My day at Sig Sauer: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

ASP20
Sig Sauer’s new ASP20 gas spring breakbarrel air rifle breaks ground in many areas! The safety is on both sides of the stock. Photo provided by Sig Sauer.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Update
  • Sig Super Target pistol
  • Sig X-Five
  • M17
  • It’s over!
  • Dinner
  • Summary

Update

When we closed Part 3 I said I was done with the ASP20 until the test, but I overlooked a couple very important things. Several of you asked me where the safety is and it is shown in the pictures several times. It’s on the right side of the stock. And also on the left side! Yes, the ASP 20 is 100 percent ambidextrous. The safety is manual and slides forward and back.

I also forgot to mention that the rifle comes with a Picatinney rail welded on top, so scope mounting will be a breeze. This type of scope base is replacing the 11mm dovetail rail and most new spring guns have one.

Sig Super Target pistol

They tried to get the Super Target pistol ready for our trip to the range but were unable to. It has been through a lot as Sig has handled it and refined its appearance. This was more a problem of time than anything. So I didn’t get a chance to do more than dry-fire it.

When I looked at it this time, it looked different than at the SHOT Show. Ed told me they re-profiled the top slide, the part that is lifted and swung forward to charge the pistol, for better access to the breech for loading.

I was told that Chiappa of Italy is making the pistol. For those unfamiliar with Chiappa, they are a firm that makes a great many firearms and some airguns. They make the Fas-6004-pistol, which is another single stroke pneumatic target pistol, so the technology in the Sig Super Target is right up their alley!

FAS 6004
Chiappa makes the FAS 6004 single stroke pneumatic pistol, so the Sig Super Target will be familiar to them.

Sig Super Target
The Sig Super Target got a tweak in the slide profile at the rear to make loading easier. This is the old configuration. I can’t wait to get one to test!

Sig X-Five

You guys have been waiting patiently for me to finish the test of the Sig X-Five pellet pistol. Ironically, I shot it at the Sig range first. I was surprised by the accuracy, and I plan to finish the test for that pistol tomorrow.

Of the 12-15 shooters on the range this day, I was the only one shooting with one hand. It’s official — I’m a dinosaur! However, as fossilized as I may be, only one person out-shot me. John Bright of Highland Outdoors used two hands to shoot the tightest groups with the X-Five. I was a distant second.

Sig X-Five Tom Shoots
I’m shooting at the head. Photo provided by Sig Sauer.

The X-Five can shoot, no doubt about it. I can’t wait to test it tomorrow.

M17

In 2017 the U.S. Army awarded their Modular Gun System contract to Sig for the P320 pistol that, in Army dress, is called the M17. The pistol can be chambered in .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45ACP. The Army originally considered a more powerful round but decided to go with 9mm Luger in the end. Sig has already started delivering the pistol.

Sig M17
Sig M17 pellet pistol is similar to the X-Five I’m testing now.

There will soon be a pellet-firing version of this gun, and we were treated to a first look and shoot. It disassembles like the firearm and Dani Navickas took one apart for us.

Sig M17 disassembled
The M17 came apart in seconds.

On the range the M17 shot just like the X-Five. I think the two pistols share a lot of DNA. It was a pleasure to shoot, and old BB found himself pulling the trigger faster than he normally does in a formal test, because seeing the pellet smack the Shoot-N-See target sort of encourages you to shoot again.

Sig M17 Shannon shoots
Shannon Jackson, of Shannon Jackson Public Relations, draws down with the M17.

It’s over!

The range was the funnest part of the day, but every good thing has to come to an end. Or at least I thought it did. There was one final surprise — the Sig Pro Shop that is located at the ranges. I joked that my credit card was already on a respirator, but the folks at Sig showed no compassion. Into the candy store we all went.

Sig Custom Shop
Terry Doe holds the door, suspecting full well what is about happen to my budget.

Well, what do you supposed they sell in the Pro Shop? Not delicious jellies and jams — that’s for sure. I steeled myself into buying just a t-shirt, but that was because I only had carry-on luggage for the return trip the next day. I knew what they had done to me, and the day after I returned home I made arrangements to buy a 9mm P320/M17. Hello, my name is BB and I like guns!

Dinner

That evening Sig hosted a fine dinner at Epoch in The Exeter Inn. I told you in Part 1 that Sig CEO, Ron Cohen, flew back from India to dine with us that evening. He wanted to hear what this group of writers thought about the ASP20, and we told him. But I got more than I bargained for.

Ron Cohen is a former member of the Israeli army — a soldier who has Been There and Done That. And he talks freely about what the experience did for him. He told us that every pistol that leaves the plant he imagines in the hands of a member of Seal Team 6. If called upon, it has to work!

He told Seal Team 6 that Sig doesn’t get it right every time. They do make mistakes. But when they do, stand back and observe how Sig differs from all other gun manufacturers!

I could see in his eyes that he meant what he was saying. That, more than anything, is why I bought an M17 firearm.

Summary

I have been on many such junkets to airgun companies, but this one stood out from the rest. I learned more about the company from its people than I did from the products they make. I look forward to associating with Sig Sauer for many more good years and to seeing and testing their remarkable new products.

As soon as my ASP20 arrives I will start testing it for you in detail. I suspect some things are going shock you, but until I conduct the tests and see for myself, I won’t talk about them.


Swiss Army life

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Two eventful hunts
  • The moral

Two eventful hunts

A friend of mine received the following call several weeks ago.

“Hey, man. Wanna go hunt some pigs?”

“You’re out of your mind. You don’t have pigs in Maryland.”

“No. The pigs are in Texas. A friend of mine just got special permission to hunt on a big ranch that’s infested with them. The landowner got fed up with the helicopters buzzing his cows, so he grounded them and now the place is overrun!”

“Texas, you say? We’d have to fly because I can’t take off work that long.”

“No problem. He’ll meet us at the airport Friday night and he has guns for both of us. You don’t need a license to hunt pigs in Texas, so all we gotta do is show up. We’ll be back Saturday night.”

“Then I’m in. I’ve got this Friday off already. Can we do it that fast?”

“Sure. I’ll book the tickets and you can pay me. But get here a day early, ‘cause I have another surprise for you.”

So my friend drove from his West Virginia home on Thursday morning, arriving at his buddy’s house in Maryland just after lunch. His friend told him to hop in his car and they drove a short way to Aberdeen Proving Ground where he worked. When they got there they drove through the main gate to the post headquarters. On the way my friend noticed the large number of marmots that were standing along the side of the road. He told me there must have been hundreds! Oh, and I should tell you — marmot is the proper name for the varmint we all know as the woodchuck! On the grounds of the post headquarters he counted 13 ‘chucks standing calmly next to their holes.

“I can’t believe it! This places is overrun with woodchucks!”

“Yeah. Since it’s an Army post, they don’t allow hunting, so the chucks know they are safe. It’s like Rapid City, South Dakota that’s swarming with whitetail deer, ‘cause nobody can shoot them in town. Anyway, I have permission to hunt on a farm near here that has almost as many chucks as you see here. They are destroying the farmer’s irrigation dikes with their holes. We have to use air rifles, but I have a .22 caliber TX200 for you.

After checking in with the owner of the farm they went back to the buddy’s house and he pulled out the TX200. It looked okay, but my friend asked to shoot it, to see where it was zeroed. When he did the best he could do with the pellets his pal said were the best was 5 shots in about 4-inches at 40 yards. When the rifle’s owner couldn’t even do that well he said, “I don’t get it. This rifle has always been spot-on with these Crosman Premier Hollowpoints.”

“When was the last time you shot it?”

“About 6 months ago, I guess. Ever since I got my .25 Marauder that’s all I shoot.”

“When was the last time you cleaned the barrel?”

“I never clean it. You can’t clean a TX200 barrel. The patches fall off inside the baffles.”

“Get your cleaning kit. This barrel needs to be cleaned.”

When the guy brought out his cleaning kit, my friend saw why he never cleaned the barrel of his TX. All he had was a piece of monofiliment line that had a loop at one end for patches. He also had a black nylon brush that went on the end of an aluminum 3-piece cleaning rod, but he said it wouldn’t work, because to clean the TX200 barrel you have to take the gun apart.

“Who told you that?”

“I read it on the forum. But I know it’s right because this brush is too long to go in from the muzzle end. It’ll get stuck in the breech when you try to pull it back out because it’s too long to clear the breech with the gun cocked.”

“Get your keys. We’re going to the store.”

Long story short they went to the local discount supercenter and bought a pistol cleaning kit. When he screwed the pistol brush to the three-piece cleaning rod his friend protested, telling him that a brass brush would scratch the barrel. They had a long conversation about whether steel is harder than brass, but the owner finally consented to let him clean the barrel from the muzzle. Obviously the shorter pistol brush was just what was needed. It cleared the breech so it could be pulled back out again. Half an hour later they were both shooting half-inch groups at 40 yards. But the groups were about 6 inches too low. [NOTE: The link given is to a nylon pistol brush, but what you need for this is a brass or bronze brush. You are removing lead.]

“Yeah. Now I remember. I dialed the scope as high as it will go and the groups were still too low. I forgot that.”

“Got a 2-liter soda bottle?”

“I think there are a couple in the trash. Why?”

“We are going to shim the scope.”

I won’t repeat the next argument but the owner thought that shimming ruins scopes. It was something he learned on another forum. His partner promised to buy him a new scope if they wrecked this one, so they shimmed the scope with two pieces of plastic and got the rifle hitting the target at 40 yards.

The next day they bagged 7 woodchucks (three for the TX) before they had to quit to go catch their flight to Texas. When they landed it was late in the evening. The Texas friend picked them up at the Houston airport and drove them to his house for the night.

The next morning they awoke at 3 a.m. and were at the ranch by 4:30. The guy from Maryland wanted to shoot the Ruger Mini 30 they were offered, so my friend got the well-worn Garand and a box of softpoint ammo.

“Looks like this old girl has seen a lot of rounds. I doubt if she can put five into 6 inches at 100 yards,” said the reluctant West Virginian.

“I’ve never shot her that far, but I bet you’re right,” said the Texan. “No problem, though, because you won’t be shooting past 30 feet. We are hunting in some real thick brush!”

Sure enough, when they got out of the truck the place they headed into was so thick they could hardly see 25 feet. But that was where the pigs were! Within ten minutes of walking less than 50 feet from the truck, a herd of 10-12 animals came crashing past them, snorting and rooting and making all sorts of racket. My friend dropped one old boar with the Garand and was about to drop a fat sow, but nothing happened. He looked at the rifle’s action and the empty cartridge case was sticking out of the ejection port!

“Not again!” he whispered hoarsely. Then he examined the rifle’s action with a small flashlight. The parts were as dry as a desert! He walked back to the truck. When he popped the vehicle’s hood, both other hunters joined him.

“What’s up?” asked the truck’s owner.

“This Garand is bone dry. I’m going to lubricate it,” he whispered as he pulled the engine’s dipstick.

“Garands don’t need lubrication. They can swallow a beach full of sand and keep on running.”

“Then how do you explain this?” he asked as he showed the cartridge stuck in the ejection port.

“It’s been doing that for years. I figure it’s worn parts. All you have to do is pull the bolt back and you’ll clear it.”

“When I get done lubing, you won’t have to do that again,” he answered as he applied the oily stick to the bolt channels.

“Listen!” said the hunter from Maryland. “Here comes another group! We need to get back into position!”

The second herd was twice as large as the first one and my friend shot three more pigs. The Garand functioned flawlessly. Those were the last pigs they saw on the hunt. In all they bagged 11 animals. The landowner was delighted and gave the Texas friend his choice of animals to take home. And the Texas host also got an important lesson in battlefield maintenance.

The moral

Sometimes what you read on the forums is either incorrect or an exaggeration. Also, it pays to know something about the technology before you venture into the field. If you are new to airgunning or to shooting as a whole, keep an open mind and you will learn new things all the time.


UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Back story
  • No sale!
  • UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack
  • Designed by a traveler
  • How I use the pack now
  • Other uses for the pack
  • Quality
  • Why this report

Sometimes I have to step out of the mold and tell you about a great product that may not sound like it applies to airguns. In truth, it can and does apply, but only if you make it do so.

Back story

I was in the aisles at the 2016 SHOT Show on the last day — about 3 hours from catching the shuttle to the airport to return home. Suddenly my computer case handle broke! I call it a computer case, but it’s actually a small traveling office that weighs about 33 lbs. when packed. Time for me to go into the Boy Scout mode and improvise — because I am sure not carrying that load under my arm (left the strap at home — the case is too heavy for it) around through the exhibit hall for three hours, then the casino and then the airport!

No problem, because this is the SHOT Show and it’s the last day! Some vendors sell stuff on the last day. So I look around for some tactical equipment cases and find one that looks rugged enough to take the strain. And it’s only $80, knocked down to $66 because I’m buying it off the display at the show! Hurrah! So I make the deal and promise to return at 10, when they tell me I can pick it up.

I return at 10 and they have just sold my case to someone else! They tell me they will send me a case as soon as they get back in the office on Monday. I won’t tell you what I told them, but it wasn’t polite. Now I had a real problem and only an hour left.

So I went to the Leapers booth, where I have seen tactical backpacks for the past several years. Never paid much attention to them, but I was desperate. Would they please sell me the largest backpack they have? I prayed that it would hold my 2 laptop computers and everything else.

No sale!

They just removed the stuffing from the backpack on display and handed it to me. Thank you, Leapers! I really would have been pleased to buy it, because I know two things about Leapers tactical cloth products. First, they are very reasonably priced and second, they are made better than any other tactical cloth products I have seen. I won’t say who I am referring to, but I can think of a company that makes very expensive designer tactical cloth products, and Leapers beats them every time.

UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack

Time to get specific. This pack is called the UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack. I got a black one, but it also comes in tan, though I don’t see that color on the Pyramyd Air website. The first thing I did was put my 2 laptops (yes, I carry 2 when I’m on the road) into the pack to see if they fit. It swallowed them like a python swallowing a chicken! Then all the other stuff went in and I was able to throw my old case away. This pack is larger inside, yet smaller outside than my old case. I think part of it resides in the fourth dimension! It also fits under the seat in front of me on the airplane. My old case was getting too fat for that.

UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack
The pack looks small on the outside, but it holds my office on the road!

UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack back
Those padded straps are a real blessing when the pack is full.

UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack front pockets
I use the front pockets for adaptors, power supplies and modem/camera gear.

UTG Rapid Mission Deployment Daypack office
Inside the front pouch is room for a whole office. This is pretty much how I pack mine, with medicine and emergency supplies added. Then there are two more huge pouches not seen here that each hold the largest laptop!

The pack has a carry handle that looks like it will support 3 times the weight I packed in it. That’s handy for moving it around, but the real plus are those two padded backstraps! I didn’t need to carry all that weight in my arms any longer! There is a chest strap that holds the two backstraps together, to keep the weight high on your back. And of course every strap is adjustable. The compartments that don’t hold the computer(s) are set up like a briefcase — just like the flimsy computer case that was replaced.

Designed by a traveler

David Ding, one of Leapers owners, designed this pack. He is a frequent traveler and knows the value of lots of pockets and places to carry stuff. He made sure this daypack has them! As I wrote this report I even found a couple places I didn’t know about.

How I use the pack now

Every time I need to be away from the house, I pack up the computers and go. I now keep a portable power supply in the pack at all times, so I can just unplug accessories (keyboards, hard drives, trackballs, etc.) and go. If I’m on the road, I pack a keyboard, hard drive and trackball in my suitcase for when I am in my hotel room. This pack is so convenient that it has changed how I work.

Other uses for the pack

This could also be an excellent range bag. It has more than enough room for everything, plus a couple of handguns and ammo. If you look carefully at the first photo, there are cloth loops for holding smaller items on the outside of the pack. They are for grenade handles, but they work for lots of other things, too. Just use your imagination.

Quality

I have used Leapers UTG bug-out bags for many years and have learned some valuable things about them all. They have tough zippers and Velcro closures. When the zipper run is long, they give you two sliders, for greater flexibility. If there is such a thing as a mil-spec zipper, I bet that’s what these are. And when they sew fabric together, they reinforce every seam. There will be no unexpected breakdowns with UTG cloth products!

Why this report

I told Leapers I would write this report and I always meant to after the SHOT Show, but this year hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. And while I have been doing unscheduled things, the case has been my constant companion. Some of my medications have changed and the pockets of the pack have been designated for them, as well, and I still carry everything else that I need.

I own a number of smaller UTG bug-out bags, but until I needed it I had no idea a backpack like this could be so handy. Now I can walk through the airport with my hands free, because the pack has everything I need.

If you are looking for a new range bag or laptop case, take a long look at this one. And please note the price. It’s less than the discounted pack the other guys sold out from under me. I don’t think you’ll find a better bargain than this one.


FWB P44 10-meter target pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

FWB P44
FWB P44 target pistol is Tom Gaylord’s dream airgun!

Morini 162MI Part 1
Morini 162MI Part 2
Morini 162MI Part 3

This report covers:

  • I love FWB target pistols
  • Right from the start
  • The cost
  • Trigger
  • The grip
  • Dry fire
  • Rear sight
  • Front sight
  • Weight
  • Anti-recoil mechanism
  • Fill pressure and shot count
  • Other stuff
  • Evaluation so far

Today is very special. I just received the FWB P44 10-meter target pistol for testing. Veteran readers know I already tested the Morini 162MI 10-meter target pistol in February and March of this year, and this is going to be not just a test of 2 top 10-meter target pistols — I’m also going to compare them for you. That’s something I don’t often do, but this opportunity is too great to pass up. That’s why I put those links at the top.

I love FWB target pistols

Let me state for the record that I love all FWB target pistols. I could never afford one when I competed, but they were the guns I aspired to. I always felt the combination of their superior triggers and grips would have added something to my score, maybe even boosting me into the top ranking. Of course we all think things like that, but every time I got to shoot an FWB pistol it shot as well as my Chameleon target pistol right off the bat. With familiarity I know my scores would have increased. So, I am biased toward FWB 10-meter pistols.

Right from the start

The moment I took the pistol case from the box I knew it was superior to the Morini. Instead of just a hard case with fitted foam, the FWB comes in a locking case! I doubt there is a huge cost difference between the two cases, as both are blow-molded plastic, but the FWB case is nicer.

FWB P44 case
The case has a combination lock!

FWB P44 inside case
Everything comes with the pistol, except a spare reservoir.

On the minus side, the Morini comes with two removable air tanks, and the FWB only has one. Both the Morini tanks have pressure gauges on the end, and of course the FWB tank also has one.

Both guns come with test targets that show 5 shots at 10 meters from that gun. They are pasted into the owner’s manual and serial-numbered to the airgun. The group that came with this pistol measures 0.018-inches between centers, while the Morini test group measures 0.058-inches between centers. That difference is huge, but when you see the groups it doesn’t look like much. Suffice to say either pistol will shoot where it is aimed.

FWB P44 test group
FWB P44 came with the smallest test group I’ve ever measured — 0.018-inches between centers for 5 shots at 10 meters.

The last thing I will comment on before we look at the overall pistol is the grip. The FWB grip fits me like a glove! It fits so much better than the Morini grip, despite both grips being designed by Morini. At least I believe the FWB grips are designed by Morini. His trademark is not stamped on them anywhere, but they are the classic Morini shape.

The cost

The Morini 162 costs right at $1700 and the FWB P44 is listed for $1,766. Both are close in features and performance, and if you plan to spend this much money I would advise you get the one you want. I have never had a P44 in my hands until now, and I have never had any airgun that shot 5 pellets into less than 2 hundredths of an inch at 10 meters. So I think this one’s going to stay with me awhile. If you want it, watch for my estate sale.

Trigger

Okay, let’s look at the design of the P44. It’s a 10-meter pistol, which means the trigger is highly adjustable for all things — pull weight, length of the first stage, overtravel and of course the position. You can also load a lot of the mandatory 500-gram weight into the first stage (which FWB calls the trigger slack). The second stage will then break with very little additional pressure. I will adjust the trigger to suit myself in part 2, where I will discuss what I do and show you.

The grip

The grip is also very adjustable, and I have found FWB grips on their precharged pistols to be the best I have ever encountered. The grips on my vintage FWB Model 2 10-meter CO2 pistol are crude by comparison, but Morini hadn’t perfected his design when that gun was made. The palm shelf moves up and down to accommodate hands of different sizes, though there are small, medium and large versions of this same grip available. So the adjustment is within the range for each grip size.

I like this palm shelf, because it digs into my wrist joint, forcing the pistol to be held with the muzzle elevated. I have to lock my wrist to get on target, which is exactly what I want!

Besides the palm shelf, the entire grip angle can be adjusted to force the wrist to lock when aiming. This is a huge advantage that really adds points to my score. The grip can also be swiveled side to side just a little. This also helps lock the wrist. The manual even explains what the adjustments do to the front sight, which is exactly what a competitor needs to know! I can’t wait!

Dry fire

A switch beneath the loading trough is pushed to the left to dry-fire the gun (The trigger works, but no air can come out) and to the right to shoot pellets. Most competitive shooters fire many times more shots dry than they shoot pellets. I have always given the ratio as 5:1. So a dry-fire capability is mandatory on a target gun, and this one works well.

Rear sight

The rear sight adjusts in both directions with instructions engraved on the sight. This sight uses German adjustments, with the word bei before the L and R. Think of that word meaning “too”, so if you are hitting the target too far to the right, adjust it in the bei R direction. This is backwards of a U.S. sight adjustment process, but it accomplishes the same thing. Target shooters are used to it, because most target airguns have German sights.

FWB P44 rear sight
Rear sight adjusts as expected, plus the notch width adjusts. It can also be repositioned fore and aft on the airgun!

If you can’t adjust the rear sight high enough to force the wrist to lock when sighting, there is an additional adjustment screw for that. These Germans have thought of everything!

The rear notch is adjustable for width, as well. It will go as wide as 4.8mm, which is huge!

You can also move the rear sight 10 to 20 mm to the rear. This is an adjustment I’ve never seen, but I will play with it.

Front sight

The front sight can be positioned at any one of three distances from the rear sight. This has the effect of making the front sight blade wider or narrower.

While looking at the front sight I noticed three holes on top of the barrel that obviously work to cancel muzzle flip They are in addition to the muzzle brake. This pistol is fantastic!

FWB P44 front sight
Front sight can be positioned in any of 3 distances from the rear. Notice the 3 holes in the barrel that help cancel muzzle flip.

Weight

Ten-meter pistols are weighed in grams — not pounds. This one weighs 979 grams, which is 2.16 lbs. That’s light for me. I’m used to shooting pistols that weigh 1100 grams, though I haven’t shot in competition in many years. At any rate, the pistol comes with two 37-gram (1-1/4 oz.) weights that attach to the front of the receiver and lie parallel to the barrel. So the pistol can be increased to 1,053 grams. I’ll probably do that.

Anti-recoil mechanism

We say guns like this are recoilless, but in truth there is a wee bit of a rocket-like push when they fire. Most shooters will not notice it, but a 10-meter pistol shooter will pick up on it immediately, because the front sight will move when the gun fires. FWB has therefore installed an anti-recoil mechanism to counteract this tiny push. And, since this is a Feinwerkbau, that mechanism is adjustable! You have to love that level of attention to detail. It’s been years since I shot a P34 pistol that had this same anti-recoil mechanism, but as I recall, I could only tell the gun had fired by the sound of the shot.

Fill pressure and shot count

The P44 reservoir fills to 200 bar. Thank you, Feinwerkbau! No special exotic air source is required. You can fill from a hand pump that has a 200-bar adaptor or from a common scuba tank. If you have a carbon fiber tank you will get a lot more fills. And the manual says you can expect 160 shots per fill. I would advise anyone who competes to buy an extra tank and keep it filled, because you never know when you’re going to need it. But 160 shots will get you through two matches, including all the sighters you want.

Other stuff

Besides the weights, the gun comes with a 200-bar fill adaptor, a device for depressurizing the reservoir (useful to those who fly to matches), the owner’s manual, and a complete set of tools for making all the adjustments. It’s as compete a set as you could ask for, save the extra reservoir that is so necessary.

Evaluation so far

So far I love the P44 and I have yet to fill it with air and shoot it. Imagine what I will say when I do!


Airline Travel with your Airguns: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is the first part of a guest blog from Pyramyd Air’s own Tyler Patner. Readers know Tyler from his experiences shooting field target, plus a recent guest blog he wrote about an Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sporter.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Over to you, Tyler.

Flying with airguns is easier than you think. My Steyr LG 110 Field Target Rifle has flown around the country without issue, and is about to fly internationally.

This report covers:

  • Protecting Your Gun
  • Size matters
  • Ammo
  • PCP and CO2 Guns
  • Springers and gas rams
  • Scopes
  • Tips for success

With the World Field Target Championship steadily approaching, I am making my final travel preparations along with the rest of Team USA. With the match in Lithuania this year, it will be a long journey and one that will require my rifle and I to be in the air quite a bit. Flying with an airgun (or any gun) can be a daunting process.  It typically compounds the frustrations and paranoia we all have about flying. Today, I am going to go over some best practices and show you just how easy it can be.

Protecting Your Gun

Whether it is a rifle or pistol, it is vital to properly protect your gun with the right case. In order to clear a TSA inspection, the following things must be present in your case:

• Lockable, with locks (I recommend two if possible)
• Corners of case cannot be pry-able to gain access

It is recommended to get TSA-approved locks. This means that the TSA agents at the airports have a master key to open that lock. While this can be beneficial if they need to open your case up for whatever reason, I prefer to keep one lock on my rifle case that is not TSA approved. This achieves one thing, the TSA would have to cut that lock off and I would know they opened it without me present, or they would have to call me to unlock the case.

I have seen people use zip ties, and tape to try and signal any case tampering, but all of those things can be replaced.  Good luck trying to replace my beefy ¼” steel lock without me noticing!  TSA-approved locks can be found here.

When I say the corners of the case cannot be pry-able, that means that with the case locked, someone cannot wedge something in the corner of the case to pry it open just enough to get a hand inside. Believe it or not, I’ve heard horror stories of people who have flown with guns getting their guns home to find bricks inside the case and the gun gone. This is almost certainly the fault of a poor quality case and a greedy airport worker. There are many brands that make good cases that are both lockable and cannot be pried open. I personally use Starlight Cases, but other brands include SKB, Pelican and even some Plano cases. These cases all have foam that can be custom cut to fit your guns and accessories. This is HUGE when it comes to adequately protecting your rifles and optics during a flight and baggage handling.

Tylers-case_03_web

Here is my Starlight case all cut out on both layers. As you can see, there is a spot for everything I may possibly need during a shoot. 

Size Matters

No on likes showing up at the airport and finding out they have to pay extra fees. This happens to quite a few people when they take their gun cases to the check in counter.  A standard length gun case is almost always going to take on an oversize baggage fee.  Most airlines do not charge oversize fees unless the bag is over 62-63 cubic inches. This is one of the reasons many shooters buy the smallest Pelican or Startlight cases. They are just under these size dimensions and require a little extra effort when breaking down and packing the gun.  Here are a few offerings from Plano, available through Pyrmyd Air:

Plano AW Takedown Hard Case
Plano AW Lockable Rifle Case
Plano AW Tactical Rifle Case

The fit will be more crucial with these as they are not double-layered like some of the higher end brands. With just one single layer to work with, you will likely just have room for the action with scope and stock in the case. Here is another that is bigger and would incur oversize baggage fees.  Here is an example of a full size case, that can be used in a pinch, but I would not recommend it. Note that the case only has latches on the front. You really benefit from the added security that the others have with the latches on the sides as well. This case would be pretty easy to pry open.  Also, the plastic is considerably thinner than you will find on the others, so rough handling could break the outside layer.

My case comes in at 62″ on the nose, with the wheels. This means no extra fees when I check it at the airport. 

Ammo

One thing to keep in mind when packing the gun up is your ammo.  If you are going to put ammo in the case with your gun, it must be in a sealed manufacturer box.  While pellets are not the same as bullets with primers and powder, technically, the TSA could still ground you for pellets in a non-manufacturer container.

PCP and CO2 Guns

For those traveling with CO2 or PCP guns, you will need to make sure your power plant is fully degassed before flying.  For guns with gauges, it is relatively easy to show that there is no air in your rifle.  For rifles without gauges, you must be prepared to have to disassemble your air cylinder.  Now, most airline agents that will be checking your rifle do not know the difference between a PCP and their childhood Red Ryder. I have never been asked to prove that my rifle was degassed. Again though, I have many friends within FT that have been in the unenviable position of having to prove to the TSA that nothing is inside their air cylinder.

Springers and Gas Rams

These are probably the easiest to travel with purely because the mechanism is self-contained and there is nothing else housed in the gun.  About the furthest you would have to go is taking the action out of the stock and showing them the guts through the cocking slot. I suppose they could make you take it apart, but I have never heard of this happening.

Scopes

Many think they can simply remove the scope from their rifles and store it in their carry on during a long flight. While this is a great idea and would be excellent for ensuring that the optics make it safely, here in the US, it is not possible. A scope can be packed in another checked bag, but cannot be taken onto the plane in a carry-on. Overseas, I know it can be done, but here in the States, we are not as fortunate.

Tips for Success  

I use a double-layered case, this allows me to fit my rifle, scope and all accessories into my case without burdening my actual carry on bags or other checked baggage.  The downside to this type of case is that your gun will need to be split to fit it.  Guns with wood stocks will need the stocks removed.  Thankfully, my Steyr LG110 that I am taking to the Worlds is easy to take down and can be made to fit perfectly in the case.  Because the action is on top of some of the accessories, (or with other guns, on top of the stock itself) you may want to add a layer of bubble wrap to any wood parts so that they don’t get pressure marks from the weight on top of them.

Another thing to consider is wall spacing.  Make sure you have a good bit of foam between your gun or parts and the walls of the case.  The hard plastic the cases are made from can be unforgiving, especially when the case is being thrown onto a cart or conveyor belt.

Overkill is a good thing.  Extra packing material in the case with the foam can’t hurt anything. Cut the foam to fit as closely as you can.  I recommend an electric hand held carver, but a simple knife will do just as well.  It helps to trace an outline of your gun or parts, then cut on the line and check the fit.  Better to go too tight rather than too loose. If too tight, simply cut a little extra material out.

Put your scope caps and turret covers on.  One of my Pyramyd Air Field Target Teammates, Greg Sauve has a scope that does not have turret covers.  During his trip to Italy for the Worlds in 2011, Italian customs (if I recall correctly) thought they saw something under Greg’s turret when it was inspected. They ended up attempting to twist the turret off, which rotated it all the way to the end of its travel and then some! Greg told me he had to use a wrench to get it loose. Thankfully, the scope still tracked perfectly and Greg was able to win the Veteran’s class title that year.

Pack up the gun and check the fit at least a few days in advance.  I like to let the gun sit in the case, locked overnight before I fly.  The next morning, I will pull everything out and check it to make sure nothing is under too much pressure when the case is closed.

Get a case with wheels!  Most of the cases made for flying will have them, but if not, do not buy it if you plan to travel. When you have 20+ lbs. of gear packed into a 20 lb. case, it can get very heavy. Having to lug that around a large airport would be a recipe for arm and shoulder pain, and buckets of sweat that could have been easily avoided.

With both layers packed, looks like my airgun and I are ready to go. 

That’s it for today. There is more to come, so stay tuned for Part 2.