Sharpshooter pistol resurrection: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sharpshooter pistols
The Bulls Eye pistol (left) came first. Manufacture started in 1924 in Rawlins, Wyoming. The smaller Sharpshooter pistols at the right were made in Rawlins until sometime in World War II and then manufacture moved to La Jolla, California in 1946.

Part 1

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Cleanup
  • Companies that made and sold Sharpshooter pistols
  • Odd guns
  • Accuracy
  • Adjustable sights
  • Hard to get groups
  • Summary

Cleanup

Today I take a turn from my usual format. This is Day 2 where I normally report velocity, but instead of that I’m going to begin with accuracy. The reason for doing that is because when the pistol is adjusted for accuracy the velocity is affected.

Sharpshooter adjust rail
This screw pulls the two halves of the sheet metal together, pushing the front of the guide rail upward. That tightens the fit of the carrier on the rail — affecting both accuracy and velocity.

Bulls Eye rail
The earlier Bulls Eye gun rail was not adjustable. It was welded in place.

However, before I get to that I have some things to clear up. First, I said the plastic carriers/slides/launchers were introduced sometime after the 1960s. From what I have since learned, plastic carriers may have been installed in some La Jolla guns.

At sometime in the past I said that Sharpshooter pistols were made by five different companies. That all depends on what is meant by the verb “made.” Let’s look at the manufacturing history of these pistols.

Companies that made and sold Sharpshooter pistols

1924 – sometime in WW II — Dr. Bunten, the inventor, Bulls Eye Pistol Mfg. Co., Rawlins, Wyoming.

1946 – 1963 — John O. Beckwith, Bulls Eye Mfg. Corp, La Jolla, CA

Berry Brow Enterprises 1960?, Line Lexington, PA — they owned the rights but may not have made the parts of the guns. They announced restart of manufacture in American Rifleman in May of 1963.

Golden Key Enterprises, Sherman Oaks (and Van Nuys), CA — 1971-1980. Guns with plastic carriers.

1970 -’80s? — Doc Carlson bought the last 600 pistols from Golden Key. These can have odd boxes that measure 6 by 8 inches, for the original boxes were exhausted.

1980s — John Beckwith — about 100 Nickel Deluxe pistols were assembled from parts found in his brother Bud Beckwith’s garage after he passed away. They were given as gifts and sold. Probably with cast metal carriers.

Odd guns

I discovered two odd guns while researching this subject. One seems to be a change in manufacturing, as it has a one-inch longer grip. It is a nickel deluxe gun. The grips are what is extended – not the frame of stamped steel. A 2-ounce lead weight sits between the grip panels at the bottom. This was thought to be a one-off, but I may have located a production sample to show you.

Sharpshooter long grip
This Sharpshooter pistol with a long grip may have been a limited production item.

The other odd gun is a Bulls Eye pistol with a 6-ounce sheet of lead wrapped under the front of the pistol to add weight. This was done by Bud Beckwith on a single gun and was never manufactured. But it leads me to suspect that Bud Beckwith is also responsible for the Sharpshooter grip extension mentioned before.

Bulls Eye lead wrap
This Bulls Eye pistol has 6 ounces of lead wrapped around its bottom.

Accuracy

It took me long enough to get to it but now let’s look at Sharpshooter accuracy. The guns are amazingly accurate at short range. I wanted to play around with adjusting the tension on the rails to get the best accuracy possible. But after a morning of doing it I now suspect this is something that takes days and even longer. I will surprise you by telling you that Dr. Brunten tested each and every pistol he made before boxing it for sale. That’s the kind of stuff some shooters mistakenly believe all gun manufacturers do, but it is exceedingly rare. After he sold the company to John Beckwith he paid a visit to the La Jolla works to see if they were maintaining his standards. He found they employed a young man with one leg to test their guns and he was hitting strings tied to light chains around the room where he was sitting!

Dean Fletcher proved the gun is accurate enough to hit houseflies when he wrote the article for Airgun Revue, but that wasn’t the first time that was done. The first time was in 1925 on the inside of a vendor tent at Camp Perry, the site of the U.S. National Matches, where Major (later Major General) Julian S, Hatcher shot flies that landed on the inside of the tent canvas. Later, M.D. “Bud” Waite, former technical editor of the American Rifleman magazine and author of Trapdoor Springfield also shot flies, along with several world champion and Olympic Champion pistol shots. If you shot pistols in the 1920s, you owned a Bulls Eye or a Sharpshooter.

Adjustable sights

As inexpensive as these guns are, you don’t expect them to have adjustable sights, but they do. The front sight blade is also the stopper that holds the shot inside the 58-shot tubular magazine on top of the pistol. A modification made in the 1930s puts a bump on the bottom of the blade so you can adjust elevation.

Sharpshooter front sight
The front sight blade slides into the upper channel that holds the number 6 shot. The bump on the bottom of the blade is to control elevation.
Or, flip it over and you have a very low front blade.

Sharpshooter front sight low
Here the front sight blade is set as low as it will go unless it is flipped over.

The rear sight slides side to side. When you see how it’s made you have to praise the genius that thought up such a thing!

Sharpshooter rear sight
Metal tabs folded over the rear sight allow it to slide from side to side.

Hard to get groups

I wanted to show you some groups today, as well as to be able to compare group sizes based on my rail adjustments. But the Sharpshooter just doesn’t have the punch to pierce paper. I even made a target out of aluminum foil, but all most shots did was push it out of the way without piercing the foil.

ShaRPSHOOTER FOIL TARGET
All this target did was make noise and dance around when hit. The shot left no record of where it hit.

I then made a spinner box, using the spinners that came in the box with a gun. But if you miss a spinner, where did the shot go?

Sharpshooter spinners
These spinners came in a Sharpshooter box. They work well, but if you miss, where did it go?

Finally I stretched aluminum foil over a plastic food container and held it tight with a rubber band. It’s perfect for this work and I now have a permanent target in my office. No shot ever escapes and I have a great record of all shots.

foil trap
Aluminum foil stretched over a food container and held with a rubber band worked the best.

foil group
The black dot is the size of the trime, whose diameter is 14mm. There are 15 shots from three different pistols in this group. Yes, there is one at the top of the black dot from the Bulls Eye pistol. Shot at 7 feet.

The manufacturing machinery was never updated after Beckwith initially sold it. So, either La Jolla or nothing appears on all the guns made thereafter. The machinery was hauled off to the dump from the back yard of a relative in later years.

Summary

I hope this series is as interesting to you as it is to me. There is more to come.

88 thoughts on “Sharpshooter pistol resurrection: Part 2

  1. B.B.,

    My days and nights are getting inverted, but that means my questions should stand out. :^)

    First, “Cleanup”?

    Second, how long must we wait for the velocity vs. accuracy dilemma?

    Finally, do you have a feel for which are more accurate, Bulls Eye or Sharpshooter? Which has more velocity of the two? (O.K., that’s sorta two questions.)

    These are fabulous. Stuff this cool hasn’t been made for many decades.

    Michael


  2. B.B.,

    I’ve been reviewing your previous articles on the Sharpshooter and I cannot find you mentioning how big this little pistol is. Could you possibly give us some measurements? If the rubber stamp was three inches in diameter I’d expect this thing to have about 5 inches in height and about 7 or 8 inches in overall length. Have you also solved or figured out the best rubber band to use for this pistol? Your previous experiments had a variety of bands which also gave a variety of velocity.

    Siraniko

    PS: Cleanup? You might mean Clear Up
    Section Accuracy 2nd paragraph 1st sentence: “Dean Fletcher proved the gun is accurate enough to hit houseflies whwn (when) he wrote the article for Airgun Revue, but that wasn’t the first time that was done.”


  3. BB,

    I enjoyed all of the historical bits and pieces. That must have taken awhile to compile?

    The oldest toy guns I remember as a kid were the revolvers that took the rolls of paper caps. (mid 60’s). Then of course the suction cup (springer) dart guns and water squirt guns. I think? I remember a lever action rifle called a “Crackfire”? that shot nothing, but did make sounds. I do not recall it having batteries though.

    Nice trip down memory lane. 🙂

    Chris


    • Chris,

      My Dad gave me a set of toy revolvers with holsters that I cut my teeth on. I can remember seeing those in my very early childhood memories. These were the very basic ones made of pot metal with the trigger and hammer on each end of a pivot. They would not do anything but move.


      • RR,

        As a wee youth,… you did not need to shoot anything. Our little kid imaginations were all that was needed! I have a brother that is a year younger, so I had a shooting buddy (and/or target) at least. Of course,… catching a John Wayne movie on the black and white TV (or Gunsmoke, etc, etc.) the night before gave our imaginations plenty of fuel for the next day. Bad guys were lurking behind every bush!

        Chris


  4. BB,

    I’m impressed! These things are indeed interesting (accurate)! I can most definitely see why that target would become a permanent fixture in your office. What a superb fiddley for an airgunner.

    It is a shame that no company in their right minds would risk the litigation by making an updated version of this shooting modern steel bbs. It would likely be more popular than the Bug-A-Salt. I would buy a couple.


  5. Very cool. And accurate.

    Until today, I thought my Daisy 179 was the most anemic air gun out there.
    On a good day, it could penetrate 3, count em 3 pieces of copy paper at 10ft.
    Oh how could I ever have handled the power….

    I agree, this would be a competitor to the bug assault.

    If it will only pierce aluminum foil, it MAY not have the power to humanely kill the flies though…

    I bet you never thought you would see the words “humanely kill a bug” in the same sentence….

    Have a great weekend!


  6. B.B.,

    I have no idea where you obtained all of the historical information on these guns but it’s fascinating. The fact that these little guns were even allowed on the grounds of Camp Perry is amazing.

    The adjust-ability of the sights and carrier for accuracy is something I never knew. Always enjoy learning about guns with you at the helm. Thank you.




  7. Here is something that I ran across,……

    https://www.pyramydair.com/s/m/Umarex_Origin_PCP_Air_Rifle_with_Hand_Pump/5255

    From GTA,.. a video:

    https://www.gatewaytoairguns.org/GTA/index.php?topic=176673.0

    What is interesting,… is the ((( “Ever Pressure Tank System” ))) that is said to extend full pressure shot count. Like a regulator,… but not????? Supposedly a spring and piston set-up (per the video). I can not really see a spring keeping 2000+ psi at pressure,… can you?

    At any rate,… I found it interesting and thought it might spark some conversation. If it is new?, I am surprised to even see PA have it in stock.

    Chris




      • RR,

        Are you sure? As I get it,.. the lead shot ramps up into a pocket and launches from that. Why not a bb or air soft ball? I do not think it goes down a barrel,…unless I am wrong on that.

        Chris


      • RidgeRunner and Chris USA,

        shootski wrote, “Could you shoot an AirSoft bb with one of these?” He did not say could B.B. fill the loading tube. He was just reacting to the statement about the use of steel shot by a wise reader earlier: “It is a shame that no company in their right minds would risk the litigation by making an updated version of this shooting modern steel bbs.”
        It would be interesting even single loaded if B.B. could give it a try…it might just cause someone to build an Empire of fun!

        shootski

        shootski



        • Shootski,

          With a polymer frame/parts, it could work. Even other sturdy, but cheaper plastics. (What would make it stand out is the rubber band power). It has been awhile since I took a stroll down the toy gun aisle at Wally World, but I would imagine that there is something similar that shoots small plastic balls,..or maybe not? Then you have the entire and massive Nerf line,.. and you have all the air soft pistol offerings, cheap or higher end.

          So I think that it’s not a matter of any legality (absent of supplying lead shot as ammo) for a toy. Plenty similar options exist now. It is just that it has been brought into modern times.

          My 2 cents,….. Chris


          • Chris,

            I have several Nerf guns. I have been trying to work up the courage to take one apart and see what I can do with it.

            You are right though. These are here now. They just shoot a little safer ammo.


            • Chris and R.R.,

              I know, I know…would be fun though!

              We as a family bought NERF Ballzookas https://nerf.fandom.com/wiki/Ballzooka (multi-shot Gattling Action Nerf ball launchers) bags and bags of spare ammo. We would blast away at oneanother for 10s of minutes laughing maniacally the entire time. We were stationed in Stuttgart and lived off post and some of our German neighbors, all dignified hunters, after some time to get over their fear of having fun in PUBLIC loved brining over their families to join in on the fun! By the time we PCS,’d a few years later they all had Nerf Ballzookas of their own.

              shootski


              • Shootski,

                Well done! Mission accomplished. 🙂

                If doing this again, I would stamp cut/form it, embossed heavily with some nice raised antique looking scroll work (done at the stamp/cut stage, like the old bb rifles) and no slab slides for the grips. All metal, nice weight and antique looking. What would it take?,… maybe a half dozen parts? Since air soft balls are cheap and readily available,… that would be the ammo.

                Chris


            • RR,

              You should. I would give the net a good look first. I looked into it once and there is videos plenty of tweaking and modding them just the way we do our air guns. While I am not sure,… I think the high end ones are probably are pushing $30-40+. I know there was Bug-A-Salt modder’s.

              Chris



        • Shootski,

          I do believe that wise reader came to the same conclusion as you concerning being able to use it as a single shot while conversing with that “young” fellow.

          It would be interesting to see if we could persuade BB to indulge us in the matter.

          As Chris points out below, “they” have already built several “Empires of Fun”. It is seriously doubtful that anyone is going to remake these just to make a couple of old coggers happy.



  8. I am still happy with my RAW. I have got 1 inch at 100 yds with a 5 shot group. I think I can go to 10 shots in 1 inch if I get a calm day. A calm day is not common at my cabin 6,000 ft. on a ridge.

    If the RAW was more backyard friendly I may try to set up a 100 yard range in town. Maybe 300 feet of 24 inch conduit suspended from my shooting bench. Not as good as Shootskie’s buried range but much cheaper. Still expensive. Just realized I would need to start in the front yard to get 300 feet. So a no go. Well absence makes the heart fonder.

    I am rebuilding my target 1022 with a green mountain barrel and a Falcon scope. It will be fun to compare the two guns at 100 yds.

    Don


  9. Shootski,

    I had forgotten about Dennis’ creations. I am so used to not being able to get his rifles that I did not think of his pistols. I have shot one of his hand cannons. It was a .50 I believe.

    Rig up a shoulder rig for it and it would be an awesome little carbine.


    • RidgeRunner,

      My experience with Dennis Quackenbush began with a CO2 Crosman 2550 with the DAQ BULK TUBE; using a Powerlet gave maybe 5 or 6 shots, the bulk fill connected to a way oversized custom valve allowing perhaps 10 or 11 screamer shots with 27 grain Diana pellets. I also used Pelletman 43 grain bullets. After that i was hooked! I had friends and family do the call in drill and later the mail in lottery to get as many different versions/calibers of his pistols and rifles. Eventually after meeting him a number of times i could just call :^) We talk when we need to on far ranging topics. His wife has always been a sweetheart when dealing with me when Dennis is out and about. The .458 LA (long action) Outlaw rifle is my all around favorite but the .575 pistol and Shortrifle are really astounding. I wouldn’t think twice about hunting Brown Bear with one or the other as long as I had my .44 Magnum Six Shooter in a chest holster…some day. My .308 1:10 Outlaw rifle with the Donny FL EMPEROR with and without extension is astoundingly quiet for the FPE. Yes, it does take two Cascaded 100 cubic foot CF to do a range session with any of them but WHAT FUN! Slinging 300-500+ grains of Lead at a target over 100 yards away with accuracy is a BLAST! Especially when the PBS start asking and their eyes go all BIG at a bb gun.

      shootsk




    • TT,

      Awe,… cute little fellow. Making him eat standing up? Least you could do is build him a little table and chair so he can eat proper,…. just before you “drill” him!

      A fellow on the net did that and had lot’s of slow motion video of em’ getting whacked.

      Not a flying squirrel by chance? According to the ODNR, they are the most populous despite anyone rarely seeing them (being nocturnal). Ohio.

      Chris




        • TT,

          Very nice and good shots. They sure are fun to watch and see their incredible acrobatic feats. Up until I see them go under and up in the underside of my car. After that, all bets are off.

          Glad to confirm that they are flying squirrels. They looked like they had some extra “something, something” going on, but I was not sure.

          Chris



          • RR

            They let me get just a few feet from tree before they vanish. They do want to keep out of reaching distance, but not by a whole lot. Sure are hard to see when they are against the tree bark.
            I put electric fence around two trees to discourage coons, possums, and cats from bothering them and their feeders.
            tt


  10. BB,

    I see by the new email from PA that you might think the Fusion 2 could give the PCPs a run for their money.

    Or does PA have a bunch of them to get rid of?



      • Don,

        I like how they carefully step around the truth.

        “Top 5 blog posts, determined by our readers.” “Per Tom, this CO2 shooter mimics a PCP is all kinds of ways.”

        Whoa. Not only does BB like it, we do also. Beware the marketeers. I do hope the consumers use due diligence.

        Well, maybe if PA gets stuck with a bunch of them, they will send them to RRHFWA and I will have a bunch of triangular silencers. 😉

        P.S. My links worked fine.

        P.S.S. I think they have a bunch of K98 PCPs also.


        • RR,

          They better be careful. That is running a bit too close to stepping on “The Godfather’s” toes. Good way to get yourself a nice, new pair of cement shoes prior to seeing the bottom of the lake,… or to get introduced to the business end of a wood chipper. 😉

          Chris


        • To clarify:

          In the email the link to the Fusion rifle goes to Part 1. If you read on it links to the blog Parts 1, 2, or 3. With further checking that seems to be the standard for all their links. Folks not familiar with the Blog may not know there are more parts.

          I just hit the link for the rifle that took me to part 1.

          Don




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