This report covers:

  • When I was a kid
  • Makarov
  • Sig P365
  • Not about firearms
  • Discovery
  • Price Point PCP
  • Multi-pumps
  • Breakbarrels
  • Along came Sig
  • Summary

I want to look at the technology of airguns today, to reflect on how far we have advanced. What got me started was a combination of things. The Seneca Dragonfly Mark 2 multi-pump rifle was one of them. I reflected on how multi-pump technology has advanced over the years. And my Sig P365 pistol is another thing that I thought about. I have lived through much of the evolution of pocket pistols and of multi-pump airguns and I’ve been exposed to things as they changed. Let’s start with the firearms first.

When I was a kid

When I was a kid Walther’s PPK (Polizeipistole Kriminal) was all the rage. It was first released in 1931 and was designed as a hideout gun for police work. It is the offspring of the Walther PP and was intended for plainclothes and undercover work. In my day the PPK was the best thing around, though the caliber topped at 7.65mm, which is the Colt .32 ACP round. In Europe that was considered powerful for a sidearm. In the U.S., not so much. But the pistol was small and lightweight and it was a double action pistol which meant it could be carried with the hammer down and a round in the chamber. Just pulling the trigger fired the pistol, after which it was single action until the magazine ran out.

PPK
Walther PPK.

The PPK is now offered in .380ACP, which is also known as the 9mm Kurz or 9mm short. Even so, in 2022 the PPK isn’t a top choice for a new defensive sidearm. That’s because pocket pistol technology has improved the choices. The PPK racks (the slide pulls back) hard and the trigger pull is heavy.

Makarov

After the PP and PPK came a host of small pistols that copied the Walther design. They were all double action and in .32 and .380 caliber. I selected the Soviet Makarov to discuss because I have one and because I noted the improvements. It is chambered in the 9MM Makarov caliber that is larger and a little more powerful than .380, but not as powerful as the 9X19mm cartridge that we call the 9mm Luger. Makarovs are also made in .380ACP caliber today, since that ammo is easier to find in most locations around the world.

The Makarov is easier to rack, the double-action trigger pull is lighter than the PPK and I have found the pistol to be relatively accurate at close range. I can put a magazine full of rounds (8) into six-inches at 20 feet if I really try.

Makarov
A somewhat tired Bulgarian Makarov.

Sig P365

Then came the Sig P365. This one is smaller than the Mac and lighter than the PPK, yet it’s chambered in 9X19 Luger caliber. The slide is very easy to rack, the trigger is delightful and I can put 11 rounds from mine into 5-inches at 10 meters. And the recoil is almost not noticeable, it is so smooth. That is what technology has done for us over the decades. The frame is polymer, which accounts for the light weight and the old 1911 steel-gun dinosaur, BB Pelletier, has to admit that this pistol is the one to rule them all!

Sig P365 in hand
The Sig P365 overshadows the pocket pistols of the past.

The P365 has engendered a raft of competitors that all offer similar features. They are all successful handguns. And the world of defense carry guns has changed to keep up with technology.

Not about firearms

But today’s report is not about firearms. It’s about airgun technology and how it has advanced right under our noses.

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Discovery

I remember in 2006 when I tried to convince Crosman that what the airgun world wanted and needed was an inexpensive precharged pneumatic (PCP) rifle that was easy to use. They agreed and built the Benjamin Discovery, starting a journey that is still going. Everyone looks at the Marauder and thinks that was what got them started, but it was really the Discovery that got the ball rolling and trained a company in upstate New York how to build good PCPs. Until that time the airgun world was held hostage by a few British companies who regarded PCPs as a secret society whose entrance had to be earned.

Benjamin Discovery
The Benjamin Discovery that launched in 2007.

The Discovery wasn’t just an inexpensive PCP. It was also one that filled to just 2,000 psi, making it easy to fill from a high-pressure hand pump. The Disco, as it became known, wasn’t just a cheap airgun — it was an entire system that forced open the door to PCPs for everyone.

Price Point PCP

Then in 2017 we saw the introduction of the price point PCP — a PCP retailing for under $300. And, instead of manufacturers competing on price they started adding features. In 2018 I wrote that these were the desirable features for a PPP:

*Quiet operation
*Repeater (with single shot option most desirable)
*Available in both .177 and .22 caliber (with .25 caliber a desirable option)
*Accurate
Plenty of shots
Fill to no more than 3,000 psi (with 2,000 psi being most desirable)
Has a regulator
Great adjustable trigger
*Priced under $300

*Essential

Except for the 2,000 psi fill limit all those features have now become mandatory. Omit any one of them at the risk of failing in the market. That is how much the technology has advanced on our watch.

Multi-pumps

In the 1920s Crosman moved the pump rod from the front of the gun where it was difficult and clumsy to a lever underneath, where it became smooth and easy. Benjamin held out for two more decades before they piled on and moved the pump rod and Sheridan did it right from the start in 1947.

Benjamin 700
Benjamin’s 700 was charged with a pump rod in the front of the gun. It was a repeater, and could shoot more than once on a fill of air, but it was clumsy compared to the Crosman.

Crosman 100
Crosman’s 100-series rifles began in 1924 and lasted for several decades. They made the front pump mechanism obsolete.

The next big change came in 2007 with the pump-assist mechanism. It lowered the effort required to pump the Benjamin 390-series multi-pumps. But it was an aftermarket modification that added too much money to the retail price of the gun. To succeed a multi-pump had to be built from the ground up with the pump-assist built in. 

Fast-forward to 2022 and we have that rifle in the Seneca Dragonfly Mark 2. It’s everything the modified Benjamin was, plus it’s more powerful and more accurate. And, when BB gets it sorted out, it has a much better trigger. That, my friends, is how technology advances!

Breakbarrels

I don’t want to overlook spring-piston airguns. Weihrauch gave us their classic break barrels that started in the early 1950s and were joined in the mid-50s by the Rekord trigger. These rifles have set the standard for breakbarrels ever since.

I could talk about the TX200, but since this topic is breakbarrels I’ll stay with that theme. Oh, the airgun manufacturers went in all directions after the 1950s, with velocity being the long pole in the tent, but they all overlooked what Weihrauch had given us — accuracy and a great trigger. That is they did until 2018! 

Along came Sig

Then, in what I regard as the single most stunning advance in airgun technology that I have witnessed — yes, even more stunning than the Benjamin Discovery project that I was involved in — Sig Sauer brought out the ASP20 breakbarrel rifle. They gave us a gas spring rifle that was easy to cock, a new airgun trigger that wasn’t a copy of anything, a built-in silencer that worked, a keystone breech that solved any barrel lockup issues ever known and an accurate barrel that wasn’t choked. They did it all!

Sadly, Sig let go of the reins on that one and their cart went off the track soon after the rifle was launched in 2018. I will not stop lamenting its passing because it was the very best and brightest advance in spring-piston technology in recent times. It shocks me that nothing has been done about this, but perhaps Sig is holding onto the wreckage and pondering what to do. They couldn’t build that rifle today without at least the same expenditure as they put in initially. It’s a sad thing all around.

Summary

As the writer of this blog I get to watch the world pass by and see what really matters. I know marketing departments have to sell new products every year through hype and fluff, and I get involved in that, too, but when I stand back I can see a bigger picture of where we are and where we have been.