by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Loose scope
  • Oh, oh!
  • Bob’s drone
  • Nope
  • And?
  • No blog
  • Best for 2019
  • On to the reviews
  • You Tube videos
  • Reviews still important
  • Why I wrote today’s report
  • BB is moving toward You Tube videos
  • Summary

To our readers in the UK, happy Guy Fawkes Day (actually Guy Fawkes Night, but who’s looking?)!

My brother-in-law, Bob (blog handle B-I-L), came up for a visit last Friday and we shot the Umarex Synergis rifle in which he was interested. We shot and shot, but for some reason he just could not get the rifle to hit the bull. It was grouping to the right. Even when I shot it, the pellets still went to the right. No scope adjustment seemed to work, though I did raise the impact point with the adjustments, so perhaps that concealed what was happening.

Loose scope

After maybe 15 disappointing shots he asked me if the scope was tight. Well, of course it was! I’m the Godfather of Airguns, Bob. Would I hand you a rifle with a loose scope?

Oh, oh!

So I grabbed the scope to show him how tight it was — and it rattled! Oh! The bases of the mounts were loose on the rifle. A quick turn of the base screws with a quarter and Bob started shooting dime-sized groups in the bull at 20 yards. It just goes to show you that it’s always something.

Bob’s drone

After we finished shooting Bob pulled his drone out of the box and asked me if I wanted to look at my roof. Then he installed the batteries, paired the drone to the controller, stabilized the gyros, aligned the compass, found the satellites and — nothing! He played with it for many minutes, rebooting it several times and trying to get the darn thing to work, but it just refused. So back in the box it went and Bob said, “I guess I’ve just soured you on drones.”

Nope

Not at all! I didn’t know they were so affordable and that guys like Bob and I could operate them. On Saturday I cruised the web looking at drones priced from $90 to $1,100, thinking I might find a use for them in some of my videos. Bob actually put that idea into my head, so I’m not the only Enabler on this blog.

And?

Here is what I found. Every drone on the market is wonderful, except for the ones that aren’t. It doesn’t matter what they cost — they all work great until they fly away and get lost or fall in a lake. That doesn’t count the ones that crash into trees and houses, fall on people or stop accepting commands from their controllers. The support teams at the companies that make the drones are extremely helpful and quick to respond, except for the ones that laugh at you. When your drone goes rogue (flies away to who-knows-where) the support team asks you to return it so they can examine it. Duh! And, there are no blogs for drones.

No blog

Whaddaya mean, BB? There are hundreds of blogs about drones. Yes, there are hundreds of commercial advertising pages that CALL themselves blogs, but each one I examined is either a thinly disguised sales platform, or an outlet for some esoteric drone research project.

What I mean when I say there are no blogs is I couldn’t find any blogs like THIS one! Places where those new to drones can go and ask fundamental questions and also where drones are tested without regard to who makes them. The “tests” I read about some drones were a joke — obviously written by someone in marketing.

Who are the Weihrauchs and Air Arms of drone makers? And who are the makers to avoid?

Best for 2019

So I did some research of my own. First I looked up the best drones of 2019 and discovered that, of the 10 listed, four were no longer available. The next day I tried that site again and found those four had been removed from the test results, replaced with 4 different drones that were available. Okay — that is not a “10 best” page. That is a “Here is what we have on hand today” page! Since one company’s models were rated best over most others, I have to assume their marketing department runs that “test” page.

So, I searched to find the 10 best drones of 2017. Here is a quote I pulled from from that page.

“This article will be continually updated as new drones are released and reviewed, so be sure to check back if you’re not buying a drone right now.”

They admit they are changing the page of the “best” drones for the year, as it suits them. That is as close as it comes to an admission of soft marketing.

Another “blog” website claims they are just in it for the fun. They test nothing but drones from a single manufacturer. It’s like asking me what is the best air rifle for hunting large game like deer and me responding that Weihrauch doesn’t make a big bore airgun. That wasn’t what you asked.

On to the reviews

So, as a last resort I started looking at the reviews of several different models. They were all over the board as you might expect, but I have a way of interpreting what they say. For example if somebody gives a drone one star, which is the lowest you can go, I read what they said. If their complaint is that the app to control the drone wouldn’t upload to their pre-Columbian kerosene-fired smart phone, I disregard it. If, on the other hand, they complain about performance, I then compare what they say to all the other one-star reviews. If they all say the manufacturer’s claim for 20 minutes of battery life is grossly inflated, I give them credence.

The five-star reviews are not nearly as valuable for several reasons. First, I don’t know if the manufacturer has paid someone to write the comment. Second I have discovered that if the writer is having a good life (he’s in love, just got a big promotion, etc.) the whole world seems rosy and he will forgive a lot of faults.

I also look at the number of reviews. When comparing a drone with 1,463 reviews to one with 29 reviews, a 7 percent one-star rating means a heck of a lot more on the greater number than on the lesser.

You Tube videos

Then I discovered why the written blogs may not be so good. Drone users don’t seem to work that way. They go in for videos. That makes sense, since the drones themselves have both video and still picture capabilities.

I found excellent test videos that are clearly made by private owners who test the drones in ways their viewers want them to. That makes a lot of sense because, not only does the drone film things, it also moves and can be filmed while in flight. It’s not like watching a 10-meter target match that’s as exciting as watching paint dry.

Reviews still important

Those written reviews are still important, because they reveal details about the product that you would not think about if you are new to the technology. For example, the battery life of the drone restricts how far it can safely fly and still safely return to home. The battery recharge time plus the cost of extra batteries is a second bit of information that goes along with this, as it all determines your flight time.

The object avoidance sensors are another key point. So are the camera controls, the gimbal function and even the Return To Home function that not all drones have. You will get a lot of great information from reading the better reviews. By better I don’t mean those reviews that praise the drone — I’m referring to the reviews that explain what they are talking about and why they say what they do.

Why I wrote today’s report

Some of you readers who have been with me for a couple years know that I sometimes stray way off topic to get a better feeling for what it looks like to be new to airguns. I have been around airguns so long that it’s easy for me to slip into a lot of jargon that a new person won’t understand.

Several years ago I learned how to shave with and eventually how to sharpen a straight razor. From that experience I learned to avoid jargon in my reports. New readers may not understand what “barrel droop” means unless I explain it. It sounds like a barrel that is not straight (i.e. it droops down in a curve), when it really is a barrel that is mounted in the receiver pointing slightly down. It’s extremely common to airguns and firearms, yet you almost never hear it explained, nor read about the common solutions to correct it.

BB is moving toward You Tube videos

Several months ago I was browsing around You Tube and noticed a video where a violin teacher had made a video about the performance of the cheapest violin she could find. That video is what convinced me to start adding videos to my blogs, and her presentation is so straightforward that I wish I was as good. Oh, well, it’s good to set the bar high!

Summary

So, Bob, you didn’t ruin my drone experience at all. In fact, you whet my appetite. And here is what I expect to happen. I’m betting we have dozens of registered subscribers who also fly drones and I have just given them a new topic to talk about. When I baffle them with free-floated barrels or second focal plane reticles they can respond with gimbal lock and loss of GPS signal.

Oh, and I may not have determined which is the TX200 Mark III of drones yet but I did find out who is Air Arms and who is Weihrauch. I’m learning.