BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54
BSF S54 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Something else
  • Rear sight has to come off
  • 1950s design
  • Assemble the rifle again
  • Install the peep sight
  • Ordered a new target front sight insert
  • Accuracy
  • The test
  • H&N Finale High Speed
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today will be another accuracy test of the BSF S54 Match rifle. But it’s a test with a twist. In Part 3 we learned which pellet does best in this rifle — the H&N Finale Match High Speed — a 7-grain wadcutter that is no longer being offered. I have received the current Finale Match Light target pellets, so I can start testing with them today, as well.

Something else

And, there is something else. A couple weeks back reader Kevin alerted me to the fact that the seller in Bulgaria from whom I bought the Diana peep sight also had a BSF peep sight for sale. He had it advertised for Anschütz, FWB and Walther, which is why I never noticed it. The price was reasonable and, as before, the shipping was free, so I ordered it. It’s here and I would like to show it to you.

BSF S54 peep left
The BSF S54 peep sight is simple and ruggedly built. The vertical adjustment knob that’s sticking up in this view has detents.

BSF S54 peep right
The horizontal adjustment knob is on the right side. There are no detents in that adjustment.

BSF S54 peep under
The bottom of the sight has a clamp on the front, which is on the right in this picture. The two screws control the clamping pressure. There is no positive stop for recoil, and this rifle doesn’t seem to need one.

This sight is definitely a throwback to the 1950s! It’s made from mostly steel parts except its base that’s aluminum. And there isn’t a scale or index mark on it anywhere. There is no way to record where the sight is set. You have to shoot the gun and note where it hits, then adjust from there. There are also no marks to indicate which way things move when the sight is adjusted! It’s a very non-target peep sight! But this S54 is a very non-target match rifle, so the sight is well-suited to it.

Rear sight has to come off

Since the rear sight is aligned with the front sight, it’s in the way of the sight line of the peep, and has to come off. Could I lower it all the way and be able to shoot over it? Sure, but when I tried it I could see the rear sight through the peep hole and that was disconcerting.

1950s design

Here’s the thing. To get the rear sight off the rifle it has to slide all the way up the barrel and off the muzzle. So, the front sight has to come off. And the cocking lever anchor has to come off, as well, because it’s in the way, too. All of these parts have to slide off the muzzle.

BSF S54 cocking lever anchor
The cocking lever anchor has to come off to allow the rear sight to slide off the barrel.

Now, in the 1950s the Germans (and Americans) never used just one part when 27 would do. So, there is lots of work to be done!

BSF S54 front sight parts
The front sight came off the rifle. Lots of parts!

BSF S54 front sight parts bagged
After the photo I bagged the parts for security.

Next the cocking lever anchor came off. This was just the anchor and the screw that held it.

Then the rear sight came off. It was a bunch of parts, too.

BSF S54 rear sight
The rear sight and cocking lever anchor (on the left) were a lot of parts, too.

Assemble the rifle again

Now, the cocking lever anchor and front sight went back on the rifle. The rear sight is in a plastic bag and may never be reinstalled. The rifle is ready to receive the peep sight.

Install the peep sight

The peep sight slides over the peep sight base on the rear of the spring tube. It sticks off the back of the rifle several inches, which brings it close to the sighting eye. I slid mine back almost as far as it will go because the peephole is very small and I want it to be close to my eye.

BSF S54 peep sight
The peep hangs way off the back of the spring tube.

Ordered a new target front sight insert

I went to the Chambers website and discovered there is a ring or aperture front sight element available for the S54 for under $5. So I ordered one. I may tune the rifle before I test that element — I’m undecided right now.

Accuracy

I discovered something while doing this work. The front sight was not loose on the rifle after all. The hood that covers it was what was loose. The sight element and the sight base were both tight. However, the entire rear sight was slightly loose, so mounting this peep sight might actually give better accuracy right from the start. Why don’t we see?

The test

I shot at 10 meters off a sandbag rest with the artillery hold. My off hand was at the cocking slot that, on the S54, is so short that the entire slot fits in my palm.

H&N Finale Match High Speed

First to be tried were the H&N Finale Match High Speed target pellets that are no longer available. We know from the Part 3 test that they were the most accurate of the pellets that were tested.

I had to sight in first, but the first pellet landed just outside the black, and two shots later I was finished. My 5-shot group then measured 0.446-inches, which is larger than last time (0.232-inches) but good enough for today.

BSF S54 Finale Match High Speed
Five H&N Finale Match High Speed pellets went into 0.446-inches at 10 meters.

H&N Finale Match Light

The real test was the Finale Match Light pellet that I hadn’t tested in this gun yet. I hoped they would at least equal what the lighter High Speed pellets were doing. And they did! On the first try, five pellets went into 0.399-inches at 10 meters. I was happy with this group but knew I could do even better, so I adjusted the peep sight down by three clicks and shot a second group.

BSF S54 Finale Match Light 1
Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets made this 0.399-inch group at 10 meters.

The second group was shot with my complete concentration — the same as I would give during a match. This time 5 pellets went into 0.192-inches at 10 meters. The new pellet can shoot in the S54!

BSF S54 Finale Match Light 2
Yes, this 0.192-inch group is worthy of the trime (a 14mm American silver coin from the mid-19th century)! The H&N Finale Match Light pellets can shoot in the BSF S54!

Discussion

I’m not saying that the new H&N pellets are more accurate than the obsolete ones. I haven’t shot them enough to know that. I’m just saying they will do.

In case you are wondering why my last group is so much better, it represents what I am really capable of when I concentrate. I used to shoot that well all the time 25 years ago, but, since I don’t practice every day, I cannot maintain that level of concentration without willing it for a short period. Harry Pope, who was a former world-champion Schuetzen shooter, said, when he was older, “I can still pull a center when I have to.” That’s how I feel, as well.

The new peep sight doesn’t make this rifle any more accurate — it makes it easier for me to be accurate with it. I’m still balancing a bull on top of a bead in the “snowman” hold, which is less than optimum. However, that last group is better accuracy than I thought this rifle capable of. It’s nearly as good as a modern 10-meter rifle in my hands. Sure, it was partly luck, but I’ll be shooting this rifle again, so then perhaps we will see how much was luck and how much was the rifle.

Summary

I have a real target-type front sight coming, and I now have this nice peep on the back. The next thing to do with this rifle is a teardown and lube with Tune in a Tube to make everything super smooth. Then I will try her again.


Hatsan SpeedFire Vortex multi-shot breakbarrel air rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Hatsan Speedfire
Hatsan SpeedFire Vortex breakbarrel repeater.

This report covers:

  • Hatsan response
  • Good data
  • Velocity Baracuda Hunter Extreme
  • String two
  • String three
  • Discussion
  • Vortex Supreme
  • Air Arms Field
  • Newboy Junior
  • Firing cycle
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today we resume our look at the .22-caliber Hatsan Speedfire Vortex multi-shot rifle. In Part 2 I got some velocities that seemed far too low, so I assumed the rifle was damaged in some way. I returned it to Hatsan and asked them to look at it and, if possible, please repair it so I could resume the test with the same rifle.

Daniel Settle of Hatsan got back with me and here is what he said.

Hatsan response

Tom,

We took some time to test out your sample SpeedFire this afternoon.  This was tested “as-is” out of the box – original gun, original magazines.  We did experience a larger extreme spread with one magazine (41) versus the other (23) with our Vortex Supreme pellets.  The “bad” magazine had some damage around the pellet exit opening on the muzzle side of the body.  I expect this might be interfering with and damaging the pellet skirts as they are pushed through.

I took a close look at the pellets you provided.  The skirts of the Falcons were mostly distorted or dented.  Out of 20 that I poured out into my hand, I found only 4 that still looked good.  The Kodiaks all looked pretty good, though.  I suspect that the extremely thin skirts on the Falcons are being damaged when pushed through the magazine, causing even more inconsistencies with sealing and power output.  I recommend a pellet with a more sturdy skirt for use in this gun.  Anything from H&N except the Sniper series should have a tough enough skirt to work well with the SpeedFire.  The JSB 15.89 and 18.13 should also be good ones, but I didn’t have any here to test.

I am not sure why we saw such significant differences with the Kodiak and Baracuda performance compared to how the Kodiaks performed for you.  We did not see the low velocities that you indicate in your blog page, even with the Kodiak pellets you sent along with the rifle.  Our velocities with the Falcon, however, were on par with yours – somewhat negating my thoughts of your chronograph being off.

With the “good” magazine, We tested a handful of pellet types from our inventory as well as the pellets you sent.  Each was fired for 10-shots.

Vortex Supreme (14.66gr)
High – 769
Low – 746
Avg – 761.9
High PWR – 19.3 FPE
Avg PWR – 18.9 FPE

Baracuda Hunter Extreme (18.52gr)
High – 667
Low – 647
Avg – 658.5
High PWR – 18.3 FPE
Avg PWR – 17.8 FPE

Baracuda (21.14gr)
High – 629
Low – 608
Avg – 622.4
High PWR – 18.6 FPE
Avg PWR – 18.2 FPE

Vortex Express (13.12gr)
High – 808
Low – 792
Avg – 801.5
High PWR – 19.0 FPE
Avg PWR – 18.7 FPE

Beeman Kodiak (21.14gr)
High – 628
Low – 613
Avg – 620.9
High PWR – 18.5 FPE
Avg PWR – 18.1 FPE

Air Arms Falcon (13.43gr)
High – 746
Low – 650
Avg – 706
High PWR – 16.6 FPE
Avg PWR – 14.9 FPE

Shot data from “bad” magazine and our Vortex Supreme pellets.
High – 768
Low – 727
Avg – 751.2
High PWR – 19.2 FPE
Avg PWR – 18.4 FPE

What would you like for us to do at this point, Tom?  Do you want this gun back (with a new magazine to replace the bad one)? Would you like for me to send any of the pellets that I tested?

Good data

Okay, that was very thorough and I now know that pellets with thin skirts are to be avoided. That may hold for all repeating spring rifles, so I will remain cautious when I test other guns.

I asked them to return the exact rifle I had been testing, so we will resume where we left off in Part 2. They included two magazines that should be good. I will test velocity again, with different pellets. Hatsan sent me a tin of Baracuda Hunter Extremes they say work well in the SpeedFire and a tin of their own Vortex Supreme domes that Pyramyd Air doesn’t currently stock. I’ll test both of them, plus two other pellets of my choice, based on what they told me. Let’s get started!

Velocity Baracuda Hunter Extreme

First to be tested was the H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme. Here is string one.

Shot…..Vel.
1………671
2………654
3………647
4………657
5………657
6………669
7………675
8………684
9………671
10.…….676

The average velocity is 666 f.p.s., and at that speed the 18.52 grain pellet generates 18.25 foot-pounds at the muzzle. The spread is 37 f.p.s., from 647 to 684 f.p.s.

This string is not tight, so I shot a second one that I will lay next to the first. Then you can see shot-to-shot what is happening.

String two

String1              String 2
Shot…..Vel.    Shot……..Vel
1………671    1………..663
2………654    2………..655
3………647    3………..656
4………657    4………..660
5………657    5………..683
6………669    6………..674
7………675    7………..664
8………684    8………..675
9………671    9………..677
10.…….676.  10……….673

The average for string 2 was 668 f.p.s. The spread was 28 f.p.s. — from 655 to 683 f.p.s. At the average velocity the pellet generates 18.35 foot-pounds for this string.

I wondered if the rifle mechanism was warming up as I shot. Or, are some chambers in the magazine different in some way, resulting in lower or higher velocity? Close correlation between the two strings would show that, but I’m not seeing it. I do see a slight tendency for the rifle to shoot faster as the shots add up, so perhaps is is warming up a little.

I will try one more thing. They sent me two magazines, so I’ll use the other one with the same pellet. I’ll post it next to strings one and two for comparison.

String three

String1               String 2          String 3 new mag
Shot…..Vel.    Shot……..Vel     Shot………Vel
1………671     1………..663      1…………659
2………654     2………..655      2…………660
3………647     3………..656      3…………669
4………657     4………..660      4…………656
5………657     5………..683      5…………668
6………669     6………..674      6…………678
7………675     7………..664      7…………676
8………684     8………..675      8…………684
9………671     9………..677      9…………681
10.…….676.   10……….673    10…………676

The average for string 3 with the second magazine was 671 f.p.s. the spread was 28 f.p.s. At the average velocity the muzzle energy this time was 18.52 foot-pounds. The output of this magazine is very close to the first mag, though it is a trifle faster.

Discussion

There is more variation in velocity with the SpeedFire than we might see in a single shot rifle that’s running well. It’s large but not excessive.

My results paralleled those of Hatsan who tested this same rifle and pellet. That gives us confidence in them (and that our two chronographs are in agreement).

I don’t think the individual chambers in the mag influence velocity. But the gun does seem to warm up as it goes. And I have to note that is so much faster to fire 10 shots with a repeating breakbarrel rifle because I don’t have to load each pellet. I used the second magazine for the remainder of the test.

Let’s now look at Hatsan’s Vortex Supreme pellet.

Vortex Supreme

The Vortex Supreme is made in Germany and weighs the same 14.66-grains as the H&N Field Target Trophy. It’s a domed pellet. How did it do?

The average for the Vortex Supreme was 766 f.p.s. The spread was 50 f.p.s., from 729 to 779 f.p.s., but the 729 number was an anomaly. The next-slowest pellet went 754 f.p.s. At the average velocity the Vortex Extreme produced 19.11 foot-pounds at the muzzle. That’s close to the 19.3 foot-pounds that Hatsan reported as the highest they saw. And, I am reporting energy based on the average. My highest energy with this pellet was 19.76 foot-pounds.

Air Arms Field

Next up was the Air Arms Field pellet — a 16-grain dome. I chose it because JSB makes it for Air Arms and it is close to the JSB Exact Jumbo. They averaged 666 f.p.s., but the spread was huge — 105 f.p.s. After shooting the string I examined the skirt of a pellet and found they were thin. I thought the 16-grain weight was a guarantee of a thicker skirt, but apparently not. At the average velocity these pellets generated 15.76 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. I don’t think these are right for the SpeedFire.

Newboy Junior

The final pellet I tried was the Skenco NewBoy Junior. This dome weighs 20.3 grains and this may be the first time I have tried it in a test. Ten shots averaged 636 f.p.s. with a spread of 22 f.p.s. That makes this pellet the most consistent in my test of the SpeedFire.

At the average velocity this pellet generated 18.24 foot-pounds at the muzzle. That’s in line with the better pellets for this rifle.

Firing cycle

The rifle doesn’t vibrate much when it shoots, but there is noticeable forward recoil. That made testing the trigger pull a challenge. The discharge sound is on the loud side — perhaps a 3.7 on the Pyramyd Air 5-point scale.

Cocking effort

The test rifle cocked with 28 lbs. of effort. I noted that the cocking stroke was very even and smooth.

Trigger pull

The trigger broke with 3 lbs. 12 oz. pressure. I adjusted it by the manual and found that the screw that lightens the pull was adjusted as light as it would go. I tried it a second time and it fired at the same pull weight.

Summary

I have learned something in this test. Give repeating spring rifles a chance to perform, because they may be picky about the pellets they prefer. And thicker skirts are probably better.

The Hatsan SpeedFIre is performing exactly as it should, now that BB has been educated. I will begin the accuracy test next and will start with the open sights that come on the gun. That may help me find the best pellets for the scoped test.


Pause to reflect

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Blue Book coming
  • Overwhelmed
  • Price-point PCP
  • Compressors
  • The value compressor
  • Set-and-forget
  • Gun compressors
  • Repeating spring guns
  • Lookalikes
  • Big Bores
  • Special things
  • Over to you

Blue Book coming

I have been writing my next Blue Book of Airguns report. My section is called Gaylord Reports, and I try to summarize all that has happened since the last Blue Book was published. The new book should be released in May or early June.

The last Blue Book was published in 2016. While that sounds like just three years ago, since the book was actually written the year before, it’s a full 3-plus years and going on four. More has happened in this time than at anytime in the history of airguns!

Overwhelmed

There is so much information that I cannot get it into one report. I’m having to consolidate all of the exciting things into categories. And doing that has caused me to pause for reflection. There is more going on with airguns today than I have ever seen. I would like to share my view with you right now, and then give you the opportunity to comment.

Price-point PCP

Several of the categories of things that have happened since the last Blue Book deal with the subject of pre-charged pneumatics (PCP). Let’s begin there. The price-point PCP, or as I like to call it the PPP has been the number one-game changer in this time frame. These are air rifles that are pre-charged pneumatics with a lot of desirable features, yet they sell for under $300. Until I wrote the section for the Blue Book, I did not fully appreciate their impact. You see, not only are there PPP guns, there are also guns that sell for even less money that I’m now calling sub-PPP guns. The Beeman QB Chief is a perfect example of one.

Compressors

The PPP guns do not stand alone. They have spawned an interest in the field of pre-charged pneumatics that is driving other areas. A rising tide lifts all boats. Perhaps the most important area is that of the compressor. In 2016 there were a few compressors that would fill large carbon-fiber tanks to 4500 psi. Today there are many that will do it! And some of them cost about half as much as they did several years ago.

The value compressor

The era of the giant $3000 air compressor is coming to a close — at least for individual shooters. They will continue to exist because there are many other needs for them, but individual airgunners can do the same things more conveniently with compressors costing less than half as much. The Air Venturi Compressor is a perfect example of this.

And compressors, like pneumatic guns, are also starting to coagulate into groups. Below what I am now calling the value compressors ($1,000 to $1,600) are a group of smaller machines that can do nearly as much — they just take longer.

Set-and-forget

One unique feature most of the new compressors have is they can stand alone — not needing to be attended. The $3000 compressors require an operator at their side while they are running. But the compressors that cost $1,000 to $1,600 have set-and-forget features. They shut off when the set pressure is reached and several of them self-bleed during operation. You still have to be aware of them, but you don’t have to stand over them. You can be in another room and just listen for them to stop.

This set-and-forget feature has migrated down to the lower-priced units, as well. The Air Force E-pump is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. That compressor can also fill a large carbon-fiber tank — it just takes longer than a larger compressor.

Gun compressors

If you want to save even more money there are now compressors that are not made to fill tanks but individual guns. They have most of the same features of the higher-cost units, but they are less money. The Air Venturi Nomad II is one of these and not only does it have a set-and-forget feature, it also runs on both house current and a car battery.

Repeating spring guns

Another new category is the repeating springer. We had them back when I was a kid 60 years ago, but they didn’t work very well. They had problems feeding the pellets through their complex mechanisms. Today they use rotary magazines, and the feeding problem has been solved!

When they first started coming to the market several years ago, I thought they were just gimmicks. But more and more companies are bringing them out, and they’re being received well by the air gun community.

I’m currently testing both the Hatsan Proxima and the Hatsan SpeedFire rifles. In fact, I have the SpeedFire back from Hatsan and will be testing it tomorrow.

Look around and you’ll see that this field is blossoming rapidly. I guess its time has come.

Lookalikes

The look-alike airgun is also not a new idea. We had them prior to World War II. The Haenel model 28 that looks like a German Luger is a perfect example from the 1930s.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, Crosman’s 38 C and 38T were considered brilliant, and everybody knows how successful their M1 Carbine BB gun was. Today these guns all look like museum artifacts, which I sadly guess they are, since they are a half-century old. They were great for their time but we are now living in the age of the lookalike. Yesterday’s report on the new Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle should be proof of that!

We have guns like the new Sig M17 P320 pellet pistol and any number of 1911s from a variety of companies. And, perhaps the best replica of all is the Umarex MP40 Submachine Gun. It is so realistic!
And don’t forget the K98 Mauser from Diana. Not only is it a great look-alike airgun, it’s also wonderful shooter!

Big bores

Another category that is booming is the big bore airgun — pardon the pun. These were already hot in 2016, but the increase since then has overwhelmed me. The big bore is probably where our pneumatic technology will be affected the most. Some companies who thought they could develop big bores and get in on the action suddenly realized the physics of pneumatics for the first time. There are things that cannot be overlooked. A longer barrel means higher velocity — period! High pressure does not guarantee great power. An airgun’s valve has to be designed to be efficient with air and to take the probable projectiles into account. You don’t notice this in a 177 pneumatic as much as you do in a 45. The big bore really pushes your nose into the science!

And, let’s not forget arrow launchers. They are a little older than 2016, but since that time some remarkable things have happened. Air Venturi, for example, did away with the special airgun and made their Air Bolts launchable from any appropriate barrel. Pretty nice when $100 will save you $1,000!

Special things

Since 2016 there have also been a few special things happen. They are so outstanding that they need to be addressed individually. Perhaps the most significant of these is the new Sig ASP20 breakbarrel rifle. Sig has reduced the cocking effort of a powerful gas spring by 30 percent, eliminated vibration, lowered the muzzle blast, gotten accuracy that has never been seen in a gas spring gun before and coupled all that with a dedicated optic that was designed expressly for the rifle. What Sig has done is take the careful work of a serious field target shooter and render it down into a package that can be bought over the counter.

Another significant change during this period has been the acquisition of RAW by AirForce airguns. RAW rifles are at the pinnacle of pneumatic superiority. They may have a few equals, but none are better. However, until recently they have been made in small batches, with many operations being done by hand. AirForce has turned that wonderful design into something producible at a reasonable rate. They won’t make thousands of them because there isn’t a demand for that many airguns at that price. But, by making hundreds at a time, they can significantly decrease the time it takes to get one. And, they are looking at other things that will improve this even more, like building several of the most popular models to have in stock.

Over to you

That is what I have been thinking about for the past month. As I put my chapter together for the Blue Book I was overwhelmed by how far we have come in such a short time. A couple readers have asked where does it all end? If we’re lucky, I don’t think it does. What do you think?


Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle.

This report covers:

  • The obvious
  • Description
  • Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle magazine
  • Side-by-side
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • CO2
  • Velocity
  • Bolt release
  • A lot more!

A couple readers guessed that yesterday’s report was the start of the Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle. That’s point number one. This is a real Ruger Air Rifle. It’s branded that way, which means that no Ruger collection is complete without one. I have seen Ruger collectors pay thousands of dollars for rare examples of Ruger guns, including an unfired .256 Winchester Magnum Ruger Hawkeye that went for more than $3,000. Quite a lot for a single-shot pistol, wouldn’t you say?

The obvious

Let’s address the elephant in the room. This isn’t the first 10/22 air rifle lookalike we’ve seen. Crosman’s 1077 is meant to copy the 10/22, and of course their Benjamin Wildfire is the same gun using high pressure air. Both rifles resemble the 10/22 but also have differences — particularly in the magazine area. Having said that, I don’t want to continue to make comparisons — it isn’t my style.

Description

This air rifle mimics the 10/22 firearm closely. The air rifle weighs 4 pounds 8 ounces while the firearm weighs 5 pounds 6 ounces — with both guns unloaded. The air rifle’s weight is biased towards the butt.

The air rifle has a synthetic stock with a solid-sounding butt. The length is 37 inches overall with a 13.5-inch pull. The firearm is 36.25 inches overall with a 13.25-inch pull.

The air rifle is a 10-shot double action repeater. It operates on two 12-gram CO2 cartridges.

Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle magazine

I was surprised at this year’s SHOT Show when I looked at the air rifle magazine to see that it was a very close copy of the firearm mag.

rifle mags
My 10/22 (left) had the mag release mod done to it. Ruger makes them that way now. The scallop at the top is for the finger to pry out the mag.

10/22 mag out
The mag box looks very much like a Ruger 10/22 firearm mag.

The 10/22 magazine release was a sore point for many years. It sat flush with the bottom of the stock and had to be pressed in against a strong spring, making it hard to operate. A common “fix” was to thread something like a thumbscrew into the front of the mag release to give you something to push on. Ruger has since incorporated this into their design and the mag release they make today is easy to operate. Thankfully the air rifle faithfully used that version!

early mag release
This earlier 10/22 mag release had no extension and was difficult to operate.

The rifle comes with one magazine box and one circular magazine. A package of two circular magazines will sell for under $5.

Side-by-side

I detest comparing one gun to another unless they are supposed to be alike — like this one. When put side-by-side, the resemblance and attention to detail of the air rifle is remarkable. Even Ruger has commented on it, and they would be the most critical of all.

2 rifles
The Ruger Air Rifle (bottom) is a faithful replica of the .22 firearm.

Sights

The Lord bless Umarex and Ruger — these sights are not fiberoptic! Hurrah! The air rifle has a gold bead up front (shades of 1950!) and the rear is a double notch that folds flat. That combination allows you to draw a fine bead in the lower notch or a coarse bead that’s flush with the top. Why — you would think that someone at Ruger is an actual rifleman, and someone at Umarex knows what is important to real shooters!

10/22 front sight
Now, that is a front sight for an air rifle! Good job, Umarex!

10/22 rear sight
The rear sight is a perfect copy of the firearm sight. I wonder if it isn’t one?

Four holes are drilled and tapped in the air rifle receiver for the installation of Weaver bases — just like they are on the firearm. This is why the rear sight folds flat — so you don’t have to take it off to mount a low scope.

10/22 tops of 2 rifles
Even the tops of the receivers are identical. Drilled and tapped for scope bases. Any 10/22 base will fit the air rifle.

Umarex sent me the Weaver bases for this rifle (they are the regular 10/22 bases) and an Axeon R47 dot sight to mount on the rifle for a little more juice in my test. I will also tell you how that sight works, though Pyramyd Air doesn’t carry it at this time.

Trigger

Something unique to the air rifle is how the trigger works. If you want to shoot rapidly, just pull the trigger and all 12 shots in the magazine are available double action. That mode both cocks the striker and advances the magazine, so the pull is long and hard — the specs say 10 pounds.

However, you can manually cock the bolt, which makes the trigger single-stage with a lighter and crisper pull that the specs say is 3 pounds. I have tried it several times and it is both lighter and crisper, but I will test both of these for you.

CO2

The 10/22 Air Rifle uses 2 12-gram CO2 cartridges that are inserted in-line into the butt. The buttplate comes off easily with a quarter-turn of a large spring-loaded screw.

10/22 butt plate
A coin turns the captive butt plate screw (arrow) a quarter turn and the plate comes off to load CO2.

butt plate off with CO2
With the butt plate removed you can install the CO2 cartridges. They go in as you see them positioned above the rifle.

Velocity

The specs say to expect velocities in the 650 f.p.s. range. That’s just what I would predict for a CO2 rifle like this. You know I will test it for you.

Bolt release

The one control that’s not functional on the airgun is the bolt release lever. On the rifle you can lock the bolt open (it doesn’t automatically lock open after the last shot) with this lever. To release the bolt, simply pull back slightly on the bolt handle to release the lock and the bolt goes forward again.

There is no reason to put a similar bolt release on the air rifle because the bolt doesn’t operate the same on the air rifle as on the firearm.

A lot more!

There are things I didn’t get to yet, so Part 3 will have to include them. This is an exciting new air rifle. I sure hope it’s accurate!

The rifle should be available in June, according to what I was told by Umarex USA. I know the Pyramyd Air website says earlier, but these things change constantly, as information comes in.

10/22 name
Yes, it’s really a 10/22.


Ruger 10/22: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Ruger 10/22
Ruger 10/22.

This report covers:

  • Well-suited
  • History
  • My 10/22
  • Barrel lottery
  • Custom barrel
  • Why this report today?
  • BUT

Whaaaat???

BB is writing about a firearm? And it’s a 10-shot semiautomatic firearm, at that. Many countries ban semiautomatic firearms! So this one isn’t even legal in a lot of places.

What gives?

I’m not telling — yet! I do have a reason for doing this. It’s a real good reason, but for today you just have to trust me.

Well-suited

Of all the airgun writers on this planet — are there more than 20? — I’m probably the most qualified to write about the Ruger 10/22 because I have written about it extensively for Shotgun News — the previous title of Firearm News, many years ago. I wrote the feature series, What can you do with a 10/22? in which I investigated accuracy, reliability, modifications, customizing, and the use of a silencer.

History

The Ruger 10/22 has been in production continuously since 1964. As I said, it is a 10-shot semi automatic .22 rimfire rifle. There are plenty of similar .22 semi automatics on the market, but the 10/22 sticks out as an all-time classic, not unlike the Kalashnikov, the AR, and the M1 Garand. Its popularity is based in part on its ability to be modified into almost anything the shooter wants. Ruger themselves have produced it in a variety of flavors in addition to the basic (and very low-cost) carbine. Just to mention a few that have stood out over the years there is the Target, the International, the Sporter and the Takedown

Ruger 10/22 Target
Ruger’s 10/22 Target offered greater accuracy, a better trigger, a nice laminate stock for a very reasonable price.

Ruger 10/22 International
The International featured a stutzen stock that was checkered and had European sling swivels

Ruger 10/22 Sporter
The Sporter that’s still made features a more accurate 20-inch barrel and a checkered stock.

Ruger 10/22 Takedown
The Takedown is made for the field and features stainless-steel construction in a synthetic stock.

Ruger has made other variations of the 10/22, but all of them together are just a smattering of what the aftermarket has done with this highly flexible systems rifle. That was a major focus in my magazine series. I modified a Carbine to increase its accuracy, make the trigger more responsive, make it easier to clean and make the magazine release work more efficiently.

My 10/22

I tested it out of the box and again, after it had been tuned by Connecticut Precision Chambering. Out of the box it shot 10-shot 50-yard groups that were 1.5 to 2-inches. After the chamber had been re-reamed to target specifications, the headspace had been re-cut to minimum specifications (with the factory Carbine barrel), the bolt jewelled for oil retention and appearance, a shock bumper aded to cushion the backward stop of the bolt during functioning and the trigger had been made both lighter, crisper and given an overtravel adjustment, the rifle was returned to me. CPC also drilled a hole at the back of the receiver that makes it possible to clean the barrel from the breech with a solid rod. And after all that work it was still a 1.5-inch rifle at 50 yards.

Ruger 10/22 cleanout hole
This hole at the back of the receiver allows you to clean the barrel from the breech with a solid rod, once the bolt is removed. The hole sits below the stock line so it’s never seen.

Barrel lottery

What I learned after much investigation was the standard 18.5-inch Ruger 10/22 Carbine barrel is a lottery item. My friend Mac had one that could put 5 shots in a half-inch at 50 yards, but mine was only mediocre. However, because it was a 10/22, there were a host of options I could draw on. So, I did.

Custom barrel

I bought a 20-inch bull barrel from Butler Creek that they claimed would put 5 shots into a half-inch at 50 yards. Well, they got a phone call from me and a lesson on what accuracy really is. You know my mantra — five shots are luck — ten are proof. What did their barrel do with ten at 50 yards? They didn’t know. I invited them to read the series and find out.

The Butler Creek barrel came with a minimum target chamber, so that wan’t lost in the swap. But the headspace was whatever it turned out to be, because CPC had used the factory barrel when they did the job.

I installed the newly-tuned action and bull barrel in an aftermarket laminate stock that quite frankly looks to me like a rock star’s guitar — only I will never smash it in the ground for dramatic effect!

Ruger 10/22 custom
This is what my cheap 10/22 Carbine eventually became.

When all that work was done I tested the custom rifle against a factory 10/22 Target. The modified rifle had cost several hundred dollars more to create than the Target had cost off the shelf. How did they compare? They came out about even. The best 10-shot group at 50 yards from the custom rifle measured 0.649-inches between centers and the best group from the target model measured 0.608. The small difference between the two smallest groups was larger than the probable measurement error.

Ruger 10/22 custom groups

Ruger 10/22 Target groups

Why this report today?

There are a couple reasons for today’s report. First, I wrote it because all too often I hear guys talking about this or that in the shooting world and I wonder whether they are telling the truth or just being guys. It’s easy to separate the out-and-out liars, because they stand out. Their mouths are like billboard that flash, “The truth isn’t in me!” But the guys who are right on the edge have always made me wonder.

Mac was one of those. When he told me what his Ruger 10/22 could do (5 shots in a half-inch at 50 yards) I didn’t believe him. Or at least I wondered.

What I have discovered is if the guy who is spouting all this stuff learns that you have the very thing he’s talking about he either shuts up right away (that would be one of the liars) or he starts getting very specific about how you can do what he has done. That’s called passion and that was Mac. I wrote the series in part because of him, and other guys like him I have known.

My wife and I agreed that getting a 10/22 in 2003 was the thing to do. There would be a lot of good material associated with it. Heck, this very blog, written 16 years after buying that gun, is another of the many benefits I have derived.

BUT

That isn’t the principal reason I write this report today. For that you must wait until tomorrow.

Ruger 10/22 BB at bench
BB at the bench.

Ruger 10/22 two rifles
Two Ruger 10/22s.


The American Zimmerstutzen: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

American Zimmerstutzen
The American Zimmerstutzen.

This report covers:

  • I didn’t know the gun was loaded
  • And again…
  • And again
  • STOP!!!
  • Blanks?
  • Can real blanks hurt you?
  • They were blanks but he fired too soon
  • KaBOOM!
  • So what?
  • Sooner started…
  • Does this thing even work?
  • No fit?
  • Serendipity
  • HOWEVER
  • Summary

I first titled this report, “Can blanks hurt you?”

In writing about the American Zimmerstutzen today, I rediscovered all my fears about shooting blanks in guns. Why would I worry about that? Well, this home-built pellet rifle was made to be powered by a blank cartridge. And, over the three score and ten years of my life, I have seen countless injuries and deaths from blanks.

I didn’t know the gun was loaded

You may have heard the story that actor Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was killed during filming, “The Crow.” He was shot with what Hollywood and the media called a “blank gun.” But it wasn’t really a blank gun — it was a firearm. And he wasn’t shot with a blank; he was shot with a bullet. How, many ask? Simple — the film crew was careless while using a firearm to shoot blanks and someone loaded a live cartridge into the handgun that shot and killed Lee. And that was not the only time it’s happened.

And again…

In 2015 an actor was shot with a bullet during a stunt gunfight at Tombstone, Arizona in a live portrayal of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The marshal of Tombstone believed the shooting was an accident, but BB doesn’t. He believes it was a stupident! That’s because he has seen it in person.

And again

At Frontier Village amusement park where I worked during college we were looking for a part-time actor to be a western character to give our outlaw character a day off each week. Several people applied, including a San Jose policeman. We brought the police officer in for a trial run and schooled him on the script of a gunfight. When he had the timing and the lines down, we went for a dress rehearsal with live ammo, which were blanks. He had brought his own revolver that was a .38 special, so he also had to furnish his own blanks, since all of our guns were .45 Colts. No problem, he said. He had a box of them on hand.

STOP!!!

When the gunfight was run the marshal yelled, “Stop!” just after the shooting started. Bullets were tearing through the walls and fence posts next to where he was standing.

Blanks?

It turned out that the policeman wasn’t shooting blanks — he was shooting midrange wadcutter bullets that he thought were blanks because the bullets didn’t stick out beyond the case mouth. We learned a lesson that seems to keep repeating itself throughout history. We thought a policeman would surely know what blanks are. What he thought I don’t know because we promptly said goodbye to him. I don’t know if he learned anything from that, but we sure did!

midrange wadcutters
The bullets on midrange wadcutters are flush with the end of the case, or very nearly so.

Can real blanks hurt you?

So much for stupidents. What about real blanks — ones that have no bullets. Can they hurt you? Well, watch this.

They were blanks but he fired too soon

I remember one gunfight when the marshal’s gun fired before clearing his holster. The blast of flame from the shot tore his heavy wool trousers from the end of the holster to his boots. The skin on his leg was burned off in a patch almost the size of an American football and the meat underneath was — well, it wasn’t pretty!

KaBOOM!

We loaded our own blanks at Frontier Village and they were a .45 Colt case full of black powder (about 40 grains) with a cardboard wad on top. When we shot, a ball of flame stretched about 8 feet from the muzzle of the gun. It was loud and dramatic and we had to stand about 20 feet apart to avoid getting hit by anything.

Our sawed-off double-barreled shotgun held about twice as much powder and shot a ball of flame about 12 feet long. We fired that one from rooftops and special places where no one could get too close. We had to make sure that the crowd that numbered between 20 and 150 people was safely out of the way whenever we fired. Thank goodness the only “accidents” were ever had were the two I have mentioned. But the danger was real and it instilled a great respect in me for blank cartridges.

So what?

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I am trying to work up the courage to fire a blank in the American Zimmerstutzen. Because that’s how I will have to test it. You learned in Part 2 that this rifle uses a blank cartridge to propel a pellet — or at least that is the theory. I’m a test pilot for this gun because it’s handmade and it didn’t come with a set of directions. I know how it is supposed to work, but whether it really does is an entirely different story.

American Zimmerstutzen blanks
I bought these months ago for this test. I don’t like the subtitle “Noise Blanks”!

A couple months ago I bought some CCI blanks for this test. They say “Noise Blanks” which means they are filled with powder that burns even faster than gunpowder. That’s so they will make a lot of noise with no resistance in the barrel. It also means the pressure curve will be faster and probably higher than with a cartridge. No problem if there is nothing in front of them, but if there is — like, say, a pellet — the pressure could rise too high. And this gun is homemade!

I thought that at least I could try one without a pellet and see how bad it really is.

Sooner started…

Okay, I’m scared. So safety glasses, long sleeve shirt and coat and gloves for the hand. Shoot in the garage to not scare the kitties. Here I go.

Does this thing even work?

I removed the “bolt” which on this gun is 27 hand-filed parts that do who knows what. Then I fiddled with the mechanism to get the chamber open.

American Zimmerstutzen chamber open
There’s the bolt out and the chamber open to accept a blank cartridge.

American Zimmerstutzen no fit
And there is a .22 Short blank pushed into the chamber as far as it will go!

No fit?

Wow! In an instant everything changed and my life did not have to flash before my eyes. The person who made this treasure knew something after all! A .22 Short blank is too large to fit into the chamber. What gives?

Serendipity

Talk about luck! Talk about being blessed! Talk about good fortune! Do you know what this means?

No? Then I’ll tell you. I would have anyway, because I am so excited.

What is almost like a .22 Short blank, but a little bit smaller? That’s right — a real 4mm Zimmerstutzen cartridge! I should have some 4mm cartridges without balls in my collection, but it may take awhile to lay hands on them. However, the U.S. supplier of 4mm cartridges is Neal Stepp who is headquartered about 15 miles from me. With luck I can drive up and buy some.

Ironically, I titled this series The American Zimmerstutzen. When I did that I had no idea that it might actually be one! That’s a trip to Serendib.

HOWEVER

The really big deal in this is the fact that a 4mm cartridge uses priming compound, only. There is no powder. So the pressure will not be too high. In other words, this thing might just work, after all.

Summary

I am still not understanding how a builder who was so smart as to create a low-pressure propulsion system did not understand that a .22 rimfire barrel is too large to be accurate with pellets. But I hope there is more to discover. This little series is turning into a journey, rather than a traditional vintage gun test report! I’ll take that!

And, just so you know — yes, this does relate to airguns. How? Well, every 10 years or so somebody else “invents” a system that uses either primers or percussion caps to power a pellet. By the strict interpretation of the law these are not airguns, but way more than 90 percent of the shooters treat them as if they are. All I’m doing is showing you something that was made a long time ago that uses the same principle.


Hatsan Proxima underlever repeater: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan Proxima
Hastsan Proxima underlever repeater.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Single shot?
  • The test
  • Sight-in
  • Remember the sights!
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • Firing cycle
  • RWS Superdome
  • Baracuda Match
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today we start looking at the accuracy of the .22-caliber Hatsan Proxima. Since it has open sights, I started with them.

Single shot?

You guys dumped on me last time about the single-shot feature. Okay, I admit there are some aftermarket single-shot adaptors for the Proxima, but I doubt anyone will ever use them. You see, cocking this rifle and closing the cocking lever is a two-handed proposition. Don’t forget the cocking lever release has to be pressed to close the lever. Unless you have a third hand to load a pellet with one of those adaptors while all that is going on, I don’t think it will happen. Is it possible? Sure. But it’s a bar bet — not a way to shoot.

The test

I shot the rifle off a rest today, using the artillery hold with my off hand at the rear of the cocking slot. I shot that way because the Proxima recoils significantly. I shot from 10 meters. All groups were 5-shot groups because the Proxima is too hard to cock to shoot more. Even 5 shots was tiring. Once the rifle was sighted for the first pellet I didn’t adjust the sights. I’m looking for possible accurate pellets that will be represented by their small group size — not for where they hit.

Sight-in

I sighted in with the first pellet I planned to shoot for a group — the Sniper Magnum from H&N. The sights were on for elevation but too far to the right. Four shots got them close to the center of the black, which was all I wanted for today’s test. The real accuracy test will come later.

Five Sniper Magnums went into 0.792-inches at 10 meters when using the open sights. The group is horizontal, with three pellets sticking close to each other in the center. It’s difficult to tell whether or not this pellet will work in this rifle. I think that will become clear as we progress.

Proxima Sniper Magnum group
Five H&N Sniper Magnum pellets made this 0.792-inch group at 10 meters with the Proxima.

Remember the sights!

Before we continue I want to remind you that I’m shooting with open sights. And not just any open sights. These are fiberoptic open sights that have a large front bead. So, some of the group size is probably due to the lack of precision of the sights.

JSB Exact Heavy

The next pellet I tried is one that was not shot in the velocity test — the 18.13-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. Five of them went into a group that is an impressive 0.464-inches between centers. For clunky open sights, that’s pretty good. It was also the best group of the test.

Proxima Exact Heavy group
Now, that’s a group! Five JSB Exact Jumbo Heavys in 0.464-inches at 10 meters. The Proxima can shoot!

Firing cycle

I must comment on the Proxima’s firing cycle. The rifle jumps forward in recoil, but there is very little vibration. Since I’m using the artillery hold, I notice the jump, but it always seems like the pellet gets a good sendoff. This rifle is smooth, and feels powerful.

RWS Superdome

Next up was the RWS Superdome pellet. I expected them to do great. Did they? Five Superdomes went into 0.708-inches at 10 meters. It’s a vertical group, which may indicate sighting issues. And the bottom pellet hole almost looks like the pellet went through the target sideways, though that may just be the way the paper tore.

Proxima Superdome group
Five RWS Superdomes made this 0.708-inch group at 10 meters. Look at the bottom hole. Doesn’t it look like a pellet went through sideways?

Baracuda Match

The last pellet I shot was the H&N Baracuda Match with a 5.51mm head. Five of them gave a very horizontal 1.353-inch group. They are definitely not the right pellets for this Proxima.

Proxima Baracuda Match group
Five Baracuda Match pellets with 5.51mm heads went into 1.252-inches at 10 meters. Not the pellet for the Proxima!

Discussion

We can see from the second target that JSB Exact Jumbo Heavys are going to be good in the Proxima. I think my next step will be to scope the rifle and test with them. After that I will try other pellets.

I want to say once more that the Proxima is a hunting airgun, only. This isn’t a plinker. The cocking effort keeps it from being that.

Summary

I am surprised that the groups are as good as they are today. I didn’t expect a group smaller than one-half inch. That gives me a good feeling that the Proxima is probably going to be a solid hunting rifle.