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Air Guns The High-End: As Good as They Can Be

The High-End: As Good as They Can Be

Today we have the guest blog from reader Michael. He relates airguns to his other passion — fine guitars.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at blogger@pyramydair.com.

Take it away, Michael.

The High-End: As Good as They Can Be

by blog reader Michael

This report covers:

  • BB’s question
  • All about about
  • To tune or not?
  • Custom shops
  • What makes it the best?
  • Good as they come
  • The setup
  • The good stuff
  • Who wants ’em?
  • Editor’s notes

Some recent blog topics such as my Walther LGV, Harley-Davidson and its dealers’ customer service and reports on new air guns that represent classic Weihrauch and Benjamin models (along with the pain medications I’m on from recent dental surgery – the last thing you want to hear your dentist say is “bone grafts”!) have had me thinking overtime about the nexus of air gun market strategies, customer service at the manufacturer level and customer service at the retail level. Whew! That’s one long sentence. I warned you I was on pain meds.

Vortek kit
A Vortek Tuning Kit for the TX200.

BB’s question

B.B. responded to a question of mine about why a brand-new, high-end air rifle would be improvable by a tune kit, shouldn’t it be ship-shape out-of-the-box? He responded very smartly, reminding me of one of my other interests, guitars. That’s an apt analogy, for I work on guitars to the same degree B.B. does with airguns. And like airguns, guitars are infinitely customizable and have owners who are often obsessed with tinkering. Ah, we boys (usually) and our toys!

All about about

B.B. wrote “Air Arms makes them about as good as they can.”  The word I trip on is “about.” What if Air Arms decided that for a premium price a high-end buyer could purchase an out-of-the-box air rifle that isn’t about as good but is indeed as good as can be?  Think $1,700 for a Pro-Sport instead of $799, with right from the box excellence.  I think for that narrow market, that would work.

To tune or not?

Nathan/chanman819 also commented as well, bringing up good points. Nathan wrote, “Even flagship cars from BMW or Mercedes benefit from being tuned.” Yes, but some more expensive cars than BMW and Mercedes have factories with indivdual craftsmen putting on the final touches on an automobile priced well into six figures. If I were incredibly wealthy, I would expect my brand-new Aston Martin to be perfection (and would compensate them for such). In Gaydon, Warwickshire, England Aston Martin has a factory. Their cars are not made by founder Lionel Martin in a barn by hand. But every Aston Martin is made by fastidious craftsmen.

the best Gibson Custom
“Custom Shop.” Magic words for the best.

Custom shops

Could Air Arms do the same? Nathan mentions “custom shops.” Guitar factory custom shops, such as those at Fender and Gibson, make guitars with a combination of computerized machinery and individual craftsmen doing the job with hand tools. Most of their output is not custom-ordered by end-users but by premium dealers on spec. They are made in larger numbers than one might assume. But they are not “about as good as can be.” They are as good as can be, period. And man, do those companies charge for it! A Stratocaster from the Fender Custom Shop in California costs the end-user a minimum of $3,500 and can go for more than $25,000. The same is true of Les Pauls from the Gibson Custom division in Tennessee. Could Air Arms develop a custom shop and be the air rifle equivalent to the guitar makers?

B.B. was right to ask, “Why does a top-rated pickup improve the sound on some instruments?” There are “boutique” guitar pickup makers such as Lindy Fralin and Jason Lollar who sell hand-wound pickups for a couple hundred bucks apiece. I came into a pair of pickups hand-wound by the legendary Tom Holmes in the late 1970s. You don’t even want to know how much they sell for on the rare occasions when they surface. I just acquired a 30-year-old Seymour Duncan pickup wound by Lidia Daniel. They and Fender pickups from the same era wound by Abigail Ibarra sell for three times the price of vintage pickups not wound by legendary employees of those companies.  

Stock up on Air Gun Ammo

What makes it the best?

Why would someone desire a Tom Holmes pickup or a Lidia Daniel- or Abigail Ibarra-wound pickup more than a new pickup? Collector value is a factor in those last ones, but Fralins and Lollars are desirable because they, like the collectible ones, impart sound to a guitar that is spoken of in hushed tones of reverence. However, the very top-of-the-line custom shop pickups by Fender and Gibson are also known to be ethereal sounding. The vast majority of buyers of brand-new custom shop Fenders and Gibsons do not swap out those pickups. I have had two custom shop Les Pauls and never swapped out their pickups. (Although on lesser guitars I have performed multiple pickup changes).

Good as they come

B.B. asked me to tell him why new guitars have to be tuned. Most do, yes, because manufacturers make them to a standard. But as with air rifles and motorcycles, different ranges of guitars are made to different standards. Why do new guitars require tuning?  While many do, some don’t. That could and should be the case with air guns as well. [Ed. I would say that is true of the TX200 Mark III and also the no-longer-produced Whiscombe.]

The setup

Most new guitars come out of the box and out of the case needing what’s known as a “setup” — string height adjusted, neck/truss rod adjusted, intonation adjusted. If it is a budget model, the frets might also need some leveling and filing.

But those are the “Gamos, Crosmans and Umarexes” of the market — guitars costing under $1000 ($300 and under, $300-$600, $600-$1000). The next price point is around $1500 – $1900, which might need intonation fine-tuned and a 1/4 turn of the truss rod nut. Those are the Dianas of the guitar market.

The good stuff

The next price point is $3500 end-user price and up ($4500 and up MSRP). These are usually 100 percent American-made (including all American made parts). These guitars should require nothing out of the box. They should have a perfect professional setup at the factory. If any imperfection somehow slips through, back to the dealer it goes — who sends it back to the factory for it to be made right at no cost and sent back to the buyer quickly.

If these were springer air rifles, they would be hand-assembled, individually checked for tight tolerances at every step, with perfectly applied lubrication, no fingerprints on the perfect bluing, no dents in the wood, and a target card. It would be sighted in at 25 yards and the trigger set-up for optimum weight and crisp release. Clean barrel. Right out of the box. The price equivalent for a springer/sporter to these would be an Air Arms TX200 or Beeman R Series.  

the best TX-200-MkIII
Crème de la crème: The Air Arms TX200 MK III.

Within products of a given category price, matters, as Nathan pointed out. A Weihrauch HW30S costs more than a Ruger 10/22 firearm. Are they of equivalent place in their respective hierarchies?

I would argue a rimfire is to an air rifle as a pair of hockey skates is to a pair of figure skating skates (or speed skates). Why is an $700 air rifle not the equivalent to a $4500 Gibson custom shop Historic Series Les Paul? Well, just the raw wood in a custom shop Les Paul probably costs the guitar maker roughly $2000. I maintain a TX200 is just a smidgeon from being the air gun equivalent of a custom shop Les Paul. Were Air Arms to put another $50-$70 of production into them, there would be no difference. Maybe another thousand dollars worth of wood might bring them up.

If the manufacturers’ margin is too low to provide that individual attention to quality, fair enough.  Bump dealer cost ten or twenty percent to be passed on to the end-user.  The buyer of a new Air Arms TX200 would pay $80 to $160 more for such quality.

Who wants ’em?

Would having a Vortek TX200-PG3 SHO-Tune Kit, $90, pre-installed in a new TX200 end up costing about as much or more?  If so, then anyone who might choose that, a narrow segment but one Air Arms already covets, would also be candidates for a premium version of the TX200.

Editor’s notes

Michael has given us all a lot to think about! And I want to add to it. I have looked closely at the Perrazi shotguns checkering many times at the SHOT Show. On a shotgun retailing for more than a quarter-million dollars I have seen “mistakes” in the hand-cut 28 lines-per-inch checkering. These “mistakes” are like the “flaws” in a natural diamond. Almost every natural diamond is flawed in some way. You will pay 100 to 1,000 times more for a flawless diamond as you will pay for one with some flaws. I don’t look for the mistakes in the checkering to discredit Perrazi, but rather to honor how close to perfection they were able to come. Just ask Vana2 if all wood doesn’t have some flaw.

I have talked at length with some custom shops and they admit they cannot produce perfection. They can come close, but a careful check will ALWAYS reveal something! So — how good is good?

And my last question is calculated to kick over the anthill. Are anal people in their rights to criticize to such a miniscule level?

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

85 thoughts on “The High-End: As Good as They Can Be”

  1. B.B, and Michael,

    We want champagne but we only have a beer budget. So we go into our respective workshops and do the best we can to make silk purses out of sow’s ears.

    BTW what does this segment in the Section The good stuff signify?:

    06-21-21-03-the-best-TX-200-MkIII
    Crème de la crème: The Air Arms TX200 MK III.

    A missing picture?

    Siraniko

    • Siraniko,

      You are correct about we real people with real budgets. But there will always be a small percentage of people with more money than they and their children can spend. Shouldn’t there also be something in airguns for those “poor” people (Laughing Out Loud)?

      Michael

  2. As Siraniko has pointed out, we all want better than we can afford. This is partly where the tinkers and tuners come from. Most sow’s ears will always be sow’s ears, but there are some silk purses that could be made a little better. I think this is where Michael is going. Why do most airgun companies NOT have a custom shop where you can go and get the “crème de la crème”?

    Surprisingly, TCFKAC has done this to an extent. For years they have had upgrades for some of their CO2 pistols. Although they are not running it through their custom shop, they are offering several upgrades to the Marauder line. Why not offer for those who are willing to pay for it, a nice looking walnut stock? Not that chunky, clunky thing. Something a bit more graceful and refined.

    Give a little nicer touch here and there to the air rifle itself. A little tweak here and there can mean so much to something like the Marauder.

    You are not offering a new air rifle. You are just offering to take it to the next level if we want to open our wallets a little wider.

    • RidgeRunner,

      Probably because the corporate bean counters do not believe that such a market exists and are willing to allow a boutique builder to fill that market segment.

      Siraniko

      • Siraniko,

        You are no doubt correct. There would be little profit for Crosman or Gamo in having a custom shop.

        But that’s where the high dollar price would help. And I tried to stress that the market would be the narrow niche of wealthy collectors and shooters.

        Michael

    • RidgRunner,

      Very well put, and yes, you definitely are right about my message. A super deluxe Marauder with a figured walnut stock is an excellent example.

      Michael

      • GF1,

        That does look nice.

        I would never order it from Pyramyd AIR though. Maybe from the airgun company located in the Southwest United States. I would like to get it within my lifetime, which will not happen with Pyramyd AIR.

          • GF1,

            Rarely do they even acknowledge my order within one day. Quite often it is two days later before it is in the hands of the shipper. Usually they ship it FedEx Smartpost, which is the dumbest way to ship anything.

            I prime example is my present package. I ordered this on Tuesday, the 8th.

            Thursday, June 10, 2021
            10:26 AM
            Shipment information sent to FedEx6:28 PM TWINSBURG, OH
            Arrived at FedEx location
            10:57 PM TWINSBURG, OH
            Left FedEx origin facility

            Friday, June 11, 2021
            11:29 AM GREENSBORO, NC
            In transit
            1:57 PM CHARLOTTE, NC
            Arrived at FedEx location

            Saturday, June 12, 2021
            9:33 AM CHARLOTTE, NC
            Departed FedEx location

            Sunday, June 13, 2021
            2:42 AM CONCORD, NC
            In transit

            Monday, June 14, 2021
            2:43 AM CONCORD, NC
            In transit
            9:08 PM CONCORD, NC
            Arrived at FedEx location
            10:12 PM FEDEX SMARTPOST CONCORD, NC
            Arrived at FedEx location

            Wednesday, June 16, 2021
            2:33 AM FEDEX SMARTPOST CONCORD, NC
            Departed FedEx location
            11:36 PM KERNERSVILLE, NC
            Arrived at FedEx location

            Thursday, June 17, 2021
            11:38 PM KERNERSVILLE, NC
            Departed FedEx location

            Friday, June 18, 2021
            12:57 PM CONCORD, NC
            Arrived at FedEx location

            Sunday, June 20, 2021
            12:34 AM KERNERSVILLE, NC
            Arrived at FedEx location

            It was supposed to have arrived this past Friday, the 18th. On that day it was changed to the 23rd. “Place your bets ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.”

            Some will argue it is FedEx’s fault and to a point, they are correct. Whatever happened to if ordered in the morning, out this afternoon? Whatever happened in getting my package in less than a week? I do understand some things are beyond their control, but I can still get that service elsewhere.

        • RR
          Hmm that’s kind of wierd.

          If I order during the week (Monday-Friday) before my time zone at 11 am they acknowledge they got my order. Then some times the same day they update that the order has shipped. But most of the time it’s the next day they say that it has shipped.

          And I think you need to check your shipping options and choose how to ship before you complete your order. (why would you choose smart post for anyway) I choose ground 2 day which is about $4 more than smart post and is always cheaper than the other shipping options.

          Also a note. Always search Pyramyd AIR discount codes before you decide to place your order. There are some pretty good ones out there. When you find one all you have to do is copy and paste where it say’s to apply coupon discount when you order.

        • RidgeRunner,

          Reading the list of updates (downdates?) of the “progress” of your shipment caused me to get irritated, and I not even you! You must be seething. I wonder if part of the problem might be lessened competition from the US Postal Service since the assassination attempt on it left them with too little equipment and too few personnel. Competition fosters quality service while a lack of it breeds complacency.

          I feel for you, Man. :^)

          Michael

  3. Michael,

    Good write up. Lots to ponder on. After some thought (and a couple cups of coffee),………. I kept thinking,… “Rabbit Holes”.

    Which one? 1 or 2? All? How deep to go? (they are bottomless,.. you know?), Or,…. simply know what they contain and bypass them all together?

    Collectors, tuners, tinkerers, high end users, professionals. Each to their own. Each has a place and hopefully will bring a high level of satisfaction and enjoyment. To me,.. the ultimate is to be a professional (user) to get the maximum satisfaction.

    With the internet today, what remains a mystery? You can spend nothing,.. go nowhere,.. and become a pretty good “expert” on about anything in pretty short order. In other words, step around the rabbit holes. At the least, know what is in one, prior to sliding down.

    So your write up is a bit like a rabbit hole. Or, like a dog chasing it’s tail. I suspect it will always be that way. For those with endless money, no problem. But,.. will they ever be as satisfied as someone with far less means?

    As for air rifles, I think they do pretty well for mass production. In general, $1,500 will buy you better performance and less hassles than $150. I say,.. know what you are buying and buy the best you can afford. From there,..it is up to you. 🙂

    Chris (no mood altering pharmaceuticals were used in the creation of this post) 😉

    • Chris,

      When you decide to get a few dental implants, you worry about the price. But very soon you begin to worry more about the pain! (Of course once you’re on the pain meds, you forget about the price altogether.)

      Michael

  4. I might add,… I think companies as large as Crosman are too big to get out of their own way. Too many fingers in the pie. I think the Crosman Custom Shop is about is good as you will see at that level. That in itself is a HUGE benefit in that you can pick and choose individual components, have it delivered, without going through all of the aftermarket builds. I really like that.

    As for a tune kit, for a springer, from the box,…. why not? Skip using the old parts and replace with kit parts (at the factory, at time of build). Would it even cost any more??? If there is a proven aftermarket upgrade,… why not incorporate it as permanent upgrade to the model at time of build?

    • Chris,

      Chris, you bring up many very good points.

      But Crosman are too big to do it? Hmmm. According to Dun & Bradstreet Crosman’s annual revenue for Fiscal Year 2021 was $27.49 million. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation’s annual revenue was $431.92 million. more than fifteen times Crosman’s. Incidentally, Gamo’s annual income last year was $61.21 million, and Umarex $162.04 million. Fender makes just under two times the revenue of Crosman, Gamo and Umarex combined.

      All it takes to do it is a will to do it, and Fender did, starting many years ago.

      Michael

    • Chris,

      I forgot to say that your comment that makers could put tuning kits in right at the factory is an excellent idea, an intermediate market. Absolutely.

      Michael

  5. I know that their are some that are essentialy doing just this. They are purchasing a new rifle and having it shipped directly to their tuner of choice. I have read their posts multiple times.

    • shawn-o-rama,

      You are absolutely correct. If I were a Vice President at Air Arms and I kept hearing from dealers that they were shipping a significant number ofair guns to professional tuners instead of the end user, I would view that as potential revenue lost. I would consider filling that service of a tuner imroving a new TX200 MK III with custom shop models.
      Why should the tuners make money that could go to Air Arms?

      In the 1990s auto makers realized from thei dealers that more and more buyers of new cars were ordering them without any sound system at all, just a blank plastic panel in the middle of the dashboard. Buyers were taking their new cars straight to car stereo installers and having Alpine and Blaupunkt units and speakers installed in their new cars. What did automakers do? They began putting deluxe sound systems into their cars, and even pretty decent ones in entry level models.

      Michael

  6. Hi folks,

    this is a pretty interesting topic. I’m strictly a hobbyist and don’t know anything about airgun production methods, so my view may be a little naive.

    As far as spring gun tuning kits go, they mostly seem to consist of a few extra pieces of plastic (unless you also use a better spring). They would probably only raise the cost of an airgun by a few cents if you look strictly at the material cost. There must be some reason why they are usually not installed from the factory. My guesses would be:

    – Complexities I don’t know about (maybe you need tighter tolerances so you get the same reliability you have without the tuning kit?)
    – Manufacturers don’t know or don’t care.
    – Most customers don’t care (they just want the most fps for their money)
    – Companies don’t know what their customers want

    I guess the answer will be pretty different depending on the company and market segment. Customers who buy lower-end Gamo, Crosman or Umarex products generally want different things than people who buy Air Arms, Feinwerkbau or higher-end Weihrauch products.

    As for BB’s final question: I guess people are free to like or dislike what they want.

    It probably helps if you know what you want and also if you don’t assume everybody has the same needs and preferences that you do.

    In my view, “hand made” does not necessarily mean “high quality” as in many cases, machines are probably more precise.

    I suppose people like hand made products because of their heritage and actually *because* every item is unique. If it’s done poorly, that may be cause for criticism, but I suppose even that may be a matter of debate.

    What I do know is that if I had 250.000 dollars, I wouldn’t be buying a gun with that 🙂

    Kind regards,
    Stephan

      • Michael,

        that is probably the case with the cheaper, mass market products.

        I am pretty sure that Weihrauch or Air Arms do know that people are tuning their products.

        What would your guess be why they don’t add tuning kits from the factory? They could probably make a tuned rifle for less money than it would cost an end user to buy the rifle and a tuning kit.

        Maybe one reason is that many enthusiasts genuinely *like* to tweak things and that everyone may have very specific ideas on what to do and how to do it. So if a company chose to make a “tuned” version, people would still be complaining because it isn’t done exactly the way they think it should.

        Stephan

        • Stephan,

          I think you are right that they are aware of the many enthusiasts who enjoy tinkering and gradually improving their air guns themselves. But there are no doubt also air gun enthusiasts who appreciate a fine-shooting air rifle who lack the desire, knowledge and/or skill to tune one themselves.

          You’re correct, I think, that if Weihrauch were to offer an HW50s with an optional pre-installed Vortek spring and guides, they would be able to raise the price just enough to make it worth their while.

          Michael

          • Guys,

            This all sounds fine except companies like Pyramyd AIR have tried it and the guns don’t sell. People complain that they cost more than the basic gun and why should they hyave to pay for something that should be right in the first place.

            This is the circular argiument that got us into this discussion in the first place.

            BB

  7. I probably should have added that manufacturers such as Gibson and Fender have custom shops not to make huge amounts of revenue. They, especially Fender, have many different lines of products not made in the US that make money hand-over-fist. Why do they do it, then? Over time having custom shops generates something more abstract than money but which helps bring it in: Cachet.

    For this, think of Ford or General Motors. A college professor (like me) can purchase a Ford or a Chevrolet, perhaps a Buick if I take the family on camping trips instead of the Bahamas. But my periodontist can buy a Lincoln or Cadillac. If Lincolns bring in less profit per car than do regular Fords, why does the company bother? Well, they do indeed make money, even if at less profit. But there is prestige in making expensive cars for well-off people. Ford is copnstantly aware and protective of its image.

    Michael

  8. Nice write-up Michael!

    I’ve commented a couple of times that the airgun manufacturers should market a “deluxe” version (upgraded wood, tune kit, regulator etc.) of their standard model. It seems that they have done market studies and decided to leave that kind of work the “after market” people.

    Nice wood on those guitars! Yeah, top quality wood is expensive and is rarely perfect. I traded my Walther AR-20 with a stock that I made for a TX200 MK3 with an after market rosewood GinB stock (that is worth 3 times that of the rifle!) and I found several flaws in the stock when I refinished it.

    Exceptional wood is something special but then “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (or was that “the beer holder”? 🙂 ). Quality walnut is nice but I really like maple stocks made from wood (literally) filched from the firewood pile so feel free to ignore me 🙂

    Good points on high-end stuff, think there will always be a market but it is likely out of the scope of typical consumer oriented companies to be interested in.

    Cheers!
    Hank

      • B.B.,

        True. The feds really bungled the whiole thing, too. They knew Gibson had a stash of protected Brazilian rosewood (protected since the 1970s at least) and thought they could be caught red-handed.

        Two problems: First, they seized tons (literally) of prized tonewoods that were not protected (at that time) species, such as Indian rosewood and Honduran mahogany, leaving Gibson without enough to continue production at specifications. Second, the Brazilian Rosewood they seized was all legally purchased and owned by Gibson as it was exceptrionally prized old harvest. That is, the wood was harvested and imported back in the 1960s or earlier and was documented. Gibson, Paul Reed Smith and a hjandful of other, boutique makers such as Collings had patyed huge sums for old stock Brazilian rosewood and were storing under lock and key, only ocasionally usiong it in custom shop guitars that sold for $12,000 or more.

        Gibson took the feds to court and won, but they still lost sales and no doubt some of the confiscated wood.

        Since then new international regulations regarding many wood species from all over the world, a pact called CITES (pronounced “sight-tees”) has been signed by most countries. It regulates not just companies but individuals as well.

        For example, let’s say I were to sell a 1960s Gibson SG Junior, which has a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard cut in the 1960s when it was not protected. If I sold it to someone in Texas and shipped it there from Illinois, not problem. However, if I were to ship it to Canada or Mexico or Italy or Japan, I would have to go through a paperwork and fee-paying process that would involve the Customs departments of the U.S. and receiving country. The reverse is also true.

        That is also true of an antidue chair made of African mahogany. Want to sell it to someone abroad? You must go through that procedure and expense, regardless of the countries involved.

        Michael

          • B.B.,

            Cowabunga is right! And the buyer in Italy should keep all of the CITES paperwork with the piece, so that when his grandson sells it to someone in Korea or the Netherlands, that provenance and proof it is legal goes with it.

            How can one know it’s brazilian rosewood and not a different but very similar-looking wood? DNA. Some day that will be a component of all this, as the wood becomes more scarce and DNA analysis becomes cheaper.

            And to those who would complain about all of this “tree-hugging,” consider how fast the “lungs of the world” (the Amazonian Rainforest) are disappearing because of logging, well . . .

            And if someday these woods are no longer threatened, remember, alligators and buffalo were protected for quite some time until they came back from the brink of extinction. Now you can loosen your buffalo leather belt and stand in your alligator boots as you grill buffalo burgers and alligator tenders on the grill!

            Michael

    • Hank,

      You make some perceptive comments above.

      The most beautiful woods, especially in large pieces, is expensive, as is the workmanship of skilled professional craftsmen who shape it.

      Take my brother-in-law, for example. He’s a recently retired master cabinet-maker. He is clearly not just a master cabinet-maker, however. One look at his work tells almost anyone that he is a true artist. No metal fasteners, all wood pegs and joints. Hand shaped contours.

      The wood is stuff like large board figured Big Leaf maple and large board cherry. A wide board of cherry? African ebony, wenge, cocobolo, padouk, rosewood, ironwood, redwood. A credenza made by him might have $75 thousand of wood in it. And as it is entirely hand made by as skilled a cabinetmaker as there can be, who personally delivers it to the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, we are talking about a credenza that could cost its millionaire or billionare buyer $150 thousand dollars or so.

      He once showed me a photo of a conference room table that was probably 15 feet long and made out of exotic woods. It was going into a high-rise office in the Loop and probably was going to cost a third or half million dollars installed.

      Must be nice to be rich!

      Michael

        • Hank,

          I just now took the time to really look at this picture.

          That kind of work belongs in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Seriously. At any range, any competition, any anything, that must get approving looks and endless compliments.

          That is the most beautiful stock I have ever laid eyes on.

          Michael

          • Thanks Michael!

            I brought the rifle to the few FT matches I attended and it did get a lot of attention.

            The rifle fit and pointed very well, I think that it was shot more by people wanting to try it than I did LOL!

            Hank

        • Very science fiction!
          The gluing! The clamping! The shaping!
          What about a two tone version? The ply strips are light and the grip, cheek rest etc are dark?
          And you swapped it. Hmmm. I sure hope the person who has it now is taking it to the range, that is no wall flower. Looks like a great off hand rifle. I feel inspired! To the garage! ( * furtive whittling noises * ) Very nice. : – ) Robert.

          • Robert,

            Lots of gluing and clamping and shaping 🙂

            Yeah, swapped it. Bought the AR-20 for FT and decided that it was not my thing. A guy at one of the FT events made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse and we swapped. I ended up with a TX200 Mk3, with two stocks (custom GinB and factory beech) and a bunch of accessories. It was a good deal – both pleased with the trade.

            Here is a picture of the GinB stock after I refinished it…

            Hank

  9. Michael,
    Artisian crafted bread is so much better than Wonder bread, it does cost more tho.
    But, when I think of a P.J. sandwich, wonder bread is what feels right, smooth not crunchy.
    Buying objects of desire are one way wealthy people distinguish themselves from the riff raff,
    but I find it ludicrous that a mass production item like one of Leo Fenders guitars, and that was one of his gifts, making something formerly completely artisian crafted, into a value proposition for the masses, has now become the antithesis of very thing that the Arts and Crafts movement sought to bring to the people, and the 50’s and American mass production made possible in the first place. High quality at a low cost. Some of the ho;llow body guitars coming out of Indonesia are amazing values in there own right, I was too cheap to let someone else set up my Strat clone, but I could see doing if I get another one. Maybe an older Gretsch country gentleman or something. My single coils cut through the fog just fine. The rarified world of collecting gives me sticker shock! A Vortek kit changed my opinion of my R10 for the better, for sure.
    R

    • 1stblue,

      As you probably know, Leo Fender wasn’t even a musician but a designer-engineer. And yes, utility is the most important of values. Image (Oakley sunglasses) value exists. But the utility of of a $12 pair of sunglasses (Foster Grants) is greater.

      I have some ecxellent guitars made entirely in Asia that were quite good out of the box. I made them go from quite good to excellent or outstanding by purchasing certain premium replacement parts and doing some fretwork on my own.

      Have you tried the budget Gretsches from Indonesia? They are incredible for the price. I might get one some day.

      Michael

  10. Please remember that Aston Marten was at one time owned by Ford Motor Corp.and is now owned by a Canadian, yicks! Harley Davidson was once owned by AMC. Most airgunners would balk at a $1,000 springer. Now nobody bats an eye for $5,000 FT rifles or $5,000 Olympic 10 M rifles.

    -Y

    • Yes, and a Lincoln is just a Suburban with a higher trim level. Speaking about passion,
      there’s a video on youtube. It’s called The Rendevous. It’s a Ferrari driving through the streets of Paris early in the morning. Absolutely riveting driving. The girl at the end is waiting. It’s a romance. Everything a Porsche is not. 😉
      I used to love racing with dweebs on 5K$ bicycles in amateur events, fancy equipment doesn’t win races, but it’s easy to wreck your bike in one, is it worth it?
      No way! Maybe a 5k$ match rifle will make me a better shot, but I doubt it.
      R

      • 1stblue,

        Oh the memories you just brought back. I wanted a Cinelli with Campangolo grupo so bad in the 1980s, but I spent 1/8 as much on a quality Japanese bike, and I was good to go. Didn’t win any races though.

        Of course serious racers get their bikes for free as Olympic air rifle shooters do with thier gear. We live in the era of corporate sponsors for everything. One day Comisky Park (as I still stubbornly refer to it) will bear the name Tidy Bowl Field. The Bears won’t play in a stadium called Soldier Field or The Payton Dome. It’ll be the Fruit-of-the-Loom dome.

      • !stblue,

        Yes famous video. If you know you French actors, who is the driver?

        Your bike races must have had no climbing, lol.

        No the $5K rifle would not make you a better shot, but you would have fewer excuses.

        -Y

        • Well, I didn’t know it wasn’t a Ferrari, but a Mercedes, it was over dubbed. Claude Lelouche is a pretty good driver, just the same.
          Yea, at 183lbs, the hills were a problem. I shouldn’t point fingers, in 1991, my Cannondale cost 2,1K$, and it still weighed over 22lbs in a large size. Now it common to make them well under 16 lbs, there’s a minimum weight, they add weight now to make that. I like the value, and simplicity and durability of the Crosman/Benjamin airguns, thay have a tool like quality that is not too pretentious, and they have been thought through very well. Campy tools have special shelf that the VAR tools don’t really need, why pay more..
          R

  11. Something I forgot to add is that custom shop guitars are made with all or nearly all hide glued joints and nitrocellulose finishes. The nitro finish means that there are dozens of OSHA and EPA regulations involved, including production limits.

    Why hide glue? So that expert repairmen can easily restore the guitar hundred of years from now. Thjink about that for a second. Products made today where repairs to it made a century or two from now are a consideration. Why nitrocellulose? Because it has a visual quality even today’s poly cannot replicate, and because it continues to look good, perhaps even better, with age. Also, dings are easier to restore with nitro, and if a ding does come along, it just might look cool.

    Michael

        • Michael, I used to work in a furniture stripping business in D.C.
          There was hot tank with a powerfull base chemical, and a cold tank with methylene chloride, for the good stuff. It wasn’t as hard on the glue joints as the hot tank, which pretty much dissolves everything eventually. The chemical regulations in Ca. are far more strict, so there is no restoration of old architectural things. But, there is no Smithsonian Institute, either, where I took some classes on antique furniture restoration, paid for by my boss, Bob Reed. Thanks Boss! I always thought he was kidding me about Laq beetles.
          Rob

    • People make there living with those instruments. Other than B.B. and Olympic shooters, no airgunner does. The difference is sound = $$$$.

      M-Hope you don’t breath that Nitro stuff!

      -Y

      • Yogi,

        That is an excellent point, that these are professional tools for professionals making their living. Before John Mayer signed a deal with Paul Reed Smith, he played Strats from the Fender Custom Shop made and “relicked” to his specs.

        That justifies the expense, and yep, a sporter/springer is not likely to be used to make a living.

        Michael

  12. Michael,

    I think the issue will always be the question of having enough volume to justify retaining the services of master craftsmen. I notice that both Weihrauch and Air Arms don’t seem to bother with in-house woodworking – they both get their stocks from Minelli in Italy.

    Leaving aside services like the Crosman Custom Shop (which seems to be much closer to a special order system), I think you most often see tuning services where they offer improved performance – any firearms manufacturer wanting to sell serious sniper rifles will need the equivalent of a custom shop with a skilled gunsmith and shooter making sure each individual rifle meets accuracy requirements.

    Nothing stops a company from either partnering up with a tuning shop or acquiring one. I mentioned BMW and Mercedes before, and BMW has their internal M-group and Mercedes acquired AMG to provide similar services and both have expanded significantly to where they offer retail models for sale from the factory.

    I think for ultra high-end products you’re talking about however, part of the allure and prestige is the exclusivity. Holland & Holland rifles, or Perrazi shotguns as mentioned by BB. With certain products, having the connection to make the purchase in the first place is part of the prestige (see: cars like the Ferrari F50, where production numbers are limited ahead of time and only certain valued customers are offered the chance to buy one.

    Going back to the TX 200 and the Weihrauchs, the math is as straightforward as it is for Crosman or Umarex.

    1 in x rifles will have a minor manufacturing defect
    1 in y customers would notice the minor defect and be bothered by it

    Keep in mind you can never eliminate x – even if every rifle was hand-made by a skilled artisan, they are still human and will have off days. There will be material defects, etc. etc.

    Depending on their clientele and product, every manufacturer will have some different values of ‘x’ and ‘y’… and so they’ll be able to justify (or not justify) various measures to reduce x (or y, I guess if you change it so that the defect is of a less noticeable type. Missing bluing is less of a big deal if it’s in a location hidden by the stock…

    If 1 out of every 300 TX200 gets a dodgy spring, and only 1 out of ever 10 buyers will notice and warrantee it, it’s an issue that occurs 1-in-3000 rifles – and far cheaper for Air Arms to make sure they have excellent customer service and send the customer a new rifle (and since this is a special complaint, it could potentially be checked more carefully vs. the other rifles on the production line). That would be far cheaper than to buy and install 3000 Vortek spring kits (and maybe lose some more sales from the price difference, and maybe undergo some teething issues as their staff adapts to the change in manufacturing, and…)

    Nathan

    • Nathan,

      That is an impressive essay.. One thing, the only thig, that occurred to me to add is that Gibson’s custom shop did exactly what you described when you wrote there is no reason Air Arms or Weihrauch couldn’t simply hire or buy a tuning business to work a custom tuning otion for their customers. In the 1990s or 2000s Gibson hired the siongle best guitar luthier in the US specializing in the process of “relicking,” a fellow from Marion, Illinois named Tom Murphy. Murphy is a living legend. Relicking is taking a new guitar and to varying degrees aging it so that it is indistinguishable from a real vintage model from more than four or so feet. So Gibson hired Murphy to work for a contracted period to make and supervise the making of relicked guitars in a sub-division of their custom shop, a “custom custom shop,” so to speak. Prior to that Murphy did that thing as a business on his own in his own shop. I might be mistaken, but that was quite some time ago and Morphy might be doing it on his own again.

      Michael

    • Air Arm’s problems with their PRO ELITE model almost bankrupted the company.
      I once asked them if they would ever make another break barrel, they said NEVER!

      -Y

  13. The topic of airgun manufacturers offering tunes, custom stocks, open sight options, custom parts, etc. has been going on for decades.

    The profit margin isn’t there but the brain damage that anal airgunners will cause a custom shop is plentiful. Ask any airgun tuner or parts supplier.

    Over the past few decades it’s amazing how many PASSIONATE airgunners have gone into the business of providing tuning services, custom parts, custom stocks, etc. and are now gone and don’t want anything to do with airgunners.

    Luckily, they seem to eventually be replaced with new, enthusiastic entrepreneurs that supply aftermarket parts and services until we eat their flesh off of their bones. Airgunners demanding unrealistic turnaround times and free advice are usually the primary culprits.

  14. Michael,

    “-the last thing you want to hear your dentist say…”

    So this whole wonderful blog is driven by nothing more than escapist drug addled need! Sounds like an ADDICTION of the worst kind and an overweening need to reach out to your fellow addicts! I think that is the seminal gestalt of this personal outburst of yours! Which leads me to ask when was the last time you saw an best of the best airgun smashed into the floor or against a speaker stand? I think most of the users of the spectacular guitars are not addicted to guitars or even the playing said instruments but rather the adulation of audiences, organic, or chemical things. That some facet of airgun ADDICTION separates the airgunner who reads this blog (and a few others) from the Bigbox Store buyers of airguns! Makes me think that name custom shops or more so “Name” builders/tuners will never drive the general market like the guitar biz model. I wish it were different but very few of us USA airguners open our wallets even as wide as Brit, Dutch, German, Italian, Aussie, New Zealand, RSA, and on and on. USA airgun sales are probably still greater even with our freedom to buy firearms. Much of the rest of the World population can’t even pay BigBox Store airgun prices much less think custom shop.

    I sure wish it was different but suspect those Custom Shop products would be snapped up by speculative buyers! Sad

    Thanks again for a wonderful guest blog to read!

    shootski

    • shootski,

      One man’s addiction is another’s passion, and vice-versa. ;^)

      And seminal gestalt . . . Seminal Gestalt, wasn’t that an early prog rock group in the very late 1960s, formed by art students living in Addington, Surrey?

      Michael

        • shootski,

          Until just now, when I reread the blog, I thought you were kidding when you brought up addiction above. You probably were, buit in case you were serious, here are some facts:

          I have taken prescription painkillers four or five times in my life.

          My surgery was Tuesday (6/15) morning, after which I followed my doctor’s orders and began taking my pain meds before the local wore off. I continued to take thaem as directed until my last pill, Saturday (6/19) night.

          I wrote the blog Saturday afternoon, while still on trhe pain medication.

          I haven’t had any of the meds since Satyrday night, and I have had no withdrawal symptoms since. As I write this, it is Tuesday, 6/22.

          Just thought you and anyone reading this should know.

          Oh, and as for actual opiod addiction, which is a scourge, people should get professional help.

          Michael

          • Michael,

            “Until just now, when I reread the blog, I thought you were kidding when you brought up addiction above. You probably were, buit in case you were serious, here are some facts:”
            I was serious about addiction! I wasn’t talking about your pain meds. I believe you are addicted to Electric guitars and I know you have a severe case of Airgunitous!
            I’m glad you aren’t one of the many unfortunate who get addicted to pain meds!
            shootski

  15. ‘Custom Shop’ can have a very different connotation, depending on the context of use or even the point of view of the reader, or writer, or both. If memory serves, after Colt stopped ‘production’ of the Python (a gun with complicated, old style lock work that require a lot of hand fitting) it was still produced by the custom shop… for a price. The resulting revolver was considered the best of the best, but quite pricey compared to the production model. For most, a Python was beyond their price range, and if they did get one ‘It ought to be perfect for that price!’ Worth it? To those who had the money and the desire, certainly. Would I like to have one of those custom shop guns? Once again, certainly! But I can’t, or won’t, afford it!
    I guess that it would make sense for an air gun manufacturer to have a custom shop. Maybe a walnut stock on an HW80? (Or, would that make it an R1?)
    I think that the manufacturers have looked at the possibility of having a custom shop, and decided that the idea would be more trouble than it would be a benefit.
    Wasn’t there a quote about asking after the price of a yacht? “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
    Later.
    Bill

    • mildot52,

      Very far from it. This is about the difference between quality and perfection — something for which we all strive! 🙂

      BB

    • mildot52,

      That is the sort of remark I take as a challenge. :^) I had figured the above would be a one-off guest blog by me, but your comment virtually guaranteels I will submit more guest pieces. Thanks, I need encouragement!

      Michael

  16. Michael,
    Great report! I found it interesting and thought-provoking.
    It brought back memories of my Fender Classic Series 60s bass I bought; it was in your “under $1000” category (but all I could afford at the time), and yes, it needed work; the first time I went to tighten the truss rod, I was a little scared, but I watched a lot of youtube videos. =>
    I have an HW30S in .22 that is as close to mechanical perfection as anything I have ever bought new. Most of my other guns required tweaking, but not that one, so it’s not going anywhere. At $500 (with scope, rings, and muzzle brake), some people might think it’s over-priced for a plinker. But to me, it’s well worth it for the quality of the rifle. And your report drives home to me why it was worth spending the extra money. Thank you.
    Take care,
    dave

    • Dave,

      The HW30S is probably the world’s supreme plinker, and to get the best one sometimes has to open the wallet wide. If my wife and the cats escaped our house on fire in the middle of the night and lost everything, and if I could buy only one air gun to replace my collection, it would be a Weihrauch HW30s. I know B.B. is especially fond of the Diana Model 27, but among new air rifles, the HW30S is the one, in my opinion. The price is pretty high for a plinker, yes. But to me it is not over-priced because that it an appropriate price for such a well-made air rifle.

      And I happen to know the Fender Classic Series guitars very well. They are not just incerdible for the money, they are excellent guitars, period.

      Michael

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