Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 8

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

fired cartridge rims
Some reloaded cartridges had to be fired a second time.

Part 1 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 2 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 3 Bore size versus performance
Part 4 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 5 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 6 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 7 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges

This report covers:

  • Priming went slow
  • Toy caps are sensitive
  • Not loud but hot!
  • Wait
  • Loading
  • The 24 cartridges for the test
  • Pyrodex
  • The test
  • Sharpshooter commercial priming compound
  • Cap priming powder
  • Discussion
  • Summary

This is the 8th report on reloading rimfire cartridges. I learned a lot today and so will you. If this study is of any interest to you, today will be revealing.

Priming went slow

Packing the priming compound into the rims of the cartridges takes a long time. It took me about 30 minutes to pack the Sharpshooter priming compound into the rims of 12 cartridges that I needed for today’s test. It took another four hours to finish the toy cap priming compound. Let me explain why.

Toy caps are sensitive

I had to load 12 cartridges with each type of priming compound for the test. Each cartridge that is primed with toy cap powder gets the powder from 6 ring caps, That’s 72 caps that have to be stripped of their compound that is in the form of a hard cake. I proceeded as carefully as I knew how and I still set off 5 caps, getting the 72 I needed. After the cake of explosive is out of the cap it has to be crushed and ground into powder. Try doing that with cap powder without setting it off!

Suffice to say, the work with the caps went very slowly. My neighbor, Denny, came over to watch and I told him I had already unintentionally exploded 4 caps. He asked me to do one intentionally so he could see. I told him no way, but just wait. Sure enough, in about 5 minutes another one exploded.

Not loud but hot!

When the caps explode they don’t make a loud noise. There is nothing restraining them, so they just flash. And that flash is hot! I learned that last time and now I keep my fingers as far as possible from the cap I’m working on.

After it is turned into a powder the priming powder has to be put into a cartridge, wet with one drop of acetone, wait at least 5 minutes and then pack the sludge into the cartridge rim. It goes the same for the commercial Sharpshooter priming powder, but since that stuff has not exploded on me yet, I move a little faster.

Wait

After the priming powder is inside the rims the cartridges have to sit overnight to dry. So I worked on this report on Friday and also on Saturday.

Loading

I used two gunpowders for this test. I used 0.8-grains of Unique, a smokeless powder recommended by Sharpshooter, the company who sold me the loading tools. And I used Pyrodex — a replica black powder that they also recommend. With that powder I filled the case.

Unique
Not much Unique was used.

Pyrodex
The cartridges were filled with black powder substitute Pyrodex.

The 24 cartridges for the test

I’m testing two different bullets, two different powders and two different priming compounds. That’s eight combinations of cartridges I loaded for this test. I loaded three of each type and here they are.

Sharpshooter priming, 38-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder
Sharpshooter priming, 25-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder
Cap priming, 38-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder
Cap priming, 25-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder

Sharpshooter priming, 38-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder
Sharpshooter priming, 25-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder
Cap priming, 38-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder
Cap priming, 25-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder

Those are the 24 cartridges I loaded. There were also other problems I encountered while loading the gunpowder and seating the bullets that I will address.

Pyrodex

Black powder should be loaded until the case is full, with no space in the cartridge when the bullet is seated. It took the entire 12 cartridges for me to learn that three of the small scoops of Pyrodex was the perfect amount to use.

I also had some difficulty crimping the cartridges that had Pyrodex in them. I suppose the powder was pushing against the base of the bullet as it should and that was making the bullet stand proud. Toward the end of the reloading I noted that several of the 38-grain bullets loaded very hard into the cartridge case and I had little hope for them. 

The test

I attempted to shoot all the cartridges through the chronograph for velocity. I shot all the cartridges loaded with Unique first because it is smokeless. I thought Pyrodex would fill the room with dirty smoke and might set off my smoke alarm.

Sharpshooter commercial priming compound

I say I attempted to shoot all the cartridges. None of the 12 that were loaded with the Sharpshooter priming powder went off. Yes, the two blanks that I loaded and fired in Part 7 both did fire but I noted at the time that one of them sounded weak. I didn’t say that in the report but the video I filmed shows it. I guess I don’t yet know how to load this commercial priming powder into the rims of cartridges.

Cap priming powder

The cartridges primed with priming powder extracted from toy caps were a different story. Two of those cartridges refused to chamber in the rifle, but the other 10 chambered with differing levels of success. The two that wouldn’t go in were a cartridge with a 25-grain bullet and one with a 38-grain bullet.

Of the 10 cartridges primed with cap powder that did chamber, 6 of them fired. That’s a 60 percent success rate. Here is what happened.

Bullet…….Powder…….Vel.
38 gn..……Unique…….621
25 gn..……Unique…….805 second try
25 gn..……Unique…….630

Bullet…….Powder…….Vel.
38 gn..……Pyrodex…….679
25 gn..……Pyrodex…….739 second try
25 gn..……Pyrodex…….748

The two notes about the second try means that the cartridge failed to fire the first time I attempted to fire it. So I removed the cartridge and rotated it to a fresh location on its rim, Of all the cartridges I tried to fire, each that would chamber got at least two attempts, unless it fired the first time.

Discussion

There isn’t a lot of data, but I do have some solid conclusions. First, cap powder is more reliable for me at present, so I will proceed with it, alone. I will not give up on the Sharpshooter commercial priming powder, but I need to conduct some more tests to learn what I’m doing wrong.

I have an idea of how to modify the priming powder packing tool to push the wet sludge into the cartridge rim more effectively. I will grind the end of the tool to make a flat paddle like a long tiny screwdriver blade.

Next, I need to pay more attention when loading 38-grain bullets and Pyrodex. I think the three small scoops of powder that I learned at the end of today’s loading is the place to begin next  time.

I thought Pyrodex was going to leave clouds of smoke in my office, but that never happened. The smell of the burned powder did linger a long time, but there was no real smoke. The rifle did have to be cleaned afterward because Pyrodex is corrosive, and so are toy caps. So cleaning is a must.

I did note that the two 25-grain bullets that were shot with Pyrodex went out at a consistent velocity. That, I like a lot! I think that Pyrodex is a good powder for this test. Unique I’m not as sure of. The wide variance in velocity between the two 25-grain bullets that fired gives me some concern. It’s probably a difference in crimp pressure that black powder is less sensitive to.

Summary

This test is progressing more slowly than I envisioned at the start. I see no need to rush it, either. I want to get consistent ignition and the method of priming down (i.e. a higher percentage of cartridges firing) before I progress to an accuracy test.


Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 7

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 2 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 3 Bore size versus performance
Part 4 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 5 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 6 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges

This report covers:

  • Bullets
  • Ton to the rescue
  • Sheathe the mold handles
  • Change gloves
  • Hotter lead pot temp for soft lead bullets
  • Better bullets
  • 38-grain bullets
  • Flashing
  • 25-grain bullets
  • Summary

Now that we know how to get positive ignition with a reloaded rimfire cartridge, it’s time to reload some more and get to testing.  In Part 6 we learned that both the primer powder that I bought commercially from Sharpshooter and the powder I removed from toy caps were successful to prime .22 rimfire cartridges, when used according to the directions that came from Sharpshooter. It’s time to move on and load more cartridges to test.

Bullets

If you recall, I was disappointed by the bullets I cast the first time around. The little mold I got from Sharpshooter is all-aluminum and also too small. The aluminum handles heat up so hot I cannot hold them, so I was casting from a relatively cold bullet mold last time. That’s never good. It was 300 to 400 degrees, which is too hot to hold and too cold to cast well.

On top of that I used up all the barely acceptable bullets when I reloaded the 28 unsuccessful cartridges. So I had to cast more bullets and they had to be better.

Ton to the rescue

Ton Jones was reading my report and called me over to AirForce. He gave me a pair of Ton Jones barbecue gloves to hold the hot handles of the bullet mold. What a great gift! Thank you, Ton!

Jones gloves
Ton Jones gave me a pair of his famous barbecue gloves to help me hold the small bullet mold.

Ton told me the amount of time and at what heat these gloves will work. They are effective for temperatures of up to 900 degrees F for 10 seconds, but at the estimated 400-degree heat of the mold handles they work for several minutes.

Sheathe the mold handles

Besides the gloves I decided to sheathe the mold handles with wood. My neighbor Denny had made a nice pair of wooden handle covers that I tried fastening with electrician’s tape last time. The tape melted from the heat, so it was ineffective, but these wood handles are now held to the mold handles by two bolts with nuts on each side. Some reader suggested to use epoxy, but there is no commercial epoxy including muffler cement that can withstand the intense heat for as long as it is needed.

mold handles
The wood handles Denny made are held on the aluminum mold handles with two bolts on each handle.

Using the wooden handles and the gloves I was able to get the mold up to a good casting temperature and cast enough bullets of both sizes for a really good test. The bolts that hold the wooden handles on do transmit the temperature, but the gloves allow me to hold the mold better. I hold the handles toward the rear where the bolts are not located, though I do come in contact with them. 

Change gloves

I found I only need one glove on my left hand, so the other one sits around until I need it. Every few minutes the glove I’m using gets too warm and I switch with the idle glove. This allows for an unlimited time of casting.

Hotter lead pot temp for soft lead bullets

I also discovered this time that I needed to set my Lyman lead furnace hotter because I was casting softer lead that has less tin. Pure lead flows at a higher temperature than lead alloyed with tin and antimony. There was some of each of those metals in the pot, but less than if I was casting bullets for a large caliber firearm pistol. As a note to myself I set the pot at 7.5 on the scale instead of the usual 6.5 for the harder alloys. And the bullets that came from the mold remained shiny, which indicates they were formed at a good casting temperature.

Better bullets

The worst of the bullets I retained from this casting session are better than the best bullets from the first cast. There are still some problems, but they look mold-related and are unlikely to improve.

38-grain bullets

Here are some of the 40 or so 38-grain round-nose bullets that I kept after inspection.

38-grain
The 38-grain round-nosed bullets cast cleaner this time.

38-grain flashing
Some 38-grain bullets had flashing that has to be removed before they can be used.

Flashing

The flashing occurs because the mold halves don’t come together tightly and the sprue plate doesn’t fit the top of the mold tightly. That is a function of the mold. A better mold would not have those problems, but the bullets I get from this mold are suitable for the current project. If I was going to cast thousands of bullets it would be worth spending the money on a better custom mold.

25-grain bullets

The first time I cast bullets the smaller pointed 25-grain bullets fell easily from the mold and the longer 38-grain bullets were harder to get out. This time that was reversed. I believe the hotter mold was the principal reason for this.

I did get about the same number of keeper bullets in the smaller size this time. But some of them also had some flashing on them. I will clean that off before loading the bullets, but I plan to use all of the keepers, or as many as possible.

25-grain flashing
Most of the 25-grain bullets have a little flashing on their base, but these two were the worst.

25-graion tweezers
The 25-grain bullets came from the mold cleaner than the 38-grain bullets. One of them is held in the cross-locking reverse tweezers I mentioned recently.

Summary

This casting session went better because I was better prepared for it. I am also better prepared to load the next set of cartridges for testing because of the experience I have gained from recent testing The next test will be the velocity of both types of bullets with smokeless powder and with Pyrodex, using both kinds of priming compound.

After that I will shoot the cartridges for accuracy, but I’m looking to pare down all the test variables, to keep this testing manageable. I think I will wait to see the results of the velocity test before I load for the accuracy test.


Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 2 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 3 Bore size versus performance
Part 4 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges

This report covers:

  • Why reload rimfire?
  • The real reason for shooting .22 rimfire
  • No ammo!
  • Loading the primed case
  • The bullets
  • The powder
  • Static electricity
  • Insert the bullet
  • Crimping the bullet
  • Try the cartridge fit
  • Experience grows
  • Summary

Today we will complete the reloading of the 28 .22 long rifle cartridges we have now primed. Reader GunFun1 says he’s been waiting for this one and so have I. Lotsa pix and lotsa talk. Let’s go!

Just as a reminder, this series was inspired by reader Yogi, who asked about reloading rimfire cartridges several months ago. As I have done for the 26 years I’ve been writing about airguns, I puffed up my chest and was about to bellow, “Rimfire cartridges cannot be reloaded.” However, in an uncharacteristically intelligent move, I went online, just to be sure. Lo and behold, not only can rimfire cartridges be reloaded, people have been doing so almost from the inception of the first .22-caliber rimfire cartridge by Smith & Wesson in 1856.

Why reload rimfire?

As airgunners we might ask why anyone would feel the need to reload .22 rimfire. We now have pellet rifles that produce over 100 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle and pellet rifles passed rimfires for accuracy out to 50 yards many years ago. The only drawback a good pellet rifle has is actually one of its biggest benefits — diabolo pellets don’t carry nearly as far as bullets. But the .22 long rifle cartridge we are talking about reloading is usually restricted to shots of less than 100 yards, and in the limits of that domain it only surpasses the accurate and powerful pellet rifle between about 50 and 100 yards.

The real reason for shooting .22 rimfire

The real reason for shooting .22 rimfire is the size of the support tail. A good rimfire rifle and 500 cartridges can be carried easily. An equally good pellet rifle can weigh almost the same as the firearm and, while 500 pellets are certainly lighter than a brick of long rifle cartridges, it doesn’t end there. Spring-piston guns and CO2 guns are not competitive in this arena. Only precharged pneumatics can play, because of their power and accuracy. That means there also has to be a means of refilling them. A hand pump is the lightest and most convenient way to replenish high-pressure air over the long haul, with a small carbon fiber buddy bottle coming next — because it only holds limited air.

A hunter can put a box of 50 rimfire cartridges in his pocket and be out for an entire day. An airgunner might get 20 good shots from a powerful AirForce Condor or an AirForce Escape and then he has to top off. While 20 shots are probably all he needs for hunting, the small box of 50 long rifle cartridges is dwarfed by the salami-sized buddy bottle. I can understand why a nice .22 rimfire is still respected so much. There is just one problem.

No ammo!

It’s very hard to find .22 long rifle cartridges in the United States right now. That won’t change with the new administration, either. If anything, it will get worse. So reloading rimfire that we once thought impossible and then, when we learned it could be done, we wondered why anyone would go to the trouble, has taken on a whole new perspective. You may be sitting on a few bricks of long rifle cartridges and if so, good for you. But don’t expect to replace them easily any time soon. The only rounds I found for sale are selling at 56 cents EACH! At that price a box of 50 rounds costs $23 and you can add a zero for a 500-round brick. So, if you want to shoot a lot, this may be the best and most affordable way real soon.

Loading the primed case

To load a primed case you must do two things — put in a charge of gunpowder and load a bullet. The instruction sheet sent by Sharp Shooter, the company that made the reloading tools, gave several gunpowders that might be used. One of them was Hogden’s Pyrodex P — a replica black powder that’s equivalent to FFFG, which is pistol powder. While most smokeless gun powder is currently unavailable, Pyrodex is still being sold and I bought a pound of it for this series. But as a replica black powder Pyrodex produces a lot of smoke and I didn’t want to stink up my office. So I used Bullseye gunpowder that I had plenty of. When you see how little was used you will appreciate that I can get about 7,750 cartridges from one pound of powder.

The bullets

The other thing you do is push a bullet into the cartridge case and crimp it. That proved to be a problem. The bases of all the 38-grain bullets I had cast had flashing on their bottoms. It had to be removed before the bullet would slide into the case. I used a combination of my fingernail and a small pen knife to do this.

flashing
All the 38-grain bullets had flashing (arrow) around their base that had to be removed. This wrinkled bullet will be used to test velocity. I don’t usually accept bullets that are malformed like this but I still have to get the bullet mold working correctly.

Most of the 25-grain bullets had very little flashing on their bases. One, though, had a lot and it all had to be removed before the bullet could be loaded

flashing 25-grain
This 25-grain bullet is also unacceptable and will only be used to test velocity. All that flashing at the base had to be removed.

It took longer to prepare the bullets than to fill the case with powder, so the bullet was the first thing I did and then I loaded the powder. I loaded one cartridge at a time. My first cartridge probably took me five minutes to complete, but by the end of the session I was loading each round in about a minute and a half, give or take.

The powder

To verify the accuracy of the powder scoop I used a digital powder scale that’s made for measuring gunpowder. The same scoop I used for the priming powder was used to scoop out the Bullseye, that was in the same shot glass I used to mix the four priming powders (see Part 4). The small scoop picked up 0.6-grains of Bullseye, and the large scoop picked up 0.9 grains.

scale
The large scoop that came with the rimfire reloading kit measured 0.9-grains of Bullseye gunpowder consistently.

I scooped and measured many scoops of powder and it was consistently 0.9-grains — never more. One time it was 0.8-grains and then crept up to 0.9-grains, so I felt the charge was on the lower end of 0.9-grains. I became confident that the scoop was always picking up the same amount of powder. So I stopped measuring and started reloading.

powder measure
The large scoop consistently gathered 0.9 grains of Bullseye powder.

powder cartridge
Here we are looking down inside the cartridge after powder has been put in. It fills about the bottom third of the case. But of course the bullet will take up some space inside, as well. With smokeless gunpowder the case doesn’t have to be full for safety reasons like it does with black powder.

Static electricity

The gunpowder has some static electricity and some of it sticks to the inside of the plastic funnel after the cartridge is loaded. I used a brass cleaning rod swab holder to push the stray flakes down into the spout of the funnel when tapping the side with a finger wasn’t enough.

powder funnel
Static electricity held a few flakes of gunpowder to the side of the funnel. They were pushed into the spout by a brass fixture.

Insert the bullet

Now the bullet can be inserted into the case. If the bullet base was cleaned of flashing it goes right in and stops at the right place — hopefully. The first 38-grain bullet I loaded didn’t go into the case far enough and was crimped in the wrong place. But I learned from that and didn’t make that mistake again with that bullet.

bullet case
The bullet has been put into the case.

Crimping the bullet

The last step in reloading is to crimp the case mouth into the side of the bullet, to hold it steady. The bullet mold that came with the reloading tools has a case crimper built into it. It is sized for long rifle cases, which means it will also work with longs but not with shorts. However a short case can be crimped if you come in from the other side (which is the top) of the crimping tool.

cartridge crimping tool
The cartridge is put into the crimping tool and the case mouth is crimped to the bullet.

On the first cartridge I discovered that it takes a little fiddling to get the cartridge into the crimping tool correctly.  The first one I tried was put in too deep and I almost crimped the rim of the cartridge! That could have set the cartridge off! But I played with it and got the cartridge in correctly.

cartridge in tool base
This is how deep the cartridge fits into the crimper.

cartridge in tool bullet
This is how far the 38-grain bullet sticks out when the case is loaded into the crimping too correctly. The shorter 25-grain bullet sits deep inside the tool and doesn’t stick out like this

When the cartridge is all the way inside the crimping tool, squeeze the handles hard and the crimp is made. It doesn’t look that deep, but it really does hold the bullet tight in the case.

cartridge crimped
The crimp at the top of the case mouth holds the bullet tight.

Try the cartridge fit

After reloading the first cartridge I tried inserting it into the chamber of the rifle I plan to test it in. The cartridge with the 38-grain bullet went about halfway into the chamber. I was able to close the bolt all the way on that cartridge but when I opened it again, the bullet was pulled out of the case and remained stuck in the barrel.

cartridge halfway
The cartridge with the 38-grain bullet went this far into the rifle’s chamber before it stopped. The bolt shoved it in all the way.

bullet pulled
When I opened the bolt to extract the cartridge, the bullet remained in the barrel.

I pushed the bullet out of the barrel with a .22 cleaning rod and reloaded it into the cartridge, but first all the powder had to be removed and refilled.

When I loaded the 25-grain bullet into a cartridge and crimped it, it went deeper into the chamber, but not all the way. I didn’t force this one into the chamber with the bolt. When the cartridge was removed the bullet remained in the case. I believe the crimping step is making the case out-of-round just enough to affect it this way.

Experience grows

As I reloaded the cases I got faster and better at it. By the time I loaded the five 38-grain bullets for the accuracy test and the 25-grain bullets as well, I was under a minute and a half loading a cartridge.

This is the first time I have ever done this, so there was a lot to learn. But now that I’ve done it, I know what to expect and things will go more smoothly. 

If you add together all the time it took to cast the bullets (Part 2), mix the priming powder and prime the cases (Part 4) then load the cartridges (today), I probably spent about six hours loading 28 long rifle cartridges. Don’t think that’s how long it takes, though. I was doing many other things like taking pictures, plus learning how this all works. I think my estimate of 1.5 minutes per loaded cartridge (starting with a primed case) could be tripled and you’d have a rough estimate of the time it takes to cast and sort the bullets, prime the cases and load the cartridges. A box of 50 cartridges would take 225 minutes (at 4.5 minutes per cartridge, total), which is 3 hours 45 minutes.

38-grain-cartridge
A 38-grain cartridge.

25-grain-cartridges
These are the nine 25-grain bullet cartridges I loaded for the velocity test. The arrow points to one whose bullet is seated too deep.

Summary

Three months ago I didn’t even know it was possible to reload .22 rimfire cartridges. Now I am finishing Part 5 of a series on doing it, and my first 28 cartridges are loaded! Most definitely there is a long road ahead for me as I refine each aspect of what I’ve reported so far. But this is something I’m interested in learning and, from what you have told me, you are too.

I know this is a blog about airguns and that the .22 rimfire cartridge certainly does not qualify, but in these perilous times when ammunition is difficult to find, shooters need all the help they can get. Many are either not yet informed that pellet rifles have come as far as they have (shooting one-inch groups at 100 yards and killing whitetail deer at 200 yards with one shot) and it’s my job to inform them.

Others are not yet ready to give up their beloved rimfires simply because ammunition is not available. They may know a lot about airguns and may even own several, but they still love their rimfires. Well, bless their hearts! Perhaps I can help them as we all learn about this fascinating niche in the shooting sports together.


AirForce Texan: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Mr. Hollowpoint
  • The test
  • Two important things
  • Bullet seating
  • Shot count
  • 255-grain bullet target 2
  • 300-grain bullet group 1
  • 300-grain group 2
  • 350-grain bullet
  • 365-grain bullet 
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I finally report on my AirForce Texan .458 that we looked at last in September. Some reader asked me to try different commercial bullets in my rifle, and while I was talking to Ton Jones at AirForce he said they really like the bullets Mr. Hollowpoint, Robert Vogel, makes. So I contacted him and ordered a selection of bullets to test.

Mr. Hollowpoint

Robert was on a hog hunt when I contacted him, but when he returned we communicated and he generously sent me a sampling of some of his .45 caliber bullets. I asked for them to be sized .459, because my Texan’s bore is .458. He said he understood and would try his best to satisfy my needs.

If you get nothing else from today’s report get this. The best accuracy with lead bullets comes with bullets that are sized exactly the diameter of the bore, measured from the depth of one groove to the depth of the groove on the opposite side, or up to one-thousandth of an inch larger. In my experience, one-thousandth of an inch larger is best.

Because Mr. Hollowpoint casts his own bullets, he can control the sizes, up to the limits of his molds. And I have to tell you this — I have been casting lead bullets for over a half-century and I can see that Robert Volgle does excellent work. Not all who cast bullets do. Many people cast hard lead bullets because the antimony that hardens the lead also makes the lead flow better. But these are bullets so soft a thumbnail can scratch them. That’s what you want for a big bore airgun.

By maintaining a tight watch on the temperature of the lead and the bullet molds during casting good bullets can also be made from soft lead, and it’s obvious that Robert Vogel knows what he is doing. Every bullet mold has a “personality” of its own, which means you have to learn what they like before you can do good work.

One last observation. Casting hollowpoint bullets involves extra steps that many bullet casters won’t take the time to do. Not only do the bullet molds have to remain at a constant temperature — the hollowpoint pin also has to, and that’s not a given.

Robert sent an me assortment of bullets to try, and I’m not going to rush things. I selected four of them to start with. We will refer to them by their nominal weights in grains. There is a 255, a 300 a 350 and a 365.

Texan bullets
Mr. Hollowpoint’s lead bullets are well-cast. As you can see, the shapes differ a lot, though they are all hollowpoints.

The test

I shot 5-shot groups for this test because of the amount of air being used by the rifle. I shot off a concrete bench with the rifle rested in a long sandbag. The rifle is scoped with a UTG 6-24X56 SWAT scope.

Tom shoots
It was good to get behind the Texan once more.

Two important things

When I visited Ton in September he reminded me of two important things. The first is to always seat the bullets deep in the Texan’s breech or they will tilt in the bore. That destroys accuracy. The second thing is to adjust the rifle’s power adjuster for each bullet you shoot. It’s best to find one good bullet and set the rifle up for it, rather than to hop from bullet to bullet. It’s the same as for a pellet rifle that likes certain pellets, only with the Texan it’s more sophisticated because you are adjusting the powerplant for each bullet you shoot.

I did one of those things in today’s test but not the other. I seated each bullet deep into the rifling like Ton said, but I did not change the power adjuster. Until I find the bullet I’m searching for there is no sense adjusting the power for each bullet. I will waste all my samples just trying! So let’s look at bullet seating first.

Bullet seating

I started shooting the 255-grain bullet first. Shots one and two overlapped each other on the paper, and then shot three landed 1.5-inches lower. I wondered what caused that and then remembered my lesson from Ton in seating each bullet. So bullet 4 I seated properly and it went back to bullets 1 and 2. Lesson remembered! Let’s look at what I’m saying.

Texan 255 1
Bullets one and two overlapped, but bullet 3 dropped because it wasn’t seated properly. Bullet 4 was then seated correctly and went back to bullets 1 and 2. Group measures 1.991-inches between centers at 50 yards, with the top three in 0.516-inches.

Texan 255 loose
The 255-grain bullet lies loose in the loading trough. Whatever you do, don’t close the breech with the bullet laying out like this!

Texan 255 cocked
Here I’ve pushed the bullet into the breech half-heartedly. Don’t do this! the rear of the bullet is tilted up. I have exaggerated the angle for you to see. But I can feel a much smaller tilt when it clicks down straight. I press the bullet down and then in with my thumb.

All bullets do not seat in the barrel to the same depth, but each different type of bullet does seat into the rifling to the same depth every time when the same thumb pressure is applied. And it takes a LOT of thumb pressure! The rifling straightens the bullet, aligning it with the axis of the bore and setting up the rifle for the best accuracy.

Texan 255 seated
This is how deep the 255-grain bullet seats when it is done right. 

Seating the fourth bullet right is what caused it to return to where the first two bullets strike the target at 50 yards in that first target. And here is BB’s tip to Texan owners. Press the base of the bullet down and in to seat it correctly.

Shot count

I remembered refilling the Texan after 3 shots in the past, but that was in 2016 when I was shooting at 100 yards. This time I fired 4 times on the first targbet and there was still 2,300 psi remaining from a 3,000 psi fill. So, on the second target I fired the rifle 5 times on a fill. That is very good air management for a rifle in the Texan’s power range. I haven’t chronographed these bullets yet, but suffice to say we are getting something in the low 300 foot-pounds range with a bullet this light.

255-grain bullet target 2

I just shot the second target and did nothing special. Just 5 shots, one after the other. This time the group was more open, measuring 2.388-inches between centers. I still think this 255-grain bullet is worth spending some time on, but for now I moved on.

Texan 255 group 2
The second group of 255-grain bullets is more open and larger. Five shots in 2.388-inches at 50 yards.

300-grain bullet group 1

Next to be tested was the 300-grain bullet. This one has narrow bands that the rifling engages It seats easier and a little deeper. The first 5 shots landed in 1.258-inches at 50 yards. Shot number 4 is the stray and the other four bullets are in 0.504-inches between centers. Wow! Now, THAT is a group!

Texan 300 group 1
Five 300-grain Mr. Hollowpoint bullets are in 1.258-inches at 50 yards with 4 in 0.504-inches.

This is a bullet worth pursuing! And I can tell that the power adjuster is set almost optimal for this one. It probably needs to come out (less hammer pressure) just a little. A second group might tell us more.

300-grain group 2

The second 50-yard group of five 300-grain bullets is also small, measuring 1.232-inches between centers. Three of the bullets are in 0.349-inches. This bullet really wants to shoot!

Texan 300 group 2
Five 300-grain bullets are in 1.232-inches at 50 yards, with three of them in 0.349-inches.

350-grain bullet

Next to be tried was the 350-grain bullet. Five of them (still on a single 5-shot fill) went into a vertical 3.714-inch group at 50 yards. Given the 300-grain bullet’s performance I think I’ll leave this one alone.

Texan 350 group
Five 350-grain bullets strung vertically in this 3.714-inch group.

365-grain bullet 

The final bullet to be tested was the 365-grainer. The Texan put five of them into 4.857-inches at 50 yards. It was another vertical group and the worst one of the test.

Texan 365 group
The Texan put five 365-grain bullets into this vertical group that measures 4.857-inches between centers. It’s the largest group of the test.

Discussion

In light of the 300-grain bullet’s performance, I think it is the one to pursue. The 255-grainer is also good and shows promise to be even better, but the 300-grain groups tell me they are the bullet the Texan likes the best out of the ones I tested — so far. I have one more Mr. Hollowpoint bullet to test — a 333-grainer. I also want to try adjusting the power setting to optimize the rifle for the 300-grain bullet. If it turns out the way I imagine, that will be the bullet to order in quantity.

Of course I also need to test the velocity of this bullet, so we can find out the power. No sense doing that until I’m sure the power adjustment is set to the optimum. And then if this bullet warrants it I will shoot it at 100 yards.

I did measure the diameter of the 300-grainer, though, and my caliper says it is 0.4570- to 0.4595-inches across at the base. Soft lead bullets usually measure out of round after they have been handled awhile. But their softness squishes them into all corners of the bore, which is where the accuracy and velocity come from.

Summary

That’s it for this report. But as you can see, we aren’t finished with the .458 Texan just yet.


Reloading firearm cartridges: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Design an Airgun
  • Godfather’s Gold Gun giveaway
  • Reload a cartridge
  • Types of cartridges
  • Rimmed and rimless cartridges
  • Resize and deprime
  • Bell the case mouth
  • Prime each case
  • Put powder in the case
  • Powder measure
  • Insert the bullet
  • Summary

Design an Airgun

Just a reminder — the Design an Airgun contest ends on this Friday, October 16. The winner will be the niftiest design that most people can build. The winner will receive the American Zimmerstutzen as a prize. I have to limit the contest to residents of the United States because of international shipping laws but readers from other countries are welcome to show us their designs.

American Zimmerstutzen
The winner of the Design an Airgun contest will win the American Zimmerstutzen.

Godfather’s Gold Gun giveaway

Don’t forget that some lucky U.S. reader this month will also be drawn to receive the Godfather’s Gold Gun — an Ataman AP16 pistol designed by B.B. Pelletier. So, there is a lot going on this month!

Ataman AP16 Standard
The Godfather’s Gold Gun will belong to one lucky blog reader after October is over.

Reload a cartridge

Today we are continuing our tutorial on reloading a cartridge. We will actually put a cartridge together in this report.

Types of cartridges

There are several different types of cartridges. Some have bases that are rimmed. Those rims are what the reloading equipment holds onto while the case is run through all the reloading steps. Revolver cartridges like the .38 Special and rifle cartridges like the 30-30 are rimmed. 

Cartridges that work in semiautomatic actions have cases that are rimless. Those would be like the 9 X 19 mm Luger pistol cartridge and the 5.56 mm rifle cartridge. 

Rimmed and rimless cartridges

Each type of cartridge, rimmed and rimless, is held by the reloading press at its base. This requires some kind of shellholder for most reloading presses, though the Forester press has an automatic shellholder that opens to grab any cartridge base.

rimmed rimless cases
Rimmed .30-30 and .38 Special cases on the left — rimless 5.56 mm and 9X19 mm on the right.

Resize and deprime

The first step is to resize the cartridge case and remove the primer from its pocket. Resizing makes the case a standard size to fit the chambers of all guns. Today I will take it one step further and show you what can be done with a sizing die. Sometimes, one caliber case can be turned into another!

I was aware that the .38-55 Winchester (or Ballard, as it was called when it was first introduced in 1884) is the case that the .30-30 Winchester is based on. To turn one into the other all you have to do is resize the .38-55 case in a .30-30 sizing die! I no longer have a .38-55 rifle, but I do have a .30-30, so I took the few .38-55 cases I had laying around and turned them into .30-30 cases.

.38-55 case
A .38-55 case sits in the press, ready to go into the sizing die.

.38-55 case resized
After running it into the .30-30 sizing die and back out, this .38-55 case has been turned into a .30-30 case. Only the headstamp gives away what it used to be.

After this is done, the primer pocket must be cleaned, so the new primer can be inserted.

dirty primer pocket
This .38-55 has been resized into a .30-30 case, but its primer pocket still needs to be cleaned.

Once all the cases are sized and de-primed, I dump them into the tumbler that I showed in Part 1 and tumble them for about 12 hours. I do it overnight, so no time is wasted.

clean primer pocket
This is how they come out of the tumbler. Yes, this is a different case, because I already loaded the other one.

Bell the case mouth

At this time the mouth of the case is expanded or “belled” so it doesn’t shave off part of the bullet when it’s inserted and pushed home.  This is especially important when loading lead bullets, as I usually do. These days it’s hard to find jacketed bullets to buy, so my bullet casting has kept me and three other reloaders shooting. There is usually a special loading die to expand the case mouth, but when there isn’t, I use a .50-caliber bullet from a .50 BMG round to do it.

.50 caliber bullet
My .30-30 die set doesn’t have a die to bell the case mouth, so I use this .50-caliber bullet.

Prime each case

Now it’s time to put a fresh primer in each case. This can be done either with the reloading press or with a separate priming tool, like I showed in Part 2. Make sure the primer is flush with the bottom of the case or slightly below.

new primer
A fresh primer has been inserted. As long as the primer pocket is clean the primer will fit correctly. The notch on the rim of this case was for aligning each cast bullet  (that had been loaded into the case) in the same orientation, to help with accuracy. That was for the Ballard.

Put powder in the case

There are many different kinds of smokeless gunpowder. Some burn very fast and others burn very slow. Fast-burning powders are usually for short-barreled firearms like handguns. Slower-burning powders are for rifles and some magnum loads in handgun cartridges.  The reloading manual tells you what the safe loads are for each powder and bullet weight/type (lead or jacketed). I follow those recipes scrupulously. Safety is always the first concern for a reloader!

Powder measure

To measure the powder you put into the case a powder measure can be used. Since different powders come in different-sized granules and coarseness, you use different measures for different powders. It’s not one measure per type of powder. More like one measure for flake and ball powders and another one for granulated (like small grains of rice) powders. However, a few, like the RCBS Uniflow, work well with all powders.

RCBS powder measure
The RCBS Uniflow powder measure I use works well with all powders.

Once they are adjusted, powder measures will throw charges that are within 0.2 grains of each other — at least the ones I use will with the types of powders I use. That’s close enough for general shooting and hunting ammo. But for shooting small groups, it’s best to weigh each powder charge by hand. You set your measure to throw a charge that’s a few tenths light and then use a trickle charger to increase it to exactly the rght amount. Naturally every charge is weighed on a powder scale.

Lee also makes a set of special dippers that measure a load of powder reasonsbly well. With some practice and care you can usually stay within 0.3 grains of the desired charge.

Insert the bullet

The last step is to insert the bullet and ram it home with the press. As the press’s ram gets to the end of its stroke, the die is set to crimp the case mouth into the bullet. At least that is what I have my dies set to do. This step does not take force, but rather a feel for things. It’s easy to use too much pressure on the press handle. Everyone who reloads has a pile of cartridges where something went wrong. You try to disassemble as many of your mistakes as you can to save the components, but some cannot be saved.

empty and loaded cartridges
It took longer for you to read this report than it took me to do everything needed to turn the empty cartridge case on the left into a fresh new loaded round. Since I made the bullet, this .30-30 cartridge cost me a little more than a nickel!

Summary

Reloading is a good way to save a little money, and a great way to make better ammunition. And, when supplies are short, such as they are these days, it is the only way to continue shooting.

I went through all the steps today pretty fast. Let me know what you need to have explained better.


Big Bore airgun calibers

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The greater problem
  • The beginning
  • Bullets — not pellets
  • .308 caliber
  • Bore size
  • .357 caliber
  • Black powder
  • The .45 caliber dilemma
  • Shoot soft lead bullets that are slightly larger
  • Other big bore calibers
  • Summary

Most shooters are familiar with the smallbore airgun calibers of .177, .20, .22 and .25. Even shooters who don’t consider themselves to be airgunners know at least the .177 and .22 calibers. But in recent years there has been an explosion of big bore airgun calibers, and I am seeing that many shooters have little knowledge about them. If that were the only problem it would fix itself, because over time people always learn.

The greater problem

The bigger problem are the airgun manufacturers that do not know much, if anything, about the larger calibers. This report will address the lesser-known truths about big bore airgun calibers.

The beginning

Where do the big bore calibers start? Well, they start at anything above .25 caliber. But there is a big bore caliber called .257 that is a legitimate .25 caliber. The difference is the .257 big bore shoots elongated bullets rather than diabolo pellets. Instead of 45 grains they can weigh 100 grains and more. They can reach out hundreds of yards, where the wasp-waisted hollow-tailed diabolo falls off fast after just 100 yards.

Bullets — not pellets

Another thing is big bore airguns shoot bullets, for the most part — not pellets. Yes, there have been some .308, .357 and even .45-caliber diabolo pellets made for certain airguns, but big bore airguns have been around since about the year 1350 and they have always used bullets — round balls until around 1850 and conical lead bullets since then. The diabolo pellet is a 20th-century invention.

.308 caliber

Recently the .308-caliber big bore has gained a lot of traction in the marketplace. People hear the caliber size and envision the .308 Winchester cartridge that they know is very powerful. But a .308 caliber pellet driven by air is far less powerful. It gives up the one big advantage of the big bore airgun — size. With a .308 air rifle your shot has to be precise or you risk wounding your quarry. That said, the .308 can do the job for a good shooter.

Bore size

Now let’s consider bore size for a moment. You don’t have to do that with a pellet. A .22-caliber pellet should work in most .22-caliber airguns. Accuracy will differ from pellet to pellet and we sometimes sort pellets by the diameter of their head, but that’s as far as it goes. Not so for big bore bullets! And this is where shooters new to the shooting sports get confused.

A .308 bullet may be very accurate in a .308 big bore airgun, or it may not even stabilize. That gun may need a bullet that’s .309-inches in diameter to work well. It all depends on the size of the bore! You see, smallbore airgun barrels are closely controlled to fit the pellets of their caliber. But big bore airguns can have barrels of widely varying internal sizes. That’s because there are no set standards for barrels of big bore airguns. They tend to be firearm barrels that have been used on airguns.

There are exceptions, of course. AirForce Airguns, for example, orders hundreds of barrels in each big bore caliber they produce from Lothar Walther. They are such a large customer that they can specify the exact inside dimensions, as well as the rifling twist rate. That’s something that Joe from Podunk, who makes 50 rifles a year, can’t do. He has to select his barrel from the stock items a barrelmaker offers.

.357 caliber

The next size up from .308 is .357 — and this caliber is a huge problem! Ten years ago it was called 9mm, which is sized 0.355-0.356-inches in diameter. The Koreans who were the first to make rifles in this caliber made them with barrels sized for 9mm lead bullets. The trouble with that is, unless you know where to look, it’s very hard to find 9mm lead bullets. That’s because 9mm is mostly a pistol caliber. All the bullets that are popular for 9mm pistols are jacketed and don’t do well in airguns — especially not the underpowered Korean ones! It took a full decade for the airgun makers to realize their mistake, and it took dealers and shooters even longer. Even today there are many shooters who think one-thousandth of an inch shouldn’t matter that much with a bullet. But it does!

Black powder

This is where a background with shooting black powder firearms comes in handy. There are two big reasons for this. First, when black powder explodes upon firing, the instant high pressure upsets the base of lead bullets, obturating (squashing) them into the bore. They are squashed into the rifling where they fit the bore better and also seal against the burning gasses. Airguns cannot do the same, so the fit of the bullet to the bore is critical from the start.

The second reason a black powder background or at least a knowledge of their history is important is because in the past (1250 A.D. to 1900) all non-military firearms (read that as black powder, because that’s all there was for most of that time) came with bullet molds when they were made. The owner had an idea of his gun’s caliber but it didn’t matter as long as he used the mold that came with it to cast his bullets. The military held gun makers to more exacting specifications so they could produce the bullets for their soldiers. Their guns didn’t have to each come with a mold.

Today, though, black powder arms are produced to more exact specifications, so their owners can purchase bullets to go with them. But it still isn’t a smooth road.

The .45 caliber dilemma

Now we come to one of the biggest dilemmas in big bore airguns today — the .45 caliber that exists in no less than three distinct sizes! And they are not interchangeable. Starting with the Koreans again, when they made .45 caliber big bores they made their barrels for bullets of a diameter of .452-inches. That is the modern .45 pistol diameter for the .45 ACP cartridge. And some .45 Colt revolvers also have bores that size. 

Bullets made in that size are expected to be fired from .45 caliber handguns at 850 f.p.s. or so. They weigh from 160 grains to 250 grains — AND THAT IS IT! If they are shot in big bore air rifles in the 200-225 foot-pound class, they are fine.  The Turks are also making their .45 big bores with bore diameters in this size. I have no idea of what the Chinese who make the big bores for Gamo are doing, but it does bear consideration.

The next popular size of .45-caliber bullet is .458, and it has another problem. Some makers are calling their rifles a .457, but I doubt you will find bullets of that size unless they are custom made. Don’t worry, though, because .458 bullets are what you want to use anyway. They fit the bore, where .457 bullets usually don’t.

These are the air rifles that shoot bullets weighing 350-500 grains. They will also shoot the lighter bullets, as long as they are sized .458 and not .452.

Then there are the big bore rifles that are made by boutique makers who turn out a few guns a year, in caliber .454. These guys don’t last that long and finding bullets for their rifles can be a real chore. This size was for Colt Single Action Army revolvers from decades ago. You’ll have to go to a custom bullet maker to buy them today.

So — they’re all .45 caliber, but in three different sizes! Did you know that? If you didn’t and you shoot your rifle with the wrong size bullet you aren’t going to do very well. A 24-inch group at 100 yards can shrink to a 3-inch group, just by using bullets of the right size!

Shoot soft lead bullets that are slightly larger

So—the lesson today is to shoot lead bullets of the right diameter. The right diameter is one-thousandth over the bore diameter in most instances. But you need to experiment with different sizes to make certain. I have been doing this for over 50 years and in my experience a thousandth larger with a lead bullet is what you want.

They should be soft lead bullets, because hard cast bullets will leave lead deposits in the bore. Air rifle bullets also don’t need to be lubricated — as long as they are soft lead. In fact they shouldn’t be. They are ideal for the velocities at which the most powerful of these air rifles shoot — generally 700-900 f.p.s.

Other big bore calibers

Yes there are big bores in calibers other than the ones mentioned here. A number of rifles in .40 caliber have been made, but they were all made by low-rate or custom makers who probably made them to work with a lead bullet that is commonly available. 

That being said, there can be big bores in other calibers, as well. I know of several big bores made to shoot the 12 gauge rifled slug that looks like a diabolo pellet. It’s called the Balle Blondeau.

Balle Blondeau
The Balle Blondeau is a 12-gauge slug that looks like a diabolo pellet. Some smoothbore big bores have been made to shoot it.

Like black powder arms, a big bore airgun can be made in any caliber. If you plan to buy one, make sure you can get the bullets for it first.

Summary

This has been a brief but fairly complete look at big bore projectiles. I have concentrated on the bullets rather than the few diabolo pellets that exist, because the bullets are where it’s at for big bores. Stay tuned.


Oh, Yes — I’m the Great Enabler!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Wants what he wants
  • So why?
  • What happens when a gun doesn’t live up to the hype?
  • Not-so-expensive
  • Don’t put words into my mouth
  • How to read me

Yesterday my brother-in-law, Bob, called me on his way home from buying groceries and told me that yesterday ‘s blog about the Umarex Fusion 2 had convinced him to buy one. He told me I am the Great Enabler.

Wants what he wants

I thought about that. Bob is an airgunner very much like many of you. He doesn’t want just one more airgun, but if he sees a good enough reason to own one, he will spring for it. Like many of you Bob loves to shoot. He shoots firearms almost every week and years ago I coached him into reloading, both to keep the cost of ammunition down and also to have ammo that more flexibly meets his needs. Reloading gives you the control you need over your ammo — both to make it as close to perfect as possible for your guns and also to ensure a supply in those times (like now) when it isn’t generally available. Airguns are like that in many ways.

No, you can’t make your own pellets, though if you own a big bore you can cast bullets for it. But with a pellet gun you can lay in a supply of the pellets your airguns prefer, and you can do it without breaking the bank. I get emails all the time telling my how horrible the selection of pellets is at the big box store where they shop! Well, sure! I can also name several restaurants where I wouldn’t recommend eating — even though they have an unlimited buffet. A lot of bad gets bad very fast. Quantity counts for very little when quality matters.

So why?

Do I sit around and dream up ways to get you all excited about products? No — that’s called marketing and I won’t do it. Why? Because I know that many readers are like I used to be. They maybe have enough money scraped together to buy one airgun this year, and it better be a good one because that’s going to be it for a long time. I understand that.

When the Beeman R1 first came out in about 1982 I was the proud owner of a Feinwerkbau 124 that, until the R1, was fairest in the land. I had purchased my FWB at the Beeman Store in San Rafael, just a few months earlier and here was their latest catalog — rubbing my nose in it!

That was a different time and the power threshold was 800 f.p.s., which turned out to be the place where a pellet rifle can also be highly accurate and the gun that launches it can also be smooth to shoot. My 124 was all those things but when that R1 hit the streets I felt like I had been passed by. I was happily riding a Triumph Speed Triple and the full-bore Suzuki Hayabusa had just come out!

So, when I look at an airgun, it’s through eyes that see it as a possible purchase. And you long-time readers know I have sold myself as many airguns as anyone else! But I don’t always look for the very best. I most often look for good, and there is precious little of it in the ocean of new airgun products. I look for things like accuracy, smoothness, ease of use and so on. I don’t chase after the latest fads, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. I can tell you objectively what each of the things I am looking for means, but often a new airgun has them in spades and I don’t have to.

A huge example of that is the Air Venturi Avenger. It’s powerful, it’s a repeater, accurate, it has a decent trigger and it’s affordable — especially for the features it offers. I’m still testing the Avenger and I have no axe to grind, but it put me in serious consideration of NOT BUYING the Air Arms S510XS! Here is what I wrote.

The unthinkable

“I am about to mount the Meopta scope on the Avenger and run a test at 25 yards to see if just by adding that scope I can get the Avenger to shoot better. I will literally be comparing the Avenger to the S510XS.

I don’t need the Avenger to equal what the Air Arms rifle did two years ago, because I was a little younger then and that could also have been a lucky day for me. However, if I come close enough  to show that with the Meopta scope the Avenger does become more accurate — well, Lucy, then I got some serious ‘splainin’ to do!”

What happens when a gun doesn’t live up to the hype?

An example of an airgun that failed to live up to my standards is the FX Dreamlite. An expensive air rifle — it failed to deliver on accuracy — despite six chances to do so. The first “manual” they sent with the gun was a sales brochure (that FX quickly revised and got to me), the power adjustments were confusing, the “Smooth Twist” barrel did not produce the level of accuracy that a $1,200 air rifle should — unless I went to extreme measures and used the magazine in a way no serious shooter ever would.

I was all set to purchase that Dreamlite until I discovered how mediocre the accuracy was. I was advised to change barrels and calibers — that .22 was the way to go. Well, sorry, readers, but the guy who lives in Keokuk, Iowa, may not have that same opportunity. When he buys an airgun he gets what comes out of the box. Maybe he really wanted a .177, because that is what I tested. I want the airgun he gets to perform similar to the one I test. I know they won’t always do that and yes, I do a lot of shooting, so I may be able to wring a little more out of a gun than some folks, but when I get an expensive gun that even I can’t make work right — I’m not going to praise it to you — just because the maker is the current rage on the internet!

Not-so-expensive

The Air Arms S510XS and the FX Dreamlite are expensive airguns. But the Avenger isn’t. Now — here is the deal. I will NEVER tell you an airgun is good just because it’s cheap! That’s the All-You-Can-Eat approach and I won’t do it. The gun has to perform, or I don’t get excited. But please understand that it’s easier for me to get excited about a gun that retails for $129 and is accurate than it is about a gun that sells for $1,200 and is no more accurate than the other one. 

Sure, I get excited about great triggers. Here is what I said about the FX Dreamlite trigger.

“I will say this — the Dreamlite trigger on the rifle I am testing is two-stage and absolutely delightful. Stage two is relatively crisp and light. I’ll have no problem doing my best with this trigger.”

And the Umarex Fusion 2 that I started reviewing yesterday has a trigger that is not as good as the one on the Dreamlite. But it is perfectly okay for what that rifle is intended to do. The Fusion 2 is a plinking rifle and needs a trigger that works good enough. It certainly has that! If I find a flaw during testing I will point it out to you but I will not go down the road of comparing one airgun to another. I will test them based on their own merits and let the facts stand as they will.

Don’t put words into my mouth

Every week I get emails either using the Blogger address or from my Godfather website. I do not answer the Blogger messages unless they are about writing a guest blog. But the messages that come from my Godfather website go something like this:

“I am writing to you off line so you can speak freely. I know you said the Mashemflat Magnum breakbarrel takes a lot of effort to cock, but my 14-year-old son is big for his age. I want to get him his first air rifle and I really like the idea of a 30 foot-pound spring rifle! His birthday is coming up so please tell me honestly whether a 5-foot 6-inch 150-pound male can operate this rifle reliably”

That’s what the message says. Here is what it means when it’s translated.

“I really want the Mashemflat Magnum, but my wife says I can’t buy any more airguns this year. I want to use my son’s upcoming birthday as an excuse to get one.”

Here is my answer. “Is your son able to curl 75 pounds 10 times with one arm? Because that is what it’s like to cock that air rifle. Gold’s Gym should buy 20 of them for their weight room!”

How to read me

I do get excited about some of the airguns I test. And that does come through my writing. But I don’t get excited about others, no matter what they are or who makes them. When I get excited, pay attention — especially if you see something you like.

Bob likes airguns with magazines because loading individual pellets is not his thing. And he likes airguns he doesn’t have to work to operate. So spring guns aren’t as attractive to him as CO2 guns.

This Fusion 2 has what he wants — we both hope! I have only written Part 1 and there are at least two more reports to come, but if it tests out it will make his day. How about yours?