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Seven simple things every airgunner should know

This report covers:

  • Item 1 — the tissue paper test 
  • Why this test for the two forty?
  • Item 2 — soapy water
  • Item 3 — the audible leak
  • Item 4 — the bent barrel
  • Item 5 — “fixing” a single stroke pneumatic (SSP)
  • Item 6 — miracle ATF sealant oil
  • Item 7 — Tune in a Tube
  • Over to you

Today I will present seven things I think an airgunner should know. I wanted to call this seven simple tests, but it’s more than just tests.

Reader Yogi gets the credit for this report. His comment on the Diana two forty report went:

B.B., How about the tissue test to see if that breech seal really makes a difference?”

I should have done that test, or suggested it, but I forgot. Yogi reminded me, but it was the other blog comments that caught my eye. Apparently some of you don’t know what this test is. Several of you do know about it and you agreed with Yogi, but I thought if anybody doesn’t know this one, they need to.

Item 1 — the tissue paper test 

The tissue paper test is to determine whether or not a breakbarrel spring-piston pellet rifle or pistol leaks air at the breech when it fires. By placing a small piece of tissue paper over the breech when the gun fires you can detect the smallest air leak. The tissue paper will be blown by the air.

You don’t have to use tissue paper. Flour placed above the breech joint will also give a good indication of a leak. It’s just a messier way to test.

Why this test for the two forty?

So, if I plan to shim the breech seal anyway, and yes, I do plan to show you how I remove the seal and also how I shim it, then why do the test? I do it for two good reasons. First, I do it to see if I can detect any leaking at the breech and secondly, I do it so that if I do find leakage and fix it with the breech seal shim, we will know whether or not that “fix” worked and even perhaps to what extent, if it didn’t fix it completely. Yes, a chronograph is a good instrument to have, and in the test and shim fix of the two forty rifle you are hopefully going to see that, but if you are on a budget, tissue paper is cheaper.

Item 2 — soapy water

Soapy water is good for testing for and locating leaks in pneumatics and CO2 guns. Mix dishwashing detergent (Dawn, if you can get it) with tap water. If you get the mixture of dishwashing detergent and water correct, any leaks will form bubbles that tell right where the leak is.

But there is more to this. The more soap that’s in the water, the bigger will be the bubbles that form. Less soap produces smaller bubbles and more of them. Smaller bubbles form and break faster and can help you pinpoint that leak better than the big bubble. The big bubble shows how fast the air or CO2 is leaking by how fast the bubble inflates.

Item 3 — the audible leak

You’re at an airgun show and there’s no good way to use soapy water. Depending on where the leak is, you may be able to hear it. If the firing valve is leaking you may be able to hear it at the muzzle. But don’t put the muzzle up to your ear! Instead, put your ear alongside the muzzle and use a hand to direct the sound over to your ear. This works surprisingly well and I have done it many times at airgun shows.

The show floor will generally be too noisy to hear anything less than a full-blown rapid leak. So find a place where it’s quiet enough to perform this test. You might have to step outside.

Build a Custom Airgun

Item 4 — the bent barrel

This is so easy to see and yet yours truly has failed to do it and gotten stuck with a lemon. This is for breakbarrel springers only, I think. I mean, I hope!

Simply hold the airgun almost as if you were going to shoot it, but not quite high enough for that. You want your head to be to the left or right side of the barrel, looking from the breech towards the muzzle. I prefer doing this on the left side of the airgun. Look down the outside of the barrel and fix your eyes on the muzzle end that is farthest from you. You aren’t looking down the sights when you do this. You are looking down the top of the outside of the barrel. If there is a bend you should be able to see it clearly this way.

bent barrel;
They won’t all be this obvious, but this is what a bent barrel can look like.

Most barrels bend right after they emerge from the base block. They are the result of the barrel closing too rapidly. The owner will tell you that the barrel slipped when he was cocking it, and I suppose in one case out of a hundred that’s the truth. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. The other 99 times he cocked the rifle and then pulled the trigger to see how fast the mainspring would close the barrel. Think of a switchblade knife. No one has ever confessed to me that they did this, yet I can tell by looking at their airgun that’s what happened. In many cases the stock will also have cracked from the sudden force.

For more information on this one, read Bending airgun barrels.

Reader Rick Klages also did a guest blog on this one.

Item 5 — “fixing” a single stroke pneumatic (SSP)

I put quotation marks around the word fixing in the title of this one, because what we are doing does not actually fix anything. What it does do is make your SSP work longer when the seals are old and hardened. It will also boost the power of an SSP considerably. On the first season of American Airgunner I demonstrated a 30 to 35 f.p.s. boost for the IZH 46 (not the M) target pistol. The pistol was clocking 425 f.p.s., and with the method I’m about to share I boosted that to 460 f.p.s.

What you do is work the pump handle almost all the way and then relax it. Do this 10 times and then complete the pump and shoot. By going almost all the way you will flex the pump cup which softens it. That makes it accept more air when you pump and that makes the airgun shoot harder. I have demonstrated this many times in this blog. Read about it here.

Now for the bad news. While this trick does extend the life of an SSP’s seals, eventually they do have to be replaced. They get hard over time and need to be addressed.

Item 6 — miracle ATF sealant oil

ATF stop leak
Automatic transmission stop leak works great for oiling pneumatic and CO2 airguns.

This is one I bet most of you know because I talk about it all the time. A few years ago I discovered that automatic transmission sealant works great as a sealing oil in both pneumatics and CO2 guns. I boosted my early Sheridan Supergrade to almost 700 f.p.s with it. And I have sealed dozens of CO2 guns that had slow leaks. To seal pneumatics (all three kinds) and CO2 guns this is the stuff you need!

Item 7 — Tune in a Tube

You knew Tune in a Tube had to be on my list — right? I hope so, because this stuff is amazing. It’s Almagard 3752 red grease and we have learned that many other red greases work just as well. I have specifically used Red ‘N’ Tacky grease with success.

Tune in a Tube
Tune in a Tube.

You spread it on the mainspring of a spring-piston airgun and the twang goes away. You can use it sparingly because a little goes a long way. And the beauty is, you often don’t need to disassemble the airgun to apply it! Just put it on through the cocking slot. I use a small grease gun but a long cotton swab or a popsicle stick works, too.

Over to you

Those are seven of my top things I think airgunners should know. But there are more. Now you come up with some!

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.

61 thoughts on “Seven simple things every airgunner should know”

  1. Wow, BB, this report almost makes me want to go out and buy some defective airguns…
    …just to try all this stuff out; LOL! 😉
    Seriously, though, I have found leaks on MSP pistols with the soapy water test; and I have fixed CO2 pistols with ATF.
    I have a couple of springers on which I could throw some Tune in a Tube, but I won’t, because they are great “as is.”
    I’ll just file that info away for the future.
    Blessings to you,

    • Dave. Do it. It is a lot of fun to bring an old, neglected airgun back to life. You may find an old Crosman Mark I at a garage sale for $25 and all it needs is new seals ($10) and a bit of cleaning and bingo, you have a gun worth $100 but one that might be priceless as a gift to a new shooter.

  2. B.B.

    You should also include the two tips I learned from your HW 50 take down. I think they would be helpful for all Weihrauch spring powered models.


    PS maybe add, get a crony?
    PPS Tune in a tube is just a cheap easy fix. With a properly fitting spring guide, minimal lubrication, no twang.
    The cure is a properly fitted spring guide. Tune in a tube just reduces the symptom.

    • Funny story: I finally got a “no excuses” Vikka chrony that 45Bravo reviewed not too long ago on this blog. And I used it maybe twice before I shot out one of the little light bulbs that makes the darn thing work. Arg!!!

      Now I have an old Shooting Chrony Alpha with an indoor light kit. It’s a little old school, but it works like a champ. Eventually, I will work my way up to a Competition Electronics model that interfaces with an Android app on my phone. Too many other demands on my airgun budget at this time.

        • I second the vote for the Caldwell, over the Competition Electronics, I have owned both, and sold the CE to get the Caldwell.

          The upper model of the CE will connect via blue tooth, but not the base model, and the base model Caldwell, will connect via an included 20 ft cable, , and the upper level Caldwell, will connect via Bluetooth, but it is HUGE compared to the base model.

          I also like the APP that Caldwell uses better.
          It saves the string,
          you can share the strings
          you can enter data about the string, pellet weight, gun info, all sorts of stuff, and if you have it set right, it will auto populate the weather info for the area you are in into the string data.


          • Thanks RR and Ian.

            Ian when you refer to the upper level of the caldwell, are you talking about the one that is sort of upside down with the lights below and the measuring unit above?

            • RG,

              I have the “base” model Caldwell. I use it with my Kindle. The software (app) is free. It works great. If you hunt around you can probably still find it for less than $100. If you use it indoors, you may want to invest in a light kit for it. I do not have one, but I have yet to need it. I have looked at the one you described. It is OK, but more than I need. A chronograph is a good tool for an airgunner to own, but it is something you can easily overuse. Break it out when you try out a “new” airgun and then maybe once a year you can clock it again, if that.

              I borrowed one from a friend when I acquired my first Talon SS. With it I learned that the optimum fill pressure of that particular air rifle was 1900 PSI.

              I then went about ten years before I bought my Caldwell. I do not use it very often, but it is nice to have when one of the old gals is questionable. It is also VERY handy when you are tuning an airgun.

        • RG,

          Likely, not what he is asking. Then again, there are some folks out there with more money than they should really have and are willing to spend it on overpriced things.

  3. A drop of Crosman Pellgun Oil on every CO2 cartridge or every time you fill your bulk fill CO2 gun. That’s a classic tip. Also works on multi-pumps and single pump pneumatics.

    How about thin strips cut from an aluminum soda (pop) can or a 2-liter plastic bottle with which to shim a scope to counter barrel droop? Another classic airgunner’s trick.

    And a newer one: RUBBER MULCH pellet trap.

    • RG,

      I use the Pellgun oil trick all the time. As for the shims, I spend the extra on adjustable mounts or rings. I shudder at the possibility of bending the scope tube. I “crushed” a scope tube with cheap, ill fitting rings many years ago. No more.

      I guess I should make a rubber mulch pellet trap. I should use a pellet trap, but I don’t.

  4. BB,
    Way off topic, but I just ran into something that I hadn’t encountered before. There I was, trying to repel some imaginary borders with my trusty Red Ryder and when I went to reload, there it was. (I hope that the picture loads)
    Has anyone else encountered one of these? (I tried to find the old blog about BB manufacture, but couldn’t find it)
    Enjoy the day.

  5. BB,

    There have been mention of several more “simple things” so far and before the weekend is over, this blog should be flooded with suggestions to add to the list. Many of these are “tricks” I have learned along the way with experience or in this blog, but it is good to have a refresher course periodically to bring them to the fore of the mind.

    I myself am planning to come back to this blog on Monday morning with pen and paper to make a list of them.

  6. BB,

    An above reply of mine reminded me to spend the extra for good quality rings, mounts and/or scopes up front or spend more when you have to fix/replace what you have done with the cheap stuff. That goes for airguns, pellets, etcetera. I have bought cheap pellets before and they were totally unusable. Well, I could melt them down and make sinkers of them, I guess.

  7. I might humbly add…… Never over pump a multi-stroke pneumatic air gun!
    Not only is there no velocity gain….
    It does the exact opposite.
    Never dry fire a spring piston air gun.
    Never deliberately detonate a spring piston air gun.
    Amongst the public at Large….. Opinions are far more plentiful than knowledge.
    Get your facts from someone knowledgeable that you trust.
    Velocity without accuracy is pointless.
    Felt cleaning pellets should never be fired alone in a Springer.
    That’s all I have pre-coffee.

    • Clean your ring bases and scope rail
      To degrease them before mounting on a Springer.
      Tighten all the fasteners a little at a time. Never tighten one and then move on to the next.
      Don’t clean your scope lenses with your shirt.
      Steam can lift most impressions accidentally made in a Wood stock.
      Frequently check stock screws for tightness in your Springer.

  8. Good list. I’d just like to point out to any newbies that the tissues test is not just for springers, but for all airguns. All airguns have breech seals, and they can all develop a leak. This will let you know if the gun is leaking there, although on most shrouded or moderated guns the leak can be heard directly (not so true with springers). But if the gun is new to you then you would not know what it normally sounds like, and this can be a valuable test for the gun.

  9. My Dad used to say when buying tools, go ahead and spend your money now. It’s cheaper than spending it twice. My take on that is buy as high a quality that you can afford when buying any tool, whether it’s electronic, hand tools, computer, or guns. It’s cheaper in the long run and you will be happier with the results of your purchase.

    • Bmwsmiley, I agree with you except when it comes to the cutting edge newest electronics. If you buy last year’s tried and true, debugged, and patched model, you will spend half and have fewer problems than if you buy the latest version and involuntarily become the company’s beta tester. That goes for computers and TVs and maybe cars, too these days.

  10. A mechanic’s stethoscope might be useful in detecting those pesky leaks – Harbor Freight stocks them for $7.99; or you could just maybe use a large-diameter straw or a rolled piece of cardstock. Maybe FM will succeed in making an El Cheapo stethoscope version with his limited tinkering skills.

  11. Here are two, one is my own so far as I know and the other is thanks to Fred Couples and BB:
    1- After repairing partially mangled Phillips screw heads with a small file coat the shiny finish with a blueing pen that goes into the screw valleys.
    2- After doing #1 spend under $20 for a Vessel kit No. 220W-3 with 6 bits that remove all wiggle when turning these screw heads. Then throw away all your old Phillips screwdrivers or saw them off and make drift pins.


  12. How to bend a barrel pointing up……country boy method has worked for me in the field when needed…cock the rifle and put the top of the action on your chest, then pull down on the barrel like you are cocking it. Barrel will bend and many times right back to where is was ie. straight….

  13. Naphtha (aka: Camp Fuel, White Gas, Lighter Fluid) is an excellent cleaner, de-greaser and solvent.

    It’s great for flushing old grease and dirt from assemblies like trigger blocks.

    It’s also good as a “carrier”. I’ll thin machine oil with naphtha and apply it to the assembly, the naphtha evaporates leaving a thin film of oil on the pieces. Good for lubrication, good to prevent rust.

    I’ve also thinned Red-&-Tacky grease in the same way to make it easier to apply a thin coat to in accessible areas easily.

    Red-&-Tacky grease makes a good “adhesive” to stick small parts (washers, springs, ball bearings) in place during assembly. The grease can be washed off (with naphtha) afterwards or just left.

    Not so much for airguns but rare earth magnets are handy in the workshop. A magnet put on the head of a bolt will hold it in place and help the washer and lock-washer defy gravity so that the nut can be threaded on without needing three hands.

    CA glue, hot melt glue, epoxy and more recently for me, UV cure resin all have properties (beyond being an adhesive) that make them useful in the shop as shims, fillers and clamps.


    • FM fixed an ancient clothes dryer which was still working well enough with a rare-earth magnet. The door would not stay shut because the plastic catch had disintegrated so the machine would not run. The little magnet solved that problem. The dryer finally died but the magnet did not go with it.

      • FM,
        I once repaired my friends electric dryer…. When I opened the heating manifold the coiled tungsten element
        Had broken. I stretched some slack
        To overlap a few inches of element.
        Then I Tangled them together, making sure nothing was any closer to the housing than OEM.
        I explained to him that should buy us a couple weeks….. To source the part.
        6 years later he sold the place. The temporary fix work that long!

  14. B.B. and Readership,

    Most of the seven things EVERY airgunner should know include two that require an Asterix (*) because they are of NO use or one of them is actually DANGEROUS if used in Pre-Charged-Powerplants.
    1. The Tune in a Tube is of NO USE except in airguns that have a metal (typically a metal coil spring) spring powerplant.
    2. The “miracle ATF sealant oil” should NOT come near a PCP that runs on high pressure air (hpa) as it contains Benzene (Class 1B flammable liquid,) petroleum distillates and petroleum oil(s) which can and will potentially explode in a PCP.


  15. Off topic but it is the weekend. Is it safe to run a compressor indoors? I don’t have an indoor workshop but I’m guessing many dark siders run their compressors there for convenience and to avoid high humidity outdoors. I use a drop of non petroleum silicon oil when filling to deal with condensation but am hesitant to refill outdoors this summer. I can’t find any emissions problems online but would prefer getting input from folks who know what they are talking about.


    • Decksniper,

      This is a multipart problem.

      There are not a substantial amount of emissions FROM THE COMPRESSOR with an oil cooled/lubricated compressor. An oilless compressor like Fire Stations and Dive Shops use is even better since the output is breathable air.
      The next part of the answer is the what type of motor powers the compressor. Obviously a gasoline, Diesel, Propane, Buta Gas, Butano (all petrol) powered compressor should not be run inside unless you have an exhaust system properly ducted to the outdoors.
      With a brushed electric motor you will generate some Ozone; not the case with a brushless electric motor.
      There are other powerplant possibilities like windmill, waterwheel, hand crank, animal powered, etc. which all come with their own unique emissions problems.

      It is the weekend and you asked a slightly Off Topic question…what did you expect Deck!


    • Okay Deck,

      I can not let you hang ALL weekend:
      The above link should answer your questions fully as well as anyone else wanting to know the facts about compressed air…even the compressed air in spring piston guns…i guess we could call them MCP (Momentarily Charged Pneumatics) wonder how Yogi feels about MCPs?


        • Decksniper,

          My pleasure.
          I just needed to take the time to look through my Extremely High Pressure Compressed Air bookmarks file.
          I was busy today adjusting all my Scope Ocular lenses to get my Reticles sharp again. I’m certain that the one week after the Cataracts procedure adjustment will need to be refined at the four week or so point. I’m not cleared to shoot yet (minimum of two weeks) before the first of the major restrictions are lifted.
          With the massive improvement in my vision i’m more than happy to follow my Opthalmologist’s Discharge Instructions with only smallish grumbles.
          I have been working with my 18×56 Vortex Razor binoculars and getting a few items like a Vortex Pro Tripod adapter for them as well as a ARKON Clamp Stand for Cameras, Smartphones & Tablets (works for Spotting Scopes and Large binoculars with maximum load of 5lbs) for use with my DOA Shooting Bench. It will work for steadier Glassing as well from fence posts/rails/Hides/saplings and other clamp able in the field opportunities.
          I’ll bet the ARKON stand would work for Tom’s photography sessions…hint….hint!

          If you can’t tell, i’m really pumped to get to try out my “rebuilt” eyeballs now that both of them are almost done.

          One of the things EVERY airgunner needs to know is to get your Cataracts, if you have them, fixed sooner rather than later!


  16. Guys, I had to share this.


    I wonder if that beautiful Turkish walnut stock is covering the plastic forearm – or has replaced it?


    • There is also this,

      Would’ve been better with Turkish walnut stock, but I still like it as is. Beautiful.

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