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Ammo Tell BB gun: Part One

Tell BB gun: Part One

Tell BB gun: Part One
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BB gun
This military-looking BB gun is large and good-looking!

History of airguns

This report covers:

What is it?
Bolt action
Shot tube
Lange Vizier

Tell him what? (ba-dump bump!)

I’ve been sitting on this Tell BB gun for two years. I got it at the Texas Airgun Show from Larry Hannusch. I had my eye on it all show long and as everyone was packing up I saw that it was gone from his table. He hadn’t sold or traded it — he had just packed it away. Yeah, I’m one of those guys!

I had some last-minute cash in my pocket, so we came to an agreement and it came home with me.

What is it?

So,  what did I get? Well, it’s a bolt-action spring-piston BB gun that looks like a military rifle And, for a BB gun, it is huge! The gun is 43.5-inches long and has a full-length wood stock. I wish it was walnut , but the grain looks a lot more like beech to me. The gun weighs 6 lbs. 6.7 oz., which is very heavy for a BB gun.

Daisy 499 and big BB gun
The big BB gun dwarfs a Daisy 499

Bolt action

The gun is cocked via a conventional bolt located on the right side of the receiver. Southpaws need not apply. It will seem familiar to anyone who has ever cocked a Mars 110 or 115 or a Diana model 30 — the military-looking one, not the gallery gun.

The bolt pulls the compression chamber and piston back to where the sear catches the piston. When the bolt slides forward the mainspring is stretched. When the gun fires the stretched spring pulls the piston forward — the reverse of how a conventional spring piston powerplant works.

bolt forward
In this picture the bolt is forward after the shot. You can see the sear that holds the bolt on the right of the bolt channel.

bolt back
The bolt has been pulled back, bringing the compression chamber with it.

bolt forward again
The bolt has been pushed forward again, closing the compression chamber and stretching the mainspring.

There is no resistance when the bolt is pulled back, only when it moves forward. And the resistance is enough to keep this from being thought of as as kid’s gun. This is a serious adult BB gun — not unlike the Hammerli adaptor for the Swiss K31 rifle — though the Hammerli adaptor is meant as a real military training device, where this one is just a lookalike.

Shot tube

This gun was designed to be a repeater that uses gravity feed like most modern BB guns. The BBs go into the outer jacket that most people would call the barrel and then fed to the breech of the shot tube by gravity. Unfortunately the original shot tube was lost and Larry fashioned another one from scratch. He basically made it to fit the space it had to occupy. As a result, the gun is no longer a repeater. But it can be loaded singly from the muzzle and seems to generate a lot of velocity. Naturally we will find out just how much when we test it.

shot tube
Larry Hannusch had to make a shot tube for the gun. It’s meant to be a repeater but now only works as a single-shot.

Lange Vizier

The gun has a rear sight that’s a replica of the Gew98 Mauser Lange Visier (long sight). It isn’t an exact copy but it’s close enough. The front sight is a heavy post that’s dovetailed into the outer tube.

rear asigh
The rear sight is meant to copy the Gewehr98 Lange Vizier.

Lange Vizier
The Gew98 Lange Vizier looks like the BB gun rear sight.

Build a Custom Airgun


The safety is a wing-type, similar to one found on as Mauser. These bolt action copy airguns often have this kind of safety.

The gun has a wing-type safety.

wrtiting right
It says Venuswaffenwerk Zella-Mehlis Germany on the right side of the receiver.

writing left
The model number is on the left of the receiver.


There is a lot more to tell, so stick around. I’m just getting started!

Tell BB gun: Part One

45 thoughts on “Tell BB gun: Part One”

  1. Good morning everyone. It seems that the spring moving backwards would be able to generate some kind of recoil, just like the HW45 pistol. If the weight doesn’t absorb it. It could be an interesting training gun for people handling bolt actions.

    • It does look interesting for training someone in using a bolt-action because it looks like it operates like a cock-on-close system with the mainspring instead of just the striker.

      However, the recoil direction would still be forwards though, because it’s inline with the chamber. The difference is that the piston is pulled forward by a stretched spring instead of pushed by a compressed one.

      The HW45’s recoils backwards because piston is below the barrel and travels towards the shooter when firing. The air compressed by the piston is redirected up and into the barrel, the same way it is in a single-stroke or multi-pump pneumatic pistol.

      I’ve also wondered why we don’t see more air rifle designs (especially lower velocity plinkers) with underbarrel spring pistons like the HW45. There are efficiency losses of course, but I think it would also let you make some beautifully compact springers cocked via underlever or the barrel pivoting near the muzzle as on the HW45 and some of the BSA air pistols.

      • I should have read the blog after the first coffee. Since the sear engages when the bolt is moving backwards the rest is obvious. Every morning the same urge for reading it. In any case the question still remains for me also; why aren’t THEY make more airguns with the spring under the barrel, making a compact design.
        Thanks for your assistance anyway.

      • Chanman819 and Bill,

        I have a Webley Service MK II that is built exactly as you describe.


        It is a beautiful air rifle and very fun to shoot. It is as you say, “a low velocity plinker”. That is why you do not see more of them. The design is very inefficient and costly. When you want, “more speed”, “more power” and “less cost”, this design is not the way to go.

        The general populace is willing to buy low powered air pistols because unless you are rich, that is almost all you can get. They want their .177 air rifles to be able to drop elephants.

        • My Webley Service MK II in .177 does 700 to 750 feet per second depending on the pellet. Not a powerhouse, but powerful enough to knock over soda cans and send spinners spinning.

  2. B.B.,

    This design makes me think it’s the grandfather of spring type airsoft bolt action rifles.


    PS: Section: Shot tube 1st paragraph 3rd sentence: “Unfortunately the original shot tube was lost and Larry fashioned anotherone (another one) from scratch.”

  3. Cocking on closing, like the British SMLE, Mauser rear sight, Mauser safety.

    Long wood stock, and steel.
    A perfect military trainer to enjoy, and it is pretty good looking to.

    Have a great weekend all!


  4. I really wish someone nowadays would produce an old military trainer styled bolt action spring piston air rifle designed to fire modern pellets out of a revolving magazine. Doesn’t need to be powerful, just accurate.


    • WD,

      This is probably as close as you are going to get.


      The Umarex Synergis may be a good candidate for what you wish. Perhaps you should contact them and suggest that. They really like the lookalikes.

    • And some of the Flying Dragon guns cocked that way too.

      Probably not the same design as the gun BB is reporting on. It’s been a while since I had one apart. But I would like to see how the internals work on the gun BB is reporting on.

  5. BB,

    So while the piston still moves forwards,.. as in a conventional springer,…. the piston is pulled forwards instead of being pushed forwards? Interesting. I would like to see the inner workings of that.


  6. Hi everyone…

    I thought Tell airguns were made in Spain. I had no idea they were once made in Germany.

    It’s pretty amazing how many gun companies have ties to Zella-Mehlis. Anschütz, Walther, Lothar Walther, Weihrauch, to name just a few. Even Suhl, where Haenel comes from is very close to Zella Mehlis.

  7. Hi everyone…

    I only knew Tell airguns were made in Spain nowadays. I had no idea they were once made in Germany.

    It’s pretty amazing how many gun companies have ties to Zella-Mehlis. Anschütz, Walther, Lothar Walther, Weihrauch, to name just a few. Even Suhl, where Haenel comes from is very close to Zella Mehlis.

    By the way, I’m looking forward to the rest of the reloading series. I don’t have any firearms and I don’t know if I ever will. But I am always interested in how technology works.

    Kind regards,

  8. B.B.

    On a couple of German airgun web sights I see the parts listed for Tell guns. Now I have some idea what they are.

    Happy Labor Day weekend everybody.
    Stay safe,


  9. BB ,

    Neat rifle , I am glad Larry was able to make the shot tube and save it . You have to appreciate the quality of these old BB guns . This blog is dangerous ! Now I want to find a Hakim again .

    Gene Salvino

  10. B.B.,

    WOW. At first I thought it was a Mars, but this is an air rifle I have never seen before. I do think it’s cocking would be fine for lefties as I cock my Haenel with no difficulty. (Incidentally, isn’t the Diana 30 trainer an underlever?)

    This is amazing. How were you able to keep this out of the blog for so long?


  11. BB,

    The quality of this bb gun comes shining through in the photos. I know it would cost a small fortune, but I would really like to see such a well made bb gun today.

  12. This Tell 1708 is mechanically very similar to the Mars 100 and 115 military trainers when were made to train paramilitary organisations etc. From the interwar time until the end of WW2. They were used in the Hitler youth and the like.

  13. BB,
    A while back, you mentioned that there was a possibility a new Diana model 30 being imported as the Oktoberfestgewehr. I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere, or seen a review of it. Am I not looking hard enough, or did the marketing department decide that the Americans didn’t need that kind of BB gun?
    Also, I recently bought a Crosman AR style break-barrel with a gas spring. Is there a way to ‘tame’ this high-powered monster? Is there a Canadian level Nitro-Piston unit made that I could swap in? It is really too powerful to be lobbing pellets across my basement range.
    Thanks for a daily bit of sunshine during the times of lockdown. (I especially like the Airgun History blogs)


    • Bill,

      “Is there a way to ‘tame’ this high-powered monster?”,…. none that I know of. You could shoot heavier pellets to drop FPS (feet per second). You could beef up your pellet trap. How far can you shoot if shooting non-basement?

      Where are you at that you are still under “lock down”? In the US, you can pretty much go anywhere you want if you are willing to wear a mask. The less you get out, the better in any case,… but that is not very practical for most people.

      While most people seem to abide with mask wearing (90-95%) now, not like before,…. stores like Walmart and such do not enforce it.


      • Chris,
        Bad wording on my part, using ‘lock down’ instead of ‘sheltering in place.’
        That being said, using a stand-in for an AR for practicing my offhand position (mostly) with the feedback of a paper target across the basement (~25 feet) I don’t need to kill the pellet trap (or my cocking arm, for that matter). Doing dry fire is instructive and I would like (but can’t afford) the .177 PCP upper that BB tested earlier. The Nitro-Piston platform will have to do.

        • Bill,

          Sounds like you have it under control. I live in Ohio,.. so in the Winter,… 41′ is all I got. I have nearly all PCP’s now and while I have traps that will handle them,… pellet on pellet gets old pretty quick. For the most part,… each Spring is a bit of a refresher course.

          I do have a 499 and it is a pure joy to shoot indoors year round. I do that at 24′. I even did a Red Ryder spring mod. to it and boosted the fps 150 with all of the accuracy of stock.

          I am not enough of a serious shooter to dry fire anything.


          • BB,

            Well, I guess the corporate big wigs decided the cost would be higher than what “we” would be willing to pay, making the profit margin too low. In a way, they were right. How many airgunners, most especially newbies, would pay $300 or more for a bb gun, most especially when all the marketeers are whining “Bigger, faster!”

            In the good old U.S. there is a very limited market for the Diana 30. You would not even be allowed to use it in the Daisy competition. It is like Yogi and his shot counter. How many really want one of those things. Just another bell or whistle to make something cost more and likely break.

  14. Hoping that everyone has a good and safe long weekend. Not doing much here. I visit Mom and Dad on Fridays, now about 1 1/4 hrs. away, weekly,.. so my trip out for a few days is done. Maybe shoot the Red Wolf and M-rod as the weather is pretty darn nice right now. My 35-100 is very dark in deep woods, so lighting at target can be a bit challenging. Spring and Fall when the leaves are off is about the best.

    My Ghost peppers and Cayenne peppers are doing nice and should end up with 5 (stuffed) quart zipper top freezer bags (of each, at least) for hot sauce making this Winter.

  15. Well, it was nice while it lasted. Some time ago I stopped getting email notifications when somebody would reply to one of my comments. It started up again recently and I thought, how wonderful! It has stopped again. Oh well.

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