obsolete UTG 4-16X56 scope in a pair of BKL 300 High Rings. The 135 has an adjustable comb that I raised about 3/4-inches to align with the eyepiece. It was very comfortable, shooting that way.

This scope had been shimmed for an earlier test, so it was very close to on target when the test began. I only fired one shot at 12 feet and one more at 10 meters to get on target. Then at 25 yards I refined the scope with two more shots.

The test

Today I’m shooting the Hatsan 135 QE Vortex off a sandbag rest at 25 yards. I’m using the artillery hold with my off hand back by the triggerguard. The rifle is still hard to cock, though I can now do it with one arm, so I’m still shooting 5-shot groups.

Feel of the rifle

I am continually surprised by how calm and normal this monster feels. The recoil is there but it’s not severe. And the vibration is virtually nonexistent. The trigger is a little heavy, but its clean and I can control it. All in all this 135 is pleasant to shoot — much more than I would have thought.

JSB Exact 44.75-grains

These are the lighter JSB domes. During sight-in I was shooting cloverleafs, but on the record target 5 JSB 44.75-grain domes gave me a horizontal group that measures 0.808-inches between centers. It looks larger than that but remember, these are 0.308-inch pellets.

Hatsan 135 JSB 44 grain
Five JSB 44.75-grains domes went into 0.808-inches at 25 yards.

JSB Exact 50.15-grain domes

Now it was time to try the heavier JSB Exact 50.15-grain domes. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised when 5 pellets went into a nice round 0.533-inch group. I did not change the sights from the first group, so this heavier pellet hits lower at 25 yards.

Hatsan 135 JSB 50 grain
How’s that for a group? One-half inch (0.533) for 5 shots with the 50.115-grain JSB dome.

Predator Polymag

The last pellet I tested was the Predator Polymag that also weighs 44.75-grains. They hit the target a little higher than the 50-grain domes, but lower than the 44-grain domes. They also landed to the right, just a little. Five went into a round group that measured 0.631-inches between centers.

Hatsan 135 Polymag
Five Predator Polymag pellets went into 0.631-inches at 25 yards.

One more test

Reader Kevin asked me to test the Polymags without their red plastic tips. He told me how to remove them with diagonal cutters (dykes). He feels the tips sometimes cause pellets to fly erratically, and by removing them he gets more stability. So I did what he asked.

Hatsan 135 Polymag tips off
I removed the tips from 5 Predator Polymags to shoot a group without them.

Unfortunately the Polymags with the tip removed were the worst pellets of the test by far. They didn’t even stay all on the target paper, so I had to photograph them still taped to the backer board. This group measures 1.651-inches between centers. Maybe I did it wrong, Kevin, but this isn’t the way for this rifle.

Hatsan 135 Polymags tips off hroup
When the tips were removed the Polymags flew erratically. This group measures 1.651-inches between centers.

Summary

I’m ready to move out to 50 yards with the 135. This is such a tractable air rifle that I really wish it was easier to cock. It was a breeze getting it this far.