BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54 target rifle.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • A little more of the BSF Story
  • Today
  • Front sight
  • BINK!
  • Velocity
  • Superpoints for the proof
  • Firing behavior
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

A little more of the BSF Story

Bayerische Sportwaffen Fabrik (BSF) was established in 1935. They made some airguns before WW II, but after the war is when they really got going. They were located in Erlangen, a town that’s about 15 kilometers from Nuremberg, but today is more like a suburb.

BSF airgun models ranged from youth guns to serious adult guns. Their lowest model was called the Junior that was a plain-Jane youth breakbarrel. Above that the Media came next. It shared a few parts with the Junior like the trigger but it was longer, heavier and more powerful. Think of them as the Diana 23/25.

BSF also made a pistol called the S20 that, at first sight, appears to be nothing more than a youth rifle with a shorter barrel, sitting in a one-piece pistol grip stock. But when we tested one several years ago we discovered that it is really quite well developed and tame to shoot.

The Wischo KG Wilsker Und Co sporting goods distributing and export company was also situated in Erlangen, and many BSF airguns left Germany under their Wischo brand name. In the U.S., BSF airguns were imported and sold by Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman, sometimes acquiring an association with them in the process, though ARH sold them as Wischo models. In the literature that I have, the BSF name isn’t mentioned, though they did mention Bayerische and the city of Erlangen.

Moving up the food chain the model 20 rifle was next, followed by the models 30, 35, 45,50, 55, 60, 70 and 80. Models 55 through 80 are all based on the same powerplant but get upgrades as the numbers rise. There are several variations of most of these models that have different stocks, sights and accessories.

Comparing the S55 to Weihrauch airguns in the ARH catalog from 1979, the S55 retailed in the U.S. for $174.50, while the HW30S sold for $114.50 and the HW35 Standard and the FWB 124 Sport went for the same $174.50. The model 70 that had a more refined stock cost $209.50 in the same catalog — same as the FWB 124 Deluxe.

That only leaves the model S54 that I have told you was the high water mark for BSF. Reader Lain from the UK pointed me to John Walter’s first edition of The Airgun Book that was published in the U.S. in 1981, and it mentions four variations — a plain S54 sporter, the same sporter with a walnut stock, the Bayern and the S54 Match. He also mentioned a fifth variation called the Sport that was produced just before the company ceased doing business in the 1980s. That one was similar to the Bayern but had a deeper pistol grip and forearm and no checkering. This is the first I have heard of that model and I think they must be pretty rare in this country, if not in Europe.


Today we look at the velocity of the rifle. I already have some good data from the test I did back in 2015. I know that RWS Superpoints average 679 f.p.s. with a 18 f.p.s. spread. Falcon pellets from Air Arms average 715 f.p.s. with a 22 f.p.s. spread. RWS Diabolo Basic pellets average 711 f.p.s. which is slower than the 7.33 grain Falcons. I put that down to the loading tap. If a pellet is too light the air blast through the tap will blow it into the barrel and out of the gun before the skirt has time to expand and seal the bore.

Today I will test the velocity with a few different pellets. I’ll also fire a couple shots with one of the previous pellets, probably the Superpoints, to see if the gun is still performing where it was 4 years ago. Before I do, though, there is something I want to show you.

Front sight

Let’s look at the front sight. On the S54 it’s both different and a little complex. It screams 1950s technology and suggests interchangeability, To show it to you I had to disassemble it.


That’s a sound you never want to hear while working on a vintage airgun. It means that a spring you had not anticipated has seen its chance for freedom and gone over the wall. Where there are springs there are parts in front of them, so they go, too — so fast you never see them. You only hear the dreaded BINK!

I said a quick prayer and got on my hands and knees with a powerful flashlight and a powerful magnet. The magnet will attract the small parts and the flashlight will show them when it is shined at a grazing angle across the floor. Fortunately this happened in my kitchen where the floor is tile and, despite what you might imagine, relatively clean.

I found the plunger that holds the sight element in less than 5 minutes. The little spring that I never saw but knew had to be there was harder to locate. Remember how I said God sometimes laughs? Well, this time He probably gathered a crowd to watch me scoot around the kitchen floor on my hands and knees. So — where was that little spring? In the last place I looked (of course) — sitting in the middle of the chair next to where I was standing! I mean dead center! I found it with my eyes! Couldn’t believe it, so I took a picture for you. I’ve had springs and parts pop into the pockets of my work apron before, but never land on the chair next to me!

S54 spring
Yep, there it is. That’s a black cat hair above it that I left in the picture for scale.

S54 sight frame
The front sight with everything off.

S54 sight plunger
The plunger (arrow) has the little spring underneath. You can see the step in the plunger that stops the front sight insert from coming out.

S54 sight plunger installed
The plunger is correctly installed with the step to prevent the sight insert from walking forward.

S54 front sight insert
Here we see the underside of the front sight insert. It’s perfectly flat to slide into the sight base and the stepped plunger butts agains the flat end to hold it in.

S54 front sight insert installed
The sight insert is installed and the plunger holds it tight.

S54 front sight complete
With the hood on the front sight is complete.

Reader Ridge Runner said he thought this front sight had interchangeable inserts, and, looking at the construction, I think he’s right. Why else make the sight element so easy to remove?


Okay, let’s look at the velocity. First up is the H&N Finale Match High Speed, a 7-grain pellet that’s no longer made. Ten of them averaged 717 f.p.s., but the spread went from 697 to 752 f.p.s. That’s a range of 55 f.p.s. — too much to hope for any accuracy. Maybe at 10 meters; I’ll have to see.

Next I tried 10 JSB Exact RS pellets. Though they weigh 7.33 grains, they are almost as fast as the lighter Finale Match High Speed They averaged 714 f.p.s. with a spread that went from 707 to 722 f.p.s. That’s just 15 f.p.s. between the low and the high, which is a lot more like what we’re after!

The final pellet I tested was the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellet that wasn’t around the last time I tested this rifle. We know from past tests that this lead-free target pellet can be astonishingly accurate. Being made from pure tin, it is also light, at just 5.25 grains in .177 caliber. Ten of them averaged 857 f.p.s. in the S54, but get this — the spread went from 854 to 860 f.p.s. — only 6 f.p.s.! That is incredible. I have to test this pellet for accuracy!

Superpoints for the proof

In 2015 RWS Superpoints averaged 679 f.p.s. After the regular velocity testing this time I fired two Superpoints and got 680 and 683 f.p.s. I’d call that right on the money.

Firing behavior

For a spring gun of the 1950s to ’80s this S54 Match is relatively smooth. However — in a world where Tune in a Tube exists, it’s a buzzing jackhammer! Sorry, guys, but the memory of Michael’s Diana 27 is still with me. I probably need to look inside this rifle at some point.

Cocking effort

When I tested the cocking effort in 2015 it was 37 lbs. This time it was 32 lbs. The only thing I can think of to explain the difference is the gun is new and has broken in just a bit from all the testing.

Trigger pull

In 2015 I adjusted the heavy two-stage trigger to 3 lbs. 15 oz. This time it broke at 3 lbs. 12 oz., which is close enough for me.


I’m actually looking forward to testing this rifle again, to see whether new pellets will improve the accuracy. It’s not an airgun I shoot every day, but she’s a fine old lady who deserves my attention from time to time.

When you need it…

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • US Army pocketknife
  • Supergrade safety installation tools
  • Crosman Pellgunoil
  • Pelican light
  • Midnight Manager
  • ATF Stop Leak
  • Scragging tool
  • Over to you

Before we begin I want to wish all of the United States a happy Memorial Day. This is the day in which we remember all those who have died for our country. I remember Grady Triplett, who died in Viet Nam far too soon. We were cadets together at San Jose State College in the 1960s. I have visited his name at the Viet Nam memorial several times, and I always think of the sacrifice he made.

Today’s report will be very different. I have wanted to do it for years and just never found the right way, but today I believe that I have. I am going to share with you a few (and I mean a very few) of the tools I use all the time. Then I want you to share with us those special tools you use and why they are so special. Once you read the report, I think you’ll get the idea.

US Army pocketknife

My most valuable tool is with me all the time. It’s a camp knife made for the U.S. Army and issued during World War II. It was made by Camillus and the USA on the escutcheon stands for US Army. There is also a Navy version that says USN.

My WWII camp knife was made for the US Army. When I started carrying it 30 years ago it looked like new.

I use it to tighten screws, ream holes, pry can lids open and cut things. I can’t imagine my life without it. I even bought an identical one from Ebay in case something happens to this one.

Supergrade safety installation tools

The safety on a Sheridan Supergrade is easy to install but you can’t hold it as you install it. And you need to. Somehow you have to hold on to a tip of the safety that’s about 1/16th of an inch long. I tried needlenosed pliers, but there isn’t enough to grab onto.

Then I found a small hollow bit of rubberized plastic that fit over the tip of the safety, and I had success on the first try. Sheridan Supergrade owners need a “tool” like this one! Jeff Cloud used painter’s tape, wrapped around the safety until it was strong enough to put slight downward pressure on the safety, which has to be done during the assembly. You don’t need a tool like this until you need it, and then nothing else will do.

Supergrade safety
So little of the safety button sticks up that a special tool is needed to hold it and push down slightly for installation.

Crosman Pellgunoil

You may not think of oil as a tool, but I have “fixed” more CO2 guns with Crosman Pellgunoil than I have by any other means. This stuff is magic! Buy some, don’t worry about the price and use it.

Crosman Pellgunoil
I harp on it all the time, because this stuff is good health for your gas guns!

Pelican light

I own over 50 flashlights, but the Pelican 1920 is my favorite. It runs on two AAA batteries, which I am converting to rechargeable. I have three of these because they are so great (small, bright and light) that they fit into spaces other flashlights won’t. I gave one to Otho that is now his favorite flashlight. Get one and see.

Pelican 1920
The Pelican 1920 is the handiest flashlight I own, and I own a bunch of them!

Midnight manager

This Swiss Army Knife has every tool I really need and it’s so small that I carry it all the time. It has a flashlight that I use all the time. It has a ballpoint pen! It has scissors. And, yes, it has a pen knife blade.

I have bought several of these used from Ebay and give them as gifts. Instead of $42, they cost me $10-20, and often look like new. As I tell everyone — I use the flashlight on my Midnight Manager to help me find my other flashlights!

Midnight Manager
The Swiss Army Midnight Manager has every tool I need — including a small light (press on the logo) to help me find my other lights!

ATF Stop Leak

This is my new Pellgunoil! It works in those older CO2 guns where the seals have hardened. When Pellgunoil won’t do the job, this often will. I bought 20 eye-droppers off Ebay, just to dispense this stuff!

stop leak
Automatic Transmission Fluid stoip leak fixes old hard seals.

Scragging tool

I made this simple tool 25 years ago for spring gun jobs and I still use it. Instead of me telling you about scragging, you can read about it here.

scragging tool
My mainspring scragging tool is easy enough to make…

scragging tool at work
…and, it works!

Tota light

I have used my Tota lights for more than 20 years. Tota lights are incandescent photographic lights that are so rugged the U.S. Navy used them to film the interior space in a submarine that was hit by the shock wave of a nuclear explosion. The sub was pushed 20 feet to the side but the Tota lights continued illuminating through the blast.

I use them to illuminate all indoor targets, plus the ceiling above my chronograph when I’m testing velocity. I also use them for photography, though the newer digital cameras don’t need much light like the older film cameras did. The bulbs last a very long time, despite burning with 500 to 750 watts of power.

Tota light
This Tota light has been my friend for several decades.

Over to you

That’s my list. I left out my regular tools because everyone has tools like that. I gave you a few of the most indispensable tools I own.

Now it your turn. Tell us what you have and why it’s good.

SHOT Show 2018: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • Meopta
  • Leapers
  • P.O.I. Airgun Rings
  • Vanquish 700
  • Air Venturi Hellboy
  • ASG
  • AirForce
  • Are we done?

Before I start I want to say a word about who I cover at SHOT. There are plenty of airguns I never look at, for reasons I think are good. These are the fringe companies that have no representation in the U.S., or they have a couple of shyster dealers with bad reputations. I don’t want to give them any attention. The other people covering the show can “scoop” me on these. Yes, I miss a few things, but I also avoid giving credibility to guns that will only break your hearts.

That said, why do I cover Leapers and not other scope companies? Am I getting a kickback? Well, there is a story here. I used to go to Burris, Leupold and many other scope manufacturers, and they all received me the same way. “Airguns? You write about airguns? Sure, we have a couple scopes that could be used on an airgun, I guess.”

Only at Leapers was I met with enthusiasm and interest. When I told them that airguns break scopes with their snappy two-way recoil, they decided to brace all their scopes for that! When I told them about parallax adjustments down to 10 meters, they went down to 3 meters and the Bug Buster line was born. Leapers is a company that cares and wants to play the game. I have only limited time at SHOT and I spend it on the companies that count.


This year I will say that I found one scope at Meopta that adjusts down to 10 meters. It retails for $1,700, but is the optical equivalent of a Swarovski costing almost twice as much. We pay a lot more than that for Nightforce scopes for field target use. Unfortunately this one was only a 4-16, so I doubt many airgunners will go for it, certainly not those in field target. However I was asked by Meopta if I would like to test one. They are curious whether their scopes can take the airgun recoil, which I thought was a brave thing to say! I am tempted to give it a try, because, if we can get Meopta on board, we will have two great optics companies making airgun scopes, and at different price points!

If you are a long time reader you know that I think the world of Meopta optics! If they can come on board, we will have a powerful new source for optics.


I already started testing the new Bug Buster 3-12 late last year. But this year they will be adding an optional feature that all Bug Buster owners will like, I think. It’s a special sidewheel, just for the Big Buster! I am getting one to test for you!

Bug Buster sidewheel
The new Bug Buster sidewheel fits all current Bug Buster scopes. Call for info on older scopes.

Leapers has made several changes to their Accushot scopes. They all now have thinner reticles, many of which are illuminated. They are etched onto glass for reflection reduction. I looked through several different of them in the Leapers booth and, although the types of reticles were different, they were all quite thin! In one case I could only see the floating center dot because it was illuminated. These are features found on other manufacturers’ scopes that cost a lot more.

They are also putting new turrets on this line of scopes. They are wider, so there are fewer turns to go up and down (because of a larger circumference/more clicks on the knobs).

new adjustment knobs
The turret adjustment knobs on the Accushot line will be larger from now on.

P.O.I. Airgun Rings

I saw the P.O.I. scope rings last year, but they were made for Weaver scope bases. This year Leapers will make P.O.I. rings for 11mm airgun dovetails, as well. They will be in all heights and both tube sizes — one inch and 30mm.

These are made in the U.S. What makes them special is the movable jaws are guided by two pins. They cannot get cocked or out of alignment.

POI airgun rings
P.O.I. rings are now made for 11mm dovetails.

Vanquish 700

Leapers also showed me their new Vanquish 700 tactical flashlight. You guys know what a sap I am for flashlights! This one has two buttons, one to turn on/off and the other to manage brightness and the strobe. It does run on 2 CR123A batteries, but those can be rechargables, which is about all I use anymore.

There are other 700 lumen tactical lights on the market. I focus on this one because it’s from Leapers and will therefore be affordable. Also there is good chance Pyramyd Air will carry it.

Vanquish 700
The UTG Vanquish 700 will be an affordable defense light.

Air Venturi Hellboy

The Hellboy is a CO2-powered AR lookalike that shots BBs. Tyler Patner told me it is remarkably accurate out to long distances with the new Dust Devil BBs!

Air Venturi Hellboy is a new CO2-powered BB repeater.

But, from what I observed, the biggest news in the Air Venturi booth was the fact that Air Arms has finally made the S510 Xtra FAC in .25 caliber. They say it gets 44 foot-pounds, so you hunters should be interested.

Val Gamerman of Air Venturi holds the S510 Xtra FAC from Air Arms. It now comes in .25 caliber!


Action Sport Games showed me a couple nice new air pistols. They license the 1911 from Dan Wesson and build a nice budget-priced pellet repeater. It’s not blowback, and the grip safety doesn’t function but the price is low enough that those things don’t matter. The gun is heavy and has a double action trigger that’s amazingly light. I hope to review this one soon.

Dan Wesson 1911
Dan Wesson 1911.

Bob Li of ASG is one fantastic salesman! He talked up the CZ75 SP-01 Shadow so much at dinner the night before that he has me wanting one in 9mm! But at his booth he showed me the BB version that’s coming this year.

CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow
CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow.

All controls function and this one comes apart! The sights adjust, too, so there is a lot to look forward to.


I’ll finish this report with the new Texan Carbine from AirForce. Some people wanted a shorter-barreled big bore, and with the Texan they don’t give up enough energy to be concerned. The carbines are still more powerful than most other big bores.

Texan Carbine
The Texan Carbine is under the Texan, for comparison. Same calibers. Just give up 100 foot-pounds in .45, which the Texan can afford to do.

Are we done?

Not yet. There are still new things to show you and I will do that later this week. This year bodes well for the airgun industry, I think. It is the year of the price-point PCP and of the budget air compressor, but there are a couple other new things you haven’t yet seen that are quite nice.

Sig Sauer Spartan BB pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Spartan BB pistol
Sig Sauer Spartan BB pistol offers a lot of pistol at a budget price.

This report covers:

  • Sig firearms
  • The airgun
  • Manual safety
  • Full blowback
  • Grips
  • Finish
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • Magazine
  • Light rail
  • Evaluation

Today we begin looking at Sig Sauer’s latest BB pistol, the Spartan. It’s a faithful copy of their Spartan 1911 firearm, which has upgraded features that put it ahead of many production 1911s. And it’s made in Japan.

Sig firearms

I will say this about Sig firearms — when they decide to make something they don’t cut corners. I never had much contact with them in the past, but since they have started making airguns I have been giving their firearms a look, as well. I am a died-in-the-wool conservative when it comes to firearms. Don’t try to sell me on a process like metal injection molding (MIM) unless it performs better than machining in some way other than just the cost to manufacture.

Some newer readers may not remember the struggle I had with my Taurus PT1911, but until I got rid of the MIM extractor and fitted a machined one from Wilson Combat, it was an unreliable dog. You can read about it here. As a result of that debacle, I pay attention to the construction of new firearms, because there is a lot of cheap manufacturing going on. But at Sig, firearms don’t get out the door unless they are right. Or, at least that is the impression I have from shooting them, examining them and reading about them.

Sure they cost more money, but what difference does that make? If I am buying a firearm for defense, I want it to be right — period! End of report! If you want to save money, cut a slot in the top of your head and become a piggy bank.

The Sig Sauer Spartan, with its stainless steel slide, retails for pennies under $1,400, with street prices all over the place; some as low as $800. That puts it in the same category as other fine production 1911s like Kimber. This is a Series 80 pistol that has a firing pin safety to prevent accidental discharge in case the loaded weapon is dropped. That is a feature I personally don’t care for because it usually impacts negatively on the trigger pull, but military and law enforcement organizations are demanding it these days.

The airgun

The Sig Spartan 1911 BB pistol is your opportunity to own a Spartan for less than $100. I have to tell you, the heft and feel of this pistol is quite realistic.The only fly in the ointment is a lawyerly manual safety that comes from the airgun world. No firearm would dare have one like it.

Manual safety

The safety has an additional button on top of the conventional thumb safety switch. Apparently the designers really want the shooter to think before he releases that safety. The trick is to treat it differently than a stock 1911 safety. Push the top button down with the soft pad of your thumb and the safety becomes a one-hand control.

There is also a lever on the right of the gun, but it’s only cosmetic. It doesn’t move.

Sig Spartan BB pistol manual safety
The manual safety has an extra button (arrow) that must be depressed to take the safety off. Simply press down on it with the soft pad of your thumb and it goes off easily.

Full blowback

The Spartan is a full blowback (long slide travel) with a metal slide, so I will guess the recoil is quite realistic. On the left side of the slide the words Molan Labe are written in gold Greek letters. The meaning is “Come and take them,” which American gun owners can appreciate, but which is actually the motto of the First Greek Army Corps, as well as the United States Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT).

Of course the blowback cocks the hammer, so this is a true semiautomatic pistol. More on that in the accuracy test.


The grip panels are smooth black (or dark bronze) scales with an ancient Greek helmet and the same words silkscreened in gold on both sides. The front strap is stippled with a uniform fine grid pattern, for a better grip. The Spartan begs to be held correctly — as in a 1911 bullseye hold that I will discuss when we get to the accuracy test.


A Spartan firearm is finished in an oil-rubbed dark bronze Nitron finish. To my colorblind eyes this pistol appears to be one of several colors, depending on the light. It’s either a deep charcoal, or a matte olive or even a light black. I can even see the bronze color in incandescent lighting.

The hammer is a skeletonized Commander profile and rides above a huge beavertail grip safety, designed to protect the web of the hand from the slide in recoil. A high speed bump at the bottom of the safety ensures the safety will always be depressed when the pistol is held correctly. A 1911 grip safety combines with a short floating firing pin to give two of Brownings three positive safety features, making the 1911 safe to carry cocked with a round in the chamber. But many law enforcement agencies don’t think that’s enough and demand the fourth positive firing pin safety that comes with Series 80 pistols.


The sights are fixed combat style, front and rear. There are three white dots that are aligned for a rough sight picture in action shooting. On the firearm they are tritium (radioactive — glow in the dark) but on the BB pistol they are just painted white. But the front blade is wide enough for a bullseye shooter. Can’t wait to get this pistol into accuracy testing.


The trigger will take some getting used to. I can make an argument for it being two-stage, but stage one is extremely short and vague. Instead of a first stage it feels more like there is some play in the linkage. Stage two has a little creep but it breaks relatively cleanly. It feels heavy, like the trigger on a firearm. I think I will learn a lot more in the accuracy test.


The Spartan BB magazine is a 16-shot stick mag that fits in the front of the grip. It drops free when the release is pressed and it holds the slide open after the last BB has been fired.

The CO2 cartridge fits into the grip through the left grip panel. The Spartan uses the same CO2 cartridge mechanism that you saw in the Sig Max Michel 1911 review. In fact there is a lot of similarity between these two pistols.

Light rail

The frame comes with a light rail that is not found on the firearm. A light rail allows the mounting of accessories like a laser or tactical flashlight for combat use. I have a light rail on my Wilson Combat CQB, but it attaches with screws, where this one is cast into the frame.


Like I said in the beginning, the Spartan offers a lot for a budget price. Of course the operation will prove the pudding, so let’s get this one into the tests!

A light report — the UTG Compact Defense LED light

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

UTG Compact Defense light
UTG Compact Defense light.

This report covers:

  • 2017 SHOT Show
  • Let’s get real
  • Description
  • Main power
  • Lower power
  • L.I.B.R.E.
  • Runtime
  • Defense
  • Come on, BB — a light?
  • Side clip
  • Where to get one

The power went out in my neighborhood last evening, about 11:30 p.m. This time it was serious, because it’s now 7:10 a.m. the next morning and there is still no sign of restoration. [Note: the power was restored at 7:50 a.m.]

Power here in Texas is pretty reliable because this state is off the national power grid, but when I lived in Maryland that wasn’t the case. Power on the Eastern seaboard is iffy at best. So the Pelletier household was always well-stocked with alternative sources of illumination. I became a flashlight fanatic and now own more than 50 sources of portable light, including the Victorinox Midnight Manager pocket knife that is my constant companion.

2017 SHOT Show

While in the Leapers booth at this years’ SHOT Show I saw something so remarkable that I knew I had to share it with you. I will take this whole report to describe the new UTG Defense Light in detail, but let me say right now — this is the one to get! It’s a tactical light that throws out 400 lumens in a number of user-programable ways. But with all that, It fits in the palm of a medium-sized hand!

UTG Compact Defense light hand
Few defense lights are so small.

About 10 years ago flashlight technology was nowhere near where it is today. I was so thrilled to pay $80 for a 225 lumen LED light called the Fenix TK10. It is housed in a rugged metal body that’s tough enough to withstand an armored personnel carrier running over it. I watched a video of the TK10 withstanding more than 20,000 lbs. of force that was trying to crush it, and it was still functioning. Okay, sez I. That’s a lot of money for a flashlight, but that’s a lot of flashlight. In fact, it is a non-lethal weapon!

The M113A1 is an 11-ton armored personnel carrier.

Let’s get real

We all talk about what handgun or shotgun we would use to dispatch an intruder, but the truth is, for most of us that situation will thankfully never happen. I have pulled a gun on intruders, only to discover they were some friends of a neighbor, trying to play a practical joke on his car at night. Bad move on both sides! If I had a tactical flashlight (they didn’t exist at the time) I could have startled them at no risk, and if the threat had been real, they would have been incapacitated long enough for me to do something, including running away. So the Fenix was not just a lark. It was something I was serious about. Even Edith saw the sense in that reasoning, and she wanted one for herself.

Well, tactical lights have gotten better by an order of magnitude in the decade since I bought the Fenix. And, when David Ding of Leapers showed me the new EL 223HL-A, I was ready for it! I had hoped that Pyramyd Air would carry this light, but as of this time they haven’t decided to.

Let’s face it — this is a specialized light that is really far afield for airgunners. So, why am I bothering to report on it? Because many of you readers need something like this, and many of you live in states where the options for self defense are highly restricted. I don’t think this light will offend any state’s regulations, but it’s up to you to determine your local laws.


The light has two buttons. The one on top is the main power button and the one on the rear is the lumen control pad and secondary power button. So, how does it work?

UTG Compact Defense light buttonology
The botton on top is the main power, and at the rear, the secondary power.

Main power

If you want a bright light, just press the top main power button and instantly 400 lumens are shining. There are other lights on the market with the same and even greater power, but none of them come in a package as compact and convenient as this.

Lower power

The lumen control pad/secondary power button is where all the magic lives. First, if you hold that button down with the light on, it will dim from 400 lumens to 20 lumens over about 5 seconds. If you stop dimming at any point, the light will shine at that level as long as it is on. If you then click the secondary power button again the light turns off. But here is the neat thing. If you turn the light on with the secondary power button again, it will go to the preset power instead of going to 400 lumens. So, if you need to use a low-level flashlight for some time, this button give you that. Obviously the 2 CR123 batteries will last longer at the lower power than at the maximum.


The technology that does this UTG calls a Light with Integrated Brightness and Regulated Emitter, or L.I.B.R.E. It’s a high-intensity LED, which is where the long runtime comes from.

Compare all this to the Fenix. All it does is turn on and off. No strobe. No dimmer switch. You get just 1.5 hours at 225 lumens with two 123 batteries.


On full power the UTG light gives about 2 hours of runtime. On the lowest power the runtime is about 24 hours.


To activate the strobe, turn on the light with the main power button, then press the secondary power button twice in quick succession. The strobe is dazzlingly bright, and at night will startle someone not expecting it. Even in full daylight it will have a person seeing purple spots instantly.

And here is the very good news. If you turn off the strobe by pressing the secondary power button one time quickly, the light will turn off. The next time you turn the light on with the secondary power button, the 400-lumen strobe will be on! To carry the light for defense, this is the way to set it up. As long as you turn it on and off with the secondary button, the strobe comes on at full power every time!

Come on, BB — a light?

I read about guys who say their self defense weapon is a Smith & Wesson model 19 .357 magnum revolver with a 2.5-inch barrel. When I read that I know I’m reading the musings of mall rangers and couch commandos. Come on — tell me you carry a sidearm like that into a movie theater!

But this light is something you can carry anywhere. You can even carry it into a federal building, where firearms are not permitted. So, drop it into your pocket or purse and it’s there when you need it. That is self-defense! Not talking, but doing. Having what you need when you need it.

Side clip

The light does have a powerful side clip that I cannot see a use for. It doesn’t rotate and it clips at 90 degrees to the direction of the light. If it was 180 degrees I could clip it onto some field gear to have a light in front of me — the way we used to mount those big old OD elbow flashlights we had in the Army.

Where to get one

I searched the internet by looking for UTG EL223HL-A and found several sources. One that’s nearby was priced deceptively low until they added almost $14 to ship it just 20 miles!!! Sorry, guys, but I know that old trick. I found one for less (more for the light, a lot less for shipping) on Amazon. The total came to $53 and change.

This light is not for everybody, but if you have been looking for a good defense light, I don’t think there is a better one to be found.

Air Arms S410 TDR precharged pneumatic pellet rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Air Arms TDR rifle
Both side of the Air Arms S410 TDR.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The G6 pump has a luminous dial!
  • Many things to test
  • The point of the test
  • Third group
  • Analysis of the first series
  • High power
  • Air Arms dome
  • End of the test

Today we take the Air Arms S410 TDR Classic to the range. If you recall, I got good stable velocity with the power selector set on medium power, so I left it set that way for this test.

The G6 pump has a luminous dial!

You may also recall that I am filling the TRD with an Air Venturi G6 hand pump. I do that because the TDR has an Air Arms proprietary fill adaptor that nothing else fits, so I attached it to the G6 for this test. The velocity test suggested there may be as many as 30 good shots from a fill to 2900 psi, and filling the rifle to that pressure isn’t hard to do. But the morning I was at the range I discovered something curious. The G6 pump I’m using has a dial that glows in the dark!

I was at the range about a half hour before dawn and noticed the dial on the G6 glowing faintly when I set it up, So I hit it with my Pelican model 1920 flashlight for about 10 seconds and the dial lit up like Broadway! I was able to fill the rifle to almost full and only had to check the dial with my flashlight for the final few pump strokes, because I could see the needle against the dial so clearly.

Many things to test

The S410 TDR has variable power, so testing it gets complex quickly. Not only do I have to test several pellets — I also have to test them at different power settings. To simplify things I started the test with the JSB Exact Jumbo 15.89-grain dome and the rifle set on the medium power level from the velocity test.

The rifle had not been sighted in yet, so the first shot landed off the target paper at 50 yards. I always back up my targets with a larger piece of paper when sighting in, so I found the pellet hole and made corrections to the scope. Shot 2 landed 2 inches to the right and 2.5 inches high, so I counted the clicks on the scope and adjusted it to what I thought would be the center of the bull. My next shot hit within 1/4-inch of the center of the bull, so I stopped adjusting and fired the remaining 7 shots into the same group. The rest of the test was shot with the same scope setting.

The 8-shot group that resulted measures 1.079-inches between centers. It’s a little to the right of center.

Air Arms TDR rifle medium 1 group JSB
Here are 8 of the first 10 JSB Exact Jumbo domes in 1.079-inches between centers.

The point of the test

The whole point of this test is to see if the pellets strike the same point for all three magazines. We know that on medium power the velocity starts to drop on the third magazine, so this will show on paper what that does.

The second group on the same fill also struck the target slightly to the right, but this time the center of the group was about a half-inch lower than the first group. Even though the average velocity is the same for both magazines (from the velocity test in Part 2), the impact point dropped one-half-inch at 50 yards. This group of 10 pellets measures 1.436-inches between centers. The lowest shot in this group was the last shot, so I know the rifle is slowing down at this point.

Air Arms TDR rifle medium 2 group JSB
The second 10 JSB Exact Jumbo domes on medium power went into 1.436-inches between centers at 50 yards. The center of this group is about one-half-inch lower than the center of the previous group.

Third group

We know from the velocity test that the third group is losing velocity, and it also has the biggest velocity swing between the first and last shots. On paper that looked like a very vertical 1.982-inch spread for 10 shots.

Air Arms TDR rifle medium 3 group JSB
The third 10-shot group of JSBs at 50 yards is 1.982-inches between centers and the point of impact has dropped about 2.25 inches from where the first magazine hit. The dime is on the aim point.

Analysis of the first series

The first series of the threeTDR 10-shot groups tells me two things. First — there aren’t 30 good shots with this JSB pellet on medium power. Second — the JSB Exact 15.89-grain dome is probably not the best pellet in this rifle on medium power. Remember this rifle has adjustable power, so there is a lot more to test than just accuracy with different pellets.

High power

Next I filled the rifle again and adjusted the power as high as it would go. Then I shot one more 10-shot group with the JSB pellet. This group landed about 2 inches above the aim point and just to the right. It measures 1.602-inches between centers and is more vertical than I like. That ended my tests with the JSB pellet.

Air Arms TDR rifle high 1 group JSB
Ten JSB pellets on high power went into 1.602-inches at 50 yards. The POI is about 2 inches above the aim point, which is beneath the dime.

No sense shooting this pellet any more. Clearly it is only okay at best in the TDR. I think the rifle can do better. Time for a change.

I had brought a tin of H&N Baracuda Match pellets, hoping to test them next. But when I tried to load them they wouldn’t go into the magazine. Oh, no! They were .25 caliber pellets that had been placed in my .22-caliber pellet pile. I didn’t have my glasses on when I packed the ammo, and I brought the wrong caliber. I bet some of you have done the same thing a time or two.

Air Arms dome

Not to worry, because I did have another pellet to test. The 16-grain Air Arms dome is very similar to the JSB pellet I just tested, but enough different that I thought I would give them a try. This would be the second magazine on the fill with the rifle set on high power.

Ten Air Arms domes landed in a group that measures 0.889-inches between centers, which is the first encouraging 50-yard group I have seen from the TDR. Perhaps I have found the right pellet — or at least one of several the rifle likes. The point of impact is 1.5 inches above the point of aim and just as far to the right as the JSB pellets have been striking.

Air Arms TDR rifle high 2 group Air Arms
Ten 16-grain Air Arms domed pellets went into 0.889-inches at 50 yards on the second magazine after the fill. This was on high power. The POI is about 1.5 inches above the aim point ( under the dime). This is the kind of group I was hoping for.

End of the test

This is where I stopped testing the rifle on this day. Now that I have one good pellet the plan is to return to the range and re-run the test with high and medium power using the Air Arms pellets I now know to be good. I will throw a couple other premium pellets into the box next time, so we get a better look at the rifle’s potential.

Pistons and sears

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Two basic types of pistons
  • Center-latched pistons
  • Side-latched piston
  • See the difference?
  • Gas springs

I’m going to look at how triggers interact with pistons in spring guns today. I thought some of the blog readers may not be aware of some of the subtleties of sears and triggers as they relate to pistons.

Two basic types of pistons

Spring pistons are latched or “caught” by their sears in 2 different ways. These 2 ways are so vastly different that they dictate what types of triggers will work with what types of pistons. Until you understand the differences, you can’t appreciate why certain triggers such as the Rekord won’t work with certain types of pistons.

Center-latched pistons

A center-latched piston has a rod in its center that in some way gets latched or “caught” by the sear. When it’s latched, the sear restrains the full force of the mainspring. That can be well over 100 lbs. of force in the case of a coiled steel spring, or several hundred psi of gas pressure in the 2-piece expanding cylinder of a gas spring. The sear prevents the piston from moving until it’s released by the action of the trigger.

Center-latched piston

This drawing shows the piston rod with its notch, which catches the sear.

Meteor piston

Here’s a piston with a center-latching piston rod. Pardon the crud, but this came out of a very dirty rifle.

Any trigger that holds this kind of piston has to catch that notch in the piston rod. The Rekord trigger is the most famous, but there are hundreds of different triggers that do the same thing.

Rekord trigger

The Rekord trigger has a latch that catches the notch in a piston rod (arrow). When the gun is cocked, the piston rod pushes down on the long silver lever, bringing its latch up into engagement with the notch in the piston rod. The separate pin and spring are the safety.

Another type of center-latched rod uses 3 ball-bearings that are forced into a groove in the end of the piston rod. The sear holds the metal cage that holds tension on these 3 bearings. When the trigger releases the sear, the cage moves, releasing the ball bearings. The effect is the same as far as the shooter’s concerned. The piston is pushed forward by the spring.

Diana ball-bearing trigger

Diana’s ball bearing trigger is crisp and easy to adjust, but the design was overly complex to build.

ball bearing trigger parts

These parts make up the Diana ball bearing trigger. The black cage slides inside the silver cage and forces the ball bearings into the groove of the piston rod.

Side-latched piston

Now that we understand how the center-latched piston works, let’s talk about the side-latched piston. As the name says, the side-latched piston contacts the sear on its side rather than on a central rod. There may still be a central rod to guide the mainspring, but the sear doesn’t contact it. The sear contacts a spot on the rear skirt of the piston, where a notch has been ground. The Diana model 45 rifle that I recently tuned has a side-latched piston. A notch is ground into the rear skirt of the piston (looks like a window), and that’s what the sear catches when the rifle’s cocked.

lube piston rod

This is the rear of the Diana 45 piston, and the square hole in the piston skirt is what the sear catches. Notice that there’s a piston rod, but it’s only a spring guide.

The side-latched piston has to be kept aligned with the sear so it’ll catch. The cocking slot is what holds the piston from rotating inside the spring tube. Side-latched pistons aren’t nearly as common as centrally latched pistons. They’re usually found in families of airguns, because one trigger unit works with all of them.

See the difference?

Now that you understand the 2 different piston-latching methods, do you see how the trigger for a centrally latched piston would not work with a side-latched piston? The sear would be in the wrong place.

Gas springs

The pistons in gas-spring units all latch on the side. It’s impossible to convert a side-latched gas spring to work in a spring gun that has a centrally latched piston. Or, if not impossible, it hasn’t been done to my knowledge. Maybe someone has done it. If so, they’re keeping it a secret.

There’s a lot more to triggers and pistons that I haven’t touched on in this report, but now you should know the differences between the centrally latched and side-latched pistons.