1896 New King Single Shot: Part 4

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

1896 King
1896 New King single shot BB gun.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • 4.55 mm lead ball
  • Moved to 10 feet
  • The first “group”
  • Second thing I did wrong
  • Correction
  • 4.50 mm ball
  • Marksman BBs
  • Summary

I couldn’t resist! I just had to know how this old girl shot. So today we will find out together.

The test

I started the test at 5 meters, like all BB gun tests. I rested the gun on the UTG monopod and I sat in a chair. I vowed to push all the balls down the barrel with the cleaning rod, but I changed that one time while the test was underway. Let’s get started!

4.55 mm lead ball

First to be tested was the 4.55 mm lead ball that comes as close as possible to the 0.180-inch BB caliber. It measures 0.179-inches in diameter. I fired the first shot and the sound from downrange was not what I expected. So I went and examined the target. There were no holes in the target!

Moved to 10 feet

I then moved my chair so the muzzle of the gun would be about 10 feet from the target. This time the ball hit the paper target, but it did so 1.3-inches below and 1.7-inches to the left of the bull. I had been taking a 6 o’clock hold, which was obviously too low on the target, so I tried to hold for the target’s center for the remainder of the shots. There was a second problem I will mention after I show you this group, but I hadn’t discovered it yet.

The first “group”

1896 King 455 group
At first glance all the shots seem to be in the same vicinity, though not in an especially good group. But that’s deceiving. There is a nick on the target’s edge below and to the right of the dime. And to the left of the Official Competition logo is another hole. This is ten shots in 3.121-inches AT 10 FEET!

Second thing I did wrong

I mentioned that I did something else wrong on the first target and it was how I sighted the gun. The rear notch is extremely wide and the front sight is very low and small, so what I did was hold the tip of the front sight at the bottom of the rear notch. This is called  holding a fine bead when you shoot a muzzleloader and the shape of the rear notch made me do it instinctively. Let me show you.

fine bead
This is a fine bead that I used with the 1896 King. It was set to shoot too low!

Correction

For the next target I tried something different. I started shooting with a high rear sight hold in the center of the bull, but both the first two shots landed low. They are down by the writing at the bottom of the target. So I needed a higher aim point.

I drew a cross above the bullseye to use as an aim point, and I held the front sight up as far in the rear notch as I could. The sight isn’t tall enough to go all the way to the top of the rear notch without some of the barrel showing as well. But I did the best I could. You will see the results of that on the next target.

4.50 mm ball

This time I shot the 4.50 mm lead ball from H&N. With the new sight picture and sight alignment the shots were hitting around the bull!

I could hear that the BBs were rolling all the way down the shot tube, so on the fourth or fifth shot I tried not pushing the cleaning rod down the bore. Big mistake! That one shot landed low and outside the others. Back to the cleaning rod. I shot 10 of these balls with the new sight picture and got a group that measures 3.711-inches between centers. If I hadn’t dropped that one shot the group measures 2.337-inches between centers. But remember — it’s from 10 feet.

1896 King 450 group
When I aimed at the center of the cross on top this is where the 4.50 mm BBs landed. I shot 10 BBs, aiming at the cross. The lowest shot on the left was when I did not push the BB into the breech with the cleaning rod and it opened the group by more than one inch.

Marksman BBs

Do you remember the Marksman BBs that measure 0.176-inches in diameter and are too large for the majority of BB guns? Reader Michael asked whether I had considered testing them and I told him I might, though I thought their small size would make them inaccurate. Well, it did! I can’t tell you the size of a 10-shot group because 10 BBs did not hit the target paper, but the centers of the nine that did are 7-1/4-inches apart! And this is from 10 feet!

1896 King Marksman group
The Marksman oversized BBs did not do well in this gun. Only nine of 10 hit the paper and they are about 7-1/4-inches apart.

Summary

That concludes our look at the 1896 New King BB gun from Markham. I said in Part 2 I thought it could have been more powerful when new. It may have been, and having proper 0.180-inch BB shot might make a tremendous difference in accuracy, given what 0.179-inch balls were able to do. But all of that is just conjecture at this point.

What I do know is the barrel  is still not perfectly straight. As it is this little gun cocks easily and is a joy to shoot. Plus it’s nice to look at. I guess that’s all we can hope for.


1896 New King Single Shot: Part 3

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

1896 King
1896 New King single shot BB gun.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Straightening the barrel
  • 4.55 mm BBs dropped to bottom
  • It also shoots 4.5 mm balls
  • 4.55 mm lead balls
  • Velocity
  • Muzzle energy
  • Oops!
  • 4.50 mm lead balls
  • Discussion
  • What does today’s test give us? 
  • Summary

Today I tell you how straightening the barrel of this century-old BB gun went and then we look at its performance. Last time I shot a single BB out at 157 f.p.s. What will she do today?

Straightening the barrel

Boy, did I ever have a lot of helpers ready to school me on how to straighten this solid brass shot tube! The way some of you talked you would think this thing is going into a NASA satellite!

I straightened the shot tube exactly as I described to you in Part 2, by laying it on a flat steel table (on my vise) and tapping it gently with the wide head of a plastic hammer.

The photo I showed you made it look like there was a single bend in the tube. The truth was the tube was bent in numerous places. It was twisted subtly into a serpentine shape.

I have some experience doing things this way, and in less than 10 minutes I had it much straighter. I also cleaned the inside of the shot tube with a wire bore brush. It’s not perfect, and I doubt it ever will be, but it’s better than it was.

4.55 mm BBs dropped to bottom

After straightening and cleaning the 4.55 mm lead balls dropped all the way down the shot tube to the place where the tube tapers smaller. After maybe 10 shots, though, the BBs began stopping a couple inches up from the bottom and remained that way for a while. I still had to seat the BB into the tapered place with a cleaning rod, but now they all shoot out. And I picked up one additional thing by straightening and cleaning the shot tube.

It also shoots 4.5 mm balls

Now that the ball goes into the tapered place in the shot tube, I can also load 4.50 mm lead balls. They are lighter than the 4.55 mm balls. But, better than that, they are widely available. Where the 4.55 MM balls are expensive and hard to find, the 4.50 mm balls are standard airgun ammunition.

4.55 mm lead balls

These are number 12 zimmerstutzen balls. If you don’t know what that means, read my article on zimmerstutzens. After straightening and cleaning the bore they were stopping about two inches from the bottom of the shot tube. Before I straightened and cleaned the barrel they had been stopping about two inches from the muzzle, so there was definite improvement.

Velocity

The one shot I got with these balls in Part 2 was recorded at 157 f.p.s. That was before the barrel was straightened and cleaned. Today five shots averaged 159 f.p.s. They ranged from a low of 157 to a high of 161 f.p.s. — a difference of 4 f.p.s.

Just for fun I then dropped a ball into the shot tube and did not press it in with a cleaning rod. It did seem to fall all the way into the tapered breech. It came out at 154 f.p.s.

Muzzle energy

The 4.55 mm lead balls weigh from 8.5 to 8.7 grains If we take 8.6 grains as the average, at 159 f.p.s. this little BB gun generates 0.48 foot-pounds at the muzzle. That’s less than a lot of airsoft guns!

Oops!

This little BB gun is not perfect. While I was shooting the 4.55 mm balls, the entire shot tube came out of the gun on one shot! It apparently works free, now that I have removed it so many times and also oiled the airgun liberally.

4.50 mm lead balls

Next I shot H&N 4.50 mm lead balls. Pyramyd Air isn’t stocking them at present, but they do have Gamo 4.50 mm lead balls. The H&N balls I shot weighed a very uniform 8.3 grains. They all seemed to drop into the taper in the shot tube, but to keep both tests the same I also pushed them lightly into the breech with the cleaning rod and discovered that they were already there!

These balls averaged 159 f.p.s. for 5 shots, as well. Their velocity ranged from a low of 157 to a high of 161 f.p.s. a difference of 4 f.p.s. But their lighter weight gave a muzzle energy of 0.47 foot-pounds.

Just for fun I then dropped one of these smaller balls into the muzzle and shot it without pushing it into the breech with the cleaning rod. That one registered 157 f.p.s. on the chronograph. So it does reach the breech.

Discussion

The smaller lead ball may not go faster because there is more room inside the bore for the air to blow past the ball. I don’t want to try any smaller balls because I think accuracy will suffer. Remember that we learned that lesson while testing the Tell BB gun.

What does today’s test give us? 

Today’s little test gives us two lead balls to test for accuracy. I believe I will press all the balls down with the cleaning rod, but not hard. I just want to be certain they are all at the breech.

Summary

Well, this little 120-year-old BB gun still works. It may not have been too much more powerful that this when it was new — maybe 200 to 225 f.p.s.?. It cocks easily and is as light as a feather. Ideal for children!


1896 New King Single Shot: Part 1

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

1896 King
1896 New King single shot BB gun.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • How this happened
  • Detailed history
  • Pop quiz
  • BB shot and air rifle shot sizes
  • Getting ready
  • Good news!
  • Summary

Sometimes we get the rare opportunity to examine something that’s really from the past. Today is such a time. We will begin looking at a New King single shot BB gun from Markham. It is the 1896 model that was made from 1896 until 1905.  Mine was made in either 1900 or 1901, as I will explain.

How this happened

Periodically I look at eBay to see what sort of antique airguns they have and a couple weeks ago I saw this listing. So I went to the Blue Book (the new edition of which should be available by this Christmas) and saw that in 95 percent condition this was a $1,950 BB gun. In 20 percent condition it is a $400 gun. This one is 10 percent at best, which meant that the opening bid of $150 was reasonable. But oddly there were no bidders. So I bid on it and won it without opposition. The listing said that it works, which is far more important to me, and I took a chance that it did. So far — it does!

If you have never seen a BB gun from this era the size might surprise you. It’s very small! The stock is pushed down to cock a mainspring that is surprisingly light. I know it must have lost some force over the century-plus it’s been in existence, but it seems obvious that this BB gun was purposely made for a very young boy or girl. It’s 30.5-inches long and weighs just 1 pound 11.5 ounces.

1896 King broken open
This is how the gun cocks. It’s very easy!

1896 King broken open detail
And here is a detail shot of the gun broken open.

Detailed history

Markham was a BB-gun maker in Plymouth, Michigan, just across the railroad tracks from Daisy. They could very well be the first maker of BB guns.

The Blue Book does not give a lot of history on this model, but I found a website that does. Just prior to my 4th variant gun, the 1896 had a button on top that had to be pressed to release the barrel for cocking. My gun was the first one that used a friction release to keep the barrel closed. It was made in either 1900 or 1901.  My buttstock is rounded on its edges (everyone calls it the oval style), where later buttstocks are slab-sided. Also the muzzle of my gun is rounded, where later muzzles are flat. And my rear sight is pressed into a sheet metal slot and then crimped, where the next version has the rear sight soldered to the gun. It’s not that often that we can pin down a production date this close on a century-old BB gun, but this time we can, because of small variations and lots of good documentation.

No one had solved the problem of welding a thin sheet metal tube together so it was airttight when this gun was made, so the underside of the gun has a soldered patch that runs the full length of the “barrel” (the outer tube that encloses the shot tube, which is the real barrel) to seal the compression chamber against air loss.

The front sight is an extremely small blade and the rear sight is a crude notch. The trigger is a fat cast iron blade that is tilted too far forward and larger hands will find the trigger guard too small. But as I mentioned — this gun was made for children.

1896 King front sight
The front sight is very small, but visible in the rear notch.

1896 King rear sight
The rear sight slips into a base that’s soldered onto the spring tube, and then it’s crimped in place. 

Pop quiz

If you have been reading this blog for awhile you should know the answer to what I am about to ask. What ammunition does this BB gun shoot? If you said 0.180 lead balls, you’re right! That is shotgun shot size BB — with sizes B and BBB bracketing it. It’s the size shot that Clarence Hamilton used for his first BB gun that became the first model Daisy wire stock BB gun.

wire stock Daisy
Daisy’s first model wire stock BB gun wasn’t the first BB gun ever made, but it set the standard for all those that followed. It shot BB-size shot, which is 0.180-inches in diameter.

BB shot and air rifle shot sizes

Daisy dictated the size of shot for all BB guns, by virtue of being the 500 lb. gorilla. So, from 1888 until around 1905, all BB guns shot BB-shot. In 1905 Daisy downsized the shot their guns used from 0.180-inches to 0.175 inches. They changed the name from BB-shot to Air Rifle Shot, and for the next 20 years all their BB guns were made to shoot lead air rifle shot. It shot faster and took less lead so it was less expensive to produce — an important consideration when you are making shot by the billions. In the 1920s they changed the shot again to steel balls, but that’s another story.

1896 King Air Rifle Shot
In 1905 Daisy reduced the shot size to 0.175-inches. It went faster and less expensive to produce.

So, this Markham BB gun was definitely made for BB-shot. But I don’t have any 0.180-inch shot. Or, do I? If you remember the Tell BB gun test, I found that gun shot best with 4.55 MM lead balls. They measure 0.179-inches in diameter. That’s pretty close so maybe they would work? Several shots demonstrate that they do work!

Getting ready

This BB gun is more than a century old and as you can see it has led a hard life. But a BB gun mechanism is robust and prone to last a long time. The Army shot several Daisys more than 20 million times each during their Quick Kill training at Ft. Benning. No way has this gun had even one one-hundredth as much use! It’s just not been cared for.

I know without a doubt that the plunger is sealed with leather, so I dropped 10 drops of Crosman Pellgunoil down the muzzle and stood the gun on its butt overnight. And here is a tip. Some of these guns will leak oil out the back of the action when you do this, so I stood mine inside my large kitchen-type plastic wastepaper basket that’s next to my desk. It held the gun muzzle-up and kept any oil off the carpet.

This is a single-shot BB gun and it’s loaded from the muzzle — just like a Daisy 499. The bore is tapered in the back and the shot jams itself in when the barrel narrows.

Good news!

The really good news is that as I was reading one of my short stories in my book, BB Guns Remembered, I discovered how to get another old BB gun I have up and working again. So today’s report will precede a report on one of the most beautiful BB guns ever made. But first we finish looking at this one.

Summary

This will be as complete a test as I can give, but don’t look for this gun to surprise us. It represents where BB gun technology was a century ago — in the days of, “I’m just glad that it shoots!”


Tell BB gun: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BB gun
This military-looking BB gun is large and good-looking!

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Lead balls only
  • The test
  • 4.4mm copper-plated lead balls
  • Trigger pull
  • 4.4mm Punktkugeln
  • H&N 4.45mm lead ball
  • What we know
  • The last step
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the Tell BB gun. I think this is going to be a very interesting report, so let’s get started.

Lead balls only

I waited to do this test because I was considering what to do about the inaccuracy of steel BBs. At two feet they were spreading out to three inches apart. That would mean that at 5 meters (16 feet) the spread would be several FEET. I thought about shooting them closer to the target but what’s the point? If they are that inaccurate I’m never going to shoot them anyway. So I decided to run this accuracy test at the standard 5-meter distance with larger lead balls.

The test

I shot from a seated position, 5 meters from the target. I used the UTG Monopod to rest the gun on. I used a 6-o’clock hold on the bull.

4.4mm copper-plated lead balls

The first balls I shot were the 4.4mm copper-plated lead balls that I bought to shoot in my Haenel 310. I measured a couple of them after the test and they measure 0.1715 to 0.172-inches in diameter. That’s about the same as the Daisy Premium Grade steel BBs I tested in Part 2. I thought they were larger than that. According to my caliper 4.4mm is 0.1735-inches. My conversion software says 4.4mm is 0.1732-inches. Well, these balls don’t measure that wide.

I shot just 4 times at the target and stopped when 4 balls went into 5.57-inches between centers. I could see these balls were not that accurate and I stopped before I had an accident.

Trigger pull

The Tell trigger is two-stage and works well some of the time. The rest of the time it fires before I am ready, so the hold has to be perfect. The trigger is light, but too vague for good work.

copper ball
Four 4.4mm copper-plated balls went into 5.57-inches at 5 meters and I stopped shooting them. When I measured the balls they were smaller than advertised.

This is such a robust gun that I was hoping it would be as accurate as a Daisy 499. It sure is fun to shoot!

4.4mm Punktkugeln

The next ball I shot was another 4.4mm lead ball, but these measured a little larger than the others. They are a very uniform 4.4mm in diameter and my caliper says they measure 0.173-inches. The slight difference between these 4.4mm balls and when I just set the caliper at 4.4mm and pushed the button to convert from millimeters to inches confuses me, but that’s what it is.

This time all 10 balls stayed on the paper target at 5 meters. They went high and to the right of the bull and I can’t do anything about that because the gun’s sight doesn’t adjust very much. So, I just shot the group. Ten balls went into 3.7-inches, c-t-c at five meters. That’s a big group, for sure, but it’s ten shots instead of four.

4.4mm lead ball
Ten 4.4mm lead balls made this 3.7-inch group at 5 meters. It’s large but all 10 shots are on the paper. I didn’t use the dime because why would I?

Okay, I was seeing an increase in accuracy as the size of the ball increased. So I went to a larger ball.  I had a tin of H&N 4.45mm balls and had tested them in the Part 2 velocity test. Now I shot them at the target.

H&N 4.45mm lead ball

Ten 4.45mm lead balls went into a group that measures 3.06-inches between centers. As before a diameter increase in the ball produced a smaller group. There is something to be learned here.

This time 9 of 10 balls were on the paper and one was slightly off to the right. I photographed the target in situ for you.

4.45 in situ
One ball at the high right just missed the target paper. And two balls went through the same hole. Ten 4.45mm lead balls measure 3.06-inches between centers at 5 meters.

4.45
Same target with just the shots that hit the paper. Nine of 10 4.45mm balls are in this 3.06-inch group. The ball that missed the paper did not enlarge the group.

What we know

So far we have learned that the larger the ball, the more accurate this gun shoots. But what is larger than 4.45mm? Why 4.5mm, of course. I loaded 10 Beeman Perfect rounds into the gun and shot the next target. This was the first ball that did not fall into the barrel all the way to the breech. I used a .177 Dewey cleaning rod to press the ball all the way down. But after 5 shots the balls began to fall all the way down by themselves. I still used the rod to check that each ball was all the way down.

Ten Beeman Perfect Rounds went into a group measuring 1.96-inches between centers at 5 meters. Another group reduction with a larger ball!

Beeman rounds
Now we are getting somewhere. Ten 4.5mm Beeman perfect rounds made this 1.96-inch group at 5 meters.

The last step

Okay, have I gone as far as I can go? Not quite. Because I shoot and write about zimmerstutzens, I have acquired a small sample of different size lead balls over the years. One ball is a 4.55mm size. It’s called a number 12 ball, which is the new size designation. The old size number was 9.

number 12 balls
I had a tin of 4.55mm balls.

And, look what they did. Ten balls went into 0.877-inches at 5 meters.

4.55 group
Ten 4.55mm balls in 0.877-inches at 5 meters.

I think the last group confirms what I suspected. The shot tube prefers larger balls. I can’t do anything about the shot placement that is still high and right, but the grouping is a clear indication of what this BB gun wants.

Summary

This was an interesting test, because we got to watch as the tolerances shrunk, so did the groups. That is an important lesson for anyone who is involved in smoothbore shooting.


What is “lock time”?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

How fast does black powder burn?
What is lock time?
Why does lock time matter?
Lock time for firearms
Rimfire cartridges were the problem
Summary

I’m writing this report because of a discussion we had on the blog a couple weeks back where readers were using the term lock time inappropriately. Don’t fret — most shooters do the same.

They were talking about the time a pellet stays inside the barrel of an airgun when it fires and calling it lock time. It isn’t. I promised then to address the subject and today is the day. Lock time relates only to a flintlock firearm.

How fast does black powder burn?

When it is unconfined, black powder that is used in black powder guns burns fast with a whoosh. It’s not as fast as photographic flash powder, but it is much faster than smokeless gunpowder. Here is a short video on photographic flash powder, to give you some idea of how fast that is.

Now black powder unconfined isn’t that fast, but it does burn quickly. When it is confined, such as when it’s packed inside a barrel, black powder detonates and burns at a rate of 11,000 f.p.s. That’s a little slower than half the speed of TNT, which burns at 22,700 f.p.s. when it detonates. TNT is called a high explosive and black powder is called a low explosive.

Now let’s look at the burning rate of unconfined black powder.

So, inside the firearm the speed of the black powder burning is near-instantaneous. It’s MUCH faster than smokeless powder that burns in a curve that changes as the internal pressure changes. But — and this is the whole point of today’s report — when not confined black powder burns much slower. It looks like a fast flash to us but it’s really much slower.

What is lock time?

Lock time is the term used to discuss how long a flintlock takes to ignite the main charge inside the barrel. It only refers to flintlocks — something I have to stress, because to use it any other way is to use it without meaning. Oh, two shooters can have a casual conversation and both understand what they are talking about when the term lock time is used, because they are both tacitly agreeing on what the term means. It would be like a shooter telling you his new .44 Magnum pistol had a lot of horsepower. You would know what he meant, even though a .44 Magnum pistol has very little real horsepower — maybe as little as 2. One horsepower is equal to 550 foot-pounds per second and a .44 Magnum bullet can develop 1,015 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

I used to own a .36-caliber flintlock rifle that had a very fast lock time. It was so fast that I could shoot that rifle accurately. I will explain why that was in a moment. However a few years ago I bought a flintlock fowler that has a much slower lock time. It is so slow that you can detect the difference between the flash in the pan and the ignition of the main charge. Let’s see that now.

I called it a rifle in the video but it is really a smoothbore fowler. That fact has no affect on lock time though.

Why does lock time matter?

You aim a rifle with the sights. Your sighting eye is wide open and focused on the front sight. It is also less than 12 inches from the flash in the pan that you saw in the earlier videos, where burning black powder throws burning embers all around. Your eyes are not safe when shooting a flintlock. Shooters who shoot flintlocks learn to close their eyes just before firing. If you expand the window to watch me fire the flintlock on full screen you will see that even though I’m wearing safety glasses I close my eyes just before the gun fires. If you watch the movie The Patriot, in the final battle between the continental army and the British redcoats you can see continental soldiers closing their eyes and even turning their heads to the side before firing their muskets. They were smoothbores anyway, so accuracy wasn’t as much of a big deal.

If the lock acts fast, the time between sighting for the final time and the gun firing will be short. If lock time is slow, like it is in the video above, that time will be longer and the shots will go wider.

If you have only fired a percussion muzzleloader, none of this will make any sense. As far as you are concerned, lock time is instantaneous. There is practically zero difference between a percussion gun and one that fires cartridges. But the first time you shoot a flintlock you’ll understand. Lock time matters!

The touch hole that connects the pan to the main charge in the barrel is the primary cause of slow lock times.  We are talking about times of 34-42 milliseconds for the gun to fire after the hammer starts to fall.

Flintlock shooters will drill out their touch holes and install liners that direct the fire from the pan to the main powder charge. There is even a custom gunsmithing service to speed up lock time! Flintlock shooters are as concerned about their touch holes as aigunners are about their air transfer ports.

Lock time for firearms

The lock time conversation spilled over into the rimfire target guns. Shooters wanted triggers that were lightning fast — as though the time the trigger took to act mattered. In 1930 Winchester changed the trigger on their Model 52 target rifle to a new “speed lock” design. Smallbore target shooters were convinced that faster ignition would lead to better scores. 

The Remington model 37 target rifle had the “miracle trigger.” The trigger blade did not move when squeezed, yet the rifle fired. They felt that this would eliminate rifle movement as the trigger was pulled.

Rimfire cartridges were the problem

The priming inside the rim of rimfire cartridges was to blame for their inaccuracy and still is today. Unless it is remarkably uniform, the cartridges don’t ignite in the same way every time and that is an offshoot of the lock time issue we have been discussing. It’s why air rifles have risen in some precision shooting sports (like BR-50 International).

Summary

Now you know what lock time is and why it matters. We need other terms for the time pellets remain in the barrels of our airguns after they fire.


SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Virtus AGE right
SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG right side.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • 110 mainspring
  • BUT
  • Prediction
  • Changing the mainspring
  • Assembly
  • Performance
  • 0.20-gram BBs
  • Rock and roll
  • 0.25-gram BBs
  • Battery
  • Summary

Today we’re going to have a little fun. I know some of you would like to work on spring-piston airguns but you just don’t want to jump into the deep end of the pool — as in buying expensive tools like a mainspring compressor and parts that may or may not work as you expect. Today we are going to change the mainspring in the SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun, and we will do it with two Allen wrenches — nothing more! This is a job any of you can do. Then we’ll test the velocity of the gun and see what impact the new spring has made.

110 mainspring

You may recall that Sig bundles a 110 spring with the Virtus, while the 120 spring comes installed in the gun. First off — what do the numbers 110 and 120 mean? That rating relates to how fast that spring will propel a 0.20-gram BB in meters per second. So a 120 spring should propel a 0.20-gram BB at 120 meters per second, which is 394 f.p.s. That’s regardless of what airsoft gun it’s in.  A 110 spring should propel the same BB at 110 meters per second, which is 361 f.p.s.

BUT

Airsoft springs are also rated with an M or an S (which can also be an SP). The M spring is the one that’s rated to toss a 0.20-gram BB as described above. The S or SP spring is rated for a 0.25-gram BB. The velocity in meters per second remains the same, but since the 0.25-gram BB is heavier, the gun will naturally be even faster with a lighter BB. So the higher the number the stronger the spring and M versus S or SP also figures in.

The 110 replacement spring that comes with the Virtus is an M110 spring, and Sig recommends using 0.20-gram BBs in the gun. They don’t say anywhere that I can see whether the 120 spring that comes installed is an M or an S, but given the ammo recommendation, I believe it is also an M120 spring.

So, what sort of velocity did we see from the 0.20-gram BBs with the 120 spring installed? Sig said to expect a 370 f.p.s. velocity, but we saw an average 410 f.p.s. speed. What I just explained was what the manufacturers say to expect from a 120 spring — 394 f.p.s. That’s real close to 410 f.p.s., so again, I think the gun had an M spring. An S120 spring would have given 394 f.p.s. with 0.25-gram BBs and probably 430 f.p.s with 0.20-gram BBs. Of course, that’s just my guess.

Prediction

So, the Virtus that I’m testing shot on the fast side with its M120 spring — assuming I am correct about it being an M-rated spring. Therefore, I predict that it will also shoot on the fast side with the M110 spring. Instead of 361 f.p.s. I predict a 0.20-gram BB will average 380 f.p.s. I am writing this before shooting the first shot with the new spring.

Changing the mainspring

Changing the mainspring is very easy. First, extend the wire buttstock all the way and then remove the 3mm Allen screw on the right side, where the stock meets the receiver, and the entire stock slips up and off the receiver. By the way, the Virtus manual says the screw is 8mm, but it’s actually 3mm — no doubt a mistake in transcription. When the screw is out, a plastic keeper that it passes through also comes out and the stock slips up and off the rear of the receiver. When reinstalling the stock make sure the V-notches on both sides of the receiver line up with the two heavy wires in the stock.

Virtus AEG stock off
With the screw and keeper out of the stock the entire  assembly slips up and off the receiver.

Once the buttstock assembly is off the gun, the rear of the spring guide is exposed. The manual calls it a screw that you turn 180 degrees, but it’s actually a bayonet keeper. Turning 180 degrees aligns the flanges of the keeper with their raceways and the mainspring pushes the keeper out. Remember that the keeper is under spring pressure, so pressing in on the wrench helps loosen it for turning.

Virtus AEG receiver
With the stock off the rear of the spring guide (arrow) is exposed. Insert a 5mm Allen wrench and turn the guide counter-clockwise 180 degrees.

Virtus AEG  spring out
When the bayonet lugs align, the spring guide is free to come out. This is how far the 120 spring pushes the guide out. You can restrain it easily with your hand.

The two springs compare in this way. The 120 spring is made from heavier wire and the 110 spring is longer — though that may change after a few weeks in the gun. Both springs are wound with what the airsoft industry calls irregular pitch, which means some coils are closer than others. That allows the spring to start compressing easier and then increase in tension the more it’s compressed. It’s supposed to be easier on gearboxes, though you will find a lot of arguments on both side of that issue!

Virtus springs
The softer M110 spring is on top and the 120 is below. It’s not easy to see, but the 120 spring is made from heavier wire. Both springs are wound with an irregular pitch.

Assembly

The Virtus goes back together the reverse of the way it came apart. And it’s just as easy as it sounds. It’s taken me a long time to describe a process that took me 20 minutes to perform — again with just two Allen wrenches.

Performance

Now, let’s find out what installing this lighter spring has done for us.

0.20-gram BBs

First to be tested were 0.20-gram BBs. I believe I am out of the BBs Sig sent with the gun so I used 0.20-gram TSD competition BBs. The average velocity for 10 was 380 f.p.s. Sometimes old BB gets it right on the nose!

The spread went from a low of 370 to a high of 383 f.p.s., so a 13 f.p.s. difference. With the 120 spring the average was 410 f.p.s. with a 6 f.p.s. spread.

Rock and roll

I emptied the magazine on full auto and truthfully could not tell any difference in the cyclic rate this time versus with the 120 spring. There may be some but it’s pretty small.

0.25-gram BBs

Next I tried the same Open Blaster 0.25-gram BBs that I shot before with the heavier spring installed. The average this time was 343 f.p.s. with a 5 f.p.s. spread from 340 to 345 f.p.s. With the 120 spring the average was 365 f.p.s. with a 2 f.p.s. velocity spread. At the end I dumped the magazine on full-auto again, remembering to fire a couple shots on semi-auto afterwards to relax the spring.

I did not load heavier BBs for testing. I think the 0.25-gram BBs are as heavy as I would go with this spring, given the velocity we have seen.

So, the 110 spring varies in velocity slightly more than the 120. Of course this spring is brand new and may settle down a bit after a few thousand rounds have been fired.

Battery

I would like to point out that the battery has never been recharged since I started the test and it is still going strong. Not only has it fired many hundreds of rounds including lots of blank shots, it has also been stored charged for two months.

Summary

Next we test the gun for accuracy. If the accuracy is reasonably equivalent to the 120 spring I think I will leave the 110 spring installed. It is no doubt a little easier on the gearbox.

This Virtus AEG is a serious airsoft gun, as I have maintained all along. This is the kind of equipment a skirmisher wants to have for close-quarters battle!


What is the attraction of replica airguns?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Today’s report
  • HOWEVER
  • Taste
  • Replicas used for training
  • And, there is more!
  • Engraved Colt Single Action
  • And then…
  • One more reason
  • Summary

Before I begin let me tell you that I won a Slavia 618 in an Ebay auction and it is on it’s way to me now. I bought it because so many readers have talked about that model over the years and I have never even shot one. In my youth I owned a Slavia 621 (622?) breakbarrel for a short time. I found nothing outstanding about it and it eventually got away from me.

Many years later I acquired a Slavia 631 that I did like and shoot a lot. But it had a hinky automatic safety that turned me off so much that I — well, the truth be told, I don’t know what happened to that rifle. For all I know I may still have it laying around somewhere. You can read about it in a 2011 two-part report than was supposed to have a part 3 that never got written.

But many readers have written about their love of the Slavia 618. Every time I drone on about the Diana 27 they respond with the Slavia 618. So, I broke down and found one on Ebay. It wasn’t expensive and the seller says it’s shooting well, so we shall see. If it needs attention, the parts are also available on Ebay, so we will have even more fun!

Today’s report

Reader Yogi prompted today’s report with his comment to yesterday’s post.

“I do not understand the fascination with realistic replica airguns?  In the 60’s they would put fiberglass bodies on VW chassis.  The cars looked like junk and drove like junk!  Anybody remember Fiberfab?  Replica airguns remind me of Fiberfab.”

That remark got my creative juices flowing. I didn’t want to try to change Yogi’s opinion, because he is entitled to think any way he wants. I just wanted to give my thoughts about what people see in replica airguns.

HOWEVER

But reader Chris USA responded to Yogi’s remark with this,

“I was not old enough to drive until the mid 70’s,…. but I remember the “dune buggies” with fiberglass bodies over a VW platform. Pretty cool I thought and still do. There is a couple on nice ones running around in the local town. One is painted tangerine metal flake and the other peril-ized purple. I could overlook performance and handling issues just to have one.”

To that remark Yogi went one step too far when he responded,

“Chris,Watch the “Thomas Crown Affair”! A well fabricated Meyer Manx is a completely different animal.”

So, Yogi, your statement proves that you do understand why people like certain replicas. You just don’t happen to care for replica airguns.

Taste

What we are talking about today is the subjective topic of personal taste. Ain’t no accounting for it — that’s for sure! As the Grinch would say,

“One man’s toxic waste is another man’s potpourri” 

which he told his dog, Max, was some kind of soup.

Replicas used for training

I have written a lot about the Hakim replica pellet rifle that was made by Anschütz in 1954 for the Egyptian army.

Hakim trainer
Anschütz made the .22-caliber air rifle trainer for the 8mm Egyptian army Hakim battle rifle. This one has a gorgeous replacement walnut stock and handguard.

Well, instead of going from the firearm to the airgun replica, I went the other way. I owned many Hakim airgun trainers and so I bought a Hakim firearm.

The Hakim battle rifle was a semiautomatic  rifle that was chambered for the 8mm Mauser. The Egyptians built that rifle based on the Swedish 6.5mm Ljungman semiautomatic rifle whose design and tooling they purchased after WW II. Something like 70,000 Hakims were made and it is referred to as the “poor man’s Garand,” because it was the Garand that inspired the armies of the world to want semiautomatic battle rifles following WW II. The airgun trainer was a way for the Egyptian troops to practice with a rifle of similar size and shape without expending the costly 8mm firearm ammunition.

Hakim rifle
My 8mm Egyptian Hakim battle rifle.

Hakims have risen to very high levels of value in the past several years — especially if their bores are not corroded from firing military ammunition, as so many were. I stumbled onto one in pristine condition years ago at a gun show and the seller had no idea of what he had. I got it for a very reasonable price. However, owning it gave me the opportunity to shoot it and I can tell you with authority that it is NOT like the M1 Garand in any way! It’s not that accurate, it’s parts are too finely machined to withstand any sort of dirt and it ruins the brass cartridge case when it is ejected after firing. BUT — I am still fascinated by it because it is such a rare and wondrous thing! Yogi, that isn’t meant to change your mind, but it does explain my fascination for the Hakim air rifle.

And, there is more!

It doesn’t end there, either. Because the Egyptians didn’t stop with just an air rifle trainer for their Hakim. No — they also purchased a 10-shot .22 rimfire Hakim trainer from Beretta!

Hakin Beretta
Beretta made this 10-shot semiautomatic trainer for the Hakim battle rifle.

The .22 rimfire Beretta trainer is quite rare. I have no idea of how many were produced, but as an interested collector I have only seen two. The last one sold on Gun Broker recently for just under $1,700! 

So, what we have with the Hakim is a precision-made battle rifle that lacks real-world reliability for combat (it cannot take the dirt and sand that field use creates), and its two trainers that are very much desired by collectors! Yogi, I don’t know what to make of that, but there is an attraction.

Engraved Colt Single Action

I grew up in the cowboy era. My heroes were the Long Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers. And they all carried Colt single action revolvers. So I was interested in Colt single actions.

I read Guns & Ammo as teenager and poured over pictures of single actions in the articles. And the prettiest ones were those that were engraved. I learned the names of the 19th century engravers and also the names of the top gun engravers of my own time — the 1960s. Alvin A. White was probably the best-known of all 20th century gun engravers, but I also knew of Heidimarie Hiptmayer and others of her ilk. Ironically, a man I now call my friend was and still is one of America’s finest gun engravers — Scott Pilkington. But I digress.

As beautiful as engraved single actions are, I never could afford one. Today a new Colt single action retails for more than $2,000. An engraved one will easily top $4,000, and, if the work was done by an engraver with a world-class reputation, you can double that again. If the gun of interest was engraved by A.A. White, add a zero at the right. There is no way I can afford to own a gun like that, and even if I had that kind of money there is no way I would spend that much for one! But, Yogi, that doesn’t quench my desire.

And then…

And then Pyramyd Air, in their infinite wisdom, decided to have a few of their Colt Single Action airguns engraved! I think Edith and I may have had something to do with their decision, because I remember us talking about the possibility. And, when Edie saw the stars in my eyes as I related my childhood fascination with engraved single actions, she made certain that one came my way.

Are they hand engraved by world-class craftsmen? Certainly not! There is no way you could get one of them to touch a piece of work for as little as these engraved airguns retail for! Are they as good as an Alvin White engraving? Again no. No more than the pace car of an Indianapolis 500 race is as fast as the race cars on the track. No doubt the engraving is somehow done mechanically though they do say it is done by hand, so there is some uniqueness and pride of ownership. But automated tools are the only way it could be done and keep the cost as low as it is. The fact that the outer shells of such airguns are made of metal that’s softer than steel no doubt helps a lot.

Engraved SAA
My engraved Colt SAA BB pistol is very attractive.

My neighbor, Denny, who has made walnut display plaques for several of my guns told me he thought the Single Action Army was the most beautiful handgun that existed. When I showed him this engraved model, I saw the same excitement in his eyes that I had as a youngster. So it wasn’t just me. It was a matter of taste, and Denny and I share a similar tastes for this handgun.

One more reason

We have now looked at two good reasons why replica airguns are attractive to some people. The first was their historical use, such as the story of the Hakim trainers. The second was a matter of personal taste — such as engraved Colt single actions. Or, in Yogi’s case, a Meyers Manx over all other dune buggies in the world.

But there is one more big reason to have a replica. Either you cannot get the gun that it copies — such as living in a restrictive community, or the gun it copies is simply too rare to allow for handling and even operation. Such is the case with the FP45 Liberator pistol of World War II. Made by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors at a delivered price of $2.10 per unit, the Liberator was an unrifled “zip” gun that was designed to be dropped to resistance fighters — for their use in capturing their own firearms from enemy military forces.

Liberator
One million FP45 Liberator pistols were made for $2.10 apiece by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors in World War II.

I once owned a genuine Liberator, but I never fired a round from it. Good thing, too, because the crude weldings would quickly give way, and the pistol would be destroyed. About a million were produced, but not so many remain. Only a few were ever distributed; most were unused and destroyed after the war.

So many collectors were interested in the Liberator that, instead of the real thing at $2,500-5,000, a working replica is available from Vintage Ordinance in the box with instructions for just over $650. This one is made from better steel and has a serial number and a rifled barrel to comply with U.S. law. It looks quite similar to the original but is made far better and is actually intended for limited use.

Yogi, you buy this replica because you don’t want to damage an original and because this one is legal to own and safe(er) to fire. No, it’s not an airgun, but about 20 years ago I told Wolf Pflaumer, the founder of Umarex, that this would be a great pistol for what was to become his “Legends” line.

Summary

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!