The EM GE Zenit air pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

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

Part 1

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • What should I do?
  • RWS Hobby
  • Leakage at the breech
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Trigger pull
  • The grip
  • Cocking effort
  • Summary

I wanted to run 45Bravo’s guest blog about resealing the Crosman 38T today, but it’s long and has a lot of pictures, and today is busy for me, so instead I will test the EM GE Zenit that we started looking at on Monday.

What should I do?

Only one person responded to this request that I listed as a questioin at the end of the last report. Reader 1stblue said I should oil the piston seal. That’s what I was looking for. Now, how is it done? What I did is stand the piston on it’s grip with the muzzle pointed straight up and drop 5 drops of Crosman Pellgunoil down the muzzle. Then I let the pistol stand that way for a day. That gives the oil time to run down the bore and through the air transfer port to get onto and soak into the leather piston seal.

It did work, though I will have more to say about it in a bit. So now let’s look at the velocity. I shot two shots just to get the oil out of the barrel. Then I shot the following with Air Arms Falcon pellets.

Shot………Vel.
1…………..262
2…………..276
3…………..291
4…………..281
5…………..284
6…………..293
7…………..294
8…………..285
9…………..297
10…………299
11…………296
12…………297
13…………299
14…………293
15…………291

I show you this string because it shows that the pistol is still settling down after being oiled. Where to start counting for the record is arbitrary, but I decided to let the first five shots go and start counting at shot 6. If I do that, the average velocity for shots 6 through 15 is 294 f.p.s. I always round off to the closest whole number.

Taking my string, the low is 285 and the high is 299 f.p.s. — a spread of 14 f.p.s for 10 shots. And an average energy of 1.41 foot-pounds.

So, 294 f.p.s for Falcons. That’s a little faster than I expected from the Zenit. Let’s try a different pellet.

RWS Hobby

The next pellet I’ll try is the RWS Hobby wadcutter. I know that the Hobby, though lighter, is also larger at the skirt. And the Zenit isn’t very powerful, so I expected a velocity decrease.

Ten Hobby pellets averaged 237 f.p.s., which was a bit slower than I envisioned. The low was 224 and the high was 259, so the spread was 35 f.p.s. At the average velocity the Hobby produced 0.87 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Leakage at the breech

Some of you wondered how well this pistol seals at the breech. You didn’t see an over-center cocking link on the pistol and frankly there isn’t one. Because of the oiling, the pistol was dieseling and I saw smoke come out of the breech contact point under the top strap on every shot.

The breech seal is in fine shape. This is a design flaw, not a seal issue. Yes, I could spend the time to make a new leather breech seal that would seal better for a while, but before too long we would be right back where we started from. This seal relies on a butt joint fit and nothing else. It’s always going to leak a little.

Zenit breech detail
The leather breech seal sits flush with the air transfer port in a butt joint. The cocking link holds it down, against the air transfer port. 

JSB Exact RS

The last pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain JSB Exact RS dome. Ten averaged 287 f.p.s. with a 27 f.p.s. spread from 273 to 300 f.p.s. At the average velocity the RS pellet developed 1.34 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Trigger pull

The first stage takes 3 lbs. 2 oz. Stage two breaks at 5 lbs. 7.5 oz. Both stages feel two pounds lighter because of the trigger placement.

The grip

The pistol grip looks nice and rounded, but the heel of my shooting hand hits the bottom of the grip on the right side and it doesn’t feel as nice as it looks. It’s odd because a P08 Luger looks so similar and yet it feels so much better!

Cocking effort

A couple readers thought the top strap might be hard to lift up in the beginning, but it isn’t. Instead of an over-center cocking linkage geometry, all that holds the top strap down are two dimples in the metal on either side of the cocking lever, back by the breech.

Zenit breech detail
The breech is held closed by two dimples in the cocking lever — one on either side of the pistol. They fit into two depressions on an extension of the frame. They may push the barrel back ever-so-slightly but it’s hard to tell. It’s a simple arrangement and it works, but the breech will always leak a little.

The Zenit cocks with just 10 pounds of effort. And, since you use your thumb to press against the cocking lever while your hand pulls the lever up and forward, it feels like even less. This air pistol cocks easily.

Summary

Well, that’s it for today. The EM GE Zenit is a pleasant little air pistol. It’s easy to cock and has a nice trigger pull. I just hope that it’s also accurate.


The EM GE Zenit air pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

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

History of airguns

This report covers:

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

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

History

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

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

Grips

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

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

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

Cocking

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

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

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

Anti-beartrap

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

Repeater

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

Barrel

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

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

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

Zenit name
The name is Zenit.

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

Sights

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

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

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

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

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

Danger!

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

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

Direct sear

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

Power

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

Diana model IV

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

Summary

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

Velocity testing is next. What should I do?


Mondial Oklahoma spring-piston pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Oklahoma
The Mondial Oklahoma pistol.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

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

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

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

The test

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

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

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

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

What worked

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

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

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

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

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

On a roll

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

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

15 feet

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

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

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

Air Arms Falcon pellets

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

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

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

Norma S-Target Match

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

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

One last test

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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


Let’s have fun!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Background
  • A powerful breakbarrel rifle
  • A new multi-pumpA hunting pellet
  • Youth target pellet rifle
  • You’re cookin’
  • What’s this?
  • Seen it all before
  • Summary

How about a weekend of fun? I have a game for everyone. It came to me yesterday as I was writing the report about the Norma S-Target Match pellet. It occurred to me that was a long name for a pellet. So, what name would be better?

Background

There is a back story to today’s report. When I went to Fort Lewis, Washington, for ROTC Summer Camp in 1968, I spent several days in Vancouver, British Columbia, before reporting to camp. I was traveling with a buddy and we just wanted to see the sights up there. I remember seeing my first Canadian car — an Acadian Invader! It looked like a Pontiac to me, and when we saw a Beaumont, which was an upscale model, we knew that’s what it was. I have since learned that GM Canada used both Pontiac and Chevrolet platforms for what they made and sold to our northern cousins — eh!

That experience started me on a lifetime of pondering product names, and today I’d like us to generate some product names for airguns and related products. I’ll get you started.

A powerful breakbarrel rifle

Let’s pretend that we are the marketing team responsible to come up with a name for a new .25-caliber breakbarrel hunting rifle our company is about to bring out. It’s large, very powerful and extremely hard to cock. Here are the names the team has come up with so far.

Harvester 30 (for 30 foot-pounds in .25 caliber — from the president of the company)
Super Schuetzen (from old Dan the engineer, who’s been with the company 35 years)
YZP25 (from Carl, who thinks letters and numbers are better than words)
Ulysses 25 (from Donna, who thinks the rifle is too hard to cock)

Can you do better?

A new multi-pump

We have just sourced a new multi-pump air pistol from Taiwan. It’s .177 only and very accurate. It has a good 3-pound trigger and crisp adjustable sights. The manufacturer calls it the Brilliant Light. What should we call it?

A hunting pellet

We just struck a deal with a Brazilian pellet manufacturer. They have a high-tech .22-caliber hollowpoint hunting pellet that expands to twice its diameter at just 500 f.p.s. We have seen it demonstrated and it does work, so we will be selling it in the U.S. It is a domed pellet that has cuts in the hollow dome that open immediately when meeting resistance. It flies like a dome and opens like a hollowpoint. In Brazil they call it the Mako Shark. Here are the team’s suggestions.

Donna wants to call it the Lotus22 because it opens like a flower.
Carl wants to call it the DQP22
The president wants to call it the Meg22
Dan wants to call it the 22 Expander

Oh, on this one the art department is limiting the number of characters in the name to 12, including spaces. That’s because the name has to fit on a label on the tin and be recognizable on a storeroom shelf.

Youth target pellet rifle

The company has just struck a deal to purchase the rights to the Air Venturi Bronco from Mendoza. We want to make the rifle easier to cock (by lengthening the barrel jacket), to slim down the stock considerably and install target-style sights — with a peep sight in the rear and a hooded front sight that takes replaceable inserts. The president of the company likes the Bronco’s two-blade trigger for both its safety and for its smooth release. The straight Bronco would sell to us for $95 if we commit to purchase 1,000. With a Mendoza peep sight, a hooded front sight and an adjustable trigger stop (just a screw through the triggerguard) that we will install until the Mendoza factory gets up to speed, our cost rises to $119.00. We have to add $40 to that cost for modifying the trigger stops in-house on the first 100 rifles, to give Mendoza time to gear up for it, but the decision has been made to amortize that expense across the first 1,000 sales.

The president has told our team that he sees this rifle as an upscale youth target rifle that can compete in the Student Air Rifle program (SAR). He plans on charging $175 to SAR competitors and clubs and $225 to the general public.

He wants a name that conveys quality, excellence and value. What do we call it?

The president also wants a name for the trigger.

You’re cookin’

Okay, that should get your creative juices flowing. Now, name the following products.

A 10-40X60 scope with a 34mm tube that has a mil-dot reticle with illuminated dots that the shooter controls. The shooter determines which dot gets illuminated. This scope is no longer than a 4-16, and just as bright at 40X as the 4-16 is at 16X.

A precharged pneumatic that has a huge air reservoir and a max fill pressure of 1,800 psi. In .177 caliber it fires JSB 10.34-grain domes at 950 f.p.s. and gets 60 shots per fill. The rifle weighs 8 lbs. without a scope, due to a type IV carbon fiber reservoir. There is no regulator but the balanced valve gives all 60 shots with a maximum 18 f.p.s. spread. Twenty-two and twenty-five calibers will follow if the .177 is successful. The projected price will be $1,200.

A new wadcutter pellet with a thin ring of lead around the edge of the nose. Testing has shown it to be hyper accurate in target air rifles that need pellets with heads sized 4.49mm to 4.52mm. It costs about double to produce, so they will be sold in trays of 200.

new pellet
The new pellet with adaptable head sizes.

A bipod whose left leg holds up to 30 pellets and whose right leg detaches and contains a folding knife, Torx wrenches in sizes T6, T7 and T8, a ballpoint pen and scissors.

What’s this?

Now tell us what the following product names apply to.

  • Eagle Claw
  • Civet
  • Torque release
  • Restraint
  • Bombard
  • Momentum
  • Hyperion

Seen it all before

In the late 1990s I became incensed when Crosman applied the name Blue Streak to a breakbarrel rifle in the Benjamin line. In fact today the name is so confused there are people selling Benjamin-Sheridan 397 rifles on eBay. Tell me that isn’t wrong!

Dennis Quackenbush called his kit to make an outside lock air rifle the Amaranth. That one fooled everyone. 

And Walther used the name LGV for their new line of breakbarrel sporting rifles a few years ago when most of us silverbacks knew it as a breakbarrel target rifle from the ’70s.

Summary

I know some of you will enjoy doing this exercise, the point of which is to demonstrate that it isn’t easy coming up with product names that convey a sense of the product. Let’s see what you can do.


Mondial Oklahoma spring-piston pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Oklahoma
The Mondial Oklahoma pistol.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Blue Book got it wrong
  • Several models
  • Two finishes
  • Many are boxed
  • Strange construction
  • Breakbarrel
  • Soda straw barrel
  • Breech seal
  • Markings
  • Sights
  • Summary

Today we begin looking at a strange air pistol that has a lot of interesting quirks. Do you readers like interesting quirks? Ha! Does an elephant like peanuts? This is the Oklahoma from Mondial. Mondial is the trade name of Italian manufacturer Modesto Molgora of Milan.

Blue Book got it wrong

First I note that the Blue Book of Airguns lists this pistol as having a rifled barrel. Well, the one I am testing certainly doesn’t. One of two thing are possible. Either the smoothbore I have is a variation that the Blue Book is not currently aware of or they got it completely wrong and all Oklahoma pistols are smoothbore. If you own an Oklahoma pistol would you please examine the bore to see whether it is rifled?

I went online to research this pistol and found very little information. Most listings mention the rifled barrel in such a way that they seem to have copied what’s in the Blue Book or some other reference. I see that a lot online. Why would anybody mention a rifled barrel, when a smoothbore would be the exception? Yes, there are many smoothbore airguns but why go to the trouble of mentioning a rifled barrel when most airguns have them?

John Walter’s books that are four editions titled, The Airgun Book, aren’t really certain whether the barrel is rifled or not. There is a question mark after the number of lands and the rifling direction in one of the editions. So they don’t know. But BB knows. This one isn’t rifled.

Several models

Mondial made several air pistols besides the Oklahoma we are examining today. One was called the Oklahoma N.T. That one has a hooded front sight, though the rear sight is fixed, so the hood really adds nothing. Another is called the ZIP and it has an adjustable rear sight located back on the rear of the spring tube. And one more pistol is the CO2-powered Roger that was the foundation for the Daisy model 100 pistol that later became the Wamo Powermaster .22 rimfire pistol.

Mondial also made a couple breakbarrel rifles, the Carabina and the York. They also made an underlever BB repeater they called the Condor.

Two finishes

I have found two different finishes for the Oklahoma — blued and nickel. Many would call it chrome, but chrome is very rare on an airgun or a firearm. Nickel is more durable than most chrome-plating, making it the general plating metal of choice for firearms and airguns. Unless you have the two materials side-by-side it’s difficult to differentiate, but when held next to chrome you will see that nickel plating has a slight golden cast, while chrome is just silver.

The pistol I bought to test is nickel-plated and has no box, because I got it from a generous friend of this blog who sold it to me for a very good price. The grip panels are reddish-brown plastic and are held to the gun with two screws that pass through the gun and have hex nuts inset into the right grip panel. I have more to say about that in a moment.

Oklahoma grip nut
The grip screws are held in by a nut on the right side. It doesn’t look like a hex nut in this photo…

Oklahoma nut
…so I pushed it out to see it better.

Many are boxed

When I looked for a pistol to test for you, most of the ones I saw were offered in the box. According to the printing on the box (and my best version of Google translate for Italian) they came with both pellets and BBs, which underscores the smooth bore. One I found on eBay had an original price sticker on the box marked $7.95. The Blue Book puts the start of this pistol sometime in the 1960s but gives a definite end date of 1988. The John Walters Airgun books agree with the start time and give no ending date.

Strange construction

The pistol is made from two non-ferrous metal frame pieces that are held together by screws and hex nuts all around the frame. Besides the two in the grips I count another four, for a total of six. If they were all removed it appears the pistol would come apart. And there would be pieces held on pins inside and BB Pelletier would scatter them around, so don’t ask! 

Oklahoma frame nut
The entire pistol is held together with screws and nuts like this.

Breakbarrel

The Oklahoma is a breakbarrel with a spring-loaded barrel lock. Push it back to release the barrel for cocking.

Oklahoma barrel lock
That lever hanging down is a spring-loaded barrel lock.

Oklahoma barrel lock released
Push the lock back and the barrel is released for cocking.

Soda straw barrel

The barrel is a thin tube that we call a “soda straw” barrel. These are usually rifled barrels, but as I said, this one is a smoothbore. It must have been cheaper to make it this way, because the barrel looks to be pressed into a solid outer jacket.

Oklahoma muzzle
The actual barrel is a thin tube inside an outer jacket. Neither the tube nor the jacket is ferrous.

Breech seal

The breech seal is located on the end of the frame rather than around the breech, where there is no room. It appears to be made of some rubbery synthetic that is still in good condition after no less than 33 years and possibly more than 50.

Oklahoma breech seal
The breech seal is in the frame.

Markings

The maker’s name and logo are on the right side of the frame, along with Made In Italy and Olio, around the oil hole.

Oklahoma logo
Yep — it was made in Italy all right!

Oklahoma name
The name of the pistol and the caliber are on the left side.

Sights

The sights are fixed and both the front and rear sight are attached to the barrel. Given the thickness of the breech seal, it seems the makers were concerned about barrel alignment issues. That plus the barrel lock tells me that the designers of this airgun really cared about making a quality product. It may have been inexpensive but in no way was it cheap. Somebody was doing their best within an envelope of cost constraints. Which makes the smoothbore barrel all the more strange.

Guys — I’m telling you all that I know and all that I have been able to find out about this quirky air pistol. Given the huge reach of this blog I am hoping someone can add a few more things to further our knowledge. I would especially like to know whether there really is an Oklahoma like this one that has a rifled barrel.

Summary

I’ve been a serious airgunner (as in paying attention to what is going on, over and above just shooting and enjoying the guns) since starting The Airgun Letter in 1994. Since then I have seen Oklahoma pistols at several airgun shows but never have I taken the plunge. I did it now just to expand my horizons, as well as yours. 

There isn’t very much written about this air pistol — at least not in the English language. Much of what is written seems to be guesswork, though Walter’s books do have some solid facts about the companies involved and the models of the guns. This one should be interesting.


Walther LP53 – the James Bond airgun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Walther LP53

Walther’s LP53 was their first attempt at a target air pistol.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Blue Book coming!
  • James Bond
  • Two versions
  • Two frame finishes
  • Total manufactured
  • Breakbarrel
  • Cocking aid
  • Weights
  • Grips
  • Adjustable trigger!
  • Performance
  • The good news
  • Summary

Blue Book coming!

The Blue Book of Airguns will ship soon. The 13th edition is 1008 pages — up from 840 pages in the 12 edition. A lot has been added and a lot has been corrected. Watch for it!

Blue Book
The Blue Book of Airguns, 13th Edition, will ship soon.

Today we start looking at the Walther LP53 target pistol. The LP53 (LP stands for luft pistole – German for air pistol) was Walther’s early (1953-1983) attempt at making a .177 target pistol. It copied the lines of their famous .22 LR model 1936 Olympia II target pistol, and it used a spring piston to compress the air. When you look at the pistol, you wonder where the spring and the piston could be, but they are tucked away inside the pistol grip.

Walther Olympia
This Walther Olympia II is a bare-bones pistol with a straight backstrap.

Walther Olympia
Walther’s model 1936 Olympia II target pistol won gold in the 1936 Olympic Games. Shown here with all the added weights.

James Bond

The LP53 is all metal with beautifully formed plastic grip panels. The early pistols had a beavertail extension that curved down over the web of the hand; later guns also had an extension, but it was straight. The trigger blade is thin and elegant – looking exactly like a firearm trigger. In fact, there’s nothing about the LP53 that doesn’t look right, which is why the movie posters for early James Bond films show him holding an air pistol instead of his service PPK. The story is that the photographer used the air pistol instead of Bond’s service (at the time) Walther PPK because they were in England where the laws concerning firearms are more restrictive. That could be true, though the LP53 is much larger than a PPK and makes a bolder statement.

Walther PL53 James Bond
Sean Connery posed as James Bond with a Walther LP53 air pistol for publicity photos. Of course nobody caught that his finger is on the trigger in violation of one of the most important gun safety rules!

Two versions

There were two distinct versions of the LP53. The earlier version is the more common one and is characterized by a curved backstrap that hangs over the hand and brown plastic grips. The later version has a straight backstrap and black grips. The grips fit either model, so of course they aren’t a positive clue, but the backstraps are. I have seen several first version guns with black grips, so perhaps it isn’t the best way to differentiate.

Two frame finishes

The earlier version of the pistol started out with a frame finished in a flat blue. After around serial number 23,200 the frame was finished with a black crackle paint. The gun I am testing for you here has the earlier blued frame and a serial number of 014388. So it’s definitely an earlier gun from the mid to late 1950s.

Total manufactured

The number of LP53s that were made has been stated in many places as around 125,000. I found a man who has seen three of them with serial numbers higher than that. Beyond that I have no other information.

Breakbarrel

The pistol is a breakbarrel that cocks in the traditional fashion. But instead of pushing a piston back to compress the mainspring, the cocking lever pushes the piston down towards the bottom of  the grip. When the gun fires the piston springs up and compresses the air in a tiny compression chamber in the grip. Some promotional literature claimed that this gave the pistol a realistic feel, like a .22 target pistol being fired, but that wasn’t true. The pistol jumps up in your hand and may also buzz if the powerplant is dry like mine is.

Cocking aid

The LP53 doesn’t cock easily, so Walther provided a cocking aid that fit over the muzzle of the gun to protect the hand from the sharp front sight. My pistol didn’t have the aid when I recently got it but John Groenewold sells a replacement. So I ordered one. It would be quite easy to make, but as I am not a competent wood butcher, I leave that to those who are!

The pistol also came with a cleaning rod and two sets of inserts for the front and rear sights. They are in addition to the inserts that come installed in the pistol. All these things came with the pistol in a brown cardboard Walther box. I used to own an LP53 in the box, but I got rid of it. My current pistol came from an estate sale and came in a commercial hard gun box with one front sight insert and a spare set of brown plastic grips.

Walther LP53 box
This LP53 in the box is an older one with the blued frame. It has all but one of the extra front sight inserts and it shows the wooden cocking aid over the muzzle.

LP53s also came in deluxe padded cases. The oldest ones were lined with a blue-gray material, while newer ones have a maroon fabric. These are fitted cases with slots for every additional piece of the set. They easily double the value of the pistol today.

Weights

Looking at the photo of the Olympia .22 rimfire target pistol above you see that Walther furnished weights for its target pistols. The LP53 was no different, and I have seen beautiful cased sets that had the weights with everything else. Add another multiple of the pistol’s value, or more, for a setup like that! 

Walther LP53 weights
The air pistol came with weights, as well. They aren’t as fancy or heavy as the firearm weights, but they do exist!

Grips

The year 1952 wasn’t a high-water mark for ergonomics on this planet. The LP53 was created as a target pistol for the right hand so of course the thumbrest was on the left grip. As far as I can tell, Walther did not offer the pistol with left-hand grips.

Adjustable trigger!

Yes, some LP53s do have an adjustable two-stage trigger. Don’t get your hopes up, though. Walther did away with the adjustable trigger in this model around 1960. The one I’m testing was made earlier than that, so it has the adjustment.

Walther LP53 adjustable trigger
There’s the trigger adjustment.

Performance

I’m going to test both the velocity and the accuracy for you, but let me get you thinking in the right direction. The LP53 is not a powerful air pistol, despite a cocking effort that many will find difficult. And it also isn’t that accurate — or at least that hasn’t been my experience. Imagine pellets in the low to mid 300s and five-shot groups measuring 2-inches at 10 meters. I hope to do better, but that’s what I think it will be.

The mainspring is actually two coiled mainsprings — one inside the other. That sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t add that much.

There is a performance kit for this pistol. It has a single mainspring with thicker wire. I don’t know anything about it other than I would expect it to cock even harder, though in some reports I read that it’s lighter. The inner spring also functions as a spring guide and Walther has received a lot of criticism for that. It’s doesn’t add much power but it sure increases the cocking effort, as well as making the action buzzy. Oh, well — we shall see!

The good news

The good news is I have already stripped my pistol, so you are going to watch it come apart and go together again — I hope! I have ordered a new piston seal to replace the leather seal that’s in my gun now. It could be reused, but it’s looking tired and as long as I’m inside…

Summary

This series should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned!


The Diana model 10/Beeman 900 target pistol: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Beeman 900
The Beeman 900 pistol is another form of Diana’s model 10.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • RWS R10 Pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Match Grade pellets
  • H&N Finale Match Light 
  • No crazy person here!
  • …or?
  • Summary

Today I’m going back to the Beeman 900 that is a rebadged Diana 10 target pistol. I didn’t do so well in Part 3 and you readers were all over me to not rest the gun directly on the sandbag, but to rest my forearms on the bag and hold the pistol loose in front of the bag. So that’s what I did today — sort of. This turns into a much larger test than planned, and isn’t that always a good thing?

The test

I shot from 10 meters and at the start of the test I rested my forearms on the bag and held the pistol in my hands in front of the bag. I shot 5-shot groups because I wanted to test a lot of different pellets and the way things turned out, I’m glad I did!

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

First to be tested were the pellets I used to shoot in my original Diana 10 — RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle wadcutters. I bought a sleeve of 5,000 with the pistol and, except for my father-in-law shooting several thousand while I was on manuevers with the Army, I shot them all in that pistol.

The Beeman 900 put five Meisters into a 0.742-inch group at 10 meters. The group is horizontal and I don’t know why.

Meister Rifle group
Five RWS Meisterkugeln made a 0.742-inch group between centers at 10 meters.

RWS R10 Pistol

Next up were five RWS R10 Pistol pellets. One of them sailed through the 10-ring while the other four grouped in 0.565-inches at 4 o’clock on the edge of the bull. The 5-shot group measures 1.251-inches between centers.

R10 Match Pistol group
Four of the five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets went into 0.565-inches at 10 meters, but the 5th shot opened it to 1.251-inches.

Qiang Yuan Match Grade pellets

The next pellets I tried were Qiang Yuan Match Grade pellets that Pyramyd Air no longer stocks. Four of them went into 0.478-inches at 10 meters but the fifth one went low and to the left, opening the group to 1.14-inches.

Qiang Yuan Match group
Four Qiang Yuan Match pellets went into 0.478-inches in the bull, with a 5th one landing low and to the left and opening the group to 1.14-inches between centers.

H&N Finale Match Light 

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the H&N Finale Match Light pellet. When I saw the group I couldn’t believe it. Was I shooting a Chinese B3-1?

Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets landed in a group that measures 1.657-inches between centers. Yikes!

H&N Finale Match Light group
The Beeman 900 put five H&N Finale Match Light pellets into 1.657-inches at ten meters. Cowabunga!

No crazy person here!

Okay, enough of this! I had to try something different. I would rest the pistol on the bag and see how that went with the same pellet. Well, it wasn’t great but this time 5 shots went into 1.127-inches, so it’s tighter. SO MUCH FOR NOT RESTING THE PISTOL ON THE BAG!!!

H&N Finale Match Light group rested
Resting the Beeman 900 directly on the sandbag reduced the size of the group to 1.127-inches between centers — a half-inch improvement.

However, I was still unsatisfied. I can outshoot that group with a Crosman Mark I, so what’s the deal? Time to drag out the heavy artillery. I got my FWB P44 target pistol. And I rested it on the bag because this pistol does not move in the slightest when it fires. Surely it can do better with any pellet than the Beeman 900, but at this point it was this one pellet that was in question. So, for the third time I put five H&N Finale Match Light pellets downrange. 

This time five pellets landed in a group that measured 0.644-inches between centers. It’s half the size of the best Beeman 900 group with this pellet, but still nothing to write home about. So perhaps this pellet isn’t good in either pistol — or…?

H&N Finale Match Light group rested P44
The FWB P44 cut the group size in half. Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets went into 0.644-inches at ten meters.

…or?

Or, was I the weak link? One way to tell was to bring up the best group I ever recorded with the P44 and compare it to a group of the same pellets today. On June 9, 2016 I shot this pistol and put 5 Vogel target pellets with 4.50mm heads into 0.242-inches at 10 meters.

FWB P44 Vogel target best
Back in June of 2016 I put 5 Vogel pellets into this 0.242-inch group at 10 meters, shooting the FWB P44.

On this day. shooting the same pistol in the same way, my group of five Vogels measures 0.575-inches — more than twice the size of the group from 4-1/2 years ago. Clearly I am off my game today and it is showing up in the results of this test. A little of this may be because I’m already 35 shots into the test and somewhat tired, but I don’t think all of the difference can be explained away.

FWB P44 Vogel target today
On this day I was able to put 5 Vogel pellets into a 0.575-inch group at 10 meters with the FWB P44.

I was either off my game or tired or both. Only one thing remained — shoot a group of 5 Vogels from the Beeman 900. This I did and when I saw it I knew the test was over. Five pellets went into 1.231-inches at 10 meters.

Beeman 900 Vogel target today
Well, I’m done! The Beeman 900 put five Vogel pellets into a 1.231-inch group at 10 meters.

Summary

I’m not finished with the Beeman 900. I know it must shoot better than it has and I just need to find the right pellet to do it.

Shooting the FWB P44 was a blast, as well. That pistol has lapsed into history and been replaced by the FWB P8X target pistol. That makes the P44 an historical airgun as well! Goody!