Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord|
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin 397
The new Benjamin 397.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Dot sight?
  • The test
  • Accurate with JSB Exact Heavys
  • Adjusted the rear sight
  • H&N Baracuda Magnum
  • H&N Sniper Magnum
  • Adjusted sights
  • 10 shots
  • Summary

It’s been a while since we have looked at the Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle. This is a multi-pump .177-caliber air rifle that was advertised as getting 1,100 f.p.s. It can be pumped up to 10 times and we learned that the test rifle was good for 773 f.p.s. when shooting RWS Hobby pellets. A thousand f.p.s. takes trick pellets that nobody uses.

It’s not a quiet airgun, because from two to 10 pumps of air it produces 105 dB pretty consistently. So it’s not friendly for small suburban backyards. But it is a shooter!

Dot sight?

I intended to shoot the rifle with a dot sight or a scope, but there was a question about whether the scope base that attaches to the two holes that are drilled and tapped into the receiver will work with scope bases that are for older 397s, or even with peep sights that I have for my older Benjamin multi-pumps. I tried them both and discovered they won’t fit. The holes are in the wrong place.

The Air Venturi intermount is a sight base that fits this receiver, if it is 0.540 to 0.565-inches in diameter. The test rifle receiver measures 0.567-inches in diameter and I’m going to order one of these bases to see if it fits.

The test

I shot today from 25 yards off a sandbag rest with the rifle rested directly on the bag. Obviously I used the open sights that came on the rifle.  I used a 6 o-clock hold on a 10-meter pistol target, which is perfect for this distance when you use open sights. I shot 5-shot groups because of the pumping, but I did shoot one 10-shot group at the end with what I felt was the best pellet. I pumped six times per shot.

Accurate with JSB Exact Heavys

At 10 meters we discovered the 397 is very accurate with JSB Exact Heavy pellets. So they were the pellets I started with today without adjusting the rear sight. Five pellets went into 0.689-inches at 25 yards. It was high on the bull and to the left.

JSB Heavy group 1
Five JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into 0.689-inches at 25 yards.

Wow! That is a good group for me with post-and-notch open sights at 25 yards! I lost my glasses on Saturday and I had to use reading glasses to see the front sight, but the bull at 25 yards was very blurry. I normally wear my regular glasses for 25 yards. Let’s try a different pellet.

The test at 10 meters showed this rifle likes heavier pellets and also prefers pure lead pellets to harder ones like Premiers. So today I’m exploring the heavier pellets

Adjusted the rear sight

Since the first group was high and left, I adjusted the rear sight. The next pellet was 60 percent heavier than the first one so I left the elevation where it was, but  I adjusted the windage to the right a little. The manual does not tell how to adjust windage, but what you do to go right is loosen the left screw a little then tighten the right one.

H&N Baracuda Magnum

Next up was the 16.36-grain H&N Baracuda Magnum. This pellet is extremely heavy in .177 and I don’t see it for sale on the website anymore. Six of them went into 3.7-inches at 25 yards. I guess I lost count! But this is obviously not the right pellet for this air rifle.

Baracuda Magnum group
I don’t need a dime for this group, I need a manhole cover! Six Baracuda Magnums made a 3.7-inch group at 25 yards. Not the pellet for this 397!

H&N Sniper Magnum

The last pellet I tested was the .177-caliber H&N Sniper Magnum. This one weighs 15 grains in .177 and I no longer see it on the website, either. The 397 liked them, though, and put five into 0.709-inches at 25 yards.

Sniper Magnum group
Five H&N Sniper Magnum pellets made this 0.709-inch group at 25 yards.

Adjusted sights

It was time to take the best pellet and shoot a group of 10. I adjusted the rear sight more to the right and down. Then I set out 10 JSB Exact Heavy pellets.

10 shots

I hate to make excuses but on this group I was having a hard time seeing the sights and the sight picture. And my target shows it. Ten shots went into 1.241-inches at 25 yards. The group is completely open and I think it’s obvious it was me and not the rifle. My eyes just couldn’t keep up. I want to try this again when I have regular glasses and am fresh.

JSB Heavy group 2
Ten JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into this scattered 1.241-inch group at 25 yards.

Well, I may have lost it but at least we know the rear sight adjustments work as they should.

Summary

This new Benjamin 397 is a wonderful follow-on for the line that began back in the 1940s. It has a longer pump stroke that’s more efficient, though 1,100 f.p.s. is a pipe dream unless you shoot only trick pellets — and nobody who wants to hit the target does that!

The synthetic stock is not right for use with open sights, and to my mind this rifle is made for open sights. Also, changing the hole pattern for the peep sight wasn’t such a good thing, either. Now I have to abandon the handful of sights and bases I have for these rifles and get something new. 

I plan to test the rifle with a dot sight and perhaps with a scope if I can get it mounted securely. And I have a secret up my sleeve that only one reader knows about. So you will see the new 397 again, and again.


HW 30S: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

HW 30S
The HW 30S I am testing seems to be a new version.

This report covers:

  • The stock
  • Light!
  • Sights
  • Rekord trigger
  • Adjust trigger
  • Articulated cocking link
  • Surprise number 2
  • Summary

Today we start looking at the Weihrauch HW 30S that I mentioned yesterday. It arrived last evening and I am excited to get started. There are two surprises awaiting, so let’s get started.

The stock

Let’s start with surprise number one — the stock. It is profiled in a very modern style. Gone is the western hunting profile. It’s been replaced by a more tactical-looking butt. It has just a hint of the A4 kickdown tactical butt without shoving your face in it. Compare it to the SIG ASP20 stock.

HW 30S ASP20 stock
The Sig ASP20 stock had the same tactical look.

The bottom of the cutout at the bottom of the butt is flat. You might not appreciate that until you slide a rear sandbag underneath and notice the stability. And folks — these are all small touches that any company can make that costs very little and add so much.

HW 30S butt bottom
The bottom of the butt is flat for stability.

HW 30S forearm
There are identical checkered, stippled and carved panels on both side of the forearm.

HW 30S grip
The grip is also checkered, stippled and carved. 

This stock fits me quite well. The forearm is thin so the rifle drops down deep in my off hand the way I like. The pistol grip is very full — almost to the point of being a palm swell. The pull from the trigger to the center of the soft but firm red rubber butt pad is a manly 14-1/8-inches. And the stock is 100 percent ambidextrous. Whoever designed this stock knows rifles! I’m not saying it will fit everyone but those it doesn’t will be in the third standard deviation on either side of the mean.

Light!

The first thing I noticed as the rifle came from the box was how very light it is! Mine weighs 5 lbs. 13.2 oz. It is 38-7/8-inches long with a 15-1/2-inch barrel. I think the slim profile of the stock adds to the impression of lightness.

Sights

And the gifts just keep on coming! The NON-FIBEROPTIC sights — thank you, Weihrauch! — are wonderful. The rear sight adjusts in both directions and has 4 different notches to choose from.

HW 30S rear sight
The HW 30S rear sight adjusts both ways. There are 4 different notches to choose from.

But it is the front sight that is amazing. In 2021 I never expected to find a globe front sight that comes with 6 inserts on a rifle selling for under $300!

HW 30S front sight
The front sight accepts inserts. The 5 additional sight inserts are in a pouch hanging from the triggerguard.

HW 30S front sight inserts
A pouch that hangs from the triggerguard holds five of the six front sight inserts that come with HW 30S. The other one is in the sight.

Rekord trigger

But wait — there is more! Aside from the small, light style, the HW 30S comes with a Rekord trigger! That’s what the S in the title signifies. And yes, there are HW 30 rifles that don’t have a Rekord trigger. If anyone owns one please speak up and tell us about it.

HW 30S Rekord trigger
The 30S has a Rekord trigger.

Adjust trigger

I will tell you right now that the trigger in my rifle is not adjusted the way I prefer. There is some creep in the second stage. Therefore, before I shoot for accuracy, I will adjust the trigger. That will be a report of its own. I have adjusted Rekord triggers before in this blog but I think this will be the first time I have adjusted and reported on one just as it comes from the factory.

Articulated cocking link

The 30S has a 2-piece articulated cocking link. That means that the cocking slot in the stock can be very short and that means less vibration. However, I have shot this rifle (had to, you know) and there is the tiniest bit of vibration. After the regular test and trigger adjustment I will break her down and tune her to be slick and quiet. But that ain’t all!

Surprise number 2

I told you there were some surprises in store with this rifle. The stock was the first one. Now let’s look at the second one. To see it, and I should say them, I broke the barrel open. Let’s look.

HW 30S breech
There they are — surprise(s) number two! From the bottom up I see a ball bearing barrel detent. That’s easier to machine in many respects, so Weihrauch is keeping the cost under control. 

I would like to hear from HW 30S owners whether your rifles have ball bearing barrel detents. I believe they had chisel detents at some point in the past. In fact I believe they had them until recently.

Above the barrel detent I see a funny-looking notched breech. Wait! I saw one like this recently, didn’t I? Where was that? On the Diana 34 EMS? The one with the interchangeable barrels?

Diana, this is a message from the folks at Weihrauch. When you launch an air rifle with interchangeable barrels and aren’t ramped up to supply the barrels yet — remain quiet! Don’t make it a feature that you can’t supply. In the future you can pull back the curtain and reveal an added value that’s been there for some time. AirForce Airguns does it that way, and their owners love them for it. Leave the stuff that isn’t real for BB’s April Fool’s blog!

Above the breech you can see the four rear sight notches. Choices!

Summary

Guys, we have a real winner to examine in this HW 30S. This is gonna be a fun series for all of us!


The Daisy 35: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy 35
Daisy 35 multi-pump pneumatic

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight-in
  • RWS Superdomes
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I test the Daisy 35 multi-pump with a dot sight. Will that sight make the airgun any more accurate? That’s the test. I mounted the UTG Reflex Micro green dot sight.

The test

I shot from the same 10 meters, rested. I used 8 pumps per shot, just as before. I tried to use the same pellets but I couldn’t find the tin of Norma Golden Trophy pellets, so I substituted RWS Superdomes in their place. I have been told that these Norma pellets are equivalent to the RWS line.

I shot 10-shot groups, just as before. The only difference today, other than the pellet substitution was the sight. And I wore my regular glasses — not the reading glasses I wear when  I shoot with open sights.

Sight-in

It was difficult to sight-in the 35. Any airgun that makes 2-inch groups at 10 meters is going to be difficult to sight in. I started at 10 feet and had to adjust the dot down and to the left a lot. When I got two shots that went to the same place I backed up to 20 feet and kept sighting-in. After two shots were good at that distance I backed up to 10 meters and continued the sight-in. 

All things considered, it took about 12 shots to get the gun sighted-in. Then I shot the first group of RWS Superdomes.

RWS Superdomes

It was a fortunate thing that I shot Superdomes today because they gave me the best group of the test. Ten of them went into 1.963-inches at 10 meters. The group is fairly well centered on the bull. It’s just off to the left a little.

Daisy 35 Superdome group
Ten RWS Superdomes went into 1.963-inches at 10 meters. This is the best group of today’s test.

JSB Exact RS

The next pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. In Part 3 ten of these made a 2.591-inch group. Today with the dot sight ten went into 3.326-inches. Well — that’s no better, is it? Apparently I can shoot just as well with open sights as with a dot — at least this time!

Daisy 35 JSB RS group
Ten JSB RS domes made this 3.326-inch group at 10 meters. The first shot was in the black near the center, which is why I continued with the group without adjusting the sight. Shot two is that large round hole at the upper left. It looks like it was shot with a wadcutter but I saw it form as I shot. This is why a gun that shoots wide is so hard to sight in.

RWS Hobby

The last pellet I shot was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. In Part 3 ten Hobbys made a 2.205-inch group. Today using the dot sight the 35 put ten Hobbys into 2.29-inches at 10 meters. It’s pretty much the same as the last time with open sights.

One thing about this group. It is so spread out that there are two sight-in shots that look like they are in the group. Well, they aren’t. If you look at the edges of their hole you can tell that they were shot with Superdomes that didn’t cut round holes. This group is similar to the group Hobbys made when I shot with open sights.

Daisy 35 Hobby group
Ten RWS Hobbys made a 2.29-inch group at 10 meters. The arrows point to two holes made by Superdomes during the sight-in. They aren’t part of this group.

Discussion

The tightest group shot with open sights in Part 3 of this test measures 2.181-inches between centers. The tightest group of today’s testing measures 1.963-inches between centers. Clearly the Daisy 35 does not become more accurate at 10 meters with a dot sight.

This may look like a short little test, but please remember that each one of those 30 pellet holes was preceeded by 8 pump strokes. Add to that the 12 sight-in shots and I had to pump this airgun 336 times for today’s test. It wasn’t short on my end! But thankfully the Daisy 35 is an easy airgun to pump.

Looking at the groups I see that this Daisy 35 will hit a tin can most of the time out to 30 feet, or so. That’s its strength. It sure isn’t a paper puncher!

Summary

There is one last thing to test and that is the accuracy of the airgun with BBs. Given that it is set to feed BBs with the magnetic bolt tip I don’t see any reason to test it with lead BBs. You can try to talk me out of that, but think about it. Is someone shooting a $35-40 airgun really going to spend $25 for 1,500 BBs?


The EM GE Zenit air pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Zenit
The German EM-GE Zenit air pistol from before World War II is a fascinating collector’s item.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Grips
  • Cocking
  • Repeater
  • Barrel
  • Sights
  • Danger!
  • Direct sear
  • Power
  • Diana model IV
  • Summary

Today we begin looking at an air pistol with a rich portfolio of design features. The EM-GE Zenit is a pistol many airgunners have never seen, though there were copies made by Milbro under the Diana name, by the German maker Falke, by Swedish maker Stiga, by Italian maker Brema and even the Russians made a copy on what was probably the original Zenit machinery and tooling after they took over the EM-GE factory at the end of the war.

History

The EM GE Zenit is an overlever spring-piston air pistol made by Moritz and Gerstenberger of Zella Mehlis, Germany from about 1937 until 1940. Because of the short production period, it is a relatively rare air pistol that is desired by many collectors. And it has an interesting and potentially dangerous design flaw that makes shooting it something of a gamble. I will discuss this in detail later.

The pistol is made from wood and steel. The wood is walnut and the steel is highly polished and deeply blued. The pistol I am testing for you has most of the finish remaining, though rust has set in and needs to be treated. I will treat it with Ballistol that penetrates and neutralizes the rust.

Grips

Most Zenit (German for zenith) pistols have a one-piece walnut grip. There is a round brass escutcheon with the EM-GE logo on either side of this grip.  There is also a model with Geco grip escutcheons that was made for export to the United States.

A rare version was made with a  black bakelite grip. Bakelite is the world’s first synthetic plastic. While plastic parts are usually a cost control measure, this one may have been to save resources, as Germany was gearing up for war and needed wood for many items of materiel. This version has the logo cast directly into the grip, which is possible with plastic.

The plastic grip is very rare and was made before World War II. Some may have existed as new old stock for sale after the war, but this grip is definitely a prewar item.

Cocking

The pistol is cocked by lifting up on the overlever that lies on top of the spring tube and rocking it forward until the sear catches the piston. The barrel tips up when this happens and moves slightly forward, exposing the breech for loading. The leverage is odd but effective, rendering the Zenit very easy to cock for its power.

Zenit top strap
To cock the pistol, first raise the top strap that’s the cocking lever.

Zenit cocked
Then rock the top strap forward until the sear catches the piston.

Anti-beartrap

With the top strap up the trigger cannot fire the pistol. This is an anti-beartrap on an airgun from the 1930s!

Repeater

The Zenit is a single shot, loaded at the breech in the conventional way that a breakbarrel is loaded. But there is also a repeating model with a gravity-fed tubular magazine on top of the spring tube. The magazine aligns with the breech when the pistol is cocked and the barrel tips up. The pellets then slide down the magazine tube. It doesn’t sound too positive to me, but it’s so rare I will probably never get the opportunity to examine one.

Barrel

The outer barrel is steel but it has a brass liner. This liner may be smoothbored or rifled. The pistol I am examining for you is rifled, as noted by the abbreviation gez. for gezogen that’s stamped into the barrel.

Zenit barrel marks
The barrel is marked with the caliber and also gez. — the abbreviation for gezogen or rifled.

Zenit patent mark
A different-looking patent mark with no patent number.

Zenit name
The name is Zenit.

Zenit EM-GE markings
And the name of the maker.

Sights

The rear of the overlever is bent up and has a notch that serves as the rear sight.

Zenit EM-GE rear sight
The rear sight is cut into the end of the cocking lever.

The front sight has a thumbwheel jam nut on the right side that allows the post to be raised to varying heights. The higher you go the lower the round strikes. The blade can also be moved left or right a little by rotating the sight ring, which will adjust the windage.

Zenit front sight left
The front sight blade swings up to adjust the elevation.

Zenit front sight top down
Loosen the thumbscrew and rotate the front sight ring right or left for windage adjustment.

Danger!

The one design flaw is the end cap. It is threaded on the spring tube and held in place by a small hole in its bottom that accepts a protrusion from the bottom of the spring guide. If, while firing, this small protrusion jumps out of the hole in the end cap, the cap is free to unscrew and send the cap back into the shooter’s face with the force of the mainspring.

Zenit end cap
As long as you can see the stud through the end cap hole like this, the cap cannot unscrew and hit you in the face.

Direct sear

The trigger acts directly on the sear, which, in turn, locks the piston in the rearward position. I have tried the trigger several times and can tell you that it’s a two-stage design with a very light but positive stop at stage two. I can feel some movement in stage two, but the release is reasonably crisp. There is no provision for adjustment.

Power

I doubt the Zenit will be a powerful air pistol. It’s probably somewhere in the higher 200 f.p.s. region with lightweight lead pellets. But for its day it was at the zenith (pun intended) of performance. It was up against air pistols such as the Haenel 26 and 28, the BSF S20, and the Diana model V. The Zenit wasn’t the most powerful, but it packed more features than any of the others into a nice compact package.

Diana model IV

As I mentioned in the beginning, there were many copies of the Zenit, with the Russians just building the same gun on the same machinery after the wart. Milbro copied it and they came very close. Theirs lacked the rear sight on the cocking lever, as the lever was extended to the end of the pistol and folded over the end cap. That was one of several ways Milbro protected the shooter from the end cap springing back at their face. This pistol was called by numerous names including the Milbro Diana Model Mark IV, the Diana G4, the Milbro G4 (rifled) and the Milbro G4S (smoothbore). In the US this is one that you may see more often than any except the original Zenit.

Summary

We are looking at a strange and fascinating German air pistol from before World War II. This may not be a long series, but it should be an interesting one.

Velocity testing is next. What should I do?


Mondial Oklahoma spring-piston pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Oklahoma
The Mondial Oklahoma pistol.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • What worked
  • On a roll
  • 15 feet
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • Norma S-Target Match
  • One last test
  • Summary

Boy! Have I got one for you today! I don’t know who this test speaks to, but someone out there in Blog Readerland needs to hear this.

Today we test the Mondial Oklahoma air pistol for accuracy. And Lucy — I got some ‘splainin’ to do!

The test

I’ll begin with a quote from  Part 2, “I don’t have very high hopes for this pistol to be accurate. The inexpensive construction plus the smooth barrel are two reasons why. I think I will start my accuracy test at 20 feet, rather than 10 meters.” Ha, ha. Famous last words.

Whenever I test an airgun that I think may not be accurate, I always get close to the target trap. That’s just common sense, but as my late Aunt Linda once told me, “Common sense isn’t very common anymore.”

The Oklahoma is a smoothbore, and after my recent experience with the Daisy 35 I was full of trepedation. So I started at 15 feet and rested my shooting arm on a cat tower. I shot an H&N R10 Match Pistol pellet and used a 6 o’clock hold on the bull. I seated the pellet deep in the bore so it would come out faster. We learned in Part 2 that deep-seating increases the velocity of this gentle air pistol dramatically.

That first shot missed the target trap altogether. So I went forward and shot from 10 feet, rested again. And the pellet was seated deep again.  Missed the trap again. So I went forward to 8 feet, rested once more. Pellet was seated deep again. Surely from here… But no –missed everything again.

What worked

So I went up to 5 feet from the trap and shot freehand. Oh, the things I do for you!

I also wondered whether seating pellets deep was a problem. So from this point on, until I say otherwise, I seated all pellets flush with the breech.

With a 6 o’clock hold I put a H&N R10 Match Pistol pellet about an inch above the bullseye. Okay, so she’s shooting high. Way, way, way too high!

So I took careful aim at the number 3 below the bull and shot again freehand. The shot hit near the center of the bull, so I did the same thing again four more times and got a 5-shot group that measures 0.269-inches between centers. Who sez old BB Pelletier can’t shoot! At five feet I am probably the world champeen!

Oklahoma R10 5 feet
The hole at the top was shot with a 6 o’clock hold. The five pellets in the center were with a hold on the number 3 on the target paper, 1.1-inches below the bull. This 5-shot group measures 0.269-inches between centers. Shot freehand at 5 feet.

On a roll

Now I was rollin’! So I backed up to 8 feet and shot a second group of R10 Match Pistol pellets freehand. A hold on the number 3 put the first pellet an inch above the bull, so I took careful aim at the bottom of the paper target and tried to stay centered on the bull. This time 5 pellets went into 1.248-inches and were still nicely centered, left and right.

Oklahoma R10 8 feet
At 8 feet and with a lower aim point, I was able to put 5 R10 Match Pistol pellets into a group that measures 1.248-inches between centers.  The high shot was shot with a hold on the number 3 below the bull and isn’t part of the group.
This was also shot freehand.

15 feet

Okay, I know I am risking everything by shooting from as far back as 15 feet. My bedroom walls already have three new pellet holes from this test! I drew a round aim point on the cardboard backer about three inches below the target paper. This time I shot with my hands rested on a sandbag because — well, guys — this was clear back at 15 feet!

Five pellets went into 2.323-inches between centers. I’m still shooting R10 pellets seated flush. Notice that the pellets are still well-centered.

Oklahoma R10 15 feet
At 15 feet and shot from a rested hold the Oklahoma put 5 R10 Match Pistol pellets into a 2.232-inch group.

Air Arms Falcon pellets

Now that I had the pistol hitting the target at 15 feet I tried 5 Air Arms Falcon domes that were also seated flush with the breech. They seated a little easier than the previous R10s.

When I hung the target I hung it a little to the left of the aim point that was still on the cardboard backer by accident, so I aimed to the left of the aiming point. Five Falcon pellets made a 1.623-inch group at 15 feet. This group was a little to the right of the bull.

Oklahoma Falcon 15 feet
The Oklahoma put 5 Air Arms Falcons into a 1.623-inch group at 15 feet when shot with a rested hold.

Norma S-Target Match

The last pellet I tried was the Norma S-Target Match wadcutter that I introduced to you last week. I tried this pellet because of its small head. I felt it would fit the bore of the pistol better and perhaps go faster. Well, they did load a lot easier. And they did hit a bit lower which indicates they went out a little faster. But the group of five measures 2.823-inches between centers, which is the largest group of the test.

Oklahoma Norma Match 15 feet
At 15 feet the Oklahoma put five Norma S-Target Match pellets in 2.823-inches.

One last test

You read this blog to learn stuff, to correct my spelling mistakes and sometimes to experience strange things that shouldn’t be true, but are. Well, I have one for you today. I had been paying attention to everything that was happening and something occurred to me. Without a doubt the R10 Match Pistol pellet was the best that I tested in the Oklahoma today. And, when I held it well, the Oklahoma pistol wanted to put this pellet in the center of the bullseye.

What if I deep-seated the R10 pellet again? Now that I knew where to aim would that make the pellet go to the right place? Only one way to find out.

For the next group I deep-seated each pellet with a ballpoint pen. I held the gun the same way as I did for the other rested targets and this was the last target of the day — when I usually get tired from shooting. This time, though, pellet after pellet went to almost the same place. Five R10 Match Pistol pellets grouped in 0.699-inches at 15 feet. Boy — was I surprised!

Oklahoma R10 Match seated 15 feet
Five deep-seated R10 Match Pistol pellets went into 0.699-inches at 15 feet.

Take that, Daisy 35! Apparently the world isn’t finished with B.B. Pelletier just yet!

Summary

This has been an interesting test for me. I always wondered about this strange-looking Italian air pistol with the curious name, Oklahoma. I didn’t know that it was a smoothbore. I didn’t know that it had been made to sell on the cheap. And I certainly didn’t know that level of engineering that went into the pistol was as vast as it was. Sometimes it’s just nice to find out!


Crosman 38T Target revolver

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

38T
Crosman 38T.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Realistic
  • Single and double action trigger
  • Loading
  • Adjustable sights
  • Accuracy
  • Power
  • .22 is coming
  • She can also cook
  • Summary

Today we start looking at a vintage air pistol that many of you already love — Crosman’s 38T revolver. The T stands for target. This will be an in-depth look at the CO2-powered revolver that came in both .177 and .22 calibers. I hope to review both calibers for you in all the usual ways, plus I’m hoping that we’ll get a look inside the gun!

History

The 38T was produced from 1964 until 1985. It is distinguished by its 6-inch barrel. There was also a 38C (Combat) revolver in both calibers that had a 3.5-inch barrel. It also started in 1964 but ended in 1981. I bought a .177-caliber 38C brand new and used it for perhaps 20 years, but until this report I never owned or even handled a 38T. But other than the barrel length everything I say about the 38T also holds true for the 38C.

There are three variations of the 38-series air pistols. The first variant (1964-1973) has a metal rear sight blade and revolving cylinder. Variation 2 (1973-1976) has a plastic rear sight blade and revolving cylinder. And I haven’t got a clue how Variant three (1976 to end of production) differs from the other two, but the Blue Book of Airguns claims that it is separate, while giving no reason why.

There is also a chrome-plated version that is extremely rare. The Blue Book says it was a salesman’s sample, but other references say it was never issued. Maybe they are all agreeing because salesmen’s samples were never supposed to be sold to the public.

Realistic

These revolvers are very reminiscent of Smith & Wesson’s Hand Ejector revolvers — the ones with shrouded cranes. The grips are very reminiscent of later Hand Ejectors. The outside of the gun is nearly all metal — cold to the touch and heavy.

Even today, 36 years after the last one was made, the 38T is regarded as one of the most realistic pellet pistol lookalikes ever made. It has the weight, the size, the correct grips, the adjustable sights and all the features of the firearm it mimics with no condescension to plastics. It stands as an icon, together with the S&W 78G /79G and the Crosman Marks I and II.

The barrel is rifled so the pistol has the potential to be accurate. Naturally that will be something we test.

Single and double action trigger

The revolver has both a single and a double action trigger. The single action trigger pull is reasonably crisp, though there is a tiny bit of creep. The double action pull is heavy and creepy. It feels like the trigger parts need to be lubricated and just that may slick up the whole action.

While is looks to have a normal cylinder at first glance, only the thin front part of that cylinder rotates. That’s the part that holds the pellets until the gun  fires.

Loading

These revolvers loaded in a unique and peculiar way. On the left side of the gun there is a spring-loaded cover. To load, place a pellet in the U-shaped groove in the thin forward part of the cylinder that rotates, then cover the pellet with your finger or thumb and slide the pellet to the rear with a wiping motion. The pellet pushes the spring-loaded sliding cover back and when the pellet is over the open chamber that the sliding cover conceals, it drops right in. Finally, release the spring-loaded sliding cover and it pushes the pellet forward and into a chamber in the rotating cylinder.

38T pellet
To load a pellet, place the pellet in the groove in front of the spring-loaded sliding cover.

38T pellet finger
Put your finger or thumb on top of the pellet in the groove and press downward and to the rear in a wiping motion. The tail of the pellet’s skirt pushes the sliding cover back.

38T pellet drops
The sliding cover is all the way back and the pellet has dropped into the chamber. Release the spring-loaded cover and it will push the pellet into the chamber of the rotating cylinder of the revolver.

Adjustable sights

Like the revolvers they copy, the 38T and C both have adjustable sights. The .177-caliber gun I am testing for you in this report is either a second or third variation and the rear sight adjustment has no detents. This is the plastic sight and that might be the reason why.

Accuracy

I read reports of owners who say the 38T is quite accurate. That’s one of the big reasons why I wanted to test it. The 38C I once owned was not that accurate, because if it had been I would have remembered. At the time I owned it I was shooting a number of .357 Magnum revolvers that were shaped similarly and were also quite accurate, so I’m sure I gave the 38C a fair shake.

Power

From the reports the .177-caliber 38T should put lighter lead pellets out in the high 300 f.p.s. region — perhaps 375-390 f.p.s. The .22-caliber 38T will put light lead pellets out at around 350 f.p.s., so not that much slower. Of course that will be something we test.

.22 is coming

As I mentioned in the beginning, there is a 38T in .22 caliber in the works, as well. That one will be a special look at the gun, as well as a full test.

She can also cook

You may think that you don’t like lookalike airguns that much. Well, the 38T isn’t just for looks. If you were to set about to make a fine repeating air pistol today, you would be hard-pressed to do much better than this one. In other words it looks great and it also works. I think this is the real reason why the 38T has achieved the status of an airgun icon.

Summary

This series that will include several airguns from the past should be a good one. Once some of our collectors get on board we should all learn a lot about these fine air pistols.


The Daisy 35: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy 35
Daisy 35 multi-pump pneumatic
.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight-in
  • RWS Hobby pellets
  • Norma Golden Trophy FT domes
  • Some research
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Discussion
  • Better sights
  • Summary

Today we begin to test the Daisy 35 for accuracy. This test was interesting, so read on to learn why.

The test

I shot the 35 off a sandbag rest at 10 meters with the gun resting directly on the bag. I shot with 8 pumps per shot and I shot 10-shot groups. I think you’ll be glad I did when you see the groups.

I shot with the open sights that came on the gun. And I wore my everyday glasses. Today I shot pellets only.

Sight-in

It took me 5 shots to get on target and even then I wasn’t certain that I was where I wanted to be. You will soon understand what I mean.

RWS Hobby pellets

Because the Daisy 35 is a smoothbore I thought it would be good to try a larger pellet, so the first pellet I shot was also the pellet I used for sighting in — the RWS Hobby. Though they weigh just 7 grains, Hobbys have large skirts.

Ten Hobbys went into 2.205-inches at 10 meters. That sounds bad, I know. And it is when compared to the test I did back in 2013, but that test was in response to an even larger group of Hobbys from the first Daisy 35 I tested back in 2012. At that time ten Hobbys went into a group that was over 3 inches at 10 meters. So, what is the difference between 2012 and 2013? I will reveal that at the end of today’s report.

Hobby group
The Daisy 35 put 10 RWS Hobby pellets into a 2.205-inches at ten meters.

Norma Golden Trophy FT domes

Next I tried some Norma Golden Trophy FT pellets. These domes weigh 8.4 grains and this is the first time I have tested them. Ten of them went into a 2.204-inch group at 10 meters. But that wasn’t all they did.

Five times while shooting this pellet the breech was blown open and only a small part of the air in the reservoir was used. That dropped the pellets that were shot about one inch below the aim point. Of course I didn’t include those shots in the record group. I cocked the airgun and shot off the remaining air and then pumped the gun another 8 times for the next record shot.

At first I thought I was at fault for not closing the breech all the way, but that was not the case. Apparently this pellet develops too much back pressure that the bolt cannot contain. That’s something to keep in mind about the 35; the bolt does not lock in the action the way you think it should. Apparently it is a friction lock that can be overcome with certain pellets. If you’re going to shoot a 35 this is something to watch.

Daisy 35 Norma group
Ten Golden Trophy FT pellets from Norma made this 2.204-inch group at 10 meters when shot from the Daisy 35.

Some research

I went back and read my last two tests of the Daisy 35 in 2012 and 2013. In 2012 I tested a 35 that I got directly from Pyramyd Air. In 2013 I tested a 35 that Joe Murfin, the Vice President of marketing for Daisy sent me. Joe told me that Daisy engineers were getting 5-shot groups of 1.25 to 1.5-inches at 10 meters with the 35. I don’t normally retest an airgun when it doesn’t do well, but so many people seemed interested in this one that I relented. And that gun did shoot some 10-shot groups that were 0.76 to 1.5-inches between centers. The JSB Exact RS pellet shot the smallest group, so I tried it last today.

JSB Exact RS

Still shooting on 8 pumps per shot, ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 2.591-inches between centers at 10 meters. That was the largest group of the test. 

Daisy 35 JSB RS group
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets made this 2.591-inch group at 10 meters.

This was frustrating. This pellet had been the most accurate in my 2013 test and here is was turning in the largest group. But I had a thought. Was the fact that I was wearing my everyday glasses causing a problem? I wore them to see the bullseyes better, but then I couldn’t see the front sight as sharply. I had to find out so I shot a second group while wearing my 1.25 diopter reading glasses.

The first three pellets went into the bullseye, so I thought the effort would be worth testing. This time ten RS pellets went into 2.181-inches. It’s the smallest group of today’s test by a slim margin.

Daisy 35 NormaJSB RS
The second group of JSB RS pellets was shot with reading glasses and is the smallest group of the test.

The RS pellet is so short that I had a lot of trouble loading them. Several flipped around and a couple ended up in the BB hole that feeds from the magazine. I finally got so frustrated that I used the reverse tweezers that fed the pellets better.

Discussion

Okay, I have a lot to say about today’s test. Obviously these were not the results I was hoping for. I put them down to two or three possible causes, and maybe all of them.

First, my aiming was not precise. I see that using the reading glasses improved my last group of RS pellets, though not enough to matter. This is the same pellet that the last Daisy 35 in 2013 put into 0.76-inches.

Second, and I think this is the real reason for today’s results, not every Daisy 35 is equally accurate. I have tested three of them so far and one (2013) was accurate, today’s was mediocre to poor and the first one I tested  in 2012 was dismal.

And third, I’m 73 years old and I may have lost some of my shooting edge. Naturally I don’t like this conclusion, but I have to face facts.

Now, what should we expect of the Daisy 35? Is it enough that it can hit a soda can at 20 feet most of the time? It probably is, BUT — and this is a big but — at what point do we start making comparisons to other airguns in this class — guns like the Crosman 760? You guys do that all the time but I try not to. However, if the test results keep coming out like today, I may have to.

Better sights

Remember a few days ago when I showed you a big improvement in the accuracy of the Crosman Vigilante revolver when the UTG Reflex Micro dot sight was installed? Will that happen here, as well? I don’t know, but I sure want to find out. It’s so important that I believe I will test that next before I test this airgun with BBs.

Summary

Well, this test just took a turn I sure don’t relish. I was hoping to see those smaller groups like we saw in 2013. But that’s why I test. If I do my job things won’t always turn out well. But those results can be just as beneficial as when things do go well. At least we know the score. Stick around because we’re not done yet.