by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
My new Beeman C1 is a .177.
A history of airguns
This report covers:
- Take this gun
- Artillery hold
- A compromise
- Smoother with use
- Use a mainspring compressor!
- The test rifle
- The breech
- Barrel pivot
- This C1 has
- The plan
Sometimes you buy airguns because you long for them. Other times you buy them on the recommendation of others. And every so often a good deal just pops up and you feel you really need to take it. Such is the case with this .177-caliber Beeman C1 that I bought at the 2019 Texas Airgun Show.
Take this gun
A man walked up to my table holding a Beeman C1 that was scoped with a Beeman SS1 scope. The price he asked was so reasonable that I didn’t hesitate buying it, and, before long, reader David Enoch walked over and asked to buy the scope. I sold it to him, and I was left with just the rifle for a very reasonable price.
The C1 is a Webley rifle that was also sold by Beeman. It was made from 1981 to 1996. In the .177 caliber I am testing it was said to shoot pellets up to 830 f.p.s. with a cocking effort of 35 lbs. I will test all of that for you, of course.
The production of the U.S. rifles (apparently Webly sold the C1 in the UK, as well) began with serial number 800,000, according to the Blue Book. My test rifle is serial 801,309, which makes it a very early gun. Webley added a safety to the rifle in 1983 and my test rifle doesn’t have one, so it was made before then — probably in the first year of production. The first C1 that I purchased new back in the late 1980s had a safety, so it was a gun made after 1983.
My Beeman C1 is an early one.
The C1 is the rifle on which I developed the artillery hold. One of my airgun catalogs, probably from Air Rifle Headquarters, said to hold a spring gun tight to cancel the recoil. I tried that for a long time and could never get the C1 to group very well. It could maybe put 5 shots into one inch at 10 meters.
One day I decided to see how really inaccurate it would be if it wasn’t held tight at all. So I laid it on the open palm of my off hand and didn’t bring the butt into my shoulder hard. The rifle was free to flop around as much as it wanted. And, to my utter surprise, the rifle put 5 pellets into 0.3-inches at 10 meters!
Naturally I tried this over and over to see if it really worked, and it did. I was so thrilled that I wrote Dr. Beeman a letter, telling him of my discovery. I thought I might write it up for his catalog. He never answered me, so the idea almost died, except 10 years later when The Airgun Letter started I wrote about it there. I also gave it it’s name while writing the 9 articles that became the basis for the Beeman R1 book. I don’t think I ever wrote a specific article for the newsletter about the artillery hold, but I do think I explained several times how it worked and my readers caught on. And it all came from shooting that first C1.
My first C1 was a compromise — something I know many of you can relate to. I really wanted an R1, but at the time we didn’t have the money to stretch that far, so I bought the C1 as the closest I could get. The difference was $189 for the C1 and $249 for the R1, as I recall. That little difference made my decision for me.
When it was new, my first C1 was quite stiff and hard to cock. The trigger was also very stiff. To say I was disappointed by the shooting performance was an understatement! After hearing all the good things about precision adult air rifles and having already owned an FWB 124, this C1 was a boat anchor in comparison. But it was all I had, so I stuck with it.
Smoother with use
After about 2,000 rounds had passed through the rifle, I began noticing that the cocking was getting smoother. At first I thought it was my imagination, but then I started noticing that the firing behavior was smoother, as well. After 3,000 rounds the trigger started getting very light and, if not exactly crisp, at least predictable. It seemed the more I shot the nicer the rifle’s action and trigger became.
About that time I disassembled the rifle to see what I could do to improve it. What I was thinking, I’ll never know, because I hadn’t a clue how to tune a spring gun. The Beeman R1 book was still many years in the future. Black tar hadn’t been discovered by airgunners yet. It existed as open gear lubricant, but it was not known to the airgun community, so we used Beeman’s Mainspring Dampening Compound instead. It did pretty much the same thing, though it wasn’t as viscous, and you had to use a lot more of it.
Fortunately, I also didn’t own a chronograph yet, either, so I had no idea how fast my rifle was shooting. I trusted the Beeman catalog implicitly.
Use a mainspring compressor!
While either disassembling or assembling my C1 a curious thing happened and I got the first photo to go into the R1 book. The rifle’s heavy solid steel end cap got away from me, sailed across the room and broke a desk drawer divider in two! Had my arm been there instead, I’m thinking it might have been broken — bruised for certain. I instantly understood the need for a mainspring compressor!
The C1 end cap hit this desk divider to the right of the crack (see the dent in the wood) and busted it in two.
The test rifle
The test rifle is a .177 caliber, as mentioned. It does have open sights, but the rear sight has been broken and poorly glued together with epoxy.
The rear sight has a central screw for elevation and I can see nothing for windage. You can see that the excess epoxy makes it unclear if there even is any windage adjustment. You certainly are’t going to do any!
The front sight is bent to the left, probably from a fall. That makes the open sights useless on this rifle. Yes, they can be fixed, but since I don’t plan to use them, I’m not going to bother!
The front sight is a single unit held on by a screw. This one is bent to the left from a fall.
After the front sight was off I test-fired the rifle at a backstop on my desk three feet away. I was surprised to see the pellet striking the backstop three inches above the natural hold. The barrel is severely bent upward right at the baseblock! This air rifle was fired with the barrel open! There is no anti-beartrap, so it’s possible to fire with the barrel broken open.
That would present a problem for many shooters, but you may recall that a few years ago I showed how to straighten a bent barrel. I am probably the right guy to work on this rifle.
The rifle under test is a tad less than 38 inches long, and the barrel accounts for 13-3/8-inches of that. This rifle weighs 6 lbs. 10 oz.
The western-style stock is hardwood that’s probably beech. The pull is 13-1/2-inches. The buttpad is a soft grippy rubber pad. There is no checkering and the stock is very full. The stock on this rifle was the inspiration for the Air Venturi Bronco stock.
The C1 stock was the inspiration for the Bronco stock.
The single-stage trigger is light. I think it’s a bit too light for this rifle. Someone may have been inside, though I do remember that C1 triggers get very light over time. And the rifle cocks easier than 35 lbs. So it may have just been shot a lot.
The spring is quite buzzy, so the rifle needs to be taken apart and overhauled. The piston seal is PTFE, which is a generic name for Teflon. I’ll show it to you when I can. Tune in a Tube will perform miracles on this rifle! At some point either Webley or Beeman realized how buzzy the powerplant was and later on in the production run they installed a spring guide that was also a mainspring dampener. But I think I can quiet the action much more than that with just TIAT.
The steel is deeply blued all over with speckles of rust in many places. I think this may be someone’s first spring gun. They may have tried working on it and didn’t quite get it right or it may have just been neglected. I’ll know more when I get inside. Fortunately, like an older Harley Davidson, the C1 has a lot of extra material to work with, and I think I can turn this sow’s ear into a very nice purse.
The breech on a C1 is different enough that it’s worth examining. The outside of the barrel has a large deep groove that rests against a crosspin in the action forks. A spring-loaded chisel detent pushes the barrel down against this pin. Theoretically this would have been a way to prevent barrel droop in a similar way to the ASP20’s keystone breech.
Looking down on the C1 breech we see the grooved breech that rests against the steel crosspin.