The Haenel 311 target rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Haenel 311
Haenel 311 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Air Arms Falcon|
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Alibi
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Training 
  • Gamo Match
  • Discussion
  • Summary

I’m doing this accuracy test because I discovered that in a test run many years ago I shot my best targets when holding the Haenel 311 target rifle with an artillery hold. In the last test I laid the rifle directly on the sandbag and I wondered how the artillery hold would affect the groups.

The test

I shot 5-shot groups with each pellet, but with one pellet I shot several groups for different reasons. I did try my hardest to shoot well. I shot from 10 meters.

Air Arms Falcon

First up was the Air Arms Falcon pellet — the only domed pellet in the test. In the last test with the rifle resting on the sandbag, the 311 put 5 Falcons into a 0.466-inch group. This time using the artillery hold the same Falcon pellet went into 0.571-inches. It’s close, but the bag rest seems better.

311 Falcon group
Using the artillery hold, the Haenel 311 put 5 Air Arms Falcons into 0.571-inches at 10 meters.

I noticed that the pellets were hitting the target high, but since I had many different pellets to test I left the sights where they were. I mentioned in the last report that the Haenel rear sight does not have marks to indicate which way to turn the adjustment knobs, and it always takes me a long time to figure it out.

H&N Finale Match Light

The H&N Finale Match Light wadcutter is the pellet I shot many times in this test. The first group was the smallest for the pellet, as well as for the test, with five pellets going into 0.278-inches, center-to-center. 

311 Finale Light group1
This first group of H&N Finale Match Light pellets was the best group of the test.

Okay, now I had a heavier pellet that was also hitting high and right. It was time to adjust the sights. The next target I used to fiddle with the sights — figuring out which way to turn the knobs. When I finished I had the Finale Match Target pellet hitting close tom the center of the bullseye.

This group also hit the target high and slightly right, and I wanted to adjust it closer to the center of the bull. So the next target I used to adjust the sights down and to the left. I probably fired 6 or 7 shots at that one and it looked like I had the pellets striking the center.

On the next target I fired 6 shots at the bull. Yes, Yogi, I miscounted! This group measures 0.538-inches between centers. It is centered better, but also spread out more than the first one with this pellet.

311 Finale Light group2
The second group of Finale Match Light pellets has 6 shots instead of five. It measures 0.538-inches between centers.

Alibi

An alibi in a match is when a shooter has a problem that may allow him to shoot again. I had one in this test that I need to tell you about. The automatic safety on this 311 has not been right since I disassembled the rifle several decades ago. Now it’s getting worse and it’s affecting the trigger. I have to pull it out and push it back in several times to get the trigger to function.

The trigger was both heavier and less responsive in this test than it has ever been. I can usually deal with a bad trigger, but not when it’s on a 10 meter rifle. I am certain that it caused me to throw many shots throughout today’s test.

RWS R10 Match Pistol

Next I tried five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets. They are also well-centered on the target but not tight. Five went into 0.495-inches at 10 meters.

311 R10 Match Pistol group
The Haenel 311 put five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets into 0.495-inches at 10 meters.

Qiang Yuan Training 

The next pellet I tested was the Qiang Yuan Training pellet. These pellets sometime surprise us with their accuracy. But not in the Haenel 311. Five went into 0.509-inches at 10 meters. While that’s okay compared to the other pellets today, it’s hardly in the running for a 10-meter target rifle .

311 Qiang Yuan Training group
Five Qiang Yuan Training pellets went into 0.509-inches at 10 meters.

Gamo Match

The last pellet I tried was the Gamo Match. That’s the pellet that put five into a group with no measurable dimension, back in 2011.

311 Gamo Match 2011
Back in 2011 this 311 put five Gamo Match pellets into a group that was too small to measure.

In this test the 5-shot group was larger — at 0.395-inches between centers for five shots, but I am certain the trigger caused some of that.

311 Gamo Match group
Even with a lousy trigger the 311 likes the Gamo Match pellet. Five are in 0.395-inches at 10 meters.

Discussion

Does the artillery hold make the Haenel 311 more accurate? I think you can see that it doesn’t. Resting directly on a bag is fine, given the rifle’s low recoil.

This particular 311 needs some work. I have discovered than many 311 shooters remove all the automatic safety parts to get them out of their way, and the problems I am having with the trigger are probably why they do that.

Overall the 311 is a delightful target rifle with the two exceptions of the automatic safety and the effort it takes to cock the rifle. The cocking probably can’t be fixed but that auto safety is probably something to consider.

By the way, I am adding a Haenel 312 sidelever target rifle to the list of airguns I’m looking to purchase. I have never even shot one of those.

Summary

This will be my last look at the Haenel 311 for a long time. It’s decent but doesn’t inspire me like other vintage target rifles, such as the Walther LGV, do.


The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 50
Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight in
  • RWS Superdomes
  • The trigger
  • RWS Supermags
  • Feel of firing|
  • RWS Hobbys
  • Why shoot only RWS pellets?
  • H&N Baracuda 4.50 mm head
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I shoot the Diana model 50 underlever with sporting sights from 25 yards. Let’s see what she’ll do!

The test

I shot indoors from 25 yards off a sandbag rest. I used the artillery hold with the rifle rested on my off hand, about 8-9 inches forward of the triggerguard. The Diana 50 is an underlever, and that steel cocking mechanism makes it heavy up front, so this is the most comfortable way to stabilize it. I shot 10-shot groups at 10-meter pistol targets

Sight in

Because I moved the rear sight forward for this test, I had to sight in the rifle again. The first shot was from 12 feet and impacted at the top of my front sight, so I called it good and backed up to 25 yards. I knew the shots would hit higher from back there, but since the first shot hit at 6 o’clock on the bull and this was a pistol target, I reckoned there was plenty of room.

RWS Superdomes

The first pellet I tested was also the sight-in pellet — the RWS Superdome. At 10 meters this pellet did quite well, though it opened up when I shot it at 25 yards with the peep sight. My group of ten from Part 4 measured 1.044-inches between centers.

This time with the sporting sights 10 Superdomes went into 1.994-inches at the same 25 yards. Throw out the pellet that hit to the left of the rest and 9 are in 1.166-inches. So — not much different but not as good as with the peep sight. There were no pulled shots in this test.

Diana 50 Superdome
Ten RWS Superdomes made a 1.994-inch group at 25 yards, with 9 in 1.166-inches.

The trigger

I have to comment on the trigger. I never adjusted it like I said I might and I think I know why. It’s breaking as a single-stage trigger with a light pull. I can feel the trigger blade move, but with those ball bearings there is absolutely no creep (an erratic start and stop in the blade as it is pulled).

I think this trigger is what reader RidgeRunner talks about when he says he likes single-stage triggers. The Webley Senior straight grip pistol I traded to him has the same sort of trigger, only its blade moves a lot farther. This one is almost a target trigger. It’s just enough resistance to let the shooter know what he is doing.  I normally don’t like single-stage triggers, but I do like this one! I’m glad I left it the way it was.

RWS Supermags

The 9.3-grain RWS Supermag wadcutter is a pellet I haven’t tried in this rifle before. So I thought, “What the heck?”

Ten Supermags went into 1.61-inches at 25 yards. But the firing cycle became very loud and deep — much different than with the Superdomes. The shots also landed lower on the paper.

Diana 50 Supermag
Ten RWS Supermags went into 1.61-inches at 25 yards.

Feel of firing

As it is now set up this Diana 50 does not vibrate at the shot. However, the piston must be heavy, because there is a pronounced forward lurch on every shot.

RWS Hobbys

The next pellet I tried was the 7-grain RWS Hobby wadcutter. What a marked difference in the shot cycle they made! Hobbys shot very quiet and smooth. I hoped for a miracle in the accuracy department but alas, 10 pellets went into 1.732-inches at 25 yards.

Diana 50 Hobby
The Diana 50 put 10 RWS Hobby pellets into this 1.732-inch group at 25 yards.

Why shoot only RWS pellets?

I would normally run in some JSBs or pellets from some other manufacturer, so why have I shot three pellets from RWS? I did it because in my experience, Diana airguns — especially the vintage ones like this model 50 — really do well with RWS pellets. However, sometimes you have to step out of the ordinary and try something different.

H&N Baracuda 4.50 mm head

I thought I needed to do something drastic to turn things around. So the final group I shot was 10 H&N Baracudas with 4.50 mm heads. From what I saw with the 9.3-grain Supermags, these 10.65-grain domes are way too heavy for this powerplant, and when I shot the first one it was confirmed. The rifle made a loud sound that almost protested the use of this pellet. So, why did I do it?

I have done this with other vintage Dianas many times. Particularly the .22-caliber Diana 27 seems to love the heavy Baracuda against all odds. It makes no protest and tends to group quite well. But this model 50 is a different proposition altogether. But how did it group?

Ten Baracudas went into 1.451-inches at 25 yards. Five of them are in a very small cluster, but the other five are scattered. The group is nice and round, despite being on the large side. It is the smallest group of the test.

Diana 50 Baracuda
Ten H&N Baracuda domes with 4.50 mm heads went into 1.451-inches at 25 yards.

I think Baracudas have such thick skirts that they are not blowing out in the loading tap and sealing the bore as well as they could. Hobbys, in sharp contrast, seal the bore quite well.

Discussion

I was hoping this test would prove that the Diana 50 is a tackdriver, but I guess that is not to happen under my watch. She is a well-made springer that shows innovation in many places, but she’s not a natural shooter like some other Dianas I have had.

I may not have found the right pellet for this rifle — that’s a forgone conclusion. But I think I have given her a good test, nevertheless.

I will say that the little lube tune I gave the rifle in Part 5, while switching the rear sight, was the best thing I could have done besides leaving that trigger alone.

This underlever is solidly built, well finished and very smartly designed. Just looking at her and holding her makes me feel good.

Summary

That will be it for the Diana 50. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to look this deeply into such a fine spring gun.


The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 50
Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Move the rear sight
  • Rear sight move forward
  • Change the sight notch
  • Rear sight adjustability
  • Not finished
  • Some disassembly required
  • Three stock screws
  • Wait a minute!
  • Glue the stock
  • Dry mainspring
  • Assembly
  • Velocity check
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Cocking effort
  • Summary

To give you guys a break from the Crosman MAR177 today I started exploring the History of Airguns web page. Have you seen how the History of Airguns is laid out now? It’s now a simple timeline. Clicking on the dates brings up the past historical articles.

In checking to see whether they all made it to the timeline, I discovered this report from 2017, in which I mentioned wanting to shoot the rifle with an open rear sight. I never did that, so today is the day. I thought I’d just have to move the rear sight but you know how little projects sometimes expand? This one sure did! This will be the tale of what happened.

Move the rear sight

I told you in Part 2 that the rear sight can be transformed into a sporting sight by removing the peephole. There is also a forward ramp on the spring tube for the sporter sight, so there is enough distance for the eye to pick up the rear notch.

Diana 50 two ramps
The Diana 50 has two ramps for the rear sight. The one on the rear is for the target peep and the one in the front is for when the sight is converted into a sporting sight.

The tops of each ramp are serrated with grooves that match the special “foot” that’s on the bottom of the sight. This foot is pressed down into those grooves and makes a mechanical bond that will not slip from recoil.

Diana 50 rear sight peep off
After removing the rear sight from the rifle, I removed the peephole from the sight, transforming it into a sporting rear sight.

Diana 50 rear sight top
That lone screw on top of the rear sight pushes the foot down into the grooves in the ramp.

Diana 50 rear sight foot
The foot that contacts the grooves on the ramps can be seen underneath the rear sight.

Rear sight move forward

To use the rear sight as a sporting sight with a notch, I had to move it forward. I moved it to the front end of the forward sight base ramp. Then I screwed that lone screw back down and the foot meshed with the grooves in that ramp to secure it.

Diana 50 sporter
|With the rear sight moved forward the Diana 50 is transformed into a sporter.

Change the sight notch

One more thing needs to be done to complete the change to a sporter. I have dialed up the wide target post front sight element, and the rear notch has to correspond. It had been set on a wide cupped notch when the peep was installed, but the notch plate was rotated to put a square notch in its place. 

Diana 50 front sight
The Diana 50 has four different front sight elements that can be dialed into place. This is the target post.

To rotate the square notch plate, the rear sight needs a little elevation so the corners of the plate can clear the sight base on the rifle. That’s how low the rear sight adjusts!

Diana 50 notch plate
This rear sight notch plate has three notches — a square, a Vee and a U-shaped one. The fourth large U-shaped notch on the left is for visual clearance when the peep sight is clamped on.

Rear sight adjustability

I was surprised to see how much elevation adjustment there is in this particular rear sight. 

Diana 50 elevation adjustment
The rear sight adjusts up very far and the wheel that adjusts it has ten clicks for each step seen on the bottom plate of the sight assembly. The numbers on the top plate tell you which range of elevation the sight is in.

Not finished

Since it’s been so long since the last report, I read Part 4 thoroughly to see how the rifle was performing. I read that the rifle buzzed when it fired in the last test, which is to be expected with these older spring guns. But in this day and age we don’t have to put up with it, do we? I probably know what you are thinking. You think I stripped down the action and gave it a complete lube tune, but this time I didn’t. Instead I did almost exactly what I said I might do at the end of Part 4.

“There is a little bit of buzz when it fires, so it might be necessary to inject some Almagard 3752 grease into the mainspring to quiet down the powerplant. That could only make the shooting experience that much better. I might have a go at the trigger adjustment while the stock is off (for access to the mainspring). Don’t know if I will do any of this, but I’m writing it down as a reminder.”

I thought, “Why not?” The rifle is ready for another accuracy test, so why not do what I thought about last time? Only my tube of Tune in a Tube grease is so low that it no longer injects. I had purchased a 14-ounce grease gun tube of Almagard 3752 grease (same stuff as TIAT), but that can only be applied when the gun is apart and there is access to the parts to apply the grease directly. However, as I was rooting though my lubricant shelf my eye fell on the injector tube of Extreme Weapons Grease.

Diana 50 EWG
This tube of Extreme Weapons Grease is nearly full!

I used EWG on my Webley Hurricane we recently tested, and you may remember that it resolved all the problems I had with galling. It’s a thick grease like TIAT, so once more I decided to give it a try.

Some disassembly required

I didn’t want to completely disassemble the Diana 50’s powerplant, but to get to the mainspring I had to at least get the action out of the stock. And that project turned into the rest of my day!

Three stock screws

The action is held in the stock by three screws. The front triggerguard screw threads into the spring tube like we see on most spring guns. The threads are longer than I expected but there were no surprises.

The cross-bolt forearm screw is actually a proprietary two-piece affair, with a threaded bushing that holds the cross-bolt. It’s just as complex as the bolt itself. It came out easily, though the threads were about twice as long as I expected.

Diana 50 bolts
The front triggerguard screw is at the upper right. The stock cross-bolt and bushing are the two lower items. The bushing is actually half of the axel for the underlever during cocking.

With those two screws out I expected to separate the barreled action from the stock. Unfortunately there was one more screw, or nut, to deal with. Diana put a nut and washer on the threaded post that the underlever locks to. It has to come off and I saw the forearm had cracked from some force that could have been applied in the past.

Diana 50 forearm nut
The forearm is also held on by this nut that screws to the post where the underlever latches when closed. The stock has cracked along the grain — probably from someone trying the separate the stock from the barreled action before this nut was removed.

I looked at that nut and thought to myself, “Oh no! I have to make a special spanner to grab that nut!” I then spent the next 20 minutes looking though all my parts and tools to see what I could use to make the spanner. I could sacrifice a small socket from my tool kit and use a Dremel to grind away the sides until there were two short posts to fit into the notches on that nut. I looked and looked, but found nothing. If the socket was large enough to fit the notches it was too wide to fit into the tight channel in the stock. If it was small enough to fit in the channel it wasn’t wide enough to grab the two notches.

Then I thought about a flat piece of steel. That would be even easier to grind to shape, but the only piece I found was the flat tip of my longest screwdriver — the one I use to loosen the long screws in rifle butts that are held to their actions that way. I didn’t want to ruin it, because it took me years of combing though pawnshops to find it!

I decided that after lunch I would go to the hardware store and just buy a piece of steel of the right width. Then I stopped for lunch.

Wait a minute!

After lunch I decided to try one more thing before going to the store. I put the blade of a small screwdriver in one of the notches and tried to unscrew the nut. It was loose and came right off! I had wasted all that time thinking I had to make a special tool when the solution was so simple! Boy, am I glad I checked! The nut came off in less than a minute and the stock could be separated from the barreled action. I now saw that the washer under the nut is actually a spacer.

Diana 50 nut and washer
The nut and washer/spacer are off.

Glue the stock

Now that the stock was separated, I put some wood glue on both sides of the crack and troweled it in with the flat blade of a screwdriver. Then I clamped the stock to hold for several hours while I attended to other things. I left the repair clamped for about three hours and when the clamp was removed the crack was no longer visible.

Dry mainspring

With the action out of the stock and the cocking link removed I could see that the mainspring was bone-dry. No wonder the rifle buzzed a little when it fired!

Diana 50 mainspring
The mainspring was bone-dry. If ever there was any grease or oil on it, it’s now long gone.

Using the injector on the EWG tube I injected grease everywhere I could reach — including some on the body of the piston. I also lubed the cocking linkage with EWG, as it is under considerable stress when the rifle cocks. And I lubed both the bushing and the cross-bolt that the cocking link pivots on.

Diana 50 cocking link
The cocking link is in two parts and you can see the pivot hole that the stock cross-bolt fits through.

Assembly

After three hours the glue holding the crack in the stock had set, so I carefully assembled the rifle. When I shot it the first time after assembly, it was smooth. There was no hint of the vibration I formerly felt. As the rifle is fired the grease will slowly spread around the inside and hopefully get to all the parts.

Velocity check

Shooting the rifle was the proof of the job, but I wondered what the EWG had done to the velocity. This was an extremely thin application, so most of the velocity should still be there. I remembered that the Diana 50 was on the hot side for a target rifle, so I tested it with two of the pellets that had been used in the Part 2 velocity test.

JSB Exact RS

In Part 2 the JSB Exact RS pellet averaged 648 f.p.s. It now averages 690 f.p.s. The low was 667 f.p.s. and the high was 701 f.p.s. Only two shots were slower than 690 f.p.s. The only explanation I can offer for the increase is I lubricated the piston seal back in 2017. It must have soaked all through the leather piston seal by now.

In 2017 the RS pellet velocity varied by 136 f.p.s. In this test it varied 34 f.p.s. I think the piston seal is now working as it should.

RWS Hobby

In Part 2 the RWS Hobby pellet averaged 673 f.p.s. with a 45 f.p.s. spread. It now averages 680 f.p.s. with a 20 f.p.s. spread. 

Cocking effort

In Part 2 the rifle cocked with 25 lbs. of effort. It still cocks with that much force. It has been so long since I last shot the rifle that I can’t comment on any difference in the feel during cocking.

Summary

This has been a long-delayed Part 5 report on the Diana model 50 underlever. I still have accuracy to test with the sporting sights, so there is more to come. It’s great to be back with this old sweetie!


The Haenel 311 target rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Haenel 311
Haenel 311 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Air Arms Falcon
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Training
  • Gamo Match
  • Adjust sights
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the Haenel 311 target rifle. Let’s get started.

The test

I shot off a sandbag rest at 10 meters. I rested the rifle directly on the bag for the entire test. Only after the test was finished did I check back to my test done in 2011 and discover that I had used the artillery hold on the rifle at that time. So we will see a comparison today, when the rifle is rested directly on the bag.

I shot 5-shot groups so I could test more pellets. At the start I wasn’t too worried about being sighted in, but there came a point in the test when I did adjust the sights. I’ll tell you about it when we get there.

Remember that I wanted to try some pellets that were not available in 2011 when I last tested the 311. So, there will be a couple of those in today’s test.

Air Arms Falcon

The Air Arms Falcon was the only domed pellet I shot in the test. I just did it to warm up the gun more than anything. Five Falcons went into a group that measures 0.466-inches between centers at 10 meters. The group is low and to the right.

Falcon group
The Haenel 311 put Air Arms Falcon pellets went in 0.466-inches at 10 meters.

RWS R10 Match Pistol

Next up were five RWS R10 Match Pistol wadcutters. This is a pellet I did not test in 2011. They climbed higher on the target than the Falcons but were still a bit to the right. Five made a 0.648-inch group.

R10 group
Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets made this 0.648-inch group at 10 meters.

Qiang Yuan Training

Next to be tested were five Qiang Yuan Training pellets. This is another pellet that was not available in 2011. These sometimes give surprising results, but not in the 311. At least not on this day. Five went into 0.646-inches at 10 meters. The group looks smaller because the pellet that hit on the lower right target paper that closed up the hole again.

Chinese group
The Haenel 311 put five Chinese Training pellets into a 0.646-inch group.

Gamo Match

Now that both me and the rifle were warmed up I thought it was time to try the Gamo Match pellet. Gene Salvino at Pyramyd Air sent me a tin of them so I could complete this test. The first group was also low and to the right. It measures 0.442-inches between centers. While that is the smallest group so far, it’s much larger than I was expecting for this pellet.

Gamo group 1
The 311 put five Gamo Match pellets into 0.442-inches at 10 meters.

Adjust sights

It was at this point that I decided to adjust the sights to hit closer to the center of the bull. There are no markings on the rear sight to tell you which way to turn the knobs, so I fooled around for a long time and probably shot 15 more shots until I was satisfied. The pellets are hitting high but are fairly well centered. Unfortunately this wore me out.

The next five Gamo Match pellets went into a group that measures 0.528-inches between centers. This is going the wrong way because I’m getting tired.

Gamo group 2
Group two of the Gamo Match pellets measures 0.528-inches between centers.

H&N Finale Match Light

The final group I’ll show was shots with the H&N Finale Match Light pellet.  These were available in 2011. Five of them went into a vertical group measuring 0.375-inches between centers. It’s the smallest group of the test. It’s very well centered but just a little too vertical.

H&N Light group
H&N Match Light pellets turned in the best 10-meter group pf the test. It measures 0.375-inches between centers.

Discussion

I was pretty frustrated by these results. I know the 311 can do better than this. So this is when I went back and read the 2011 report. Lo and behold, I had shot the rifle back then with the artillery hold. Phooey! I mentioned it at the start of today’s report, but it wasn’t until this point in time that I discovered it.

I was now too tired from concentrating to do my best, so I ended the test, but I am not finished with the 311. I will return and shoot it once again, but using the artillery hold this time. I’ll shoot the same pellets as in today’s test. That will give us a good comparison between resting a gun directly on a sandbag versus using the artillery hold. For those spring guns that need the artillery hold, this should be a good test!

Summary

Maybe I just wanted a reason to shoot this rifle again. It sounds like it to me. At any rate, I will return and complete the test of this Haenel 311 at some future time.

But it won’t be next, because I have something very surprising to share with you next. It’s been staring me in the face for many weeks now and I’m really excited to get to test it for you. Wait and see!


BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54
BSF S54 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Insert
  • The test
  • Sight-in
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • H&N Match Green
  • Sig Match Ballistic Alloy
  • Why so much better?
  • Finale Match Light again
  • One last time
  • 10-meter rifle?
  • Summary

I said the next step with this BSF S54 was a teardown and lube tune with Tune in a Tube, but I changed my mind. The front sight insert I bought from Chambers arrived and I wanted to give it a go first. I’m glad I did, as you will learn later on.

Insert

Remember, I told you that T.W. Chambers in the UK has some front sight inserts for the S54? RidgeRunner wondered if there was an aperture or ring insert for the front and I thought there might have been, so I looked. Sure enough there was and I ordered one.

BSF S54 sight inserts
The new ring insert, left, will circle the black bull and hopefully give a more precise aim point.

The test

I shot 5-shot groups at 10 meters on a sandbag rest from the bench. I used the artillery hold with my off hand resting under the rear of the very short cocking slot. This time I noticed that the butt of the rifle slides down off my shoulder when I’m in in this position and I had to reposition the rifle many times. I may have to fashion a suede cover for the butt to stop this. Fortunately I know someone who works with leather.

Sight-in

The rifle was shooting high with the new insert. It took 5 shots to get on target. I’m pleased to announce that new/old target peep I got works beautifully!

H&N Finale Match Light

First up were Finale Match Light pellets with 4.50mm heads. Five pellets went into a group that measures 0.305-inches between centers at 10 meters. The group is fairly well centered on the target but a little too large to get excited.

BSF S54 Finale Match Light group 1
The BSF S54 put 5 H&N Finale Match Light pellets in a 0.305-inch group at 10 meters.

H&N Match Green

Next up were 5 H&N Match Green pellets. They hit an inch below the aim point, but I didn’t adjust the sights because I knew I was coming back to Finale Match Lights. Five H&N Match Greens made a 0.331-inch group at 10 meters. As you can see, I had to leave the target taped to the backer board to measure this group.

BSF S54 Match Green group
Five H&N Match Green pellets made a 0.331-inch group at 10 meters.

Sig Match Ballistic Alloy

Even though they didn’t do so well in Part 3 I had to try Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets with the new sight insert. They also grouped an inch low on the target and this time they made the best group of the test. Five went into 0.242-inches at 10 meters.

BSF S54 Sig Match group
Five Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets made this 0.242-inch group at 10 meters.

Why so much better?

In Part 3 I shot 5 Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets into 0.792-inches at 10 meters. That group was so large that I didn’t bother testing them again in Part 4. I only tested them today because I thought they might be better than that — which they were.

However — more is going on than just the new sights! This BSF S54 rifle is so hard to cock (for a 10-meter target rifle) that’s it’s starting to get to me. It took the sight-in and the first two groups to get settled in, which is one reason this Sig group is so small. But I’m also getting tired.

The cocking is harder than it needs to be, but it isn’t what I’m having the problem with. It’s the trigger. The trigger is variable and sometimes stops at stage two positively and other times just goes off as though it was a single-stage trigger. It’s hard to shoot my best when that is happening. The extra concentration that I need to get the perfect sight alignment before I start pulling the trigger seriously is what’s really wearing me out.

I need to try to get this trigger more uniform in its release. If it wasn’t a BSF trigger that might be easy, but as I have mentioned, the BSF trigger is variable. I will lubricate it when I tune the rifle and hopefully that will straighten things out.

Now, given the group you just saw, I’m sure many folks think I should adjust the sights and keep shooting the Sig pellets. But those H&N Finale Match Light pellets did so well last time that I wanted to continue with them.

Finale Match Light again

The next group is a heartbreaker. Four Finale Match pellets went into 0.147-inches at 10 meters. It looked like trime-time — EXCEPT! Shot number 4 landed high and right, opening the group to 0.862-inches! Whaaaat???

BSF S54 Finale Light group 2
Four H&N Finale Match Light pellets went into 0.147-inches at 10 meters and one pellet opened the group to 0.862-inches. What a heartbreaker!

I swear I was holding all shots to the best of my ability! The rifle must have touched something that caused it to recoil in a different direction for that one shot because shot number five went back into the same small group as shots 1 through 3.

One last time

I was pretty tired by this point from all the concentration on the trigger. But I gave it one final go. And my target shows how I was feeling. Five are in 0.616-inches, with 4 in 0.292-inches. It’s official — I’m done!

BSF S54 Finale Light group 3
Five Finale Match Light pellets went into 0.616-inches at 10 meters, with 4 in 0.292-inches.

10-meter rifle?

I don’t have the proof yet, but I’m starting to think this BSF S54 might be able to hold its own against the other top 10-meter spring-piston target rifles of its day — guns like the HW55M, the FWB 300 and the Walther LGV. It might be that the S54 is just harder to shoot well because it’s so powerful and it vibrates a lot when shot. Well, I’m planning on fixing that! So we shall see.

That’s so strange, because I never gave this rifle that much credit. The loading tap and what I thought was a loose front sight element (turned out to be just the hood over the sight) were two good reasons I thought an S54 wasn’t in the same class as the besties. But maybe it was/is. I hope to find out.

Summary

I have learned a lot about this rifle since I decided to spend some time with it. And, thanks to Chambers for having the parts I needed to make the rifle perform its best. I have a little comparison test planned for the future where the S54 gets pitted against my other vintage target rifles in a great shootoff. But first I have some things to do.


BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54
BSF S54 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Something else
  • Rear sight has to come off
  • 1950s design
  • Assemble the rifle again
  • Install the peep sight
  • Ordered a new target front sight insert
  • Accuracy
  • The test
  • H&N Finale High Speed
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today will be another accuracy test of the BSF S54 Match rifle. But it’s a test with a twist. In Part 3 we learned which pellet does best in this rifle — the H&N Finale Match High Speed — a 7-grain wadcutter that is no longer being offered. I have received the current Finale Match Light target pellets, so I can start testing with them today, as well.

Something else

And, there is something else. A couple weeks back reader Kevin alerted me to the fact that the seller in Bulgaria from whom I bought the Diana peep sight also had a BSF peep sight for sale. He had it advertised for Anschütz, FWB and Walther, which is why I never noticed it. The price was reasonable and, as before, the shipping was free, so I ordered it. It’s here and I would like to show it to you.

BSF S54 peep left
The BSF S54 peep sight is simple and ruggedly built. The vertical adjustment knob that’s sticking up in this view has detents.

BSF S54 peep right
The horizontal adjustment knob is on the right side. There are no detents in that adjustment.

BSF S54 peep under
The bottom of the sight has a clamp on the front, which is on the right in this picture. The two screws control the clamping pressure. There is no positive stop for recoil, and this rifle doesn’t seem to need one.

This sight is definitely a throwback to the 1950s! It’s made from mostly steel parts except its base that’s aluminum. And there isn’t a scale or index mark on it anywhere. There is no way to record where the sight is set. You have to shoot the gun and note where it hits, then adjust from there. There are also no marks to indicate which way things move when the sight is adjusted! It’s a very non-target peep sight! But this S54 is a very non-target match rifle, so the sight is well-suited to it.

Rear sight has to come off

Since the rear sight is aligned with the front sight, it’s in the way of the sight line of the peep, and has to come off. Could I lower it all the way and be able to shoot over it? Sure, but when I tried it I could see the rear sight through the peep hole and that was disconcerting.

1950s design

Here’s the thing. To get the rear sight off the rifle it has to slide all the way up the barrel and off the muzzle. So, the front sight has to come off. And the cocking lever anchor has to come off, as well, because it’s in the way, too. All of these parts have to slide off the muzzle.

BSF S54 cocking lever anchor
The cocking lever anchor has to come off to allow the rear sight to slide off the barrel.

Now, in the 1950s the Germans (and Americans) never used just one part when 27 would do. So, there is lots of work to be done!

BSF S54 front sight parts
The front sight came off the rifle. Lots of parts!

BSF S54 front sight parts bagged
After the photo I bagged the parts for security.

Next the cocking lever anchor came off. This was just the anchor and the screw that held it.

Then the rear sight came off. It was a bunch of parts, too.

BSF S54 rear sight
The rear sight and cocking lever anchor (on the left) were a lot of parts, too.

Assemble the rifle again

Now, the cocking lever anchor and front sight went back on the rifle. The rear sight is in a plastic bag and may never be reinstalled. The rifle is ready to receive the peep sight.

Install the peep sight

The peep sight slides over the peep sight base on the rear of the spring tube. It sticks off the back of the rifle several inches, which brings it close to the sighting eye. I slid mine back almost as far as it will go because the peephole is very small and I want it to be close to my eye.

BSF S54 peep sight
The peep hangs way off the back of the spring tube.

Ordered a new target front sight insert

I went to the Chambers website and discovered there is a ring or aperture front sight element available for the S54 for under $5. So I ordered one. I may tune the rifle before I test that element — I’m undecided right now.

Accuracy

I discovered something while doing this work. The front sight was not loose on the rifle after all. The hood that covers it was what was loose. The sight element and the sight base were both tight. However, the entire rear sight was slightly loose, so mounting this peep sight might actually give better accuracy right from the start. Why don’t we see?

The test

I shot at 10 meters off a sandbag rest with the artillery hold. My off hand was at the cocking slot that, on the S54, is so short that the entire slot fits in my palm.

H&N Finale Match High Speed

First to be tried were the H&N Finale Match High Speed target pellets that are no longer available. We know from the Part 3 test that they were the most accurate of the pellets that were tested.

I had to sight in first, but the first pellet landed just outside the black, and two shots later I was finished. My 5-shot group then measured 0.446-inches, which is larger than last time (0.232-inches) but good enough for today.

BSF S54 Finale Match High Speed
Five H&N Finale Match High Speed pellets went into 0.446-inches at 10 meters.

H&N Finale Match Light

The real test was the Finale Match Light pellet that I hadn’t tested in this gun yet. I hoped they would at least equal what the lighter High Speed pellets were doing. And they did! On the first try, five pellets went into 0.399-inches at 10 meters. I was happy with this group but knew I could do even better, so I adjusted the peep sight down by three clicks and shot a second group.

BSF S54 Finale Match Light 1
Five H&N Finale Match Light pellets made this 0.399-inch group at 10 meters.

The second group was shot with my complete concentration — the same as I would give during a match. This time 5 pellets went into 0.192-inches at 10 meters. The new pellet can shoot in the S54!

BSF S54 Finale Match Light 2
Yes, this 0.192-inch group is worthy of the trime (a 14mm American silver coin from the mid-19th century)! The H&N Finale Match Light pellets can shoot in the BSF S54!

Discussion

I’m not saying that the new H&N pellets are more accurate than the obsolete ones. I haven’t shot them enough to know that. I’m just saying they will do.

In case you are wondering why my last group is so much better, it represents what I am really capable of when I concentrate. I used to shoot that well all the time 25 years ago, but, since I don’t practice every day, I cannot maintain that level of concentration without willing it for a short period. Harry Pope, who was a former world-champion Schuetzen shooter, said, when he was older, “I can still pull a center when I have to.” That’s how I feel, as well.

The new peep sight doesn’t make this rifle any more accurate — it makes it easier for me to be accurate with it. I’m still balancing a bull on top of a bead in the “snowman” hold, which is less than optimum. However, that last group is better accuracy than I thought this rifle capable of. It’s nearly as good as a modern 10-meter rifle in my hands. Sure, it was partly luck, but I’ll be shooting this rifle again, so then perhaps we will see how much was luck and how much was the rifle.

Summary

I have a real target-type front sight coming, and I now have this nice peep on the back. The next thing to do with this rifle is a teardown and lube with Tune in a Tube to make everything super smooth. Then I will try her again.


BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54
BSF S54 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Hobby
  • Resting on the sandbag
  • Artillery hold off hand extended
  • Discussion
  • Adjusted the rear sight
  • Falcon pellets
  • Sig Match Ballistic Alloy
  • JSB Exact RS domes
  • H&N Finale Match High Speed target pellet
  • Something extra
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the BSF S54 Match rifle. Now, while this rifle is called a Match rifle and did come with a large aperture sight, it’s not a serious match rifle and never was. Sometimes I have guys ask me questions like, “Could it be used in a match?” and I have to answer, “Yes” but they don’t let me finish by saying, “… but it will never win!” You see, some guys are so enraptured by the design of the S54 Match (and that huge rear aperture!) that they want it to be a real match rifle. Other guys own one and don’t want to spend the money for something different. The bottom line is — The BSF S54 Match rifle is not for formal competition! I think you will see that today.

The test

I shot from 10 meters and used both the artillery hold and a sandbag rest. I will tell you which I did for each target.

The rear sight doesn’t adjust easily, plus the adjustments are coarse, so I only adjusted once and then stopped. I will tell you as we go.

I shot 5-shot groups for the most part. Because this is an underlever and also a taploader it takes a long time to get ready for each shot. I told myself if a pellet seemed to show promise I would shoot a 10-shot group, and that happened one time. Let’s get started.

RWS Hobby

I had tested the rifle in 2015, so I looked at those targets as a starting point. That test suggested two pellets that were good, so I selected one of them — the RWS Hobby. I shot this first target using the artillery hold with my off hand back by the triggerguard. Five pellets went into 0.673-inches at 10 meters — hardly a good group!

Hobby group 1
This first group of 5 RWS Hobbys was shot at 10 meters using the artillery hold, with the off hand back by the triggerguard. The group measures 0.673-inches between centers.

Okay, that wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Maybe the rifle wants to rest on the bag, so I tried that next. Same Hobby pellet was shot.

Resting on the sandbag

This time 5 Hobbys went into 0.702-inches at 10 meters They are close to the same place, but a little lower. From the looks of this group, resting on the sandbag is not the way to go.

Hobby group 2
Resting the rifle on the sandbag doesn’t seem to be right, either. Five Hobbys are in 0.702-inches between centers at 10 meters.

Artillery hold off hand extended

Still shooting Hobby pellets I tried another version of the artillery hold for the third group. My off hand is out by the rear of the cocking slot. This time the group was a little smaller, with 5 shots going into 0.539-inches at 10 meters. It’s still not a good group, though it is the best group of Hobbys so far. This is how I will shoot the rest of the test, unless I tell you otherwise.

Hobby group 3
When I held my off hand under the rear of the cocking slot things tightened just a little. Five Hobbys are in 0.539-inches at 10 meters.

Discussion

In 2015 I put five Hobbys into a 0.408-inch group at 10 meters. Today I’m struggling to group them in a tenth of an inch larger. I know I’m human, but this is more than I expected. However — I had a total retina detachment in my sighting eye since that first group. I have also had my natural lenses removed from both eyes during cataract surgery, and what’s in there now are man-made lenses. Maybe I’m doing the best I can. Or maybe this was just not my day. More groups might tell us.

Adjusted the rear sight

The first three groups were a little low, so I elevated the rear sight leaf. It goes up in steps and I added just one step this time.

Falcon pellets

The next group was shot with Falcon domed pellets from Air Arms. I shot with the artillery hold with my off hand at the back of the cocking slot. These 5 pellets went high above the bull, and in line with the center. Five pellets went into 0.71-inches at 10 meters. The group is vertical and not very good.

Falcon group
Five Falcon pellets went into 0.71-inches at 10 meters.

Well, raising the rear sight didn’t seem to help. So I put it back to where it was.

Sig Match Ballistic Alloy

I was really looking forward to trying Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets in the rifle, because in the velocity test they only had a spread of 6 f.p.s. I felt sure they would be accurate. But they weren’t. Five went into 0.792-inches at 10 meters — the largest group to this point in the test and ultimately the largest in the entire test. They also shot considerably lower, as you can see. But faster projectiles nearly always shoot lower than slower ones, due to the lack of recoil influence. They are out the barrel before the muzzle has a chance to rise. And I am still shooting with the artillery hold.

Sig group
Five Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets went into 0.792-inches at 10 meters. This is the largest group of the test.

JSB Exact RS domes

The next pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. They are often quite accurate in lower-powered airguns, and, while the S54 isn’t exactly weak, it isn’t a magnum, either. Five of these went into 0.718-inches at 10 meters, which is no big thing, except 4 of them are in 0.30-inches. That IS a big thing. Had I finally found the right pellet? Artillery hold used for this pellet.

JSB RS group
Five JSB Exact RS pellets are not so good, at 0.718 inches at ten meters, but 4 of them in just three tenths of an inch are!

Now that I thought I was onto something, I had to try these pellets again. So this time I rested the rifle directly on the sandbag, instead of using the artillery hold. This time five JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.583-inches at 10 meters. It’s not a screamer, but for this rifle, the way I’m shooting it today, it’s not that bad. At least they are all together!

JSB RS group 2
When the rifle was laid directly on the sandbag, 5 JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.583-inches at 10 meters.

At this point I was starting to get tired, because the S54 isn’t an easy rifle to shoot. There are a lot of steps to get it ready, plus the cocking effort is over 30 pounds. But there was one more thing I wanted to try. Remember the H&N Finale Match High Speed pellet that varied in velocity by 55 f.p.s. in Part 2? I even said at the time that it was, “…too much to hope for any accuracy. Maybe at 10 meters; I’ll have to see.” It was now time to find out.

H&N Finale Match High Speed target pellet

I knew by this point in the test that the artillery hold with the off hand out by the rear of the cocking slot was giving the best results, so that’s how I held the rifle for this group. Five pellets went into 0.232-inches at 10 meters. Well, you can just forget what I said about my eyes — I can still shoot!

H&&N Finale Match High Speed group
Five H&N Finale Match High Speed pellets went into 0.232-inches at 10 meters. That’s about as tight as the S54 can shoot.

I wanted to do something more with the Finale Match pellet. I was tired from all the concentration, but I shot one final group with these pellets. Same artillery hold, only this time I fired 10 rounds at the same bull. I expected the group to be larger because I shot twice as many shots. But if the Finale Match was a good pellet it would stand out. And it did! Ten pellets went into 0.489-inches at 10 meters. That’s the second-smallest group of this test; smaller than any other 5-shot group. Ladies and gentlemen, we have the pellet!

H&&N Finale Match High Speed group 2
Ten H&N Finale Match High Sped pellets made this 0.489-inch group at 10 meters.

Something extra

I didn’t tell you but for this test I put aluminum tape on the back of all my targets today, to keep the pellet holes open and round. I can tell you that it really works! My thanks to whoever suggested it.

Summary

Well, I have become reacquainted with an old friend in this series. The BSF S54 Match rifle is certainly a different kind of airgun to shoot. Now I think I would like to go inside, to see what I can do to tame the vibration. There is plenty of spare velocity, so I’m not concerned about that. I’m thinking I’ll use Tune in a Tube, since I know exactly what it will do. Stay tuned!