The first Smith & Wesson 78G air pistol(s): Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

S&W 78G
A very early S&W 78G air pistol. Though the picture looks matte because of lighting, this is one with glossy paint. It’s like new!

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Oh, oh!
  • BB is fine
  • Parallax!
  • Peep sight
  • Back to the S&W 78G
  • Velocity
  • Power adjuster
  • Hades string two
  • My other 78G
  • Crosman Premiers
  • Low power setting?
  • Trigger
  • Shot count
  • One final test
  • Summary

I mounted the UTG Micro Reflex dot sight on the IZH-61 and prepared to shoot it at 10 meters, rested. I had to remove the front sight so the dot had a clear view of the target. The rear sight was just adjusted as low as it will go and was out of the way.

Oh, oh!

BB has slipped a cog everyone! He hasn’t even read the title of his own report!

BB is fine

No, BB hasn’t slipped a cog. He spent 90 minutes with the IZH-61 this morning, trying to shoot groups with a dot sight and failed to do so. His failure is your benefit, because he has some interesting information to share.

Parallax!

The IZH-61 I’m testing only has an 11mm dovetail at the very rear of the receiver. When I mounted the UTG Micro Reflex dot sight there it had a huge problem with parallax. Remember my report on the Romeo5 dot sight earlier this week? Some of you asked me what the advantages were and I said less parallax was one. Well, the UTG sight has a holographic screen and, when it’s mounted close to your eye, there is a lot of parallax. In all my testing of that sight on other airguns I have mounted it about 12 inches or more from my eye and the parallax was not noticeable, but this time the sight was three inches away and it was. The best I could do with RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets was 5 in about two inches. I’m not showing that group because it isn’t helpful.

Well, I gushed all over that Romeo5 sight from Sig. Why didn’t I mount it on the 61? I tried but the Romeo5 only mounts to a Picatinny base. Well, doesn’t UTG make an adaptor for converting those to 11mm dovetails? Yes, they do. And would you believe it β€” that adaptor will not fit the base of a Romeo5? It fits but the place Sig has put the Picatinny key in the base of the Romeo5 has the adaptor sticking halfway out the back.

Peep sight

I have a great idea! I’ll mount a peep sight on the rifle and try again. Why didn’t one of you readers suggest that? πŸ˜‰

I’m now two hours into my day with nothing to show for it. I gotta move on! What about that pretty S&W 78G I told you about? Great idea.

Back to the S&W 78G

BB’s back on the rails. Yes, this report really is about the 78G.

I had put a new CO2 cartridge in the pistol last week and today it was near empty! The gun has just been resealed. We know the early pistols were troubled with porous frames that leaked down slowly. Is it that or is there something else? Just to know for certain I lubed the fresh CO2 cartridge with ATF sealant. At the end of this report I will tell you what I’m going to do with that.

Velocity

I started testing velocity with the JSB Hades pellet for no particular reason. The first 10 shots gave an average 326 f.p.s. The spread went from 316 to 339 f.p.s. That’s a difference of 23 f.p.s. But it’s also pretty low! I expected something in the 375 f.p.s. region. The Hades weighs 15.89 grains, so its a heavy middleweight .22 caliber pellet. At the average velocity this pellet generated 3.75 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Power adjuster

One thing the 78G has is an adjuster for power. It’s a screw that increases and decreases tension on the hammer spring. Being an airgunner, I cranked it in (up) as far as it would go and shot a second string of Hades pellets.

Hades string two

This time Hades pellets averaged 353 f.p.s. from the 78G. The low was 342 and the high was 365 f.p.s. β€” a difference of 17 f.p.s. So, it got faster and also more consistent. At the average velocity the Hades generates 4.4 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Yes, the power adjuster works. And yes, the 78G in factory trim is not a magnum air pistol. 

My other 78G

I reported on my other S&W 78G many times. Most recently I tested it for velocity and, while I didn’t test with Hades pellets, I did test it with Crosman Premiers, however, and got an average of 480 f.p.s. That pistol has been hot-rodded, so it’s faster than a stock 78G. Let’s see what this current pistol does with Premiers.

Crosman Premiers

The pistol being tested today averaged 355 f.p.s with Crosman Premiers. The low was 352 and the high was 358 f.p.s.. That’s a spread of just 5 f.p.s. So this pistol in stock trim is very consistent with Premiers. And we can see the marked difference between this stock pistol and my hot-rodded one. At the average velocity Premiers generated 4 foot-pounds exactly.

Low power setting?

The S&W 78G does not have a low-power setting. When you cock it there are two clicks but the first one is only to set the sear. I tried firing it and the pellet did not come out of the barrel.

I actually read in the owner’s manual what the first click is for. Yes, I have a manual and yes, I did read it!

Trigger

One of the very nice things about this early 78G is it has an adjustable trigger. When I got it the trigger had a two-stage pull that took 2 lbs. 12 oz. for stage one and 3 lbs. 8 oz. for stage two. It felt heavier than that. And stage two had some noticeable creep.

I adjusted it by the book and stage one still took 2 lbs. 12 oz. But stage two now breaks at 3 lbs. 1 oz. and the break is clean. All the creep is gone.

So the big question is β€” how does this trigger compare to a Crosman Mark I trigger? I have to say they are about the same. The Mark I trigger is shaped better for my finger because it’s not as curved. But the release is pretty much the same. The Mark I release can be adjusted lighter, and I guess that is better, but only by a slim margin.

Shot count

I was curious about how many shots there are on a CO2 cartridge, and we know the number will vary somewhat from cartridge to cartridge. The CO2 guns of the 1950s got around 30 shots to a cartridge, but we were dealing with the old Crosman “bottlecap” cartridges that had a high leakage rate. Today’s cartridges do not leak down unless the gun they are in has a problem.

At this point in the test there were 35 shots on the cartridges since new. The extras were from testing the trigger pull. So I shot another string of Crosman Premiers and this time the average was 369 f.p.s β€” an increase of 14 f.p.s. from the previous string. Wow! The low for this string was 366 f.p.s. That’s 8 f.p.s. faster than the fastest shot in the previous string of Premiers. This pistol is waking up! The high was 373 f.p.s., so the spread for this string was 7 f.p.s. So the 78G is still very consistent with Premiers.

Next I shot a 10-shot string of Hades pellets and got an average 354 f.p.s. That’s just one f.p.s. faster than the previous string of Hades. The low was 348 and the high was 361 f.p.s. so the spread was 13 f.p.s., compared to 17 f.p.s. before. 

At this point in the test there were 55 shots on the CO2 cartridge. Now I shot another string of Premiers. The first shot (shot 56) went out at 374 f.p.s. β€” the fastest speed I recorded in this test. Shot 64 was 365 f.p.s and shot 65 was 359 f.p.s. I was pretty sure at that point the cartridge had run out of liquid CO2 and was now running on fumes. Here are the remaining shots β€” still with Premiers.

Shot…….Vel.
66……….351
67……….345
68……….337
69……….332
70……….324
71……….317
72……….308
73……….295
74……….279

I stopped shooting pellets and fired 14 more blank shots before the gas was gone. For a 1971 CO2 gun, this is a pretty good performance!

One final test

Remember what I said at the start of this report about the gun leaking down in a week? I want to test that to see if this pistol has a porous frame. Since I had oiled it with ATF sealant I knew the seals were working as they should, so I installed a fresh cartridge in the pistol and put it back into the box. The next time I test it, it either will or won’t have gas. It shouldn’t matter if that’s a week or a month from now.

Summary

I gave a lot to get this pistol because I wanted to test a stock S&W 78G. Having done that for velocity and also having adjusted the trigger as nice as it will go, I’m now interested in the accuracy. That’s next!


Stop that pellet!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Traps
  • Jim Contos trap
  • Materials
  • Getting more use from a trap
  • Affixing targets to the trap
  • What else can you use?
  • Duct seal
  • Good news
  • Clean the trap
  • Reason for the steel plates
  • Putting the new stuff in
  • BB trap
  • Airsoft trap
  • Summary

Today’s report is a basic one on pellet and BB traps. I thought it was time to cover this subject again because of all the new readers we are getting. You guys don’t see it because they don’t sign up for the comments, but we are getting 10-20 new subscribers each day, 7 days a week. That is over and above the fake ones I see that number even more. Well, those new folks need to know how to build pellet traps like the rest of us. And I know the comments to this report will be even more valuable to them than the report itself.

Traps

I use several different traps that I will mention today. But one trap gets used more often than all the others and that is the one I’ll show you how to build. I’ll start with that one.

Jim Contos trap

Blog reader Jim Contos came up with this trap and sent one to me in 2011. It is heavy, so I held off using it regularly for several years, though I did drag it out when I was testing a powerful airgun. Let’s say anything producing over 30 foot-pounds at the muzzle is what I’m calling powerful for this report. I am not addressing traps for big bore airguns β€” that’s a whole other subject of its own. I’m talking about traps for smallbore airguns today.

Materials

To make a trap like this you’ll need the following:

  • One 7-inch Schedule 40 White Cap PVC Socket Fitting (it’s really a little larger than 7 inches across)
  • Two 4-inch steel electrical junction box covers
  • Enough duct seal to suit yourself (around 5-6 lbs.)
  • A cardboard box to hold the trap

Make the trap

Step 1. Roll a golf ball-sized chunk of duct seal into a ball and place it in the center of the cap.

PVC cap
A ball of duct seal goes into the trap.

Step 2. Squash the duct seal ball with the two electrical junction box covers. Move them so they cover the most possible area inside the cap.

junction box covers
Squash the duct seal ball with the two junction box covers. Jim then arranges the two covers so they cover as much of the back of the PVC cap as possible.

The junction box covers are just there for their steel. If you can find a quarter-inch sheet of steel that fits inside the PVC cap somewhere else, use it! Just don’t do what I once did and cut up your wife’s old metal cookie sheets! I never heard the end of it β€” and they also didn’t stop pellets, once the 30 foot-pound threshold was exceeded. The trap we are making today will withstand 75 foot-pounds easily. Jim Contos proof-tested his trap by firing a 200 foot-pound .45-caliber big bore into it at point blank range.

[DO NOT TRY THIS! It was just a test to see how much more energy the trap could stop.] Be safe and stick to smallbore airguns, only.

Step 3. Fill the trap with duct seal.

I used to recommend using up to 8-9 pounds of duct seal, but I no longer do for a very good reason. When the trap is filled to the brim with duct seal it looks fine for the first 200 shots or so. After that the pellets it now contains displace the duct seal that then starts oozing out the front of the trap. That is one reason why I recommend putting this trap inside a cardboard box. The second reason is this trap is round and wants to roll. The box will contain it, plus you can rotate the trap to get a fresher spot to shoot. And third, there will be some fallout of pellets, BBs and duct seal as you shoot. The box contains that nicely. In fact, I use two boxes β€” one to contain the trap and a larger second one to contain the fallout.

used trap
Here is my trap before I changed the duct seal. It has probably seen 25,000 to 30,000 pellets and BBs since last being resealed.

trap ooze
As I shoot the pellets displace the duct seal, making it slowly ooze out the front of the trap, as this top-down view shows.

Getting more use from a trap

As the duct seal slowly oozes out the front of the trap I periodically cut it off flush with the opening. I have a sharp kitchen knife for the job. I have done this twice with this trap in the past three years. That gives me a longer time with the fill, because the top layer of pellets and BBs goes away and mostly fresh duct seal is exposed.

When the trap is in use I put a sheet of cardboard in front of it to slow the rebounding projectiles and duct seal. It just keeps things cleaner as I go. I always place the cardboard so I can see the trap on either side of it.

trap sheet
I put a cardboard sheet in front of the trap to keep the rebounds down. Notice that the edges of the round trap are exposed, so I know I’m always shooting into the trap!

Affixing targets to the trap

Jim showed me that he uses a pushpin to hold his targets against the duct seal. All I do is stand the paper target up in front of the cardboard sheet. The box helps with that. But since I mostly use my trap for conducting velocity tests, there is often no target at all β€” just the cardboard sheet.

target
Jim Contos uses a pushpin to attach his targets directly to the duct seal. Notice the oil from the duct seal is seeping into the paper target.

What else can you use?

Of course you don’t need to make your trap this way if you have other options. For example, strong electrical junction boxes (that hold circuit breakers for buildings) are a great possibility, BUT, buying them new is very expensive! If you can get one for free, go for it.

Duct seal

The one product you cannot skimp on is the duct seal. Take my word for it. I have tried modeling clay β€” it’s too soft and doesn’t stop the pellets that well. Duct seal is many times tougher. I have tried plumber’s putty and it’s horrible. It dries out when exposed to the air and you will have crumbs all over the place. Get duct seal. It’s not cheap but it’s the stuff that works the best. The cost is the bad news.

Good news

Now for the good news. The absolute best deal I have found on duct seal anywhere on the internet is β€” wait for it β€” at Pyramyd Air! I would not have believed it but PA has undercut the competition by several dollars per pug (the name for a brick of duct seal). I just paid someone else $59 for 15 pounds of the stuff and thought I was getting a deal. The duct seal cost me 15.70 for a 5-pound pug, and the shipping was $8.99. Tax came to $4.49, so my total was $58.99. It was the best deal I could find on the internet. Other product was cheaper elsewhere but after their handling and shipping charges were factored in they all came out around $70 and more for the same 15 pounds. I never thought of checking at Pyramyd Air.

I can’t get 15 pounds of duct seal at Pyramyd Air because they sell it by the 6-pound pug. So I can get 18 pounds for $35.97, plus shipping. Okay, they don’t call it duct seal, they call it Impact Putty, but duct seal is what it is. And, who cares where it comes from or where THEY get it? As long as YOU can’t get it for less, that’s all that should matter.

Clean the trap

I shoot into my trap a lot β€” probably 7,000-10,000 shots each year, if not more. That’s both pellets and BBs at power levels from less than a foot-pound to over 70 foot-pounds. Jim sent me this trap in 2011 and I have cleaned it out twice since then. In the beginning I wasn’t using it that much, but the last time I replaced the duct deal was about three years ago and I have been using it steadily ever since.

People will tell you that you can clean the pellets out of the duct seal, but that is like cleaning weevils out of flour that’s gone bad. Yes, it is possible, but I have more important things to do with my time. Changing the duct seal takes minutes; cleaning out the pellets can take hours!

It took me 20 seconds to remove the old duct seal from the trap. I pried it out with a screwdriver. Then it took me several minutes more to put the new stuff back in plus take the pictures. In all the job took about 8 minutes, start to finish. Now I’m good for another three years.

duct seal out
It took 20 seconds to pry the old duct seal out with a screwdriver. I did it inside a trash can that was partially full, so the trap rested up high and everything that came out remained inside the trash bag.

Reason for the steel plates

When the old stuff was out I examined the steel plates in the back. There was a single dent in one of them and it was deep. It could have been from a pellet, but I might have fired a .22 long rifle bullet into the trap at some point. I don’t remember doing that and if I did I would not have done so inside my house. This trap is portable and goes outside with me as well. And I do have a legal silencer on my Ruger Mark II pistol.

dent
In nine years of use only one pellet or bullet has made a mark on the steel plates. Whatever it was, there was some power behind it!

Putting the new stuff in

It takes longer to put the new duct seal into the trap, because it has to be formed to fit inside the round cap. It’s like working with very cold modeling clay. It does warm up about the time you are finished. That is what used up most of the eight minutes this project took.

trap
And we are back in business for another three years.

BB trap

The trap we just saw built is also ideal for BBs, but you don’t have to go that far if BBs are all that you shoot. Let’s look at the type of trap I use all the time for just BBs from lower-powered guns (under 400 f.p.s.). Mine is the UTG trap that doesn’t seem to be available anymore. But you can make one out of a cardboard box and some denim fabric. Run a dowel through a box over which you can hang several sections of denim cut up from old jeans. Three is a good number, though two will do. Hang the fabric toward the front of the box

BB trap
This is a simple and cheap BB trap to make.

Airsoft trap

I’ve been shooting a lot of airsoft lately, so there were lots of plastic BBs to catch. What do I use to trap them? Let me show you.

I cut a large hole in a tough empty cardboard box of kitty litter, then I tape the target over the hole. There is a second box of litter stuffed with wastepaper behind the first box. No airsoft BB has made it though the second box in over 300 shots. It should last for a thousand shots before I need to replace the boxes, but I always have more of them.

airsoft outer trap
This is my kitty litter airsoft target trap box that I tape targets to. I tape the 4 corners of the target paper so the target is tight. As you can see, this trap has had airsoft BBs shot through it.

airsoft rear trap
This is the second kitty litter box that has wastepaper stuffed in it. No airsoft BB has yet gone through this one, but there is a half-inch tough plastic cutting board behind it to protect the wall.

Summary

These are a couple cheap and simple traps you can make to enjoy your airgun shooting that much more. They are less expensive than commercial traps, yet they do the job just as well.


Sig Romeo5 XDR red dot sight

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Romeo5-XDR
Sig Romeo5-XDR.

Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 1
Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 2
Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 3

This report covers:

  • XDR?
  • The big deal!
  • Long battery life
  • A compact sight
  • Manual
  • Illumination
  • How bright is the light?
  • LED versus holographic dot
  • Top of the line
  • Mounting
  • Overall impression
  • Summary

I have linked this report to the Sig Virtus report because this sight is going on that rifle for the next test. I should have mounted the Romeo5 on the Virtus for the first accuracy test, but I discovered too late that I hadn’t.

But maybe that is a blessing in disguise, because I will now review the sight by itself before putting it into use. Pyramyd Air doesn’t currently carry the Romeo5 line but I received an email from a blog reader who goes by the handle SqueezeBox. He owns two of them. He was glad I was reviewing the sight because in his opinion it is the best dot sight on the market. Let’s see what he feels that way.

Sig Romeo5 Super Target
SqueezeBox mounted a Romeo5 on his Sig Super Target. He loves the sight!

XDR?

I conversed with Sig representatives as I was researching this report and they told me what XDR means. The X stands for extended battery life and the DR stands for dual reticle. I’ll cover both today.

The big deal!

Okay, the reason I don’t like sights that use batteries is I believe the batteries always go dead at the most inopportune times. I remember the days when the Tasco Pro Point that uses two CR2032 button batteries would eat them up in just a few hours β€” maybe 20! Now quick, try to find two CR2032 batteries in the gift shop at Tanana Adventure Sports trading post at the end of the Alcan Highway, just north of Delta Junction, Alaska! No? Too bad! I guess you don’t get to hunt on this trip.

Not realistic? Maybe not, but that was always my fear. Sure you can carry spares and of course you do β€” but they were in the pack you left back in Seattle. With your camera, extra clothes and spare water jug? I know a lot of you feel the same.

Long battery life

The Romeo5 uses one triple A battery that you can find almost everywhere β€” even in the GUM department store in Novosibirsk. Better yet, that one battery gets over 50,000 hours of operation under normal use. The sight has what Sig calls MOTAC β€” motion activated operation that powers the sight off when it doesn’t sense motion for a period of time and back on when motion is detected. Of course I had to test that and found that the sight I am testing turned off after 220 seconds of inactive time. A slight jiggle turned it back on. MOTAC works. I know β€” this is a tough job but somebody has to do it! If it wasn’t me it would fall to one of you.

A compact sight

The Romeo5 is considered a compact sight. It’s certainly smaller than the large tube dot sights you see these days. It’s 2.5 inches long by 1.4 inches wide and 2.6 inches high β€” though some of the height is reduced by the amount of sight that clamps around the base it’s attached to. It weighs 5.6 ounces with a battery installed.

Manual

I know β€” manuals are for beginners, right? Well, color me new because I read it! I had to, to find out how to turn the thing on. I installed the battery they sent and pushed one of the two illumination adjustment buttons on top of the sight and nothing happened. Oh, oh! Did BB get a bad one?

No, BB got a good one, but there are several things he needed to know when turning the Romeo5 on. First and most important is β€” the sight does not turn on by just clicking one of the adjustment buttons! You have to hold either one of the adjustment buttons down for longer than one second to turn the sight on. I would estimate that it takes close to 1.5 seconds for the sight to respond to these buttons. The same to turn it off. The manual tells you that.

Sig Romeo5 buttons
The two buttons on top of the Romeo5 increase and decrease the illumination of the reticle. They also turn the unit on and off and they toggle between the two reticles.

Sig Romeo5 battery and adjustment
The battery goes in under the cover located in the front of the sight (yellow arrow) and the windage is adjusted by the screw on the right rear (blue arrow).

Illumination

Next β€” what level of illumination was the reticle set at when it was turned off? Because that will be the level when you turn it back on. There are eight levels for daylight operations and two for night vision. If it was set very low you may not be able to see it when it comes on again. That was the problem I had, because, before reading the manual I fiddled with the buttons for quite some time. I’m an airgunner β€” so of course I did! The solution is to hold the button down long enough to turn on the sight, then keep toggling the plus button while looking for the dot. If you are not sure whether the sight is now on or if you just turned it off, repeat the process until you see the dot. Then leave the dot on max until you need to use the sight. The good thing is when you get to the top it doesn’t drop back to the bottom. You need to push the other button for that.

How bright is the light?

One concern I have, being red/green colorblind, is seeing a red dot in bright light. But the designers thought of that. First, they didn’t make the dot pure red, but skewed it to the orange like a traffic light to make it stand out. And second, at its brightest setting I can see the dot against the clouds on an overcast day. I can also see it against my neighbor’s spotlight on their house about 100 yards away. Then I shined a 120-lumen flashlight into the front of the sight from 8 inches away. I could see the dot right up to the point it entered the bright light that was shining back. I have never done a test like this before, but this is such a serious sight that I wanted something to express the brightness of the dot. I will do this when testing all dot sights in the future.

There are eight levels of daylight illumination. I can see six of them in a darkened room β€”  five in a room that’s well-lit. I can’t see the two lowest levels at all, nor can I see either of the two night vision levels below that. I don’t own a night vision device so I’ll take Sig’s word they are there. Having them might sound silly to you, but there are airgun hunters using night vision right now for things like rats and feral hogs. So, this feature has value to some, if not to all. And you get it in the Romeo5.

LED versus holographic dot

One big reason the dot is so visible is it is an LED that’s reflected off a specially coated glass screen instead of a laser that’s run through several lenses before it gets to your eye. The additional lenses the laser uses make the dot less bright and also more susceptible to parallax problems. With the 20mm Romeo5 you give up a larger window for improved clarity and less parallax.

Sig Romeo5 dot on driveway
This driveway is about 40 yards away. As you can see, the reticle can be seen easily against a light background.

Top of the line

The Romeo5 exists in several versions. The high mount version is on sale at this time for $159.99. The Romeo5X, Romeo5 TREAD and Romeo5 standard height sights are all retailing at $199.99. The Romeo5 XDR that I am testing for you retails for $299.99. So β€” what is the difference? The choice of two reticles.

Circle dot reticle

The XDR has a choice of two reticles. One is a conventional 2 MOA red dot and the other is a 2 MOA red dot inside a 65 MOA circle. You would use the circle for faster target acquisition in operations like clearing buildings and so on. When I was in the Army my tank had what we called an infinity circle sight for our coaxial machinegun. Put your target in the circle and hold down the trigger. It’s like spraying wasp and hornet spray on a nest β€” gets rid of everything it touches. For hunters and precision shooting, use the dot by itself.

Sig Romeo5 reticles
The two reticle choices.

Mounting

The Romeo5 XDR comes with an additional plate to increase the mounting height. Folks with AR rifles care about that β€” airgunners don’t. We want our sights as close to the boreline as we can get it.

Sig Romeo5 plate
The plate and screws to raise the sight, the Torx driver and screwdriver and the bikini lens caps.

Along with the plate come 4 longer screws to attach the plate to the sight, plus a Torx wrench and flat-bladed screwdriver in the shape of a key, for mounting the sight and adjusting the reticle. You also get nifty bikini lens covers. 

Overall impression

I haven’t mentioned the lifetime warranty on the aluminum case or the 5-year warranty on the optics and electronics. Sig has you covered.

There is more going on with this Romeo5 XDR than I have ever encountered in another dot sight. It was built for high-end applications and we just lucked out that Sig chose to send it to me for testing both the Virtus pellet rifle and the Virtus airsoft gun that I haven’t started yet. We’re going to have some fun.

Summary

That’s it for the sight. The next time you see it, it will be atop the Virtus pellet rifle and we will be testing it for function during an accuracy test.


Changing times

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

Vintage firearms β€” Nelson Lewis
Sniper rifle
Henry Deringer
Remington American Boy Scout
Exceptions
Observation
What about airguns?
Crosman Trapmaster
Crosman Mark I and II pistol
Erma ELG-10Β 
Winsel β€” a turkey?
What’s happening?
Opportunity
Hold out
Summary

Today I write a report that has been on my mind for months. I even wrote down the title to remind myself it needed to be written. Today is the day.

Several months ago I was talking to my shooting buddy, Otho, and the subject was older firearms. I told him I was getting tired of shooting some of mine and he said to sell them. I responded by telling him that I would, but the prices people were getting for most of them was so low right now I would lose my shirt if I sold them.

Saying that prompted me to look deeper, and I found I was right. Many older firearms are losing their value.

Vintage firearms β€” Nelson Lewis

Let’s start with vintage firearms. I have a double-barreled combination rifle/shotgun that was made by Nelson Lewis in the 1860s. Nelson Lewis is a fairly well-known maker of fine sporting and military arms from Troy, New York. My gun is in antique excellent condition and functions fine. I paid almost $2,400 for it 10 years ago but today I see similar combination guns by Lewis being offered on Gun Broker for $1,800, with nobody bidding on them!

Nelson Lewis gun
My Nelson Lewis combination gun is a beauty that nobody but me seems to care for anymore.

Sniper rifle

Nelson Lewis is one of several famous gunmakers who supplied long-range sniper rifles to the Union Army during the Civil War. Those rifles weigh from 15 lbs. to over 35 lbs and came with false muzzles and other accoutrements for precision loading. Rifles like this used to start at $6,000 and quickly go higher, but there is one I have been tracking on Gun Broker that has a starting price of $3,650 and no apparent interest.

Lewis sniper rifle
This Nelson Lewis long-range rifle has a false muzzle and was drilled and tapped for a scope, which means it may have been used as a sniper rifle in the Civil War.

Henry Deringer

Most people know of the derringer pistol that was made by Henry Deringer through its association with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I remember when they would start at $2,800 and attract a lot of interest. Today nice ones start at $1,850 and no one bids on them. A Henry Deringer rifle is starting at $2,000, where that would have been almost double a decade back.

Remington American Boy Scout

If you like .22 rimfire rifles you probably know about the Remington single-shot rolling block that was made for the American Boy Scouts. They were not the Boy Scouts of America, but a lesser-known and competing paramilitary organization that was founded by William Randolph Hearst in 1910. They changed their name to United States Boy Scouts in 1913 and, after many years of conflict with the International Scout Movement and the BSA, they changed their name several more times and eventually faded into obscurity.

American Boy Scout rifle
Remington’s American Boy Scout rifle is a rimfire collector’s dream!

American Boy Scout markings
Not the Boy Scouts of America β€” the American Boy Scouts were a competing organization!

The rifle they convinced Remington to make for them is one of the most collectible single-shot .22 rifles ever made. It came with a bayonet that today is extremely rare and sought after. Nevertheless, a very nice example with the bayonet has been languishing on Gun Broker for some time at a super-low starting price of $1,850. I say the price is super-low, but with the trend I’m reporting today, maybe it isn’t.

Exceptions

Of course there are exceptions to this. Garands seem to hold their price well, as do some Winchesters from the 19th century, though I see a .22-caliber 1873 that’s starting at $1,600 with no reserve and no bids. There were a lot of 1873s made, but the .22 was not common.

Observation

My observation is the firearms collecting market has gone flat and even receded in many cases. It’s primarily the older firearms that are affected. Relatively modern firearms like the Colt Python or the Winchester model 70 still seem to hold their valve and increase steadily over time.

What about airguns?

When I realized that, it prompted me to look at my airgun collection, to see if the same thing is at work. And, sure enough, I think it is.

Crosman Trapmaster

One gun that has been flat for many years is the Crosman Trapmaster air shotgun. This CO2-powered .380-caliber air shotgun was all the rage 25 years ago. People couldn’t get enough of them. But in the last five years I have seen beautiful examples languish on tables at airgun shows. Guns that are nearly new in the box no longer seem to attract the attention they once did. And the mechanical trap that throws the aerial targets that went with the shotgun cannot be given away! I guess people just don’t have room to display it.

Crosman Trapmaster
The Crosman Trapmaster 1100 air shotgun that closely resembled the Remington 1100 is no longer in the airgun public’s eye.

Crosman Mark I and II pistol

There was a time 10 years ago when a Crosman Mark I pistol would fetch $200 and up. When the UK relaxed their laws regarding CO2 guns, the Crosman Marks I and II and the model 600 were cleaned out of the American airgun market overnight. I remember working model 600s fetching $300 for a short time.Β 

Well, all that has settled down and it’s possible to buy a Mark II pistol that needs seals for $50 these days. I just bought a pair of them for that price. Mark Is still pull in $100 β€” especially when they hold gas. And model 600s that hold and shoot will bring $125-150 all day long. If you bought one when the bubble was inflated it may be a long time before you see your money again.

Erma ELG-10 

The Erma ELG-10 spring-piston air rifle is an airgun that has been flat the longest. They brought $550 in the early 1990s and they still bring that today.

Erma ELG-10|
The Erma ELG-10 rifle has been flat as long as BB has been writing about airguns!

Winsel β€” a turkey?

I remember when a boxed Winsel at an airgun show stopped the crowd. The Winsel was a CO2 pistol made in 1950 and sold under a ridiculous marketing campaign. They gave you a cardboard mailing box for when your CO2 tank ran out of gas, so you could mail it back to the company to be refilled! What genius thought that up? I don’t think the company was in business long enough to ever return a refilled tank. I did talk to one owner who sent both tanks in and never heard from them again!

Winsel
The Winsel came with two CO2 tanks and a cardboard box to mail one back for a refill.

Their marketing campaign was used by the federal government for years as an aptitude test for employees they were considering to draft the new income tax code. If you thought Winsel had a good idea, you got the job!

Winsels use to grace tables at airgun shows with price tags of a thousand dollars. Perhaps they still do. Or perhaps the one or two that are still on the tables have been there all along. I never saw one that was not like new in the box. I suppose people used up the gas and then gave up.

What’s happening?

I think what is behind this is the people who liked those older airguns and firearms aren’t around anymore. Time has thinned the herd. It isn’t them selling their collection β€” it is their family. Recent airgun auctions have borne this out with numbers that were surprisingly low.

But some guns are immune to this principal. Those guns that hold their value are the ones that actually perform — guns you can actually shoot β€” like the FWB 124 and the Colt SAA, though the Colt is another one that’s starting to flatten out.

The airgunner of today is getting younger through attrition. If he served in the military he most likely carried the M16 or the current arm of his country, rather than the guns of the past. And many have never had to serve (thank goodness!). While there will always be those who are interested in history, as time advances, history advances with it.

Opportunity

What this can mean for those who are interested in the odd and unusual airguns of the past is that many of those airguns are now becoming affordable. Some, like the FWB 300, will never fall into this category, but target rifles that were sold at the same time might well become bargains.

Hold out

One thing to watch is pricing. People unaware of all I have written will still put an exorbitant price tag on an airgun and lay it on their table. But a year later, some of them will soften up and be open to offers. You don’t have to wait a year for this to happen if you peruse the online auctions. A little checking can often turn up when an item was initially listed, and that will tell you how much time has passed.

Other dealers are hard-headed and never soften up. When you discover that, skip them and move on. Their airguns may become part of a large estate sale at some point, but until then they are priced out of your reach.

Summary

While today’s report sounds like good news for many of you, it’s not so good for others. We bought our collectibles when there were still people around who knew what they were. Now we have airguns that only we can appreciate.

Use this information wisely if you are one who likes the old stuff. This is the sort of thing that can help you put together a nice collection over time!


IZH-61 repeating spring air rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

IZH 61
The IZH 61 sidelever repeating air rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • The rear sight
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • What if I really, really tried?
  • JSB Exact RS
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • No longer seating pellets in the clip
  • RWS R-10 Match Pistol
  • RWS Hobby
  • Trigger behavior
  • Firing behavior
  • Feeding reliability
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the IZH-61 repeating pellet rifle I am testing. And I’ll give you a heads up. There is a surprise coming. At least it surprised me!

The test

I shot off a rest at 10 meters. I tried to use the artillery hold, but the pistol grip of the 61 sort of foils that. Let’s just say I held the rifle gently. And I shot 5-shot groups.

I had planned to shoot one pellet from each chamber of the clip at different targets when I found the best pellet, but as you will see, that will not work today. I will explain as we go.

I also selected one clip that I knew was good from the velocity test and stuck with it throughout today’s test. This rifle has too many variables!

The rear sight

Nothing like an accuracy test to show me the good and bad sides of an airgun. This time it was the bad side, with respect to the rear sight. The notch in the sight is far too wide for any sort of precision shooting. Even though the sight is halfway up the rifle I found myself wondering if I was holding the front sight flush with the top of the rear and also if the front sight was centered. It was so unsatisfactory that I planned a retest for accuracy with a dot sight regardless of how today’s test goes. When you see my test results I think you will agree that was a good call. This is the surprise I mentioned earlier. It affected the whole test.

Air Arms Falcons

Falcon pellets did well in the velocity test, so I started with them. I consider the first bull to be the sight-in target. The pellets hit high and to the left. Three are in a small cloverleaf and the fourth is close, but shot number five is far away. I have no idea which one it was β€” except it was not the first shot. The group measures 1.129-inches between centers, but that little cluster of three made me think I was onto something.

Falcon target 1
This sight-in group of Falcon pellets measures 1.129-inches between centers at 10 meters. That little cloverleaf at the upper left was what caught my attention!

I adjusted the rear sight down and to the right β€” or so I thought. The rear sight moves for windage by a hinky method of loosening two screws and shoving the sight plate sideways. It is very hard to control.

IZH-61 rear sight
Theoretically the rear sight notch moves in both directions, but I hate it when they adjust this way! One of the screws fell out as I was adjusting.

What if I really, really tried?

I always try my best, but when a gun challenges me like this I have to step up the concentration. If you have shot for any length of time, you know what I mean. The second group landed low and still to the left of the bull. But this time all five Falcon pellets went into 0.453-inches at 10 meters. As you can see β€” that is a group!

Falcon target 2
Now we’re talking! The IZH-61 put five Falcon pellets into 0.453-inches at ten meters. It’s not the best group you could hope for, but it’s far better than the first one.

Now that I knew this rifle could shoot I adjusted the rear sight a lot more to the right and I raised it up two clicks. I hoped to get a small group in the center of the bull. What I got was five pellets in 1.367-inches. The center of the group is higher and fairly centered on the bull, but this is the largest of the three groups of Falcons I fired.

Falcon target 3
Five Falcon pellets went into 1.367-inches at 10 meters.

So which target is right? Does the 61 shoot or does it spray pellets all over the place? Well, I know the answer and I’d like to share it with you.

The first target that I am calling the sight-in target had that cloverleaf of three shots that gave me assurance that this rifle could really shoot β€” if I really tried. The second target proved I was right, and also showed that this clip that I’m using is lining up pretty well for all 5 pellets. The third target shows the effects of that rear sight. The bull for this target was located at the right side of the target paper and the rear sight notch was so far to the right of the bull and the target paper that I had to guess where it was!

This is when I knew that the rear sight was causing the problem with accuracy and not the rifle, itself. But I continued the test to see whether any other pellets stood out.

JSB Exact RS

Since Falcons were good I thought JSB Exact RS pellets might be good, too. They are similar in shape and weight. I also shot them at a bull on the right side of the target, so I really had to concentrate on that rear notch to keep them together. Five pellets made a group that measures 0.724-inches between centers. Given the problems with the rear sight, I think this group demonstrates that JSB RS pellets should be given a second chance. Not today, but in the next test.

JSB RS target
Five JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.724-inch group at 10 meters. I believe the lower hole that’s second from the left has two pellets in it.

H&N Finale Match Light

Next up were five H&N Finale Match Light pellets. Despite their name they weigh 7.87-grains, so they are more of a medium weight pellet β€” especially in the IZH-61! They all landed lower on the target, but four out of five landed in 0.406-inches! The fifth shot opened the group to 1.03-inches at 10 meters. I was now shooting at the bulls on the left side of the target paper, but for some reason that didn’t give me the same problem that the bulls on the right side gave.

Finale Light target
Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets went into 1.03-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.406-inches.

I thought I had discovered the best pellet, so I shot a second group of Finale Match Light, and this time really concentrated on the sights. Unfortunately the rifle decided to act up. I could hear the pellets going downrange much slower than with the previous group and four out of five landed much lower on the target. This group is a disappointing 1.667-inches between centers β€” the largest of the day!

Finale Light target 2
Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets went into 1.667-inches at 10 meters.

Notice that three of the pellet holes are ripped to the side. Now look at the last target and see that the lower pellet hole is also ripped on one side. I think these pellets are going too slow to stabilize, so this is not a pellet for this rifle.

No longer seating pellets deep in the clip

It was at this point in the test that I stopped seating the pellets deep in the clip. I only did that initially to keep them from falling out, and it seemed they would stay in with finger pressure, alone. They get pushed through the clip and into the breech by the bolt anyway, so deep-seating doesn’t seem to have any benefit that influences accuracy. Of the rest of the pellet, only one fell out of the clip as I loaded.

RWS R-10 Match Pistol

I needed a lighter target pellet to test with. The next pellet was the 7-grain RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet. Four of them went into 0.584-inches., One pellet went way low and to the right β€” almost like it hit something on its way downrange. That opened the 5-shot group to 1.626-inches! I have no explanation for that group, but it made me shoot a second one.

R10 pistol target
Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets are in 1.626-inches with four in 0.584-inches at 10 meters.

The second group is all together, measuring 0.539-inches between centers at 10 meters. I think the R10 Match Pistol pellet is right for this IZH-61.

R10 pistol target 2
Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets went into 0.584-inches at 10 meters.

RWS Hobby

The last pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. It weighs the same 7 grains as the R10 Match Pistol, but it is a considerably different pellet. Five of them went into 0.958-inches at 10 meters.

Hobby target
The IZH-61 put 5 RWS Hobby pellets in 0.958-inches at 10 meters.

Trigger behavior

The rifle’s trigger is single-stage and as vague as a rumor. But it is light and does not hinder accuracy. 

Firing behavior

The rifle has a slight buzz when it shoots. Given the low power level I would leave it alone. Several readers posted similar velocities to those I posted in Part 2, so I think this rifle is performing as it should.

Feeding reliability

The clip functioned perfectly in this test. Ever since I lubricated it in Part 2 it has gotten better and better, until now it seems perfect.

Summary

I have never looked at an IZH-61 as closely as I am in this series. I loved the IZH-60 single shot, which is the accuracy champion of these rifles. The 61, being a repeater, just cannot compete. But it is accurate! And I think I have discovered in today’s test what needs to be done to get all this one has to offer. Next time there will be a dot sight on the rifle and we should see more consistent results.


Diana 27S: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 27S
Diana 27S.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Trepidation
  • Disassembly
  • Anti-beartrap mechanism
  • Pictures!
  • Secret washer
  • Remove the trigger?
  • The rest of the disassembly
  • Cleaning
  • Lubrication and assembly
  • Hit the wall
  • Frustration
  • The solution
  • The final solution
  • Denny was a pattern maker
  • The irony!
  • One more thing
  • Summary

Today I do something different. I show you a tuneup that is not complete. I do that because the monster has been vanquished and I will be able to get the Diana 27S back together to report on the performance after a cleaning and a lube tune. Here we go.

Trepidation

When I began this job a week ago I had trepidation because of the anti-beartrap mechanism Diana put in this model. I have stripped other springers with anti-beartraps before and I’ve always been successful, but their presence complicates the rest of the powerplant quite a bit β€” especially the trigger.

I also knew that the 27S probably had the trigger from the Diana 35 instead of the trigger that’s found in the 27. They are similar, except the 35 trigger has a more powerful spring pushing the inner ball bearing cage. And that particular spring also has a guide rod that the 27 spring does not have. 

So, I took a lot of pictures as I worked. It turned out those pictures saved the day, though not in the way you might think. Explanations are coming.

Disassembly

First the stock is removed to get to the barreled action. Since the 27S has an articulated cocking link it has an additional stock screw on the bottom of the forearm. I was prepared to see that screwed into a steel bridge that the link passes through β€” to keep it from buckling. But there was no bridge. The screw just has a rounded end for the link to slide on and the absence of a mark on the link told me it had never touched that screw. The stock keeps the link from buckling!

Diana 27S stock screw
That screw under the forearm was supposed to screw into a steel bridge that the cocking link passed through. But it didn’t.

Diana 27S  stock screw inside
The forearm stock screw attaches to this threaded bushing inside the wooden forearm. The tip is rounded to allow the cocking link to slide over it, but the link never touched it! The wood of the stock keeps the link aligned.

Diana 27S  stock screw detail
The end of the forearm stock screw is rounded to allow the cocking link to slide over it freely, but the link has not touched it yet.

Anti-beartrap mechanism

Setting the stock aside, I now examined the anti-beartrap mechanism.

Diana 27S  anti-beartrap
This picture shows the long sliding plate of the anti-beartrap mechanism. Two springs pull it into the trigger when the cocking link moves far enough to permit it.

Diana 27S  anti-beartrap 2
This is the anti-beartrap mechanism interfacing with the trigger assembly. The two springs pull the sliding plate into the trigger when a notch in the trigger blade permits it to enter.

At this point I thought I was home free. This mechanism is simple and looks straightforward. But I was about to encounter a problem!

Pictures!

Because this is the first time I have seen this mechanism, I took a great many pictures of it. And they saved the day several times. The large bolt in the center of things is where the forward triggerguard screw attaches. It also limits the movement of all the anti-beartrap parts to a short range of movement that you will see in a moment. But that wasn’t the most important thing. I will get to that in a bit.

Diana 27S  anti-beartrap 3
The bolt in the center of the anti-beartrap (arrow) limits the movement of the rest of the parts.

Secret washer

Here is the first surprise this mechanism gave me. After I disassembled it completely a small thin washer remained on the spring tube. Where it came from I had no idea, but when I reviewed all my pictures of the mechanism, taken while disassembling it, I found it! It took me quite a while (45 minutes of trying the parts various ways and then searching through the photos) to determine where this small washer belongs.

Diana 27S  anti-beartrap washer
The arrow points to the small thin washer in the anti-beartrap mechanism that I found after disassembly. Only a portion shows, but it’s enough to determine which layer the washer sits in.

Diana 27S anti-beartrap washer out
There is the tiny thin washer, hiding under the trigger blade. Apparently it is shy. Next to the trigger are the crosspin and the stout trigger spring that gave me so much trouble!

Remove the trigger?

At this point in the disassembly I decided to disassemble the trigger assembly from the spring tube. I believed that was necessary, though I now know different. It meant I also had to remove the anti-beartrap mechanism β€” also unnecessary. But I did it. At least you get to see the parts that are in the mechanism.

Diana 27S  trigger mechanism
The trigger mechanism with the anti-beartrap still connected. This picture was very helpful later, as well.

Diana 27S  anti-beartrap apart
The bolt has been removed, giving access to all the parts. I have also disconnected both anti-beartrap springs.

I don’t show all the beartrap parts apart, but they are basically several sliding plates of steel that can be seen stacked in the picture of the assembled trigger above that was taken before disassembly.

The rest of the disassembly

Now the barreled action went into the mainspring compressor for complete disassembly. With the beartrap apart and the trigger out of the rifle the two side pins that restrain the internal trigger parts (the black and silver cages and the ball bearings that are in the black cage) can be removed. Just press in on the black trigger cage with the compressor to take tension off the two pins and they fall right out. Then back off the compressor and the mainspring relaxes. You can then remove the spring guide and the mainspring.

At this point all other spring rifles require removal of the barrel to disconnect the cocking link from the piston. Then the piston can be removed. I did remove the barrel, and only later discovered that the two-piece articulated cocking link would allow me to remove the piston without first removing the barrel. However, taking the barrel off allowed me to lubricate the pivot bolt and the to pivot washers with moly grease, so the effort was not wasted. But this was another difference the Diana 27S showed me.

Cleaning

I cleaned all the parts with denatured alcohol. To get inside the spring tube I used a long dowel with paper towel wrapped around the end. The inside of the spring tube was surprisingly clean and did not appear to have ever been taken apart. I will let reader Carel address that, since the gun was his before I received it.

The other parts were also very clean for the 40 or so years this airgun has been around. The mainspring is not perfectly straight, but it’s close enough that I don’t think a replacement is needed. 

Lubrication and assembly

I lubed the leather piston seal and the front and rear of the piston body, as well as the central piston rod, with moly paste grease. Then I lubed the mainspring with a light coating of Tune In A Tube grease. I also used TIAT to stick the three ball bearings inside the black cage for assembly. Even when the cage fell to the concrete floor the balls remained tightly inside. Now for assembly.

Hit the wall

And assembly was where I hit the wall. To this point in the report I had spent perhaps 90 minutes on a job that usually takes me 30. I was taking my time to understand the anti-beartrap mechanism completely. And I missed the biggest challenge of all β€” the trigger spring!

Frustration

I took the remainder of that day and two hours into the next day trying to put the crosspin and the trigger spring back in the rifle! I could get it partway, but never all the way in. I started with brute force and when I didn’t have enough of that I used wood clamps. Let me show you what challenged me so much.

Diana 27S  spring tube
This is where the trigger assembly goes. That small bump (arrow) holds one end of the trigger spring in place. As you can see, it is coated with TIAT to hold the spring.

Diana 27S  spring standing
The trigger spring is standing up on the small bump. It’s held by TIAT. The trigger assembly has to come down and connect to the other end of the spring.

Diana 27S  trigger interior
The underside of the trigger assembly has another bump (arrow) that has to fit inside the trigger spring on its other side.

You might think that keeping the powerful trigger spring in place was a problem. But it wasn’t! Tune In A Tube is so tacky that it held the spring through all I did. The problem was pressing the trigger assembly down far enough so the crosspin could pass through both side and hold it. That was what I struggled with for the rest of the time.

The solution

The solution was in two parts. First I had to find a way to use the small wood clamps to press the trigger assembly down against the force of the spring and still not slip off the greasy spring tube and trigger assembly. I am now estimating that spring has 60-80 pounds of force. It’s way out of proportion with its size!

I played with clamping positions for hours, almost getting it before the clamp shot off and I had to start over. Then the lightbulb went off and I put the clamp where it could not slip, no matter what. It still slipped but now it was slipping because the force of the spring was bending and twisting its jaws. That made it easier for me to control.

It was now Day Three of my saga, but I knew I was going to succeed this time. It only took me 10 minutes and a few tries before I succeeded in getting the crosspin 3/4 on the way through.

Diana 27 crosspin almost
The crosspin (arrow) is almost through the trigger assembly and the two anchor points on the spring tube.

The final solution

The second part of the solution was to ask my neighbor, Denny to tap the crosspin through the trigger assembly while I held it in place with a more powerful wood clamp. I had read somewhere that many hands make light work or men should learn to ask for help or something like that!

Anyway, I showed Denny what I was trying to do and then he tapped the pin though as I held the trigger assembly down and in line with the wood clamp. It worked the first time in less than ten seconds.

Denny was a pattern maker

Then Denny looked at the job and told me I probably needed to get a Kant Twist clamp for tight work like this. You see β€” Denny was a pattern maker. That’s a guy who makes jigs, fixtures and patterns for production work. He worked last in the aviation industry, making patterns for the B2 bomber.

I looked Kant Twist clamps up at Granger and saw a wide variety of cantilever clamps. They are indeed the tools needed for a job like this. Better still β€” DON’T TAKE THE TRIGGER OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE!

So why did I take the trigger out? Because I thought I had to! The 27S trigger is very similar to the trigger that’s in the Diana 35 β€” with one important difference. The Diana 35 trigger pin passes through the spring tube of the rifle, where the 27S trigger pin is below the tube. Let’s see.

Diana 35 trigger pin
The crosspin that holds the Diana 35 trigger assembly passes through the spring tube (yellow arrow) as well and has to be removed to get the piston out. The blue arrow points to another powerful trigger spring in the 35 trigger that was somehow easier to work with last year than this 27S spring has been.

Diana 27S crosspin
As you can see, the Diana 27S trigger crosspin (arrows) hangs below the spring tube. That allows the piston to come out without the trigger being removed. And, unless my eyes deceive me, the wire in this spring is thicker than the wire in the 35 trigger spring.

The irony!

The irony of this misadventure is this β€” Diana designed the 27S to be easily maintained. The trigger doesn’t have to come out to remove the piston, nor does the anti-beartrap need to be removed. Even the barrel can be left on the gun! I didn’t know any of that up front so I did all of it and increased my work a lot. Of course I did get to examine, clean and lube all the parts, which is what you want to do in a tune, so I would have done most of it anyway. But I wouldn’t have removed the trigger! 

This report is now a detailed set of instructions for the next brave soul to follow. That’s why I have taken the time to spell out all the details.

One more thing

When I disassembled the rifle I noticed that the trigger in the 27S resembles the Diana 35 trigger in many respects. The spring that pushes the black cage holding the three ball bearings is very strong, just like the one in the 35 trigger. It’s not like the regular Diana 27 trigger that’s weaker. The 35 cage spring has a short steel spring guide, while the 27 trigger does not. This 27S did not seem to have that guide when I disassembled the rifle, or if it was there I never saw it and it has now gone to the same place as all my missing socks.

The truth is, I found a photo that shows conclusively that there was no spring guide in that spring to begin with. I tried to assemble the action without that guide, but that powerful cage spring just bunched up. When I removed it, it was kinked. I don’t want to assemble the rifle wrong, so I ordered a new spring and guide from T.W. Chambers and will wait for them to arrive to complete this job. I don’t want to do this job again, so it’s worth doing it right this time!

Diana 27S cage spring
There is no steel spring guide in the black cage spring in the Diana 27. It’s end would be in front of the end of the spring. Look at the same part in the Diana 35 above. Photo was taken before disassembly.

Summary

This has been a bit of a horror story of what can happen when you disassemble a spring-piston air rifle. This is perhaps the second time in the last 25 years that I have been so challenged β€” which is my way of telling you it usually isn’t like this. Please don’t be put off by this tale, but glean what you can from what I did and how it turned out.

Oh, and guys β€” please be open to asking someone to help you when you need a third hand. I mean β€” honestly! Pride goeth before a fall!


John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Lil Duke and scope
John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Thanks!
  • Stagecoach
  • Another thing
  • And finally
  • Back to our regular program
  • Dust Devils
  • Daisy Premium Grade BBs
  • Smart Shot
  • Cocking effort
  • It can be uncocked
  • Summary

Okay, today is the day we discover whether the Lil’ Duke can really shoot 350 f.p.s. or not.

Thanks!

Thanks to all the killjoy comments (RidgeRunner, Kenholmz, and Yogi) that said kids today don’t know who John Wayne is and essentially wouldn’t care to see him in a movie. The fact that you are right doesn’t lessen the pain! And thanks, Mike Ogden, for trying to stick up for the American Dream!

Stagecoach

And Michael, Wayne didn’t say, “Hodad” when he spin-cocked his rifle in the movie. He said, “Hold it!” to stop the stagecoach so he could board. I had never seen the movie Stagecoach, so that was my assignment last Friday evening! While it was good, especially for a 1939 movie, I didn’t think it was great. Wayne was a lot thinner in those days β€” but weren’t we all?

By the by, Michael, not that you asked, but hodad refers to people who frequent surfing beaches but do not surf. In California in the 1960s, calling someone a hodad was an insult! It was the ’60s California slang for a greaser β€” which at that time and place meant someone with slicked-back ducktail hair, pegged (tight) pants without cuffs and a comb in one of their rear pockets that was frequently drawn out like a knife to fix the locks! A Fonzie!

Another thing

The other thing that popped out of the comments was Cobalt327’s comment that the Lil’ Duke’s shot tube is keyed at the breech to unlock without threads. I said in the report that it didn’t seem to unscrew. I tried pulling but I didn’t pull hard enough. He is so right about how it comes out! Even though he showed great pix with his comment, I thought I should show it again today.

Lil Duke breech detail
Here is the keyed breech of the shot tube that connects it tight inside the gun.

If you pull the shot tube out, when you try to put it back make sure all the BBs are out of the outer barrel jacket. I did that and could not put it back until the last 6-7 BBs poured out.

And finally

Okay, I finally asked my next door neighbor, Denny, to help me insert the pin into the Diana 27S trigger assembly. Once I showed him what needed to be done as I put downward pressure on the trigger to align the pin holes, the job was finished in less than 10 seconds. To all of you who told me so β€” you were right. I was just too stubborn to ask for help. I am, after all, the Godfather of Airguns! Doesn’t that mean anything?

Back to our regular program

This is velocity day. The Lil’ Duke is advertised to shoot 350 f.p.s., so let’s see what it does.

Dust Devils

We know that, at 4.35-grains, Air Venturi Dust Devils are the lightest BB, so let’s give the gun a running start by testing them first. Dust Devils averaged 363 f.p.s. in the Lil’ Duke. I wasn’t surprised β€” I was shocked! How a little BB gun like this manages to be so powerful is incredible. This harkens back to the 1920s, when BB guns really were BB guns!

The low for the string was 345 and the high was 373 f.p.s. β€” a difference of 28 f.p.s. That’s a wide spread for a BB gun and could be due to the newness of the action. At the average velocity the Dust Devil generates 1.27 foot-pounds.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs

Okay, we got the speed demons out of the way. How fast does the Lil’ Duke shoot with ordinary steel BBs? I picked Daisy Premium Grade BBs for this test. To my utter astonishment ten of them averaged the same 363 f.p.s. as the Dust Devils! The low was 358 and the high was 366 f.p.s., so the difference was only 8 f.p.s., which is more like it. At the average velocity Daisy BBs generate 1.49 foot-pounds.

I did not anticipate regular BBs going this fast. This is something a vintage 1940’s Red Ryder in perfect condition might do. The springs in all BB guns have been weakened over the years to both make the guns easier to cock and also to slow them down a little. So, the Lil’ Duke is hot!

Smart Shot

You knew this was coming. I had to test the gun with lead Smart Shot from H&N. If I hadn’t there would have been complaints. Besides β€” I want to know, too!

Smart Shot averaged 316 f.p.s. in the Lil’ Duke. The low was 315 and the high was 320 f.p.s., so a spread of 5 f.p.s. Wow! At the average velocity Smart Shot generated 1.65 foot-pounds of energy, making it the most powerful. I feel strongly that if I had some depleted uranium BBs that weigh 9 grains this gun would be even more powerful. Of course paying $17 per BB might put off a few stingy buyers! That and the stuff in your BB trap would then come under regulation by the Waste Management and Radiation Control Board.

Cocking effort

Uncharacteristically I measured the cocking effort for you in Part 1. It was 16 pounds for the gun I am testing. That’s quite stout for a youngster, though in my experience if you give a kid a BB gun they will find a way to make it work. Just don’t think your 7-year-old fairy princess is going to adapt to it. She’ll like the light weight, but the cocking? Not so much.

I said I would check the effort to cock again in Part 2, so I did. This time it registered 15 pounds, so perhaps a pound has gone away as the gun broke in, or perhaps my measuring is off a little. I do think it will get a little lighter than it is now as the parts wear in, but we are probably looking at just another pound or two. That mainspring is pretty strong.

It can be uncocked

I learned this time that the gun can be uncocked by pulling the trigger as you restrain the cocking lever. The lever will try to come back sharply and get caught on the ratchet, so hold onto it and ease it back down. You may have to keep pulling the trigger as you go.

Accuracy?

Accuracy will depend on the size of the bore, relative to the BBs we shoot in it. I sure hope it’s accurate because at this power level it gives you a BB gun that hasn’t existed for many decades. 

Summary

This may seem like a short report, but it was long enough to catch my attention. I am starting to take special notice of this Lil’ Duke. It isn’t at all what I thought it would be. Instead it’s more powerful and made better than I anticipated. I sure hope it’s accurate!

And, lest we forget β€” there is a scope coming. So after the first accuracy test I’ll mount the scope and go at it again.