Let’s make lemonade

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Lemons
  • The bigger picture
  • Whodunit?
  • So what?
  • They got better
  • The point?
  • Summary

I was all set to begin telling you about my Beeman 400/Diana 75 today. Yes — my rifle is a Beeman 400. I’ve had people tell me Beeman didn’t sell a 400, but I’ve got one to show you. However — not today.

There is one part of the Diana 75 sidelever recoilless air rifle that I had to discuss with you first and, as I thought about it, this one component is more important than the entire target rifle. So today I tell all of you how to make lemonade. Some of you will make it, some will even set up lemonade stands while others will continue to curse the darkness.

Lemons

The world of airguns is replete with lemons. In 2018 I told you the story of a Benjamin 700 that was practically forced upon me at the 2018 Texas Airgun Show by one of our regular readers — I forget who. The price of $95 was certainly good. But then I had to get it fixed and, by the time that was over, I had three times the money invested in the airgun. By the way, that BB repeater now holds air indefinitely and is looking for a new home.

The Schimel was a new CO2 pistol in 1950. It was unique, in that it was a CO2-powered .22 pistol that shot pellets at 550 f.p.s.! However, unlike Crosman who had been building CO2 guns for decades by 1950, the Schimel was made with high-tech all-new materials. Unfortunately many of them did not withstand the test of time. The metal parts welded to one another through electrolysis, the o-ring seals absorbed gas and locked the gun up tight for hours after the cartridge was empty, the paint flaked off all over the gun and the plastic grip scales shrunk and warped over time.

Schimel
The Schimel looks like a P08 German Luger and my wife, Edith, who saw the air pistol first, always called my 9mm 1914 Erfurt Luger a Schimel. 

The bigger picture

Those guns and others like them were unsatisfactory, but they were nothing compared to the tens of thousands of failures that were foisted upon the airgunning public in the 1960s and ’70s. Companies with solid reputations that we still trust today sold tens (hundreds?) of thousands of premium airguns to unsuspecting customers who only found their Achilles heel a decade later. Their piston seals were made of the wrong synthetic material! That material worked well when it was new and fresh but it hardened in the air and slowly turned into a dark yellowish waxy substance that fell apart in small chunks. I have found bits of brownish-yellow wax in the barrels of dozens of these airguns. Not one of them escaped this fate and in 2021 there isn’t one of them that still has its original seals.

124 perished seals
This FWB 124 pistol seal was white-ish when new. This brand new seal has never been in an airgun. Years of exposure to the atmosphere have turned it brown and dried it out. It does the same thing inside an air rifle.

I wrote about one of these airguns in the 15-part series, A shrine built for a Feinwerkbau 124, back in 2010 and 2011. Yes, the legendary Feinwerkbau put the new bound-to-fail synthetic seals on their iconic 124 (and 121, 125 and 127). That’s tens of thousands of airguns, right there! And yes, I did write a 15-part report about the 124. I also wrote a great many more reports about that model over the years. Many of them have been about replacing the original seals with ones made from modern materials. I have probably resealed 12 to 15 model 124s in my time.

Okay, get angry! Why would such a prestigious airgun manufacturer put something that was bound to fail in their finest products. Let’s see. Perhaps they didn’t know?

Why would Coca-Cola change the formula that made them the world’s leading soft drink producer? Why would NASA skip some of the testing for the Hubble Space Telescope before launching it into orbit? I could go on but the answer is always the same — they didn’t know.

Whodunit?

Now we come to the part of today’s report that explains why I didn’t start presenting the Beeman 400/Diana 75 today. You see — Diana also used this new synthetic material in their piston seals. That makes the following models subject to early failure.

Diana 5 pistol
Diana 6 target pistol
Diana 10 target pistol
Diana 60 target rifle
Diana 65 target rifle
Diana 66 target rifle
Diana model 70 rifle
Diana model 72 target rifle
Diana model 75 target rifle

And the companies that sold these airguns under other names, like Beeman, sold them under different model numbers, as well. But wait — there’s more!

Walther also used this synthetic material in their airguns made during this same timeframe. That made the following models that are prone to early failure.

Walther model 55 target rifle
Walther LGV target rifle
Walther LGR target rifle

I have resealed two LGVs for this problem, and I paid someone else to reseal one because he wouldn’t sell me the parts. I have an LGR that was also resealed.

So what?

BB, you’re painting a dismal picture here! This is why I won’t buy a used airgun.

Well, you do what you think is best, but I am telling you that this has opened up a grand world of opportunity to those who can work with it. You can either complain that the lower 40 acres on your Titusville, Pennsylvania, farm is all full of black sticky muck that clogs your plow or you can arrange to sink an oil well and become a millionaire!

Guys, what BB is telling you is there is a huge stock of wonderful airguns rotting away in closets because they suddenly stopped shooting when the barrel filled up with the brown waxy stuff. They would have been thrown away years ago but the supply of round tuits was temporarily exhausted. It’s hard to hold an FWB 124 or a Diana 72 in your hands and not realize what a diamond it is!

They got better

All those prestigious companies who were bamboozled by the early synthetics (remember, Benjamin Braddock — plastic is the future! {from The Graduate}) learned their lesson and made their seals out of new material that lasts virtually forever. They each went a different way but all of them figured it out, just like General Motors figured out that timing belt gears should not be made out of Nylon!

While “they” were figuring it out, the aftermarket guys also got with the program and better synthetic piston seals began showing up worldwide. So today a 124 that’s no longer being used is a loving puppy that needs to be adopted. I once bought one for $35 — from an airgun dealer! I bought a nice one for $200 a few years back — from a gun dealer who took it on a trade in for a “real” gun. That one I still have.

I even bought a 124 complete action in a deluxe stock at a gun show for $50 a few years ago. But I sold that one to another airgunner who said he had a barrel.

The point?

If you haven’t gotten it by now, bless your heart! What I’m saying is that there are thousands of worthy airguns laying around that are simply in need of a new piston seal. These aren’t cheapies, either. These are good airguns. Just look at the list up above again. But their owners don’t appreciate them anymore.

I bet if there was a pristine 1957 Chevy Bel Air parked out in the street and the For Sale sign said its original 283 original engine was’t running, people would find a way to do something about it! BB Pelletier just told you that there are thousands of them and you just have to look for them.

Look in odd places. Don’t look in the car trader magazines for ’57 Chevys. Everybody looks there. Look behind the body shops and repair shops around town. That’s where the mechanic parked them, waiting for the owner to pay his bill. And he never came back. Sure there is no title, but we are talking about airguns — not cars! Don’t need no title for an FWB 124 or an RWS 75.

Read the ‘spensive Gun Broker ads that say “I don’t know how well this RWS Diana 75 rifle works because I don’t have any pellets to shoot in it.” Sure — we all believe that. So you contact that guy and tell him that a piston seal replacement for a Diana 75 will cost you at least $350 — $250 for the work and parts and $100 for shipping both ways. Tell him you’ll give him $250 for his $575 air rifle, plus $50 to ship it and then, if it does have the bad piston seal problem, you do have to pay the rest to get it fixed. And you come out about even. But if it doesn’t… oh, happy day!

Or, you can fix it yourself. Or, you will luck out and discover that it works fine. Or, the seller will discover that he actually does have some .177 pellets and the gun does, in fact, work. Then you ask him what pellets he has and what velocity the rifle shoots them at and he tells you that he doesn’t have a chronograph. And on and on…

Summary

Now I’ve told you all that is behind the piston seals of a Beeman 400/Diana 75. That means that on Monday you can light just one little candle and stop cursing the darkness.

117 thoughts on “Let’s make lemonade

  1. B.B.

    My how timely this is!!!!!

    What do you do when the “expert” on resealing these guns; he was the factory tech back in the day; says he only wants to use OEM seals? As you know, these guns are alot more complicated than a “normal” springer. Or you are ham fisted and realize your own limitations….

    -Y


  2. B.B.,

    You know your students here have done well when they report of air guns they have brought back to life from the lessons you have taught here over the years. Making their own leather piston seals. Bending barrels that have been abused. Safely taking apart spring piston airguns with a spring compressor. Replacing piston seals. Using ATF sealant to possibly rejuvenate CO2 pistols and rifles. The list goes on. Thanks not only to you but also the other contributing members for all the lessons, tips and tricks they have shared in the guest blogs and comments. This is the one place I’m sure to get a good lead regarding bringing back old air guns to life.

    Siraniko


  3. BB,

    Good article. I am not sure I would trust myself to sort it all out if looking at something old/vintage. But, with the net and air gun sites,…I can get a pretty good idea, pretty quick. While not afraid of tearing into something, I would lean towards buying from a dealer who has been through it already and pay the premium. Now,.. if I found something at a yard sale that was vintage/old,… it would be a different story.

    I tend to be bit of a minimalist, so I am not sure if I will ever be bitten by the used air gun market. If I were to be,.. it would be the (real old) ones like what RR collects.

    Chris


    • Chris,

      I don’t collect these old gals, they keep finding me! I just make room for them here at RidgeRunner’s Home For Wayward Airguns. Mrs. RR even likes the 1906 BSA hanging over the fireplace.


      • RR,

        And,… you shoot them!!! 🙂 Old or not,.. I would not get something like what you have and not shoot it. Or,.. at least have the confidence and a solid plan that I can make it functional.

        Chris


        • Chris,

          If I cannot shoot it, I do not want it. Some of these old gals are some mighty fine shooters. Some of them are not so great, but they never were. They are all fun. Each one in my “collection” is unique in some way from the others. Even with my “modern” airguns, each is unique in some way from the others.

          Many of these old airguns were built from machined steel and walnut. There is no stamped metal, aluminum or plastic in these things. Except for some of the more exotic ones, they most often are simpler.


  4. BB,

    I drink a nice, cool, tall, refreshing glass of lemonade every time I shoot my 1906 BSA. I drink another glass full when I shoot the Webley Service MK2 because I knew how to replace a broken part and the piston seal because of you. I was not afraid to pick up an old, beat up Crosman 101 at a yard sale for a good price. Gunfun1 has enjoyed a couple of FWB 300’s with new seals, etc. I drink lemonade all the time. You taught me how to make it.

    …a piston seal replacement for a Dioana (Diana) 75 will cost you at least $350…

    I saw another, but I cannot find it now. Sorry.


  5. Speaking of seals, resealing and such, finally shipped the old Crosman 38T to the expert for proper resealing and fixing; looking forward to enjoying it once again and finding the right .22 pellet for it.

    Off topic, mostly reporting back to Gunfun1 – received my miniature steel toothpick crossbow, which is more powerful than expected; now experimenting with different missiles, including a 1/2” finishing nail. The micro-crossbow seems to have no trouble propelling it so will see how it does against different targets. It’s fun to be an old kid.


  6. Where were you able to buy the toothpick crossbow? I remember reading several years ago that the Chinese government banned the manufacture due to the perceived danger to children. I have not searched recently however.


  7. B B,
    When I saw you preparing to buy the Beeman 400/ Diana 75 at distance and for quite a sum of money, their reputation for crumbling piston seals immediately came into my mind. Usually, the 75’s either fall into 3 categories: 1. cheap and for spares/repair 2. expensive -the buyer makes much of a recent reseal/ overhaul 3. that the rifle is in good working order. The last suggesting an older reseal/ overhaul with the blue polyurethene seals which thankfully last a long time.
    However: you have pointed out another which I hadn’t thought of : been in storage and unfired, in which case the buyer should insist that the gun is test fired. I would have no qualms about asking for video footage of some test shots with any gun I was having to buy from distance, especially a Giss Diana or FWB Sport.

    Regards,
    Drew



      • B.B.,

        Multiple random thoughts…

        Wish you had Macs 75 in the original box I saw at Roanoke to test.

        You resealed the LGR? Did Neal Stepp do this ?

        Think it’s important to point out in the old Walters that it’s easy to shoot them to a point that the piston seal attachment is obliterated and the compression tube is peened that makes reviving the gun tough if not impossible to return to specs.

        In this same vein if someone has used the “slickster” conversion adapters to allow these old airguns to be converted from leather piston seal to synthetic beware. The leather piston seal conformed to an out of round compression tube but a synthetic seal isn’t as forgiving. A chronograph is your friend.

        On the other side of the coin a dry leather piston seal that is easily rejuvenated can also result in a gun shooting well below spec and justify a lower purchase price. Again, a chronograph is your friend.

        These examples don’t necessarily mean you have to limit your search to local guns shot across a chronograph. I’ve bought guns long distance from seller’s with conditions on chronograph numbers when they arrive. A short video of their guns being shot across a chronograph has resulted in a price adjustment. PayPal is your friend in these instances.



          • B.B.,

            Can’t sleep?

            Don’t think that I remember reading that the LGR had recently been resealed prior to your 3 part series. Don’t know that it matters much at 10 meters but when the LGR is shooting to spec it is an amazing piece of kit.

            I think champions choice resealed mine for less than $100 and Neal Stepp is a guru with these 10 meter guns. Just ignore all this static since you’re probably not interested in selling it or trading it.

            I came out from underneath my rock to tell you that I still greatly enjoy your Friday blogs especially when they provide your unique insight into vintage airguns since I’m convinced that many folks are scared off from these used guns since they lack the knowledge that you are now providing. Hidden treasures that are bargains await those that are now armed with your knowledge. Kudos to you


  8. Chris,

    I have done my first mod to the Maximus. I installed a Limbsaver recoil pad. Not much of a mod, but it keeps the butt from sliding around and lengthens the pull some. I like it.

    I like this stock on this Maximus. It is a solid, well made piece. A lot of the plastic stocks are flimsy, hollow sounding things. Not this.

    I am liking this Maximus. This could easily become my “modern” favorite.


    • RR,

      Well good! I am glad you like the Limbsaver pad. They are the cat’s meow when they fit perfect. Adds a quick 1″ for those not familiar. Super grippy, super pliable.

      Keep us posted,……….. Chris


    • RR,

      I also found that it picks up and points real nice. The light weight helps,… but that is one thing people would notice right off. I think the weight is about ideal in my book. I think it will go the way of the dinosaur,.. but I am glad you got one,.. finally.

      Looking forwards to any mods you may do. You just might inspire me to do more to mine.

      Chris


      • Chris,

        There is one you really should do. It is the striker spring adjustment kit. With it you can fine tune the striker to work with your valve and your regulator to dial in the power for a particular pellet. You might think about a larger transfer port also.

        This thing does point real nice. Like I said, I am really liking this air rifle and I have not even shot it yet.


        • RR,

          So noted. The easy to do trigger mods would be a #1 mod. in my book. I really do not think you would want more/better,…. without going overboard. I might have a tip/note or two if interested.

          Chris


          • Chris,

            I am seriously thinking the trigger mod will be next. It is pretty heavy. There is also an adjustable two stage sear available for this trigger also. If I end up not liking this particular trigger, there are some nice aftermarket triggers available.

            I can see a silencer for this also. I will have to see how much of a bark it has. A regulator, a striker spring adjustment kit. Maybe a new barrel. Very likely enlarge the loading port. This could even end up as a nice little carbine. You never know where I might take this little bugga. These projects could stretch out over years, we will see.

            Overboard? A man with a Redwolf talking to a man with an HM1000X? Seriously? I did not buy the Maximus because of the low price tag, although that did not hurt one bit. I bought the Maximus because it is one of the most basic of PCP air rifles that has been around for many years and has been modified a gazillion different ways into just about anything you can imagine.

            Here is the chance for me to build “my” air rifle to suit me. I have no problem with a single shot, although I can turn it into a Fortitude later on if I desire. I like target shooting and plinking, with an occasional feral soda can hunt. Mini sniping can be real fun. I have seen one of these turned into a real nice FT air rifle.

            As I said, this could end up being my favorite “modern” airgun.





    • RR
      Got the Talon together yesterday. Pretty nice for it being the old style frame. Some little differences from them to the new ones. One big thing I noticed is It has a fatter pistol grip than the newer models.

      I did some different springs in the trigger too. It has a real nice light crisp 2 stage pull now.

      I got a different end cap on it that I made for one of the Talons I had in the past. Its pretty quiet with the 18″ .25 caliber barrel in it as well as the 12″ .177 caliber barrel which is what I have in it right now.

      And I do have my AirForce Co2 bulk fill adapter on it with Air Venturi 3000 psi HPA 13 cubic inch regulated bottle on it.

      I did try the regular AirForce bottle that came with it and I think I’m staying with the regulated bottle. But thanks for the fill adapter for the old style bottle that they used before the new style spin lock ones. Oh and the extra top hats and valves too.

      Getting ready to scope it now. But did a few chrony shots and it was at 825 fps with the regular bottle with .25 caliber 33.95 JSB pellets. Its doing 710 with the regulated bottle.

      The .22 caliber barrel did 840 fps with the Talon bottle and 720 with the regulated bottle.

      So right now its got the. 22 barrel. That’s what I’m going to sight the scope in with first. Had had it together in about a hour counting playing with the different trigger springs yesterday. Happy with it so far and thanks.

      Here’s a picture without the scope.


      • GF1,

        The grip is a custom one I bought years ago. I hate those little things AirForce uses.

        I am glad you are enjoying it. The old bottle has an old style valve in it. The valve parts are to update it to the newer style valve. The one piece top hat and stem is a custom high flow valve setup.

        The only reason I sold it was because I was going to chop the scope rail off, make it picitinney, make it a side cocker, etc. A lot of machining and I never found the round tuit for it. You win out. I got my Maximus, so I win out.

        Enjoy!


        • Rr
          I left the old style valve in the AirForce bottle. My valve in my Condor SS broke a little while back so I took the valve and top hat from my AirForce Co2 adapter and put it in my Condor SS bottle. They are the same valve and top hat.

          So I put that high flow valve you sent in the Co2 adapter and enlarged the air passage holes in the adapter so more air could transfer to the valve from the bottle. It worked. Good fps from the adapter. Also got the regulator in the Air Venturi bottle set at 1400 psi.

          Getting ready to sight in now. Hope’n for accuracy next but have a good feeling about that too.

          And as long as we are winning. 🙂


        • RR
          Sorry but got to say. Darn that .22 barrel is accurate. I knew this was going to happen. Now I’ll never try the .25 caliber barrel in it which is ok because I got my .25 Condor SS.

          But that is one heck of a pretty crown somebody did on that 12″ .22 caliber barrel. The barrel looks to me like its a AirForce barrel cut down to 12 inches. You mentioned it might be a Evonex barrel. To me everything looks AirForce on the breech end and it’s still blued. The muzzle end isn’t. Anyway either way that .22 barrel is not coming out.





          • GF1,

            When I originally bought it, it had a 24 inch (about) .177 Weihrauch barrel in it. After testing, I found that it did not reach peak velocity until the pressure was down to 1800 PSI. It was nothing to keep this air rifle charged up with a hand pump.

            There was a major problem with it though. That is a high flow valve. Everything went supersonic with the exception of the Eun Jin pellets. Lots of power, but horrible accuracy. I tried everything. I have quite a collection of exotic .177 pellets.


            • RR
              I was thinking this Talon was the one that BB built for Mac I believe it was to shoot the heavy .177 Eun Jin pellets fast. From what I remember I thought it was actually pretty accurate with that set up. Now the normal wieght pellets I bet they was up at 1400 or more. I could see that was probably to fast for them.

              All I know it is very accurate with that cut and crowned .22 barrel. And yesterday I got 50 usable shots on that 13 cubic inch regulated HPA bottle from 3000 psi down to 1500 psi. So its working out nice. Very happy with the gun all the way around.

              Oh and don’t think that Maximus will push a slug very fast. Maybe it will I guess if you get the right fit. But then will it be accurate. That’s the question.



                • BB
                  Pretty sure it’s the gun. I was trying to buy the gun from RidgeRunner in the past and you talked about it back then of what you was trying to do with that long barrel and the high flow valve.


                • BB
                  The barrel that RR called the Evonix barrel is a cut off barrel to 12 inches. It also has black Delrin barrel bushings.

                  RR said he bought that barrel from you. That is the barrel I’m trying to find out about.

                  Oh and the serial number on the Talon is R0001. Is it the first Talon made?


                • BB

                  The barrel that RR called the Evonix barrel is a cut off barrel to 12 inches. It also has black Delrin barrel bushings.

                  RR said he bought that barrel from you. That is the barrel I’m trying to find out about.

                  Is it a AirForce barrel or did someone make it from another barrel to fit the Talon?



      • Just noticed in my first reply above about the Talon I said it had a .25 caliber and .177 caliber barrel.

        Its suppose to say a .25 caliber barrel and .22 caliber barrel.


  9. Heres a picture with the scope on the Talon now. It’s a UTG 3-9 magnification with fixed parallax at 100 yards. I shoot at 4 or 5 magnification so it will focus from about 12 yards to infinity. And with the smaller diameter 13 cubic inch bottle I don’t need a high scope ring for line of sight. I rest the bottle on top of my shoulder.







          • GF1,

            Not really. I guess I have a long face, but with this mount I do not have to roll my head over to get a good sight picture. When I bring the Maximus to my shoulder, I am looking through the scope.



              • GF1,

                When I am standing and looking at my target, I bring the Maximus to my shoulder and I am looking through the scope. I could not ask for better.

                Really, when you think about it, how high over the barrels are your scopes on the Condor SS and the Talon SS?


                • RR
                  Look at the picture above of the Talon then look at your picture right below it. My scope is about 1-3/4’s of a inch over the top of the bottle. My cheek bone rests on the side of the bottle closer to the top. It looks like your scope is close to 2-1/2 inches from the top of the comb on the stock.

                  It looks like if you shoulder your gun the comb would be below your check bone. What happens when you look through the rings at the open sights. Does your cheek then touch the comb?

                  Maybe it’s just the picture. And it don’t matter anyway as long as it’s working for you.


                  • GF1,

                    It is not as bad as it looks, but like you said, if it works for me…

                    As for using the open sights, as with any stock that has a comb for a scope, I have to scrunch down to use the open sights. They will only be for close, quick shots anyway.

                    As the Maximus evolves, so will the scope and mounts.


                    • RR
                      I just wish you would shoot it.

                      I want to see what you think. I think you will be surprised in a good way.


                  • GF1,

                    LOL! I will get around to shooting it. It is warm enough today to sit out on my new bench, but the wind would play havoc with anything I threw out there. don’t pee your britches. It will happen.


                    • RR
                      I been holding it for way to long. 😉

                      And I don’t know how you do it.

                      When I get that gun I have been longing for I’m ready to get it out of the box and start shooting it.

                      Time is short. I have to experience it before I maybe can’t. You have to know what I mean.


                  • LOL! Stop before you make me pee!

                    I have a different view of life. If I do not get to shoot this air rifle it means I am in a much better place than this and that is real trivial.





        • BB
          Really. Never would of thought that.

          And I don’t believe that .22 caliber 12 inch barrel is lined. I looked at the machine work where they cut the barrel off and refaced and crowned the muzzle end and couldn’t see anything that a barrel was inserted inside the old barrel.

          I think it’s a aftermarket barrel because the two bushings are Delrin and pressed on. Normal AirForce barrels have aluminum bushings that hold the barrel in the frame. I wish I would of took a picture of it before I put it in.



            • BB
              Oh I believe you but I don’t see no evidence that this barrel is a lined barrel.

              Remember I’m a machinist and I see no difference in the material. I should see a circle in the face or crown of the diameter of the inserted liner. And there is nothing like that on this particular barrel.

              If it’s there I don’t see it. I even looked through my loupe at the face and crown. I don’t think this barrel that RR got from you is a lined barrel. If so somebody did some nice machining. And I don’t think that’s the case with this particular barrel. I would of seen it.



                • BB
                  Ok gotcha. Makes sense now.

                  And I think what is throwing me is the word liner.

                  Now that you said they were tuned down into barrels it all made sense.

                  Maybe I’m wrong but I think barrel (blank) is the term that should be used.

                  FX use to sell barrel blanks of the smooth twist barrels and people would machine them to fit thier guns. Maybe they still sale the barrel blanks I don’t know.

                  So yes I understand now.


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