Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

1896 King
1896 New King single shot BB gun.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • 4.55 mm lead ball
  • Moved to 10 feet
  • The first “group”
  • Second thing I did wrong
  • Correction
  • 4.50 mm ball
  • Marksman BBs
  • Summary

I couldn’t resist! I just had to know how this old girl shot. So today we will find out together.

The test

I started the test at 5 meters, like all BB gun tests. I rested the gun on the UTG monopod and I sat in a chair. I vowed to push all the balls down the barrel with the cleaning rod, but I changed that one time while the test was underway. Let’s get started!

4.55 mm lead ball

First to be tested was the 4.55 mm lead ball that comes as close as possible to the 0.180-inch BB caliber. It measures 0.179-inches in diameter. I fired the first shot and the sound from downrange was not what I expected. So I went and examined the target. There were no holes in the target!

Moved to 10 feet

I then moved my chair so the muzzle of the gun would be about 10 feet from the target. This time the ball hit the paper target, but it did so 1.3-inches below and 1.7-inches to the left of the bull. I had been taking a 6 o’clock hold, which was obviously too low on the target, so I tried to hold for the target’s center for the remainder of the shots. There was a second problem I will mention after I show you this group, but I hadn’t discovered it yet.

The first “group”

1896 King 455 group
At first glance all the shots seem to be in the same vicinity, though not in an especially good group. But that’s deceiving. There is a nick on the target’s edge below and to the right of the dime. And to the left of the Official Competition logo is another hole. This is ten shots in 3.121-inches AT 10 FEET!

Build a Custom Airgun

Second thing I did wrong

I mentioned that I did something else wrong on the first target and it was how I sighted the gun. The rear notch is extremely wide and the front sight is very low and small, so what I did was hold the tip of the front sight at the bottom of the rear notch. This is called  holding a fine bead when you shoot a muzzleloader and the shape of the rear notch made me do it instinctively. Let me show you.

fine bead
This is a fine bead that I used with the 1896 King. It was set to shoot too low!


For the next target I tried something different. I started shooting with a high rear sight hold in the center of the bull, but both the first two shots landed low. They are down by the writing at the bottom of the target. So I needed a higher aim point.

I drew a cross above the bullseye to use as an aim point, and I held the front sight up as far in the rear notch as I could. The sight isn’t tall enough to go all the way to the top of the rear notch without some of the barrel showing as well. But I did the best I could. You will see the results of that on the next target.

4.50 mm ball

This time I shot the 4.50 mm lead ball from H&N. With the new sight picture and sight alignment the shots were hitting around the bull!

I could hear that the BBs were rolling all the way down the shot tube, so on the fourth or fifth shot I tried not pushing the cleaning rod down the bore. Big mistake! That one shot landed low and outside the others. Back to the cleaning rod. I shot 10 of these balls with the new sight picture and got a group that measures 3.711-inches between centers. If I hadn’t dropped that one shot the group measures 2.337-inches between centers. But remember — it’s from 10 feet.

1896 King 450 group
When I aimed at the center of the cross on top this is where the 4.50 mm BBs landed. I shot 10 BBs, aiming at the cross. The lowest shot on the left was when I did not push the BB into the breech with the cleaning rod and it opened the group by more than one inch.

Marksman BBs

Do you remember the Marksman BBs that measure 0.176-inches in diameter and are too large for the majority of BB guns? Reader Michael asked whether I had considered testing them and I told him I might, though I thought their small size would make them inaccurate. Well, it did! I can’t tell you the size of a 10-shot group because 10 BBs did not hit the target paper, but the centers of the nine that did are 7-1/4-inches apart! And this is from 10 feet!

1896 King Marksman group
The Marksman oversized BBs did not do well in this gun. Only nine of 10 hit the paper and they are about 7-1/4-inches apart.


That concludes our look at the 1896 New King BB gun from Markham. I said in Part 2 I thought it could have been more powerful when new. It may have been, and having proper 0.180-inch BB shot might make a tremendous difference in accuracy, given what 0.179-inch balls were able to do. But all of that is just conjecture at this point.

What I do know is the barrel  is still not perfectly straight. As it is this little gun cocks easily and is a joy to shoot. Plus it’s nice to look at. I guess that’s all we can hope for.