Choosing an airgun

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • What to do?
  • Electric bicycle
  • No idea
  • A bonus
  • My eyes were opened
  • The upside
  • What I learned
  • New eyes
  • PCPs
  • Get what you want
  • Summary

I was going to do a test today, but this subject popped up and I think it should be addressed. I recently started a review of the Benjamin Fortitude Generation 2 PCP air rifle. The Fortitude Gen 2 is a price-point PCP (PPP). So far the review of that rifle is going well.

On Tuesday of this week I started my review of the Air Venturi Avenger PCP air rifle, another PPP. From our first look at that rifle it also looks very promising.

Now, some comments have said that if the airgun is a precharged pneumatic, the rifle doesn’t stand alone. You need a way to get compressed air into the rifle, and that costs more money. So, the cost of the rifle is not the end of the story for PCPs. But with a spring-piston airgun, the rifle does stand alone. Except for the pellets that all pellet guns need, everything you need to shoot is there when you purchase a spring-piston airgun. With a few exceptions like some spring-piston rifles that come without sights, I have to agree with that reasoning.

What to do?

Well, it’s obvious there is no wrong or right in this situation, just differing opinions. But let’s go back to the Fortitude and Avenger. Which of them is best? I may be able to help you there. Just because they are both feature-laden PPP air rifles does not mean they are alike. In fact, they are quite different. Both are looking good at this point and if they both prove out in testing, which one is better? I can answer that for you, and I will, but first I need to lay some groundwork.

Electric bicycle

As some of you know, I rode an electric bicycle for the first time at the SHOT Show in  Las Vegas this year, and became enthralled with the idea of electric bikes. I spent hours on You Tube, looking at reviews of many bikes and learning which reviewers seemed trustworthy and which ones to avoid. And oddly enough I focused on one thing above all others in my reviews — how fast the bikes could go. See any parallel there?

But I had one thing going for me that maybe most first-time electric bike owners don’t have. I test airguns. Lots of airguns, it turns out. And in doing that I have learned that specifications don’t tell the whole story — even when they are great and are met.

The bike I bought is a LectricXP. It’s a folding fat tire bike that comes set up to go as fast as 20 m.p.h. You can either do that by twisting the hand throttle and just going or you can pedal the bike.

It’s not the fastest electric bike you can get. There are other bikes that go up to 28 m.p.h. That’s faster, of course. But what does it mean to ride a bike that can go 28 m.p.h.? I own a non-electric bike and I am able to get it up to 28 m.p.h. on a downhill grade, so I have a little experience going that fast on a bike, but with that one I am peddling hard to do so. With an electric bike I don’t have to peddle hard to achieve the maximum speed. How does that equate to riding a bike?

No idea

To tell the truth, I had no idea what it’s like to go 28 m.p.h. and not have to pedal fast. I didn’t even know what it was like to go 20 m.p.h. and not have to pedal fast. Oh, I have owned motorcycles that went very fast, but that is not the same as doing it on an almost silent bicycle.

A bonus

As it turns out, the LectricXP has software built in that allows me to change its top speed from 20 m.p.h. to 28 m.p.h. That’s a feature that helped me decide to get that bike. But I haven’t made that change yet and it may be a long time before I do.

My eyes were opened

Once I had the bike it took some time to learn how it works and to get used to the pedal assist function. I don’t like it that much. When I pedal the bike there is little to no resistance in the pedals and it feels like I’m doing nothing. Yet the faster I pedal the faster the bike goes. At some point when I peddle fast, resistance in the pedals starts, but by then I am very close to the top speed. And the top speed they advertise isn’t really the top speed of the bike, because if I pedal very hard I can go faster than 20 m.p.h. All of that is the downside of an electric bike — the bad stuff.

The upside

Is there an upside? Yes, there is, but it took me many rides before I discovered it. The upside comes when I put the derailleur (the mechanism that selects the different sprockets on the rear wheel) at its fastest setting, which is 7 on this bike. I set the pedal assist at 2 (out of a possible 5 settings) and then I can cruise comfortably at 13-15 m.p.h. on level ground and 8 m.p.h. on steep hills — all while pedaling comfortably with some resistance in the pedals. In other words — this electric bike has made bike-riding much easier for me! As a result, I’m riding my (new) bike more and more each day. 

What I learned

I learned that an electric bike is not what anyone said it is — at least it isn’t for me. Some reviewers got close by saying that it would make your daily commute much easier. They were speaking to people who ride their bicycles to work. I understood that, but my daily commute is from my bedroom into my office. I pass through the living room and pet the cat if she’s awake, but that’s about it. The reviewers did not know how to look at their products with new eyes. And that is what I want to talk to all of you about today.

New eyes

When I write about an airgun I always try to see it with fresh eyes. That’s hard, because I see so many of them. But you readers don’t. Most of you see what you already own, if you even have an airgun at all. I know we have many readers who stumbled onto this blog by accident and became intrigued. That’s great, but if they want to try airgunning where should they start?

This is why I keep harping on a few certain airguns all the time. It’s not that I’m trying to sell you on them. Heck, I probably talk about the Diana 27 more than any other air rifle. Good luck getting one!

But, when I mention the TX200 Mark III, I know that if you buy one, knowing up front what to expect (such as it will need a scope and rings), you won’t be disappointed. In the 26 years I have been writing about airguns I have convinced hundreds of people to buy a TX200, and in all that time only one person ever complained. He even did it on this blog, and I don’t think I was able to resolve his complaint. I will take a ratio like that!

So, when a bombshell new spring-piston air rifle like the ASP20 comes along and it costs a lot less than the TX200, but offers many of the same features such as a good trigger, easier cocking and superb accuracy — OF COURSE I’m going to climb on the bandwagon! I can’t miss, because it’s as good a breakbarrel as I have seen. It’s affordable for all the features you get and it’s made by Sig, who have given me every reason to trust them. If Umarex had continued with their Challenger LGV, I would be shaking my pom-poms for them, too! I loved the Air Vernturi Bronco for exactly the same reasons.

But it doesn’t stop there. Spring-piston airguns are fine and I have several that I do revere — one above all other airguns — the Diana 27. But there is much more to airgunning than just spring-piston guns, just as there is much more to bicycles than one particular style. To make this report manageable I’m going to skip past CO2 guns, multi-pumps, single-stroke pneumatics and go straight to precharged pneumatics.

PCPs

The PCP is the closest that airguns come to rimfire firearms. Some PCPs are as powerful as a .22 long rifle cartridge, but that isn’t why they are comparable. It’s because you don’t have to do anything but load and shoot them. As long as they are charged with air, the experience is nearly identical to what you get when you shoot a rimfire.

That means that no special technique is required to get accuracy from a PCP, though holding it correctly can improve the consistency a little.

Triggers on PCPs can be made finer and more positive than those on springers, though by no means is that a guarantee. The Rekord trigger, the Diana T06 trigger and the trigger in the ASP20 are very fine springer triggers that are better than many PCP triggers, despite what I just said. It’s just much easier to put a better trigger into a PCP because it doesn’t have to restrain a heavy mainspring.

And when a powerful PCP fires the experience is pleasant. When a powerful spring-piston rifle fires the experience can be disturbing. Once again, it doesn’t have to be, but it takes a lot more design work to make a spring-piston powerplant smooth and enjoyable.

And, if power is important, there is no denying that PCPs have the high ground. The most powerful spring-piston airguns wind up somewhere in the 30+ foot-pound region. The big bore AirForce Texan that is a PCP produces more than 800 foot-pounds currently, which makes it the most powerful production airgun on the market. There are boutique PCPs that get even more muzzle energy. But where are the boutique springers? A few have existed over time but they were frightfully expensive and did not even produce as much energy as we are seeing in production models today.

Get what you want

All of these things come down to the one question that shooters are asked when they are thinking of buying their first airgun — what do you want to use it for? But — like me and electric bicycles — they don’t know what they don’t know and that question is impossible to answer. Now, I will tell you which is better between the Benjamin Fortitude and the Air Venturi Avenger, like I promised in the beginning.

The better airgun is the one that has more of the features you want and tests well.

But what if you don’t know what you want? That would be the time to not jump into the deep end of the pool with your clothes on! Dip one foot in and see if you like the feel. What I’m saying is — get an airgun to find out what airgunning is all about. If you find you like it, this will not be your last airgun. If you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted too much money.

Don’t try to imagine what airgunning is without sampling it. If you do, a rifle like the Avenger might be a better choice than the Fortitude.  It has a great trigger and is quite powerful. If that turns out to be what you expected, your choice would have been right. But if the Avenger seems too loud and powerful, you will have missed the quiet of the Fortitude.

Either way, though, it’s hard to make a big mistake when both choices are good ones like the Fortitude and Avenger. But, if you disregard this advice altogether and buy something based solely on power, velocity or some other single criteria that you have no experience with, your choice could be so wrong that you are turned off of the sport of airgunning altogether. I have seen shooters who were completely surprised when the big bore airgun they thought they wanted kicked them hard! In all their dreams, recoil was never a factor!

Summary

Getting into airguns is no different than getting into any hobby. First you need a little practical experience, and there is only one way to get that — not through video games, not by reading reviews or watching videos, but by first-hand experience.


Diana Bandit PCP air pistol: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana Bandit
Diana Bandit precharged pneumatic air pistol.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • Set up
  • Adjusting the UTG Reflex Micro dot sight
  • The test
  • Hades pellets
  • First group
  • Refill the pistol
  • Second group
  • Not clarvoiant!
  • Next step?
  • Fill to 180-bar
  • Final group
  • Summary

Today I finish my report on the .22-caliber Diana Bandit PCP pistol. I had to relearn some lessons, even though I described them well in the past blog parts.

The purpose of today’s report is to shoot the pistol with the 7-shot magazine that it comes with. Until now I have been shooting it with the single-shot tray.

Set up

I had to remount the UTG Reflex Micro dot sight, so there was another whole sight-in. It took all of the 7 pellets in the .22 caliber magazine to get in the bull. The first three shots were from 12 feet and the last 4 were from 10 meters, which is the distance I’m shooting at today.

Adjusting the UTG Reflex Micro dot sight

I removed the UTG Micro Dot sight from the AR-6 crossbow for today’s test for one reason. It is so small that it fits on the Bandit whose very short 11mm dovetail atop its receiver is just 2.8-inches long. You can’t use a sight that won’t mount to that. Ahead of the loading trough there is an additional 0.86-inches, but that isn’t of much use. Whatever you mount to the pistol has to allow clearance for the magazine.

The test

This is to test the utility of the Bandit’s 7-shot .22-caliber rotary magazine. We already know the Bandit is accurate. But how accurate it is with the magazine? We’re gonna find out!

I’m shooting from a sandbag rest at 10 meters. The pistol is rested directly on the bag. The illumination of the dot is adjusted as dim as I can see it against the bright target. That gives me a very small aiming point. I am wearing my normal glasses that are bifocal. I look through the top of the lenses, so I’m using the ever-so-slight correction for distance.

Hades pellets

I started with three different pellets, but as the test progressed I was learning so much (some of it for the second time) from just one of them that I only shot .22-caliber JSB Hades pellets. That will make the lessons of today’s test stand out clearly.

First group

I thought I had the pistol sighted in, so I shot the first group of 7 shots, and remember — this is with the magazine. I think the starting pressure was around 170 bar. That is extremely important.

Bandit group 1
The first group is 7 Hades pellets in 0.844-inches at 10 meters. It isn’t as small as I would like.

The first group was not where I wanted it so I adjusted the sight down and to the left. One of the best features on this Reflex Micro Dot is how fast it adjusts. It also seems to have a great range of adjustment.

Refill the pistol

At this point I refilled the pistol, because as we have learned, it is very short on breath. I can get perhaps two magazines of good shots (14) before it needs filling again. Unfortunately, there must have been a little more air pressure inside than I thought when I started, because I now overfilled it to 180 bar. With such a small reservoir you have to move very slow or this will happen.

Second group

It turned out to be a great thing, though, because of what you are about to see. The group is very vertical and I can confirm that the first shot is the lowest on the target. The group measures 1.195-inches between centers, but look at the top of the group. That is where the last shots clustered. So, a fill to 170 bar, like I should have done to begin with, should give a smaller group.

Bandit group 2
Still shooting from the magazine, on a 180-bar fill the shots climbed from below the bull up to almost the center.

Not clarvoiant!

I can’t see the future, so all I saw after group two was the gun shooting a vertical group with the magazine. Would it still group if I fired it single shot like it did in Part 4? If I had my head screwed on right I would have shot this next group from the magazine as well. The first group was so much better than this one, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was flustered after the second group, so I shot each of the next 7 Hades pellets from the single-shot tray.

Seven pellets fired single-shot went into 0.585-inches at 10 meters. The group is much rounder than the previous one. Oh, and I did not refill after the first group, so this one was shot on the 170 bar that the pistol likes.

Bandit group 3
Now, that’s more like it! Seven Hades pellets fired single-shot on a 170-bar fill went into 0.585-inches at 10 meters.

Next step?

Having gone this far I felt I knew what was happening with the pistol. A 180-bar fill is too much, and a 170-bar fill is right on the money. So I decided to try it again with the magazine. If I was right, with another 180-bar fill the first group would be a vertical string and the second group would be nice and round.

Fill to 180-bar

I filled the pistol to 180-bar, as indicated on the pistol’s built-in gauge. Then I loaded the rotary magazine with 7 more Hades pellets and shot the pistol. The first shot hit at the bottom of the bull and the group climbed up into the center of the bull by the final shots. This 1.166-inch vertical group is exactly what I expected.

Bandit group 4
This vertical group of 7 Hades pellets was fired at 10 meters from the magazine on a 180-bar fill. It measures 1.166-inches between centers.

Now, if I am right, the next group should be higher, smaller and rounder. I’m still shooting from the magazine.

Final group

The last group of 7 Hades pellets went into 0.568-inches at 10 meters. The group is smaller, higher and rounder — just as predicted.

Bandit group 5
Seven Hades pellets shot from the Bandit magazine at 10 meters on a 170-bar fill went into 0.568-inches. This is the smallest group of the test! The magazine is a success!

Summary

I am very impressed by the .22-caliber Diana Bandit PCP pistol. It offers a lot of performance for a very low price. There are things you must know about it, and I hope you have read about them in the five parts of this test. The most important thing to learn is how few shots you get at the best fill level.

The magazine works quite well and I did not see any degradation in accuracy when using it. Granted I only tested with one pellet and at a very close range, but I have little doubt that the Bandit will shoot well with a variety of different pellets.

Hey, I know — let’s run one more test with different pellets! How many of you would like that? I think next time I would like to shoot at least 14 Hades pellets at two different targets, starting with a 170-bar fill, to see if it stays on target through them all. If I do test it again it has to be soon so I can get that UTG dot sight back on the AR-6 crossbow.

Once again, the UTG Reflex Micro Dot sight has proven  its worth. Its small size, coupled with its wide range of adjustability make it an ideal dot sight for a great many airguns, both long and short.

I have used the JSB Hades pellet a lot in this test, and the Bandit does seem to do well with it. It’s a premium pellet that is fast becoming a standby in my ammo cabinet.

For a pistol in this price range I am impressed by the trigger. It’s not that light, but it sure is crisp and predictable. In fact there is a lot to like with this air pistol. Once I opened the silencer and got the baffles out of the way, she turned into a real shooter!


What makes an airgun “good”?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Soapbox!
  • Marauder
  • What makes an airgun good?
  • My list
  • Accuracy
  • A good trigger
  • Ease of cocking
  • Innovation
  • What doesn’t sell?
  • Price-point sales
  • Summary

Soapbox!

I’m on my soapbox today and I am preaching to the airgun industry, but probably also to some of you readers. I typed “what makes an airgun good?” into Google and came up with a list of retailers who all have lists of the “best” airguns of 2020. There were also some magazine articles with similar lists. I looked at all their lists. They had one thing in common. They were all bought and paid for! Every airgun on those lists was one that was either manufactured or at least sold under the name of a couple well-known manufacturers. Oh, they all had different-sounding product titles, but each of them was a subsidiary of a well-known airgun maker.

A couple of them were indeed airguns that have a long-standing basis of customer support, like the Daisy 880 and the Benjamin 392. The 392 is no longer produced, but it has been replaced by the 392S, which is a multi-pump in a synthetic stock. How similar it is to the now-discontinued 392 I will try to discover when I test it.

Marauder

The Benjamin Marauder made several lists, and it deserves to! This is a precharged pneumatic (PCP) that once lead the market and still offers features customers desire. A Marauder has a great trigger, quiet operation, good accuracy, a fine adjustable trigger, and the ability for the owner to fine-tune it to suit their preferences. 

The Marauder has also come out as a semiautomatic this year, but it’s not out yet and the jury is still out. I know the trigger is not as crisp as the one on the bolt-action Marauder, but whether that poses a problem remains to be seen. Accuracy and the other aspects of operation will have to be tested.

What makes an airgun good?

Marketing departments are confronted with putting a happy face on whatever products their company has to sell. Sales departments are tasked with closing the deals. And purchasing departments must buy products that can be sold. Who in the company is charged with knowing what makes an airgun good? Nobody, it seems.

Apparently knowing what make an airgun good is my job. Or, if not, I’m going to do it anyway, since nobody else seems to want to do it.

My list

The following are things I have observed that the market seems to appreciate and desire. If an airgun has them and if it truly delivers them the way the customer expects, the product has a good chance of doing well. That’s not as guarantee, just a good chance.  As I write about them I will tell you what works and what doesn’t.

At the end I will address price-point sales, but they should be kept separate from regular sales on the open market.

Accuracy

Real accuracy is very desirable. But what does it mean to be accurate? What it means is being able to put shot after shot into the same place or very close to the same place.

Is five shots in one inch at 25 yards accurate? It’s okay but it’s not really what customers look for these days. What about five shots in a half-inch. Well, that can be considered accurate, but it all depends on what kind of airgun is doing it. If it’s a spring-piston air rifle that costs less than $300, then, yes, it’s quite accurate. If it’s a PCP that costs $1,000, then no, it’s not very impressive. HOWEVER, if it is a Olympic-grade PCP target rifle that costs $3,200, it doesn’t matter!!! Nobody cares what a rifle like that does at 25 yards, because that kind of air rifle lives and dies at 10 meters or 11 yards. Learn the expectations of your products, buyers, before you start purchasing them.

A good trigger

A good trigger is one that has a crisp release that is uniform and predictable, time after time. The weight of the pull or let-off doesn’t matter nearly as much as people think. A service rifle National Match trigger on an AR-15 must have a release of not less than 4.5 pounds. That number looks high to many shooters, but it is the standard by which triggers of this category are tested. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the company’s description of a highly-regarded $279.00 Geissele High-Speed National Match trigger.

“Our Service Rifle Trigger includes our exclusive 5-Coil trigger spring which will give a nominal 4 lbs. on first stage. The Service trigger pull weights are biased with most of the pull weight on the first stage. This will allow a light second stage with an icicle-sharp break, effectively giving your weapon a match-grade trigger let-off.”

So the key is the crisp let-off and not the pull weight. Sig Sauer knows that and delivers it in their new ASP Super Target. Weihrauch knew it years ago and incorporated it into their HW 40, which is the basis for the Beeman P3. Reader Kevin once tried the trigger on my Wilson Combat CQB 1911 pistol and guessed the let-off at one pound. It is actually three pounds. 

One final thing about triggers. If you make them adjustable make certain they really do adjust! Everyone who has tried the Sig ASP20 adjustable trigger has nothing but praise for it because it really does adjust. Same for the trigger on the Benjamin Marauder. However I have tested hundreds of triggers that say they are adjustable but nothing changes when you adjust them. Adjustable triggers are not supposed to be placebos or busy boxes, and shooters resent it when they are.

Ease of cocking

This isn’t the same as light cocking. The ASP20 once again wins in this category because it cocks easier than it should for the power it develops. I have tested several other gas spring air rifles recently that also cock much easier than their power output level would suggest. 

And don’t think this is limited to spring-piston airguns. A number of bolt-action PCPs are harder to cock than they should be and I have seen their owners protest loudly. There have been some “Mark II” models come to market just to correct this fault, so be wise and don’t let it happen to begin with.

Innovation

Customers may not say much about it, but when a company innovates, they know it. And they often vote with their wallets.  I have given suggestions for several innovations in the past year, and I hope some companies took them to heart.

Remember the $100 PCP project? What did it spawn? The Benjamin Maximus, that for a time was priced under $200. It’s $30 more these days, but it’s still one of the best bargains on the market.

How about the Seneca Aspen multi-pump that’s also a PCP? People have been asking for that for more than a decade and now we have it. Yes, I am aware that FX did it first with their Independence, but that rifle cost over $1,600 and was not targeted toward the market that wanted it.

Seneca Aspen
The Seneca Aspen is both a multi-pump and a PCP.

What doesn’t sell?

I’m not going to explain this list, because it’s too controversial. 

  • Fiberoptic sights
  • Camouflage coverings
  • Scopes bundled with airguns — unless the scopes are exceptional
  • Automatic safeties
  • Using the word “target” in a product title for something that is clearly not for shooting targets

Price-point sales

As some companies grow they look for other markets they deem lucrative. Discount and big box stores seem to attract a lot of attention. To sell to them there is but one criterion — price. The product must have the same general set of features that it has for the open market, but since price is the most important factor, anything that can be done to lower it is considered. For this market a product doesn’t have to perform to the same standards as one that’s sold to the open market. Brand loyalty and repeat business are not hallmarks of this trade. Price is king, along with a willingness to accept a higher level of returns.

This market is not less complex than the open market. It’s just different. Some companies sell the same products in both markets and in the price-point market they accept a lower margin that is partly offset by higher volume of sales. Some companies build products to lower specifications for this market and some companies remove things from their standard product offerings — like one magazine instead of two or a cheaper scope and rings bundled with the price-point sales.

Other companies never sell to the price-point market. They realize they cannot maintain the same standards and control of their products, so they never opt in.

To sell John Brown
What John Brown buys
You have to see the world 
Through John Brown’s eyes.

Summary

I wrote this report after seeing many lists of the “best airguns of 2020.” The lists were obviously artificial. Some of the guns on the lists have not yet come to the market. How can they be the best? After examining several of the lists it became clear they were generated through the process of an extended and hopefully concealed marketing campaign. That’s not the way good airguns are made. 


Springfield Armory XD-M Compact blowback BB pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Springfield-XD-M
The XD-M BB pistol from Springfield Armory.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Compact pistol
  • The grip
  • Installing the CO2 cartridge
  • Not a small pistol
  • The loading assist — doesn’t!
  • Velocity Air Venturi Steel BB
  • Dust Devils
  • Slide does not remain open
  • Smart Shot
  • Shot count
  • Blowback
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation
  • Summary

I don’t encounter many airgun copies of firearms that I am unfamiliar with, but the Springfield Armory XD-M Compact blowback BB pistol is one. So my report will be a first hand observation of all the features I notice about this handgun.

Today is the day I test the velocity of this BB gun and we will get right to it, but first I need to make a couple observations. They came from installing the first CO2 cartridge in the pistol.

Compact pistol

In Part One I told you I was testing the smaller version of the Springfield Armory XD-M pistol. There is a larger pistol whose barrel is 4.5-inches long. The pistol I’m testing has a 3.8-inch barrel. On the cover of the owner’s manual Air Venturi refers to this one as the Compact. The other one they call Full-Size. 

Springfield XD-M mahnual description
The manual distinguishes between the Full-Size pistol and the Compact I am testing.

The grip

The Full-Size pistol has a conventional grip. The Compact has a grip that’s in two sections. Let me show you.

Springfield XD-M grip
The gip of the Compact pistol has a separate section that’s held in place by the magazine. I left the magazine sticking out in this photo.

When the magazine is locked in place, it holds the separate grip section in its place. The grip then feels like the grip of the Full-Size pistol. The only thing that’s smaller on the Compact pistol is the shorter barrel and slide.

The Compact version of the firearm does not have this two-part grip feature. It has the same 3.8-inch barrel as this BB gun, but the grip appears full-sized and solid. It must not be quite full-sized though, because Springfield Armory differentiates between the magazines for the Compact and for the Full-Size handgun. 

On the BB guns the magazines for the Compact and Full-Size guns both hold the same 20 BBs. So in terms of the grip size, they are the same. But the Compact barrel is 0.7-inches shorter than the Full-Size barrel, so the velocity will be lower.

Installing the CO2 cartridge

To install a fresh CO2 cartridge the magazine floorplate must first be removed. 

Springfield XD-M floorplate
The magazine floorplate has to come off to install the CO2 cartridge. Press down on the button (arrow) and slide it off.

Springfield XD-M floorplate off
The magazine’s floorplate comes off and the CO2 cartridge end cap is accessible.

Once the floorplate is off the end cap is unscrewed by a large Allen wrench that comes in the box and a new cartridge is dropped in. Obviously the piercing pin is deep inside the grip, so I inverted the pistol and dropped in three drops of Crosman Pellgunoil before inserting the cartridge and screwing the cap down. I never heard the slightest puff of gas, and the cartridge pierced perfectly. And the floorplate went right back on.

Not a small pistol

I have to comment that the Compact XD-M is not a small pistol. In fact, it is on the large side. A little bigger around than a classic M1911A1 grip, by a few millimeters. Mostly that’s due to the width of the firearm double stack magazine, which the BB gun faithfully copies. My point is, this BB pistol is for regular-size to larger paws. Not giants, perhaps, but larger hands for sure.

The loading assist — doesn’t!

There is no lockdown for the spring-loaded magazine follower. Instead a loading assist tool is provided. You use it to hold the follower down to load the BBs. I found it very inconvenient and fiddly, and after dropping it many times I abandoned it.It’s easy enough to hold the follower down with a fingernail, but this needs to be addressed!

 Springfield XD-M loading assist
This little piece of plastic does nothing to assist loading!

Velocity Air Venturi Steel BB

This gun is sold by Air Venturi, so I tested their BB first. Ten shots averaged 288 f.p.s. The low was 284 and the high was 290 f.p.s., which is a difference of 6 f.p.s. Two shots failed to register on the skyscreens, so this string actually took 12 shots.

I waited a minimum of 10 second between shots and sometimes a lot more. I tell you that because the CO2 cools the gun as it flows, lowering the gas pressure and slowing down the BBs. Though I must say this gun doesn’t have that problem as much as most CO2 pistols.

Dust Devils

Next up were Air Venturi Dust Devils. At 4.35-grains (though I measured them in Part one at 4.6 grains)  these BBs are slightly lighter than conventional steel BBs. Through the XD-M they averaged 287 f.p.s., though the spread was much larger. It went from a low of 276 to a high of 297 f.p.s. — a difference of 21 f.p.s.

Slide does not remain open

In this string two shots failed to register and the slide did not remain open after the last shot, so another blank shot was fired at the end. On that blank shot, though, the slide did stay back. To get the 10 shots that registered on the chronograph I had to shoot 13 shots. I’m telling you this because I’m doing the shot count as I go.

Smart Shot

We know that the lead Smart Shot BB is heavier, so it will go slower, but in a CO2 gun it won’t be as different as it would in a spring-piston BB gun. Smart Shot averaged 252 f.p.s. in the XD-M. The spread went from a low of 248 to a high of 259 f.p.s. — a difference of 11 f.p.s. There were no failures to record any velocity on this string and, although the slide did not remain back after the last shot, I did not pull the trigger again. 

Shot count

At the end of the last string there were 35 shots on the CO2 cartridge. I wondered if the gun was still shooting at its best, so I fired another string of Air Venturi BBs. Nine of the 10 shots registered, giving an average of 282 f.p.s. In the first string the average was 288 f.p.s.

The low for this string was 276 and the high was 287 f.p.s. The high was the very first shot and the low was the last shot, so the gas is starting to run out. But the power is still good, so I continued shooting Air Venturi BBs. There are now 45 shots on the CO2 cartridge.

The next string is indicative of gas pressure decline. I will show the entire string.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………277
2…………276
3…………273
4…………273
5…………271
6…………268
7…………265
8…………261
9…………258
10………..257

Yes, the gas is definitely running out. But the slide still cocks the pistol and still does not remain open after the last shot. There are now 55 shots on this CO2 cartridge. Since the gun seemed to be shooting okay, I shot four more times. Let’s look.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………254
2…………DNR
3…………247
4…………244

After these shots (shot 59 was the last one fired) I shot 9 more blank shots and the gas exhausted itself. The slide continued to blow back right to the end, though not far enough to cock the pistol on the last couple shots. From that data I’m saying there are about 50-55 good shots on a CO2 cartridge.

Blowback

The pistol does have a full blowback slide. It imparts a smart push to the hand that simulates recoil pretty well, though nothing like the force of even a .380 ACP cartridge. It’s more like a .22 Short.

Trigger pull

The two stage trigger is single-action. Stage one takes one pound and stage two breaks crisply at 2 lbs. 14 oz. For an action BB pistol that is right there with the best of them.

Evaluation

The XD-M pistol is very realistic. It has a beautiful trigger. The Compact model that I am testing is on the large side. 

The blowback is realistic. The slide does not remain open after the last shot. That is probably a magazine issue that will vary from mag to mag.

Summary

So far so good. The pistol behaves like a good copy should. Of course we are waiting to see the accuracy, and with a trigger as nice as this I hope this pistol can drive tacks!


Diana Bandit PCP air pistol: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana Bandit
Diana Bandit precharged pneumatic air pistol.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Leaded muzzle
  • Removed the barrel
  • Removed the silencer
  • Natural healing
  • Proof of the pudding
  • JSB Hades
  • First target
  • Sound
  • Hades target with 185-bar fill
  • Hades with 190-bar fill
  • Hades pellets with a 170-bar fill
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Last pellet — RWS Meisterkugeln
  • Discussion
  • Warning
  • Summary

I have a lot to tell you today, so let’s get started.

Leaded muzzle

It has been almost a full month since I last wrote about the Diana Bandit PCP pistol, so let me give you a brief refresher. In Part Three I was getting horrible groups at 10 meters, and they were caused by the pellets hitting the inside the muzzle cap. Let’s look at the picture again.

Diana Bandit lead
That pile of lead told me the pellets were all smashing into the backside of the muzzle cap.

Any time an airgun is inaccurate at short range and it has a muzzle break or a silencer, you start investigating there. When I saw that mound of lead I knew I had found the problem. There is no way this pistol could be accurate with all the pellets hitting at that spot.

I made the remark that it was a good thing the lead was visible, because it would have been far harder to see if the pellets were just smearing along one of the baffles deep inside the silencer. However, to fix the problem the barrel had to be removed from the pistol so the silencer could be removed from the barrel. That’s because heat had to be used to break the adhesive bond between the barrel and silencer and I didn’t want the rest of the pistol to get hot.

Removed the barrel

To remove the barrel loosen the three screws atop the forward end of the receiver. Then pull the barrel straight out.

Diana Bandit screws
Loosen the three screws atop the receiver, then pull the barrel out. The center screw actually goes into a divot on the barrel, so unscrew it a little more.

Diana Bandit barrel
This is the barrel stub that comes out of the receiver. The central screw goes into that divot, keeping the front sight aligned.

Removed the silencer

With the barrel held tight in a padded machinists vise I heated the silencer with a heat gun. Then, by turning the silencer back and forth, it broke free and unscrewed in a few minutes. Now I could examine the baffles in detail.

I shined a light through from the back of the silencer and looked through the front. I saw that not one but FIVE of the baffles had lead streaks on their edges in a straight line that stretched toward the muzzle. When I pulled the silencer away from my eye to focus on the end cap, those streaks lined up with the lead blob on the inside! This pistol had no chance of being accurate from the very start! However, it didn’t have to stay that way. 

With a drill bit I opened up the passage through all the baffles from 0.287-inches to 0.335-inches, including the end cap. That will give adequate clearance without increasing the muzzle report much, if any. I have fixed many other silencers this way over the past 25 years — starting with a Daystate Huntsman that I shot field target with in the 1990s. Don’t kid yourself — every silencer is suspect until it has been inspected. 

Natural healing

If I had left the pistol alone the pellets would have eventually worn away the edges of the baffles that were in their way — and even the end cap. This is what sometimes happens when a gun that starts out not so very accurate and then becomes extremely accurate. How long it takes depends on how severely misaligned the baffles are, but they are seldom off by much. That end cap is the worst I have ever seen though, and it would probably have taken thousands of shots to wear it away. My way is more direct and immediate.

Once the silencer had been opened, I screwed it back on the muzzle of the barrel. Then the barrel went back into the receiver.

Proof of the pudding

With the barrel back on the pistol, let’s return to the 10-meter range and shoot the same pellets that were tested last time. I’ll start with the JSB Hades.

JSB Hades

In the last test Hades pellets gave me the best group of the test, with 4 pellets out of five in 0.31-inches at 10 meters. 

Diana Bandit Hades target 1
I thought I had nailed it in the last test when I shot this target. Pellets 5 though 8 and in 0.31-inches at 10 meters.

But after that first “good” group, Hades pellets blew up and gave groups that measured several inches between centers. Many of them hit the paper sideways. Let’s see what they do, now that the silencer has been opened up.

First target

This target was the sight-in target. I hadn’t removed the UTG Micro Reflex dot sight from the pistol since the last test of the Bandit, nor had I adjusted it, but the barrel has been removed, so of course it would most likely not hit in the same place.

I filled the pistol to 180 bar. I knew from before that was the best fill pressure. That will become important in a bit.

The first shot went low and to the right, so I cranked in a lot of up and quite a bit of left adjustment. The second shot hit just below the black at 6 o’clock, so I decided to shoot three more shots to see if the pistol was going to group. The next three shots landed above the second shot, which told me that 180 bar was a little too much pressure for this particular pistol. The four shots are in a group that measures 0.977-inches between centers. That told me the pistol was fixed!

Diana Bandit Hades group 1
This target told me a lot. The first shot was low and right, so I adjusted the dot sight up and to the left. Shot two was below the black and shots three through five are in a horizontal line inside the bull. That tells me that 180 bar is too much pressure for this pistol. I also know that my silencer fix worked!

Sound

Did the modification of the silencer change the discharge sound? Normally I would tell you that my old ears are too far gone to be precise about this, but on this particular day I was wearing a brand-new pair of prescription hearing aids that correct my hearing in 17 different frequency channels. These puppies cost me a bundle but I’m now hearing sounds I haven’t heard since entering the Army in 1970. Yeah — that was a half-century ago! And the Bandit is still extremely quiet. I doubt the discharge sound has changed much at all. So, for this particular pistol, what I did was a job worth doing.

Hades target with 185-bar fill

I still wanted to check the fill, which I am monitoring on an oil-filled gauge on my carbon-fiber air tank. So I filled to 185 bar and commenced shooting at the next target. The first three shots hit in the white below the bull and then five shots went into 0.526-inches in the bottom of the bull. Yes — this Bandit is fixed. And yes, it does not like a fill to 185 bar. The dot sight was not adjusted for this series of shots. It was the change in air pressure alone that raised those last five shots.

Diana Bandit Hades 185-bar group
With a 185-bar fill the first three Hades pellets landed below the bull, then five more went into 0.526-inches inside the bull. That upward movement of the pellets is from the changing air pressure, alone.

Hades with 190-bar fill

After the last target I adjusted the dot sight 2 clicks up and one click to the left. And you would think after seeing the last target that I would know when to stop filling the pistol, but remember, I told you that it fills very fast. This time I lost track of the needle (it was vibrating!) and it ended up at 190 bar. Well — I had a plan to deal with that.

I shot 6 Hades pellets into a group that measures 0.748-inches between centers at 10 meters. Notice that the last two shots hit the bull inside the black. I watched them through my spotting scope because I figured they would climb, from what I had seen thus far. The fact that they did tells me I know what this pistol is doing.

Diana Bandit Hades 190-bar fill
The first 6 shots on a 190-bar fill went into 0.748-inches at 10 meters. Notice that the final two shots are in the black.

Hades pellets with a 170-bar fill

I adjusted the dot sight up 4 clicks and left 2 clicks. And I did not fill the pistol with air again. At this point I guessed there was about 170 bar of pressure remaining in the tank, so I simply shot five more Hades pellets at a fresh target. Look what happened!

Five Hades pellets on a 170-bar fill went into 0.342-inches at 10 meters. Yeah — this Diana Bandit pistol can  shoot, alright!

Diana Bandit Hades 170-bar fill
There you go! The Diana Bandit put 5 JSB Hades pellets into 0.342-inches at 10 meters.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

By this time I was very familiar with how the valve on my carbon fiber air tank operates. I managed to stop the fill at exactly 170 bar! Then I loaded and shot 5 JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets. After checking that the first one struck inside the bull I just shot the remaining four without looking. Five pellets made a 0.426-inch group at 10 meters. 

Diana Bandit Jumbo Heavy group
The Bandit put five JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets into this 0.426-inch group at 10 meters.

Last pellet — RWS Meisterkugeln

The last pellet I tried was the .22-caliber RWS Meisterkugeln wadcutter. In the last test these were the most accurate pellets, though they did not respond to a sight adjustment. So I suspect they were hitting the baffles, too. 

This time the Bandit put 5 Meisterkugeln in 0.452-inches at 10 meters. And that settles it — the Bandit has done demonstrably better with all three pellets, now that the baffles are open and out of the way!

Diana Bandit Meisterkugeln group
Five RWS Meisterkugeln made this 0.452-inch group at 10 meters.

Discussion

The Diana Bandit is a remarkably accurate air pistol when it is allowed to shoot without encumbrance. Today’s report is a landmark one because we saw a problem, then saw the fix and the proof that the problem was resolved.

Some of you will notice that I was shooting the pistol single-shot today. With the silencer problem being addressed I didn’t want the magazine to become another variable. I will return and test the pistol with the magazine in one final report.

We also learned that this specific pistol likes a fill to 170 bar on the gauge of my carbon fiber tank. This is something you have to find out for yourself and I have now shown you how to do it.

Finally we learned that the Bandit gets only a few shots on a fill. Now that I have the 170 bar fill limit nailed down I will try to stretch the shot count next time when I test with the magazine.

Warning

I DO NOT recommend that any of you do what I did to fix your silencers! I know how to do this so the silencer is not ruined. If you have a problem like this with your air pistol you now know what it could be. Let the company that sold you the gun fix it.

Some of you are machinists and know how to do what I did even better than I did it. A lathe with a boring bar would be great if you know how to operate one. Or even just a drill bit chucked in a tailstock would be a better way to do it.

Summary

The Bandit is a very impressive air pistol! At just $150 it is a price-point precharged pneumatic pistol! That would be a PPPPP. If you can handle a pistol and don’t mind spending the money for a GOOD dot sight like the one I am using, this might almost be your best entry into the world of PCPs! Since the fill is only 170 bar, you could easily fill this pistol from a hand pump!


Range days at the 2020 SHOT Show

by Tom Gaylord

Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

Sig Virtus

P365 BB pistol

Virtus airsoft

Smart Shooter

It’s over

Media day at the Range

Umarex USA

Air Javelin

Air Saber

Constant Acceleration Pneumatic Arms

Light gas

Not done yet

That’s all

I went to two range days this year. Sig Range Day was on Sunday and Industry Day at the Range was Monday. Both are for the media, so we get to see and possibly shoot the guns they are showing at SHOT. I say, “Possibly” because the guns don’t always cooperate. I have seen several that failed to function on range day. That’s either because they were rushed through production or sometimes it’s just bad luck.

Sig Range Day — Sig Virtus

The first day was all Sig. This year they had one new PCP pellet rifle that is now shipping — the semiautomatic Virtus. This rifle is based on previous designs of Sig CO2 repeaters and has a belt-fed magazine. This one is a precharged pneumatic (PCP) though, and develops up to 12 foot-pounds in .22 caliber. So it’s a fun gun!

I shot it with the Romeo5 dot sight and also with the flip up iron sights that are no-doubt called “Backup Iron Sights (BUIS)”. Well, the Romeo5 wasn’t cooperating that day, so I used the back up sights and discovered that the Virtus is a very accurate rifle out to 25 yards. I was putting pellet on pellet at 15 yards. It’s a quiet rifle too, though I will need to test it alone and away from a firing range — hint-hint, Sig!

Virtus
Sig Air Virtus is a tactical-looking semiautomatic PCP. 

Virtus Tom

Once I switched to open sights, the Virtus was stacking pellets!

P365 BB pistol

I was surprised to see that the Sig P365 BB pistol is back — and apparently has been for more than a month. That’s one I’m in the middle of testing and need to complete sometime soon — another hint Sig!

Virtus airsoft

Sig Air will be bringing in more airsoft replica guns this year. I have tested the M17 already, but not the new M18 that’s the sidearm of several US armed forces. Sig’s Matt Handy showed the guns to me off the range and then I was able to shoot the new airsoft Virtus on the range. I hope to test that one for you this year, as well.

Airsoft Handy

Matt Handy holds the new Sig Virtus airsoft gun.

Smart Shooter

As I was leaving the range I was buttonholed by Hadas Weizman from Smart Shooter. He told me about a new weapons system where the shooter doesn’t have to be that good a shot. Smart Shooter is an electronic sighting system that controls the firing of a rifle. You hold the sight on the target and press a button until the sights draws an illuminated box around the target. Then you release the button and pull and hold back the rifle trigger. A large illuminated cross forms in the sight and you swing that over to the target. When the computer senses the shot is good the rifle fires.

Smart Shooter

Hadas Weizman holds the Smart Shooter training device that he trained me on.

I was trained in five minutes and then turned loose with a live rifle. I hit the moving target in the head twice at 100 yards from the offhand position.

Smart Shooter Tom

I hit the 100-yard moving target twice in the head.

After I finished shooting the Sig guys looked at each other and wondered why the target’s head had snapped back but the whole target had not dropped. They then shot the target in the body and got it to drop. I was told that I had at least wounded the target and that was the goal. Ha, ha!

They told me that a battle rifle is not a precision weapon and center of mass shots are best. But I just thought, “Two in the head and you know they’re dead!”

Smart Shooter moving target

This is a standby life-sized moving target for the Smart Shooter range.

It’s over

Sig Range Day was over for me but I do plan on stopping by their booth to talk more with their reps. I want to get a better feel for what 2020 holds for Sig Air.

Media day at the Range

This Media Day was better organized than ever before. The bus dropped us off at the top ranges where the two airgun ranges happened to be, and all we had to do after that was walk downhill. Even I can do that!

Umarex USA

Almost across the street from the entrance was the Umarex USA range. They were showing both of their arrow launchers and I got a chance to shoot both of them.

Air Javelin

The first one is the budget-priced Air Javelin that’s powered by CO2. It accepts a large 88-gram cartridge, and, though I saw about 10 shots fired, I never saw the cartridge run out of gas. It was 50 degrees, Fahrenheit, that day so I will have to test this one for you myself! Hint, hint — Umarex!

It shoots at over 300 f.p.s. which made me think it was capable of taking deer until I realized that the hollow arrow shaft makes the arrow weigh just 120 grains. It probably could take a deer up close, but that’s not what I would recommend. The guys at the range were talking groundhogs, rabbits and raccoons for this one.

Yes, the arrow is hollow and fits over a long tube in the gun. The air seals quite well, and there is very little impulse when the gun fires.

Umarex Air Javelin

To load an arrow into the Air Javelin I had to look at the slim tube inside the firearm, because the hollow arrow shaft fits it tight.

Umarex Air Javelin Shoot

The Air Javelin was quite accurate at 20 yards.

Air Saber

The Umarex Air Saber is their big dog this year. It launches a hollow 276-grain carbon fiber arrow at 450 f.p.s. This one runs on high pressure air, so it’s a PCP. It operates at 250 bar or 3,625 psi. I’ll have to wait to test one to give you a shot count per fill, but I never saw it run out of air while I was there.

They had a bipod on the range gun and I very nearly shot a Robin Hood at 25 yards, though I purposely tried not to. This arrow launcher is so powerful that they stuck arrows with field points so deep in a 3D jackalope target that they could not pull them back out! For those who don’t know, a jackalope is a mythical cross between an American jackrabbit and an American antelope.

Jackalope

You see a lot of mounted jackalope heads in southwestern bars in America.

Umarex Air Saber

The Air Saber is a powerful PCP airbow.

Umarex Air Saber Tom

The Air Saber was surprisingly accurate at 25 yards. I almost Robin-Hooded, even though I tried not to!

Constant Acceleration Pneumatic Arms

These guys are new to the world of big bores, though I have been communicating with one of the founders, Mark Cherry, for a couple years. To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever see anything come from our talks, but Mark persevered and brought his creation to Media Day. I will first show you the info sheet at their range.

Cap Dragon

This sheet says it all except the experience of shooting the gun.

Light gas

No, light gas is not 90 minutes after you eat onions! It’s a blend of Helium and other light gasses that flow faster than air because their atoms are smaller. I have known for a long time that it’s possible to get much higher velocity from an airgun when you shoot it with Helium, but there is a big problem. Or a very small one, to be more specific! The tiny Helium atoms are so small that they aren’t easily contained by valve seals and o-rings that are designed to hold air. Besides costing a lot, Helium will make a precharged airgun leak!

Well, these guys may have found a solution or solutions for that. The Dragon I shot was tethered to a tank, so lots of gas was being used, but they were also letting the media shoot, so maybe that was just the prudent thing to do.

All I know is I smacked the target at 40 yards on the first shot, with a 350-grain bullet that developed over 700 foot-pounds at the muzzle. The gun kicked like a .357 big bore, which stunned me. Apparently that “thin gas” also absorbs a lot of the firing impulse.

CAP Dragon Tom

The recoil was mild.

They told me their patented valve design maintains constant pressure on the bullet all the way down the bore. A larger valve passageway, longer valve dwell time and that thin gas all contribute to the amazing power that’s claimed.

Not done yet

Old BB was then finished with airguns, so he moseyed down to the other end of the range, sampling all the ranges along the way and stocking up on giveaway SWAG (hats, shorts, cupholders, pens, etc.). I thought I was done until I happened by the Rambo pavilion. There I met Kelle Adams of ShopBadAss.com. She was offering free rides on electric-powered desert bicycles! Would I like to try?

WOULD I?????

So there I am, all 235 lbs. of balding fat man, perched on a fat-tired mountain bike and racing across the Nevada Desert like Jabba the Hutt on a unicycle. No I didn’t fall. And no, I didn’t allow photography. Some things like car crashes, modern art and pictures of me riding a bicycle are best kept private.

Why am I telling you this? So you will tell your wives and they will give you some snappy comebacks to lay on me. You see, that was Edith’s job. Who is gonna pick up a 72-year-old curmudgeon when he piles up his bicycle at 30 mph?

Rambo

I want one!

That’s all

That’s my report for today. The show opens tomorrow and I hope to have a lot more to show you!


Crosman Mark I and II reseal

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is a guest blog from reader Ian McKee who writes as 45 Bravo. He’s going to tell us about the Crosman Mark I pistol he recently acquired and what he did to fix the leak it came with.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

A history of airguns

Over to you, Ian.

Crosman Mark I and II reseal

by Ian McKee
Writing as 45Bravo

This report covers:

  • Just kidding!
  • Four major changes over the years
  • I got this one cheap
  • It’s mine!
  • Bringing it back to life
  • BB’s end cap
  • Resealing both caps
  • How did it go?
  • Outer barrel removal
  • Wrong o-rings

Back in December 2018, and January 2019, B.B. reviewed a classic Crosman Mark I pistol in .22 caliber.

There were many comments about how it worked internally, and how the power adjuster worked, so today I thought I would give you a little peek inside the gun.

Mark II disassembled
Here is your peek of a disassembled pistol. This is actually a Mark II I photographed some time back. The parts of the two pistols are identical except for those pertaining to the caliber.

Thank you, that concludes today’s blog.

 

Just kidding!

I could not do that to you. Here is a synopsis to refresh your memory.

The Crosman Mark I and Mark II (.22 and .177 calibers, respectively) pistols are airgun versions of the classic Ruger Mark I and Mark II .22 rimfire pistols. They share the same grip angle, sight profile, and overall profile of the iconic Ruger rimfire pistol.

Ruger Marl 1
Ruger’s Mark I pistol.

All Crosman Mark air pistols retained an adjustable trigger throughout their production run, which was 1966 to 1986, but had other changes in their design over the years.

Four major changes over the years

The flip-style piercing cap was changed to a button-style piercing cap, similar to what’s found on the Smith & Wesson 78/79-series air pistols.

The metal bolt guide that was secured in the frame by a screw on either side below the rear sight was changed to a plastic bolt guide that is retained by 1 screw that’s hidden under the rear sight blade.

The power-adjusting screw that was located under the barrel was eliminated.

And to hold the grips they changed from using screws with countersunk heads to screws with flat heads, as shown.

Mark I grip screws
There are two different grip screw head profiles and grips that match them.

If you use the countersunk screws on grips made for flat-head screws, you will crack them, and it is not easy to find replacements.

There were some other minor changes over the years, but these were the big ones.

I have been a big fan of these pistols over the years, and have owned and resealed more of these than I have of the Smith & Wesson 78/79G series. In my opinion, the adjustable triggers of the Crosman guns are better than the adjustable triggers of the S&W guns. The engineer that designed these air pistols later had a hand in the design of the Smith & Wesson guns.

I got this one cheap

I saw this pistol online with a $50 or best offer price tag, and no photo. These two things together usually tell me to run away and let someone else take the chance.

I got to thinking I could always use it for parts, so I took the bait and contacted the seller. I found out he lived not too far away, and decided on a face-to-face look at the pistol.

He sent some fuzzy photos by text, that didn’t help my feelings about the deal.

In the ad he said the gun had leaks. When I finally saw it, it was one of the roughest Mark Is I have ever seen. It had been repainted several times, and at some point, someone had covered the bare spots with a permanent marker to make it all black again.

Mark I right
Right side.

Mark I left
Left side.

I put a CO2 cartridge in it and it vented all of the gas out of the piercing cap while I shot it a few times. [Editor’s note: Doing this in front of the seller is a big negotiating tip, because it emphasizes the fact that his gun doesn’t work!]

From this short examination I knew 3 things:

1. This was an early model Crosman Mark I in good mechanical condition.

2. All of the parts were there.

3. It did NOT leak out of the barrel, when it vented the gas.

It’s mine!

I made a ridiculously low offer, and he accepted. When I got it back home and on the bench, I started by cleaning off the permanent marker with alcohol.

I knew it was an older model, but did not realize how old, as in serial number 000659! There is not even a date code.

Mark I serial number
This is an early Mark I.

I now own one of the first ones made and also one of the last ones made.

Bringing it back to life

I put a second CO2 cartridge in it to check it out on the bench. It vented the gas in about 30 seconds and it all came from the piercing cap. That told me the valve seal was still good.

I shot it over the chrono as it was venting. The gun was cold from the CO2 cool-down, but it still registered 485 f.p.s.

Most times the leak is because the tiny o-ring in the piercing cap deteriorates. The piercing pin moves up and down in the older models by a lever. You flip the lever one way to pierce the CO2 cartridge, then return to its normal position to let the CO2 into the gun.

Some online disassembly guides say you have to remove the snap ring at the bottom of the cap and then drive out a roll pin. That is the hard way. The easy way is to use a 3/8-inch wide (9.5mm) screwdriver blade in the slot inside the piercing cap. Use it to unscrew the cover that contains the 006-sized o-ring.

This cover is threaded and acts as a screw to hold the small o-ring in place. It looks in the photo like the piercing pin will prevent unscrewing it, but the end of the pin is actually below the screw slots. Remove this cover. In a moment I will describe and show a newer style end cap that has some different parts and comes apart differently.

With the cover off, use a dental pick to remove the old o-ring. It is probably hardened and will break into fragments when you pick at it. It may not even look like an o-ring, but it is tight around the base of the piercing pin.

Once all the small pieces are out of the cap and the o-ring groove is clean, lightly lubricate the new o-ring with your choice of lube, center the new o-ring over the piercing pin, and push it into its recess. Then screw the cover back into place over the o-ring.

Mark I cap 1
The screwdriver fits into the slots on either side and unscrews the cover. The tip of the piercing pin is below the slots. The cap looks brassy in this photo but it is really steel.

Mark I cap 2
This picture with a different angle shows how the o-ring sits at the base of the piercing pin.

Check the large o-ring that seals the end cap to the pistol. Is it still pliable? It can look okay and yet be brittle and useless. If it is okay, lubricate it. Then insert a new cartridge and test it, listening for leaks.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: When I looked at my Mark II end cap from a very late pistol I discovered it was made differently inside. I contacted Ian and he provided the following information.]

BB’s newer end cap

BB was following this article and rebuilding an end cap of his own. His is much newer (made in 1977) and has a slightly different design. I disassembled a newer end cap like BB’s for you to see. Instead of the threaded plate that holds the tiny o-ring, there is a star washer inside the cap. Believe it or not, that star washer is not held inside the cap by anything other than its own fingers. Use a small dental pick or something similar to get under it and pull it out of the cap.

Turn the cap over and tap it sharply on the wooden bench and the plate that looks like a screw but isn’t falls out. The o-ring can then be seen around the base of the piercing pin.

Like the other cap you need a sharp pick like a dental pick to get the small o-ring out, as the space is small.

Mark I new cap 1
This is the newer Mark I and II end cap.

Mark I new cap 1a
Reach under there with a small strong hook or a hooked dental pick and pick the star washer out of the cap.

Mark I new cap 2
The newer end cap apart. The cover with the screw slots has no threads and should come right out of the end cap, once the star washer is out.

Mark I new cap 3
BB followed my instructions and has disassembled his cap. Now he is picking out the tiny petrified o-ring around the base of the piercing pin.

Resealing both caps

After the o-ring groove is clean, lubricate and install a new 006 o-ring. If you have an old cap, screw the threaded plate back on top of the small o-ring. If it’s a newer cap insert the plate that looks like a screw, then insert the star washer and press down on it with a screw driver that has interchangeable bits. But leave the bit out of the driver. You want to press down on the edges of the star washer, but not touch the piercing pin in the center.

How did it go?

My new/old pistol has now been holding gas for a month. When I test-fired it, I noticed it was significantly louder than my other Mark I pistols, and it only had 1 cocking power level, none of the other ones I had ever handled or worked on had just 1 setting. I had to see what was going on inside.

I ran it across my chrono, at room temperature, it registered 545fps with Crosman Premier 14.3gr. domes, this thing was smoking!

Outer barrel removal

Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, or snap-ring pliers, turn the front barrel nut counter-clockwise and the outer barrel will back out, as it is under spring pressure from the hammer spring/power adjuster. It just slides off the inner barrel.

Mark I muzzle
The piston barrel sleeve is held on the barrel by a nut at the muzzle.

Some previous owner had inserted a 5mm thick brass spacer to add extra preload to the hammer spring. That’s where the extra power was coming from.

In the photo below, the power adjuster can be seen, and the hammer and cocking knobs. The power adjusting screw just increases the preload of the hammer spring.

Notice the hammer spring has a extension that goes through a tiny hole in the cocking knob rod to keep the knobs from rotating. It’s shown in the detailed photo below.

Mark I hammer assembly
Mark I hammer assembly.

Mark I hammer detail
Mark I hammer spring detail.

After reassembling the hammer without the extra part the pistol is back to where it should be at 478fps, and 2 cocking power settings.

Wrong o-rings

What happens when you use o-rings that are not resistant to co2 gas? They swell much larger than their normal size.

Mark I normal o-ring
This is a normal-sized end cap o-ring. You can barely see it!

Mark I enlarged o-ring
When the o-ring absorbs CO2 gas it enlarged like this! It took over an hour for this o-ring to return to normal size. This makes the end cap difficult to remove when you want to replace the CO2 cartridge.

I am sure the other o-rings inside are the same as this one, but they are captive, and should not be a problem, so I am going to order a seal kit, and get to know it for a few weeks. Then I want to repaint and reseal the pistol.

Are there any suggestions for a good durable paint, that can be applied by someone with less than average painting experience?

And, of course I will document the rest of the rebuild for everyone.

Ian