Sen-X AR-6 Tactical Arrow Repeating Crossbow: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier-

Sen-X AR-6
Sen_X AR-6 Tactical Arrow Repeating Crossbow.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Sights
  • Dot sight
  • Vibration
  • Safety
  • Hunting limb
  • Sight-in
  • Group
  • Damage to one arrow
  • Stopped at this point
  • Observations
  • Fletching
  • Next test
  • Summary

Wow! It has taken me a looooong time to return to the Sen-X AR-6 Tactical Arrow Repeating Crossbow. Most of the reason for the delay was the weather that never quite cooperated, but when I tried to do a test at the end of February the problem became something else altogether.

Sights

In Part 2 I showed you that the sights on the bow are primitive. There is a front post, but in the rear there is nothing to align it with except the silver spring latch on the magazine cover. There is a red laser built into the AR-6, but it cannot be seen in daylight beyond about 10 feet. With just those crude sights I managed to shoot the bow fairly well, but I wondered what better sights would do. read more


Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 1

nyby Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sen-X Crossbow
Onyx Tactical Crossbow.

This report covers:

  • Crossbow
  • The Onyx
  • Physical specifications and description
  • Who needs it?
  • So — who needs it?
  • Why you need it
  • Opening the box
  • Manual
  • The power source — for cocking
  • Why CO2?
  • Air source safety
  • The button
  • Final point
  • Summary

Today will be a completely different blog! This time old BB is the student. This is about a crossbow, which I do know a little about, but this crossbow operates differently than any other.

Crossbow

The Onyx Tactical Crossbow is a crossbow like all other premium crossbows, except for one thing. You cock this bow with the push of a button! Yes, this 225-pound draw-weight crossbow that is fully capable of taking big game is cocked with the push of a button. Let’s think about that for a moment.

Crossbows are to archers what rifles are to spear-throwers. They remove most of the skill required for the job and deliver powerful shots that are also accurate out to ranges that even experienced archers cannot achieve. It’s been that way for centuries, and for all of that time the longbow archers have insisted that crossbows are not true bows. I have to agree with them. A longbow is one thing — even when it has modern technology like sights and cams to reduce draw weight — things that weren’t around when this controversy started.

Crossbows are something different. They are more powerful than longbows and, if handled improperly, they can be more dangerous than longbows, though you have to handle both with caution.

The reason people lump them together is they both have bow in the name and they both shoot arrows — though technically the “arrow” fired by a crossbow is called a quarrel or bolt. Longbow arrows were also once called bolts, but the term arrow has taken a firm root with them. I’m not going to get into the history of the crossbow in this report (though that might be a fun one to do, sometime), but you do need to acknowledge their differences, because some of the crossbow operational quirks can maim and even kill you!

The Onyx

The Onyx is a conventional crossbow, except for the pushbutton cocking feature. It has a 225 lb. draw weight and can be cocked manually. To do that you either need to be Superman or to use an aftermarket cocking aid. For this bow I think a cocking windlass is required. Some are made to fit specific crossbows, while others are more universal and will fit a wide range of models.

cocking windlass
This is a universal cocking aid/windlass. It attaches to the butt of the crossbow and slowly pulls the bowstring back to the point that it is caught and held by the trigger mechanism (technically a part called the nut). I have no idea if this one fits the Onyx — I simply show it for information.

The Onyx cocks differently. You don’t draw the bowstring back to cock the bow. That was done before this point — the bowstring is already held back. The bowstring is not under much tension when the string is held back — unlike any other crossbow!

What the pneumatic mechanism on the Onyx does is push the bow’s limbs (the two springy arms on either side of the bow) forward to put tension on the bowstring! I remember at the Pyramyd Air Cup this year I became quite excited when a Pyramyd Air technician showing the bow to me put his hand in front of the arrow! It looked to me like the bow was cocked, but as I have just explained — it wasn’t.

Physical specifications and description

The online specs say the Onyx weighs 11 lbs. Without an air tank the test bow weighs 10 lbs. on my balance beam scale, so I think the specs are with the air tank attached. That means the Onyx is heavy for a crossbow.

The bow is 28.5 inches long and just under 11 inches wide when the limbs are collapsed. When the limbs are extended the width is about 34-inches.

The overall color is black, Most of the bow is aluminum and steel; the limbs are some sort of high-tech synthetic and the forearm grip, the pistol grip and the buttstock are synthetic.

The buttstock is an AR type that is adjustable to six positions of length. The pull length varies between 13-3/4-inches and 17-3/4-inches.

The pistol grip is also an AR A2 style. I have no idea whether it will interchange with actual AR grips, but economies of design would dictate that it should. It certainly looks like it would from the outside.

The forearm grip is designed to keep your off hand away from the flight deck and the bowstring. This feature is seen on many crossbows today, because that string can remove digits when the bow fires!

Who needs it?

You are probably asking right now who needs a $1,550 pushbutton crossbow? A good hunting crossbow can be purchased for $250-300. A premium hunting crossbow will cost $1,000 to $2,500. My Sub-1 from Mission Archery now sells for about $1,400, without a sight. I reported on that back in 2018. The Onyx is based on a premium crossbow, but the pneumatic technology they added to give it one-button cocking does increase the cost.

So — who needs it?

Let’s make a list.

• Hunters with physical limitations (handicapped)
• Hunters who cannot cock a crossbow
• You

Wait a minute, BB. I’m young(ish). I’m strong. I don’t need no pushbutton crossbow!

Why you need it

Okay, imagine you are sitting in a tree stand waiting for that prize whitetail buck to come along. Suddenly you see him working his way through the treeline. You count at least 10 points on his antlers at this distance. This is the one you want. He is 90 yards away and walking toward you like an infantry scout on patrol, looking for boobytraps. Now tell me — did you climb up into that high seat this morning with your crossbow already cocked and loaded? And did you sit there with the bow cocked for 2-1/2-hours? Of course not. Your mom didn’t raise no fools!

Well, then, are you going to cock your crossbow now? Sure, you say. I just have to wait to turn the crank slowly and then detach the crank mechanism, load an arrow and get ready to shoot when the deer isn’t looking. Good luck with that! His eyes and ears are sharper than yours and he has lived by his wits all his life. If you had a firearm would you have waited until now to load it?

Or — you could just push the button on the Onyx and be ready silently in a second, because the arrow is already loaded.

Now you understand! This crossbow isn’t for hunting in your daydreams on the couch! This crossbow is for hunting in the real world! Sure it’s heavy, but how bad is that when you are sitting in a blind?

Opening the box

I first looked at the bow in the box it came in and carefully considered everything inside. Had this been a pellet rifle I would have had it out and shot by this time. But the Onyx is something I know very little about.

Sen-X Crossbow box
The Onyx crossbow collapses to less than 11-inches wide for transport.

Sen-X Crossbow pins
As the bow comes to you, the quick-release pins that allow the limbs to fold are held in place by a rubber band that also holds the loose bowstring. This picture is as much for me as for you, so I remember to do this after testing the bow. Because I’m keeping that rubber band! read more


Old Blue and White

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy 110
Daisy’s model 110 Rocket Command BB gun.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The deal
  • What is it?
  • Earlier model 26
  • Blue Book of Airguns
  • Trigger
  • Stock
  • Description
  • Sights
  • Comparison to the 27
  • Summary

Sputnik

When I was a kid in the 1950s, western movies where the big thing. We saw them in the theaters and we also saw westerns on TV. This trend continued into the 1960s, but another trend overlaid it and eventually eclipsed it. In October of 1957 the Soviet union launched the first man-made satellite into orbit. Most people know Sputnik. Technologically it was both crude and incredibly advanced. But what it did to society far eclipsed anything that it did for science!

Sputnik ushered in the space age. Until then only scientists and nerds knew anything about rockets and space travel. After then, space was all that anyone could talk about.

My first BB gun

I have written in the past about my first BB gun being a Wamo cap-firing gun. And it was. But my first real BB gun was a Daisy. I bought a used Daisy Number 25 pump gun from my sister’s boyfriend. That one lasted only a few days and then lost power. I didn’t have anyone to ask, so I thought I would try to fix the gun myself. And that is a story of its own!

Get a Red Ryder

After that I saved my paper route money and vowed to buy a new gun this time. And I did. I wanted a Red Ryder, but the only place I knew to buy BB guns was Eddie’s convenience store that was a couple blocks from my house. They always had a cardboard display rack full of BB guns — until I had the money to buy one! Then all they had was a blue and white gun that was called the Daisy model 110 Rocket Command gun. Little did I know what was going on behind the marketing scenes at Daisy!

Gender-appropriate BB guns read more


Johnson Indoor Target Gun: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Johnson Indoor Target Gun
The Johnson Indoor Target Gun is a catapult BB gun that was made in the late 1940s for youth target practice.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Research
  • Cutting trouble
  • Sloppy cutting
  • It worked — sort of
  • What to do?
  • Experiment over?
  • Too much power
  • Summary

Today I will try a different kind of rubber in the Johnson Indoor Target Gun. Several readers who are more knowledgeable than me about slingshots recommended I try Theraband Gold. It is one of the types of elastic that’s favored by catapult users and makers around the world. I watched a You Tube video of the Slingshot Channel titled, The BIGGEST slingshot EVER. The builder uses Theraband Gold to launch a bowling ball into a Mercedes car repeatedly, destroying it.

Research

I bought 6 feet of Thereband gold rubber on Ebay, a rotary cutter to make clean cuts and a cutting mat for this project. I used the data from Part 3 of this report as my starting point, simply because there was nothing else to use. Maybe someone has done what I am about to do before, but I have never seen it in print.

materials for Johnson gun
The rotary cutter is to cut the Theraband material cleanly.

Cutting trouble

Right off I noticed that the cutter had a mind of its own. I should have used a seamstress’s plastic cutting guide, but I have already spent a lot of money and I wanted to get on with this test. I needed it quick and dirty and that’s how I got it.

Theraband ready for shooting
Here is the band I made to shoot. As you can see, I got sloppy in the cutting. I will explain why in the text.

Sloppy cutting

Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to cut the band straight, I gave up and cut it freehand. I wasn’t looking for a final solution. All I wanted was to see if this was even possible. So any band I made would not be used in a final test. I just wanted to see if this worked.

It worked — sort of

Well, it worked, and then again, it didn’t, I installed the band and shot the gun but it was extremely weak. Cocking was normal and the launcher caught the band when it went forward, but I didn’t bother to chronograph the shot because it was way below what we have seen. As a guess it was in the 50-60 f.p.s. range.

Johnson launcher
The band has to fit inside the groove in the launcher (arrow) or it won’t work.

What to do?

Well one band wasn’t going to do anything, so I wondered about multiple bands. They would be more powerful, but there would be a problem. The rubber band has to fit into the groove that’s in the launcher in order for the gun to work. Surgical rubber tubing is great because it fits into the groove very well when it’s stretched, but a flat band like the Theraband has to be stretched very thin to fit in. If it’s not all the way in, it can slip out on firing or even when the gun is just cocked and left alone.

 

Nevertheless, I wanted to know, so I cut three bands of equal length and made a loop at each end of all three.

Johnson gun three bands
I cut three bands of equal length from the Theraband material.

Johnson gun three bands looped
I then made a loop at each end of the three bands.

The bands are uneven, but all I want is to see whether this approach even works. The bands went into the top cover of the gun, but they slopped over the anchors and when I cocked the gun, they didn’t all fit into the cocking groove on the launcher. It was a disaster!

Then I took the three bands apart and used the two smaller bands together in the same way. This worked — sort of. I could cock the gun, but when I shot it, the bands popped out of the launcher groove and the shot was weak. It registered 86 f.p.s. Okay, that doesn’t work.

Experiment over?

I thought this was the end of it and I could install another surgical tube and be done with it, so I did. Since I knew the tube had to start out 7 inches long, there was no wasted time. The velocity was 127 f.p.s. which is very close to the best velocity I got in the Part 3 test.

I thought this experiment was over. But that evening I thought about it some more and I wondered whether twisting the flat Theraband might be a solution. It’s flat to begin with, and if I twist it many times would it roll into a cylinder that might work better?

I used the widest of the three bands I had cut before — the band I had removed when I tried two bands. As you can see, a wide band can be twisted thin.

Johnson gun band twisted
After anchoring one side of the band I rolled it to one side, twisting it into a cylinder.

It worked! This time the band loaded into the launcher’s groove and also allowed the gun to be cocked. The velocity was 129 f.p.s., which is as fast as I have shot so far. That is a good place to stop. I have no doubt that a higher velocity can be reached. I think 160 f.p.s. or even a little more might be possible, though I doubt 200 f.p.s. can be broken. I even cut a wider piece of Theraband Gold to test whether a special shape of rubber might help.

Johnson gun custom band
I cut this band and even started installing it. read more


Johnson Indoor Target Gun: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Johnson Indoor Target Gun
The Johnson Indoor Target Gun is a catapult BB gun that was made in the late 1940s for youth target practice.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • What kind of rubber?
  • Remove the old rubber
  • Measure the old rubber
  • Loops on each end
  • Install the new rubber
  • Ready!
  • Daisy BBs
  • Problems!
  • Got it going
  • Baseline
  • Shortened the rubber
  • Second Daisy test
  • Dust Devils
  • Two lessons
  • Shortened the rubber again
  • Higher velocity
  • Shortened the rubber another time
  • Last test
  • Summary

Today I install a new rubber band in the Johnson and if all goes well, we will see what velocity it gives. In case you forgot, when I got this gun the rubber was broken.

Rubber
This is how I got the gun.

What kind of rubber?

I have been shooting my other Johnson Indoor Target Gun for years, so I had 10 feet of 3/16” amber surgical tubing on hand for repairs. I will start with that.

rubber bag
I had this surgical rubber tubing from my other Johnson.

Remove the old rubber

Step one was to remove the old rubber from the gun. It might look easy, but wherever that rubber was in contact with the steel in the gun it had bonded. It took me 15 minutes to get all the little pieces out.

old rubber
The old rubber tubing was both brittle and gummy and stuck to the steel parts of the gun.

Measure the old rubber

Since I had it I measured the old rubber. The big piece was 8 inches long and I estimated there were another two inches among all the pieces. So — 10 inches overall. But what if the rubber is missing altogether?

Well, since you are reading this — 10 inches. But here is the deal. This is not rocket science (where IS our Rocket Jane?), so you experiment until you find what works. Heck — I don’t know that 10 inches will work yet.

Loops on each end

The next step is to make a loop on both ends that will fit over the steel hooks in the gun. They used fine string or thread for this years ago, but I found that small cable ties work well.

cable tie loop
Make a loop like this on each end of the new rubber. Make the loop small because this stuff stretches.

Install the new rubber

All you have to do now is install the new rubber where the old one came out. It took about 10 seconds. I attached both loops to the hooks then stretched the rubber over the carrier as shown below.

rubber installed
Install the new rubber where the old one was.

Ready!

The gun is ready to shoot. For today’s first test I counted each BB that I loaded into the magazine tube that’s on the top cover.

Remember what I said about how to cock this gun (and stretch the rubber)? Use a ramrod to push the launcher back, after pushing it forward to catch the rubber. This preserves the plastic launcher and the two thin steel hooks that are used to pull it back during cocking and loading. See this in Part 1. Both things will break in time if you don’t do this. Let’s go!

Daisy BBs

First to be tested were Daisy Premium BBs.

Problems!

Oh, my gosh! The launcher wouldn’t catch the rubber when pushed forward and then, when I figured out how to make that work, I could not get the launcher caught by the sear!

I spent some time opening and closing the top cover to discover what could be wrong. In the end, though, I think it was mostly due to a catapult gun that was made in 1947 being used for the first time 71 years later! Hey — this gun is as old as I am! No wonder it doesn’t want to work.

Got it going

I played and played with it, solving one thing after another. Nothing had to be fixed — I just had to do a lot of funny things like push the launcher forward repeated time to get the rubber tubing to pop into its groove, and then I had to pull the trigger several times before ramming the launcher back to the sear. Once I figured it out the gun shot well almost every time.

Baseline

Every time I have tested a Johnson I have gotten velocity averages with steel BBs of 100-101 f.p.s. Guess what I got this time? 101 f.p.s. I got that shot after shot after shot. The low was 99 f.p.s. and the high was 101 f.p.s. I remembered how very stable catapult guns are

But this time I had played with the mechanism like never before and I now knew that I was the problem all along. I must have always cut the rubber tubing about 10 inches in the past, because I always got the same velocity. Time to do something different.

Shortened the rubber

I removed the rubber and snipped off about an inch from one end. Then I made a new loop at that end and reinstalled it.

Voila — the launcher is now catching the rubber easier when I push it forward. It isn’t 100 percent and I still have to fiddle a little, but it’s much more reliable. The trigger still has to be pulled several times to catch the launcher when it is rammed back.

Second Daisy test

This time Daisy BBs averaged 116 f.p.s. That is the fastest I have ever seen a Johnson shoot. But like I said — I was the reason for that all along. Now I knew that a shorter rubber would increase the velocity — time to test some other BBs.

Dust Devils

Next up were Dust Devils. Now Dust Devils are considerably lighter than Daisy BBs, so they should go faster — right?

Nope. Dust Devils averaged 116 f.p.s. Oh, one of them did go 117 f.p.s. and one went 115 f.p.s., but what the hey?

Two lessons

I learned two things from this test. First, I don’t need to shoot 10 shots and then average the string with the Johnson. One shot is all it takes. This gun is incredibly stable, as far as velocity goes.

The second thing is I don’t need to test a range of different BBs. If Daisy BBs go a certain speed, all other steel BBs are going to go the same speed. See — an old dog can learn new tricks!

Shortened the rubber again

I removed the rubber and snipped off another inch. Then I made a new loop and installed the rubber in the gun. Since there were still some Dust Devils in the magazine I went with them.

Higher velocity

This new setup gave a velocity of 129 f.p.s. I shot it a second time and it was another 129.

Shortened the rubber another time

I snipped on another inch and made a new loop but now the rubber looks really short. So I laid it next to a ruler and photographed it. I said I have been snipping off an inch each time, but it looks like it has been more than that.

short rubber
The rubber has gotten really short!

Last test

I installed the new shorter rubber and fired the gun one last time. The velocity was 116 f.p.s. because the rubber broke upon firing. I did see some abrasions on the left side of the rubber this time when I stretched it to fit the gun.

short rubber installed
The new short rubber is on the hooks but hasn’t been pulled back over the rear yet. As you can see — it’s really short! Notice the left side of the rubber. I think there are some small abrasions there. read more


Johnson Indoor Target Gun: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

  • Johnson Indoor Target Gun
    The Johnson Indoor Target Gun is a catapult BB gun that was made in the late 1940s for youth target practice.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Operation
  • Cocking
  • Trigger
  • Serendipity
  • Pat is not pending
  • Adjustable sights
  • Repeater
  • Summary

I was going to write about something else today, but the response to Friday’s report convinced me to stick with the Johnson. Several of you said that you enjoyed the detailed photos. Today I will tell you about how the gun is constructed and how it operates, plus some special features. Grab your coffee cup and let’s go!

Operation

The Johnson gun is a catapult gun, and in Part one I showed you the broken surgical tubing in my new gun. Now, take a look at a gun with tubing in working condition.

Johnson rubber working
This is how the rubber is supposed to look when it’s properly installed. The ends of this surgical tubing are held together with small cable ties. We are looking at the inside of the top cover of the gun.

Now allow me to show you how access is gained to that rubber. The top is pulled up out of the way for easy access. To release it the two spring steel “ears” in the front of the gun are spread apart and the top is raised.

Johnson top closed
This picture shows the top closed. The two spring steel “ears” on either side of the top are what hold it in place. The front sight is a post on a wheel that can be turned to move the post from side to side.

Johnson top open
Here, the top has been pulled up out of the way. Lotsa surface rust on this older gun, no? This is not the one I’m writing about.

Johnson top up
The top is flipped up. The rubber you saw before is in the top (blue arrow) and the launcher is at the rear of the bottom section (yellow arrow). read more


Sharpshooter rubber band catapult gun: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

Sharpshooter pistol
The Sharpshooter catapult pistol was made from the early 1930s until the 1980s by as many as 5 different companies. This one was made in the early 1940s.

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Test 1
  • Test 1 continued
  • Discussion
  • Firing behavior
  • What’s next?
  • Test 2 — A modern Sharpshooter
  • More discussion
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the Sharpshooter catapult pistol. Since there is only one type of ammo for it, I have added something additional to spice up the report. Let’s get to it.

The ad from 1948 said the pistol could hit a fly at 16 feet. Dean Fletcher tested his at a more reasonable 10 feet, which is what I will do. Readers asked me what kind of target I used and today I will tell you. Using a coat hanger, I made a wire target holder that stands up, and wrapped a single sheet of aluminum foil around the edges of the loop at the top. It’s the same target I used for the Daisy Targeteer test.

target
This target is made from a coat hanger wire, with aluminum foil wrapped around the edges.

The test

I shot from a UTG monopod rest 10 feet from the target. I decided to shoot 5 shots first and photograph them before moving on.

Test 1

The first 5 shots landed to the right of the bullseye I had drawn on the foil. I photographed them in place, then measured them with a caliper. As close as I can measure, the holes are 0.838-inches between centers.

first shots
The first 5 shots landed in this 0.838-inch group.

Test 1 continued

Then I went to breakfast at a local restaurant, where I had three cups of coffee. When I returned I fired 5 more shots to complete a 10-shot group. To my surprise, the group size stayed the same.

second 5 shots
Five more shots completed the group. This was after 3 cups of coffee. The group remained at 0.838-inches between centers.

ten shots
I even photographed the group with a dime in the picture, to give you some scale.

Discussion

I didn’t do as well as Dean Fletcher, who used a housefly drawing as his target. He nailed the fly at 10 feet. My group is larger, though I am very satisfied with it.

Firing behavior

The gun makes no noise when it fires. Only the strike of the shot can be heard.

What’s next?

As I mentioned, there isn’t a choice of ammo. If I had a selection of different number 6 shot I might try lead-free and dropped shot versus shot made by some other process, but all I have is the lead shot I’m shooting. I wondered what I could do to make this test more interesting. And then I got an idea.

Test 2 — A modern Sharpshooter

I could try a more modern Sharpshooter pistol that has a plastic launcher and compare it to the pistol I’ve been testing. The test pistol is one made by the original company in Rawlins, Wyoming before 1940. So I switched to one of the pistols I bought in 1965.

I couldn’t get the 1965 pistol to feed, but I found another modern deluxe model that I bought at an airgun show. This one fed fine. I only used one rubber band on this gun, because I have ruined a couple of these plastic launchers by stressing them too much.

two pistols
These two Sharpshooter pistols are separated by 30-35 years and as many as five different manufacturers. The deluxe nickel pistol on top is modern and has a plastic launcher. read more