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Air Guns A brief history of Beeman and Air Rifle Headquarters: Part One

A brief history of Beeman and Air Rifle Headquarters: Part One

Folks, I’m on my way to the Pyramyd AIR Cup today. I hope to be back next Tuesday, August 28. Until then I’m recycling some oldies for you. I will be working each day that I’m there and driving each day that I’m not, so keep your questions to a minimum, please.

Reader 45Bravo Ian McKee, is going with me to meet the folks at Pyramyd AIR, and to compete in the Gunslynger competition.

Today’s report is from 2010 — just after I was released from the hospital.

Reader Matt61 asked how many Beeman R-type airguns there were last Friday, because he’d never heard of the R8 model I’m currently testing. His question reminded me how Dennis Quackenbush is always going on about the lack of historical documentation of the airgun hobby. Matt’s question epitomizes this. So, I figured a short history was in order. This should also prove interesting to our readers outside the U.S. who may not know the Beeman name as well as we do. I can’t tell the Beeman story without including the history of Air Rifle Headquarters, which preceded it by a decade. This is really the story of the beginning of precision adult airguns in the U.S.

It began in the 1960s

The importation of European airguns and ammunition into the U.S. had been spotty up to the decade of the 1960s. Back in the 1930s and ’40s, Stoeger had imported J.G. Anschütz, Haenel, Diana, Webley and perhaps a few others, but they lacked the marketing push to popularize them. Who, in 1940, was going to spend $70 for a single-shot Peerless (Diana model 58) air rifle they had never heard of when a sleek Winchester model 61 pump .22 cost just $24.87? Besides, in 1940, war loomed on the horizon and German products were not that popular in this country, so the time was not yet right. After the war was over, though, was a different story.

In the very early 1960s, Robert Law became aware of the high quality of European airguns and pellets. He formed the company known as Air Rifle Headquarters in Grantsville, West Virginia, and started importing and selling these products through the mail.

But he did something extra that Stoeger never attempted, and it made all the difference in the world. He borrowed a page from the marketing plan of George L. Herter and told the detailed story of the airguns he was offering. He told you why his $150 FWB breakbarrel was far superior to the Sheridan Blue Streak, which he sold for $42.00. He gave you numerous reasons to spend almost four times the money for the same type of product. If he were still in business today, I bet he would have a blog very much like this one.

ARH catalog cover
This later ARH catalog is a wealth of information about airgunning in the early 1970s.

ARH catalog page
Page after page of information educated Air Rifle Headquarters customers.

Law produced a catalog and other printed materials that showered the buyer with interesting information about fine European airguns and pellets. His catalogues are collector items today, selling for $20 and up. They still fascinate the collector with the history of the first real sales campaign for precision airguns in the U.S.

These catalogs were loaded with articles — not touting any specific airgun but, instead, educating the airgunner in general. Another product he produced were Air Rifle Monthly pamphlets that dealt with specific airguns. How he managed to find the time to do all he did I will never know, but from the volume of publications his company published, it’s clear that the man with the Mo Howard haircut knew how to prioritize.

ARH ARM cover
Besides the catalog, ARH also published the Air Rifle Monthly, a small-format pamphlet that dealt with specific airguns. This 44-page pamphlet is a wealth of Weihrauch information and completely describes the accurization process.

ARH ARM page
The complete accurization process is described in this pamphlet, including the crude tools they used to do it. The R1 book shows a much better way of unfreezing the breech plug without damage to the rifle.

Law also created better owners’ manuals than those supplied by the manufacturers, and his were supplied with the gun at the sale.

Of course, all these educational materials were also selling products, as the enthusiast learned more and more about his airgun. Eventually, he became hooked and had to try the tuneups he read about in the pamphlets.

In the early years, Law also included a lot of sex in his catalog. There were many pages of scantily-clad lovelies touting the guns. There were also several photos of the pretty ARH female employees in miniskirts filling orders in the shipping department. There must have been complaints, though, because by 1974 the catalogs dropped this practice entirely.

ARM page 96 porn
The soft porn was dropped after this 1973magazine.

The vision of modern airgunning

Law was also a visionary. He coined the term “accurized” and added value to his guns through tuning both before and after the sale. He also mounted scopes on airguns at a time when it was considered very problematic. The scopes of his day broke from the recoil of the spring rifles he sold, so he searched far and wide for models that could take the strain.

ARH, as it was known, had some special models of its own. These were guns that they customized to the nth degree, including fancy stocks, scopes, accurizing and other added perks. The Feinwerkbau F12 came before the model 124 and was a model 121. ARH sold it as-is for $144.50 in 1973. But when they accurized it and added their own electric guitar-style walnut stock, it became the model F120 and the price went to $234.50. I have seen but one of these rifles in my life. It was at the Roanoke airgun expo a few years ago, and I was stunned by the sheer size of the wood stock. They made the forearm so deep that there’s no longer a cocking slot. There is sufficient room inside the forearm to contain the cocking link as it cycles through its arc.

ARH model F120
This FWB121 has been transformed into an F120. Look at the dramatic styling! I call this the electric guitar-style of airgun stocks. It was very popular in the 1970s and ’80s.

They also sold some American airguns. For example, they sold the Smith & Wesson 78G and 79G, and they did it their way. They boosted velocity to a guaranteed 500+ f.p.s. in the .177 79G.

Air Rifle Headquarters lasted from about 1963 until 1979. Then, it closed its doors and has been talked about in airgun circles ever since. Probably one reason they folded their tent was that a new company — Beeman Precision Airguns — started in California in the early 1970s. However, the name lives on, as Jim Maccari calls his company Air Rifle Headquarters.

Tomorrow I’ll cycle you through the Beeman history.

BB speaks

I’ve been asked to not publish a report tomorrow, Tuesday, August 22, 2023. Pyramyd AIR has a special announcement they will make in a blog of their own.

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.

29 thoughts on “A brief history of Beeman and Air Rifle Headquarters: Part One”

    • Yogi,

      The best I can tell you now is I worked very hard to make the HW 50-S as good as the R8. I think I got it slightly better. If I have a chance I’ll look at the R8 reportand see what else I can say.


  1. Thanks, BB,
    This is shaping up to be a great series of reports.
    Back when I had just my Sheridan, and knew nothing of European air rifles, I came across my first piece of literature from Air Rifle Headquarters; I can’t recall if it was their catalogue or a pamphlet; all I recall is that they were touting that there was a European air rifle that could break the 800 fps mark; and to show the power of such a rifle on small game, they showed a picture of block of tallow, or bacon grease, that they’d formed in a pail; they took it out and shot it with the 800 fps pellet; it made a .177 caliber hole going in, and an impressive 1″ or so exit hole (maybe 5″ of penetration…it was decades ago…hard to remember…perhaps some other reader has this piece in hand and can correct my memory. =>).
    Anyway, after seeing that, I was hooked; I grabbed every piece of literature I could get from ARH; then when Beeman came on the scene, I read every catalogue they put out.
    I wasn’t sold so much on the power of these guns (my Sheridan had plenty of power for me); I was more impressed by the precision; after tons of reading, I bought my .177 caliber R7, which was just as excellent as Dr. Beeman claimed. 🙂
    I pray for safe travels there and back for you and Ian.
    Looking forward to the next installment about Beeman,
    Blessings to you,
    P.S. Before I went for the R7, I did snag a Beeman Webley Tempest because I was doing a lot of pistol shooting at the time, and I bought into the firearm trainer idea (note: it did actually make me a better shot with pistols; if you can hold a Tempest steady enough through its shot cycle to get some accuracy from it, then shooting something like a heavy-barreled Ruger Mark I target pistol is child’s play). My Dad liked the Tempest so much that he had me buy him one, too. Mine got sold off; but Dad’s (which is thankfully more accurate than mine) is right on the wall next to me. 🙂

  2. Hmmmm. Guess we need to stop complaining about the price of Weirauch and Air Arms rifles. They would have seemed “too expensive” in “the good old days”!

  3. BB-

    Wishing ‘Safe Travels’ to you and Ian. I hope you thoroughly enjoy the event and the Cardinal Center facility. We have turned up the thermostat this week to make you fellas feel at home. Looking forward to your reports.

  4. Wow! $70 in 1940 = $1,500 currently inflated dollars. $234.50 in 1973 is equivalent to just over $1,600 today. But, there are people paying that much now for (vastly superior) airguns.

    Interesting history, Tom. Hope you have a great trip.


  5. BB

    Good reading and Wednesday’s Beeman report will be no doubt.

    Maybe I’ve been around too long but when a company says it has a special announcement to make it often means ya better sit down and take a firm hold onto something.

    Safe travels and enjoy the show.


  6. Yes, safe travels and stay cool; as it happens, this weekend met up with some traveling Texans getting away from the heat in Pioneer, Ohio. These guys called themselves “The Texas Navy.”

  7. Tom,

    I think I remember reading this report when it was first published. At least I remember reading of the background of Robert Law’s role in promoting European air guns in the U.S. Probably because I was so unfamiliar with anything air gun back then, I paid little attention to your mention of the Feinwerkbau F120. I tried to look it up in the latest edition of the Blue Book I own, the 12th, but it is not listed by that name, or by itself at all. It appears only as a note under the Model 121: “Add 30% for [the] Deluxe version with checkered beechwood stock, buttplate, high comb.” (p. 463)

    Wow! It’s so rare there is no separate listing for it in the Blue Book.


      • Roamin’,

        Probably very few were made. The Blue Book does have a notation that they were sold in Europe only, so it would make sense they are rarely seen in the U.S.

        That is true even of vintage air guns that were made in large numbers but sold only or mostly in Europe. For examply, the excellent Diana Model 150 (lower powered era) seldom come up for sale (usually as the Winchester branded 450) in the U.S., but regular visits to GunStar will show they are not uncommon in the UK.


        • Finally, a reason to plan a 2 or 3 day layover in the UK on my way back from my next family trip to Greece. I almost purchased an airgun from another auction site in England, but the shipping cost and delay are a real disincentive.

          • Roamin’,

            I’m not sure an American buying an air gun in the UK is permitted by their laws. They used to be allowed to export used/vintage air guns privately, but I am uncertain about now. It would be a good idea to inquire first if you see one you would really like.

            I long wanted a Tell 2 and would have bought one off of GunStar, but I’m over wanting one of those now. I would still like a nice BSA Cadet Major if the price were right, but the desire for one is not what it used to be.


  8. BB,

    This got me thinking that I haven’t seen my ARH and Beeman airgun catalogs for quite a while so I went looking for them.

    Found my 1997 Beeman 25th Anniversary catalog but the other half-dozen or so are AWOL. Guess that they went missing in the last move when hundreds of pounds of fishing magazines went for recycling. Bummer!

    Yeah, a lot of those old catalogs and magazines are collector’s items now.

    Had a friend who collected comic books at his father’s suggestion. He had many sealed boxes of new (unread) series of comics stored in special sleeves “for his retirement”. I can only wonder how much those original 10 cent Tarzan comics are worth now.

    My daughter just turned 40 this year, I have airguns and hats and fishing lures that are older than her. Question: When does “old” become “antique” “classic” or “vintage”?

    I’m feeling a bit old right now but I’m still excited about seeing new airgun technology develope. Airguns have come a long way, been enjoying the ride!


  9. I never heard of European airguns or ARH until Mel Tapan began posting the Survival series of articles in Guns and Ammo in the 1970s. I remember talking a friend out of buying a FWB 124D by calculating how many CB Caps (low power 22 rimfire ammo) he could buy for the cost of a 124. I never saw the need for Airguns until I moved to Dallas and my kids were born. Then, I didn’t have time or a free place to shoot, and that lead to my interest in airguns.
    David Enoch

  10. I was raised in South America with European break barrel air guns and their imitations. Therefore .177 pellet rifles of different price ranges – and precious few .22s – were very common for plinking, target and pesting.

    What I didn’t understand back then was the attraction of ‘BB’ guns – why would anyone want an imprecise gun with ammo that ricochets? Please do not answer, I have several now.

    BB, safe travels and keep us posted of what you and Ian find out! Enjoy the cool(er) weather.


  11. B.B.

    I’m holding my breath for “the Big Announcement”.
    I hope it is posted soon, I’m about to turn blue…

    PS WordPress strikes again! Maybe the announcement will be NOT to use WordPress going forward, let us hope and pray for that.

  12. “…Tuesday, August 22, 2023. Pyramyd AIR has a special announcement they will make in a blog of their own.”

    Dear Pyramyd AIR,
    Is the announcement to be here, where BB usually posts his report, or somewhere else?
    (BB has his reports auto-set to post right after midnight, but perhaps you are planning to post after sunrise,
    and particularly after the first cup of caffeine…I can certainly identify with that! =>)
    If you post it somewhere else on your website, please do put a link to it here, since this is where we all go.
    Thank you.
    Take care,

  13. Pyramyd Air IT,

    Where is the important announcement? Is there a setting in the WordPress software that will allow more than 20 comments to update? When I open my RSS reader in the morning I only get the last 20 comments made any comments prior to my closing my browser and the latest 20 comments are not picked up.


  14. Someone else might have picked up on this and commented on it already, but I’d wager the announcement on Monday is a new name, no longer Pyramid Air but from now on Pyramyd Adventures in Recreation. Presumably more and more emphasis will be on mountain bikes and camping.


    • Michael,


      All of which can be found via the NEW links from the HOME page! Get your WEENERS!
      synonyms: dog, frank, frankfurter, hot dog, hotdog, weenie, wienerwurst ready and some S’Mores


  15. You would think that PA should stick to what they do reasonably well. Now they are trying to be all things to all people. They will end up being nothing to nobody….


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