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What works

This report covers:

  • What doesn’t work
  • Make it better
  • Lighter pump effort
  • Accuracy
  • Power
  • Cost
  • Dragonfly
  • Diana two forty
  • Air pistols?
  • Do not copy!
  • Summary

Today I would like to discuss what works in the airgun market and why we/I think that it does.

What doesn’t work

To start a discussion of this topic let’s start with things we know didn’t work. That may be the easiest way to see what works.

I said did not work intentionally. We don’t need to step on the toes of current products and sometimes things come from behind to surprise us. So — what is a good example of an airgun that did not work?

I have one and it’s the only one we need to discuss — the Daystate Sportsman Mark II.

Daystate Sportsman Mark II
Daystate Sportsman Mark II.

This was a multi-pump air rifle that was built like a precharged pneumatic (PCP). Titan, a maker who has left the range, originally made this sidelever multi-pump, but it didn’t sell well, so not many were made. And, as soon as it went off the market many airgunners said they wished they had bought one when they could. When it was available those same people had said they liked the idea but it was just too expensive. So along came Daystate and resurrected it and the Sportsman Mark II.

The US version of the rifle could be pumped up to five times. On one pump the .22-caliber rifle developed 6.5 foot-pounds. On five pumps the rifle got up to 25 foot pounds. The effort to pump was considerable. Pump number three required about 67 pounds of effort. Pumps four and five took about 77 pounds of effort. Even pump number two took between 55 and 64 pounds of effort, so the 12 foot-pound UK-spec gun was no delight, either.

Make it better

The rifle was beautiful, as the picture shows. It had a wonderful trigger. But airgunners wanted a few changes. Everything I’m about to say is exactly what was said about this Daystate air rifle when it was available.

  • Make it lighter.
  • Make it pump easier.
  • Make it an undelever rather than a sidelever.
  • Make it more powerful.
  • Add a port so the rifle could also be filled from a scuba tank.
  • Make it a repeater.
  • Make it in .25 caliber.

In other words, make it everything that it isn’t. And this is the way it goes, more often than not. The naysayers are also the non-buyers who are just-a-gonna but never get around to it.

However, in examining that airgun’s history, we do learn a few things.

Lighter pump effort

First, with multi-pumps, a lighter pump effort is important. It always is. The Sharp Ace was also a multi-pump with a lighter pump effort, but the retail price was 2-3 times that of, say, a Sheridan Blue Streak. Oh, no! Can’t have that! Gotta make it cheap, BB.

Accuracy

The Sportsman Mark II was dead-nuts accurate. There was no argument there. 

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Power

Airgunners will always want more power. Look at the big bores. They already shoot through Elk and American bison and people still want more power. This is a feature whose value is asymptotic — you can approach it but you will never reach it.

Cost

Cost will always be a factor in the airgun market. It’s the nature of the game, so companies have to keep it in the forefront of everything they do.

Dragonfly

And then along came the Air Venturi Dragonfly Mark II. In terms of pump effort, accuracy and, yes, price, it IS everything airgunners say they want. Even the build quality is off the charts for what you pay. The cost is dead center of where it needs to be. So, the airgunners buy them and the wannabes stand on the sidelines and criticize it for what it isn’t.

  • Needs better wood in the stock.
  • Should be made in .25 caliber.
  • Ought to take a scope more easily.

Yeah? Well, it doesn’t make good coffee, either. Let’s get it for that!

Diana two forty

I’m currently testing the Diana two forty. It’s not powerful, it shot large groups with open sights and it has a heavy trigger. Cheap Chinese junk! Yeah, and what did you say about the Air Venturi Bronco? It’s weak, it’s made in Mexico and it has a funny trigger. Oh, yes, and I wish I had bought two! If only…

So, I’m testing the Diana two forty and, thanks to you guys, I will test the Norica Titan. It seems at least some of you get it. An air rifle doesn’t have to look like an M16A4 to be good. In fact, if it does look like one BB Pelletier will probably hang back. Why — because he’s a dinosaur? Yes, but also because he looks for classic airguns — not those with the word classic in their names — real classics that are accurate, have nice triggers and nice sighting systems that have been well thought out.

Air pistols?

What about air pistols? Don’t they deserve a look? Yes, but instead of looking at a failure, this time let’s look at a success. As before, this airgun has left the range, but because it was a success it is still on everyones’ list as a winner. I’m talking about the Crosman Marks I and II.

Crosman MKI left
Crosman Mark I was a better copy of Ruger’s Mark I pistol.

Ruger MKI
Ruger’s Mark I was a pistol worthy of being copied.

We have looked at the .22-caliber Crosman Mark I and the .177/BB-caliber Crosman Mark II many times in this blog. I think most airgunners acknowledge it to be the perfect air pistol — or at least one of them. It fits the hand, is accurate, has a nice adjustable trigger and adjustable sights. Even those who don’t care for CO2 guns like these!

This pistol that copies (and improves upon) Ruger’s Mark I pistol is the most ergonomic air pistol ever made. Not “one of.” I said “the most ergonomic ever made,” and I meant it! It is the German Luger of the airgun world.

Do not copy!

With an airgun this iconic the worst thing a company could do is to try to copy it. Even Crosman would fail if they tried to copy the Mark I and II today. Unless they copied it EXACTLY, airgunners would nitpick each and every departure. And you can forget trying to justify any change as an improvement. Airgunners would simply not tolerate it!

And that is curious, because in the firearm world there is a very famous handgun example that went just the opposite way. I refer to the Colt Single Action Army. It’s a handgun that the public will not let die. When Colt walked away from the design around 1940, popular demand caused others to replicate it — with success! Colt had to admit the SAA was desirable and brought out the second generation in 1955. Western TV series of the 1950s were instrumental in bringing the SAA back.

In 1974 Colt made the last second generation SAA, but the public wasn’t finished with it, so in 1976 the third generation came out. Talk about a company being drug into success, kicking and screaming! 

Of course there are good business decisions for not making a product that is deemed as iconic. It may bring in very little profit compared to other lines. On the other hand, should Rolls Royce abandon their Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, simply because it creates high air drag? Well, maybe not abandon it, but redesign it to be retractable like they did in 2004 and sleeker like they did in 2022. But Rolls Royce has an edge on Crosman — they don’t sell that many automobiles to airgunners.

Summary

We are talking about why airguns are REALLY desired, as opposed to what people SAY they want. The difference is important to companies that want to stay in business.

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.

42 thoughts on “What works”

  1. That Daystate is very beautiful and it would be neat to have one, I like both the classic lines of airguns, and the more modern tactical ones as well.

    Truthfully, I have admitted this many times, “I am a self confessed addict of ANYTHING with a trigger.”

    I am always wanting a new airgun or firearm, I am not a big springer guy, but I love my Air Arms Pro-sport.
    I am growing fond of the HW 97, but why not the TX200?
    The HW97 has a push button to release the under lever, the TX 200 does not, and during extended shooting sessions, separating the under lever from the latch by wedging my fingers between the barrel and lever starts to hurt my fingers. (I don’t shoot just 10 or 20 shots when I plink, its measured in dozens.) If the TX had that feature, it would be perfect.

    I must say the Diana two forty has seriously gotten my attention over the series, easy to cock and shoot, acceptably accurate, a calm shot cycle, even though it may not be an absolute tack driver it doesn’t have to be to be popular with air gunners.

    There are literally dozens of airguns out there that are less than perfect, but are consistent top sellers year after year.

    Shoot safe, have fun!
    Ian

  2. BB,
    In one Field Target match, one of the guys in the group I was in was shooting a Daystate Sportsman Mark II.
    It was in .22 caliber (that’s the only caliber they made, yes?), and he shot it quite well; his score was higher than mine with my HW97. But yes, it was hard to pump, and he only used two pumps per shot for the entire match.
    (Hard to pump, yet still it was a beautiful rifle.)
    Personally, I think the Dragonfly Mark II nails it as far as multi-pump pneumatics go; it’s easy to scope, easy to pump even with the scope in place, powerful, and accurate…for a nice self-contained (small game) hunting rifle, it’s everything it needs to be…in my opinion. 🙂
    Blessings to you,
    dave

    • dave,

      This is the first time I have heard of a Sportsman Mark II being used in a field target match. I am stunned!

      And yes, I believe .22 was the only caliber they made.

      BB

      • BB, the owner was a young strong guy; but even so, I don’t know if he’d have finished the match if he used 5 pumps for each shot. He had an AO scope with a side wheel, carefully calibrated by him, and he shot quite well. It was the first time I had ever seen such a rifle. 🙂

        • dave,

          Well, since most matches limit the energy a rifle develops to 20 foot pounds or less, it’s doubtful he would have been allow to do that.

          BB

        • thedavemyster,

          Since this is What Works i need to point out a term that Does Not Work…technically: On a scope the abbreviation AO (Adjustable Objective) usually is reserved for the scopes you need to grab the front bell and twist to set the Parallax. Side Focus (SF), actually an improper usage, is the term used for scopes with a Turret on the left side used to set the PARALLAX.
          You are correct in that it should be in fact called something other than Side FOCUS; perhaps Side turret/wheel Adjustable Objective (SFT/WSAO.)
          Fat chance!

          shootski

          • How about “Adjustable Parallax”?

            Then you could say, “Side Adjustable Parallax,” or “Front [or Objective] Adjustable Parallax.”

            YMMV, but I’m ROTFL and LOL. ;o)

            • RG,

              SAP!
              That might work…what other sport limits the folks who can afford to compete by forcing them to buy scopes that cost thousands of large bills, note, or coins! Especially since they could buy more accurate dedicated Range Finders for 1/4 the price…LOL!

              shootski

      • B.B.,

        https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/mitchells/catalogue-id-srmit10005/lot-e07f481c-0898-4a4d-ab80-a42600d6e405

        They made a .177 i almost bought one and a .22 caliber. Then the — REAL — DARK SIDE hauled me back in!

        shootski

        PS: just checked my BBofA (Blue Book of Airguns)
        Surprised me that it says Daystate made the Sportsman MK II in .22 only?
        Is there someone in the READERSHIP that knows for a fact of one or has a .177 in hand?

          • B.B.,

            Yeah, I hope someone with one or who had one shares with the Blog. I’m beginning to doubt my rememberer on this one.
            I can’t see why Daystate would not have done like on other rifles of the time and offered .177, .20, .22, and even a .25 caliber.

            shootski

    • P.S. The Daystate owner was a dedicated airgunner, not a dabbler; he had several air rifles, but he said he set this one up for a match just to see how he could do with it.

        • I can’t remember the exact scores (it was many years ago), but I was scoring about 50% of my targets, and the Daystate shooter was more like 85%…he knew his rifle, and he was just a good shot. 🙂

  3. Once it’s broken in, the Umarex MK IV copy is pretty fun. No CO2 to buy, either.
    Power sells, and cheap power sells even better. How many people pick up the lowest cost high FPS springers thinking, “I need more power for a hunting gun”? At one time, at least some of us here would have had trouble believing someone who told us a 7-800 fps .177 or 5-600 fps .22 is a solid 30 yard rabbit gun. While detuned versions of a lot of the big box springers would help accuracy and shootability, the general public doesn’t know that.
    And speaking of springers….. B.B., could you tell your industry contacts that they need additional paperwork with their springers? Just one bright colored sheet of paper with YOU MUST USE THE ARTILLERY HOLD TO SHOOT THIS GUN ACCURATELY.
    Then a brief description (or link to the relevant articles here) of the hold. It would definitely help. As well as selling more guns like the Two Forty.

    • OP,

      ROTFWL! But that additional paperwork would cost additional money! The cost of the paper, the ink, shipping from the printer, labor of handling it and putting it in the box, etcetera! When you are sellling thousands of these airguns to the big box stores, pennies count and add up.

      Odds are, nobody knows about how to properly shoot sproingers, nor care. All they are concerned with is money.

  4. BB,
    Aww, now what’d ya have to go and bring that up for??
    When I finally got my head around what a Wildfire would have been good for (a PCP 1077) & why I ought to have one, they’d stopped selling them!
    The firearm world has had several items that were produced, but nobody seemed to get excited about them. A good case in point would be the Ruger Hawkeye pistol. “It’s only a single shot.” “Kinda ugly.” “What’s a .256 Magnum?” And then, after they were discontinued: “I sure wish I’d have bought one.” “Would’ve been really fun to shoot.” “Why did they stop making them?”
    I’d like a Dragonfly Mk2, but if I got one, I might ignore my Sheridan (and I like it too much to do that).
    Just sayin.
    Bill

    • billj,

      I never heard of the Ruger Hawkeye. When I was still pretty young, I bought a Remington XP100. I wish I still had it.

      Go ahead and get you a Dragonfly Mk2. You can send the Sheridan to me and I will give it a good home. 😉

      • BB,

        As many here have learned over the years, I am one of those old curmudgeons who like these low powered classics versus these new-fangled, high powered tacticool airguns. Folks in the UK kill rabbits, squirrels, doves, etcetera with less than 12FPE. How many realize that once a bullet/slug/pellet exits your chosen target, any leftover energy it has is wasted?

        Also, you can take classic lines and wow folks all day long with how sharp they look, but you can only tacticool them just so much and they look like everything else.

        • Well said RR!

          Though I wouldn’t call them “low powered” because many would think of them as being lesser the higher (better?) powered airguns.

          But how to describe them? Not “adequate power”, again, improper connotations. As the right tool for many jobs there’s a definite need and place for non-magnum weapons.

          As you point out, the Brits are doing fine with sub-12 fpe airguns for hunting. Power doesn’t equate to skill but it’s hard to fight corporate marketing.

          Hank

          • How about “perfect power” for shooting [insert purpose] at up to around [insert yardage]. Add an accuracy guarantee. Let there be accuracy wars instead of velocity wars. Does the average consumer know what will happen to a pellet that misses its target in their backyard? It will go through their fence and end up in someone else’s yard, but they don’t say that on the side of the box next to the claim of 1600 fps.

            • Roamin,

              “Perfect Power”, like that! And it’s appropriate that airgun power be stated in FPE instead of som BS velocity figure using inappropriate projectiles.

              Hank

            • Roamin Greco,

              I agree with all you wrote but for one thing!
              Manufacturers and Tuners can give us precision but hey have very little control over ACCURACY.

              ACCURACY has at least two parts; the gun and the shooter. Accuracy has three if you count the projectile in picky gun barrels.

              shootski

              • Shootski, you are right. But here’s my perspective on what you are saying:

                My simple request is that I want a gun that is precise enough so that when I adjust the sights and shoot it, I can hit what I’m aiming at as often as needed for the purpose of the shooting. Do I have to hit a soda pop can at 15 yards, a squirrel’s head at 25 yards, or a gummy bear at 50 yards? When I miss, I don’t want to wonder, is it the gun or is it me? I want to know it’s me (it usually is, but if it might be the gun, then it’s harder to improve). So, for me, I try to get a gun and pellet combination to be precise enough so that when the sights are adjusted, it is also accurate enough so that when I’m shooting it, I have confidence in the equipment. Then I can concentrate on me being the best I can be. My first airgun of my airgun Renaissance was an Umarex Embark with a bore out of alignment with the dovetail. It shot OK with open sights, but not precise enough (or so I thought). When I put a peep sight on it, I had to max out the windage adjustment to the one side. With the wrong pellets, the gun was neither accurate nor precise. With the right pellet, it was precise, but barely accurate. Not confidence inspiring for target shooting. Hence, it sits in the box for the barrel bending round tuit. I moved on to other projects in the meantime.

                My request for the airgun manufacturers is give folks guns that get the job done (whatever that job is), or else you will eventually lose the repeat customers. You will forever be chasing for new ones.

                The two forty is good for certain airgun jobs. If the trigger could be economically improved a bit, it might be a GREAT beginner’s rifle that turns out to be a goldilocks gun for a lot of folks and perhaps leads to a lot of repeat business. Perhaps the person buys a Two Forty and learns to shoot with it, and then decides, gee, I could use something with a little more zip for those pesky squirrels. He then buys a Diana Model 34 EMS or a 350 Magnum, and he’ll know how to shoot it, so he’ll be happy.

                I think the best way to keep this sport alive is to have good quality beginners’ guns to learn the fundamentals. I know you know what I’m talking about, Shootski. Even though you are a darksider, you taught your kids on those little Marksman springers (biathlon trainers, if I recall). Give ‘dem kids an accurate gun and they can have fun and learn to love shooting. That’s what it’s all about! Ask GunFun1!

                • Roamin Greco,

                  Totally!
                  My being a stickler on semantics comes from being a Flight Instructor as well as a ops planner, leader, and Intel analyst. To many times in the hot wash ups i heard; But what i meant was….
                  All too many folks new to shooting don’t get enough training/instruction to shoot Accurately and we lose them to the frustration it takes to learn all the shooting skills in the School of Hard Knocks before they can become addicted.
                  Those Marksman 1790 BIATHLON trainers were worth their weight in 999.9 Gold for my son and daughter! Perfect kid’s first air rifle and even fun for us older kids.

                  shootski

        • Ridge, I am with you on that, I like the lower powered ones myself, most of my stuff is sub 16ftlbs, with many in the 12ftlbs range.

          Unfortunately, several of us shoot at 100 yards plus with airguns, and a higher energy and velocity is needed to push the pellets or slugs those distances accurately.

          I currently have 5 airguns that will accurately reach past 100 yards, and none at this time are tactical,
          An Air Venturi .22 caliber wooden stocked Avenger
          A Daystate Wolverine in .22
          And 3 prototype JTS airguns, one in .25, and 2 in .22
          Hmm, just realized putting them on “paper” they are all wood and metal guns..

          When Air Venturi releases the Avenge-X soon, I hope to add one of their tactical ones to my long range testing…

          Ian

  5. BB,

    As many here have learned over the years, I am one of those old curmudgeons who like these low powered classics versus these new-fangled, high powered tacticool airguns. Folks in the UK kill rabbits, squirrels, doves, etcetera with less than 12FPE. How many realize that once a bullet/slug/pellet exits your chosen target, any leftover energy it has is wasted?

    Also, you can take classic lines and wow folks all day long with how sharp they look, but you can only tacticool them just so much and they look like everything else.

  6. John Bowkett had a major influence in the Daystate Sportsman designs. Mr. Bowkett was brilliant but ahead of his time imho. He also designed and perfected the predecessor to the Daystate Sportsman, the Titan Mohawk.

    Unlike the Daystate Sportsman, the Titan Mohawk came in both .177 and .22. Mine was a .22. Unlike the Daystate Sportsman, the Titan Mohawk had factory options. Mine had a grade 4 stock, a gold “target trigger” and muzzle brake all from John Bowkett. I had the factory check list for these options and maybe others that I can’t remember.

    My Titan Mohawk was the FAC version, accurate, powerful, had a wonderful trigger and was beautiful….but was heavy, lop sided (because of the side lever) and had an even larger arc for cocking than the Daystate Sportsman and Daystate Sportsman MK II. Not an “all day plinker” by a long shot. Nonetheless, it had a following and is still very collectible (likely because of its’ history and beauty rather than its functionality). Neat piece of airgun history.

    I shared my evolution of my ownership of the Titan Mohawk on this blog many years ago and remember B.B. saying something to the effect, “It was a science experiment, not a practical gun.” He, as usual, was spot on.

  7. I’m EZ. If I like what I see, I get it. Decide what category of shooting or use it turns out to be good for later.
    Some are very good at shooting big red balloons. 🙂

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