by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

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

This report covers:

  • Green box
  • The “hidden” find!
  • Back to the BB gun
  • Finish
  • Model 310
  • A sweetie
  • Take our time

Two months ago I attended a small local gun show where the joke is — if you are looking for Indian jewelry, coffee mugs and dream catchers, this is the gun show to attend! Guns? Not so much. But it’s local, so I went. I haven’t had much luck at this show — ever! But because it’s mentioned the intro to this report, you know this time will be different.

I was halfway through the show, looking carefully at everything on each table when my buddy Otho called to me. He was on point the next aisle over. Oh great, I thought. Another rusty Daisy Red Ryder from 1986! But I was wrong.

Green box

Otho was looking at a long green box with a Benjamin multi-pump inside. The box was/is in excellent condition, which is ultra-rare. They are usually beat up pretty bad. I’m going to tell you the entire story of this find, however at this point I will let you in on that other good internet buy I told you about last Monday. The one I said nobody could find.

The “hidden” find!

The listing was on Ebay and was hidden from view when I wrote about it. A search that had “antique Benjamin” in the title did not find it. Neither did a search for “Benjamin air pistol.” The seller must have changed something, because when I went back two days later to take the screen shot shown below, it now came up with the other Benjamin pistols. I figured that would poison the well.

Benjamin 310 listing
This is the listing I told you about. At this price this is a great buy! Unfortunately, this listing is now searchable.

Benjamin 310 normal listing
This is what a Benjamin pistol from this timeframe in a nice box usually lists for. They aren’t worth this much, but they are commonly listed for this much.

Benjamin 310 high listing
And this is the crazy price. This pistol is less desirable because it is later (box and finish), plus it has a painted finish rather than a plated finish.

Benjamin 310 Ebay listing updated
When the seller pulled the listing out of the trash by fixing the title, the pistol took off. At this price it’s still okay, but it’s no longer a bargain. This is what it sold for.

Once the listing was visible, people started bidding and the great find ended. This pistol might be worth as much as $175 because of the box and tin of pellets, plus the overall finish on the pistol, which is about 50 percent of the black nickel. But the way the bids have gone, most of the profit has evaporated.

Back to the BB gun

Okay, let’s get back to the gun show, with Otho still on point. The box he was looking at held the broken-down parts of a Benjamin multi-pump. The green box placed the gun in the later ’40s through the 1950s. The model 310 BB gun that was inside was produced from 1940 to 1969, with subtle changes along the way.

The box color puts the gun in the later 1940s though the 1950s. Earlier boxes were light brown. The price of $15.75 that is written on the outside of the box pins it down to 1950 and later. The one-piece bolt puts it no earlier than 1954.

I wasn’t that impressed until I saw the asking price. The seller wanted $200. Usually they want $350 to $600 for airguns like these. In fact, we are lucky the seller didn’t buff off all the black and silver nickel so he could show an all-brass Benjamin shined up like a new trumpet. In fact, that is what makes this once-common air rifle so rare — the condition of the original finish. Shined up you have a $90 airgun.

Finish

This Benjamin 310 has about 80 percent of the original black finish over the silver nickel over brass. The most wear is where the hand held the gun as it was pumped. And it is in an original green box that’s in fine condition. And there is a vintage tin of Benjamin steel air rifle shot that’s a third full! And the gun has been stored with a pump of air in the reservoir (the owner told me) and the pump head was lubricated, so it still works! In this condition we are talking $350, firm. This is a gun for an advanced collector.

I offered $175 cash and bought the air rifle. It was a no-brainer. The seller gave me a cardboard sleeve to protect the original box, which speaks volumes about how the gun has been cared-for.

Model 310

The model 310 is not the most desirable vintage Benjamin air rifle. It’s a single shot smoothbore meant for BBs and darts. It was always priced a few dollars under what the comparable .177 and .22 pellet rifles sold for. But we recently saw that even a smoothbore BB gun (the Benjamin 700) can be accurate at close range if the ammo is right. I bought this one because of the great condition, but I’m still going to give it the usual test.

Benjamin 310 bolt nose
In a Benjamin BB gun, the bolt tells a story. The hole in the side of the bolt nose (blue arrow) aligns with the air transfer port when the bolt is closed and the other hole up front (red? arrow) is where the air comes out. Load the BB into that front hole, per Benjamin instructions. Pellet rifle bolts have solid noses that are rounded to enter the rear of the pellet.

Benjamin 310 bolt
Sometime in the mid-1950s Benjamin did away with their two-piece bolt than had a separate bolt handle and produced a single-piece bolt that was bent at the rear like this.

The 310 was priced at $15 in 1952 and $18 in 1955. That’s as close as I can bracket it.

Benjamin 310 price
This price is marked on the outside of the box. The plus the one-piece bolt makes me think the gun must be from 1954 or ’55.

Benjamin 310 box
Wow! You don’t see them this nice and complete very often!

A sweetie

This Benjamin is a real sweetie. It’s a rare survivor that didn’t get used hard and hung up wet. The delicate black finish is still mostly intact. The fragile green box is excellent, even with the price marked on it.

Take our time

This airgun is special and I want to take my time reporting it. So part one is probably going to take at least two reports, if not more. I’m finished for today but I will be back on Monday. Stay tuned!