This report covers:
- Infinite bullets
- Thunder Burp
- M1 Garand
- Sheridan Blue Streak
- More power!
- A better way
- The Dragonfly Mark 2
Today I want to discuss something we all deal with in one way or another — technology. Because this is an airgun blog I will try to keep my comments focused on the shooting sports, though I may have to depart occasionally. Here we go.
When I was a boy one of my favorite TV shows (we’re talking the early 1950s when family TVs just began to be popularized. We had one with a huge 11-inch screen that was housed in a wooden cabinet the size of a washing machine, but taller) was Captain Video and his Video Rangers, of which I was one. I got a Captain Video ray gun for my fifth birthday. At least I was told that it was a Captain Video ray gun. It turns out that Captain Video’s Secret Ray Gun was a pistol while mine was the size of a submachine gun. But I couldn’t read that much so what did I know?
It was a Japanese-made tinplate toy with colorfully lithographed buttons and switches all over. The gun’s body was smooth — nothing stood proud, so you had to use your imagination to use the gun. It did have a trigger that made sparks come out of the muzzle, but that was all that worked. Still, I played with it for hours and loved it for a long time. I think I wore the sparker out.
Though this is not the gun I had, it looked very much like this.
Whenever my friend and I would have “gunfights” he always insisted that I stop to reload, but I told him I didn’t have to because my gun had infinite bullets. You see, he was fighting me with his cap pistol, which we both knew was a six-shooter. Too many shows on TV told us both that was how many shots you got before it was time to reload.
I, on the other hand, brandished a gun from the distant future, so infinite bullets seemed like a possibility. What I didn’t realize (I was five) was my gun was a ray gun! It didn’t use bullets at all. It shot energy! That’s what the sparks at the muzzle were supposed to be. But I understood bullets. Energy and rays were unknown to me at the time. Besides, I didn’t like to reload. That took time and a guy could get killed.
A few years later I got a Mattel Thunder Burp submachine gun for my birthday. Hmmm, is a pattern forming? The Thunder Burp was great because all you did was pull the lever back and the gun was cocked and loaded — no messing around with drums, stick magazines or ammo belts. It took a little more effort but not much. Plus it made rat-a-tat-tat sounds that the other guys could hear. No need to imagine.
The Thunder Burp. Pull the round handle back and the gun sounds like a machine gun. No batteries required!
The nicest thing about the Thunder Burp was the fact that it needed no batteries. Batteries were hard for kids to come by in the 1950s, and they cost money — something we had a vast shortage of. The gun worked by a spring and it worked fine until it didn’t, which in my case came after a couple of months.
When I was a teenager I learned about the M1 Garand. It was from World War II and that stuff was very popular in the 1950s. In my imagination it could shoot through 10 feet of solid steel. And I read history stories about how the Japanese Arasaka 6.5 mm cartridge was so puny that getting shot with one felt like a bee sting. Yep — reporters actually wrote stuff like that and boy — was I a dope!
But what did I know? At the time the Garand was a successful design and the .30-06 round looked like a rocket to me. So I imagined that it was. Then I read about the .300 Weatherby Magnum and the .30-06 became a peashooter round. I knew the .300 Weatherby could actually shoot through 3-inches of bulletproof glass at 100 yards. It wasn’t 10 feet of steel, but I was still impressed.
Sheridan Blue Streak
I’ll fast-forward to 1978, when I acquired a Sheridan Blue Streak — an airgun I had coveted ever since my subscription to Boy’s Life many years before. Wow — a real Blue Streak! Boy Howdy, was I lucky guy! A few years earlier I had seen and operated a Blue Streak that had the thumb safety that you held down to render the rifle ready to shoot. That one was a mistake, I thought. That safety was in the exact wrong place to hold down comfortably when you held the rifle. No wonder so many of them are found with a toothpick jammed in the safety slot to hold it down permanently.
It was supposed to operate like the grip safety on an M1911A1, but it was positioned so far from where the thumb wanted to rest that it was clumsy to depress. So shooters held it down in a variety of ways, with the most common being to wedge a toothpick in the slot with the safety depressed and to break it off flush with the stock. In other words no safety — ever!
The Blue Streak and Silver Streak (this one is BB’s Silver Streak) thumb safety (arrow) was an idea that sounded good but didn’t work.
The rocker safety model that followed the thumb safety is considered the most desirable of all the Sheridan model Cs, though a nice example of the thumb safety may command more money due to its age. Rocker safeties were produced from 1963 to 1991.
The rocker safety on this Blue Streak was exactly what Sheridan needed.
But “we” wanted more power. Blue Streaks topped out in the 13-14 foot-pound range. I have seen them modified to get up to as much as 25 foot-pounds, but at the sacrifice of a 100-pound pumping effort for the final few strokes.
Then Titan in the UK came out with a sidelever multi-pump that got the same 25 foot-pounds with less than 80 pounds of pump effort on the fourth and fifth pumps. Daystate took over that design, but it sold in the $600 price range back when Blue Streaks still cost $135. Big difference!
A better way
In 2006 I visited Pyramyd AIR and saw (and pumped) something that became known as the “pump-assist Benjamin 392.” It was unbelievable, because the pump force never increased as the number of strokes did. The rifle still had the top-end power of an unmodified rifle, but the reduced pump effort was fabulous! It made a multi-pump worth the effort!
Several (20?) of the 392s were hand-modified, but at $100+ extra over the retail price, the gun never caught on. Then I heard that Crosman was considering putting it into their lineup. Who better, I thought? But it never happened. Crosman lost sight of their future and they haven’t recovered it to this day.
Then came a day at the SHOT Show a few years ago when I was told in private that Air Venturi was going to do it (add the pump-assist) to their Dragonfly. I wanted it to be called the Butterfly and they liked the name but it crossed a line with some other business interests and couldn’t be done.
The Dragonfly Mark 2
Well, they actually did it! Air Venturi brought out a pump-assist multi-pump for under $200 because it was designed that way from the start. Air Venturi saw the end, which is success for them.
Did it happen with all smooth sailing, maypoles and baskets of puppies? Nope. There have been startup issues. But they (Air Venturi) are on top of them. Instead of kicking pallets of rifles off the tailgate and letting their service department ride herd on the situation, Air Venturi is in it for the long haul. They want it to be an ongoing success. Imagine that! Why, this could bring them in good business for many years to come. Huh? It’s almost like they want to succeed.
Hey, I wrote a whole report without resorting to technology outside the shooting sports one time! Let’s see, where do we go from here?
The Dragonfly Mark 3 needs:
- More power
- A better trigger
- .25 caliber (or so the jungle drums are saying)
- Better sights and scope-mounting possibilities
Maybe partner with an optics maker to make a nice super-short scope. Let me think — why, Leapers is in Livonia, Michigan, a Detroit suburb just hours from Cleveland. Think Beeman SS4.
In the immortal words of Baron von Frankenstein’s grandson,
IT COULD WORK!!!!!