Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

This report covers:

  • What is the  M14?
  • M14 magazine 
  • M1A
  • The pellet rifle
  • Underlever
  • Cocking and the safety
  • Safety is manual
  • Loading
  • Summary

The Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle is here! This is the air rifle many of you have been waiting for, and mine just arrived. Let’s take a look.

What is the  M14?

The M14 is a U.S. battle rifle that was the primary personal rifle from 1958 until 1968. It was the successor to the M1 Garand (U.S. Rifle caliber .30 M1) that was the U.S. battle rifle from 1936 until being replaced by the M14 in March of 1958. Where the Garand was semiautomatic only, the M14 was made to be a select-fire rifle, though not that many of them were ever set up that way. It took some training and skill to control the rifle in the full-auto mode, because the recoil of the 7.62X51 mm cartridge was substantial. Because of the rifle’s look many assumed it was another BAR, but at only half the weight, it wasn’t.

It just so happens that old B.B. Pelletier qualified expert on the M14, which gave him the opportunity to qualify (expert again, mostly due to luck) on the brand-new M16. Most M16s and their ammo were being sent to Vietnam in 1968 when I qualified in basic training at ROTC summer camp in Fort Lewis, Washington. They had limited rifles and ammo, so only those who qualified expert with the M14 got to qualify with the M16.

From that experience I can tell you this — the M14 was a real battle rifle. The M16 that I shot was an underdeveloped toy — at least at that time! Time and further development have turned the M16 platform into a proven battle rifle, BUT — the M14 lingers on in U.S. military service as a special rifle when certain things are required. Its 7.62X51 mm round (military version of the .308 Winchester) hits harder and more accurately at longer ranges than the 5.56 mm round of the M16.

M14 magazine 

The biggest difference between the Garand and the M14 was the M14’s 20-round magazine. The Garand has an 8-shot magazine that’s built into the rifle. It is very difficult to add cartridges to that mag while it’s still loaded. When the last round is ejected the en bloc clip — a steel spring that holds the eight .30-06 rounds together, also comes out of the rifle with a distinctive ping. There is a rumor that the enemy would wait to hear the ping and then attack, knowing that the soldier was reloading, but that was just a myth. Nobody could hear that ping in the noise of combat unless there were extraordinary circumstances.

The M14’s 20-round magazine can be removed at any time and topped off. Or leave it in the rifle and load it with stripper clips that connect to the top of the rifle’s receiver, similar to the way the K98 Mauser rifle is loaded. Either way it’s far easier to top off an M14 than reload the Garand. Oldtimers can tell the difference between the Garand and the M14 by the magazine of the latter that hangs down.

M1A

So why is there an M1A? It’s because American civilians cannot own fully automatic weapons without going through special legal procedures and I’m not certain that an M14 ever qualified for those. Since any M14 could potentially be converted to full auto, it was a special case that had to be dealt with individually. To satisfy the need for a civilian rifle to compete in military matches, the M1A was born. It’s almost identical to the M14, except it cannot receive the parts to make it full auto without modifications.

The M1A pellet rifle

And that background brings us to today’s topic, the Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle. It is licensed by Springfield Armory, but it was developed under joint cooperation with the folks at Air Venturi. Springfield Armory is the company that brought the M1A to the world in 1974.

Springfield Armory offers the full-sized M1A firearm with a walnut stock. And that is the first difference knowledgeable shooters will notice about the pellet rifle. The stock on this underlever is made from some kind of Asian hardwood that resembles beech. The finish is a very matte dark brown. The upper handguard is a brown synthetic that resembles the fiberglass handguard on the firearm.

Underlever

This is an underlever air rifle, and no, it’s not a reskinned Diana 460 Magnum. You would never get it for a retail of $200 if it was. It’s similar to the Diana in several ways because both rifles are underlevers, but it’s also far from a direct copy.

M1A underlever
The underlever pulls down and back to cock the rifle and open the loading port. Note that the upper handguard slides forward to expose the loading port.

This rifle comes in both .177 and .22 calibers. I asked to test the .22 because of the power output (1,000 f.p.s. in .177 and 800 f.p.s. in .22), as well as for easier loading. More on that in a bit.

I sat in on a design discussion with Air Venturi at the SHOT Show this year. The rifle was almost complete, but I was asked for my input.  I have to admit I was blown away by the realism of the rifle! I was told they wanted to keep the retail price at $200, so the folding metal buttplate that is so characteristic of an M14 was not an option. It looks like the buttplate on this rifle folds, but it doesn’t. Shooters unfamiliar with the M14 won’t miss it, and there are more of them around than us old silverbacks. There is a rubber pad on the butt to keep the rifle firmly on your shoulder.

The underlever has an extension rod that pulls out to increase the leverage. And, what is so neat is you can leave it pulled out because the designers made the extension fit into the bottom of the muzzle brake/front sight assembly when the lever is stored.

M1A lever in
The cocking lever can be pushed in like this.

M1A lever out
… or it can be extended and still used and stored that way. Genius!

Cocking and the safety

The M1A cocks with 35 lbs. of effort, according to the description. You know I will check that for you. I do use the extended lever to cock the rifle.

But there is more to cocking. I test-fired the rifle the first time and it shot well. But it wouldn’t cock for me on the next try. I tried it many times. Each time I felt the sear slipping off as I relaxed pressure on the cocking lever. This was confusing until I looked at the safety. It works in the reverse direction of an M1A, M14 or M1 Garand safety. Pull it back into the triggerguard to make the rifle ready to fire and push it forward through the triggerguard to make the rifle safe. I had been working it backwards! And that was apparently what kept the rifle from cocking.

M1A safety
The M1A pellet rifle safety works in the reverse direction of the M1A firearm safety. Push the safety back into the triggerguard to make the rifle ready to fire and forward to make it safe.

Once I cycled the safety on and off again several times and then pulled it back towards  the trigger to make the rifle ready to fire, the cocking problem was gone. I tell you this in case anyone who is familiar with an M1A, Garand or M14 makes the same mistake.

Safety is manual

The safety is manual. It stays where it’s put until you move it. And that’s the way we like it! Let the shooter be responsible for his own safety. With the cocking effort it’s unlikely that a child will cock this rifle. So long as the shooter has been trained in proper gun handling techniques and practices them, everything should be fine.

Loading

When the rifle is cocked the upper handguard slides forward to expose the loading port. I have normal-sized hands for an adult and I find this rifle somewhat difficult to load. The trick is to balance it on your knee or on a table with the muzzle pointing straight up. The pellet can then be balanced on your thumb for loading. It isn’t perfect, but you soon grow accustomed to it. I suspect that loading will be more difficult for people with sausage fingers.

M1A loading port
The upper handguard slides forward as the rifle is cocked. This exposes the loading port.

Summary

I will end this report here but there is much more introduction to come in part 2. At that time I will discuss and show the sights, the scope mount that comes with the rifle, the trigger and more details about this fascinating new spring-piston air rifle. We will start testing velocity in part 3.

The Springfield Armory M1A pellet rifle is many things. It’s a lookalike airgun. It’s a spring-piston rifle that’s hopefully very accurate. It has good power so it can be used for some hunting. It has adjustable sights plus a scope mount. And all of this comes to you at a fantastic price! With the holidays coming I would watch this blog and perhaps put this one on my short list!


The Haenel 311 target rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Haenel 311
Haenel 311 target rifle.

History of airguns:

This report covers:

Not the Hurricane today
So what?
Haenel target rifles
The 312
The 311
Different way to oil the piston seal
Construction
Sights
Trigger
Summary

Not the Hurricane today

I was going to do a Part 2 velocity test with the Webley Hurricane today but this is Friday and I wanted to give you guys something to talk about over the weekend. Velocity tests of airguns I have tested before aren’t usually that exciting, so I looked for a different topic for today.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you but I have forgotten something. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true. I have forgotten that my Haenel 311 bolt-action target rifle from East Germany shot the smallest 5-shot group I ever shot at 10 meters. Let me show you.

Haenel 311 target rifle Gamo Match group
At 10 meters the Haenel 311 put five Gamo Match pellets through a hole so small that I could not measure it. 

Thinking that group was a fluke, I shot a second 5-shot group of Gamo Match. This time the group measured 0.163-inches between centers and was probably closer to representative of what the rifle can do. And even that one is a very good group.

Haenel 311 target rifle Gamo Match group 3
After the 10-meter first group I shot this one that measures 0.163-inches between centers. It’s still a very nice group.

So what?

Here is what is driving this series of tests. In Part 2 of the report on peep sights this week I said, “The Haenel 311 rifle that this sight is mounted on is a taploader that works via a bolt action. As far as accuracy at 10 meters goes it is a junior class target rifle at its best, and probably not even that.”

Then I got curious and looked at the test I did on the 311 in 2011. Lo and behold — those targets above materialized and I realized I owed the Haenel 311 an apology! What’s even stranger is the pellet that was used in that test — the  Gamo Match that several of you have asked me to try! So I think it’s time to take another good look at this East German target rifle.

Haenel target rifles

Haenel made several target air rifles. Some are so rare that you only read about them and never see one up close. But of the common ones the 310 is a bolt action round ball shooter that’s rifled. It’s a repeater that feeds from a tiny spring-loaded magazine that’s housed on the bottom of the stock. They came into the U.S. in boatloads after the Berlin wall came down and I snagged several at about $60 each. They are way higher now.

Haenel 310
The Haenel 310 is a rifled ball-shooter. The triangular projection ahead of the triggerguard is the anchor point for the bolt that serves as the cocking lever.

The 312

An important step up from the 310 are the 311 and 312 target rifles. The 312 is the better of the two. It’s a sidelever that has a sliding compression chamber to expose the breech. Its rear sight is larger and beefier than the one on my 311, but that could be due to the time when the specific guns were made. Or it could be a difference that always was there. I don’t know. The 312 was always more money than the 311 and today I think it brings about $350 if it has the sights and works.

The 311

The 311 is the oddball that I’m covering today. They originally cost about $75-80 when they were coming in but today they are much higher. However they are more common than the 312 and don’t quite command the same price.

The rifle began production in 1964, which was at the height of the Cold War. Production ended in the early 1990s.

The 311 is a 10-meter target rifle, but it is so different from any other 10-meter rifle that it’s very difficult to categorize. The cocking effort is very difficult — owing to the short cocking lever — so this is not a three-position rifle in anyone’s book. It’s meant for offhand shooting, alone. Even then, the shooter must take care where he points the muzzle while he struggles with the cocking lever. It takes 33 lbs. of force to cock my 311, and applying it through the 3-inch bolt handle isn’t easy. In the offhand position, I would shoulder the rifle and simply pull the handle back, using my shoulder to hold the rifle in place. It sounds easy, but after a couple shots you start feeling the strain. I will test the effort again in Part 2 but I doubt it has changed over the years.

The 311’s articulated bolt rotates up and forms the top half of a longer cocking lever. You can see how it works in the picture. You rock the bolt back to cock the rifle and, typical of these bolts, the effort to cock is not light.

Haenel 311 bolt
Swing the bolt up like this and pull back to cock the rifle. It is a rocking motion, with the anchor underneath the stock, as mentioned.

The 311 is a taploader, which is what drove me to make my comment about accuracy. And in truth with most pellets I don’t get accuracy that’s any better than a Daisy 853 would give. That’s a 5-shot group of around a quarter-inch between centers at 10 meters. But the Gamo Match performance makes me want to test the rifle with other pellets that are new to the market — and there are a bunch of them.

Haenel 311 target rilfe loading tap
Rotate the tap lever forward and the top opens to accept one pellet, loaded nose-first.

Different way to oil the piston seal

With a loading tap there are a couple of ways to oil the piston seal. One is to open the tap, drop 5 or so drops of oil in, close the tap and stand the rifle on its butt for several hours to let the oil drain back and saturate the piston seal. I believe the piston seal is leather because Haenel used leather seals on similar rifles like the 303-8 Super breakbarrel target rifle that I reported on in 2009. 

A second good way to oil the piston seal is to stand the rifle on its butt and pour the oil down from the muzzle. Use an extra drop or two because the barrel will retain some if you oil this way.

You can use silicone chamber oil if you wish. I use Crosman Pellgunoil, which is 20-weight motor oil with an o-ring preservative. The muzzle velocity is so low that you don’t need to use silicone chamber oil if you don’t want to.

Construction

The rifle is larger than a youth target rifle. It’s 43-3/4-inches long with a barrel that’s 16-1/2- inches. The pull measures 13-7/8-inches, which is very long for a target rifle. My rifle weighs exactly 8 pounds. The stock is plain hardwood that looks like beech. The pistol grip is checkered with coarse hand-cut diamonds. The forearm is rectangular and tall, with finger grooves on each side. In all the 311 is closer to a vintage adult target rifle of the 1960s than it is to a youth target rifle.

Sights

You have already seen the 311’s rear peep sight. Here it is again.

Haenel peep
The Haenel peep sight is as nice as any top-grade peep. It just looks odd in a swept-back way.

The front sight is somewhat conventional, but constructed in a different and unique way. Like the AirForce front sight the Haenel stands on a tall pillar. Unlike the AirForce sight the Haenel does not adjust for height.

Haenel 3411 target rifle front sight
The 311 front sight stands tall on a pillar, but does not adjust for height. It does accept interchangeable inserts that measure a non-standard 15mm in diameter.

I have one more sight that very few Haenel 311 owners know about. It’s an intermediate rear sporting sight. Many European gallery rifles and Zimmerstutzens had intermediate sporting sights like this that were used for certain sports where the peep sight was not allowed. All 311s have a raised dovetail base just behind the loading tap for this sight but very few people have ever seen the sight itself. I received it with my rifle when I purchased it and considered myself very fortunate. I have never seen another.

Haenel 311 target rifle sporting sight
Here is something you don’t see every day — Haenel’s sporting rear sight. It clamps to a raised dovetail base just behind the loading tap. Only one rear sight may be used at one time, as they get in each other’s way.

Trigger

The trigger is one place where the Haenel pedigree shines through. It’s a multi-lever unit that breaks cleanly and lightly if not crisply.

Here’s a warning to all you would-be tuners. Many years ago I wanted to quiet the vibration of my 311 action, so I started what I thought would be a simple disassembly. When I got inside the trigger, however, the job proved to be anything but simple. I the assembled the gun with the automatic safety out of whack and have lived with it ever since. When I cock the rifle I have to pull the safety back to set it, then push it forward to make the rifle ready to fire. The 311 is not the rifle to take apart unless you have a lot of patience and perhaps a spare rifle to look at when it’s time to put it back together.

Summary

This should be an interesting look at a target rifle few airgunners have ever seen. And we begin with a pellet that should prove accurate. I think we are in for a lot of fun.


With airguns home IS the range! — Part1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The indoor range
  • Quiet airguns
  • The 499
  • Quiet traps
  • Build your own trap
  • What about more powerful airguns?
  • You don’t have to just shoot paper indoors
  • Safety
  • Distance
  • Pellet trap
  • Lighting
  • Shooting table
  • Shooting at home is fun!
  • Your turn

Some of you are sitting at home right now, bored out of your gourds! Have you forgotten that you are airgunners? This is your time to shine!

This is a refresh of an article I wrote for the website in 2006 — 14 years ago. Things have changed a lot since then, so I have updated it.

The indoor range

With the right airguns, it’s not only possible to shoot at home, you’ll wish you’d started years ago. I’m not talking about your backyard today. Some folks have large private backyards that let them shoot without disturbing their neighbors. But many people like me are squeezed into closer quarters with neighbors who may call the police if they see someone outside with a gun. However, a home is still a castle, and yours can have a shooting range inside.

Lucky, indeed, is the shooter with a large basement, attic, garage or shed. These are ideal places, because they are usually away from the other family members. That also increases the margin of safety. But, you don’t have to have a private space! I don’t have any of these and 90 percent of my shooting is indoors.

Any interior room with sufficient distance can be quickly turned into a range. I have set up ranges in bedrooms, living rooms, hallways and even in an empty adult classroom in a modern office building.

Quiet airguns


The secret to shooting in small spaces with thin walls is to shoot quiet airguns. There are several to choose from. If you like pistols, a multi-pump like the Crosman 1377 is perfect. On three pumps it is very quiet and will not disturb folks. You may only have 15 feet to shoot, so the lower velocity is no problem.

For long-gun shooters, I just tested the Lil’Duke BB gun for you and we all saw how well it shoots. But Any Daisy Red Ryder-type BB gun is quiet. You just have to keep the range short, which is not difficult indoors. The Lil’ Duke stock is well-suited to small children and can be used by folks all the way up to adults.

Bada Bang
When this one hits the market this summer you’re gonna be surprised!

Bada 1
The first 4 shots I fired were from the Lil’ Duke with open sights at 12 feet. I aced the target, hitting all 4 paddles in 12 seconds. The blue light flashes to let you know the target is turned on.

If you can tolerate a little more noise the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine is ideal. It’s accurate plus it’s a semiautomatic. 

Need a pellet rifle? Consider the TR5. For my money, the TR5 Pro is the one to get. Or, if you want a CO2 repeater consider the Umarex Fusion 2. It’s quiet and accurate at a bargain price. I tested the Fusion and I hope to test the Fusion 2 soon.

The 499

If you want to shoot as quietly as a mouse’s cough, Daisy’s Avanti Champion 499 is the world’s most accurate BB gun, and probably also the quietest. It can shoot 10 BBs through the hole of a Lifesaver candy at 5 meters (16.4 feet). It is easy enough for a six-year-old to cock and light enough to shoot all day, though the adult-sized stock may have to be cut shorter for youngsters. Be sure to also buy the Avanti Precision Ground Shot that is made specifically for this BB gun. It’s what makes the magic happen.

A great target pistol that’s fun indoors is the V10 Match pistol from Air Venturi. It’s a single-shot pistol that has a single stroke pneumatic system — one pump is all it takes. Sig’s new ASP Super Target is another fine single stroke and this one is easier to pump! Of course the single-stroke Beeman P17 can’t be beat! When used with a quiet trap the only noise from these guns will be their quiet discharges. 

Quiet traps

You need to catch all pellets or BBs when you shoot indoors. Pyramyd Air’s Quiet Pellet Trap is perfect for both types of ammo, though the impact putty compound does need to be cleaned from time to time. The same trap also works for steel BBs. I will be discussing the safer BBs in a bit.

With a metal trap the impact sound is often louder than the gun’s report, but with these quiet traps, there’s almost no sound at all. The trap makes zero noise, yet it is suitable for powerful pellet guns up to 1,000 f.ps. in .177 and 800 f.p.s. in .22.

Build your own trap

Okay, I will state the obvious. You can make your own quiet BB/pellet trap if you want. I have certainly written enough articles about how it’s done!

To protect the wall behind the trap, I recommend a plywood or chipboard sheet at least three times the size of the trap. It will stop any stray pellets or BBs from hitting the wall or door behind the trap. That’s very uncommon, of course, but when others shoot your guns or when you shoot a gun you aren’t familiar with, it’s good to have the extra protection.

What about more powerful airguns?


You can shoot more powerful airguns in your house, but you’ll need a stronger trap to contain them. Pyramyd Air stocks a steel pellet and rimfire trap that is ideal. It’s strong enough to stop a 40-grain bullet from a .22 long rifle cartridge. It’s also strong enough for any smallbore (.177, .20, .22 and .25) airgun made. However, when the velocity of a lead pellet exceeds about 600 f.p.s., the pellet starts breaking up on impact, and that generates both lead fragments and lead dust.

You may not want lead dust in your home, so stick with guns that shoot slower than 600 f.p.s., or use a quiet pellet trap for guns shooting from 600 up to about 1,000 f.p.s. The Quiet Trap generates no lead dust if the pellets are cleaned out after use.

You don’t have to just shoot paper indoors

We did not have safe BBs in 2006 when I initially wrote this article, but we have them today. You have a choice of two — the lead Smart Shot or the Air Venturi Dust Devil 2 that has just come out. You know from my recent testing of both BBs in the Lil’ Duke that they can be quite accurate at close range. While I haven’t yet tested the new Dust Devils in the M1 Carbine I am expecting to see the same results — if not even better. That Carbine is a shootin’ machine!

I can’t recommend the larger action targets for indoors because it takes too large a backstop behind them to stop the BBs, but the Slynger Metal Silhouettes can be placed inside a steel trap and shot with either a BB gun shooting safe BBs or a low-powered pellet rifle like the Crosman 1077. My advice is to use the hole that’s in the base of each target and somehow attach them to the metal trap with monofilament line. That will save you the trouble of fishing them out from behind the washing machine.

If you do shoot at metal traps or targets, remember to have a plan to keep the house clean. It won’t do to loose your shooting privileges over stray BBs and steel dust. You can place the targets or traps deep inside large cardboard boxes and they are great at catching any stuff that comes back out.

Safety

1. Shooting safety is always an issue, and inside the home there are some additional things to think about.

2. People who are not shooting should be kept away from the downrange area. If the pellet trap is located near a door or hallway, do whatever is necessary to prevent anyone from wandering into the hall or coming through the door. This applies especially to young children. If you shoot down the length of a hall, always stop if a person has to use the hall and wait until they have come out before resuming.

3. Keep pets away from the pellet trap. Cats and small dogs are especially attracted to the noise of a pellet striking the trap.

4. Pellets shot at velocities above 600 f.p.s. shatter into fragments when they hit a hard surface. Set the trap deep inside a large cardboard box tray to help contain the fragments. Sweep up after every session to prevent small children or pets ingesting the lead particles on the floor.

BBs rebound from most traps. The silent trap is filled with impact putty that holds them tight. After you’re done shooting, a sweep of the floor with a strong magnet will collect any stray BBs before they get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner or eaten by a child or pet. This works for everything except the lead BBs. You have to sweep for them .

5. Everyone in the shooting area should wear safety glasses.

6. You must use an approved pellet or BB trap. Cardboard boxes filled with newspapers will not contain your shots for very long. In fact, they won’t contain even one shot from a powerful airgun such as an AirForce Condor. A Condor will shoot through a 2×4 or the wall of a house and still have enough force to severely dent appliances such as washing machines or refrigerators.

Construction of the range

Distance

The ideal distance for an indoor range is 33 feet or more, because so many airgun sports shoot at 10 meters. If you don’t have that much room, use smaller targets like those made for BB guns and use whatever distance you do have. I have 16 feet in my garage, which is the international competition distance for BB guns.

Pellet trap


The trap should be ideally about the same height as the muzzle of the gun. If several people are using the range and are both standing and shooting off a bench, locate the trap at about four feet off the floor. Shoot straight into the trap, not on an angle, to prevent ricochets.

Lighting


It’s important to have good light on the target. The shooting area should be not as well lit, so the targets appear very bright in comparison. A clip-on light with an aluminum reflector that you get for a few dollars at any hardware store is a great way to light the target. A single 75-watt floodlight bulb is bright enough if placed within eight feet of the target. A 500-watt halogen work light is even better! That’s what I use.

Shooting table


You’re going to want something on which to put your guns, pellets and other items, so plan for a shooting table at the firing line. The table should mark the line that no one passes when shooting is taking place.

Shooting at home is fun!


If you follow the safety precautions outlined in this article, shooting at home can be great fun. You will be surprised how much it increases your opportunity to shoot.

Your turn

Okay, I got you started but this report is really for you. Tell us what you shoot at indoors and especially how you stop the BBs/pellets and keep the place clean!


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!

The limbs move around when they aren’t pinned in position for firing. I think a small bungee cord around them at the rear would be handy.

Manual

The manual is well written in all English and is 37 pages long. I read it cover-to-cover before doing anything with the bow. I know how crossbows work, but this one is unique. Look at it! It doesn’t have cam wheels! The power is supplied directly by the energy stored in the limbs, without passing through a complex series of pulleys that reduce the cocking effort — because the Onyxdoesn’t need its cocking effort reduced!

I recommend that everyone who gets the Onyx reads the manual before they do anything. There are straightforward things you need to know, of course. Things like never putting your hands on the flight deck in the path of the bowstring when the bow is cocked. But there are also things you might never consider. Like the fact that leaks from the source of compressed air can cock the bow without your knowing it! Read the manual!

The power source — for cocking

Let’s understand that this bow launches arrows by means of the energy that is stored and released by its bow limbs. In that respect it is a conventional crossbow.

The unconventional thing is how the bow is cocked. The Onyx is designed to use compressed air, supplied by an Air Venturi 3000 psi 13 cubic-inch tank that is regulated down to 1100 psi. The manual says the bow was designed to be cocked with high pressure air, and if you own a compressor that is the thrifty way to do it. But it can also be cocked by an 88- or 90-gram CO2 tank.

Sen-X Crossbow tank
The Onyx is set up to use a regulated Air Venturi 13 cubic-inch tank as a power source for cocking.

The tank coupling on the bow comes to you as shown above. That would be the setup for a right-handed shooter. That coupling can be switched around to point the tank forward, which moves the weight balance of the bow forward. It can also be moved to the left side of the bow for left-handed shooters, though that involves more work than a simple switch. An 88-gram or 90-gram disposable CO2 cartridge can also go into the coupling in place of the air tank.

Why CO2?

Those 88-gram CO2 tanks are not cheap and since they only cock the bow a couple times (maybe once more in warmer weather), what good are they? Well, let’s say you are about to hunt caribou in Canada. Imagine all the problems trying to carry an air tank through the TSA here, plus the CATSA in Canada. How much easier it is to just buy a disposable CO2 tank when you get where you are going.

Air source safety

The manual tells you to disconnect the air source when it’s not in use. That prevents the possibility of an accident. There are also safety things to do with the button that I’ll cover now.

The button

Let’s look at this button that cocks the bow. It’s located in front of the forearm grip, where it is centered. Both right- and left-handed shooters will find it convenient. When the air source is connected push the button in to cock the bow. That part is almost silent and takes about a second in 60+ degree weather. Pull the button out to uncock the bow. That emits a long hiss as the air escapes and it takes a lot longer for the bow limbs to collapse back to their un-tensioned shape. And you may have caught the fact that with this system you don’t have to fire an arrow into the ground and risk damaging it.

But we have to make certain that button is in the uncocked position before we connect the air source. If the button is in the cocked position and we screw a tank into the coupling, the bow will cock instantly when the high-pressure air or CO2 enters the system.

Sen-X Crossbow button uncocked
Here the button is pulled out and the bow is uncocked. If the cocking safety was applied (at the arrow, and the cocking safety is off in this photo) it would be impossible to press the button in to cock the bow. This keeps you safe when loading.

Sen-X Crossbow button cocked
When the button is pushed forward like this, the bow will automatically cock. It takes a second and is very quiet.

Final point

It’s easy to get confused about this technology when you learn the bow uses high pressure air. Here is a quote from the manual:

“A Steambow (Onyx) is a combination of a conventional crossbow and a PCP air rifle.”

Yes, it is, but don’t get confused. The high-pressure air has nothing to do with launching the arrow. It is there to cock the bow, and that is all that it does.

Summary

That’s enough for this report. I hope you can appreciate that this bit of technology will change the world of crossbows. It will allow more people to use them, and will allow hunters to be safer with them.

There is a lot more to learn about the Onyx. I have only addressed one of the three safeties, plus I need to cover other things that are more conventional.

Am I going to test the bow? Yes, indeed. So there is a lot more coming.


Air Arms Pro-Sport: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Pro-Sport
Air Arms Pro-Sport.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Pro-Sport trigger
  • Based on the Rekord
  • Set trigger
  • Rekord is not set
  • What is dangerous?
  • Hair trigger
  • Slippage
  • Fingers with neuropathy
  • Cold fingers
  • So what?
  • TX trigger
  • Mach II trigger
  • Pro-Sport trigger adjustment
  • Stage one
  • Stage two
  • But wait…
  • Summary

Pro-Sport trigger
Air Arms Pro-Sport and TX200 trigger. Graphic from Air Arms.

Pro-Sport trigger

Today I show you the trigger of the Air Arms Pro-Sport rifle that I’m testing. I said in Part 2 that I was going to show how to adjust it in Part 3, and then I breezed right past that and shot groups instead. The reason I did is because this trigger was adjusted perfectly as the rifle came to me from the factory. Stage two breaks at 14.8 ounces. It’s far too light for sporting use but perfect for shooting from a bench in a warm environment.

I normally don’t take the time to write about adjusting triggers for you, though in the recent past there have been several exceptions. The Pro-Sport trigger, which is identical to the TX200 Mark III trigger, needs to be another exception, because it is one of the finest sporting air rifle triggers on the market.

Based on the Rekord

To understand the Pro-Sport trigger we first need to understand the Rekord trigger that preceded it by several decades. The Rekord is a multi-lever trigger that is very closely related to a set trigger that can release in fractions of an ounce. But a Rekord is not a set trigger.

Rekord trigger 1
This is the Rekord trigger. Yes, I photographed it from my Beeman R1 book, because I apparently no longer have the original artwork.

Rekord trigger 2
Here is a look inside the sheetmetal trigger box that holds the Rekord trigger parts. Also taken from my R1 book.

Set trigger

A set trigger is “set” (armed would be another good word) by moving its parts into position so that the slightest pressure will make it operate. It can be a single trigger blade that is pushed into the set position, in which case it is called a single-set trigger. Or, there can be a second trigger whose only job is to pull all the trigger parts into position — “setting” or arming the real trigger. When there are two trigger blades it is called a double-set trigger.

Rekord is not set

But the Rekord trigger is never set. It is a proper two-stage sporting trigger. It should always have a first stage that is light and stops when resistance is encountered! That resistance is the effort needed to pull the second stage to the release point, firing the airgun. That second-stage resistance can be adjusted very light — so light, in fact, that it becomes dangerous.

What is dangerous?

If a gun fires because the shooter has his finger in the triggerguard and it touches the trigger blade unintentionally — that is not an accident. That is a stupident! I have done it. Maybe you have done it, and I know stories that I’m sworn not to reveal about people nearly everyone knows who have done it. That is not an accident and it is not the trigger’s fault.

Hair trigger

What IS the trigger’s fault is when the gun fires because the weight of the trigger blade alone causes it to move and the sear to release. Think it’s impossible? Think again. There are set triggers that can be set that light and they fire when the muzzle of the gun is elevated and the trigger pivots back on its pin because of gravity. I have seen guns with triggers set that light. Those are called hair triggers because supposedly the force of one human hair against them will set them off. But many people call a one-pound trigger a hair trigger because, to them, it’s so light that it fires before they are ready.

Slippage

Then there are triggers that fire all by themselves because their sear angles are not correct. All it takes to fire these triggers is to reduce the friction and give the trigger a small push. A 100-pound coiled mainspring pushing against a piston (when a spring-piston rifle is cocked) can provide such a push. These triggers may function perfectly for many years and then fail when they are lubricated with a high-tech lubricant like moly that drops their friction below the point needed to hold them. I have a hole in the ceiling of my office from a BSF S55N that fired unexpectedly from this problem. A slipping trigger is a well-known fault of BSF triggers.

Fingers with neuropathy

Maybe you have neuropathy in your fingers and don’t recognize it. It comes in many forms — one of which is you loose sensitivity in your hands, including your trigger finger. You know that it’s getting harder to pick up postage stamps and coins, but it hasn’t dawned on you that a trigger can also be a problem. You can’t feel the blade until you put 5 pounds of force on it, by which time the gun has already fired.

Cold fingers

When you are out hunting in cold weather your fingers loose their sensitivity, and a one-pound trigger becomes a hair trigger. Cold weather calls for 5-pound triggers, which is the military standard for nearly every nation on the planet.

So what?

The Rekord trigger was designed to be a nearly foolproof two-stage trigger that can be adjusted to suit your preferences, within reason. And, it’s the “within reason” that catches many airgunners. For instance, I just read on one forum where Rekord trigger adjustment screw 52B — the one Beeman has recommended for decades that you never adjust — is laughed at! This forum calls that adjustment a fake. Well, that adjustment determines how much sear engagement stage TWO will have in the trigger. If someone comes along not knowing the consequences and wants an 8-ounce single-stage trigger and they adjust screw 52B to get it, they have just adjusted out all the “proof” in “foolproof,” and what does that leave?

TX trigger

But this report is about the trigger in a Pro-Sport. Well — until you understand how a Rekord trigger works you will have a hard time understanding the more sensitive trigger found in the Pro-Sport.

Mach II trigger

Many rears ago I owned a Mach II trigger (a Rekord trigger replacement) that was custom made by Ivan Hancock. It looked deceptively simple, yet it could be adjusted to a razor’s edge. I no longer have that trigger but let me show you what it looked like — again from my R1 book. Before you get all goose-pimply, please know that the Mach II trigger sold for around $250 in the mid 1990s. It would be a $400+ trigger today.

handmade Mach II trigger
The Mach II trigger exposed. It looks almost identical to the Air Arms trigger graphic above. Two screws in the trigger blade (their holes can barely be seen in this photo) put pressure on the part that Air Arms calls the bottom sear when the trigger is pulled. Notice how close these screws are in this blade.

I showed you the inside of the Mach II trigger because it is nearly identical to the Air Arms trigger except it’s “box” is made of brass and has a brass plate that can be removed to look inside. The Air Arms trigger is inside a sheetmetal box that also opens like this, but I used the Mach II trigger photo that I already had. After shooting the Pro-Sport for record I just don’t want to spoil that gorgeous trigger pull that it came with!

Pro-Sport trigger adjustment

For this discussion we will concentrate on those two adjustment screws that pass through the trigger blade. I hope you understand how a lever works, because these two screws rely heavily on that principal.

The Record trigger doesn’t have these screws. It depends on the shape of the trigger blade (two raised humps) to accomplish the same thing as these two screws, but its shape cannot be adjusted. So people adjust that trigger all that they can, which turns out to be screw 52B. The Air Arms trigger is therefore much more adjustable, and to a finer degree.

Stage one

Stage one is adjusted by the front screw which is also the shortest one. It presses on the bottom sear (the lever) at a point farthest from the fulcrum. That means it moves farther and applies more energy to the lever, but all it is pushing against is the trigger weight spring, so the effort is miniscule. The further in that screw is adjusted the shorter stage one becomes. The trigger blade stops when it encounters more effort. Now, where would that be?

Stage two

The trigger stops when the stage two screw touches the bottom sear. It is closer to the fulcrum and therefore applies less force because its mechanical advantage is less than the stage one adjustment screw. But the stage one screw is still pushing against the bottom sear, too, so the effort to move the trigger blade increases by an amount that can be felt. This point is felt as the stage two stop just before the gun fires.

Pro-Sport trigger detail
The trigger blade pushes up on the lower sear with the stage one screw until the stage two screw is encountered. This is the stage two stop. Then it pushes up with both screws.

If you understand what I have explained so far you can see why the Air Arms trigger is capable of so much finer adjustment than a Rekord. Both stage one and stage two screws act in unison to control how this trigger responds.

But wait…

Yes, there is more but it’s only found on the Mach II trigger. It’s the other screw that passes through the trigger floorplate next to the pull weight spring. That is a positive trigger stop. If you look at the Air Arms trigger you see there isn’t much room to put in a stop screw like that. So they didn’t. This is the one area in which the two triggers differ.

Summary

What I have shown you today are the fine adjustments that make the Air Arms Pro-Sport and TX200 Mark III triggers the finest adjustable triggers in the sporting spring gun world today. I have told you where the trigger on my rifle is set, but I have avoided messing with it because it is so right on as it is.

So what comes next? I have received a 12 foot-pound tuneup kit from Vortek, and I plan to install it next, then test the gun for velocity and accuracy again. And I hope to mount the Meopta scope for that test. After that, who knows?


Sig Air Super Target: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Super Target
Sig Air Super Target (photo courtesy Sig Sauer).

This report covers:

  • Finally finished
  • What is it?
  • All-metal
  • Adjustable sights
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Safety
  • Power
  • Examination
  • Operation
  • Realism
  • Summary

It’s here! Or at least I now have one — a Sig Air Super Target air pistol to test for you. It’s a single stroke pneumatic target pistol built in the shape of a Sig P210 target pistol.

Sig Super Target P210 target
Sig’s US-made P210 9mm Target pistol is the basis for the new Super Target air pistol. (photo courtesy Sig Sauer).

Finally finished

This is an air pistol we have been awaiting since 2018. I saw a prototype when I visited Sig to see the birth of the ASP20 breakbarrel rifle. The pistol I saw wasn’t functional, but I did get to try the trigger plus feel the heft of the new gun and just from that I felt Sig was birthing another winner. Of course I am a target pistol shooter, so this new handgun hits me in a vulnerable place. But here on the blog we have reviewed both the Beeman P3 and P17 single stroke pistols so recently that I’m in a good position to test this new Sig. It’s even more like the no-holds-barred Weihrauch HW75 single stroke. The HW75 and P3 are the Super Target’s main competitors, so although I don’t compare airguns, it will be difficult not to make some comparisons.

What is it?

Sig’s Super Target is a single stroke pneumatic air pistol. The gun is pumped with air for every shot which means it is a single shot. You cannot pump in more air and get it to shoot faster because the moment the top[ strap is pulled up and forward, any air that was stored in the reservoir is exhausted. There is, however, one trick to boost the velocity a little and I will try it during the velocity test.

All-metal

One big difference between the P3 and the Super Target is the Super Target is all metal. It feels like the firearm it mimics, which makes it a lookalike or replica airgun as well as a target pistol. The pistol weighs 40 ounces, which is more than the firearm it copies. The 9mm P210 Target comes in at 36.9 oz. unloaded.

The grips are genuine walnut! I had to remove one to examine the back because synthetics these days are so realistic. When I did — solid wood! They aren’t checkered or stippled and it would be nice if they were. The firearm grips won’t fit the air pistol because the screw holes are in a different place, but grips that are like the checkered ones on the P210 Target would certainly compliment this pistol. Maybe that could be a nice option?

The Super Target is 10.25-inches overall and has a 7.5-inch barrel. Perhaps that extra barrel length is why I feel that it must be a couple pounds lighter to pump than the P3, or any other equivalent single stroke pistol that we Americans can buy. Of course the pumping effort of the IZH 46M is lighter still, but they aren’t available to us any longer.

Adjustable sights

This is a target pistol, so of course the sights are adjustable. The screw slots are wide and I find an American penny is just right for them. No doubt there are coins in every country for this. The adjustments have clicks you can feel, but I can’t always hear them.

The front sight is a squared post that fits the square notch in the rear well. The fit (post to notch) is close when I am sighting, though. I will have to wear glasses to shoot, but I always wear them when shooting a target pistol. There is no 11mm rail on which to mount a dot sight, so I think optics are out for this one.

Adjustable trigger

I remember that the trigger on the prototype pistol was quite nice, so I’m looking forward to adjusting this one to be the same. As it came it has a light second-stage pull that is definite but there is also just a bit of creep. I will spend the time to see if that can be adjusted out. The manual says not to adjust the trigger lighter than 1,000 grams, which is 2 lbs. 2 oz.

Sig Super Target trigger adjustments
The trigger has 4 adjustment screws. You can adjust pull weight, trigger blade location, length of first stage and length of second stage.

There are adjustments for trigger pull weight, the location of the trigger blade, the length of the first stage and the length of stage two. Each adjustment is a separate screw, so I should be able to get it just the way I like it.

Safety

Well — there isn’t one. Since this is a target pistol, you don’t need one. You only load this gun when you are preparing to shoot. But what if the range is called cold right after you have loaded the gun? That happens all the time. What do you do then to make the pistol safe? The manual says to fire the pistol to unload it, but in this situation that can’t be done. I would just open the top strap as if to pump and load the pistol again. The strap will be pushed up by the compressed air stored inside, so keep your hand over the top strap to contain it. Once the top strap is open there will still be a pellet in the breech, but the pistol cannot fire.

And, since I brought it up, don’t leave a single stroke airgun pumped longer than about 5 minutes. Their pump cup (pump piston seal) is what holds the pressurized air in the gun and leaving it pumped puts too much strain on it.

Power

A target pistol doesn’t need a lot of power — just enough for a wadcutter pellet to punch a clean hole through target paper at 10 meters. Sig rates the Super Target at up to 400 f.p.s. We know that they have a lead free wadcutter lead-free target pellet that is extremely accurate, and I’m thinking that is the one they got that velocity with. We shall see.

Sig sent me a tin of their new lead target wadcutter pellets to test in the gun. They weigh 7.71 grains and Sig’s recommendation is to keep the pellet weight under 8 grains, so that’s what I will do. Their Match Ballistic Alloy pellet weighs only 5.25-grains, so of course they will get tested as well. There are plenty of match pistol pellets that weigh less than 8 grains, so the test is stacking up quite well.

Examination

I went over the pistol and the contents of the case that it comes in — yes, there is a pistol case for this one — and everything looks top-flight. The overall finish is black satin for the metal parts and the wood grips have a satin finish as well. They put the required warnings on the bottom of the frame where they can be seen, but don’t mess up the appearance of the pistol.

Operation

The Super Target works like many other single stroke pneumatics. Pull the hammer back to unlatch the top strap, then lift the top strap and rotate it forward as far as it will go. Load the pellet into the rear of the barrel that is now away from the grip frame. I know that Sig spent extra effort on the clearance for loading, but I will say that all pistols that load this way can be challenging.

Sig Super Target openThis is the pistol all the way open for loading.

Realism

This pistol feels very close to the P210 target pistol. Only the grips are significantly different. Yes, there are no controls on the pistol like a safety, magazine release or slide release, but the gun doesn’t suffer for their lack. In fact it makes for a slimmer sleeker looking pistol!

Summary

We are in for a treat with the Super Target because it is a quality air pistol. Velocity comes next, followed by trigger adjustments.


Pioneer model BB76 BB gun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Pioneer BB gun
Pioneer BB76 BB gun.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • 1976
  • Getting ready to shoot
  • This is a big gun!
  • The firearm
  • And the key!
  • Look for them new in the box
  • Broken
  • Summary

I’ve got a strange one for you today. It’s a copy of a copy! This must be one of the strangest lookalike airguns ever made. And it copies a firearm that is itself just mimicking an era, without copying anything in particular.

1976

The American Bicentennial in 1976 was a gala year-long celebration. Grand parties were held and everyone was euphoric that the nation held together for 200 years. There were no end of special bicentennial commemorative items available. Even the airgun community had one — today’s topic gun, the Pioneer model BB76 BB gun. It is a 50-shot repeating spring-piston BB gun that cocks via a concealed underlever. It looks like a percussion rifle from a century earlier, and I think it was supposed to resemble a flintlock rifle of one additional century earlier. I guess most people don’t know the difference between a flintlock musket and a percussion rifle.

What makes this gun so unusual is that it is a copy of a firearm that itself was copying history. Many air gunners are aware of this BB gun, but have never heard all of the percussion rifle from Japanese company Miroku. I believe the same Japanese company that produced that firearm also made this BB gun, and I will offer proof in a bit.

Pioneer 76 with Miroku rifle
The Pioneer BB76 BB gun (top) was patterned after the Miroku percussion rifle that was a copy of no specific percussion rifle.

At the heart of the BB gun is a mechanism that resembles the Daisy Number 25 slide-action (or “pump”) BB gun. It uses a similar 50-shot forced-feed shot tube, but has a completely different cocking mechanism that is one of the oddities of the BB gun world. It’s an underlever cocking mechanism that cocks the mainspring, but does not ready the gun to fire.

Pioneer 76 cocked
The concealed underlever pulls down and back to cock the BB gun.

The last step in getting it ready is to manually cock the plastic hammer on the right side of the gun. If you don’t do that the trigger will not budge. Once that has been done the gun is ready to fire. You could call the hammer a type of safety. though the way it operates is entirely different from any safety I have ever seen.

Pioneer 76 hammer
The hammer must be pulled all the way back to finish cocking the gun.

Pioneer 76 magazine
The Pioneer uses a copy of Daisy’s 50-shot forced-feed magazine.

Getting ready to shoot

After putting a loaded magazine in the gun, lower the cocking lever until it cocks the action, then return it to its stored position. You might think the gun is ready to go, but it isn’t. You also have to cock the external hammer before the gun will fire. This is a safety feature that also makes this BB gun that much stranger. The hammer is plastic and it cocks so easily you’d swear nothing is happening, but it really does make the gun ready to fire.

The hammer is also the gun’s one weak design spot. I’ve seen guns that wouldn’t fire at all because someone had done something to the hammer. I’ve also seen some that fired independent of the hammer. I always thought the former owners had forced it in some way and broke whatever is inside. Being plastic, it won’t stand much abuse. If you follow the procedure I give here, the gun works fine.

This is a big gun!

At 44.5″, this is a HUGE BB gun; at 4 lbs., it’s not that heavy. It could stand a few more pounds to steady it in the offhand position, but smaller shooters can also appreciate the gun at this weight. The light cocking effort makes this gun available to everyone.

The firearm

I owned the BB gun for 10 years before discovering the duplicate firearm on Gun Broker. They aren’t particularly rare, because they are among the least expensive of the modern percussion replica firearms. That’s true even though they are not really a replica of anything. It looks like a high school art teacher was asked to design a percussion rifle! The cap box is just a decorative plate held on by screws. A decorative brass band around the stock just in front of the triggerguard hides the fact that the forearm is a separate piece of wood — just like on the BB gun. That saves money on wood, because a longer blank is more expensive.

Pioneer 76 patchbox rifle
The rifle’s “patchbox” is just a decorative brass plate attached with screws.

Pioneer 76 patchbox BB gun
The patchbox on the BB gun is even simpler.

And the key!

Here is how I am sure that both the firearm and the BB gun were made by the same company. Because both are marked with the Ultra-Hi name. And the firearm also says it was made by Miroku. Japan is not over-burdened with gun makers and Miroku is one of the biggies — making guns for Browning, Olin (Winchester) and Charles Daly.

Pioneer 76 BB gun inscription
The BB gun was made for the Ultra-Hi Corporation.

Pioneer 76 Rifle inscription
As was the rifle!

Look for them new in the box

Sales of the BB guns must have been disappointing because so many are still new-in-the-box today. But, the airgun community has now recognized this model as special, and you can expect to pay $200 for a good one (that’s like-new in the box). A shooter will cost between $100 and 150. Twenty years ago, they were selling slowly at $75 to $100 because nobody knew what they were.

Broken

Many of these quirky BB guns have broken because of the plastic hammer that is essential to their operation. People don’t understand how they work and either break the fragile hammers or the equally fragile metal triggers by pulling them when the hammer isn’t back. I’ve see them on tables at shows for nearly the same asking price and the words, Needs Repair, on the tag! Don’t fall for it. I know of nobody who puts them right and a good one costs so little more. All the broken ones I have seen, which is about 20, had broken hammers. The hammer wouldn’t stay cocked. I don’t know if I saw the same guns at different shows.

Summary

I will tell you more about this BB gun as the report advances. Next time we will look at the velocity, trigger pull and cocking effort. Any questions?