This report covers:
- BB gets a holiday
- What do I mean?
- Deja Vu all over again
- Light speed
- The deal
- Back to motorcycles
- What I’m saying
- How fast?
Yes, that is a quote from Roseanne Rosannadanna, the character portrayed so well by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live. What it means is, there will always be an agenda behind any product made by man. Today I’d like to explore that with you a little. Oh, and one more thing.
BB gets a holiday
This coming Monday, the day after July 4, the American Independence Day, BB Pelletier will take off. There won’t be a blog published. I will schedule one for Tuesday, so on Monday BB gets to sleep in as late as his kitty, Dale Evans, will permit. Might even make it to 6 a.m.! Okay, back to business.
What do I mean?
Many of you know that I recently bought a Harley Davidson Sportster. I chose it not because they handle great. No Harley made (except for purpose-built racers) handles that well. They are heavy and ponderous to maneuver, plus the Sportster 1200 I bought has a stage one tune and is way too fast for BB Pelletier. I chose it because Harley is still going strong after 118 years in business. I owned a 1948 panhead and a 1946 knucklehead and, believe me, Harley had no business staying in business after building those two motorcycles! Not with Triumphs and BMWs on the road!
Intrigued, I read Harley’s history, and it seems they even have control over how that is portrayed in print — as in heavily edited! At this point a man in the crowd pushes the tip of his nose sideways and his compatriots all get the message.
Well, I don’t like to be lied to (I never watch the news for that reason), so I read the history of Indian. They came out two years before Harley and, in the beginning, they were by far the better company. But they went out of business in 1953 (and also remained in business under the Indian name with myriads of other owners until this very day). But the REAL Indian company died in 1953. Why? Mismanagement. She’s not just a pretty face with a business degree.
In 1906 Indian was chasing the world speed record for a motorcycle — 60 m.p.h. Imagine going a full mile in just 60 seconds! By the way, for nearly everyone else on the planet, a mile is 1.61 kilometers.
Indian’s chief engineer, Oscar Hedstrom, coaxed his 213 cc single all the way up to 57 m.p.h. on the hard-packed coastal sand of Ormond Beach, Florida. But in 1907 the four horsepower 633 cc Indian Twin was perfected and the mile-a-minute “barrier” was broken.
So guess what the next “barrier” was? That’s right, 100 m.p.h.
Deja Vu all over again
Hey, this sounds familiar. Didn’t airguns live through the velocity wars in the early 1970s and wasn’t the airgunning world stunned when the Feinwerkbau 124 exceeded the 800 f.p.s. barrier around 1971? It wasn’t long before there were three others who did it — two for real and one pretender. The Diana 45 and the BSF S55 both broke through 800 f.p.s. and Weihrauch claimed that with a “supertune” and when you held your tongue just right their HW 35 could also do it — almost.
Fast-forward to 1981 and Robert Beeman set the world on its ear when he announced the Beeman R1 that went 940 f.p.s. in .177. And, in another 12 months, that was up to 1,000 f.p.s. A year later 1,100 f.p.s, was possible with a Lazatune. Remember those?
Then in 1986/87 Diana came out with their 48 and 52 that really did get an honest-to-goodness 1,100 f.p.s No shenanigans were required.
And then came Gamo. They had shed their El Gamo moniker a few years before, the Casas family had moved on and they were now claiming their rifles produced 1,600 f.p.s. I have tested dozens of Gamos with that claim and though I have found some that made it into the 1,500 f.p.s. region, I never saw one do 1,600 f.p.s. But it looks real good on a box.
So I’m working at AirForce Airguns many years ago and a technical call comes through for me. The guy is shooting his Condor tethered to a helium tank. He claims 1,700 f.p.s. Yeah, and I bet he talks with a funny high-pitched voice, too! Who wants to shoot a science experiment?
Guys, neutrinos from our sun have nearly zero mass and can travel at almost the speed of light. Some go even faster than light. We just need to make a gun that will shoot them. What is the deal?
The deal is — speed sells. And I’m not talking about drugs, though I might as well be.
Why do you own an airgun?
Do you like to shoot or are you just interested in bragging? People who like to shoot like to know when they hit their intended target. People who brag like watching chronograph screens and rounding up the numbers — sometimes by an order of magnitude.
The velocity wars got too silly in the late ’90s and the only people who listen to them anymore are 13 year-old boys and marketeers.
Back to motorcycles
Why did Indian go out of business? Were their bikes not good? Not at all! In fact, their Scout 101 was considered the best motorcycle of its time! And it was the original 1920’s Scout that New Zealander Bert Munro got up to more than 200 m.p.h. (an unofficial qualifying speed) at Bonneville. The Indian 4 cylinder was a smooth and powerful police ride and for years Indians dominated the hillclimbing and flat track circuit.
What killed Indian was their board of directors that made life hard for founders George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom. The board wanted more profits at any cost and that cost was the resignations of both men. After that (1913-1914) the company struggled on, doing well technically and giving up-and-coming Harley Davidson a run for their money, but their Mamon-centric decisions eventually took the life away.
Harley-Davidson also struggled for a decade with outside ownership that almost cost them their company in the 1970s, but several enthusiasts pooled their resources and bought it back. What they went through to get where they are today was not pretty, but they are back on their feet and building solid machines. They have figured out who their customers are and they now play to them, exclusively.
Let’s see — has there ever been an airgun equivalent to this story? What about Bayerische Sportwaffen Fabrik who we know as BSF? I don’t know any of the inside particulars, but I do know that the company that bought them is still in the hands of a Weihrauch.
What I’m saying
I’m not saying that a company has to be family-owned to succeed. But I believe a successful company does have to be managed by enthusiasts. The minute that changes, out comes the old spreadsheet and management by the numbers begins.
So — how fast do motorcycles need to go? Let’s see — the Suzuki Hayabusa goes 198.76 m.p.h, according to the manufacturer. The BMW 1000RR goes 208.81 m.p.h. and the Lightning Electric goes 218 m.p.h. The Hayabusa with a turbo goes up to 266 m.p.h. Jay Leno owns a C18 Allison helicopter turbine-powered bike that he says he has never opened up. It’s theoretical top end is also 266 m.p.h. and it has been ridden to 237 m.p.h. So how fast do motorcycles need to go?
And how fast do airguns need to shoot? The 700+ foot-pound .50 caliber Hammer from Umarex tops out at 750 f.p.s. with a bullet someone might hunt with and the 800 foot-pound .50-caliber Texan from AirForce Airguns will get around 775 f.p.s, with a similar weight bullet. So what does it take to kill a whitetail deer? About 350 f.p.s.
How fast do you need a .177 pellet to go? 1,600 f.p.s.? 1,100 f.p.s.? Or 800 f.p.s. and you always hit what you shoot at?
I’m leaving this open-ended for all of you. I could have mentioned that in the 1960s and ’70s Crosman made a super-great adjustable trigger for their 160. The Chinese knocked it off and even then it was so well designed they couldn’t screw it up. Why can’t we have good triggers today?
There, the weekend pot has been stirred!