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Air Guns A short history of the single stroke pneumatic airgun

A short history of the single stroke pneumatic airgun

Part 1 A short history of the spring-piston power plant
Part 2 A short history of the CO2 airgun
Part 3 A short history of the precharged pneumatic airgun

This report covers:

  • History
  • Description
  • The Daisy 953
  • IZH 46 and 46M
  • IZH MP532
  • What many airgunners want
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Make ready
  • A single-stroke “secret”
  • Triggers
  • Summary

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Today we look at the single stroke pneumatic powerplant. Its history is shorter than that of any other powerplant. Many of you readers were alive when this one came out.

History

As far as I know, Walther pioneered the single stroke. In 1967 they released the LP2 pistol which was the first of several single strokes. That was followed in 1974 by the LGR, a single stroke target rifle. I reported on both of these airguns, and linked to those reports so you can examine them at your leisure.

Was there an LP1? I understand that there was, but that it wasn’t stout enough for release to the public. So the LP2 was the first one to be sold.

Of course perhaps the most popular single stroke today is the Beeman P17. It’s a Chinese copy of the Beeman P3, and I have reported on both of those pistols, also. But better than that, reader 45Bravo (Ian Mckee) also gave us a two-part report on how to reseal those pistols and many of you have done just that.

Description

A single stroke pneumatic is an airgun in which just one pump of air powers the pellet. If you try to pump a second time, the air from your first pump is lost, because the pump head is what seals the air in the gun. Because of that single strokes are of limited power and cannot be made more powerful without a lot of special engineering. And even then they don’t get that powerful.

Because of this, single strokes are often made as target guns. The Daisy 853, 753 and 953 are all single strokes that we have been familiar with in recent years. All are now gone from the market. I wrote a 5-part report on the 853 in which I rebuilt the powerplant of the rifle. That rifle’s accuracy was quite good, though not up to what the Civilian Marksmanship Program now calls a precision target rifle.

Daisy 853
Daisy 853.

The Daisy 953

The 953 was Daisy’s last hurrah with the single stroke system. It was a less expensive sporter type airgun that lacked the Lothar Walther barrel that the 853 and 753 had. And it sold for a fraction of their price. The trigger was lousy, but no worse than a factory 853 trigger, so there was nothing to complain about. The sights were fiberoptic that non-shooters seem to love, but which target shooters despise. But Daisy viewed the 953 as a plinker and not as a target rifle, so in that light the sights were fine.

Daisy 953
Daisy 953 TargetPro.

IZH 46 and 46M

The IZH 46 and 46M (the M stands for magnum — a more powerful version) are target pistols that delighted American shooters for years. Unfortunately the Russian government is being bad right now and sanctions prevent that pistol from being imported into the U.S. airgunners lamented this for years until Air Venturi finally fixed the problem with the AV-46M Match pistol.That one you can buy today and you can also read my report on it.

AV-46M
The Air Venturi AV-46M Match pistol.

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IZH MP532

What readers of this blog know that very few other Americans do is that IZH also makes (made?) a single stroke target rifle. Ha, ha! The “rifle” was just a pistol in a rifle stock. BB was fortunate enough to acquire two of them that he tested for you in a 9-part report. There probably isn’t much more written in the English language about this Russian target rifle than what’s on this blog.

IZH MP-532
IZH MP-532 target rifle.

What many airgunners want

What everyone talks about is building a single stroke with more power. The Brits even went so far as to do so — the Parker-Hale Dragon. Here is an excerpt from a 2008 blog report.

Parker-Hale Dragon — Why don’t “they” make a powerful single-stroke pneumatic air rifle?


“I would buy one in a heartbeat if airgun manufacturers would just get off their collective butt and design what ‘we’ want. We want a single-stroke pneumatic air rifle with enough power for hunting.” That’s exactly what Parker-Hale did. Or rather they accepted the design of an independent airgun designer and put it into production. A single-stroke pneumatic rifle with enough power for hunting.

Well, I lucked into a chance to see and operate a Dragon at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo, and I knew I’d be reporting it to you readers someday. When a reader recently saw one for sale on the American Airguns free classified ads page, he asked about it. I answered his question and asked if he’d like a report, which brings us to today. Since I’ve never tested the rifle the report will have to be thin, but I’ve added a detail photo that you won’t see anywhere but here.

dragon 1
Parker-Hale Dragon. The Parker-Hale Dragon is a large single-stroke pneumatic rifle that shoots like a PCP. The owner shoots his rifle at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo.

Enter the Dragon


The Dragon is an 11-lb. single-stroke pneumatic air rifle that looks like a PCP with a pump added on. It shoots at just under the British legal limit of 12 foot-pounds, so those .22-caliber Crosman Premiers will probably be going out the muzzle between 575 and 590 f.p.s. Being middleweight pellets, they have to be lower in energy so some super-heavyweight doesn’t push the rifle over the legal limit. The lever is attached to the right side of the action and pivots near the muzzle. It swings through about 105 degrees of arc to compress all the air it takes to generate 12 foot-pounds.

Make no mistake, the rifle has the firing characteristics of a PCP. There is zero recoil and vibration when the shot takes off. Because of the low muzzle energy, the report is relatively low, too — about like a Sheridan Blue Streak with five pumps of air. Thank the longer barrel for that. And thank the weight of 11 lbs. (before adding the scope) for the stability of a field target rifle. The weight seems to come from the extensive – nay, dare I say universal, use of steel components and parts. The Dragon is a lead-sled, compared to a normal PCP. Most of that weight is in the extra pumping mechanism, but the use of steel in the parts is a driver, too.

Make ready!


Ever watch the film Patriot and thank God you didn’t live at the time of the American revolution? Getting a flintlock ready to fire was no simple task. Well, if the rifles had been Parker-Hale Dragons instead of flintlocks, the revolution would probably have lasted a few more years. Compared to a flintlock, making the Dragon ready to fire is a chore.

I forget all of the steps to making the gun ready, but here are the ones I do remember. First, you simultaneously lift up on the safety button and push the trigger forward to set the valve. Then, you pop the pump handle away from the stock, but that requires you to pinch two sheet-steel cams together while simultaneously pulling them away from the stock. Once the lever joint has been properly freed, you swing the lever out and up to the top of its arc, just past the muzzle of the rifle. Next, you close the lever, compressing the air. Then, you cock the rifle, which retracts the bolt, allowing you to load a pellet. Close the bolt and you may be ready to fire. I forget if the safety comes on automatically at this point.

dragon 2
Making the Dragon ready to pump. Before you push the trigger forward to close the firing valve, the safety button in front of the trigger is pushed straight up.Once the safety is up and out of the way, the trigger is pushed forward to close the firing valve. The next step is to pump the gun, but before that, the pump lever link is simultaneously squeezed together and pulled away from the stock to free the joint. Now the pump lever is swung forward past the muzzle and then returned to the resting point alongside the stock. After that, all that remains is to cock and load the gun.

It may sound as if I am criticizing the Dragon’s design as I describe the process to make it ready, but that’s not my intention. I was given a rare opportunity to examine this strange and almost handmade air rifle mechanism, and I vowed to report the process to my readers, if and when I wrote about the rifle. Where else are you going to get this kind of information? I know for a fact it wasn’t reported in the airgun magazines when the gun was new, because I was interested in this rifle for myself.

A single-stroke “secret”

Okay we are back to the present day and to this report. Here is BB Pelletier’s “secret” on getting a little more power from a single stroke. I have written about this many times and I even showed it on the first year (2010) of the television show American Airgunner, which I co-hosted with Paul Capello.

What you do is partially pump the gun several times, without completing the pump stroke. I have done it as many as 20, but after you get going, five partial pumps are good. What that does is flex the pump head, making it more pliable. That allows the pump head to gather more air to compress and that gives you more velocity. On TV we saw a 40 f.p.s. rise in the velocity of an IZH 46. I have shown you many single strokes that respond to this process, so if you have one this is something to try.

Triggers

Single stroke triggers can be very light and crisp, thanks to how little they restrain. Daisy made theirs purposely hard and long because they knew kids would be using them, but they didn’t have to be. They can be light and crisp, too. In fact the trigger is one feature that I think makes the single stroke as well-received as it is. Remember how I praised the trigger on my FWB 600 target rifle?

Summary

The single stroke pneumatic powerplant is its own niche within the world of pneumatics. If you have never considered a single stroke, perhaps now is the time to rethink your strategy.

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.

24 thoughts on “A short history of the single stroke pneumatic airgun”

  1. B.B.,
    You forgot to mention the defunct Webley Paradigm. If memory serves me correct, the designer was in contact with a few manufacturers trying to sell the design and patent. Years have passed by since it was introduced, a Chinese company (Snow Peak) made an improved prototype, but nobody seemed interested and they dropped the project. If anyone can resurrect this project, it would be Pyramyd AIR, tell them we want a quality SSP rifle!

  2. All the SSP that I have shot have had supper sweet triggers. Sorry to hear about the Daisy’s. I think exception not the rule.
    Is a sweet trigger part of their inherent design?

    -Y

    • Yogi,
      About the Daisy/Avanti 853 series trigger:
      All the reviews of the stock 853 trigger say just what BB said – it’s lousy.

      However: I bought a used 853 from the Civilian Marksmanship program, and the trigger was excellent: Subjectively like a two-stage trigger: slight travel to a set point, and then a crisp break. Lifts 1 lb 9 oz (meeting the competition rule), breaks at 1 lb 12 oz.

      These used CMP air rifles were all used in ROTC or JROTC programs, typically for many years, typically sometimes used for competition. For mine, the trigger must have been reworked by someone who knew what he (or she) was doing. I suspect this is typical of these ex-ROTC rifles.

      This shows that the basic trigger design is sound, since the “sporter” competition rules tightly limit what you can do to the stock trigger: If I remember correctly, you can adjust and polish, maybe add an external adjustment screw, and that’s all.

      By the way, the CMP website says that these used 853s are still available complete for $125 plus $15 shipping: “Used Daisy 853 with seals replaced and Chronographed to meet factory velocity requirements.” If my trigger is typical, they would have to count as better than new.
      https://thecmp.org/sales-and-service/sporter-air-rifles/

      Guy Carden
      Spokane, Washington

  3. I’ll have to follow up on the offer I made a few month ago (and which Tom responded to me about) to write some words about the SSPs in my cabinet.

    I should also do a video on how to cock and load the Dragon! It isn’t at all difficult but there are still times I get mine into a silly state becaue I don’t use it enough….

    The sequence is mostly as above.
    * Open the pump arm
    * Cock the valve (press the button at the front of the trigger guard)
    * Close the pump arm
    * Load (the bolt is passive- it doesn’t do anything other than push the pellet into position and seal the breech)
    * Release safety
    * Fire

    On my Dragon if I forget to release the safety and pull the trigger the mechanism moves enough that the only way to fire is to then realease the safety since my trigger is no longer engaged.

    Some old forums suggest cocking the valve before openening the pump lever so you’re opening the pump arm on a closed system and the vacuum pulls the valve consistently closed.

    It is a lovely gun to take to a club on a sunny day!

    Tim

  4. I have the Baikal IZH-46M, my Izzy. To own one of these is an incredible experience in itself. These pistols are built like a rugged piece of farm equipment. With just a little care and maybe new seals (which are readily available) every once in a while, there is no reason this air pistol cannot compete one hundred years from now.

    What a trigger! It can be adjusted and tuned five ways from Sunday. Shoot?! Better than I can ever hope to!

    The AV-46M is the IZH-46M with a laminated grip. My guess is that Air Venturi and Baikal figured out how to get around the sanctions. I paid less than half of the price of the AV-46M for my Izzy when it was brand new. They are only going to go up in price. To get a better shooting air pistol, you will have to spend several hundred dollars more.

  5. I have a developed a soft spot for single stroke penumatic air pistols. I have never had a Weihrauch HW75, but a couple years ago I snagged a Sig Air Super Target on an auction site. If the HW75 is a Rolls Royce, then the Super Target is a Bugatti.

    For those that like the Beeman P17, I recommend Snow Peak’s ssp pistol, the S400. It’s essentially an oversized P17, with a much longer cocking lever. They come in both .177 and .22. The .22 has very low velocity, but its advantage over the .177 is that the pellets are easy to see loping to the target, so one can use them as tracers and adjust the aim accordingly. S400 pistols cock with perhaps half the effort of a P17. Also, some folks have found it easy to replace the barrel with a much longer one to increase the velocity. Below I’ve included a photo of an S400 above a P17 to demonstrate the size difference.

    Michael

      • BB

        This handsome rifle looks like a 10 meter competition rifle. The weight hardly is handy for carrying hunting. Guess I wrongly assumed it was made for competition that requires .177 caliber only..

        I like this report and thanks for the reminder about partial pumping. I have 3 single stroke guns but only do the partial pump to warm the seal before the first shot. I’m thinking if I do the same number of partial pumps before each shot it may even help accuracy at 25 yards.

        Deck

        • Deck,

          The Parker-Hale Dragon is “a single-stroke pneumatic rifle with enough power for hunting.” (I know, what hunting is it powerful enough for if it produces less than 12 foot-pounds?)

          Michael

          Michael

          • Michael,

            In .22 caliber at about 12 Foot Pounds: rabbit, hare, crow, doves, pheasant, turtle, iguana, squirrel, opossum, and maybe racoons at close range. All with better than average shot placement (anatomical) knowledge and shooter skills.
            Many pests are easily taken with .22 and 12 FP of energy.

            shootski

          • Michael

            I would have a good time finding out what size coin could hide 10 shots at 25 yards with this rifle. Again, this one catches my eye.

            Deck

  6. B.B.
    Oh one of my fav. style of air guns. I’ve never owned a SSP Pistol. Even though it was low power, Daisy used to make one that was popular in it’s day. That said, I think Daisy still makes a long gun. It’s listed on Daisy’s Site as the Daisy 2840. Some still show the Daisy Grizzly 840 but I believe it’s now the 2840. Again, low powered and smooth bore (hence why I said long gun and not rifle). I am too one of those who want this in a more powerful version, but, I’m not wanting the impossible. Just 600-625 fps. would be fine. I’m not sure why I like them, maybe it’s just they are ready to go with very little to make them shoot. Very quite and back yard friendly.

    Doc

  7. BB,

    I think of SSPs as close range PCPs. Love the PCP-like shooting cycle and simple springer-like convenience of the SSP.

    After the winter 10 meter season my 10 meter airguns see a lot of use for plinking small targets, sniping insects and some light pesting at moderate ranges.

    Have a holster for the FWB 100 which makes it easy to carry around on a walk about or a fishing outing.

    Still planning to make curly maple sporter stocks for my FWB 10 meter rifles.

    Hank

  8. I suppose the trio of Italian match pistols that appeared in the early 1980s deserve a mention – the Air Match 400/600, FAS 604 and Fiochi P10, sidelever, overlever and underlever respectively.

    It was Gamo who took the overlever layout and ran with it, first with the PR15 and then with the single-shot PR45 and Compact. The PR15 – recoilless, obviously, but with fixed sights and only firing 4.5mm lead ball – seems a bit odd but Gamo did have a bit of a thing with magazine-fed airguns.

    Iain

  9. This is one of my favorite power plants for the reasons BB cited in the article. I do wish there was something to replace Daisy’s offerings (still as a SSP) that is affordable. My children have begun the 4H air rifle project and finding a used rifle for them to practice with at home has been difficult. Instead I have them use a multi-pump with similar sights to the club’s guns.
    PCPs are allowed and one young man shoots with a Challenger; perhaps I’ll go the same route one of these days..

    • javagonzo,
      The CMP website says they still have used Daisy 853s available for $125 complete and re-sealed, better than new. See my response to Yogi above.
      https://thecmp.org/sales-and-service/sporter-air-rifles/

      The CMP website also says the Daisy Elite 753S (synthetic stock) is available new for $210 if you order through CMP. The Daisy website says $275, and “out of stock”, so the 753s may be gone.
      Guy Carden
      Spokane, Washington

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