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BB’s new USFT rifle: Part 1

USFT
BB’s USFT rifle.

This report covers:

  • Back to the rifle
  • The rifle
  • Bolt action
  • Adjustable
  • Benjamin Discovery
  • Accurate
  • |Filling
  • Trigger and hammer
  • Conclusion

Today we start what I hope will be a very long series on my new/old USFT rifle. USFT stands for United States Field Target. It is a purpose-built air rifle made to compete in the sport of field target.

My new rifle is number 92. My other one that I reported on in 2007 was number 57. That makes this one just a little newer, though it is not new by any stretch of the imagination. I got it from reader Frank B. and I believe he got it from former reader Wacky Wayne.

USFT number
This USFT is number 92.

If you go back to read that old report you will see that I disguised the fact that Tom Gaylord is also BB Pelletier. But on October 18 of 2007 I came clean in a report titled Who am I. I tell you this so the newer readers won’t be confused.

Back to the rifle

The USFT is the invention of Larry Durham and Tim McMurray. I first saw one at my DIFTA field target club in Maryland. Steve Schultz, one of our top shooters, had purchased one and I was blown away by it. It got 55 powerful shots of Beeman Kodiaks going out at almost 900 f.p.s. on a fill of just 1800 psi! How was that even possible, I wondered?

It was possible because of the huge air reservoir under the free-floated barrel. The air pressure may not have been that high but there was sure plenty of it. By leaving the firing valve open a few milliseconds longer, the air was able to push the pellet out the barrel and yet not be wasted. The USFT valve is engineering at its finest, and I do mean engineering, because this is a low-rate production air rifle — not a one-off. Yes, it is hand assembled, adjusted and tested, but it does qualify as a low-rate production item.

The rifle I saw in Maryland was not actually a USFT. It was one of seven handmade rifles that the maker, Larry Durham, called Simple Simons. And I’m sure that it and the six others like it served as the prototype for the USFT.

The rifle

The USFT I’m reporting on today is approximately 42-inches long. I say approximately because the length of the buttpad is adjustable. It’s also difficult to give a weight for this rifle because it is so highly adaptable and has many accessories that can be added. The rifle in the picture at the top of this page weighs 11 lbs. 12 oz. The barrel is 25 inches long and, if I recall my USFT history, it could be a Weihrauch barrel, but is more likely a Lothar Walther barrel.

Bolt action

The rifle is a bolt action, though not like one you have ever seen. The “bolt” rotates smoothly to the right (on this rifle — lefties are and were available) to reveal the breech. You load the pellet directly into the breech.

USFT breech closed
The breech is closed.

USFT breech open
The breech is open.

The thing I’m calling a bolt really isn’t. It’s a moveable air transfer port that rotates aside to give access to the breech for loading.

I wondered what the heck the round black knurled knob is on the right side  and above the grip. It doesn’t seem to move in any direction. Then it dawned on me — I think it’s a thumbrest for a right-handed shooter. It’s in the right position for that.

Adjustable

Yes, it looks like a science project or a still for a submarine, but the USFT is a shrine to function following form. When you get into the WFTF-approved shooting position, the USFT fits better than any air rifle made. And it out-shoots most of them — the big-name guys included. It’s so perfect that parts of its design have been declared illegal for official competition. And that when there are gizmos and harnesses for shooters that are purpose-built!

Find a Hawke Scope

Benjamin Discovery

My encounter with the Simple Simon and with the USFT is what prompted me to suggest to Crosman the rifle that became known as the Benjamin Discovery. They didn’t think it was possible to push .177 pellets up to 1,000 f.p.s. on air at 2,000 psi until their engineer, Ed Schultz, modified two 2260s — one in .177 and the other in .22. The .177 got almost 1000 f.p.s and the .22 got 850 from the start. This is just an aside to recognize where the idea came from.

Accurate

The USFT is so accurate that practically no air rifle on the planet can match it. My first rifle was sent with a test target that was shot at 51 yards, Twenty-five pellets passed through a group that measures 0.663-inches between centers.

USFT test target
The test target that was sent with my first USFT.

This target was shot in a test tunnel where air could not disturb the pellets, but then I shot a 5-shot group at 50 yards on a windy day (15 mph from 6 o’clock) with that same rifle. Those five JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into a group that measures 0.355-inches between centers.

USFT target
My first USFT put five JSB Exact Heavy pellets into a 0.355-inch group at 50 yards on a windy day.

Filling

I don’t know for certain how high this new rifle needs to be filled. My first rifle said to fill to 1800 psi MWP (maximum working pressure) but a chronograph check proved that 1650 psi is what it liked. The current rifle says the same thing on the receiver and I will naturally do the same test.

USFT fill port and gauge
The fill port is covered by a protective cap. The gauge is custom made for the USFT.

Trigger and hammer

The trigger is delightfully light. My other one released at 3 ounces and we shall see with this one. To cock the hammer, which is very light, you pull it back until the sear catches it. You can also cock the sear without the hammer for dry-firing.

USFT hammer down
The hammer is down on the rebounding valve stem. This is the fired position.

USFT hammer cocked
Here the hammer is cocked and held by the sear.

As you can see, the parts are exposed for servicing and where possible, adjustment. Even the firing valve can be removed for servicing with a tool sold by Mac1. The USFT is made for owner servicing, though many owners report two decades of use without replacing so much as a seal or o-ring. And that leads me to the conclusion of this report.

Conclusion

Yes, I did own a USFT rifle many years ago and, yes I did test it for you. At the time, though, my testing regimen hadn’t been as fully developed as it is today. There are also wonderful new pellets on the market that didn’t exist back then. That rifle is long gone so my plan is to test the heck out of this new/old rifle for you. I may even use it as a testbed for some experiments we have discussed.

87 thoughts on “BB’s new USFT rifle: Part 1”

  1. Tom,

    Around here in the Philippines we call it a swinging breech. I’m amazed at how compact the breech of the USFT is compared to our local ones. A lot of precision machining not possible with our boutique airgun makers.

    Siraniko

  2. Tom
    Now, that’s a Friday blog!
    You mention “free floated barrel” but in the photo seems it’s attached to the air cylinder. Is there something I don’t know or understand? For certain I learned that the thumb doesn’t go round the pistol grip. What a great clean, purpose built design. Even beautiful to my eyes.

  3. What an awesome air rifle! I have known of these for some time and have drooled after one forever! I myself do not “need” one, but I do “want” the Hunter version. This thing is the pinnacle of PCP air rifles. All manufacturers should buy one of these for their engineering departments so as to teach them that you do not need to have massive air pressure to make a powerful airgun.

    I had a .177 Talon SS that operated best at 1900 PSI. It was easy to fill with a hand pump. The old timey big bore air rifles used 600-800 PSI. The Discovery / Maximus uses 2000 PSI. I do not know about the Gen 2, but the Gen 1 Marauders were tunable to 2000 PSI. Why do you need 4500 PSI in your airgun?

    • >>> Why do you need 4500 PSI in your airgun? <<<

      I equate reservoir volume in a PCP to the gas tank in a vehicle. The bigger the tank, the less often you have to stop and refill.

      Gas is not compressible but air is so there is the option (hardware permitting) to put more "fuel" in the PCP reservoir to increase the number of shots between refills.

      Higher pressure air has more potential energy so less volume of air is required per shot.

      With a regulated PCP, any pressure above the reg set pressure is available for consistent velocity shots. You don't HAVE to fill to maximum pressure but more pressure equals more shots.

      There is a safety thing as well. You can easily/inadvertently/dangerously overfill a 2,000 psi capable airgun from a 4,500 psi HPA tank where as that is not a problem with a 4,500 psi capable airgun.

      RR,

      I know that you know all this. As a senior contribor (meant in a nice way) to this blog, your opinions are highly respected and I just wanted to offer the flip side of the coin to the people who might be new to PCP airguns… I feel that you don't NEED to have 4,500 psi (maximum shot count) capability but it's nice to have the option to fill to whatever level your HPA source has available.

      Just my 2 cents.

      Hank

      • Hank,

        From one senior to another, I do indeed understand the high pressures and regulators used these days to boost shot counts between fills. Your explanations for said newbies is a wise thing as many may not understand my bemoaning that manufacturers are not producing more lower pressure airguns.

        What many newbies do not understand is that most airguns with regulators use less than 2000 PSI to propel the projectiles downrange. I have a .22 Maximus, which only fills to 2000 PSI. I get about 20-25 good shots from it. I easily fill it with a hand pump. I also use a hand pump to fill my .22 Talon SS.

        I have a compressor and a large carbon fiber tank, but since I traded off my .357 HM1000X, I only need them for my .457 Texan LSS when I am at the range. I can fill it with a hand pump, but it only gets about 3-5 shots per fill. That makes for a lot of pumping.

        Something else to point out is that higher pressures allow for higher velocities from shorter barrels. Of course, that requires silencers to make the airguns more “backyard friendly”, which defeats the purpose of shorter barrels IMMHO. Shorter barrels reduce the manufacturing cost of various airguns, but the aftermarket folks do not mind.

        On typing out this little blurb, I realized that all of the gals who live here at RRHFWA are single shot and that’s OK. It forces me to make each shot count. Maybe one day I will get another multi-shot airgun, but I doubt it. I am still looking for lower pressures. 😉

        • RR

          Not much is said about the Gamo Urban which has been around long enough to grow a beard. My .22 Urban is hand pump friendly having a sweet spot starting about 185 BAR. It gets 25 good shots at 25 yards and can often outshoot my FWB300S using AA 16 grain domes.. While I usually prefer single shot airguns the Urban’s mag is the cat’s meow. Reliable with a counter, it holds 10 pellets. This gun also has some muscles to flex if desired.

          Deck

          • Deck,

            I have often considered the Urban as I have heard nothing but good things about it, which is amazing as it is a Gamo. As I lack and desire a “powerful” .177, this could end up on the short list. I am not too crazy about that pistol grip stock, but if I can shoot it thumb up rather than around, I might be able to do something with it.

          • This is intended for RR, the Gamo Urban is made by BSA (who was bought by them), with Gamo plastic furniture – and is only in .22. I have one, and it’s a very nice gun. Pretty accurate. At one time they were very inexpensive on the Walmart site, probably because a lot of Walmart customers had no idea they were PCP and returned them??

        • RidgeRunner,

          I agree with the Physics but will add a practical factor.
          Short barreled rifles are more maneuverable in the tight spots of dense timber and brush.
          Also in junkyards and other urban settings for hunting the Norways!

          shootski

          • shootski,

            I do understand the issue of maneuverability, but I have found that is not much of an issue with me, although I can well imagine it can be for others. I myself tend to avoid tight, confining spaces. I would not make a good tunnel rat.

  4. B.B.

    Congratulations! Between this and the Whiscolm double cocker, you have 2 of the finest ever made. You see these , and Larry, at several state FT Championships. He is quite the character. He loves to tell you how smart he is and everything that you are doing wrong! Even at his advanced age, and declining health, he is still a terrific shot. He rubs many people the wrong way. However, I like talking to him, I’m used to being around very smart people and their personality kwerks do not bother me since I am the “black sheep” in my family.

    I still do not understand why PCP’s, even Pricepoint-less PCP’s can not have a modular trigger of some quality?
    Enjoy the weekend,

    -Yogi

  5. “The USFT is made for owner servicing, though many owners report two decades of use without replacing so much as a seal or o-ring.” Wish all airguns were made like that, but this is one of FM’s pipe dreams. No pun intended this time.

  6. BB

    This one is up there with the Whiscombe meaning it qualifies as the most interesting airgun I have ever heard of since the early big bores.

    How big is that air reservoir?

    Deck

  7. BB,

    Impressive accuracy! I’m not into FT so I’ve never seen/heard of one of these airguns.

    Being the kinda guy who is constantly cobbling together projects from odds and sods re-purposed parts the design really appeals to me. A prime example of form following function! Love it!

    Hank

    • Hank! You cannot possibly like this air rifle! It has a maximum fill pressure of 1800 PSI! 😉

      I have dreamed of owning an USFT Hunter for many years. David Enoch mentions he has one. Ah, if wishes were fishes…

  8. B.B.,
    Yowzer! That is some impressive accuracy!
    And, as an engineer, I have to admire this rifle for the design aspects of it alone.
    Very cool. 🙂
    Blessings to you,
    dave

  9. BB

    I know that my visual acuity (as well as my mental) have been slipping as I age, but I could swear that the scope rail on that rifle is “canted” to the right. I have seen people do that with ARs when shooting in speed matches, but never anywhere else. Am I in need of having my prescription for my glasses checked?

    I am sure that the barrel length goes a long way in enabling this rifle to get that many powerful shots from such relatively low power. My Challenger 2009 gets as many, but lowered power, from the same.

    There was a comment about regulators, above, their allowing higher fill pressures. I didn’t notice a mention of one on this rifle. Therein is the magic of air gun design,, maintaining accuracy as the pressure drops like my C. 2009 and my Mrod do. Do you think there is enough about that to warrant a report?

    Ed

    • Ed,

      You are getting ahead of me. These early rifles don’t have regulators. They have balanced valves that work like regs. but don’t break down. The later rifles can have regs if the customer desires.

      Yes the scope base is canted. That goes back to how the rifle fits the shooter in the WFTF seated position.

      BB

      • BB

        As to the cant, I can see where it wouldn’t make much difference if one shot at a given distance, but wouldn’t that interfere with holdover or changing the “number of clicks”, if one used that method to adjust for the different distances in field target shooting?

        Ed

          • BB

            I think I get it, now. It is a matter of the most ergonomic position for holding the gun,, then placing the scope on the same vertical axis as the barrel. Is FT shot from any other position than sitting? (Definitely showing my ignorance of the sport, now).. Likely not if the gun is purpose built for that position,, but I thought I’d ask.
            Ed

  10. “may even use it as a testbed for some experiments we have discussed.”

    Being a very “interesting” rifle one would hope it is also not pellet picky. If that’s the case, then it seems to be a useful tool for evaluating pellet characteristics and performance apart from the rifle’s performance.

  11. Vana2 and hihihi,

    PLAY NICE!
    you are both right and wrong for the WRONG reason!
    This is a good piece for every airgunner: https://www.cradle-cfd.com/media/column/a70
    One other thing is the loss of efficiency of compressing air much above about 3,600PSI (240BAR/24281.1 kPa) since the gas laws come into difficult times with air in that region and above.
    Notice that FX and others take that into consideration with maximum reservoir pressure on the PANTHERA and other hpa cylinder. Even though I could pressurize my DAQs well above 3,600psi it really does NOT provide more shots or power as you have learned in the linked tutorial.

    shootski

    • Great stuff shootski!

      PLAY NICE??? Always! I appreciate comments and love to stir the pot – like it even better when someone retaliates 😉 Anytime something “unusual” happened in the office they would blame/credit the Hankster LOL! Being retired I kinda miss that interaction, but then my coworkers are probably relieved!

      Interesting read/review, it’s been a long time since I thought about flow characteristics in detail. For now, I’ll just default to the generally accepted premise that…

      >>> Liquids are always considered to be incompressible fluids, as density changes caused by pressure and temperature are small. <<<

      Thanks for the link, enjoyed that!

      Hank

      • Vana2,

        I didn’t spend much time in offices (thank heavens) but many a victim found a full glass of water inverted on their desk!
        I always enjoyed creating and doing pranks that were developed and took weeks or even months to complete.

        shootski

  12. BB,
    I have a USFT Hunter. It is an early one, I believe it’s #12. It is one of the few Hunter models I have seen with a canted grip and is a left handed gun. I just love cocking the hammer, swinging over the swiveling transfer port or breach, loading and closing the lever. It gives me a slow rhythm similar to cocking, loading, and closing a break barrel which I just love. I much prefer that slow rhythm to shooting a magazine fed gun. I like to savor each shot.
    David Enoch

    • David,

      David, David! We need pictures and velocities and targets.

      Why, you could even be a guest and write your own blog series on that Hunter, 🙂

      BB

      • B.B.,

        I hope David at the very least shares some pictures, targets and hopefully a few stories that will enlighten us all about Tim’s Hunter model.
        It will hurt bad because i came real close to pulling the trigger after extensive discussions with Tim; I still feel bad about all of his time i took up and then didn’t buy it. I think I made a big mistake on that one!
        I lost interest in the game of Field Target/Benchrest when it became a big money people equipment sport. Some might see Tim and LD’s air rifle as big money but they probably never saw or heard the price on a Thomasrifles.com product with a SUPER expensive scope and a super expensive Custom Precision Mechanical Rest.
        In your old USFT blog one of the commenters clearly voices the frustration of an “average” typical early FT shooter.

        David i’m interested in whatever you would like to share about your Hunter!

        shootski

        • shootski,

          I too stayed away from FT because it became a “money” sport. It started out as a bunch of hunters looking for something to do in the off season and continue to sharpen their skills and morphed into who has the most money, wins. So many left the sport that they created a hunter class to try and draw them back.

  13. Replacing the stock with a large air container kind of makes it a shooting ‘Device’ with a rifled barrel. One that makes good use of air.
    I have a shooting device that fills to 100 PSI. It can be filled with a foot operated bicycle tire air pump and uses a 9v battery to operate a lawn sprinkler shut-off valve as its air transfer valve and will put a 1/2″ diameter steel bolt through 3/4″ plywood. However, it only gets one shot per fill.
    Wonder if anybody ever considered an airgun that shoots sabot slugs? Probably not accurate enough, unless the sabot is designed to transfer spin.

    • Bob,

      I’ve been toying with a low pressure air powered design built around a rifled Hastings 12 guage slug barrel and an old fire extinguisher. Figure on using a small 125 psi shop compressor as an air source.

      Initial thoughts are more for an artillery style proof of concept project but it could (possibly) be a shoulder fired novelty 🙂

      Bonus is that there is a ready supply of off the shelf “.62 caliber” projectiles (ball, breneke, foster and sabotted slugs) available for it.

      …Going for big caliber bragging rights LOL!

      Hank

      • LOL! Gary Barnes used to make an .87 caliber air rifle. Keep going! I do like the idea of a .62 caliber though, and the low air pressure. I look forward to “hearing” more.

      • Hank,
        Glad to hear you are working on a low pressure big bore. The projectile diameter (friction) to barrel area (pressure) ratio goes down with the larger barrel diameter. You should get some good energy out of it. Based on some extreme extrapolation I would expect about 31 foot pounds at 200 feet/second with a 350 grain projectile using 125 pounds per square inch pressure. I hope my extrapolation is wrong and the efficiency goes up with the larger barrel. I will have to check on my potato cannon numbers.
        Best of luck looking forward to your results.
        Don

        • Thank Don!

          It’s a low priority project at the moment – too many other things on my plate. Early in the design right now as I’m still mulling over the basic configuration.

          I’ll contact you for your advice once I have something I can share. I’m learning FreeCAD to do the design in.

          Cheers!
          Hank

      • Vana2,

        Hank wrote; “…Going for big caliber bragging rights”
        Okay now!
        You will have me by 0.045 caliber…but I’ll bring up my .58 (.575) DAQ Pistol and .58 (.575) DAQ short rifle and we will just see.
        286+ grain ball at 100 or .350 grain bullets (slugs) at 100!
        High Noon on the day of your choice!
        Time to SHOW or DEGAS them and RUN! Lol!

        shootski

      • RR
        No wood on my Bounty Hunter …. Evike managed to retain a little wood on their Sniper PCP cheek rest. The Purdy Ladies in fine wood are fading away but I think some will always be around to be had. That is if UPS will drive through muddy roads to deliver them!

    • Bob M,

      Seth Roland aka: Blach Hog Down is your man. He and I talked about bullets (slugs) hollowpoint with synthetic ballistic tips as well as sabot use a few decades ago in rifled Big Bores.

      shootski

  14. This type of valve system is popular in Phillipine airguns, and I never understood why it isn’t popular in the West. It has a lot of advantages.

    Speaking of accuracy, how does this airgun hold up against, say, the newest Feinwerkbau / Walther match air rifle?

    • Mel83,

      Those USFT targets were shot scoped at 50 yards not indoors at 10M with non optical sights..
      They were also shot with “older” dome pellets and not wadcutters.
      Purpose built for wildly different competitions.
      Red Apples to Blood Oranges comes to mind.

      shootski

  15. Something like this would provide an afternoon of fun.
    PVC air reservoir, barrel, grip, air cross over tube and valve mount, screw on rear insertion cap with pusher tube to pass air valve opening. Smaller tube to mount cheap scope to, (Optional with weaver mount) and contain 9v battery. Fire control button placement optional, as well as 100psi air servicing valve stem. Wood spacer blocks with clamps.
    (Not recommended for people under 18) Could be dangerous to use if not constructed safely, properly or well maintained.
    Foam coffee cup seal and sabot material. Shoot anything that will fit inside, dead frogs or whatever.

  16. Well, well,
    Looks like bump stocks are legal again. Machinegun classification was always referring to the trigger action. Not the shooters or the operation. One pull, one shot prevails.

  17. Tom,

    I fondly remember the blog in which you have a picture of Wacky Wayne stopping by your house on the way to an FT competition with his USFT. That was my first introduction to this approach to PCPs.

    I also remember the “Liege Lock” air rifles. :^)

    Michael

  18. Awesome.
    How much you have to suffer to purchase one? (perhaps somebody already ask about the price… if yes – I must be blind).
    The difference between man and boys is the price of their toys…

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