Design an Airgun contest, Part 2

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Several entries
  • Norica bullpup
  • Nerf gun
  • Two great entries!
  • Maximus Blowhardus
  • Learned something
  • Spaghetti blowgun
  • Catapult gun
  • Without further ado, My plinker:
  • Some of the features I incorporated:
  • Penny shooter
  • The simplest entrant
  • Stonebow
  • Wow!
  • A hard job
  • Summary

Today we learn who is the winner of the Design an Airgun contest. It began on September 10 and was supposed to end at the end of the month, but several readers asked me to extend the closing, so I did. The contest ended last Friday, October 16.

Several entries

There were several entries. Some were blue sky dreams and nothing was built. I didn’t take them seriously. But some folks submitted more than one entry and they built all of theirs. I considered everything on the basis of the contest rules, which were:

1. I’m guessing it will be a BB gun, but it doesn’t have to be.
2. I’m guessing it will be a smoothbore, but again, it doesn’t have to be.
3. When I say build an airgun, it doesn’t have to work with compressed air.
4. It can be any kind of powerplant — so long as it doesn’t use an explosion to launch the missile.
5. The winner would be the niftiest design that the most people could build.
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Interesting gun designs — Benjamin Legacy: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Benjamin Legacy SE
Benjamin Legacy with a gas spring was a short-lived breakbarrel.

This report covers:

  • Getting started
  • The hold
  • First group
  • Second group
  • After that
  • Additional data
  • What’s next?

Let’s look at the accuracy of the .22-caliber Benjamin Legacy gas-spring rifle. If you remember, this was a rifle that came out just before I went into the hospital in 2010. When I got out 3 months later, the gun had already been taken off the market. I never reviewed it for you because it was an airgun you couldn’t buy, but the fact that it only took 16 lbs. of force to cock it fascinated me. I wanted to see what it could do regardless of whether or not you could buy one; because, if this turned out to be a good idea, it’s worth doing again.

Sometimes, the magic doesn’t work, and today’s one of those times. I’ve actually shot it at 25 yards on 2 different occasions, and neither time did it do very well. But, I do see a glimmer of hope. Let’s see what happened.

Getting started

I sighted in and began the test using the 13.43-grain JSB Exact RS pellet. From previous experience, I knew the rifle liked it.

The sight-in target turned out to have the tightest “group” of the entire test, despite the fact that I’d adjusted the scope 3 separate times! About 13 rounds went into 1.143 inches at 25 yards. I’m discounting the first shot from 12 feet that was only to confirm the zero. You can clearly see that I was adjusting the scope to the left, yet all these shots except 1 landed in what appears to be a good group. If the rifle had shot this well for the rest of the test, I would be singing its praises right now.

JSB Exact RS group 1
These shots were fired from 25 yards, except for the one low shot indicated on the target. That was the first shot from 12 feet to confirm zero. I adjusted the scope 3 times while creating this “group.”

I’m not expecting this rifle to have the same kind of accuracy you get from a TX200 Mark III. This one would sell for a fraction of the price of a TX today — maybe only one-third as much. But it cocks with just 16 lbs. of effort, which makes it ideal for shooting all day long. There’s no vibration and not a lot of discharge sound. And the 2-stage trigger is reasonably good — not perfect, but very tolerable. I’m always on the lookout for a good all-day shooter, and this one seemed promising. But, it first had to shoot, which is what this test is all about.

I sighted-in and began the test using the 13.43-grain JSB Exact RS pellet. From previous experience I knew the rifle liked it.

The hold

I tried every combination of holds I know, and the rifle shot best when rested directly on the sandbag. That’s another reason to like it.

First group

The group I’m about to show you isn’t the first group in the test. It’s just the first group I fired on the second day of the test. On day 1, my results weren’t very good — though it took a second day of testing to confirm that it was the rifle and not me. The group began well, with 5 shots landing in just about a half-inch. Then, the trouble began. First, a shot dropped low. Then, the next shots went high. By the end of the group, there were 10 shots in 1.308 inches. You can see this is a very vertical group.

JSB Exact RS group 2
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 1.308 inches at 25 yards off a sandbag rest. See how vertical this group is? Funny thing is that the first 5 shots landed in the much tighter group in the center of this group — along with 1 additional shot.

Note that this smaller group spreads out horizontally within the vertical main group. I’ll come back to that. I think it’s important.

Second group

The second group was shot with RWS Superdomes. It’s lower on the target, which is expected because the .22-caliber Superdome weighs 14.5 grains and travels slower than the lighter JSB RS. This group is also interesting for 2 other reasons. First, there’s both a horizontal and a vertical spread to this group.

Second, several of these pellet holes are torn on the right side. That’s an indication they didn’t hit the paper nose-first. They probably went through on an angle. The group measures 1.329 inches between the centers of the 2 holes farthest apart.

RWS Superdome group
As you see, Superdomes spread out in both directions. But look at how the right sides of many holes are torn (arrows). These pellets were tipped when they went through the paper. Group measures 1.329 inches between centers. read more

An open letter to airgun designers

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Pyramyd Air has asked me to announce their Memorial Day Madness sale, which features some sizable price reductions.

This report covers:

  • Design parameters and constraints
  • Barrel
  • Pivot joint
  • Coiled steel spring items
  • Piston
  • Spring guides
  • Mainspring
  • Gas-spring items
  • Piston bore
  • Trigger and safety
  • Stock
  • Sights
  • Scope base
  • Disassembly
  • Discussion
  • You do the rest

I used to teach a subject called Value Engineering to Department of Defense procurement personnel. Value Engineering was a U.S. Army initiative from World War II, where a design was examined by not just engineers, but by all the disciplines that dealt with the product. The goal was to create the function of an item at the lowest cost.

They discovered, for example, that a maintenance man could make a small change that saved the Army millions of dollars by either making the item easier to maintain or making it so it didn’t require maintenance at all. On the other hand, a production manager might make a change in the design that dropped the cost to produce the item from $2000 to $3.00 by simply changing the way it was produced.

What I’m going to do today is start a multidisciplinary design review of an inexpensive breakbarrel spring rifle — the most popular airgun sold in America today. Blog readers can participate through the comments. I can assure you of one thing — nearly all airgun manufacturers have at least one person reading this blog every day. So, let’s give them some food for thought.

Design parameters and constraints

  • The rifle we design has to cost very little to manufacture. Nothing that costs extra money will be included in the design.
  • We’re building a rifle for the broadest possible use. That means it must be accurate, easy to cock, easy to maintain, have a good trigger and good sights, and a stock that adapts to the broadest possible shooter base. Power will be secondary to all other constraints, but we won’t do anything to limit the power of the gun. It’ll be whatever it must be — in light of all aspects of design.
  • Fewer parts means a simpler design.
  • The broader the appeal, the more we’ll sell. The more that sell, the lower the development costs per gun.
  • Maintainability builds customer confidence.
  • Accuracy is the most important aspect.
  • Smoothness of the firing cycle takes precedence over everything except accuracy.
  • read more

    Interesting gun designs — Benjamin Legacy: Part 3

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    Part 1
    Part 2

    Benjamin Legacy SE
    Benjamin Legacy with a gas spring was a short-lived breakbarrel.

    This report covers:

  • Something special from the back room!
  • Benefits of a lower-pressure gas spring
  • Trigger
  • Lower power
  • RWS Hobby pellets
  • Crosman Premier pellets
  • JSB Exact RS pellets
  • The point of this review
  • read more

    Interesting gun designs — Benjamin Legacy: Part 2

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    Part 1

    This report covers:

    • Something special from the back room!
    • Easy to cock
    • Smooth shooting
    • Testus interruptus
    • No more Legacy
    • Something’s coming — maybe
    • The rifle
    • Cocking effort 16 lbs.
    • A modern Diana 27?

    Today’s report is the reason I wrote the whole report about interesting designs. Today, I’m going to address what I’ve wanted to show you for the past 5 years. This is an interesting story, so fill your cup, sit back and enjoy.

    It began in 2009, when Paul Capello and I started the television show American Airgunner. We needed content for the show, and the Crosman Corporation in East Bloomfield, New York, invited us to come in and film their operation. I had toured parts of their plant before, and I knew there was a lot to see.

    Something special from the back room!

    During the tour, their head engineer, Ed Schultz, asked if we would like to see something special. Naturally, we were excited! He took us out a back door next to the bulk CO2 tank that fills all the cartridges they make. Then, he told us about a secret project of his.

    He’d taken one of their breakbarrel rifles and installed a gas spring in it. But this wasn’t your typical gas spring — oh, no! This unit had way less pressure inside, and Ed told me the breakbarrel would cock with about 16 lbs. of effort! One-finger cocking for a gas spring! I looked at him like he was crazy. No one had ever made a gas spring rifle that was easy to cock.

    Easy to cock

    Ed and I had talked about this at a SHOT Show a year earlier, and he decided to see if what I told him was right — that a gas spring that was easy to cock would also be wonderfully smooth to shoot. I told him about the Theoben Fenman that cocked with just 40 lbs. of effort. That sounds high today; but when it was new, the Fenman was the lightest-cocking gas-spring rifle on the market. It was a delight to shoot!

    Several years later, Theoben made another gas spring rifle that RWS USA imported. It was even easier to cock than the Fenman — getting down into the 30-lb. region. I think it was called the Classic. Not only was it the easiest gas-spring rifle to cock, it was also very accurate. Gas-spring guns were very hard to shoot well in those days, so when one came along that was a tackdriver, I paid attention. Ed wanted to know if what I told him was fact, so he experimented.

    He handed me the new rifle and told be to try it. It really was easy to cock! I didn’t have any way of measuring the effort that day, but it felt like his 16 lb. claim was spot-on.

    Smooth shooting

    When I shot the rifle, I got the next surprise. There was almost no vibration, very little recoil and almost no noise. I was able to hit a small mark several times on a dirt bank about 15 yards away.

    The rifle I shot that day was a .22-caliber breakbarrel that Ed said wasn’t shooting very fast. It was definitely under 12 foot-pounds. And it was a real delight to shoot. I begged Ed for a sample to test, and he assured me that when the rifle got to production I would get one to test for you.

    Five months passed before I saw the rifle again; and when I did, it had a name — the Benjamin Legacy SE. The first part of the name was borrowed from an earlier rifle that I tested several years before, and many people think that gun is what I’m referencing when I mention it. But the Legacy SE I received was the delightful secret gas-spring gun I’d seen too briefly at East Bloomfield.

    Benjamin Legacy SE
    The Benjamin Legacy SE was a gas-spring rifle that had a very short run.

    Benjamin Legacy SE name
    Although few have ever seen one, the Benjamin Legacy SE was a production gun for a very short while.

    Testus interruptus

    I started testing the rifle in late March 2010, but was interrupted by stomach cramps and a bout of nausea that sent me to the emergency room at the local hospital. To make a very long and unpleasant story short, it took a total of 4 hospitals over the next 7 months before I got back out of the woods. Over 2-1/2 months straight were spent in 2 different hospitals — much of it in intensive care.

    No more Legacy

    When I returned home in June that year, one of the first things I wanted to do was get back to the Legacy test. Unfortunately, the rifle was no longer available. In just the few months I’d been laid up, the finest gas-spring rifle I ever saw had been launched — and then taken off the market. That was sad because I could have sold thousands of them if I just had a chance to test one for you!

    Something’s coming — maybe

    The worst thing I can do is tell my readers about a wonderful airgun they can’t buy. So why am I telling you this now? Why am I going to finally test the gas-spring rifle that I believe was the best one ever designed? Because I have hopes that it will be resurrected! Or something similar. Maybe Crosman won’t bring the Legacy SE back — though I would be its champion if they did — but others are now looking at the design and thinking this could be a wonderful way to go. It isn’t powerful, so it won’t displace other gas-spring guns that are already successful, but it’s a very pleasant gun to shoot.

    The rifle

    Enough history. Now I’ll tell you about the gun. As you can see in the picture, the Legacy SE looks a lot like Benjamin Trail rifles. There’s no Weaver scope base because the Legacy SE was made years before Crosman began putting Weaver bases on their Trail rifles. What it does have is a set of conventional 11mm dovetail grooves with a single hole at the back for a vertical scope stop pin. Given the extreme smoothness and lack of recoil, that will be more than enough. There are no open sights on the rifle.

    The trigger appears to be the same one that’s found in the Trail guns; since it isn’t holding back as much force, it breaks very crisply on stage 2. The safety is manual, so the shooter is in control, which is how I like it.

    Cocking effort 16 lbs.

    The cocking effort is exactly 16 lbs. I know because I’ve now measured it for this report. That is the first time in almost 6 years that I have actually measured the effort!

    The rifle is normal-sized, at 44 inches overall. What looks like the barrel is just under 20 inches long, but the actual barrel is hidden deep inside a shroud. The actual barrel is about 1-1/2 inches shorter, and there are no baffles in front of it. The muzzlebrake is just a nice solid cap that completes the look of the rifle.The pull is 14 inches.

    The stock is synthetic with a dipped woodlands camo pattern in deep woods green and gray. There’s a stylized thumbhole, and the stock makes the rifle completely ambidextrous. A dark rubber cheekpiece is pinned to the top of the straight comb. The buttpad is a ventilated black rubber pad that prevents the rifle from slipping when stood in the corner. The forearm is thin in cross section and flat on the bottom for a good hand rest.

    The metal parts are not polished and present a matte surface for the black oxide. The metal barrel jacket is even duller than the spring tube. There are a few plastic parts on the gun, like the triggerguard and end cap, but even the trigger blade is metal.

    The barrel pivot is a screw that can be tightened. That means the rifle can be very accurate.

    The trigger has one adjusting screw, and in the next part I’ll find out what it does. The gun came to me without a manual, so I’m winging it. I’ll also tell you the velocity for certain .22-caliber pellets, though I don’t want you to expect too much.

    A modern Diana 27?

    This rifle is as close as any modern air rifle gets to the legendary Diana 27. It’s light, has a great trigger and cocks even easier than the 27. I think it’s a little more powerful, as well, but don’t expect too much.

    Crosman took Ed’s idea and created the Benjamin Trail Lower Velocity rifle that was made for a short time and the Benjamin NPSS that also had a short life. Lower velocity doesn’t seem to sell well for some reason — yet, every time I put one of these airguns into a shooter’s hands, they smile and say they wish they could buy one just like it. The Nitro Piston 2 is the modern airgun that comes closest to matching this performance, but it’s still too powerful — and the barrel pivot is a pin instead of a screw that can be tightened.

    There’s a lot to like about this air rifle. Maybe not in the power department, but a smooth-shooting, easy cocking gun that’s accurate? Heck — I always want one of those! We’ll see!

    2014 SHOT Show: Part 3

    by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

    Part 1
    Part 2

    Mea Culpa!
    You know, Babe Ruth was the home run king of his era. But he was also the strikeout king. Sometimes when you swing for the fence, you get fanned by the pitcher. I’ve done that a couple of times in recent reports.

    The AirForce Escape SS has a 12-inch barrel. I said it was an 18-inch barrel, but several of you clever guys spotted why that could not be. And, while I was starting to redden from embarrassment in the AirForce booth, John McCaslin also took the opportunity to inform me that what I wrote about the Escape valve is also incorrect. It isn’t different than the TalonP valve — it is identical. So, gather a crowd and paint me red…I goofed!

    The Escape has a 24-inch barrel, the Escape Ultra Light has an 18-inch barrel and the Escape SS has a 12-inch barrel. All 3 rifles come in either .22 or .25 calibers and no others.

    The $100 PCP
    I’m happy to report that Crosman is taking the $100 PCP project seriously. They will look into the possibility of making such an air rifle, but that doesn’t mean they have made any decisions to proceed. A lot of things must be taken into consideration beyond the fact that it might be possible. Don’t any of you start a clock on this! I’ll continue to test the rifle I have, and we’ll leave it at that.

    Mike Mellick (Mike in Iowa) did come to Las Vegas, and we had a meeting. He showed me 2 examples of the rifles he’s currently selling, and we talked about my testing one for a feature article in Shotgun News. I plan to present the entire $100 PCP project in that article, which I think will be in the July 2014 color issue.

    Okay. On to the new stuff.

    Leapers is going to introduce an upgraded line of optics later this year that they’ll call the T8 line. They’re trying to offer optics as clear and sharp as those currently being sold for tactical use by Law Enforcement. They want to give $2000 worth of value for something in the $200 price range.

    The first scope will be a 1-8X that fits the tactical scenario very well. If you’re in the CQB team, you run your scope on 1X and have a wide field of view and rapid acquisition. If you’re in the overwatch team, you’re running 3-4X and cover the door-breakers. The snipers sit on the high ground at 8X, watching everything.

    I looked through a prototype scope, and it was clear as a bell, but the development is not quite finished. After it’s announced later this year, they’ll move ahead on a 2-16X scope to compliment the first one.

    Leapers T8 scope
    Leapers T8 scope line will offer upgraded optics.

    I saw many products at Leapers this year, but the one that surprised me the most was the little peep sight they developed for a number of firearms. It’s so small, yet it adjusts in both directions. I asked if it could be made for airguns because then people wouldn’t have to root out the sides of their wood stocks to make room for the elevation slide — not that I’ve ever done that!

    Leapers small peep sight
    This peep sight is made to fit Weaver bases, but imagine what you could do with this on an airgun!

    Air Arms
    I saw the new field target rifle being offered by Air Arms. The FTP 900 is a purpose-built target rifle suited to knocking down those pesky steel targets. Short for Field Target Professional, the FTP replaces the EV2, their longtime field target competition rifle. It’s loaded with features. But to sum it up, this rifle is adjustable! It’s completely ergonomic, so it can be adjusted to fit the shooter like a glove. If $2,500 seems a lot to pay for an air rifle — just try winning the World’s with something less!

    Air Arms FTP 900 precharged pneumatic air rifle
    Air Arms FTP 900 is the newest field target rifle in the Air Arms line.

    From the Czech Republic came the KalibrGun company with a range of precharged pneumatics. According to their spokeswoman, the specs are fluid, but they did show a bullpup called the Colibri, assumedly after the world’s smallest (2.7mm) firearm. It’s a tiny thing they’ll offer in .177, .22 and .25…but they were somewhat vague on the velocities as apparently some things are still in flux. Besides being a bullpup, it’s also semiautomatic! Unfortunately, it takes a 300 bar (4,350 psi) fill according to their literature (the sales rep told us that 250 bar is recommended), so I don’t know what the U.S. reception will be.

    KalibrGun Colibri bullpup repeater airgun
    The KalibrGun Colibri is a semiautomatic bullpup.

    BSA & Gamo
    BSA is located in the Gamo booth, and they keep secrets about their products better than the National Security Agency! I did photograph the BSA Buccaneer SE for you. It appears to be a precharged carbine and I’m sure that someone in the world knows something about it, but they weren’t in the booth at this show either time I visited. Perhaps the intelligence community will discover something about this airgun at some time this year. If they do and I learn of it, I’ll be happy to share it with you.

    Years ago, when BSA was a UK company, the airguns they made were well-designed and had remarkably accurate barrels. Let’s hope some of that tradition has carried over to the newest crop of guns!

    BSA Buccaneer air rifle
    The BSA Buccaneer SE is a pretty little PCP carbine. It looks like it can shoot!

    As far as the Gamo guns go, I couldn’t make out what was new and what wasn’t. A lot of them were on display, but the confusing plethora of names lead me to abandon the quest. When Pyramyd Air gets some in this year, I’ll test some of them for you.

    Crosman got a healthy exposure in the first report due to the Nitro Piston 2. But I didn’t get the full tour until the third day of the show. Let’s start with the AK BB gun that everybody was talking about before the show. It’s called the Comrade AK and is a semiautomatic BB gun that gets 150 shots per 12-gram CO2 cartridge. Yes, that was the number I was given for a 400+ f.p.s. BB gun!

    Crosman Comrade AK air rifle
    The Comrade AK BB gun is semiautomatic and gets 150 shots per CO2 cartridge, according to Crosman.

    I was also shown the new 760 that has been redesigned for greater velocity and easier pumping effort. They lengthened the pump handle to lighten the load and strengthened the pump rod and pump cup to make the mechanism more efficient.

    There are also a couple airsoft guns I’m really excited about. One is an automatic electric pistol that fires both semi- and full-auto. There aren’t many full-auto handguns in the world, so I’ll let you decide which one this looks like. I hope to test one for you soon.

    Crosman GFAP13 CO2 BB pistol
    The GFAP13 BB gun is semiautomatic and gets 140 shots per CO2 cartridge, according to Crosman.

    There’s also a Chicago Typewriter (Tommy Gun) that’s a fun AEG. It has an 800-round BB drum that winds on the outside — just like the real thing! I want to test one of these as well.

    Finally, I saw a very neat looking CenterPoint dot sight that has a laser built in. So, it’s both a dot sight and a laser sight! I don’t think I’ve tested one of those before! This one is a high-quality holographic unit.

    Crosman dot sight
    CenterPoint dot sight features both red and green dots, as well as a red laser! read more