Shooting the Air Venturi Wing Shot air shotgun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Air Venturi Wing Shot
Air Venturi’s Wing Shot air shotgun is a serious new player in a very small field.

Air Venturi Wing Shot Review

This report covers:

  • Description
  • Shooting impressions
  • Trigger
  • Sights
  • First and second test
  • Test with bullets
  • Ammo
  • Third test
  • A good 25-30-yard wing gun
  • Summary

Today I begin a report on the Air Venturi Wing Shot air shotgun. This is not only a new product, it may be the first air shotgun I have tested that is really worthy of that title. We shall see as this test unfolds.

This isn’t the first report on the Wing Shot. You were treated to an early look by guest blogger and Pyramyd Air employee, Derek Goins. Today we start a detailed examination.

Description

The Wing Shot is a .50 caliber gun. It is smoothbore, and has a screw-in choke tube at the muzzle that reduces the bore size by 0.07 mm. We will see today what that does to the shot pattern.

It is 43 inches long and is shaped like a fine shotgun. My shooting buddy, Otho, is a shotgunner and the first word out of his mouth when he saw the gun was, “Wow!” He likes the Turkish walnut buttstock and the general feel of the gun. He felt it was perfect for him when he shouldered it.

Air Venturi Wing Shot Otho
Otho patterns the gun at 15 yards.

The Wing Shot is 43 inches overall and weighs 7.25 lbs. That’s on the heavy side for a smallbore shotgun (28 and 32 gauge and .410 caliber), but it doesn’t seem to slow it down. The balance seems about right — very neutral, front and back. The barrel is 22 inches long. The gun loads via a sliding breech cover that slides forward to load a shotshell and back to seal the breech. When you slide it back you must hear the breech cover click into place over the o-ring or the breech isn’t sealed. I failed to do that once and the breech blew open with the shot. No damage was done, but it alerted me to the need to close the breech tightly.

Air Venturi Wing Shot sliding breech
The breech cover slides forward to load. Place the shotshell into the trough and push it forward as far as you can. Be sure to close the breech cover all the way. That o-ring at the back seals the breech.

The gun cocks with a lever on the right side. Pull it straight back to one of two possible stops. The first stop is low power and all the way back is high. I am only interested in high power in this report, so that’s all I’m going to test.

It isn’t easy to cock this gun. Most adult men can cock the lever to the low power setting, but when the gun is new about half the men I sampled could not cock it to high power.

That changed after the gun had about 30 shots on the action. Then the cocking effort became smoother and everyone could cock it all the way. It now has around 60 shots on it and it is much smoother than when it was brand new. I expect it will continue to smooth out as it is used, because that’s the way these things usually work. But it is still a hard-cocking airgun.

These are the things new buyers need to know. This gun particularly is going to break in before your eyes in just a few shots. Don’t condemn it before that happens!

Shooting impressions

The gun is loud. It is a .50-caliber big-bore airgun, after all. It is much louder than any smallbore pneumatic you have heard, but not so loud that you need hearing protection when shooting outside.

There is some recoil when it fires. That recoil varies with what projectile you are shooting. The heavier the projectile, the harder the kick. At its hardest, it has perhaps half the recoil of a medium-weight .410 shotgun.

Trigger

The trigger is hard to evaluate, because you don’t notice it when shooting in the shotgun mode. Fortunately I also shot it with .50 caliber bullets off a bench and can tell you that it’s 2-stage and breaks crisply at 5 lbs. 11 oz. It feels like a lot less than that because of the crispness. It is non-adjustable.

Sights

This is a shotgun and real shotguns that are meant for wing shooting don’t have sights. They have a bead up front that you use to cover the game in flight and that’s it. The bead on the Wing Shot sits atop a low ramp. It is large and obvious. I acquired it very quickly after bringing the gun to my shoulder.

First and second test

My first 2 tests didn’t go so well, but in retrospect that was good for all of us. I had been given early experimental shotshells that performed variably. Although the gun is rated to shoot faster than 1100 f.p.s., all my early shots were in the 700 f.p.s., region. Of course it is very difficult to chronograph a shot column in flight and I managed to hit the chronograph skyscreens a couple times, but those early shots weren’t good. However, toward the end of that testing, after about shot number 30, things changed dramatically.

Air Venturi Wing Shot chronograph
I chronographed the gun several times. After it broke in, the velocity was over 1100 f.p.s on the first shot. It remains over 1000 f.p.s for 3 shots.

Now that the Wing Shot is broken in, I fill it to 3000 psi. Then I start shooting. On one string I got 1156 f.p.s on the first shot and 1106 f.p.s. on shot number 2. Shot 3 went out at 1049 f.p.s. and shot 4 dropped to 783 f.p.s. And that is the way the gun has performed ever since this time. I tested it again several times and the result was always the same. The first 3 shots are powerful, then there is a quick dropoff in velocity on shot 4.

The low initial velocity I told you about was the gun breaking in. It was probably also the fault of the prototype ammo I was using. I shot about 40 of those prototype shells, and their performance was variable so I’m not reporting it.

Test with bullets

I also shot the gun with .50 caliber 210-grain Air Venturi Balle Blondeau bullets at 50 yards. Yes I did remove the choke before doing this.

I used the front bead and the top of the receiver as my aiming reference. The bullets landed 3 feet low, but I put 10 of them into 7-inches at that distance, which isn’t bad. I think out to 35 yards I could keep a bullet in the kill zone of an animal like a Javalina or even a small wild pig. Forget scoping the gun — it wasn’t designed as a big bore rifle. Only the high-drag design of the bullets I used kept them flying straight and grouping together.

Ammo

The Wing Shot uses shotshells that are consumed when fired. They cannot be reloaded. They are made to break up as they pass through the choke, which is where you get the excellent short-range patterns you are about to see.

The shells are currently offered with either number 6 or number 8 shot. Each shell holds about 120+ grains of shot inside the 130+-grain shotshell. There are 50 shells in a box. That makes the ammo expensive, but for what this shotgun can do, it may be worth the cost. I will explain that at the end of the report.

Air Venturi Wing Shot shotshells
The shotshells are designed to break apart in the gun’s choke.

To make a comparison, a .410 low velocity shell launches 1/2 ounce of shot at around 1200 f.p.s. One-half ounce is about 219 grains, so the Wing Shot shotshells have about half as much shot at the .410 shell. Half the shot going just as fast means the Wing Shot is the most successful air shotgun to ever come to market.

Third test

The third test I conducted was the one that really told me what I needed to know. I had production shotshells to test and things went much better! Now I could really pattern this gun, and when I did, the results were amazing!

I couldn’t believe it, but I got a decent 9-10-inch pattern at just 10 yards! Try doing that with your .410. Even with a cylinder-bored gun you aren’t going to get a pattern that open at that distance, I don’t believe. I did this several times and always got the same results.

Air Venturi Wing Shot 10 yards
At 10 yards the pattern spread out to between 9 and 10 inches. The Hobby pellet tin is for scale.

Otho and I discovered that the test gun shoots low and a little to the left. We were able to adjust our hold to compensate.

At 15 yards the pattern opened up to a full 12 inches. That is phenomenal. And the pattern is even, with no open spots for a pigeon or dove to slip through.

Air Venturi Wing Shot 15 yards
At 15 yards the pattern spread out to a full 12 inches. This is a hunting pattern! Again, the Hobby tin is there for scale.

I thought the pattern would continue to open fast, but it didn’t seem to. Because at 20 yards it was only about 16 inches wide and still very even. No birds lost there, either.

Air Venturi Wing Shot 20 yards
At 20 yards the pattern opened to about 16 inches. Some shots were off the bull when it was stuck to the cardboard box. They don’t show here. This is still a good hunting pattern! I’m showing this target upside-down, as the gun patterned a little low.

A good 25-30-yard wing gun

What we have in the Wing Shot is a good 25-30-yard wing gun. That’s something we have needed, because the .410 is too much gun for closer distances like 10-15 yards. The firearm shotgun pattern is so dense at that distance that it will tear birds apart. But each individual shot (I mean just one piece of the shot) from the Wing Shot hits just as hard as one shot from a .410. There is just less of it in the shot column, and it spreads into a good pattern at that range.

The naturalist John James Audubon was a hunter and wingshooter par excellence. Though there is a conservation group that uses his name today, Audubon actually shot thousands of birds for his art studies. What would he have given for a shotgun that could be used effectively at such close range? Those of you who are wingshooters know what I’m saying.

Summary

This was just our first look at the Wing Shot air shotgun. I showed you the velocity, measured the trigger-pull, talked about the need for a break-in period, gave you the accuracy with a bullet at 50 yards and showed you several shot patterns. That’s a good start. I think the world has its first useful air shotgun.

Air Venturi Wing Shot can in flight
With apologies to Dr. Pepper, Otho sent this can into orbit at 10 yards.


Air Venturi Wing Shot Review

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is your first look at the new Air Venturi air shotgun by Sam Yang. This is a guest blog about the new Air Venturi Wing Shot air shotgun, written by Pyramyd Air’s Derek Goins.

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

 


The brand new Air Venturi Wing Shot – the first .50 caliber smoothbore air shotgun.

 This report covers:

  • Wing Shot Overview
  • Shot Shell Design
  • Patterns
  • Lethality
  • More Than Meets the Eye
  • Nits and Picks
  • Simple & Utilitarian
  • Check Before You Shoot

Introduction

In modern airgunning we don’t see many guns that surprise us anymore. There are rifles capable of hole in hole accuracy or killing animals as large as deer.  However, very rarely, a gun is born that can fill multiple roles. Combining utility, simplicity, and ultimate versatility is a tough task for any manufacturer.  But it’s not an air rifle I speak of, but instead a gun that airgunners have not seen in years; perhaps not at all!  I am excited and humbled to bring you the new  Air Venturi Wing Shot air shotgun!

Wing Shot Shotgun

Description

The Wing Shot is a sleek gun coming in at 43 inches from muzzle to butt, with a barrel length of 22 inches  The Sam Yang big bores (and this gun is produced for Air Venturi by Sam Yang), in general, have a look that grows on you; the Wing Shot breaks the ugly duckling mold with a very pointable gun that handles well. It’s fairly lean coming in at 7.3 lbs. and it swings like a shotgun should.  Bearing down the front brass bead is swift and natural. The length of pull is 13.5” allowing it to be comfortably used  by even smaller shooters.  The shotgun bears the same familiar knurled sleeve covered loading port and generously sized cocking handle.  The hardwood on the gun appears to be the same as the Sam Yang’s’ other air guns which is strong and well finished.  The forearm and pistol grip are graced with grippy checkering.

A feature that I’m very happy to see is the factory fitted male Foster quick connect fitting as the standard filling method.  I don’t know about y’all, but the less time I have to spend scrambling around for filling probes the better! The fill nipple comes standard with a snap-on cover to keep crud out.  The gun fills to a standard working pressure of 200 BAR and has easily readable manometer to monitor your remaining pressure.  A high-pressure SCBA or SCUBA tank is recommended for this compressed air gun, though you can use a hand pump in a pinch.

The factory installed male Foster quick connect fitting is a nice touch.

Shot Shell Design

The Wing Shot shotshell design is quite unique in that it uses a frangible plastic shell to house its shot.  The assembled shell is 0.75-inches long and holds around 110 grains of #6 shot, with the loading port being measured at just under an inch.  The round nose of the shell is scored with an X to help the shell break apart.  I think they look rather like shot pills than shotshells, but my mind is away with me again.  The idea is that when these pills are fired out of the barrel they’ll hit a certain speed or distance at which the nose would fragment away.  After this the remaining plastic base is acting like a conventional shot shell wad carrying the shot a bit further.  I imagine this was a maddening project to engineer as some shell designs might be rocketing plastic slugs, while others may break apart too early.

Shell Open with Shot       Shellandslug

The shot shells as seen empty (left image) and compared to a .50 cal slug (right image). 

The shells I had were already assembled, but I did have the ability to assemble shells myself.  From what I’m told both pre-filled shells and empty hulls will be available to the end user.  The customer will have an option of choosing between #6 and #8 shot sizes.  Typically the smaller the shot size the more you can stuff in a shell, since this puts more shot on target it’s perfect for shooting animals on the move or flying.  On the other hand larger shot size is more lethal on slower or stationary targets like squirrels because each piece carries more energy.  I filled the shells with my ultra precision Bic pen cap scoop, which consistently gave me loads of 110-112 grains of #6 shot.  Once the hull is filled then you simply push in the plastic base.  One side of the base is beveled to cup the lead while the bottom end is flat.

Let the Fun Begin! 

Loading the Wing Shot is a simple affair.  The knurled breech cover is sealed by two O-rings that provide a bit of tension. Slide the cover towards the muzzle to expose the chamber.  Pop the shell in the chamber and pull the cover closed. I also nudged my shells forward into the chamber a bit.  When I handle these guns I like to lightly oil those breech seals with plain air tool oil.  It keeps them from drying out and ripping, which can be a headache to replace.

To fire the Wing Shot you must first put the safety on “fire” to allow cocking.  It may be of some interest that this gun has two power levels.  When the shotgun cocking handle is pulled back you will hit a locking point about ¾ through the pull, which is low power.  Pulling the handle back a bit more will set it for full power.  The  power levels simply have to do with how hard the hammer hits the firing valve.  The low power setting is about 150-200 FPS off full power velocity.

The end user can expect 5 viable hunting shots, with the first 3 having the most oomph.  In my tests the 110 grain shot charge launched at 1,130 FPS, with the 5th shot ending at 1028 FPS.  If you surpass the 5 shot mark the gun will quickly start to drop velocity.  On low power it would be reasonable to expect around 8 great shots.

Patterns Upon Patterns!

For a shotgun to pattern successfully quite a few variables have to fall in place.  If the pattern is too wide the BBs lose lethality; too tight and you’ll have a tougher time hitting moving targets.  Fortunately the Wing Shot is fitted with a removable choke that utilizes the barrel thread for attachment.  I don’t know at this time if there will be additional chokes available but the standard choke was perfect for up to 25 yards.   At 15 yards the pattern is around 9;” at 10 yards it reduced to 6”.  I also experimented with some low power patterning to see if a more gentle air blast would hold a tighter pattern, but found that the pattern size stayed the same with the point of impact dropping slightly at 15 yards, compared to full power.

10-yards      15ydsFullPWR      Lowpwr15yds

Shot groupings above: 10 yards at full power (left image); 15 yards at full power (center image); 15 yards at lower power (right image).

Lethality

All results the on paper were great, but it’s a shotgun and I really wanted to stretch her legs.  The lethality of the gun was one of my biggest concerns, and I threw all I had at it.  Fresh fruit, cardboard, rolling pellet tins, airborne pellet tins and ballistic putty were all blasted in the name of science and research.  What I have found is that the Wing Shot is perfectly lethal up to 20-25 yards for most pest bird species, after that the pattern opens up too much to be humane.  Within this recommended range, the gun performs beautifully and sent all my targets flying in a most impressive way.  The penetration of the lead shot made a believer out of me.  The shotgun didn’t have any problem with shredding thin steel cans or making fruit salad  I truly appreciated how easily and naturally the shotgun swung from targets, you can immediately tell that it’s not a refitted big bore, but a purpose-designed gun.  It should be noted that wing shooting animals will require some adjusted lead times in comparison to powder burning shotguns. I look forward to a time that I can take this gun out for an actual field test.

More than Meets the Eye

In this age of airgunning we want more for our money and the Wing Shot delivers with pure utility.  The shotgun’s .50 caliber smoothbore barrel can also utilize cast or swaged lead slugs, turning the starling-slayer into a short range medium-game gun.  I will emphasize that the barrel does NOT have rifling so we will not see the same accuracy that we would from a rifle.  I admit that I was hopeful, at best, that the slugs would group well.  At 25 yards I knelt behind the bench and aligned the bead with the target and fired three 336-grain flat nose .50 caliber bullets, which to my surprise produced in a tidy 2” group.  The power is well on point with 185 grain round nose producing 800 FPS for the first shot.  Shot 5 finished at 685 FPS.  If you have never fired a big bore air gun the recoil tends to increase as your bullet weight does due to backpressure, though even with the fat 336-grainers the recoil is a gentle push.  I tried groups at 40 yards as well and produced reasonable results.  It should be noted, however, that the impacts of slugs do not correlate well to the brass bead sight. If you plan to shoot slugs often I would recommend an optic, but the bead works beautifully for shot shells.  The Wing Shot does not come with a dovetail, though looking closely at the gun it appears that the standard Sam Yang rifle rail can be affixed with two receiver screws.

25ydSlugs       40ydslugs

Even at 25 and 40 yards, my shot groupings were reasonable with .50 caliber slugs.

With responsible and ethical shot placement this gun will be capable of taking coyotes and deer at short ranges, you will just need to have realistic range expectations when using bullets.  I also tried .50 caliber round balls with dismal accuracy results.  While round balls can be cheap to shoot, the design of the projectile is rather poor.  The ball does not seal well in the barrel, allowing usable air to blow by — effectively wasting it.  There is also the fact that the design loses velocity rather quickly because of a low ballistic coefficient.  Stick with cast bullets and I guarantee you will achieve better accuracy and terminal ballistics.

Nits and Picks

No gun is perfect, and I feel obligated to share two gripes that I had with the Wing Shot.  First, I would love to see a second brass bead closer to the breech.  This would allow for a more consistent sight alignment, which I’d find useful for a gun that doesn’t utilize a ton of shot.  My only other gripe is that I wish the loading port was milled longer so the user could utilize longer and more potent shotshells. Perhaps in the future we’ll see a Wing Shot Magnum with 2” shells!  Though the shotgun performs admirably, these are two things worth mentioning.

Simple and Utilitarian

I can say with utmost certainty that the Wing Shot will be perfect for those folks that like to tinker and experiment with different shot loads and slug weights.  I found myself running around happily testing one thing or another. The gun is simply a hoot to shoot, it’s a certain kind of fun that most of us have forgotten in our pursuit for accuracy and power.  There are a few guns out there that still make you smile when you shoot them; often they are guns that we started the sport with.  The everlasting Benjamin 392/397, a well kept FWB 124, for me personally; a RWS 94 that cemented a love for air guns and hunting within me.  The Wing Shot makes me grin ear to ear when targets dance under shotshell persuasion and the simplicity of its design is delightful.  The Wing Shot delivers everything it promises as a shotgun, and performs equally well within reasonable ranges as a slug gun.  It fills the utility niche, which has been screaming for a flagship, like no other gun before it.

Check Before You Shoot

On a closing note it is important to mention that since this is the first production air shotgun, hunting legislation may not be written for it yet.  While I can easily recommend this gun for wing shooting pest birds and taking medium-game with slugs, it is your responsibility to check local game laws before squeezing the trigger.  I generally like to call the Game Warden (Wildlife Officer depending on state) to get the current information on game laws.  Game Wardens are more than happy to help and appreciate a hunter taking the responsible route and checking first. They will often turn you onto some great hunting spots.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Air Venturi Wing Shot and it’s left an impression of quality and utility that I can stand behind.  I am absolutely thrilled for the future of this gun. Perhaps, dear readers, we can convince the powers that be to send this old boy on a pest bird shotgun hunt!  Stay safe and happy shooting.

Semper Fidelis,

Derek Goins

derek-wing-shot

Editor’s note: See Jim Champan’s American Airgunner video on this special air shotgun!


The Bug A Salt 2.0

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Bug-A-Salt
Bug-A-Salt 2.0.

This report covers:

  • Enter the Bug-A-Salt 2.0
  • How the gun works
  • Automatic safety
  • Testing the Bug-A-Salt 2.0
  • Patterning
  • Best projectiles
  • Other insects?
  • Aerial shooting
  • Not at Pyramyd Air

I’m writing today’s report in memory of Edith, because she asked me to. She was fascinated by this little insect zapper, and when it was advertised on television recently she bought two for us. Like everyone, we have occasional houseflies that annoy us whenever we sit still. It’s especially bothersome when we are trying to watch television. For many years I killed them with a rubber band, but that was troublesome and Edith never was able to do it, so I was the designated fly-killer in the house.

Our three cats will watch flies all day long without doing much more. One of them — Dale Evans — a little female calico, even catches them for sport. But it’s a catch-and-release program for her — the number of flies stays pretty constant.

Several years ago we bought one of those electronic tennis racquet-looking things that electrocutes flies on the wire grid of the racquet head. They’re great and they really do work, but Edie got cocky and took on a couple wasps with one. When you whack a wasp inside your house you want to make sure it stays down. Otherwise you’ll be chased around your own home, and that’s never a good thing. So Edie whacked the wasps pretty hard and she broke the handle of the swatter against some furniture. The racket still works — it’s just not much fun to use because the handle is taped together.

Many years ago the Beeman Company started selling a pistol-like fly swatter. When Beeman was sold to the Chinese, the fly swatter went off the market for a time, then Pyramyd Air brought it back under the Air Venturi brand name.

Air Venturi Fly Swatter
Air Venturi fly swatter gives you the pleasure of shooting the flies with a gun.

I haven’t test that one yet, but I know how it works in principal. The round swatter is propelled from the gun by a spring and kills the flies on impact, just like a normal swatter. It’s tethered to the gun so you can recover it quickly and reload.

Enter the Bug-A-Salt 2.0

But the Bug-A-Salt 2.0 is a real gun! It’s a shotgun whose charge is common table salt. One fill of the reservoir is enough for 80 shots, and a clear cap on the reservoir tells you what’s inside. I can’t tell whether the powerplant is a catapult, where just the power of the spring propels the salt, or if it is a spring-piston, which would be much more powerful. What I do know is it works — and it works at distances I would not have believed before I tested it.

Bug-A-Salt-reservoir
The salt reservoir holds enough for 80 shots. The cover is clear so you always know the status of the charge.

Yes, there was a first model. It was much less powerful than the 2.0, and it held salt for 50 shots.

How the gun works

The Bug-A-Salt 2.0 is entirely plastic on the outside. It has an orange tip to signify it isn’t a firearm, but I got the yellow gun that looks nothing like a firearm. There is now a camo model for those who hunt flies while dressed in a ghillie suit.

Cock the gun by pulling back on the sliding handhold under the forearm. It’s sculpted to fit the hand for an easy grasp. Not much force is required to cock the gun, but every time you do the automatic safety is set. You must then rotate the safety switch forward before the shot can be taken.

Automatic safety

The automatic safety is the only feature that bothers me about this gun. It’s ergonomically located to allow access by the shooting hand when holding the gun, but I want to just cock and shoot. If there are many targets, its a hassle to have to keep taking the safety off every time. Maybe that is why there is a You Tube video showing how to disable the mechanism. I’m not going to do that to my gun, though, because — let’s be honest — this isn’t a gun I use that much. I just want it when I need it and I can put up with how the safety is designed.

Bug-A-Salt-safety
The safety comes on automatically every time the gun is cocked. Push forward to fire.

Testing the Bug-A-Salt 2.0

When I first got it, our house was unnaturally free of insects for a week. Just prior to the package arriving I had killed 2 flies using rubber bands. So the first test was out at my rifle range! We always have a lot of flying bugs out there and I killed 2 common houseflies the first time I used the gun. Both flies disappeared when shot, moving in line with the direction of the salt.

I also discovered at this time that a good substitute for a fly is an empty .22 rimfire cartridge — and there are plenty of them on the ground at a rifle range. They are light enough to move when hit by the salt, so you can learn how to aim your gun without the need for flies.

I should mention that the 2.0 version of the gun does have a front and rear sight. The rear sight only pops up when the gun is cocked. Maybe it will help some people, but I just point and shoot.

Then I finally found a bug in my house. Not a housefly, mind you, but some sort of beetle-looking thing about the same size. I shot it from 2 feet and blew it away — despite the beetle’s outer shell. This was a smaller beetle whose shell wasn’t as hard as some of them get. I wouldn’t shoot this at a Texas water beetle! Those things have been known to scare cats!

Patterning

Okay, let’s see how this thing shoots. Bug-A-Salt recommends using household tinfoil as a medium for patterning. And they recommend using ordinary table salt. They don’t specify whether it needs to be iodized, but mine wasn’t.

I shot the tinfoil from 30 inches back and got a larger pattern than the Bug-A-Salt literature says — about 3 inches, rather than the 2-1/4 inches shown in the literature than comes inside the box. The difference might just be in where the pattern is declared to start and stop. The pattern is so dense that nothing inside would have been missed by the salt crystals. I then backed up to 36 inches and shot a second time. This pattern was larger by nearly an inch, but the inner pattern was still dense enough to hit any fly. I think I would get as close as I could, but from what I’ve seen I would not hesitate to shoot from 30 inches. That is so much better than the 1-2 inches I have to be from the fly when using a rubber band!

Bug-A-Salt-pattern
This is the pattern for table salt at 30 inches. The pattern is round, with evenly dispersed salt crystals.

The pattern at all the useful distances is both round and the salt crystals are evenly distributed throughout.

Best projectiles

The internet is loaded with chatter about the best projectiles to use in this gun. Besides table salt, poppy seeds are recommended in many places. John McCaslin, the owner of AirForce Airguns, told me he has found kosher salt to work better than straight table salt. That’s because the salt crystals are larger. I haven’t tried that yet, but it makes sense. Maybe you should think of table salt as number 6 birdshot and kosher salt as buckshot.

One thing you do need to know is this gun is very safe to use, as long as you respect it. Yes, there will be salt on the floor after each shot, but I have shot mine in the house for this report and have yet to see any granules lying about. Maybe that’s a blessing granted by my advancing years? Anyhow, I vacuum and dust often enough to take care of it. It isn’t like I shoot a fly every day.

The fly will not be splattered. It stays whole, but dead. You will be able to find it after the shot, but expect it to move several feet from the impact.

Other insects?

Here is where it starts getting dicey. I would use this gun on insects that are known to have softer bodies, with the common house fly at the top of the list. However, as the insect becomes more armored, I would consider carefully whether this is the best method. Yes, the wings of a wasp are probably damaged by the blast, but I would be more careful about an insect that can fight back. Spiders, on the other hand, usually have softer bodies and I would take my chances. However, since some of them are venomous, I would not recommend picking one up until it has been thoroughly squashed.

Aerial shooting

Almost everyone who sees a Bug-A-Salt for the first time wonders if it is suited for arial targets. I would have to say no. Flies usually move so fast that they are hard to see in flight when they get close enough to shoot, plus this gun is as far from a natural pointing shotgun as it is possible to get. It doesn’t cost anything to try, though. Decide for yourself.

Not at Pyramyd Air

I know you are wondering whether Pyramyd Air will carry this gun. I would advise them not to, because the gun is widely sold through discount channels that have destroyed any potential for making a profit. That’s something Pyramyd Air must consider for every item they stock. They might sell a couple thousand salt guns in a year’s time, but the profit margin is so low that it would actually drain their cash to handle it. If you aren’t into retail operations this statement might sound absurd, but not everything that sells is good for a company.

That’s my review of the Bug-A-Salt 2.0. We bought 2, which I consider to be a lifetime supply. Yes it will wear with use and yes, there are some parts available, but let’s face it — this is not an heirloom airgun. What is is, though, is one of the cleverest ways I’ve seen for dealing with the common housefly.


2012 SHOT Show: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1

This is the second of my reports on the 2012 SHOT Show. There will certainly be at least one more after this, and perhaps even more, as there’s simply too much new information to pack into a single report.

The state of the airgun industry in 2012
Before I get to some specifics, I want to make a general observation. This year’s SHOT Show was different for me in a major way, because I saw for the first time that firearms shooters are beginning to understand airguns as never before. In the past, I always had to start my explanations with the cooling of the earth’s crust and then progress through the age of the dinosaurs because each firearms person I talked to thought of airguns as either toys or BB guns. This year, a lot of them were clued-in on what’s happening. They weren’t surprised by the accuracy we get, and they knew about big bores. A lot of them had some airgun experience and more than a few asked me the same kind of questions that I get from long-time readers of this blog.

That tells me the day of the airgun has finally dawned in the U.S. Instead of 25,000 to 50,000 active shooters (at best!), we will now see an influx from over 5 million active firearm shooters who are ready to augment their shooting experience with airguns. I’m already getting calls and emails from state departments of wildlife resources, asking about the issues of incorporating airguns into their hunting seasons.

It has been a long haul to get to this point, but we’re now seeing the start of the harvest of all the work that’s been done over the past 40 years — starting with Robert Beeman in the early 1970s. The job is now to manage this growth and provide useful information to the tens of thousands of new airgunners who are flooding in the doors.

Let me reflect on how the industry seems to be reacting to this trend. Some companies have been on board for many years and are poised to ride the new tidal wave of business as far as they can. Other companies are aware that airguns are very hot, but they’re foundering, trying to understand them. Let me say right now that it’s not as easy as you think!

The readers of this blog are among the most clued-in airgunners in the world. But they’re unique, and they do not represent the true market. The demographic of a new airgunner is a man (usually) in his late 20s to late 40s who is most likely a fan of AR-type rifles and Glock-type pistols. He wants repeaters, semiautos and he thinks that a five-shot group is the gold standard of any gun. Velocity impresses him, and he isn’t comfortable with the term kinetic energy.

Things like good triggers and good sights are not an issue with this customer until he experiences bad ones. His ARs have decent triggers off the rack, and he can choose from many drop-in triggers that are much better. When he encounters a spring-piston gun with a horrible trigger that cannot be easily modified, he’s surprised.

He does not use the artillery hold, and he equates all airguns to be alike in terms of performance. When he learns about precharged guns, he’s put off by the additional equipment he must buy. Spring-piston guns seem the best to him for their simple operation, and he doesn’t appreciate the fact that they’re also the most difficult airguns to shoot well.

That’s the customer who’s coming to airguns today, so that’s the person airgun manufacturers have to deal with. If you have wondered why many of the new airguns are what they are — this new-customer profile is the reason.

Okay, I’ve talked about those companies that get it and those that are struggling to understand. There’s one more type of company out there. I like to call them the “gloom and doom company” or the “zero sum company.” They’re firmly entrenched in the 1970s and cannot take advantage of this new windfall of business. They either fired their engineers years ago or they let them all retire, and now they couldn’t build a new airgun to save their lives. As far as they’re concerned, there are only 25,000 airgunners in the United States and it’s the NRA’s responsibility to identify and train them so these companies can sell them some guns.

They think of marketing in 1950’s terms, when a simple paint job and some sheet metal was enough to create a new product. Their “secret” business plan is to buy guns made by other manufacturers and have their name put on. If you’re a collector, better buy up the guns these guys sell because in 10 years their name will be a memory.

That’s enough of the big picture. Let’s see some more products.

More from Crosman
Many of you saw the list of new Crosman products Kevin posted last week, so the few that I show here are by no means all there is, but they’re the highlights. Crosman had about half the new airgun products at the entire SHOT Show.

New tan M4-177 and carry handle
The M4-177 multi-pump that I recently tested for you is going to be very popular this year. Crosman is also offering it as an M4-177 Tactical air rifle with a new carry handle that replaces the rear sight for improved sighting options. I think this gun will be in their lineup for many years to come.


The M4-177 now comes as this tactical model in tan with a carry handle.

I mentioned to Crosman’s Ed Schultz that this rifle looks like the A.I.R.-17 of the 1990s, but done better. He said he always wanted to update that design, and that is exactly what this is. So, what he said next came as no great surprise.

I shared my thoughts on a 2260 made as a multi-pump in .25 caliber, and Ed told me that was how the rifle was originally created (not in .25, however). The CO2 version was an afterthought that got put into production, while the multi-pump version languished in the Crosman morgue. I told him that I thought the time was ripe to bring it back as an upscale hunting rifle, and he seemed to agree. We can only hope.

Carbon fiber tank
As Crosman extends their capability into PCP guns, they know shooters are always looking for better options for their air supply. Besides the new butterfly hand pump I showed you last time, they’ll also be adding a long summer-sausage black carbon fiber tank with increased capacity over their current tanks. This is a 300-bar tank that has 342 cubic-inch capacity. It comes in a black nylon carrying case with sling for field transport.


More air for you! New Benjamin carbon fiber tank will help you take your PCPs further afield.

Benjamin Nitro Piston breakbarrel pistol
The Benjamin NP breakbarrel pistol certainly has people talking on the internet. This is the first commercial gas spring application in a pistol, I believe. The most distinctive feature is a cocking aid that can either be detached or left in place while shooting. That reminds us that this pistol is going to be hard to cock, but I’ll test one for you so we’ll all know just how hard.


New Benjamin Trail NP pistol is a breakbarrel with a gas spring. The cocking aid can be detached or left in place while shooting.

Crosman 1720T PCP pistol
Everybody was ready to jump down Crosman’s throat for creating the 1720T PCP pistol. They wondered with the .22-caliber Marauder pistol and the .177-caliber Silhouette PCP pistol already selling, why was this one needed? As Ed Schultz explained it to me — this one is for field target. It’s a .177 (naturally) that produces just under 12 foot-pounds through a shrouded Lother Walther barrel. It can be used for hunting, but field target was its primary purpose. They worried about the shot count with the Silhouette; but with this one, power was the criterion. Look for about 800 f.p.s. with a 7.9-grain Premier. And the trigger is the same as the Marauder, so excellent operation there.


The new Crosman 1720T PCP pistol is meant for field target competition. It will also work well for hunting.

Crosman MAR 177 PCP conversion
The Crosman MAR-177 PCP conversion is another new product that has a lot of people talking. This AR-15 upper converts your .223 semiauto into a .177 PCP repeating target rifle. Because it’s on an AR platform, almost everybody expects it to be semiautomatic — including those who should know better. This rifle is a bolt action that cocks and loads via a short pull on the charging handle.

This conversion is an Olympic-grade target rifle for a new official sport that Scott Pilkington and others have been promoting for several years. It will take the U.S. battle rifle back into the ranks of target shooting. However, the look of the gun has many shooters totally confused. I was even asked at the show if I thought Crosman should have come out with an “everyman’s” version of the gun first. That would be like asking whether Feinwerkbau missed the boat by not first making their 700 target rifle in a $300 version for casual plinkers.


The MAR-177 PCP conversion is an upper for your target-grade lower. Plan on investing about another $1,000 in a good lower if you hope to compete.

Crosman TT BB pistol
It’s all-metal and a good copy of the Tokarev pistol. The weight is good and the gun feels just right. This will be one to test as soon as possible.


Crosman’s TT Tokarev BB pistol is realistic and looks like fun.

Benjamin MAV 77 Underlever
The Benjamin MAV 77 underlever rifle is going to force Crosman to recognize spring-piston air rifles instead of just calling them all breakbarrels. This is the TX-200 copy from BAM that was once sold by Pyramyd Air. When the quality dropped off, it was discontinued. Hopefully, Crosman will watch the quality on this one.

They didn’t have a firm retail price yet, but hopefully it’ll be significantly under the TX. Otherwise, why buy it? I may test one for you, but I already know that BAM can make a great rifle when they want to. I think it all comes down to price.


Benjamin MAV-77 is an underlever spring-piston rifle that looks and, hopefully, performs like an Air Arms TX-200.

TR-77
The Crosman TR-77 is a conventional breakbarrel spring-piston rifle in an unconventional stock. It’s different enough that I want to test one for you. It appears to be a lower-powered rifle that probably sells at a bargain price because it’s branded under the Crosman banner rather than Benjamin. Mac photographed one in a sand-colored stock for you.


Crosman TR-77 breakbarrel in a sand-colored stock also comes in black.

There was a lot more at Crosman that I could have mentioned, but now let’s go over to the Leapers booth.

Leapers
I’ve watched Leapers grow from a relatively small company back in 1998 to a major player — blasting past older, entrenched companies as they grew. This year, they were playing a video about the company on a continuous loop in their booth. I was impressed to see their plant in Livonia, Michigan, where they build airsoft guns, tactical mounts, accessories and scopes right here in the U.S. The plant is filled with many CNC machining centers and testing facilities to keep close watch over their products during development.

American-made
Leapers owner David Ding told me he wants to get control over the production process so he can assure the quality of all of his products. In keeping with that goal, I was shown the new scope line for 2012 that now offers locking target knobs on all of the upscale models. Many of them feature etched glass reticles that are amazingly crisp and sharp.

Scopes
Mac was impressed by the reticle on the new 3-9x Bug Buster scope. He urged me to look through it; and when I did, I saw that the reticle is now fine and sharp — not the heavy black lines of the past.


David Ding shows me the new 3-9x Bug Buster scope (not out yet), with target knobs and a finer reticle.

But scopes were just the beginning at Leapers. Next, I was shown the whole line of tactical flashlights and lasers, including some mini lasers I will test on my M1911A1 for you. These are all made in the U.S. now and have more rugged internals, adjustments and optics than similar products from the Orient.

UTG 555 Long Range Light
One item I hope Pyramyd Air will consider stocking is a fantastic 500-lumen tactical light for law enforcement. It can be mounted on a rifle, handheld or even mounted on a bike! It comes with rechargeable lithium batteries and a smart charger…and believe me when I tell you it turns night into day!


The UTG Long Range light can go on your rifle, held in the hand or even mounted to your bike! The rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack will keep it shining at 500 lumens for 1.5 hours.

Fast Action Gun bag
Not all Leapers products are for airguns. They also make tactical and law enforcvement gear that rivals spec-built equipment but sells at a fraction the cost. As a result, many of their customers are ordering straight from the front lines of combat and from law enforcement agencies all over the country to get the products that their own supply lines cannot or will not furnish.

One of their latest developments is a Fast Action Gun bag that lets the wearer walk in public with a substantial firearm hidden from view. A quick pull of a strap, and the bag opens to reveal the weapon inside.


Leapers owner Tina Ding models their new Fast Action Gun bag. Here, it’s concealed; but she’s just pulled it over her shoulder from her back, where it looks like a tennis bag.


And in less than a second, the bag is open, giving instant access to the tactical shotgun or submachine gun inside.

11mm-dovetail-to-Picatinny adapter
Leapers has an entirely new range of quick-disconnect scope mounts coming this year, but there’s another innovation that I think you’ll find even more impressive. It’s an adapter that snaps into a Picatinny scope mount base, turning it into an 11mm dovetail. So, your conventional air rifle will now also accept Leapers Picatinny scope mounts with this adapter.

11mm-dovetail-to-Picatinny adapter is small and doesn’t raise the mount at all! This will be one to test!

Leapers is still the company to watch because the owners want to build a lasting corporation here in the U.S. They’re poised to move to the next level of quality in their optics, which gives me a lot of hope for the future — they’ve always been receptive to the needs of airgunners.

Whew! That’s a lot of products, and there are still many more to show. As I said in the beginning, there will be at least another report.


2012 SHOT Show: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Timothy Burman is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card! Congratulations!

Timothy Burman is the Big Shot of the Week. He’s holding his HW97K in .20 caliber.

The day before the SHOT Show opened this year was a special day set aside for the media to sample all the new guns at a range in Boulder City. There were 1,200 official registrants and another couple hundred who got in after the registration ended, plus about 500 personel running the ranges. So, for 2,000 people, each of whom fired 100-1,000 rounds, there was a whole lotta shootin’ going on!

Only two air gun ranges were running — one by Crosman and the other was Pyramyd Air. At the Crosman range, I got a chance to sample the new AR-16 upper that converts your lower to a PCP target rifle. It has a Lothar Walther barrel and is a repeater that loads via the charging handle. Whatever sort of lower receiver you attach the upper to is what determines the kind of rifle you have, so the one that designer Scott Pilkington let me sample was quite nice.

But it was the 9mm Conquest (yes, it’s both semi-auto and full-auto) rifle that thrilled me most. Maybe it was because I was repeatedly hitting the silhouette target at 200 yards with a rifle the first time I fired it! That’s hard enough to do with a centerfire rifle right out of the box, but this gun did it the first time.


Tom shoots the 9mm Evanix Conquest at Media Day.

The 9mm is not ready for the market yet, and I still have the .22 report to finish; but it’s being developed, and we already know that it works. As it gets closer to being a reality, I’ll get into the particulars — but at least you know it’s coming.

The show started the next day, and I saw a number of interesting new things right off the bat. I’ll start with Hatsan USA. The company has stepped out on its own and will do business under the Hatsan name from now on. The designs that have been driven by other companies will no longer encumber the Turkish designers. We already know they make great firearms, and we hope that will spill over into the airguns they bring.

I saw two new things that need to be tested. They offer a new Quattro trigger that’s extremely adjustable, according to president Blane Manifold, who referred to it as a match trigger. I’ll withhold judgement until the first test, but here’s hoping he’s right!


Hatsan’s new rifles carry their name. Hopefully, their features will be fresh and sharp.

They also have a shock absorber system (SAS) that they say will isolate the shooter from the powerplant buzz. I hope the guns won’t need to use it much because they’re inherently smooth to begin with, but again, only a test will tell.

Over at Crosman, there are so many new products that if I were to tell you all of them it would take more room than this blog can dedicate. But one new product caught my eye over the others — the new butterfly hand pump. Those who read my report of the Benjamin 392 pump-assist gun will understand that applying the same technology to a hand pump means easier pumping to maximum pressures.


The new hand pump looks like a radio tower when the handle is extended. The butterfly design amplifies your energy to reduce the effort required to pump.

The new pump is in development and, no doubt, will require more time before we see it for sale…but it is in the works. With Crosman’s stake in the pneumatic world, I think they need to fast-track this one!

At Umarex USA, there was another cornucopia of products, but once again something special caught my eye. This time it was two Hämmerli rifles — one a sporter and the other an affordable 10-meter target rifle.


Hämmerli’s sporter and affordable 10-meter target rifles will be the topic of our tests this year.

While there are many attractive attributes to these rifle, I do have a couple concerns for the 10-meter rifle. First, the max fill pressure is 300 bar, which is close to 4,500 psi. Not many U.S. shooters have air at that pressure. The guns can be filled to 200 bar, of course, but the shot count is reduced.

The velocity for the 10-meter rifle is 780 f.p.s. — way above what the other target rifles generate. I know Walther (Umarex owns both Hämmerli and Walther) would never dare field a target rifle that shoots that fast, so I’m curious to learn why they thought this one would be okay. Perhaps, it was just marketing copy written by someone unfamiliar with competition and was obtained with a non-lead pellet that would never be used in the real world. I certainly hope so — because in all other ways, this rifle has a lot going for it.

Another very interesting gun at Umarex was the Morph 3X — a BB gun that changes from a pistol to a rifle to a shotgun. I’ve got to test this one as soon as I can, because I’ve never seen anything like it. Okay — maybe in some cartoons or when the Joker pulls a revolver with a 6-foot barrel out of his waistband to shoot down the Batplane — but never in the real world!


Glenn Seiter of Umarex USA holds the parts of the amazing Morph 3X — a one-gun-does-it-all for BB-gunners.

I’ll end this part of the report at the AirForce booth, with the Spin-Loc air tank attachment system. How many times have I heard people say they wish AirForce tanks had a pressure gauge? This is it, and it allows the shooter to index the tank in any position or rotation he desires. The tanks also have a new adjustable buttplate that allows you to not only adjust the rotation, but also the length of pull.


The new Spin-Loc air tank attachment system gives the shooter the in-tank pressure gauge shooters have been asking for.

On the opposite side of the tank, there’s a male quick-disconnet fitting, so the gun can be filled while still on the gun. This is another feature that’s been requested, and it makes sense to put it on with this new fill system.

I have taken a lot more pictures than I’m showing here, and of course there will be a more detailed report after I return from the show. I’ll try to make sense of some of the rumors you may have read. Til then, chew on these new toys and let’s hear what you think.