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Education / Training Where we are

Where we are

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.

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.

43 thoughts on “Where we are”

  1. B.B.,

    I was reading a few older blogs yesterday: /blog/2014/04/building-the-100-precharged-pneumatic-air-rifle-part-6/
    So todays blog topic is perfect!

    BRAVO!

    shootski

    • shootski,

      I bought the $100 PCP from Dennis last year, so I now own it and can do even more reports on it. That was a test that bumped Crosman into developing the Maximus.

      BB

  2. BB,

    Hopefully the innovations won’t stop coming and will be taken up by the manufacturers sooner or later. Maybe the pendulum will swing towards accurate and mild mannered spring piston airguns some time in the future. Maybe bell targets might make a comeback in public places?

    Siraniko

    • Siraniko,

      The mild mannered and accurate sproingers are here. It is just that most of the manufacturers have to relearn to make them. As for the bell targets in public places, we have a very long way to go before that happens and I myself do not wish to see those times.

    • Accurate/Mild-mannered springers? Could there be anything more perfect than my TX200? Of course, I’m all for innovation, just don’t change the essence of what we already have (remember those early ’80s Mustangs?). Sometimes designers make changes for all the wrong reasons. Orv.

      • Doc,

        That is indeed a most coveted air rifle. Weihrauch has a few mild, accurate sproingers also. I have an HW30 and would like an HW50 and HW95. I have shot an HW98 that was phenomenal. There is also a Diana 46 here at RRHFWA that is very nice.

        There are some mild mannered, accurate sproingers around. You just have to know what to look for.

  3. I guess I am an old dinosaur. I prefer the .45 ACP over the 9mm Parabellum. I remember they did not start teaching the “double tap” until law enforcement in the USA started carrying the 9mm. They did not need to.

    As for airguns, you know most of mine. I have a Maximus, the synthetic stocked Disco. It is a keeper. I never tried the ASP20. Maybe it will make a comeback one day. I could use a good, modern sproinger around RRHFWA.

    PS: The PPPCP is not dead.

    https://hardairmagazine.com/reviews/ham-exclusive-first-barra-1100z-performance-data/

    Hmmm…

    • Yogi,

      I’m curious about that myself as I was (and still am) annoyed with Sig and the ASP20 fiasco.

      I understand that business decisions need to be made but “tease and walk away” is frustrating. If Sig doesn’t want to play that game, then fine – but sell the license to someone who does.

      Never thought I would say it but at this point I would consider buying a good (un-silenced to be Canada legal) knock-off.

      …Sorry, obviously a sensitive spot for me 🙂

      Hank

      • Hi Hank,
        I would buy a knock off of the ASP20, provided it is a quality job. I was mad that I missed the chance to get an original. If Sig closed shop on the ASP because of a law suit I am sure it involved some patent violation. If that was the case then we may not see a knock off – who ever makes the knock off would be liable to the same legal action. All that is from someone with no legal training

        • “who ever makes the knock off would be liable to the same legal action.”

          Hi Ton,

          What you say is true – in countries that respect patents and intellectual property.

          It would have been nice to have a gas-spring powered airgun as a walk-about plinker but I really don’t need one (I keep on telling myself LOL!) as I have other airguns that fill that niche very nicely.

          Hank

    • Did research to find out what the lawsuit was about but all I could find was information about a 2015 suit by an anti-weapons type in Germany who sued because a Sig firearm was used in a multiple-murder case by a Mexican cartel scumbag. Do you have a link or more specific information about this? FM is just curious. Maybe some smart and enlightened air gun manufacturer will be inspired by the ASP20 to create something even bigger and better than the ASP series.

      • Could have been a threatened lawsuit….cease and desist letter…that was quietly resolved and settled out of court, with mutual nondisclosure agreements.

      • Thanks for mentioning that RR.

        I’ve been following Bob’s posts and articles for quite a while now. Seen his comments in a couple of forums – a very knowledgeable guy!

        The ES article was a new one for me.

        Hank

        • Vana2,

          ES is an interesting concept for initially making a (buy – not buy a gun) but not for go-no-go decisions. I prefer SD because it takes into account all of the shots (of a population) and each shot in that populations relationship to the aim point.
          You can also learn a great deal about probability of shot containment within an ellipsis that is correctly sized for your requirement. I’m always looking at my shooting results/potential from a Hunter/practical shooter based perspective and not as a target shooter.
          That makes the 3D WINDS and 3D RANGING the most important elements, in my book, to shooting once you move beyond the pure mechanical aspect of marksmanship. I love outshooting someone with tons of money invested in all the latest and “best” stuff with a GOOD ENOUGH gun and KISS attitude.
          Know your gun, know your hold, know how to find your RANGE, know how to read and apply the wind effect on your projectile.
          Then and only then will you find the RELAXED attention that makes a shooter that is hard to beat.
          FRUSTRATION in any amount has no place in shooting well. Better to call it a day if you can’t focus on that next shot to the exclusion of (very nearly all – no tunnel vision please; unless you have a Spotter to keep you safe.) all else.

          Shootski

          • Shootski,

            I keep an eye on the ES and SD numbers while I’m tuning but ultimately it’s the harmonics of what settings and what pellet that have the final say. Still, good ES and good SD usually meant good groups.

            IMHO, lack of confidence, tension and frustration are the biggest hurdles a shooter has to overcome before they can hope to shoot well. By comparison, the mechanical skills of holding and triggering the shot are easy.

            Yeah, the KISS principal – gotta love that! In the winters I used to go to the local archery range with my home made wood bows and arrows to keep in form. Often raised eyebrows and disparaging remarks from the guys with the decked-out compound bows. …I made quite a bit of money before they learned not to compete with me. LOL!

            Thanks for your comment shootski!

            Hank

          • Shootski and others.

            I keep a eye on point of aim to point of impact and group size.

            That tells me the story of the performance of the gun.

            Numbers will confuse a person. Exsperiance will show everything.

            Data will only show if the gun changed if producing different than original results.

  4. I think one major new technology that should be recognized is the hammerless valves being offered in some of the high end guns, like Huben, LCS, and the Leishy 2. They really are amazing, and I expect that they will “trickle down” over time to become much more mainstream.

    These systems use two valves: one that is a “blow open” valve that opens when the sear drops (no hammer or striker involved), and a second that controls and shuts off the flow of air, allowing the main valve to reset for the next shot. These enable semi-auto firing, and even full auto in the case of the LCS. Here is a simple video that illustrates how it works in the Huben, first with the regulator and then the valve. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8qJ5-p_YkM

  5. B.B.,

    Mouse gun advances have gotten to the point that today there are 6+1 pistols in .380 that are the same size as .25 apc pistols like the Baby Browning. Talk about a mouse that roars!

    Michael

  6. I like the wisdom of the dinasauers. .45 long colt and .44mag are not so different. Airguns teach
    wisdom about accuracy vs. power. I will never buy a Korth .45 fixed barrel with delayed blowback, 5K$, because an old ratteley .45 1911 is enough, up high on the hip, where it can be seen easily, a great detterrant still, I would argue. I would never underestimate the opponent, better safe than sorry. It sounds to me like Sig used someone elses source wisdom when it came to producing the ASP20, they are a firearms co. afterall. People who read this blog will be enlightened enough to know a good buy when they see it now!
    Rob

  7. With the report yesterday of the Dragon fly with the JSB 18.13’s I still say the maker of those barrels should be selling them to other companies..

    We would all benefit from that partnership.

    I have been having to research many different airguns for other writing projects, and your list for PPPCP’s is still spot on, several years after you came up with the list, but can be updated a little bit,

    In 2022, saying your airgun has an adjustable trigger for marketing purposes, akin to an auto manufacturer bragging that their car has doors.

    And unfortunately, due to inflation, and supply chain issues, that base price has risen to $350-ish..

    Some of the writing projects have been top 10’s.
    Whats the best .177 air rifle?
    Or best .22, or .25 caliber air rifle.

    Anyone care to venture a guess as to what airgun has been in the top 5 of all of those calibers and still be a PPPPCP?

    Ian

  8. B.B.
    Did the Crosman 100 series also get more than one shot from pumping it up like the Benjamin 700? If so about how many? I didn’t know there was a pumper that did that, save for the rare Custom Benjamin ACP.
    On the Sig ASP deal, if Sig isn’t going to produce it, I wish they’d sell the patent to a company willing to produce it. Preferably a well known company and not a China knock off.
    Doc

  9. “The Sig P365 overshadows the pocket pistols of the past.”
    B.B.,
    Quite true! And I would replace my pocket pistol with one of those, if not for the fact that my .380 was a birthday gift from my wife. I’d seen an old Tanfoglio copy (imported by EAA) of a Beretta model 70, a trade-in, in the case at my friend’s gun store; I’d asked him to set it aside for me, and my wife caught wind of that, and went and bought it for me for my birthday…then took me to the range on my birthday so I could try it out. As you can see by this 25-foot test group, my friend did a great job of sighting in the fixed sights for me (he went over the whole gun and tweaked it in nicely, a cool guy). Hence, while it’s a bit of a “boat anchor” at 27 ounces (yep, it’s all steel!…nickel-plated =>), I thanked her profusely and, of course, must keep this pistol. If your wife buys you a gun, any gun, firearm or airgun, you MUST love it, you must shoot it, and you must praise her for it…it is the path of wisdom…and a peaceful marriage. 🙂
    Take care & God bless,
    dave

      • Mrs. FM did not “gift” it, but did encourage her Worser Half to buy a Kel-Tec PMR-30 when they first became available, so likely it will be a keeper. Maybe will get her to try it out sometime.

          • About 7 years ago, daughter gave FM a range “package” for Christmas, which included range time with a Glock 9mm and 50 rounds. Decided to let her shoot because dad already had enjoyed the shooting experience for a while. After going over safety, pistol function and aiming protocols, cut her loose at approx 10 yards from the bullseye target. Let’s just say dad was very impressed with the groups on target; ditto another time when she tried a P08. Kid turned out to be a natural. Wish she were closer to enjoy more frequent target time with her.

          • FM
            My oldest daughter got married 3 years or so ago and has a 2 year old son. So we don’t get to shoot like we use too. She lives over in Missouri and I live in Illinois so it makes it a little more difficult to get together. But we for sure do shoot and ride the 4 wheelers when they come over. When she lived at home she shot at least 3 times a week. My youngest daughter still lives at home and we shoot still.

    • Good advice Dave!

      I just (profusely) thanked my wife for the HW44 that she got me for Christmas.

      We had a sunny, mild day. Shooting paper indoors is fun …plinking tins outside is funner

      Hank

      • Wow, Hank! She’s a keeper for sure! Oh, that refers to the HW44 as it’s a serious piece of hardware as well as to your wife for buying you such a cool gift. 🙂

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