Mondial Oklahoma spring-piston pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Oklahoma
The Mondial Oklahoma pistol.

Part 1

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Further tie-ins to the Roger CO2 pistol
  • Choose one
  • Performance
  • RWS Hobby
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Loose breech
  • Discharge sound
  • Accuracy?
  • Summary

 Today I test the velocity of the Mondial Oklahoma air pistol we have started looking at. I was hoping so much that another owner would comment that he had a pistol with a rifled barrel because this one is smoothbore for sure. But no one has come forward yet. And no, the rifling hasn’t worn out of this one. This is a breakbarrel spring-piston air pistol that was made to sell at a low price, but as I noted in Part One, a lot of thought went into its design.

Further tie-ins to the Roger CO2 pistol

Reader Pacoinohio asked for more information about the tie-in between the Oklahoma and the Daisy 100. I have information that comes from two different sources and goes in two different directions. First, while researching Mondial I learned that they also made the Roger CO2 pistol that looks something like the Daisy 100. Many years ago an advanced Daisy collector at an airgun show showed me his Roger pistol in the box that he felt was extremely rare. He also told me that Daisy bought the plans for the Roger and that was what the Daisy 100 was based on. They are not exactly the same and I doubt that many parts interchange, if any, but any designer finds his work easier if he has something to go on. I think that was essentially what happened, if any of it is true.

The other direction I will come from is that I wrote the largest report that has ever been written on the .22 rimfire firearms made by the Wamo corporation. It was published in one of the Airgun Revue magazines. This company is known as Wham-O today and we know them for their Hula Hoops, Superballs and Frisbees. But Wamo also made at least three different .22 rimfire guns, though they claim they never did. The most popular one they made was called the Wamo Powermaster. It was a .22 long rifle single shot that ejected the empty cartridge case and the bolt remained back for loading.

Years ago Dennis Quackenbush, who many of you know as the builder of big bore airguns, told me that he can convert the Daisy 100 into a Powermaster. Yesterday morning Dennis told me that to him it appears that Daisy purchased the Powermaster design and tooling from Wamo and turned it into their model 100 CO2 pistol. That’s why Dennis says it is so easy to turn a 100 into a Powermaster. He says that because he sees little design details in the Daisy 100 that come from the Powermaster and are unnecessary for the air pistol, so it looks to him like Daisy used the Wamo tooling to make their airgun.

Powermaster 100
Here are the Wamo Powermaster (top) and Daisy 100 for comparison. Photo courtesy Dennis Quackenbush.

Roger
And here is a Roger. I have to say, it doesn’t look much like the Daisy.

Choose one

That’s two different stories of the relationship between the Daisy 100, the Wamo Powermaster and the Roger air pistol. You decide. I’ve told you all that I know.

Performance

So, how does the pistol I am testing perform? According to the Blue Book of Airguns I should expect about 200 f.p.s. I oiled the piston seal and the breech seal days before this test so this one will do as well as it possibly can. Let’s see.

RWS Hobby

First to be tested was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. They fit the breech very tight and wouldn’t even sit flush.

Hobby
That’s as deep as the RWS Hobby would go into the Oklahoma breech with finger pressure.

I knew when I saw how tight Hobbys were that they needed to be seated deep, so the head and skirt would be sized down by the barrel. Just for fun I shot one Hobby seated like you see in the picture. It went out at 175 f.p.s. Ten more when seated deep with a ballpoint pen averaged 244 f.p.s. That’s a gain of 69 f.p.s. from just deep seating. The low for the string was 231. The high was 253, so the difference was 22 f.p.s.

I’m guessing other pellets that are light but not so large as Hobbys will be faster. Let’s see.

Air Arms Falcons

At 7.33-grains the Falcons are heavier than the Hobbys, but they are also smaller, so there is less resistance. I deep-seated them, too.

Falcons averaged 236 f.p.s. over 10 shots. The velocity ranged from a low of 223 to a high of 246, so a 22 f.p.s. spread. Let’s try one more pellet.

RWS R10 Match Pistol

The RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet weighs 7 grains like the Hobby, but it fits the breech almost as well as the Falcon. It’s just a little tighter. Ten of them averaged 254 f.p.s. in this Oklahoma. The low was 251 and the high was 257, so the spread was 6 f.p.s. That’s not only very good, it’s also considerably faster than the Blue Book said, so I assume this pistol is performing well.

Loose breech

I noticed while shooting that the breech on the pistol is loose. However, it is the strangest loose breech I have ever seen. It’s loose when the pistol is cocked but not when it isn’t, which means when the piston is forward it’s somehow affecting the tightness of the breech.

Discharge sound

I tested the sound at discharge with the audiometer app on my smart phone. It’s very quiet when it fires.

discharge Oklahoma

Accuracy?

I don’t have very high hopes for this pistol to be accurate. The inexpensive construction plus the smooth barrel are two reasons why.

I think I will start my accuracy test at 20 feet, rather than 10 meters. And I will look for pellets that fit the breech loosely, or at least not overly tight. I really have no idea of what to expect with this one, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Summary

The Oklahoma air pistol is an airgun I have long wanted to examine and test. Now I’m getting to. I hope you are finding this as fascinating as I am.


Let’s make lemonade

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Lemons
  • The bigger picture
  • Whodunit?
  • So what?
  • They got better
  • The point?
  • Summary

I was all set to begin telling you about my Beeman 400/Diana 75 today. Yes — my rifle is a Beeman 400. I’ve had people tell me Beeman didn’t sell a 400, but I’ve got one to show you. However — not today.

There is one part of the Diana 75 sidelever recoilless air rifle that I had to discuss with you first and, as I thought about it, this one component is more important than the entire target rifle. So today I tell all of you how to make lemonade. Some of you will make it, some will even set up lemonade stands while others will continue to curse the darkness.

Lemons

The world of airguns is replete with lemons. In 2018 I told you the story of a Benjamin 700 that was practically forced upon me at the 2018 Texas Airgun Show by one of our regular readers — I forget who. The price of $95 was certainly good. But then I had to get it fixed and, by the time that was over, I had three times the money invested in the airgun. By the way, that BB repeater now holds air indefinitely and is looking for a new home.

The Schimel was a new CO2 pistol in 1950. It was unique, in that it was a CO2-powered .22 pistol that shot pellets at 550 f.p.s.! However, unlike Crosman who had been building CO2 guns for decades by 1950, the Schimel was made with high-tech all-new materials. Unfortunately many of them did not withstand the test of time. The metal parts welded to one another through electrolysis, the o-ring seals absorbed gas and locked the gun up tight for hours after the cartridge was empty, the paint flaked off all over the gun and the plastic grip scales shrunk and warped over time.

Schimel
The Schimel looks like a P08 German Luger and my wife, Edith, who saw the air pistol first, always called my 9mm 1914 Erfurt Luger a Schimel. 

The bigger picture

Those guns and others like them were unsatisfactory, but they were nothing compared to the tens of thousands of failures that were foisted upon the airgunning public in the 1960s and ’70s. Companies with solid reputations that we still trust today sold tens (hundreds?) of thousands of premium airguns to unsuspecting customers who only found their Achilles heel a decade later. Their piston seals were made of the wrong synthetic material! That material worked well when it was new and fresh but it hardened in the air and slowly turned into a dark yellowish waxy substance that fell apart in small chunks. I have found bits of brownish-yellow wax in the barrels of dozens of these airguns. Not one of them escaped this fate and in 2021 there isn’t one of them that still has its original seals.

124 perished seals
This FWB 124 pistol seal was white-ish when new. This brand new seal has never been in an airgun. Years of exposure to the atmosphere have turned it brown and dried it out. It does the same thing inside an air rifle.

I wrote about one of these airguns in the 15-part series, A shrine built for a Feinwerkbau 124, back in 2010 and 2011. Yes, the legendary Feinwerkbau put the new bound-to-fail synthetic seals on their iconic 124 (and 121, 125 and 127). That’s tens of thousands of airguns, right there! And yes, I did write a 15-part report about the 124. I also wrote a great many more reports about that model over the years. Many of them have been about replacing the original seals with ones made from modern materials. I have probably resealed 12 to 15 model 124s in my time.

Okay, get angry! Why would such a prestigious airgun manufacturer put something that was bound to fail in their finest products. Let’s see. Perhaps they didn’t know?

Why would Coca-Cola change the formula that made them the world’s leading soft drink producer? Why would NASA skip some of the testing for the Hubble Space Telescope before launching it into orbit? I could go on but the answer is always the same — they didn’t know.

Whodunit?

Now we come to the part of today’s report that explains why I didn’t start presenting the Beeman 400/Diana 75 today. You see — Diana also used this new synthetic material in their piston seals. That makes the following models subject to early failure.

Diana 5 pistol
Diana 6 target pistol
Diana 10 target pistol
Diana 60 target rifle
Diana 65 target rifle
Diana 66 target rifle
Diana model 70 rifle
Diana model 72 target rifle
Diana model 75 target rifle

And the companies that sold these airguns under other names, like Beeman, sold them under different model numbers, as well. But wait — there’s more!

Walther also used this synthetic material in their airguns made during this same timeframe. That made the following models that are prone to early failure.

Walther model 55 target rifle
Walther LGV target rifle
Walther LGR target rifle

I have resealed two LGVs for this problem, and I paid someone else to reseal one because he wouldn’t sell me the parts. I have an LGR that was also resealed.

So what?

BB, you’re painting a dismal picture here! This is why I won’t buy a used airgun.

Well, you do what you think is best, but I am telling you that this has opened up a grand world of opportunity to those who can work with it. You can either complain that the lower 40 acres on your Titusville, Pennsylvania, farm is all full of black sticky muck that clogs your plow or you can arrange to sink an oil well and become a millionaire!

Guys, what BB is telling you is there is a huge stock of wonderful airguns rotting away in closets because they suddenly stopped shooting when the barrel filled up with the brown waxy stuff. They would have been thrown away years ago but the supply of round tuits was temporarily exhausted. It’s hard to hold an FWB 124 or a Diana 72 in your hands and not realize what a diamond it is!

They got better

All those prestigious companies who were bamboozled by the early synthetics (remember, Benjamin Braddock — plastic is the future! {from The Graduate}) learned their lesson and made their seals out of new material that lasts virtually forever. They each went a different way but all of them figured it out, just like General Motors figured out that timing belt gears should not be made out of Nylon!

While “they” were figuring it out, the aftermarket guys also got with the program and better synthetic piston seals began showing up worldwide. So today a 124 that’s no longer being used is a loving puppy that needs to be adopted. I once bought one for $35 — from an airgun dealer! I bought a nice one for $200 a few years back — from a gun dealer who took it on a trade in for a “real” gun. That one I still have.

I even bought a 124 complete action in a deluxe stock at a gun show for $50 a few years ago. But I sold that one to another airgunner who said he had a barrel.

The point?

If you haven’t gotten it by now, bless your heart! What I’m saying is that there are thousands of worthy airguns laying around that are simply in need of a new piston seal. These aren’t cheapies, either. These are good airguns. Just look at the list up above again. But their owners don’t appreciate them anymore.

I bet if there was a pristine 1957 Chevy Bel Air parked out in the street and the For Sale sign said its original 283 original engine was’t running, people would find a way to do something about it! BB Pelletier just told you that there are thousands of them and you just have to look for them.

Look in odd places. Don’t look in the car trader magazines for ’57 Chevys. Everybody looks there. Look behind the body shops and repair shops around town. That’s where the mechanic parked them, waiting for the owner to pay his bill. And he never came back. Sure there is no title, but we are talking about airguns — not cars! Don’t need no title for an FWB 124 or an RWS 75.

Read the ‘spensive Gun Broker ads that say “I don’t know how well this RWS Diana 75 rifle works because I don’t have any pellets to shoot in it.” Sure — we all believe that. So you contact that guy and tell him that a piston seal replacement for a Diana 75 will cost you at least $350 — $250 for the work and parts and $100 for shipping both ways. Tell him you’ll give him $250 for his $575 air rifle, plus $50 to ship it and then, if it does have the bad piston seal problem, you do have to pay the rest to get it fixed. And you come out about even. But if it doesn’t… oh, happy day!

Or, you can fix it yourself. Or, you will luck out and discover that it works fine. Or, the seller will discover that he actually does have some .177 pellets and the gun does, in fact, work. Then you ask him what pellets he has and what velocity the rifle shoots them at and he tells you that he doesn’t have a chronograph. And on and on…

Summary

Now I’ve told you all that is behind the piston seals of a Beeman 400/Diana 75. That means that on Monday you can light just one little candle and stop cursing the darkness.


Tell BB gun: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BB gun
This military-looking BB gun is large and good-looking!

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Lead balls only
  • The test
  • 4.4mm copper-plated lead balls
  • Trigger pull
  • 4.4mm Punktkugeln
  • H&N 4.45mm lead ball
  • What we know
  • The last step
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the Tell BB gun. I think this is going to be a very interesting report, so let’s get started.

Lead balls only

I waited to do this test because I was considering what to do about the inaccuracy of steel BBs. At two feet they were spreading out to three inches apart. That would mean that at 5 meters (16 feet) the spread would be several FEET. I thought about shooting them closer to the target but what’s the point? If they are that inaccurate I’m never going to shoot them anyway. So I decided to run this accuracy test at the standard 5-meter distance with larger lead balls.

The test

I shot from a seated position, 5 meters from the target. I used the UTG Monopod to rest the gun on. I used a 6-o’clock hold on the bull.

4.4mm copper-plated lead balls

The first balls I shot were the 4.4mm copper-plated lead balls that I bought to shoot in my Haenel 310. I measured a couple of them after the test and they measure 0.1715 to 0.172-inches in diameter. That’s about the same as the Daisy Premium Grade steel BBs I tested in Part 2. I thought they were larger than that. According to my caliper 4.4mm is 0.1735-inches. My conversion software says 4.4mm is 0.1732-inches. Well, these balls don’t measure that wide.

I shot just 4 times at the target and stopped when 4 balls went into 5.57-inches between centers. I could see these balls were not that accurate and I stopped before I had an accident.

Trigger pull

The Tell trigger is two-stage and works well some of the time. The rest of the time it fires before I am ready, so the hold has to be perfect. The trigger is light, but too vague for good work.

copper ball
Four 4.4mm copper-plated balls went into 5.57-inches at 5 meters and I stopped shooting them. When I measured the balls they were smaller than advertised.

This is such a robust gun that I was hoping it would be as accurate as a Daisy 499. It sure is fun to shoot!

4.4mm Punktkugeln

The next ball I shot was another 4.4mm lead ball, but these measured a little larger than the others. They are a very uniform 4.4mm in diameter and my caliper says they measure 0.173-inches. The slight difference between these 4.4mm balls and when I just set the caliper at 4.4mm and pushed the button to convert from millimeters to inches confuses me, but that’s what it is.

This time all 10 balls stayed on the paper target at 5 meters. They went high and to the right of the bull and I can’t do anything about that because the gun’s sight doesn’t adjust very much. So, I just shot the group. Ten balls went into 3.7-inches, c-t-c at five meters. That’s a big group, for sure, but it’s ten shots instead of four.

4.4mm lead ball
Ten 4.4mm lead balls made this 3.7-inch group at 5 meters. It’s large but all 10 shots are on the paper. I didn’t use the dime because why would I?

Okay, I was seeing an increase in accuracy as the size of the ball increased. So I went to a larger ball.  I had a tin of H&N 4.45mm balls and had tested them in the Part 2 velocity test. Now I shot them at the target.

H&N 4.45mm lead ball

Ten 4.45mm lead balls went into a group that measures 3.06-inches between centers. As before a diameter increase in the ball produced a smaller group. There is something to be learned here.

This time 9 of 10 balls were on the paper and one was slightly off to the right. I photographed the target in situ for you.

4.45 in situ
One ball at the high right just missed the target paper. And two balls went through the same hole. Ten 4.45mm lead balls measure 3.06-inches between centers at 5 meters.

4.45
Same target with just the shots that hit the paper. Nine of 10 4.45mm balls are in this 3.06-inch group. The ball that missed the paper did not enlarge the group.

What we know

So far we have learned that the larger the ball, the more accurate this gun shoots. But what is larger than 4.45mm? Why 4.5mm, of course. I loaded 10 Beeman Perfect rounds into the gun and shot the next target. This was the first ball that did not fall into the barrel all the way to the breech. I used a .177 Dewey cleaning rod to press the ball all the way down. But after 5 shots the balls began to fall all the way down by themselves. I still used the rod to check that each ball was all the way down.

Ten Beeman Perfect Rounds went into a group measuring 1.96-inches between centers at 5 meters. Another group reduction with a larger ball!

Beeman rounds
Now we are getting somewhere. Ten 4.5mm Beeman perfect rounds made this 1.96-inch group at 5 meters.

The last step

Okay, have I gone as far as I can go? Not quite. Because I shoot and write about zimmerstutzens, I have acquired a small sample of different size lead balls over the years. One ball is a 4.55mm size. It’s called a number 12 ball, which is the new size designation. The old size number was 9.

number 12 balls
I had a tin of 4.55mm balls.

And, look what they did. Ten balls went into 0.877-inches at 5 meters.

4.55 group
Ten 4.55mm balls in 0.877-inches at 5 meters.

I think the last group confirms what I suspected. The shot tube prefers larger balls. I can’t do anything about the shot placement that is still high and right, but the grouping is a clear indication of what this BB gun wants.

Summary

This was an interesting test, because we got to watch as the tolerances shrunk, so did the groups. That is an important lesson for anyone who is involved in smoothbore shooting.


Airguns you never see

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

“Toy” BB guns
The heavy Daisy 179
FWB 125
Daisy Annie Oakley BB gun
Summary

Gonna have some fun today. Instead of testing something I want to show you some airguns you’ll probably never see. We’ll start with a couple Daisys.

“Toy” BB guns

Imagine you work at the Daisy Manufacturing Company around the year 1960. It might have been a few years earlier, but probably not much later.

You’re cranking out BB guns by the million each year, and the monotony is getting to you. So you decide to do something different.

In another part of the plant they make true toy guns that don’t shoot anything. These are noisemakers and smoke makers for the smaller boys and girls who aren’t yet ready for the responsibility of a real BB gun.

To hold their interest, these toys are painted with bright colors that contrast vividly with the almost black finish you put on BB guns. Your idea is to paint a few real BB guns with some of the bright toy colors. Blue and pink are especially attractive, having been blended to suit the marketing department’s brainstorm that kids want their guns to be gender-specific. I bet that wouldn’t fly so well today!

Over in the injection-molding department, you get the guys to make a special short run of white Styrene stocks, similar to the Annie Oakley and Space Ranger stocks they recently made for the marketeers. Those guns never sold well, but you won’t be selling the guns you’re about to make, so it doesn’t matter.

The guns you chose to doll up this way are Daisy’s number 25 pump gun and the Targeteer pistol. Both familiar icons of American youth, they look positively other-worldly in electric “Toy Blue” with white styrene stocks.

Once they are together, you decide these guns look so special that they are presented to some person (or persons, because nobody knows for sure how many were made) who is in favor at Daisy.

A few guns also make their way into the hands of some of the old-time Daisy employees who collect what the company makes. In 50 years, they have all changed hands and all that anyone can remember is that a few were made for one reason or another.

Obviously, they were made because you see them here. One man owns both these BB guns and has little motivation to part with either one. The number 25 pump gun is in nearly new condition, with only evidence of handling and storage. The Targeteer pistol has more wear but still shows a lot of the original paint. The white styrene on both guns is yellowing.

Daiosy 25 left
A Daisy number 25 pump BB gun in toy blue with a white styrene stock and pump handle. A Daisy 25 collection isn’t complete without one of these.

Targeteer left
The Targeteer was given the same treatment. I think it makes the gun stand out!

Unless you see these at an airgun show you’ll probably never encounter one of them. I have seen more of the Daisy 25s at airgun shows, and that would be 5 or 6, with seeing the same gun twice a distinct possibility.

The heavy Daisy 179

Daisy’s 179 BB pistol looks like a Colt Single Action Army revolver, but it’s actually an 18-shot BB pistol that uses spring power to launch a BB. It’s a catapult.

Daisy 179
Daisy’s 179 was also made of solid brass parts and painted to look like the pot metal gun.

However there is a very scarce variation of the gun that’s made of all brass parts. Daisy calls it a salesman’s sample, but it is known that several were also made as special gifts. Daisy knows of serial numbers up to 34, so a batch of perhaps 50 was created. As far as I know they are painted black like the pot metal 179s, so looking is no way to tell. Weight is the main difference.

I have never seen one, though a couple people have sworn to me they had one. No doubt there was a lot of hand work that went into making each one. If one is offered for sale expect to pay several thousand dollars. You’ll be bidding against me, if I see it, too.

FWB 125

Many of you know that the FWB 124 is a desirable breakbarrel air rifle. They are accurate, reasonably powerful and they cock easily. They are also attractive in this day of mega-magnum air rifles with camouflaged synthetic stocks. All that plus general unavailability has made the FWB 124 a classic air rifle to own.

FWB 124
Feinwerkbau’s 124 is a classic breakbarrel air rifle. The 125 is a paragraph in its history.

The 124 is .177 caliber. There is a .22-caliber model that’s designated the 127, as well. They command a small premium for their scarcity, though for my money the 124 is the one to get. The rifle’s power is well-matched to the smaller pellet. However, are you aware there is a variation that’s still rarer? Dr. Beeman had FWB build five 125s — a 5mm or .20-caliber version? When five of something are built they are considered sample guns.

I have seen people turn themselves inside-out over these — as though the scarcity of that caliber in that model makes it collectible. In my opinion, it doesn’t. Here is a practical reason why. I like Colt Single Action Army revolvers — a lot! My favorite caliber is the one that’s the most common — the .45 Colt, or as many people say, the .45 Long Colt. But the SAA was also made in .32 S&W caliber. Only 32 of them were ever made. An SAA collector might want one, but I sure don’t! That’s way too much gun for such a puny cartridge!

Now — here is the point. Lots of airgunners want FWB 124s, but that doesn’t make them collectible. They are shooters first and collector’s items second. Like I said, the .22-caliber 127 goes for a small premium, but that’s where it ends. You may never see a 125, but don’t pay a lot for one if you do. 

Annie Oakley

I will finish with a last gun from Daisy. In 1957 Daisy was trying to appeal to girls as well as boys. In that day the sexes were considered separate and distinct, and Daisy felt they had to dress up their airguns to appeal to the gentler audience. So they made an Annie Oakley smoke gun — one of many play guns they made that didn’t and couldn’t shoot BBs.

Annie TV
Gail Davis starred in the TV series, “Annie Oakley” 1954-1957.

Annie smoke gun
From a 1957 wholesale catalog, the Daisy Annie Oakley smoke gun was offered.

What most people don’t know is that Daisy also made a few real Annie Oakley BB guns. They looked like the smoke gun only as I remember it they were a bit longer. I have held one in my hands. This is the kind of stuff that legends are made of because you can get into an argument with a veteran collector who will vehemently deny that such a thing ever existed and then watch his face when you put one into his hands!

They may never have been a commercial item. Just one of those things guys do when things in the shop are running smoothly. It’s a, “Here, hold my beer,” kind of thing!

Summary

What we have looked at today are collectibles so rare that few people even know they exist. This is a type of collecting that goes off the map!


Design an airgun

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Air gun?
  • What about pneumatics?
  • Can you build a spring-piston gun?
  • Keep it honest
  • Contest?

This report will be different than usual. Today I’m challenging you to design an airgun that we readers can build!

I’m guessing it will be a BB gun, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m guessing it will be a smoothbore, but again, it doesn’t have to be.

Air gun?

When I say build an airgun, it doesn’t have to work with compressed air. The Daisy 179 pistol is considered an airgun, but in reality it is a catapult gun.

Daisy 179
Daisy’s 179 is really a catapult gun.

The Hodges gun of the early 1800s is also a catapult gun, and a powerful one at that. It is said to have been capable of killing medium-sized game such as feral hogs.

Hodges gun
The Hodges catapult gun launched large .40+ caliber lead balls.

And there are slingshot “rifles” being sold on eBay right now. Unfortunately they are made in China, so they won’t see many sales in the US. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build one yourself. There are videos on You Tube about just that.

What about pneumatics?

 Can you build one of them? In the 1990s, when he was learning about airguns, Gary Barnes experimented with low-pressure pneumatics. He discovered that pressures as low as 30 psi were enough to drive large projectiles pretty fast — certainly over 100 f.p.s. Those kind of pressures are easily generated with bicycle pumps and they will push a heavy projectile pretty fast. They weren’t controlled by conventional triggers, but that was just a detail to be worked out.

He even built a multi-pump that ran on lower pressure — certainly no more than 50-60 psi. It reminded me of a slide trombone, and the lesson was — it isn’t air pressure that pushes projectiles, so much as air volume! The pressure was low but the volume was high, so the push was long and gentle.

Can you build a spring-piston gun?

Reader Duskwight from Moscow designed and built his Duskcomb (SP?) rifle — his version of a Whiscomb, where two pistons come together to compress the air. You get a powerful springer with zero recoil. From his reports we know that he invested thousands of dollars in his project — probably more than enough to buy a genuine Whiscomb. But he really wanted to do it and to his credit he saw it through to the end. What was better, he reported the results to us on this blog. As I recall, his rifle weighed more than he wanted, but I believe that it worked.

I don’t expect anyone to go that far, but a simpler spring-piston airgun could be made.

How about starting with a wooden popper toy? They build pressure as the parts are brought together, and I’m sure many of you have played with them.

popper toy
Come on — I know many of you have played with one of these.

The Quackenbush Lightning is a spring-piston airgun that uses a rubber band on the outside of the barrel to pull the sliding compression chamber against the breech to compress air.

Quiackenbush Lightning
Quackenbush Lightning uses rubber bands to pull a sliding compression chamber against a barrel to compress air.

Keep it honest

While we will allow catapults, I think we will draw the line at percussion caps and primers. They are explosives that turn our airgun into a firearm. Let’s see if we can avoid that.

Contest?

I would like to turn this into a contest. The winner would be the niftiest design that the most people could build. I’ll look around for something I can award as a prize. I would also like to test your gun, so it’s got to be real.

Go to it, guys! You don’t have to submit an idea today. How about shooting for the end of September?


Tell BB gun: Part One

Tell BB gun: Part One
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BB gun
This military-looking BB gun is large and good-looking!

History of airguns

This report covers:

What is it?
Bolt action
Shot tube
Lange Vizier
Safety
Summary

Tell him what? (ba-dump bump!)

I’ve been sitting on this Tell BB gun for two years. I got it at the Texas Airgun Show from Larry Hannusch. I had my eye on it all show long and as everyone was packing up I saw that it was gone from his table. He hadn’t sold or traded it — he had just packed it away. Yeah, I’m one of those guys!

I had some last-minute cash in my pocket, so we came to an agreement and it came home with me.

What is it?

So,  what did I get? Well, it’s a bolt-action spring-piston BB gun that looks like a military rifle And, for a BB gun, it is huge! The gun is 43.5-inches long and has a full-length wood stock. I wish it was walnut , but the grain looks a lot more like beech to me. The gun weighs 6 lbs. 6.7 oz., which is very heavy for a BB gun.

Daisy 499 and big BB gun
The big BB gun dwarfs a Daisy 499

Bolt action

The gun is cocked via a conventional bolt located on the right side of the receiver. Southpaws need not apply. It will seem familiar to anyone who has ever cocked a Mars 110 or 115 or a Diana model 30 — the military-looking one, not the gallery gun.

The bolt pulls the compression chamber and piston back to where the sear catches the piston. When the bolt slides forward the mainspring is stretched. When the gun fires the stretched spring pulls the piston forward — the reverse of how a conventional spring piston powerplant works.

bolt forward
In this picture the bolt is forward after the shot. You can see the sear that holds the bolt on the right of the bolt channel.

bolt back
The bolt has been pulled back, bringing the compression chamber with it.

bolt forward again
The bolt has been pushed forward again, closing the compression chamber and stretching the mainspring.

There is no resistance when the bolt is pulled back, only when it moves forward. And the resistance is enough to keep this from being thought of as as kid’s gun. This is a serious adult BB gun — not unlike the Hammerli adaptor for the Swiss K31 rifle — though the Hammerli adaptor is meant as a real military training device, where this one is just a lookalike.

Shot tube

This gun was designed to be a repeater that uses gravity feed like most modern BB guns. The BBs go into the outer jacket that most people would call the barrel and then fed to the breech of the shot tube by gravity. Unfortunately the original shot tube was lost and Larry fashioned another one from scratch. He basically made it to fit the space it had to occupy. As a result, the gun is no longer a repeater. But it can be loaded singly from the muzzle and seems to generate a lot of velocity. Naturally we will find out just how much when we test it.

shot tube
Larry Hannusch had to make a shot tube for the gun. It’s meant to be a repeater but now only works as a single-shot.

Lange Vizier

The gun has a rear sight that’s a replica of the Gew98 Mauser Lange Visier (long sight). It isn’t an exact copy but it’s close enough. The front sight is a heavy post that’s dovetailed into the outer tube.

rear asigh
The rear sight is meant to copy the Gewehr98 Lange Vizier.

Lange Vizier
The Gew98 Lange Vizier looks like the BB gun rear sight.

Safety

The safety is a wing-type, similar to one found on as Mauser. These bolt action copy airguns often have this kind of safety.

safety
The gun has a wing-type safety.

wrtiting right
It says Venuswaffenwerk Zella-Mehlis Germany on the right side of the receiver.

writing left
The model number is on the left of the receiver.

Summary

There is a lot more to tell, so stick around. I’m just getting started!

Tell BB gun: Part One


Let BB show you the junk table

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Where BB shops
  • The junk table
  • Checking out the junk table
  • Solving the puzzle
  • Let’s get specific
  • To un-junkify the image
  • Can’t afford Photoshop?
  • Watch the brightness of your background
  • How about a dark background?
  • Dark images
  • Confusing listing
  • Here is the listing:
  • And here is what is shown.
  • Summary

Last week several readers had discussions about digital photography and film — discussing which is better. But a knowledge of how to manipulate images in software is a tool for finding hidden gems. Today I want to show you what I mean.

Where BB shops

I watch eBay and Gun Broker for my “finds.” Some of you know this and contact me offline if you see something I might like, or if you think I’m bidding on something and you don’t want to oppose me. I do the same for some of you.

The junk table

But, what if there was a junk table online — a table piled high with garbage that nobody would look at? Or, let me turn that around. If you were at an airgun show and you saw a table piled with what appeared to be old junkers, would you even bother looking at it? You’d better!

Checking out the junk table

The junk table at a gun show or an airgun show is where most of the real finds are! The guns are piled up and doing more damage to each other as they slip and slide around, but there on the bottom you see the barrel of a Quackenbush model 6, 7 or 8 BB gun. It’s under hundreds of other guns — a big (and expensive) Jenga puzzle! At the show you let the dealer get the gun out, but you can’t do that online. Or — can you?

Solving the puzzle

Today I will show you how to solve the Jenga puzzle for yourselves. And, it has everything to do with that photography discussion we had last week!

Let’s get specific

While cruising the halls of eBay I came across this.

1907 M.M. Quackenbush BB gun NY, USA Antique BB gun Man Cave Works Antique Toys

it was accompanied by this picture.

Qbush pic
This dealer has done everything he could to make his picture impossible to see. He has skillfully laid a dark gun on a bright white background to fool his camera into stopping down the image, so all you see is a black silhouette instead of a gun.

To un-junkify the image

This is where Photoshop earns its keep! Look what can be done to this poor image by lightening the entire photo and darkening it again, selectively.

Qbush pic cleaned
It took 20 seconds in Photoshop to get this.

Qbush pic cleaned and rotated
Or you can enlarge the image by turning it to 45 degrees (blog image width is limited to 560 pixels) and you get this.

But this dealer knows he takes poor pictures, so he compensates with some detailed closeups like this.

qbush detailk
Oh, goodie! He provides you this detailed shot. It’s as if you are holding the airgun in your hands — in a dark room!

Let’s see what he wants you to see.

qbush detail cleaned
This is what he wants you to see.

And, if he thought like a buyer, he might even go the extra mile and really enhance the image!

qbush detailk cleaned and enlarged
This is as much as I can do with his photo. Still, how much better is it that the first one?

Can’t afford Photoshop?

Okay, you don’t want to buy Photoshop. I understand. You can still do things to enhance your pictures.

Use a tripod

First, buy a tripod at the next thrift store or garage sale where you see one. Ten bucks will get what you need. Twenty will get you a good one. Yes — even smart phones will attach with the right adaptors. How do you think I take all my movies?

You have seen images that were slightly out of focus when I hand-held the camera. A tripod fixes all of that. 

Many digital cameras have software for macro photography. You need a tripod to make it work the best.

Watch the brightness of your background.

A dark subject on a light background sets up what we see in the first image in this report. Yet that is the first thing many people do when taking a picture of an airgun. They plop it on a white sheet, because the software in their brains makes the gun look okay. But the software in their camera isn’t as sophisticated and the gun goes dark. 

Instead of the white background, use a darker one. The camera will brighten the entire picture, bringing out the detail of the gun. If you were using film you could overexpose the shot until a dark gun became a medium gray color.

light background
This is an unretouched photograph of a dark gun taken on a light background.

Okay, that didn’t work too well. Let’s try a flash.

flash
Flash doesn’t work too well, either.

How about a dark background?

 dark background
A dark background brings out more detail on the gun.

None of these pictures was retouched in any software. They are exactly as they came from the camera. The point is, if you do a couple simple things like use a tripod and use the right background for your subject, your pictures will turn out far better.

This is starting to sound like a lesson in picture-taking, when what it really is, is using software to explore and  ferret out deals on airguns that are on virtual junk tables because of their poor photography. Lets do some more!

Dark images

Here is a detailed shot of an eBay pellet pistol for sale.

dark background
The seller wants at least $500 for this rare pellet pistol. Let’s see what he is really selling.

dark background lightened
Here is what can be done in 30 seconds in Photoshop. For $500 you would think the seller would at least do this. But if not it goes on the junk pile and you can do it yourself.

Confusing listing

Sometimes I wonder where these sellers get off with their listings so strange, poor and devoid of information that no one knows what is being sold.

Here is the listing:

“Pellet/Bebe Gun. $115. Condition is New. Shipped with USPS First Class.”

And here is what is shown.

poor picture
Huh? Let’s see what he is really selling.

poor picture fixed
Here is what can be done in 30 seconds in Photoshop. Now we know what it is.

He laid his BeBe gun on the floor and didn’t even bother to move around to where it was framed correctly. Now that we know that it’s a Daisy 880 with a scope, let’s see what Pyramyd Air sells them for. Oh! $60. And this guy wants $25 for shipping, so it isn’t $115 — it’s $140. A little difference there!

Summary

What we have learned today is how to peer deeper into those online items that we find listed on the auction sights. This is an advanced tip that can sometimes pay dividends.