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Ammo Daisy VL rifle: Part 2

Daisy VL rifle: Part 2

Daisy VL box
In 1969 the world welcomed the Daisy VL.

Part 1

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Velocity first
  • Powder cracked
  • Garage test
  • Discharge sound
  • Is it an air rifle?
  • Difficult to load
  • The sights
  • Dimensions
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today I get to do something I have wondered about for more than half a century. Today I shoot the Daisy VL rifle. There are still some things I need to cover about the gun, but I just couldn’t resist the urge to shoot it!

Velocity first

You will recall from Part 1 that the VL shoots a 29-grain lead bullet at 1,150 f.p.s., which is a little more than 85 foot-pounds. I wondered whether the caseless VL ammunition would hold up since the date when it was purchased in 1969. Today we find out.

I emptied 10 rounds from a tube of ammo and proceeded to load and fire the rifle. The first shot missed the first skyscreen but the rest all registered Nine fifty-two-year-old VL rounds averaged 1,194 f.p.s. The low was 1,173 and the high was 1,233 f.p.s. That’s a difference of 60 f.p.s. I have seen similar differences when shooting some regular .22 rimfire rounds. It’s not that bad for 52 year-old ammo!

And every round fired the first time. There were no misfires. And all of them went out faster than Daisy advertised. What do you think of that?

At the average 1194 f.p.s. that 29-grain bullet was generating 91.83 foot-pounds at the muzzle. That’s nearly .22 long rifle standard speed energy, which is around 100 foot-pounds.

Powder cracked

Do you remember that one of my concerns when the VL first came out was that the powder could flake off and crack? Well, one round did exactly that as I loaded the rifle. It didn’t want to go into the barrel and when I pressed too hard on its base the powder cracked. It still fired and was the slowest round that was recorded.

VL powder cracked
The powder charge on this one round cracked when I pushed it too hard. It still functioned.

Garage test

Because the VL is loud, I tested it in my garage, I have florescent lights on one side of the room and LEDs on the other. Florescent lights do not work with most chronographs including the one I have, but I was directly under the LEDs and there was no problem. The bullet trap is over on the side that’s lit by the LEDs.

Discharge sound

I wore hearing protection, which I almost never do unless I’m shooting a big bore. But I was glad that I did because the VL registered 111.9 dB on my sound meter. Of course my garage is less cluttered and more echo-y than my office, so some of that sound is no doubt due to the conditions. But still, the VL is about as loud as any regular .22 rifle. It may be based on an air rifle, but it’s not an air rifle!

VL sound
The VL is as loud as a normal .22.

Build a Custom Airgun

Is it an air rifle?

Yes and no. Yes, the powerplant is very similar to that of a spring-piston air rifle. Other than the ball check valve that seals the breech from the hot gasses of combustion, it is extremely similar.

Quick — who knows what makes the VL not an air rifle? The bore diameter. While all the good old boys from Hazard Kentucky think that all .22s are the same, we airgunners know different. We know that .22 long rifle bores measure 0.2225-0.2235-inches in diameter, while .22 pellet rifle bores measure 0.2165-0.218-inches. Pellets and bullets have to be sized to match.

VL bullet measure
The VL bullet measures the same as a standard .22 rimfire bullet.

If we were to load and fire a .22 pellet in a VL system, it might come out the muzzle, but not very fast. There would be a lot of blow-by air because the pellet is too small the seal the bore. The first RWS Superdome I tried exited the barrel at 20-30 f.p.s. It simply dented the cardboard backer in the bullet trap. The second pellet remained stuck in the barrel.

VL dent
The VL bullets punched clean holes through the cardboard backer, while the RWS Superdome only dented it, when fired from 8 feet.

The second pellet didn’t exit the bore and had to be rodded out. So the VL isn’t a very good air rifle.

Difficult to load

The breech is hard to access and only the length of the VL cartridges saves the day. When I loaded pellets I used my reverse tweezers.

The sights

The rifle has what in the 1960s were considered pretty standard .22 rifle sights. The front is a simple squared off post on a low ramp. It is attached with a screw and can be removed.

VL front sight
The front sight is a square post on a raised ramp.

The rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation.

VL rear sight
The rear sight adjusts vertically by means of a stepped elevator and horizontally by loosening screws and sliding sideways. It’s crude but effective.

There is no possibility of mounting an optical sight on this rifle. I’m sure it could be done if someone were persistent enough, but Daisy made no provisions for a scope.

Dimensions

The VL isn’t a lightweight rifle with a plastic stock. Daisy informs the new owner that the hollow butt has been filled with sound-deadening foam that also helps with the balance. Though the rifle only weighs 5 lbs. it feels like more, and the balance is very nice. 

The length overall is 37-3/4-inches, making the VL a very short rifle. The pull is 13-3/4-inches.

Cocking effort

The VL is an underlever that cocks with 23 lbs. of force. For most of the way the force is 19 lbs. but setting the automatic safety at the end bumps it up.

The interesting thing for an undelever is there is no ratchet detent catching the lever. It’s all or nothing — a strange feel for an airgunner!

Trigger pull

The single-stage non-adjustable trigger breaks at 3 lbs. 4 oz. resistance. It’s acceptably crisp, but certainly no target trigger.

Summary

That’s the VL in a nutshell. It’s as real a .22 as it can be with the odd ammunition. Next I will examine accuracy

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

46 thoughts on “Daisy VL rifle: Part 2”

  1. Amazing. I’m very surprised that the white propellant glued to the bottom of those bullets were so reliable after 52 years. Not only in sealing the gunpowder from the elements but remaining intact enough, with one exception, to function and fire. Looking forward to the accuracy test.

  2. B.B.,
    That’s some good power; I hope it has some decent accuracy to go along with it.
    But any way you slice it, this rifle is one for the history books.
    I saw a “presentation model” of this rifle on Gunbroker at a fixed price of $650:
    https://www.gunbroker.com/item/894968305
    It’s definitely an interesting rifle; thank you for reporting on it.
    Take care & God Bless,
    dave

  3. B.B.,

    Initially I thought the Brice scope base could be used but looking at the photo of the Daisy VL there is no place for a screw at the rear (although one could probably make work around). Daisy’s experiment in caseless ammunition does beg the question what market were they looking to sell it to?

    Siraniko

    • Siranko,

      Re: “….what market were they looking to sell it to?”

      Apparently the Daisy VL was a “top down” decision by Daisy. Once the concept worked its’ way through the corporate process cost and being classified as a firearm by the ATF killed it.

      Found this about the Daisy VL that I thought was interesting:

      “In 1961, an odd couple walked into a Parisian shooting gallery. One of the men, a Belgian chemical engineer, uncased a rifle and began shooting. The other man, Case Hough, president of Daisy, looked on as the demonstration proceeded. It didn’t take long for Hough to agree to purchase the new rifle design on the spot from Jules Van Langenhoven, the engineer and inventor of a new shooting technology. Then, after seven years of development to perfect the idea, Daisy unveiled the new rifle, dubbed the “V/L” after its inventor, in 1968. With no firing pin, extractor, or ejector, Van Langenhoven’s design was truly unique, but was indeed a firearm. The ammunition for the rifle is the most intriguing aspect. It had no metallic casing and no primer. The tiny .22 caliber lead projectile had a nitrocellulose-based propellant which was molded, hardened, and affixed to the rear of the bullet. Once the projectile and propellant were mated together, the final product was a type of caseless ammunition not much larger than two pencil erasers stacked on top of each other.

      While innovative, this new caseless ammunition did have a problem that highlights why simple metallic cases have ruled the rimfire and centerfire ammo world for so long: the propellant easily flaked off of the projectile.

      With traditional .22 ammo, you could dump a box of cartridges into your pocket and head into the woods in search of squirrels or soup cans—something that was not possible with the VL’s ammo. That kind of jostling would separate the nitrocellulose from the lead, rendering the ammunition unusable.

      To solve this problem, Daisy patented a specially-designed ammunition package and container in December 1968. The rounds were stacked on top of one another, ten to a plastic tube. The tubes, in turn, were stored ten to a package. One end of the tube was heat sealed and the other was closed with a removable plastic plug. Now safe from the elements, you could place a couple tubes in your pocket and head for the woods.

      In order to fire this new ammunition, Daisy turned to something they knew very well: the combination of springs and air compression.

      Operation of the V/L was both simple and complex.

      To load, a cocking lever was pulled down and rearward, opening the breech. Once a round was inserted, the lever was pushed forward and upward, closing the breech.

      Opening the pump lever (like the one on a Daisy BB gun) compressed a strong spring and forced a piston to the rear, which was then engaged by a sear. Closing the lever created an air chamber that was filled through an air intake hole, regulated by a ball check valve.

      Pulling the trigger released the spring piston from the sear, allowing it to travel forward with a tremendous amount of force.

      Compression heated the air; in this case, to 2,000℉. That exceptionally hot air contacted the nitrocellulose propellant, ignited it, and forced the projectile out of the barrel at 1,150 fps. (Speeds of 3,000 fps were obtained using prototype rifles)

      Because the cartridge is caseless, there’s no need to eject anything from the action. You simply pull down on the cockling lever, insert another round, push the lever home, and fire again.

      Daisy really felt that they had a home run on their hands. The design had multiple benefits, including less ammo bulk, lower ammo costs, lower overall gun costs, lower recoil, and virtually no issues with jamming or misfires. A test of 50,000 rounds was completed without cleaning the gun at all; no jams were reported.

      In the October 1967 issue of Popular Mechanics, Maj. George C. Nonte, Jr. (Ret) wrote a glowing review of the rifle. (With 20 years in the military and thousands of articles written in dozens of magazines over the years, Nonte knew two things: guns and impeccable facial hair.)

      Daisy dreamed of a gun that could be used as a child’s first real rifle, or an adult’s choice for a go-to rimfire rifle that was inexpensive to both own and shoot. The VL was fitted with an American walnut stock that Major Ronte deemed to be “man-sized” and “not made for midgets as is so often the case with BB guns and cheaper .22 rimfires.” (Ahh the ‘60s…)

      The rifle’s size—37.75” long and weighing less than five pounds—meant that Daisy had created a rifle that could be put into the hands of just about everyone: children, competitors, hunters, and even the military.

      When introduced, the rifle sold for $39.95, which is the equivalent of $295 today (2018). Ammo cost $1.40 per 100 rounds, or $10.34 today (2018). Ronte was optimistic that increased production would bring the cost of both “way down” in the near future.”

      • Kevin,

        Thanks for that historical background. Hmm since it is supposed to be a first rifle I sort of wonder why Daisy went to such lengths to obfuscate it as a firearm? It does also jive with the late 1960s report I read of S&W converting an M76 to electrically ignite their research into caseless ammunition which looked attractive until you mentioned that the ammunition cannot survive outside a protected casing. It took H&K 2 decades of development (sometime in the 1980s) to create the caseless ammunition for their G11 which could withstand being left in the pocket alongside coins and keys and still survive.

        Siraniko

        • Siraniko,

          I believe that Daisy hoped it wouldn’t be classified as a firearm and tried to “build their case” with marketing since Daisy didn’t and doesn’t have a firearm manufacturing license.

  4. I had noticed in the closeup pictures that the plastic stock is pretty nice looking, most especially for then. In truth, it is a shame this went the way of the Dodo. Is this ammo waterproof?

  5. BB,
    As I have gotten older, the noise of air rifles bothers me more than before. I now wear foam ear plugs when shooting my springers, even low powered guns like the R-7.
    David Enoch

    • David,

      ROTFWL! I have not had anything to do with firearms for years now. Yesterday I told my wife of my experience of going to the local gun range to gather up some 9mm casings for mini-sniping. My grandson and I had on ear muffs to protect our ears. A gentleman was shooting an AR15 while we were there. Despite the muffs, it seemed every time he pulled that trigger was deafening. You also felt the concussion of each shot throughout your entire body. I told her I do not miss messing with firearms.

      This old geezer would much rather shoot a buzzy old sproinger. 😉

      • About 3 years ago my shooting buddy and I tried getting Mrs. FM to enjoy some range time; she’s never been a fan of firearms though she’s no gun-control freak either. FM was going to get Mrs. shooting a .22 magnum PMR30 pistol. Unfortunately, even with more than adequate hearing protection to dampen the noise, as soon as we walked into the range area, there was a rather loud blast, possibly from a .357 or .44 handgun. That did it for her; she walked out and that was the end of the range session. If ever she shoots anything, it will be air or CO2 powered.

        At least daughter will shoot both powderburners and air poppers.

      • RidgeRunner,

        Sounds like you FELT someone shooting .458 SOCOM and probably out of a really short barrel! Not your everyday punny 5.56/.223, LOL!

        shootski

  6. Guess the only way it might have made a decent air rifle would have been for Daisy to make precisely-sized, dedicated pellets for the VL, which no doubt would have been more expensive than standard air gun pellets.

    • D. in B.
      That is a great idea, Dave. Although, BB may have expended his supply in the previous testing. He might have to cast some more for such a test. Not sure how willing he would be.
      On the other hand, he could simply remove the powder from one or two of the caseless bullets he is working with. Then he could devise something to do with the powder part, too. I don’t know,, maybe involving a hammer or a match.
      Ed

      • Boise Dave,

        I doubt the VL has enough energy to push out a bullet, but I will try it just for you. I think the 25-grainers are the ticket, and I may have a trick up my sleeve.

        BB

  7. BB,
    Would this be a good platform for an adult oriented target rifle? No anti bear trap is bad, not easy to unload, an airgun you just shoot into a trap, but this is way more powerfull than a pelet gun, Certainly not junior’s first rifle, too much gun IMHO. For an adult, this might be something interesting, but you still need to clean it. Not an airgun.
    Rob

    • Rob,

      As a kid, I was not allowed to have a bb gun because my father had a bb gun when he was a kid. Instead, my father bought me an Iver & Johnson Mark X when I was but a wee bairn. When I was six, he and my grandfather started teaching me how to shoot and safely handle firearms. I did not get my first bb gun until a few years ago.

      • Well I meant kids who haven’t already learned to fish and hunt, but a .25 act would be fine now. But back then, kids were allot cheaper to have, so you could lose a few, and still have heirs. Seed money then for a home was 40k. Now it’s north of 750k, I know with a be gun at worst it’s an eye. Best rob

  8. I was thinking of a case that gets used over and over. The case can be extracted, new bullet style or powder charge can get used, but the benefit of a pocket full of .22lr or shorts is how it gets done
    I guess. I was thinking of a gun for for folks who like control, and economy, and precision, and a little power, but the VL is not that gun. I am amazed that it works as well as it does. 2000 degrees is hot!
    Rob

    • Rob,

      Control?

      Perhaps a rifle based on the .25 ACP? I know people do not think much of that diminutive round, but if you give a .22LR a two inch barrel, it is not going to be very impressive either, except for the noise. Now, if you were to take that little .25 ACP and run it through a sixteen inch barrel, you might be surprised at what it would do. The .218 Bee and the .22 Hornet used to be popular. I know BB did not have much success with his .22 Hornet, but I do not know how much time and effort he put into getting that thing “right”.

      • That’s allot safer than the guy who was shooting slap rounds in a brn55. One blew up in his face. Kentucky ballistics. Just a slight gap on the case face, because of a minute amount of blow by from the first two threads that failed.That gun was so light, had no safety features. Lucky to survive a .50 blowing up in your face. Rob

  9. BB,

    Thanks for the report on the VL, I am curious about the accuracy on the rifle – but only curious.

    The VLs created quite a stir back when they were released but we all viewed it as a novelty item figuring that buying the proprietary ammunition would be a problem.

    Hank

    • Hank,

      When Remington first introduced the 5mm Magnum, my father bought one. That little rifle was impressive. It was highly accurate and surprisingly powerful. I killed my first buck with it.

      Unfortunately, the ammunition was proprietary. I have recently seen where another company has picked up manufacturing it again, now that the Remington patent has expired. I have not seen where anyone is making the rifle though. Another footnote in the annals of history.

      • RR,

        You never know what new calibers will survive eh. I expected the .17 HMR rimfire be a flash in the pan but it is still around – never mind the the shells are five times the price of the .22 stuff. Would probably have made a good fox rifle.

        The group I hunted with pretty much stayed with the standard stuff that you could pick up is any rural hardware store… .22 rimfire, 12 GA. 30-30, .308 and 30-06.

        I always fancied a .270. Figured that it was an idea deer caliber for open farm land but I opted for the 30-06 instead.

        Hank

        • Hank,

          .30-06 is a real good rifle cartridge.

          Personally, I would take a .22LR over that .17. Yes, it is a hot little flat shooting round, out to a certain range. It is easily affected by wind and once it slows down it will drop like a rock, just like a .177 air rifle pellet will. That teenee tiny bore will foul up pretty quick also. Then there is the price of the rifle and the ammo.

          • RidgeRunner,

            See! IF you wouldn’t be so adverse towards the Mattelomatic you could have an upper in: .177HMR, one in .22LR, one or more in some .30 caliber of your choice, and even one in .458 SOCOM!
            The sky’s the limit with the Eugene Morrison Stoner designed rifle platform!

            shootski

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