This report covers:

  • Velocity
  • Caliber
  • Why?
  • There’s more
  • Weight
  • Foot-pounds
  • The 1995 Arctic Circle Invitational Field Target Match
  • The Billabong Screw-Shooter
  • Crossbows
  • Where are we going?
  • Summary

I believe there is no limit to the directions in which the hobby of airgunning is growing. Today I’d like to talk about that.

Velocity

We have lived through the velocity wars that began in the 1970s and ended in the 1990s when we hit 1,400 f.p.s. Oh, there are companies that say their guns shoot even faster than that, but in 28 years of testing BB Pelletier has only seen one shot that went faster than 1,500 f.p.s. without something funny (read that as oil in the compression  chamber of a springer) being done. So the velocity wars are over. We just haven’t stopped reading about them because there are always new marketeers who don’t know what they don’t know.

Caliber

Today it’s the battle of the biggies. How large can the calibers go? I remember when .25 caliber was thought of as too big, and not until precharged pneumatics became popular did it really take off. By then spring-piston powerplants had improved to the point that .25 caliber was really viable, but by that time “they” were making springers in .30 caliber and precharged pneumatic rifles in .35 caliber.

pellets
.30 and .35-caliber pellets are becoming normal.

Why?

Why do we need .30 caliber and .35 caliber pellets? Why, to shoot at 100 yards in windy conditions of course. And who thought of that? “They” did. And to make sure we paid attention they developed extreme sports that favored accuracy at that distance. And “they” offered huge cash prizes for those willing to spend the time to become good at shooting that far. These guys and gals who compete aren’t airgunners any more than pro wrestlers are really wrestling. It’s all for show. And “they” change the rules of their “extreme” sport the moment anyone other than their own company threatens to win. It would be like NASCAR changing the rules to say that only cars driven by hydrogen could compete. And then changing to electric cars when someone other than the brands that pay the biggest bucks to sponsor the race threatens to win. It’s not a sport and it’s not a competition — it’s the world’s most expensive paid commercial.                     

There’s more

Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. Since there are .45-caliber big bore airguns, they must all shoot pellets — right? So a 420-grain .458-caliber bullet that is the standard bullet for a .45/70 Trapdoor Springfield cartridge becomes a pellet when it’s shot in an AirForce Texan

And don’t get me started on calibers! But I guess I already did. You see there are 0.452-inch .45-caliber bullets and there are 0.458-inch .45-caliber bullets and the marketing staff just doesn’t get it. On Monday we all learned that over a century ago Remington made their .41-caliber bullets about 5 thousandths of an inch smaller so the higher pressure of smokeless powder wouldn’t blow up derringers made for black powder. But airgun makers and purveyors don’t understand that 0.452-inch bullets go a lot slower in 0.458-inch barrels than they do in 0.451-inch barrels. I have seen guys open dial calipers 5 thousandths of an inch, look at the gap and say that little space couldn’t possibly make a difference. Okay — just try to shoot a group at 50 yards with bullets/pellets 5 thousandths smaller than your bore and tell me what you think. It’s been said many times guys — size does matter!

caliper
Five thousandths of an inch doesn’t look like much, does it? With 12,000 psi behind it, it is — even with 1,000 psi!

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Weight

What the developers finally figured out was pellet weight is the key to power in pneumatics. If the airgun is a PCP more pellet weight means more power.

Foot-pounds

Never mind that 350 foot-pounds is all it takes to kill a deer reliably when the diameter of the bullet is sufficient. Manufacturers think we want more. We need more! Well, BB once took that to its illogical conclusion. Let’s now read about the 1995 Arctic Circle Invitational Field Target Match.

The 1995 Arctic Circle Invitational Field Target Match

Distinguished airgun designer Elvis B. Phargone has done it again — or so says Alaskan field target champion Gelbert Schnee. Readers will recall that Mr. Schnee won last year’s Arctic Circle Field Target Invitational held at Point Barrow on December 26.

According to Gelb, the newest Phargone invention is a single-stroke pneumatic rifle producing approximately 40 ft-lbs of energy–not at the muzzle, but at the target! “We really need this kind of performance in polar competition,” said the three-time Arctic Circle champion, “because the crosswind is seldom less than 20 mph on clam [sic] days.”

Constructed from an M79 grenade launcher, the new gun propels a two-inch, 454-gram (7000 grains or one pound) round ball at 30 f.p.s. It is ideally suited to the unique requirement of the northern competition. The Point Barrow range is completely vertical, with firing points on the catwalk of the town’s communications tower, where Schnee is employed as an antenna cleaner. Gravity boosts the ponderous projectile to about 200 f.p.s. by the time it reaches the highly modified targets below.

The new gun also has a broader attachment point for sights, which Schnee praises. “In the Arctic Circle/Tundra Airgun Association (ACTAA), we mount surplus Norden bomb sights on our guns instead of scopes. The new rifle accommodates them perfectly. Now, all we need is to get some shooters from the lower 48 to come up here and compete with us.”

And that wasn’t the only announcement BB had that day of October 26, 2009. 

The Billabong Screw-Shooter


The Billabong Air Gun Company of Laleche, Wisconsin, announced today their latest sporting air rifle — the Screw-Shooter. Long plagued by the rising cost of quality barrels, Billabong President Harleigh Werthit revealed that his company’s latest creation isn’t rifled at all! In fact, it doesn’t really have a barrel in the traditional sense. Although the new design is closely protected by patents, The Airgun Letter was able to learn that the revolutionary Screw-Shooter is based on studies recently completed by famous airgun researcher Elvis B. Phargone, in which some of the functions of the barrel and projectile are exchanged. In Phargone’s latest triumph, the barrel is a hollow tube of soft lead encased in a plastic pipe, and the pellet is made of hardened steel with a reverse rifling pattern machined on the outside. When the pellet travels down the bore, its spiral “rifling” grabs the soft lead walls of the barrel and literally screws its way out of the gun. “Concerns over barrel quality have become a relic of the past,” said the Billabong chief.

The company expects sales of the new gun to boom once thrifty airgunners realize they can reuse the same pellet hundreds of times. The need for frequent barrel changes offsets the savings a bit, but optimistic company officials see a day when shooters will buy barrel replacements like they once bought tins of ammunition.

From the company that gave the world its only commercial cow-patty launcher, now comes the Billabong Screw-Shooter – an honest attempt at ending the airgun quality race, forever.

Crossbows

With apologies to The Bow Bully, crossbows used to shoot 350 f.p.s. and everyone was amazed. Now they are pushing into the higher 400 f.p.s. range and the airguns that launch arrows have already hit 600 f.p.s. Why? Well “they” say higher velocity gives a flatter trajectory, less need to estimate the range to the target and a better chance of impacting the animal before it moves in reaction to the sound. All true and where does that leave Robin Hood?

Where are we going?

Never think this trend will ever stop. It goes on forever. Currently soldiers are trained to shoot with scopes instead of open sights. Open sights have been called back-up-iron-sights (BUIS) for more than a decade. But there are now firearms that only fire when pointed at an intended target. Sig has already ventured into this field for civilian arms by designing an electronic scope that determines the range to target and then adjusts the reticle automatically, based on the data input for the load being shot. When will that become the norm? And will airgunners want that? Twenty years ago I would have said they will never want thermal imaging sights. Now everybody wants one.

Summary

You say you want a real wood and steel airgun? It’s time to mount you on a pedestal because you are a dinosaur like me.