Pioneer model BB76 BB gun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Pioneer BB gun
Pioneer BB76 BB gun.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

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

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

1976

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting ready to shoot

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

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

This is a big gun!

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

The firearm

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

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

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

And the key!

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

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

Pioneer 76 Rifle inscription
As was the rifle!

Look for them new in the box

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

Broken

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

Summary

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