Crosman 38T Target revolver: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

38T
Crosman 38T.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Lotsa pellets
  • Jim outshot BB
  • Getting tired
  • The next day
  • What the heck?
  • BillJ — this is for you
  • Summary

Well, I’m hot into it now, and as long as that’s the case I decided to do the accuracy test on the .177-caliber Crosman 38 T Target revolver. Reader Jim M. was down for a visit and to help me pack up all the guns and stuff I’m returning to Pyramyd Air, so when we finished I thought I would let him get in on the test, too.

The test

We both shot from a rested position at 10 meters. The revolver was rested directly on a sandbag and we used a two-hand hold. We shot with a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye and we shot 6-shot groups, since that’s how many pellets the revolver holds.

Jim and I both shot on the first day. But I also shot again alone on day two.

I backed the bullseyes on the second day of the test with white duct tape to help the pellet holes show more sharply.

Lotsa pellets

I had no idea of which pellet or pellets this air pistol might like, so we went through a lot of them! Actually, Jim and I shot a great many targets until we both seemed to tire — or at least I did. After all, we had been working for several hours packing boxes and accessories and checking them off a spreadsheet.

38T pellets
We shot many pellets on the first day and I added a few more on day 2.

38T targets
And we shot more than a few groups.

Jim outshot BB

At first Jim was not familiar with the heavy trigger pull, which on this 38T is 4 lbs. 14 oz. But he adapted quickly and soon proved to be the better shot. Of the four different pellets we tried this day, H&N Finale Match High Speed proved the most accurate. I put 6 into 1.401-inches at 10 meters and then Jim trounced me with 6 in 0.831-inches at the same 10 meters.

38T BB target
I put six H&N Finale Match High Speed pellets into 1.401-inches at 10 meters.

38T Jim target
And then Jim put 6 into 0.831-inches to skunk me!

Getting tired

We shot so many groups that I had to change the CO2 cartridge. Jim and I had worked a lot before that and I was pooped, so we called it a day after shooting 8 groups. But I was not satisfied that we had tested the pistol thoroughly. So I left the indoor range set up, vowing to resume shooting the next morning when I was rested.

The next day

The next morning I picked up where I left off. The CO2 was still good, as I had replaced it just before shooting the final group on the previous afternoon. I started with three different pellets — The Crosman Premier Light, the Premier Heavy and the RWS R10 Match Heavy pellet. All three gave me open groups that measured over 1.5 inches between centers.

At that point I figured I could either wear myself out again trying different pellets or I could return to the one pellet that both Jim and I shot the best the day before — the now-obsolete H&N Finale Match High Speed. It’s lighter than the current Finale Match Light, but that would be the place to begin to look for something equivalent.

On day one I put 6 of them into 1.401-inches, center-to-center. This day I put another 6 into 0.981-inches and almost in the same place on the target. I had adjusted the rear sight to the right at the end of the day before and hadn’t touched it since.

38T Finale day 2
On day two I was fresher and better able to concentrate. These six Finale Match High Speed pellets went into a group measuring 0.981-inches between centers.

What the heck?

As I was ending the test I decided to try just one last pellet — the RWS Superdome. Lo and behold, six of them went into 0.97-inches at 10 meters. And not only that but without adjusting the rear sight they went to the center of the bull. When I use the right pellets this 38T can shoot!

38T Superdome day 2
This group of 6 RWS Superdomes is my best group of the test. It measures 0.97-inches between centers.

At this point I was inspired to shoot a second group of Superdomes, to prove that the first group wasn’t a fluke. Then common sense prevailed and I said, “Naaaah! Why tempt fate?” I’ll just pretend that I can pick this revolver up anytime and shoot another group just like this one.

BillJ — this is for you

Reader BillJ commented that Crosman ashcan pellets were the best in his 38T “back in the day.” Here is what he said.

This column made me recall when I had a 38T (in .22, mid 70’s). I suppose that I should have never sold it. But I broke the rear sight (plastic), couldn’t glue it or replace it so I sold to a guy that I worked with that said he’d take it, as is.

As I recall, it was fun to shoot and ‘reasonably’ accurate (tin can wise), before the rear sight went away.

The pellets that I used to shoot were the Crosman ‘ash cans’ and also AmPell pellets.

I found these ‘on the back shelf’ (see picture) and weighed a few. The weights (in grains) were:
16.2
14.3
16.0
14.8
16.0
16.0
14.8
16.0
16.2
15.8
I can only guess that quality control was somewhat short of what it is now.

“I have kinda poked around the internet, and haven’t seen any new ashcan style for sale (but I wasn’t looking too hard).

When I said that those were found ‘on the back shelf’, they really were. I bought these for use with the 38T that I had in 1977, so they are over 40 years old! (The price tag on the side says $1.50.)


Even if they were available, I don’t know that I would get any new ones unless the QC was way, way better.”


Bill

Well, I have a supply of .177 ashcans, so we are up for one more test. Next time I will test with vintage Crosman ashcans, RWS Superdomes and RWS Superpoints in this 38T. I just wanna know, and a bet a lot of you do, too.

Summary

Though it may be 40+ years old, this one hangs in there with the best of the modern air pistols. I’m looking forward to the next test.


The AV-46M Single Stroke Pneumatic Match Air Pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

AV 46-M
The AV-46M target air pistol is a reincarnation of the IZH 46M for the American market.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sights
  • Sight-in
  • Shot a lot!
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • New method of resting the pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Training pellets
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • Vogel
  • The trigger
  • Other pellets
  • Summary

It’s accuracy day for the Air Venturi 46M single stroke pneumatic target pistol. A day I think that will be the first of several.

The test

I shot off a rest from 10 meters. I started with the gun rested directly on the bag and held with two hands, but during the test I discovered a better way to hold the pistol. I will describe it when we get to it.

I shot 5-shot groups so I could test more pellets. That turned out to be a good idea with all the shooting I did.

Sights

I said in Part 2 that I would be changing the sights for this test, but when the pistol was extended far from my eyes the sights it came with are sized correctly. I will say, though, that the screws that hold the rear sight blade to the unit are left-hand threads — just like those on the IZH-46M.

Sight-in

The pistol was shooting high and to the right when I started. I adjusted the rear sight as far to the left as it would go, but the pellets still hit the bull too far to the right. However, these pistols have a number of secondary adjustments, so I stopped to examine the pistol.

It appeared that the front sight might have been installed one or two degrees to the left of center. I say it appeared that way, because it was not obvious. There is a single slotted screw under the front sight. Loosen it and rotate the sight unit in the desired direction. I rotated the sight ever-so-slightly to the right (front sight moves in the reverse of how you want the pellet to move) and tightened the screw. I could not detect the difference in angle visually, but the problem was solved.

46M front sight
Loosen that screw under the front sight assembly to move the sight blade.

As I shot the pellets today I didn’t worry about centering them on the bull. That will come later, when an accurate pellet has been selected.

Shot a lot!

I shot many more groups than I’m going to show you here. Some had called pulls that I will explain as we go, and others were just not the right pellets for this pistol. It took me the entire test to discover that this pistol probably wants to shoot a 4.49 mm or a 4.50 mm wadcutter. I’m not certain of that, but the results seem to indicate it. That’s more of a note to me than to you, but owners will want to pay attention.

As a result of shooting so much today (60-70 shots) I got tired. Toward the end of the test when I discovered the best hold, I was no longer shooting at my best.

RWS R10 Match Pistol

The first group I will show is one I shot with RWS R10 Match Pistol wadcutters. Five pellets landed in 0.605-inches at 10 meters with 4 of them in 0.326-inches. That turns out to be a theme in today’s test — three or 4 pellets in a nice tight group with one or two that went wide.

46M R10 group
Five RWS R10 Pistol pellets went into 0.605-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.326-inches.

Air Arms Falcons

The only domed pellet I tried today was the Air Arms Falcon. The AV-46M put five of them in 0.455-inches at 10 meters.

46M Falcon group
Five Air Arms Falcon pellets went into 0.455-inches at 10 meters. The group looks smaller than it is because it was shot with domed pellets.

New method of resting the pistol

At this time in the test I tried a new method of resting the pistol. I had been holding it with two hands as it rested on the sandbag, but now I stretched out my shooting hand and just used that with the pistol still resting on the bag. That put the sights farther from my eyes which gave a sharper sight picture. The pistol was dead steady on the bag. I used this hold for the remainder of the test.

Qiang Yuan Training pellets

Sometimes this Qiang Yuan Training pellet does very well and this is one such time. I shot five into 0.679-inches, but the lone pellet on the left was a called pull. Now let me explain what I mean by that. When the trigger is as nice as the one on this pistol, you aren’t going to pull it by mistake. The “pull” in this case was that the gun fired when I could see slightly more light on the right side of the front post than on the left side. I didn’t want to fire at that moment, but the trigger was ready to go. That happens during matches all the time and the trick is to prevent it from happening to the best of your ability.

The other 4 pellets landed in a group that measures 0.285-inches between centers. This is a pellet to watch!

46M Chinese training group
Five Qiang Yuan Training pellets went into 0.679-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.285-inches.

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

Next to be tried were RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets. Once again four landed in a tight group and a fifth hit outside — this time lower. Four are in 0.381-inches and five are in 0.647-inches. This was not a called pull.

46M Meisterkugeln Rifle group
Five RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets went into 0.679-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.381-inches

Vogel

The last pellet I will show you is the Vogel target pellet with a 4.50 mm head. Five went into 0.65-inches, which isn’t that great compared to the other pellets — but three of the pellets are in 0.20-inches. That’s trime territory! I tested this pellet twice and got the same three-shot group inside of 5 shots. That told me that this is a pellet to consider and also that I was tiring out.

46M Vogel group
Five Vogel target pellets went into 0.65-inches at 10 meters with 3 in 0.20-inches.

The trigger

The trigger on an airgun is revealed during accuracy testing, and the one on the pistol I’m testing is gorgeous! There is no creep in stage two — something every IZH-46 I’ve ever shot cannot say. It also adjusts easily and stays where it is put. This is a trigger to admire.

Other pellets

Other pellets I tested but have not shown in this report are JSB Match S100 with 4.52 mm heads, H&N Finale Match Heavy with 4.50 mm heads and H&N Match Green with 4.50 mm heads. Their groups were just too large to consider.

Summary

I’m not done testing this pistol. I shot it so much today that I got tired and didn’t give the pistol a good chance to shine, once I figured out how best to hold it.


The AV-46M Single Stroke Pneumatic Match Air Pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

AV-46M lever open
The AV-46M target air pistol is a reincarnation of the IZH 46M for the American market. It is the easiest-cocking single stroke pneumatic around.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • Air Arms Falcon
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • H&N Match Green
  • Surprise!
  • RWS R10 pistol with boosted pumps
  • Pump effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today we look at the velocity of the new Air Venturi 46M target air pistol. There is a LOT of interest in this pistol and I must tell you that when the initial stock of pistols is gone you’ll have to wait until late March to get one. Russia is a long way away from Cleveland.

The test

I’m going to jump right into the velocity test because there is something special I want to do after that. Oh, and by the way — let’s remember that this is a 10-meter target pistol. It isn’t a magnum airgun made to shoot heavy pellets, and there is no convenient way to soup it up. This isn’t a sporting air pistol; it’s a target pistol.

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

I’ll start with RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets. They are a wadcutter target pellet, but at 8.2 grains they are really too heavy for this pistol. However, they will work, and, because the AV-46M is so powerful, they work better than I expected. Ten pellets averaged 449 f.p.s. The spread went from 435 to 461 f.p.s. — a difference of 26 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.67 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Air Arms Falcon

Next up was the 7.33-grain Falcon pellet from Air Arms. Ten of them averaged 489 f.p.s. Right there the pistol has exceeded it’s advertised velocity of 480 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.89 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

The interesting thing was this pellet only varied by 6 f.p.s. — from 487 to 493 f.p.s. That’s very stable!

RWS R10 Match Pistol

The next pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS R10 Match pistol pellet. It was the first pellet I tested that it suited to this target pistol. They averaged 501 f.p.s. for 10 shots and I apologize to our Canadian readers, and especially to Hawkeye, who cannot own air pistols that shoot faster than 500 f.p.s. without registering them! The low was 497 and the high was 505 f.p.s. — a difference of 8 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.90 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

H&N Match Green

Hopefully the Royal Canadian Mounted Police don’t test airguns with the H&N Match Green pellet, because at 5.25-grains, it will always be very fast. In the 46-M they averaged 532 f.p.s. with a 9 f.p.s spread from 529 to 538 f.p.s.

Surprise!

Well, all that testing was done by just shooting the pistol in the way anyone would. Now I did something special and I was surprised when I mentioned it in Part One that some of you didn’t know what it is. I have written about this little trick dozens of times in this blog, as well as showing it on the American Airguns television show back in 2010.

To boost velocity in a single-stroke pneumatic, pump the lever almost all the way, but not quite, several times. Then complete the pump stroke. The partial pumps expand the pump cup, warming it and making it more flexible. On the final pump the cup seals as well as it possible can and the velocity goes up as high as it can go. On TV I boosted a standard IZH 46 from 425 to about 460 f.p.s. this way. Let’s now see what I did with the AV-46M.

RWS R10 pistol with boosted pumps

What I did for each shot that follows was make 4 partial pump strokes that were almost complete. Then I pumped stroke number five all the way. That flexed the pump cup and made it seal better.

This time the R10 Pistol pellet that averaged 501 f.p.s. before this technique now averaged 523 f.p.s. The low was 517 and the high was 531, so a difference of 14 f.p.s. Let’s call this technique a 20 f.p.s. boost. Is it worth the extra effort? Not when the pistol is new and functioning perfectly. But when an SSP gets older and the pump cup gets hard, this trick can make an old pistol shoot like new again.

Pump effort

On my bathroom scale the test pistol took 22 lbs. of effort to close the pump lever. The secret to keeping the pump force as low as possible it to not “horse” the lever. Let it close smoothly, without rushing things.

Trigger pull

In Part One I adjusted the trigger of the test pistol from 310 grams to 524 grams, to meet the 500-gram minimum required for a match — not that I’m ever going to shoot in a match again. Today I tested the trigger and stage two broke at 526 grams, so it’s holding right where I adjusted it! Not only is that a testament to the refinement of this trigger, it also shows that the AV-46M trigger adjusts perfectly. I never had an IZH trigger adjust this well.

Summary

This pistol is testing out better than advertised. I love the trigger on the test pistol, and, if this was my pistol to do with as I wish, I would be sculpting these beautiful target grips to fit my hand.

My plan is to install a different rear sight blade to get the sight picture I prefer before I shoot the pistol for accuracy. And for the record, Tyler Patner tells me that the screws on the rear sight blade are left-hand threads, just like the IZH sight. That should keep you from twisting them off as you try to exchange sight blades.

I hope Alfa Precision makes as good a barrel as they claim. I can’t wait to see the accuracy!


The AV-46M Single Stroke Pneumatic Match Air Pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

AV 46-M
The AV-46M target air pistol is a reincarnation of the IZH 46M for the American market.

This report covers:

  • It’s here!
  • Alfa Precision
  • Air Venturi
  • The pistol
  • Dry-fire
  • Easy to pump
  • Happy, happy
  • But wait….!
  • Sights
  • Weight
  • Owner’s manual
  • The price
  • Summary

It’s here!

This is the pistol many of you have been clamoring for, for years. It’s the IZH 46M match pistol. Only it isn’t from IZH anymore. Air Venturi has negotiated the construction and purchase of this iconic AV 46-M target air pistol from Alfa Precision, a non-military Russian barrelmaker. That means it is legal to import it into the US. They are available for sale right now!

Alfa Precision

Some airgunners are already aware of Alfa Precision. They are sort of the Russian equivalent of Lothar Walther — and I’m sure I will hear about that remark! Alfa Precision makes hammer-forged firearm and airgun barrels that have shown surprising levels of accuracy. They also know and understand airguns. These are all good things! 

Air Venturi

Most of you know the Air Venturi brand quite well. Over the years I have tested a number of their airguns and other important products, such as high-pressure air compressors. The good news about them in this picture is they can provide the support you need. That means parts, service and information. So, this target air pistol should be around for some time to come. And now for the question on everybody’s mind — is this one really as good as the IZH 46M that people are paying high prices for in used condition? There is a whole lot of testing to be done, but in the several hours I have had with it so far I have to say that it is. In fact, it’s going to surge ahead of the IZH just a little.

The pistol

The AV-46M is a single-stroke pneumatic 10-meter target pistol. To charge the pistol you pull the long underlever forward, and at the end of the stroke you pull the lever a little harder to cock the action. When the breech flips straight up the pistol is cocked. A target (wadcutter) pellet is then loaded into the breech that is very accessible and the underlever is returned home. Close the breech and fire. That single act pumps the pistol one time and should be good for a muzzle velocity of around 480 f.p.s. with lightweight pellets.

AV 46M lever extended
The pump lever goes far forward, and at the end it opens the breech and cocks the pistol. As it is brought back, the fulcrum of the pump stroke constantly changes to an optimal position.

AV 46M breech open
When the breechblock stands up like this, the pistol is cocked.

You can only pump the gun one time. If you attempt a second pump stroke, all the air from the first stroke will be lost. That’s why it is called a single-stroke pneumatic.

Dry-fire

The ability to cock and fire the trigger without firing a pellet is called dry-fire. Every respectable 10-meter pistol must have this feature. To dry fire the 46M you pull forward on the breech cover to unlock the breech block, then pull the breech block straight up until the mechanism is cocked. Return the block to its closed position under the breech cover and you’re ready to shoot. A shooter typically fires five times as many shots each day dry-fire than with pellets.

Easy to pump

One of the principal features of the 46M pumping mechanism is the sliding fulcrum that reduces the pump stroke effort. It take pounds off the pump force and gives you a muzzle velocity of close to 500 f.p.s. The description says 480 f.p.s., but you know I’m going to test that for you. And I know a secret that may boost the velocity a little.

Happy, happy

BB Pelletier loves airguns! I love them all, but I have been a competitor in 10-meter pistol shooting and that gives me a special appreciation for target pistols. This new 46M gives me the opportunity to test a target pistol that many of you already know is the best deal on the market — hands-down.

But wait….!

Yes, there is more. In the first place, what is it that Alfa Precision does? That’s right, they make barrels. Are their barrels any good? From the reports I have read, they are quite good. And they make the barrel for this AV 46M. What does that mean? Well, we will all have to wait impatiently for the Part 3 accuracy test, but I have high hopes.

And in the second place, what was the one criticism many shooters had with the IZH 46 and 46M? The grip! That’s right, the IZH grip was always on the small side and quite bland. It worked, but it wasn’t in the same class as what we see on an FWB or a Walther 10-meter pistol. Well, didja happen to notice anything special about the grip on this pistol? That’s right — this one isn’t made from pallet wood! In fact, this grip is made in Finland and it looks very much like it belongs at the party.

With the IZH you built up the grip with wood putty in places to conform to your hand. This snazzy new laminated grip has some meat on it that allows you to carve off what you don’t need and it will still look snazzy.

And finally we come to the trigger. The IZH 46/46M trigger was good, but it was far from perfect. A 10-meter shooter could always detect some creep in stage two. So far the trigger on the AV-46M pistol I am examining is perfect. No creep! And I can detect creep that a lot of folks can’t.

When the pistol arrived at my house, stage two was breaking at 310 grams. While that is a nice light trigger, it won’t get you into a match. Your trigger must break at 500 grams or more. I adjusted the trigger to break at 524 grams. That’s all I’m going to tell you today, and I only said that to remind myself of what I have done.

Sights

The AV-46M sights are fully adjustable with positive click detents. That is as it should be on a target pistol. But there is more. The rear sight blade has two notches of different widths, so the blade can be flipped to adjust the notch width to your preference. The pistol comes with a second rear sight blade that has another two notches of differing widths, so you can play around until you are satisfied.

The rear blade also slides from side to side to give you more horizontal adjustment, should you need it. All things considered, this rear sight is everything needed for a world-class 10-meter pistol.

The front sight has three replaceable blades of different widths. These should be matched to the rear notch to optimize the length of your arm, your eyesight and your personal preference for blade-to-notch fit.

AV 46M rear sight
The AV-46M rear sight offers everything a world-class 10-meter pistol sight should.

AB 46M rear sight elements
Besides what comes on the pistol, you get these sight elements.

Weight

The AV-46M weighs 1181 grams, which is 2 lbs. 9.7 oz. That is on the heavy side for a 10-meter pistol these days. Most world-class target pistols are weighing just under a kilogram, today. This pistol’s weight is more in line with the FWB 65/80/90 of several decades ago. Of course the modern pistols do have optional weights that can be added to satisfy all shooters. I competed with heavier pistols, so the weight doesn’t bother me, but a buyer needs to know this up front. This would probably not be the pistol on which to start a junior shooter.

The pistol is muzzle-heavy. That’s a trait many target shooters prefer, as it stabilizes any shakiness of the hand.

Owner’s manual

The owner’s manual was written by an American, so it’s easy to read. The sight adjustments are engraved on the adjustment knobs so no confusion there. However — while the manual does tell what each trigger adjustment screw does, it doesn’t tell which way to adjust for anything. So, some ‘sperimentin’ will have to be done. That being noted, the manual does tell you how to store the pistol to keep the breech seals as fresh as possible.

The price

Here’s where the tire-kickers have to depart. This pistol is no longer cheap. Yes, in the mid-1990s they did sell for less than $300, but by the time the pistol could no longer be imported into the US, that had risen to around $500. Used IZH-46Ms are selling for over $500 today, and with the Finnish grips and the special barrel on this one it should come as no surprise that the price is almost $600. That’s still low compared to other serious 10-meter pistols, but it is significant. And even at that price I don’t anticipate the first batch staying around very long. So if you want one, now’s the time.

Summary

This doesn’t happen every day. Here is an iconic air pistol we all thought was lost to time and world politics. It’s back again, and, from what I have seen so far, it’s better than ever!


Walther LP53 – the James Bond airgun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Walther LP53

Walther’s LP53 was their first attempt at a target air pistol.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Blue Book coming!
  • James Bond
  • Two versions
  • Two frame finishes
  • Total manufactured
  • Breakbarrel
  • Cocking aid
  • Weights
  • Grips
  • Adjustable trigger!
  • Performance
  • The good news
  • Summary

Blue Book coming!

The Blue Book of Airguns will ship soon. The 13th edition is 1008 pages — up from 840 pages in the 12 edition. A lot has been added and a lot has been corrected. Watch for it!

Blue Book
The Blue Book of Airguns, 13th Edition, will ship soon.

Today we start looking at the Walther LP53 target pistol. The LP53 (LP stands for luft pistole – German for air pistol) was Walther’s early (1953-1983) attempt at making a .177 target pistol. It copied the lines of their famous .22 LR model 1936 Olympia II target pistol, and it used a spring piston to compress the air. When you look at the pistol, you wonder where the spring and the piston could be, but they are tucked away inside the pistol grip.

Walther Olympia
This Walther Olympia II is a bare-bones pistol with a straight backstrap.

Walther Olympia
Walther’s model 1936 Olympia II target pistol won gold in the 1936 Olympic Games. Shown here with all the added weights.

James Bond

The LP53 is all metal with beautifully formed plastic grip panels. The early pistols had a beavertail extension that curved down over the web of the hand; later guns also had an extension, but it was straight. The trigger blade is thin and elegant – looking exactly like a firearm trigger. In fact, there’s nothing about the LP53 that doesn’t look right, which is why the movie posters for early James Bond films show him holding an air pistol instead of his service PPK. The story is that the photographer used the air pistol instead of Bond’s service (at the time) Walther PPK because they were in England where the laws concerning firearms are more restrictive. That could be true, though the LP53 is much larger than a PPK and makes a bolder statement.

Walther PL53 James Bond
Sean Connery posed as James Bond with a Walther LP53 air pistol for publicity photos. Of course nobody caught that his finger is on the trigger in violation of one of the most important gun safety rules!

Two versions

There were two distinct versions of the LP53. The earlier version is the more common one and is characterized by a curved backstrap that hangs over the hand and brown plastic grips. The later version has a straight backstrap and black grips. The grips fit either model, so of course they aren’t a positive clue, but the backstraps are. I have seen several first version guns with black grips, so perhaps it isn’t the best way to differentiate.

Two frame finishes

The earlier version of the pistol started out with a frame finished in a flat blue. After around serial number 23,200 the frame was finished with a black crackle paint. The gun I am testing for you here has the earlier blued frame and a serial number of 014388. So it’s definitely an earlier gun from the mid to late 1950s.

Total manufactured

The number of LP53s that were made has been stated in many places as around 125,000. I found a man who has seen three of them with serial numbers higher than that. Beyond that I have no other information.

Breakbarrel

The pistol is a breakbarrel that cocks in the traditional fashion. But instead of pushing a piston back to compress the mainspring, the cocking lever pushes the piston down towards the bottom of  the grip. When the gun fires the piston springs up and compresses the air in a tiny compression chamber in the grip. Some promotional literature claimed that this gave the pistol a realistic feel, like a .22 target pistol being fired, but that wasn’t true. The pistol jumps up in your hand and may also buzz if the powerplant is dry like mine is.

Cocking aid

The LP53 doesn’t cock easily, so Walther provided a cocking aid that fit over the muzzle of the gun to protect the hand from the sharp front sight. My pistol didn’t have the aid when I recently got it but John Groenewold sells a replacement. So I ordered one. It would be quite easy to make, but as I am not a competent wood butcher, I leave that to those who are!

The pistol also came with a cleaning rod and two sets of inserts for the front and rear sights. They are in addition to the inserts that come installed in the pistol. All these things came with the pistol in a brown cardboard Walther box. I used to own an LP53 in the box, but I got rid of it. My current pistol came from an estate sale and came in a commercial hard gun box with one front sight insert and a spare set of brown plastic grips.

Walther LP53 box
This LP53 in the box is an older one with the blued frame. It has all but one of the extra front sight inserts and it shows the wooden cocking aid over the muzzle.

LP53s also came in deluxe padded cases. The oldest ones were lined with a blue-gray material, while newer ones have a maroon fabric. These are fitted cases with slots for every additional piece of the set. They easily double the value of the pistol today.

Weights

Looking at the photo of the Olympia .22 rimfire target pistol above you see that Walther furnished weights for its target pistols. The LP53 was no different, and I have seen beautiful cased sets that had the weights with everything else. Add another multiple of the pistol’s value, or more, for a setup like that! 

Walther LP53 weights
The air pistol came with weights, as well. They aren’t as fancy or heavy as the firearm weights, but they do exist!

Grips

The year 1952 wasn’t a high-water mark for ergonomics on this planet. The LP53 was created as a target pistol for the right hand so of course the thumbrest was on the left grip. As far as I can tell, Walther did not offer the pistol with left-hand grips.

Adjustable trigger!

Yes, some LP53s do have an adjustable two-stage trigger. Don’t get your hopes up, though. Walther did away with the adjustable trigger in this model around 1960. The one I’m testing was made earlier than that, so it has the adjustment.

Walther LP53 adjustable trigger
There’s the trigger adjustment.

Performance

I’m going to test both the velocity and the accuracy for you, but let me get you thinking in the right direction. The LP53 is not a powerful air pistol, despite a cocking effort that many will find difficult. And it also isn’t that accurate — or at least that hasn’t been my experience. Imagine pellets in the low to mid 300s and five-shot groups measuring 2-inches at 10 meters. I hope to do better, but that’s what I think it will be.

The mainspring is actually two coiled mainsprings — one inside the other. That sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t add that much.

There is a performance kit for this pistol. It has a single mainspring with thicker wire. I don’t know anything about it other than I would expect it to cock even harder, though in some reports I read that it’s lighter. The inner spring also functions as a spring guide and Walther has received a lot of criticism for that. It’s doesn’t add much power but it sure increases the cocking effort, as well as making the action buzzy. Oh, well — we shall see!

The good news

The good news is I have already stripped my pistol, so you are going to watch it come apart and go together again — I hope! I have ordered a new piston seal to replace the leather seal that’s in my gun now. It could be reused, but it’s looking tired and as long as I’m inside…

Summary

This series should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned!


The Diana model 10/Beeman 900 target pistol: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Beeman 900
The Beeman 900 pistol is another form of Diana’s model 10.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • RWS R10 Pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Match Grade pellets
  • H&N Finale Match Light 
  • No crazy person here!
  • …or?
  • Summary

Today I’m going back to the Beeman 900 that is a rebadged Diana 10 target pistol. I didn’t do so well in Part 3 and you readers were all over me to not rest the gun directly on the sandbag, but to rest my forearms on the bag and hold the pistol loose in front of the bag. So that’s what I did today — sort of. This turns into a much larger test than planned, and isn’t that always a good thing?

The test

I shot from 10 meters and at the start of the test I rested my forearms on the bag and held the pistol in my hands in front of the bag. I shot 5-shot groups because I wanted to test a lot of different pellets and the way things turned out, I’m glad I did!

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

First to be tested were the pellets I used to shoot in my original Diana 10 — RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle wadcutters. I bought a sleeve of 5,000 with the pistol and, except for my father-in-law shooting several thousand while I was on manuevers with the Army, I shot them all in that pistol.

The Beeman 900 put five Meisters into a 0.742-inch group at 10 meters. The group is horizontal and I don’t know why.

Meister Rifle group
Five RWS Meisterkugeln made a 0.742-inch group between centers at 10 meters.

RWS R10 Pistol

Next up were five RWS R10 Pistol pellets. One of them sailed through the 10-ring while the other four grouped in 0.565-inches at 4 o’clock on the edge of the bull. The 5-shot group measures 1.251-inches between centers.

R10 Match Pistol group
Four of the five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets went into 0.565-inches at 10 meters, but the 5th shot opened it to 1.251-inches.

Qiang Yuan Match Grade pellets

The next pellets I tried were Qiang Yuan Match Grade pellets that Pyramyd Air no longer stocks. Four of them went into 0.478-inches at 10 meters but the fifth one went low and to the left, opening the group to 1.14-inches.

Qiang Yuan Match group
Four Qiang Yuan Match pellets went into 0.478-inches in the bull, with a 5th one landing low and to the left and opening the group to 1.14-inches between centers.

H&N Finale Match Light 

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the H&N Finale Match Light pellet. When I saw the group I couldn’t believe it. Was I shooting a Chinese B3-1?

Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets landed in a group that measures 1.657-inches between centers. Yikes!

H&N Finale Match Light group
The Beeman 900 put five H&N Finale Match Light pellets into 1.657-inches at ten meters. Cowabunga!

No crazy person here!

Okay, enough of this! I had to try something different. I would rest the pistol on the bag and see how that went with the same pellet. Well, it wasn’t great but this time 5 shots went into 1.127-inches, so it’s tighter. SO MUCH FOR NOT RESTING THE PISTOL ON THE BAG!!!

H&N Finale Match Light group rested
Resting the Beeman 900 directly on the sandbag reduced the size of the group to 1.127-inches between centers — a half-inch improvement.

However, I was still unsatisfied. I can outshoot that group with a Crosman Mark I, so what’s the deal? Time to drag out the heavy artillery. I got my FWB P44 target pistol. And I rested it on the bag because this pistol does not move in the slightest when it fires. Surely it can do better with any pellet than the Beeman 900, but at this point it was this one pellet that was in question. So, for the third time I put five H&N Finale Match Light pellets downrange. 

This time five pellets landed in a group that measured 0.644-inches between centers. It’s half the size of the best Beeman 900 group with this pellet, but still nothing to write home about. So perhaps this pellet isn’t good in either pistol — or…?

H&N Finale Match Light group rested P44
The FWB P44 cut the group size in half. Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets went into 0.644-inches at ten meters.

…or?

Or, was I the weak link? One way to tell was to bring up the best group I ever recorded with the P44 and compare it to a group of the same pellets today. On June 9, 2016 I shot this pistol and put 5 Vogel target pellets with 4.50mm heads into 0.242-inches at 10 meters.

FWB P44 Vogel target best
Back in June of 2016 I put 5 Vogel pellets into this 0.242-inch group at 10 meters, shooting the FWB P44.

On this day. shooting the same pistol in the same way, my group of five Vogels measures 0.575-inches — more than twice the size of the group from 4-1/2 years ago. Clearly I am off my game today and it is showing up in the results of this test. A little of this may be because I’m already 35 shots into the test and somewhat tired, but I don’t think all of the difference can be explained away.

FWB P44 Vogel target today
On this day I was able to put 5 Vogel pellets into a 0.575-inch group at 10 meters with the FWB P44.

I was either off my game or tired or both. Only one thing remained — shoot a group of 5 Vogels from the Beeman 900. This I did and when I saw it I knew the test was over. Five pellets went into 1.231-inches at 10 meters.

Beeman 900 Vogel target today
Well, I’m done! The Beeman 900 put five Vogel pellets into a 1.231-inch group at 10 meters.

Summary

I’m not finished with the Beeman 900. I know it must shoot better than it has and I just need to find the right pellet to do it.

Shooting the FWB P44 was a blast, as well. That pistol has lapsed into history and been replaced by the FWB P8X target pistol. That makes the P44 an historical airgun as well! Goody!


Pellet calibers — why .177?: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

diabolo pellet
The diabolo pellet exists in four smallbore calibers.

This report covers:

  • Smallbore calibers
  • Before diabolo pellets
  • Birth of the diabolo
  • Ideal for plinking
  • Highest velocity
  • Velocity wars
  • Target shooting
  • Field target
  • Summary

Sunday while I was walking through the hall in my church a man stopped me and said, “You know a lot about airsoft? You’re the grandfather of airsoft?” He had been talking to our youth pastor who works part-time at AirForce Airguns and he was trying to remember what he’d just heard.

Most readers can guess my response, but once we were on the subject of airGUNS, he said he needed a good air rifle — something to use on pests. He told me that he was aware such guns cost as much as $100 or even $125, and what would I recommend?

What I would recommend is an education, but of course I didn’t say that. We have all been where he is now and we had to learn from someone! That started me thinking about the basics. A couple weeks ago I completed the series on How to mount a scope. There were plenty of basics in that series, but we also went into some of the more advanced principals. I thought that would be a good approach to use for pellets, as well. Let’s see where this goes!

Smallbore calibers

There are four smallbore airgun (pellet gun) calibers — .177, .20, .22 and .25. I’m going to leave BBs out of this discussion because they deserve a series of their own — and they will get one. In this series I will look at each smallbore caliber on its own. Today I’ll begin with the .177.

Before diabolo pellets

The .177 dates back to the early 1900s, along with .22 and .25 calibers. Before that there were slugs that could be called pellets, though they weren’t in the same class as the diabolo we know today. There was the cat slug, the burred slug (which is the same as the cat slug but by a different name) and the felted slug. All were solid lead with some kind of tail that increased drag.

Cat slug

felted slug

Birth of the diabolo

Sometime around 1905, the diabolo pellet was born. There aren’t solid histories of this anywhere that I know of, but from pellet boxes we know that the diabolo existed before 1909. And there were British trials conducted with diabolos in 1908, according th Walter. I say 1905 because that’s when the H The Lincoln rifle that was to become the BSA rifle was born.

The .177 was right there with the earliest true diabolo pellets. At the time it wasn’t the favored caliber because of the small size of the pellet. It was found most often in ladies model airguns. But that didn’t last. Even back then it was obvious that if all you wanted to do was shoot or plink, a less expensive pellet was best, and even back then the .177 was cheapest because it used less lead. 

Before we leave this topic of diabolos I want you to understand that at the time it was not clear they would be the pellet design of choice. Several other designs were tried at the same time. Diabolos just outlasted all the others. Even today some solid pellets are attempting to break back into the market. But the diabolo reigns supreme.

Ideal for plinking

This is the first big advantage of the .177. They are the ideal plinking pellet because they use less lead. Less lead means a cheaper pellet. To offset the difference in cost the larger calibers are now putting fewer pellets in a tin. A typical .177 tin still holds 500 pellets, where a typical .25 caliber pellet tin holds — well there really isn’t a “typical” 25-caliber pellet tin. They hold from 83 on the lower end to 350 on the upper end.

If all you want to do is shoot at things and watch them move or make noise when they are hit, the .177 is the best way to go. Oh, the heavier pellets will make more noise and move things around more, but the .177 gets the job done.

Highest velocity = best-selling

Velocity is a strong selling point for airguns in the lower price category, and that is the category that sells the largest number of pieces. The profit margin per piece is usually the lowest, but the volume that is moved more than makes up for it.

What that means is the most “popular” (best-selling) airguns are going to be .177 caliber. More airguns sold translates to more pellet sales in that caliber, with the result that the .177 caliber pellet is the best-selling of all four smallbore calibers.

Velocity wars

The high-velocity wars began in the 1970s — about the time that personal chronographs became affordable. Prior to the 1960s if you wanted to know how fast a pellet went you had to enlist the services of a commercial laboratory. W.H.B. Smith who published Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air and Spring guns of the World in 1957, used the services of the H.P. White  chronograph — a device that occupied several rooms and used the services of multiple people. Its accuracy was one-tenth or less of what you can get from a hundred-dollar chronograph today.

Prior to that time Americans used pellet guns for pesting, while the rest of the world focused more on plinking and target shooting. In a few places, airguns were used for subsistence hunting and they favored whatever they could get that would do the job. The thousands of Crosman 101 pellet rifles that were bought by the U.S. Government in World War II, along with a million rounds of ammunition, were mostly given as gifts to influence tribal chefs in southeast Asia.

So Americans favored the .22, while most of the world liked the .177. The British also had the .25 caliber (6.35 mm) pellet at this same time but no powerplant was up to the task of launching it very fast. So it lagged behind the .177 and even the .22.

Target shooting

Ten-meter target shooting with airguns is an outgrowth of shooting 4mm zimmerstutzens that shot (and still compete today) at 15 meters. Like plinking, the size of the pellet makes little difference to accuracy when you shoot at paper, so the less expensive .177-caliber naturally dominated this category. However, the British, notable contrarians that they are, did make several target rifles in .22 caliber, and even Diana and BSF of Germany did the same. But all of this was before the world cup and finally the Olympics put their stamp of approval on .177. When they did that all the scoring gauges were standardized in .177 caliber (4.5 mm). Today the .177 caliber pellet is mandatory for national, international and world competition.

Field target

The far less popular sport of field target (millions compete worldwide in 10-meter target shooting, thousands in field target) also favors the .177 caliber, though it is not mandated. The reason it is favored is statistical rather than rule-based. In field target you shoot through a hole in a steel target at a moveable paddle that stands behind. If you hit the paddle and it moves far enough, the target falls and the shooter is awarded a point. But if the pellet strikes the steel target first as it is trying to pass through the hole, it pushes the target backward against the release mechanism. If the push is hard enough, even hitting the paddle with part of the pellet won’t be enough energy to drop the target. The result is no point.

Statistically, the .177-caliber pellet is smaller than all other calibers, giving it a better chance of passing through the hole without contacting the side. Or, if it does touch the side, the .177 is small enough that it has less chance of locking the target in the upright position. It’s a probability thing and competitors understand that the smaller pellet is the best choice.

In recent years the British field target power level cap of under 12 foot-pounds has been incorporated into the world-class rules and the lighter .177 pellets travel faster at the maximum permissible power than do heavier .20 and .22-caliber pellets. A faster velocity means a flatter trajectory that translates into improved scores for everyone. The bottom line of this discussion is the .177 caliber pellet is better-suited to field-target competition  than any larger caliber.

Hunting

If I don’t address hunting someone will complain. And you can hunt with a .177 caliber airgun. Doing so means your shot placement has to be perfect, as the tiny .177 projectile cuts a narrow wound channel. I don’t recommend the caliber for hunting solely , unless you allow for its shortcomings. Killing mice in the cellar would be preferable to hunting crows in the barnyard. If you want to hunt crows and .177 is all you have, go for it. Just don’t choose the caliber because the pellets are cheaper.

Summary

So .177 is the most popular pellet caliber for all these reasons. Can you think of any more?