The way of airguns

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • What makes an airgun good?
  • A few good airguns — rifles
  • Challenger and Edge
  • A few good airguns — air pistols
  • Beeman P17
  • Summary

I’m writing this on Christmas Day and don’t want to do another test today. I thought about airguns this morning and came up with some interesting thoughts.

What makes an airgun good?

I used to think accuracy was the only requirement for an airgun to be good but now I realize it’s so much more.

A few good airguns — rifles

Going back a couple years, I was able to purchase a Beeman R10/HW85 that Bryan Enoch had tuned. I had seen and shot that air rifle several years earlier, at the Arkansas airgun show in Malvern. After just a few shots I gave Bryan one of those, “If you ever want to sell this…” requests. To my surprise, this one paid off. I was able to buy it at the 2017 Texas Airgun Show.

I like this rifle not for how accurate it is but for the way it shoots. It’s a spring rifle that fires without vibration and only a small bit of recoil. I talked with the tuner extensively and learned all that he had done to make it what it is. I admire this rifle for what was done to it and for the way it has responded.

My Diana 27 is another one like that. My first 27 was a rusty old thing that I didn’t tune (didn’t know you could) and didn’t adjust the trigger (ditto). I liked it for its simplicity, alone. But my current 27 is one I have tuned to near perfection — trigger too! I like it so much that I can’t wait for reader Michael to experience the same things — light cocking, no vibration, great trigger and good accuracy.

My Beeman R1 was once great when I installed a Venom Mag 80 Laza kit I got from Ivan Hancock. It produced 23 foot-pounds and was dead calm, despite having a 50-pound cocking effort. Alas, I destroyed the mainspring of that one in my Mainspring Failure Test for my Airgun Letter and, ultimately, for my R1 book.

I suppose that is why I like the new Sig ASP20 so much. It has the same power as that R1, but cocks with just 33 pounds. It’s almost as smooth and has far greater accuracy.

Challenger and Edge

I also like the Crosman Challenger PCP. It’s a target rifle made for the NRA youth marksmanship program, but it’s so much more than just that. A decade ago it sold for right at $500 and was everything the airgunner needed in a personal indoor target rifle without spending $3,000. Twenty years ago I knew a man who did nothing but break florescent lightbulbs in his basement with one! I guess it’s obvious that he was a bachelor!

I have used mine in many pellet tests over the years. I think this rifle is a wonderful development and Crosman deserves a lot of credit for it!

The other 10-meter rifle I have long admired and secretly pined for is the AirForce Edge. I observed the development of this rifle and tested one for you back in 2009 and 2010. But after that I never laid hands on one again. I always wanted one of my own to shoot, but somehow it never worked out until reader RidgeRunner traded me his for my Webley Senior straight grip. Of course that pistol was also a favorite of mine, but for different reasons.

A few good airguns — air pistols

Let’s begin with that Webley pistol. I bought it around 40+ years ago at a gun show in Kentucky. It wasn’t/ isn’t all that accurate. Oh, it’s not bad, but you have to learn to contend with the recoil, which is pretty significant. So, what is there to like?

The trigger. That pistol has the smoothest single-stage trigger I have ever felt. The pull is very long but has absolutely no creep. Whenever I wanted to feel a good pistol trigger, that was the gun I reached for.

Beeman P17

And then, the Chinese did something right! They copied a Weihrauch HW 40 that also became the Beeman P3, and they turned it into a $30 pellet pistol called the Beeman P17. It’s such an accurate air pistol that even the cheapest airgunner has to agree it’s a fantastic bargain. Even Hans Weihrauch, Jr., had to admit it was and is a fantastic air pistol when I spoke to him at IWA in 2006. His company, Weihrauch, repairs the Chinese copy because, to quote him, “People see the gun and they think we make it. We have to fix them, to maintain good public relations.”

Summary

I could go on but I won’t. The reason I am an airgunner is because I like to shoot. Decades ago that meant shooting firearms almost exclusively, but then I chanced to buy my first Diana model 10 in 1975  the race began. That was 43 years ago and I’m still going strong!

31 thoughts on “The way of airguns

  1. Mr. Gaylord:
    I can’t speak to specific makes and models with anywhere near the proficiency and depth of knowledge you possess, but in my opinion, any airgun that fires up a junior shooter’s imagination, one that helps that junior develop marksmanship, discipline, commitment, a sense of fun and comradery with other shooters, that leads to a well earned sense of accomplishment and in rare cases college scholarships, now that’s what makes an airgun good.
    Respectfully submitted,
    William Schooley


  2. BB
    Hope you had a fine Christmas day. I enjoyed having my daughters visit.

    So BB do you have any plans to retire or do you consider yourself in a working retirement situation?
    After 10 years of retirement I can’t imagine how I found the time work a full time job.
    Are there any airguns you would like to test that have never been available to you?
    Bob M


    • Bob,

      I don’t see retirement as an option at present. However, my job is a lot like a permanent vacation, so I have things pretty good.

      I’m sure there are many airguns I would like to test but haven’t has access to. But I’m working on it.

      B.B.


  3. B.B.,

    A good article and food for thought. For me,.. I am just glad to be living in a time when there is so much being offered. On top of that,… endless resources to learn everything (and more) that you could ever want to know with regards to air guns. For someone that is new to the sport, the learning curve can be greatly reduced if they apply themselves even just a little bit.

    Good Day to one and all,…. Chris


  4. Wishing you a most Merry Christmas, Tom!

    In terms of triggers, I’ve always been amazed at how crisp the Crosman 357-Four/Six/Eights felt for such an inexpensive (c. $50) air pistol. I’ve owned 4 of them over the years. They were great for teaching my kids to shoot. I still own a -Six.

    Sincerely,

    Joe (now back living on Maui)


  5. BB,

    Why did they forget how to make a nice single stage trigger? All of my antique airguns have single stage triggers and everyone is amazed at how nice the trigger pulls are on them. Yes, they are a bit heavier than the one on that Edge 😉 , but they break right when you want them to with a nice, clean snap. To match these triggers you have to spend a considerable amount on an airgun with a nice two stage trigger.

    Maybe it’s that lawyer thing, I don’t know.



  6. Ridgerunner,
    You may be right about the lawyer thing. Maybe Crosman engineers thoughtfully left enough extra material in the Marauder PCP valve to keep the corporate lawyers happy, but keep the gun tuna’s busy as well. I really enjoyed “maximizing’ my factory valve in the Marauder rifle.They could have made the valve as good as it can be from the get go, I added the extra value to it with the help and information that comes with the great established user base
    that Crosman has. And airguns are a great way to find what happens when you oil your pellets and shoot em’ out your R10..
    YMMV.
    Ho Ho Ho,
    Merry Xmas everybody!
    Robert


  7. B.B.,

    Your thoughts above reflect on this, but I’ll pile on. So much of what makes an air gun great is being exceptional at doing the one or two things its owner wants it to do.

    Examples for me include the Webley you wrote about and Ridgerunner now has in his home for wayward air guns. I resolved to get one myself because of what you wrote about that specific pistol, and I eventually acquired mine. You wrote about the Old World craftsmanship, the genuine steel construction, the feel of it in the hand. I had not a single air pistol in my collection that filled all those criteria, and I am glad you inspired me to get one. Anyone looking for an action pistol need not bother with the vintage Webleys, however. Their appeal is strong, but subtle. They are a slow-cooking, slow-eating thing, as opposed to a quick fast food burger.

    I long sought a Diana 27 because of your periodic and consistent praise of it for the reasons you wrote above. An airgun hunter would do well to look elsewhere, but for sitting on a porch and shooting at tin cans and spinners, it would be difficult to find a better candidate. And I do have a couple nice, easy-cocking, smooth-shooting, lower powered air rifles, but my Bronco and HW30 are in .177. I think I will like the thumping sound and extra half second or so to the target a lower powered .22 air rifle provides. And of course, because it’s no magnum, my spinners will be not be worse for the larger caliber.

    I hope you had a Merry Christmas,

    Michael



    • Michael,

      Do not let me discourage you from getting your hands on one of these old gals as they are a true joy to handle and shoot, but if you have trouble finding such maybe you should try out another true heirloom quality air rifle, the HW50 in .22.

      If you do and it turns out you do not care for it, I think I know of a place that would take her in. 😉


      • RR,

        You are right about the HW50, no question.

        I have a barely used (almost like new last I picked it up a few years ago) HW50, but in .177. I’m sure I would have shot it more rather than store it, but shortly after I bought that, I came into my FWB 124. They occupy kinda the same territory, and my 124, which must have been tuned before I came into possession of it, shoots smoother than a TX.

        Michael


        • Michael,

          Now I am jealous. It is a good thing I only have but so much room and so much time to devote to these gals.

          If you look around you may be able to find a .22 barrel assembly for that HW50.



  8. B.B.,

    Thank you for another wonderful year of your blog. May you have many more. I am glad you enjoy it. It really shows every day.

    I have two airguns that you enabled me to buy this year. A TX200 MkIII, it will definately be an heirloom, it is a fantastic gun.

    The other one is an IZY 46M it has become my favorite pistol and my favorite gun period. I can shoot it inside at 3 yards and outside at over 25 yards. It is so easy to pump and the trigger soo crisp, makes it is a pleasure and fun to shoot.

    Thank you again,
    Dod


  9. I was just looking about for information on the under lever Browning Leverage air rifle. I did a search here at your blog, and it appears you’ve never reviewed this interesting air rifle. Just a gentle suggestion.


  10. Thanks for asking, Tom. I have prostate cancer. Been on lupron for almost two years, and went through 40 radiation treatments, and that ended in early October. Had my last lupron shot Dec. 20th, and now we wait and have my psa tested to see if the radiation killed the cancer. My psa was .06 at last test. If my psa goes back up, I’m probably back on lupron for the rest of my days. Still have that prostate, as mine wasn’t removable. Went through some other tough times pertaining to the same problem, but I won’t bore you with that.

    Hey, I get to shoot my airguns almost every day if I want to on my acre. I’m not one to get all depressed and take it out on my family, and won’t let that happen. I do about a 30 minute workout with light weights and sit ups, and try to ride a bike when I can. My blown our right knee complicates that activity, but I can still ride.

    I have a pretty good life, and spend lots of time with our 8 year old granddaughter, as her mom is a single parent that works. Had my 65th birthday on November 1st, and we drove over to Kona and stayed at the Waikaloa Hilton. I call that place the Disneyland of the big island, because it so great to spend time there.


    • Birdmove,

      Sorry to hear that you have prostate cancer 🙁 I have read that 50% of us will have prostate cancer at some time later in life. I have had four friends all with prostate cancer. I guess some prostate cancers are more or less dormant and it’s a “wait and see” diagnosis. One of my close friends had the prostate removed and ended up having to have 37 radiation treatments any way. That was 8 years ago. He is 83 now and quite active. The radiation messed his bladder up so he has to go to the bathroom frequently. It is now recommended to not have a PSA test because of so many false positives. This Oct when I went to my doctor for my annual checkup he said that now it is not even recommended to do the digital exam any longer. Cancer is such a horrible disease, hope they come up with a cure for it soon. They have come a long way since my dad passed from colon cancer in 1980.

      I hope the treatments have successfully eradicated your cancer and that you are healthy going forward. I also hope that 2019 is a better year for all of us that have had health issues in 2018.


      • Geo791,

        Can’t quite believe the doctor stating that the digital rectal exam being abandoned. Stinks (no pun intended) of insurance companies promoting the use of expensive diagnostic procedures instead of a simple clinical exam. True the PSA could have a false positive which is why a biopsy is recommended to prove or disprove the findings. My father has survived his prostate cancer on the injections alone with no surgery. Then again, his cancer was relatively indolent. Prostate cancer is often found incidentally and is not usually the cause of death in most cases.

        Siraniko


  11. My cancer was described as Aggressive and advanced. By the time I was diagnosed, it was too enlarged to consider removal surgery. I will say this, if they had been doing the digital exam, they would have caught it much sooner. I’m okay with not having the surgery, as it seems all to often when the doctors say they removed all of the cancer, it comes back anyway like your friend. They use lupron, and other similar meds, to stop the growth, and to shrink the prostate back down in size. It’s the side effects of the lupron that can be tough. Radiation has at least as good of a success rate as radical removal, and that removal comes with lots of side effects too.

    I did have a laser surgery to remove a section of my prostate that encroached into my bladder and was blocking off my left kidney. That blockage caused intense pain, and my life improved a bunch after that surgery.

    My health issues kind of put a stop to me buying, for instance, my first PCP airgun and hand pump, or even that Benjamin 392 I’ve wanted for years, because, if I pass, it’s just another thing my wife would have to deal with. I have fun shooting my lower end airguns. But, I can sure read about these airguns, and watch videos. The search feature here at Tom’s Blog, is used a lot by me.


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