Best equipment or the best training?
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Best equipment?
- Why not cheap?
- Airgunner’s dreams
- One gun to rule them all
- Thanks Hank
- One final type of table saw
- And one final airgun — is it a hybrid?
I almost titled today’s report as an open letter to the airgun industry, because I believe there is a lot for them in here. But there is also a lot for the average airgunner. Reader Vana should be flattered because his excellent report on stockmaking yesterday prompted all that I am about to say.
As I read Vana’s report, I mused about making stocks myself. Like that will ever happen. It’s like watching a Fred Astair movie and deciding to take dance lessons, I guess. Only, when it comes to dancing, the movie I should watch is Godzilla.
But here is what I actually did. I went online and researched table saws. Yes, I really did! I discovered that table saws fall into several categories that range from cheap, through portable or jobsite, up to contractor and finally cabinet, which is the pinnacle. I discovered that I wanted to pay for a portable (usually under $400) but to get one with the features of a cabinet ($5,000 to $10,000). However I did not like the extreme weight of the cabinet models (450-600 lbs.) and wanted my saw to weigh more in the contractor range (225-250 lbs.). Hey! I’m an airgunner when it comes to table saws!
Why not cheap?
Why wasn’t I interested in the cheaper table saws? I learned my lesson about cheap table saws many years ago. I owned a Ryobi 10-inch table saw that turned its blade at 3,000 rpm. It was certainly cheap. Everything on it that could be made from aluminum and plastic was, and the saw blade didn’t so much cut through wood as gnaw and burn through it. That little machine whined, spit and walked around my garage floor as it vibrated whenever it was turned on. Yes, it cut wood and I suppose a skillful woodworker could even have made things with it, but as most of my readers know, that ain’t me! That cheap table saw was my Chinese ultra-magnum breakbarrel air rifle!
Having said all this I am sure there will be a host of readers defending the honor of Ryobi table saws. If I had criticized an ubermagnum breakbarrel rifle by name there would have been defenders for it. I won’t name names, but if I were to give you my opinion of All-You-Can-Eat steakhouses, I’m sure the jungle drums would start beating for them, as well. “Okay, the meat is tough and a bit gristly, but look at how cheap it is!” Indeed!
What I’m telling you is I have owned a cheap table saw and it was not for me. And I have both owned and tested a host of cheap mega-magnum breakbarrel spring piston air rifles that I didn’t care for, either. Only, I get to say that with less criticism because I am BB Pelletier. True or not, I am supposed to know something about airguns.
So then I start on my journey in airguns. I want the accuracy of the FWB124/ TX200 Mark III, with the light weight and low cost of the Benjamin Maximus and the power of the AirForce Condor. Yeah — that’s a table saw that has a large cast iron table and a precisely adjustable rigid fence, yet weighs less than 50 lbs. They don’t make one yet, but when Montgomery Scott of the Starship Enterprise invents transparent aluminum, perhaps they will.
Why do I want all of these things? Well, I want the light weight for convenience, the low price because I’m cheap and the power because you can never have too much power. Most of all I want perfectly smooth cuts, no matter what wood I’m cutting.
In an air rifle I want light weight, easy cocking low cost and stylish looks. On top of all that I want accuracy, because I reckon that an accurate airgun will make me a better shot.
No — it won’t. An accurate airgun will not make me a better shot, any more than a $10,000 table saw will turn me into a woodworker. All it will do is expose to the world how lousy a shot/woodworker I really am.
One gun to rule them all
My next-door neighbor, Denny, owns a 37-year-old Shopsmith Mark V. And, by an ironic coincidence of fate, the house that backs up to his on the road behind us was selling a Shopsmith Mark V at a garage sale a couple years ago. That’s one guy for it and one guy against.
A Shopsmith Mark V is a combination power tool that is a table saw, drill press, disc sander, lathe and horizontal boring machine. Various optional attachments add capability like a band saw and a shaper. In short, a Shopsmith is a handyman’s Swiss Army Knife.
But — and this is the big but — that word handyman is the key. Denny is one. BB is not. BB with a Shopsmith is a man with something to pile things on until his next garage sale — the same as the man with the TX200 who refuses to learn to shoot. A bigger scope won’t solve his problem. Nor will a new magic pellet. Before you can shoot good, you must first learn to shoot.
So, I read Vana’s report and, like most of you, I am amazed at his skill. Thirty years ago I might have tried making a rifle stock, but today I know better.
I’m not telling you to give up your dreams, I’m telling you to get real and sort out the daydreams from the real dreams. Know your limitations and, if you want to change them, be prepared to invest — not money but time. For time is what it takes to become good at anything. Skill and a natural inclination will help, but time invested is your greatest chance for success.
One final type of table saw
Manufacturers — smart table saw manufacturers — realized that there are more highly motivated hobby woodworkers in the world than there are cabinetmakers. These are people who can use all the quality and precision that a cabinet-grade table saw can give them, but they don’t have $10,000 to spend. My neighbor, Denny, and our reader, Vana/Hank, are two such men. One look at at Hank’s work and I think you have to agree. I don’t think either man owns one of what I am going to tell you about, but there is a type of table saw made just for people like this. It is called the hybrid table saw. It has most of the precision and stability of a cabinet table saw but is priced much lower.
Saw manufacturers often label their hybrid saws as cabinet saws, but the industry knows better and separates them out as hybrids. They aren’t as heavy as cabinet table saws, but they are more precise than contractor saws. Expect to pay $900 up to $1,800 for one.
And one final airgun — is it a hybrid?
Has the airgun community wised up as much as the table saw community? Perhaps so. The new Sig ASP20 breakbarrel rifle from Sig Air is one example that may qualify as a “hybrid” spring piston air rifle. It’s very accurate, doesn’t vibrate, is very quiet, has a wonderful trigger, cocks easily and has super power for a breakbarrel air rifle. Yes, it does cost more than a meal at Sizzler, but it’s nowhere near the cost of a meal at a five-star restaurant.
I jumped at the opportunity to label the new under-$300 PCPs as price-point PCPs, but I’m not quite ready to call the ASP20 a hybrid. I guess that’s because there is only one like it in the world and it’s the one. With the PPPs we were inundated by a tidal wave of offerings. If the same thing happens with high-quality breakbarrels that sell at a reasonable price I might have to start using the term, but for now I’ll just say Sig is out there leading the pack.
So, what is the answer to today’s unspoken question, “Should I buy that super-accurate airgun that I want so much?” The answer is you! Are you going to shoot airguns? Are you loving them so much that you can’t stop shooting them? If that is the case then I would advise you to set your sights high and get the airgun(s) you want, instead of the ones you think you deserve (because you aren’t that good a shot yet) or the airguns you think you can afford. Years ago when I didn’t have the money to buy what I wanted, I learned to subordinate my desires to reality. What would make me the happiest the soonest? I couldn’t have it all but I could certainly have things that made me happy.
Oh, yes, I’m the Great Enabler! But only for those who wish to be enabled!