Diana 34 Easy Modular System (EMS) Synthetic: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 34 EMS
Diana 34 EMS with synthetic stock.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Scope
  • The test
  • Pellets
  • Sight-in
  • JSB Exact Heavy domes
  • Crosman Premier Heavy
  • Trigger
  • Heavy pellets
  • H&N Baracuda with 4.50mm head
  • Evaluation so far
  • Summary

Okay. Today is the test many have been waiting for — the Diana 34 EMS at 25 yards. How accurate is it?


I scoped the rifle with an older  UTG AccuShot 4-16X50AO scope, mounted in BKL 2-piece double-strap one-inch rings. Since the scope was already shimmed in the rings I figured they would adjust to the point of aim relatively easily.

The test

I shot from 25 yards with the artillery hold and my off hand rested on a sandbag. I will note that with the thumbhole stock I’m testing a true artillery hold isn’t possible, but I held the rifle as loosely as possible. My off hand was at the rear of the cocking slot.

I shot 10-shot groups today. I have to say the EMS is easy to cock and you don’t have to slap the muzzle to break it open. This is a very well-behaved air rifle.


I selected JSB Exact Heavy domes from the test at 10 meters. In that test we learned that the 34 EMS likes heavier pellets that are also larger. So I also selected two heavier pellets that I hadn’t tried before. When you see the results I think you’ll agree I picked two good ones.


I shot a single JSB Heavy pellet at 12 feet and confirmed that the scope was close enough on for me to back up to 25 yards. Once there it took me three more shots to get on target. Of course I didn’t want to hit the center of the bull and destroy my aim point, so all groups will be at the edge of the black.

JSB Exact Heavy domes

First up was the sight-in pellet. The first shot landed in the top of the bull and I thought it was perfect, but the next several landed high and outside. When all 10 had been shot I had a somewhat vertical group that measures 0.675-inches between centers. It’s a little larger than I would like from this rifle, but there were no shots that were called pulls.

Diana EMS JSB Heavy
The Diana 34 EMS put 10 JSB Exact Heavy pellets into 0.675-inches at 25 yards.

Crosman Premier heavy

The second pellet I tried was the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavy. These pellets are sometimes the best of all, and today was one of those days. The 34 EMS put 10 of them into a tight 0.619-inches at 25 yards. 

Diana EMS Premier heavy
Crosman Premier heavys wanted to stay together when shot from the Diana 34 EMS. Ten went into 0.619-inches at 25 yards.


You may recall that the 34 EMS has a different trigger that is not crisp like the Diana T05 or T06. This trigger has a second stage through which the trigger blade moves considerably. It’s light enough, but not crisp. I have said that it feels like a single-stage trigger, once you get to stage two. I got used to it in Part 3 and today I was able to do good work with it. I still can’t tell when the rifle is about to fire, but pulling the trigger has no adverse effect on the stability of the crosshairs.

Heavy pellets

I think there is something to this thing about heavy pellets and the EMS. It seems to like them a lot. If you get one of these, try it with heavy pellets first.

H&N Baracuda with 4.50mm head

The third pellet I tested was the H&N Baracuda with a 4.50mm head. I just knew this one was going to shoot well and it did. Ten of them went into 0.634-inches at 10 meters.

Dioana EMS Baracuda
The Diana 34 EMS put 10 H&N Baracudas with 4.50mm heads into a 0.634-inch group at 25 yards.

Evaluation so far

I really like the Diana 34 EMS. It is different than the Diana 34 of the past that we knew, but it is a worthy air rifle in it’s own right. Yes, Diana shouldn’t have touted the barrel shimming and caliber swaps before they worked out the details, but that marketing blunder has no bearing on the rifle’s excellence.

I don’t often select spring rifles to shoot at 50 yards, but I’m choosing this one. With luck I’m thinking we could see ten pellets in less than one inch.


If you have been waiting to see whether the Diana 34 EMS was a worthy air rifle, I think that point has been proved. I would recommend getting the wooden stock just so you can shoot with the full artillery hold, but if money is an object this synthetic thumbhole stock can also shoot. Today demonstrates that.

I just hope Diana makes the gas pistons, barrel shims and different caliber barrels available soon. I would sure like to try them out!

Beeman R10: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Beeman R10
Beeman R10.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Scope
  • Sight in
  • JSB Exact RS
  • JSB Exact 
  • JSB Exact Jumbo
  • Falcon
  • 10-shot group of Falcons
  • Shootin’ machine
  • Summary

Welcome to the last report on the Beeman R10 that I tuned. This will be the accuracy test at 25 yards.

The test

I shot the rifle off a sandbag rest at 25 yards. I used an artillery hold with my off hand back by the triggerguard. I shot 5-shot groups to test more pellets and then 10-shot groups when I found a good one.


I scoped the rifle with a UTG Bug Buster 3-12X32 scope. It fit the R10 quite well, and when you see my groups I think you will agree that the scope worked.

R10 scoped
The Bug Buster fit the R10 well.

Sight in

I knew the scope was shimmed to take care of moderate barrel droop so I fired two shots at 12 feet and was immediately able to move back to 25 yards. Shots three and four were used to refine the zero and then I fired the first 5-shot group.

JSB Exact RS

Five JSB Exact RS domes went into 0.45-inches at 25 yards, with the last 4 shots going into a much smaller group measuring 0.108-inches. 

R10 RS group
Five JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.45-inches with the last 4 going in 0.108-inches at 25 yards.

JSB Exact 

The second pellet I tried was the 8.44-grain JSB Exact dome. They didn’t do so well. Five made an open group measuring 0.622-inches between centers at 25 yards.

R10 Exact group
JSB Exacts that weigh 8.44-grains didn’t do so well in the R10. Five in 0.622-inches at 25 yards.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

Next, the heavier 10.34-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets did quite well. Five of them went into 0.307-inches at 25 yards.

R10 Exact Jumbo group
The R10 put 5 JSB Exact Jumbo pellets into a 0.307-inch group at 25 yards.

H&N Baracuda Match with 4.52mm heads

After that came five H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.52mm heads. They made a 0.314-inch group at the lower left of the bull. 

R10 Baracuda Match group
H&N Baracuda Match made this nice 0.314-inch group at 25 yards.


The last pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon dome. The first shot went just above the 9-ring and then four more went into one hole at the bottom of the bull. The group measures 0.61-inches with 4 in 0.249-inches.

R10 Falcon group
The R10 put 5 Falcons in 0.61-inches with the last 4 in 0.249-inches.

There are five 5-shot groups fired from the R10. Three or four of the five pellets did well enough to warrant further testing, so I decided that since I had just shot Falcons, they would be the pellets I tested further. Because they were low on the bull I raised the scope by 5 clicks.

10-shot group of Falcons

I put up a fresh target and proceeded to shoot 10 Falcons at it. The first shot removed the 10-ring. Shot two was a called pull that hit to the right of that. The other 8 shots all went where the first one did. That’s 10 in 0.452 with 9 in 0.205-inches. I don’t care who you are — that’s a good group for a springer!

R19 10 Falcon group
Ten Falcons shot at 25 yards from the R10. The single hole on the right was a called pull. Group measures 0.452-inches with nine in 0.205-inches.

This target was so encouraging that I tried to repeat it, but alas without success. My second 10-shot group of Falcons measures 0.495-inches between centers and I figured that was it for the day.

R10 10 Falcon group 2
Ten Falcons are in 0.495-inches.

Shootin’ machine

No question about it — this R10 is a real shooting’ machine! The tune is still dead calm and the trigger is about as perfect as you could hope for. The Bug Buster worked well with the rifle and if it were mine I would think about leaving it on permanently.


Thanks to a reader we got a good look at a vintage Beeman R10. We also saw how a Vortek PG3 kit installs and performs.

I have always heard that Beeman R10s are buzzy, but the Vortek kit turns them into very well-behaved breakbarrels. This is a rifle to admire and, since the Beeman R9 is virtually the same airgun, the comments carry over to it, as well.

Air Venturi Tech Force M8: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Ari Venturi M8
Air Venturi M8 is very much like the Bronco.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The assumptions
    Premier lites
    Artillery hold
    Deep seated pellets
    Artillery hold
    The test
    Air Arms Falcons
    Directly on the sandbag

Today we begin looking at the accuracy of the Tech Force M8 pellet rifle — a breakbarrel that we have discovered is very similar to the discontinued Air Venturi Bronco. Because it is so similar, we can take what we already know about the Bronco and apply it to this rifle — the results will probably be the same, or similar, though we have to watch for anomalies that could crop up.

Today is accuracy day — the first of two such days we will have with the M8. Today I’m shooting the rifle at 10 meters. That gets me on the target and gives a chance for the rifle and scope to settle down.

The M8 comes without sights, so I have mounted a scope, and I think my selection will surprise you. I didn’t choose a whomptydoodle monster scope that costs three times as much as the rifle. Instead I’ve mounted a Gamo 3-9X40 scope with fixed parallax. This scope is nothing special — it probably came with a bundle deal on some other airgun. It’s reasonably clear and sharp, and size-wise it is well-matched to the M8. I shimmed the rear ring of the 1-piece Gamo scope mount that came with the scope, just to offset any possible barrel droop.

The assumptions

Now let’s look at the assumptions I made when starting this test. These are based on results when testing the Bronco.

Premier lites

When I looked back over the 11 blog reports I did on the Bronco, I found that Crosman Premier lites stood out as the most accurate pellet. The M8 has the same thin steel inner barrel inside a metal outer tube that the Bronco had, so there is no reason to suspect this is anything other than the same barrel.

Deep seated pellets

Another thing I discovered in researching for this test is that my Broncos like their pellets seated deep. I used the Air Venturi Pellet Seater that allows adjustment for the seating depth. I will start the test with deep seated pellets and only change if that doesn’t seem to hold true for the M8.

Artillery hold

I also discovered that the Bronco does not like being rested directly on a sandbag. In fact it liked a specific type of artillery hold that I talked about in Part 5 of the original Bronco report, back in 2010. So that is how I will begin testing the M8 — with Premier lites and with the special artillery hold.

The test

Well, the best-laid plans… A lot of my assumptions did not work out. First, I couldn’t get Premier lites to group no matter what I did. I tried deep seating, flush seating and 3 different hand placements of my off hand, but nothing worked well. The best group of 10 Premier lites I got at 10 meters out of 3 targets measured 0.929 inches between centers.

Ari Venturi M8 Premier lite group
This is the best of three 10-shot groups shot at 10 meters with Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. It measures 0.929 inches between centers. I don’t think the M8 likes the Premier lite.

Air Arms Falcons

I then switched to Air Arms Falcon pellets and the groups tightened up. The first group of 10 was shot with a conventional artillery hold. That means the off hand was back on the stock touching the front of the triggerguard. Ten Falcon pellets seated deep went into 0.587 inches at 10 meters. Now, that’s a group!

Ari Venturi M8 Falcon group
This is the first 10-shot group shot at 10 meters with Air Arms Falcon pellets. It measures 0.587 inches between centers. This is what I was hoping for from the M8.

Then I slid my off hand out to the end of the stock. This makes the rifle very stable, but it also proved to be quite twitchy. Nine of the 10 deep-seated pellets went into 0.858-inches, but one shot that was actually shot number 5 in the string, went wide left — opening the group to a whopping 1.644 inches. That was due to a variation of the hold and I felt it before the trigger broke. I cannot recommend this hold for the M8.

Ari Venturi M8 Falcon group 2
This is the second 10-shot group shot at 10 meters with Air Arms Falcon pellets. It measures 1.644 inches between centers, though 9 shots are in 0.858 inches. What a huge difference the placement of the off hand made!

Directly on the sandbag

I finished the test by placing the rifle directly on the sandbag and seating the pellets flush with the breech — things the Bronco didn’t like one bit! But the Bronco was shooting Crosman Premier lites at the time I tried it, so it was worth a gamble to try the M8 rested this way.

Ten pellets went into 0.581 inches, which is very close to the size of the first group of Falcons. I think Falcon pellets are good in the M8 and I think you can either use a conventional artillery hold or rest the rifle directly on the sandbag.

Ari Venturi M8 Falcon group 3
This is the third 10-shot group shot at 10 meters with Air Arms Falcon pellets. The rifle was rested directly on a sandbag. The group measures 0.581 inches between centers, and is the smallest of the test, though it’s really too close to the first Falcon group to call. Falcon pellets perform very well in this rifle when it is rested right!


The Tech Force M8 appears to be very similar to the Bronco in many ways, but it also has enough personality that you have to treat it as a different airgun. The scope I used is not a top model, yet it performed as well as could be expected.

I plan to back up to 25 yards for the next test, which will also be the last. Obviously Falcons will lead off, but I will probably try one or two other pellets, as well. I would have tried them in this test, but 60+ shots on a breakbarrel that’s hold-sensitive is quite taxing.

I think the M8 is turning out about like I expected. For the money you get a lot of desirable features:

Easy cocking
Light trigger
Nice stock
Nice finish
Decent accuracy

We are still going to test the accuracy at 25 yards because that’s the distance we expect an air rifle in this power range to function. But I am already sold on the Tech Force M8. If you want one act now, because there are a limited number in stock. After they are gone there will be no more.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2: Part 6

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

This report covers:

• Rifle was set up
• The hold
• Accuracy
• A hunter’s rifle
• Comparison with the first rifle

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2
Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2

This is accuracy day with the second Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 rifle — the one Crosman sent especially for this test. We’ve already seen how this second rifle exceeds the power of the first one, so today we’ll see what impact that has on accuracy. As with the first rifle, I’ll shoot 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellets exclusively in this test.

Rifle was set up
When I unboxed the scope, I found the rings already installed in the correct location, meaning I could install them directly on the rifle. That proves this rifle has been tested and set up before I received it. The scope went on quickly, and I found it was very close to being sighted-in; but the inability to focus the target as close as 25 yards was a hinderance to aiming. I estimate my groups were a quarter-inch larger than they needed to be because I couldn’t see well enough to put the crosshairs on an exact spot. The scope arrived set at 4X, which indicates the rifle was tested at 10 meters or yards before it was sent. At 25 yards, I wanted to see the bull more clearly, so I adjusted it to 9X. But as I said, the focus was off because the scope is parallax-adjusted for a longer distance.

The hold
I refined the sight setting and proceeded to test the hold I thought would do best — based on results from the first rifle’s test. I also tried several other holds and hand placements, establishing one thing for certain. The NP2 wants to be held firmly. Do not use the artillery hold. Instead, I found it best to slide my off hand out to almost the end of the stock and grip the forearm firmly. I can feel the forearm screw holds on the tips of my thumb and fingers, so I know my hand is in the same place every time. Any hold that wasn’t firm allowed pellets to rise vertically. I fired probably 30 shots testing just the different holds and pressures.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 Artillery hold group
When I used the classic artillery hold, this is what I got at 25 yards — every time! They’re all in line but off vertically. The NP2 wants to be held firmly.

I then shot three 10-shot groups using the factory scope. The best of them measures 1.104 inches between centers, and the worst measures 1.168 inches. I really tried to do well, but the blurriness of the target did cause my aim to be off.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 best factory scope group
The best 25-yard group using the factory scope and the best hold measures 1.104 inches between centers. No, I didn’t get the images mixed up. This group is slightly smaller than the one below.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 worst factory scope group
The worst group with the factory scope isn’t much different than the best. Ten Premiers went into 1.168 inches at 25 yards.

I felt the factory scope was hindering my best efforts, so I swapped it for an older CenterPoint 3-9X40 with an adjustable objective. This scope is one CenterPoint no longer carries. It’s a simple scope without an illuminated reticle; and other than the larger objective lens and the AO, it’s close to the scope that came with the rifle.

I allowed a day to pass between the first shooting session and the second because too much concentration makes me lose my edge. The next day, I shot another four 10-shot groups, plus some more sighters to get the scope shooting where I wanted. On this second day, my groups ranged from 0.895 inches between centers to 1.483 inches. I learned as I went, refining the hold that seems to be critical with the NP2. The worst group, for example, came when I experimented with the firmness of the offhand grip.

By the end of the session, I knew what this rifle wants — a firm hold of the off hand as far out on the forearm as you can comfortably hold and a firm hold of the pistol grip. Pull the butt into your shoulder firmly. This is not a death grip — just a firm hold, and it seems to be what the NP2 wants.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 best new scope group
The best group with the second scope measures 0.895 inches between centers at 25 yards. The second-best group was almost the same size as this.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 worst new scope group
The worst group with the second scope measures 1.483 inches between centers at 25 yards. I was experimenting with the firmness of my grasp during this group.

I’m not through with this rifle, yet. Each one of my second-session groups contains a large cluster of shots that are very close, then some strays that wander off — usually down, but not always. I think I’m close to understanding what this rifle wants, but I’m not there yet. I think it needs a very repeatable offhand grasping pressure. I’ll give it one more session and also shoot some different pellets next time — to see if I have been missing anything by shooting Crosman Premiers exclusively.

A hunter’s rifle
I have seen rifles like the NP2 before. They take some getting used to, but they reward the shooter with incredible accuracy once their secrets are learned. They’re rifles for hunters who use only a single rifle for all their needs. For the price this air rifle costs, I don’t think you can get one that’s any better.

Comparison with the first rifle
The first NP2 also took getting used to; but when I did, it gave me a best 25-yard group of 0.704 inches at 25 yards. So far, this rifle has given a best of 0.895 inches. Both rifles seem to want to do better, but I haven’t discovered quite how, just yet.

Testing the effect of hold on an accurate spring-piston air rifle: Part 2

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

Testing the effect of hold on an accurate spring-piston air rifle: Part 1
Calling the shot and follow-through
Settling into a firing position

I thought this was going to be a one-time report. I would show how the hold affects the accuracy of a spring-piston rifle and that would be it. Well, the best-laid plans…

Blog reader Slinging Lead said he thought that lower-powered breakbarrels shoot just as accurately when rested directly on a bag as they do when shot with the artillery hold. I had to admit that the TX200 does shoot well off a bag, although that rifle is an underlever — not a breakbarrel. And it’s certainly not lower-powered. Then, blog reader BG_Farmer entered the conversation and requested this test.

While all this was transpiring, blog reader Kevin Lentz sent me 2 tins of Air Arms Falcon pellets to try in my R8. He said his R8 shot them slightly better than it shot the JSB Exact RS pellets that I normally use in my R8.

Now, we had a multivariate discussion going on! On one hand we wondered which pellets were the most accurate in my R8; and on the other hand, we wondered if the gun was as accurate when rested directly on the bag as it was when held with the artillery hold.

How do you test all that? Do you start by testing one of the 2 pellets, or do you first find the best hold? My approach in situations like this has always been to just start testing and let the methodology work itself out as I progress.

This time, I started by shooting the gun with both pellets. I shot them with the artillery hold the way I always had, then I rested the gun directly on the sandbag and shot both pellets again. The first day’s results were not very good, but they did illuminate something that helped me structure the second day’s shooting. It turns out that, although the R8 is a very accurate springer, it’s still ultra-sensitive to hold. I guess I’d forgotten that, but on the first day’s shooting it slapped me in the face. I found that even the slightest variation in hold would throw the pellet sideways with a vengeance, and that held true for both the Falcon pellets and the JSB Exact RS pellets.

Ten-shot groups are the way to go
Once again, I must sing the praises of 10-shot groups over 5-shot groups. When you shoot 10 shots, you allow the gun to do its thing; and that tells you what the real accuracy is. People say they don’t shoot 10 shots because something can go wrong — that it’s easy to hold the rifle steady for 5 shots, but close to impossible to hold it right 10 times in a row. I say that’s just a lie we tell ourselves because 5-shot groups look so much better. Yes, it’s hard to hold a gun correctly 10 times in a row; and yes, you’ll make mistakes. I make them all the time. But if you get into the habit of shooting 10-shot groups, you’ll also KNOW when you make those mistakes; and in time, you’ll make fewer of them.

The first results — JSB Exact RS pellets
The rest of this report will be mostly the photos of the groups. I’ll start with the JSB Exact RS pellets.

JSB Exact RS pellets handheld poor hold
On the first day, this is what my artillery hold did with 10 JSB RS pellets at 25 yards. Group measures 0.647 inches.

JSB Exact RS pellets handheld good hold
On the second day, my artillery hold was more precise shot-to-shot, and I got groups that were smaller and rounder. Here are 10 JSB RS pellets from the artillery hold at 25 yards. Group measures 0.503 inches.

JSB Exact RS pellets bag rested day 1
Resting directly on the bag on the first day produced a slightly smaller group than the handheld one. Ten JSB RS pellets rested on a bag went into 0.571 inches between centers at 25 yards.

JSB Exact RS pellets bag rested day 2
Resting directly on the bag on day 2 also beat the handheld group on that day.Ten JSB RS pellets rested on a bag went into 0.379 inches between centers at 25 yards. This is the smallest group of this test.

Clearly, these results show that the groups of JSB Exact RS pellets fired off the bag are smaller than the handheld groups on both days. The day 1 groups are larger than the day 2 groups, but the relationships of the group sizes between bag-rested and handheld remained constant on both days.

Air Arms Falcon pellets
Now, let’s see what happened with the Air Arms Falcon pellets. These were also shot on both days and using both resting methods.

Air Arms Falcon pellets handheld poor hold
On the first day, this is what my artillery hold did with 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets at 25 yards. Group measures 0.63 inches. It’s slightly better than the handheld JSB RS group shot on the same day.

Air Arms Falcon pellets handheld good hold
On day ,2 the group shot with my artillery hold and 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets at 25 yards measures 0.466 inches. It’s considerably better than the handheld JSB RS group shot on day 1.

Air Arms Falcon pellets bag rested day 1
On the first day, 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets at 25 yards shot with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag went into 0.627 inches. It’s slightly better than the handheld Falcon group shot on the same day.

Air Arms Falcon pellets bag rested day 2
On the second day, 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets at 25 yards shot with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag went into 0.603 inches. It’s much worse than the handheld Falcon group shot on the same day. I know this group APPEARS larger than the group above, but I measured it several times and it really is slightly smaller.

I conclude that these 2 pellets perform so close to each other that there’s no measurable difference — at least not in my Beeman R8. The group sizes do slightly favor the JSB pellets over the Falcons, but it’s too close to call.

But this test does demonstrate one thing very clearly. This rifle is capable of shooting groups just as tight when rested directly on a sandbag as when held with the artillery hold. That’s big news, I think. I’ll remind you that this test required the utmost in precision holding — whether in the hands or on the bag. There could be absolutely no tension on the rifle, and the gun had to be settled in properly before firing. It, therefore, took nearly as long to get each shot ready on the bag as it did holding the gun.

Don’t try to go too far
This is all well and good, but don’t sit in judgement of these results. It would be far too easy to get sucked into a destructive discussion of how much better you think this rifle can really shoot.

Many years ago, I worked for an engineering firm that developed specialized telecommunications systems. Our client was always pushing past the edge of technological possibility, so we were, too. That’s admirable except it sometimes gets you into problem areas. Let’s look at one example. The client wanted a mass storage device that stored a huge amount of data. They also wanted the data to be retrievable within a very short time. You can do one thing or the other; but when you try to do both simultaneously, there are problems.

Our problems can be seen in the movie Patriot Games, when the main character is attempting to do voice recognition in real time from a cell phone intercept. There’s a glass wall behind him, and the mass storage device behind the wall is very much like the one we were asked to design. As you watch the film, you’ll see robot arms moving fast to retrieve digital storage devices and plug them into readers. The arms move very fast! But they’re slow compared to the speed our robots had to move. Our arms had to move faster than the speed of sound, yet stop at precisely the right spot for the storage devices to be inserted into the readers. That is a physical impossibility just due to the physics of the problem. You cannot decelerate a mass from fast to zero without some consequences.

We had a problem that was unsolvable at the time we were attempting to do it. Today, however, it can be done, and the footprint of the system that does it is a fraction the size of what we were working on. Mass storage technology caught up with our technological requirement and then surpassed it.

You run into the same problem when you attempt to test something like the rifle we’re looking at today. You can get a spring-piston gun to a remarkable level of precision, and then the technology and physical limitations stop all further progress.

Put another way, you can take a $500 spring gun and invest another $500 to get it shooting 10 times better than before. But after you do, maybe no amount of additional money can get that more accurate airgun to shoot another 10 times better!

I could probably continue to test this rifle and get different results. Some would be better than what is seen here, and others would be worse. I believe this test does show the relationship quite well of the gun to the 2 pellets and 2 different holds.

Testing the effect of hold on an accurate spring-piston air rifle

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

Calling the shot and follow-through
Settling into a firing position

Today’s report is one of those serendipitous events that happen when I think I’m investigating something simple and it turns out to be a treasure trove of shooting information. I thought today’s test was a demonstration of how settling into a firing position and following through would give a better group from an air rifle of proven accuracy. What I got was that and more!

I chose the .177-caliber Beeman R8 air rifle and JSB Exact RS pellet for this test because, in the past, this has proved to be a great combination. I shot 10-shot groups at 25 yards, which should show any differences if they really exist. Initially, I’d thought to shoot the rifle in a deer-hunter hold (meaning that I grasped the stock and pulled it firmly into my shoulder), an artillery hold without the tension being taken out of my hold (in other words, holding the rifle lightly, but held on target by muscle power and not by relaxing and adjusting the hold) and finally by settling in properly with an artillery hold. However, as I started this test, I thought that I’d also shoot the rifle directly off the sandbag to show how that affected the group size.

As I started the test, I realized that one group would have to be shot last, which would be at the time I was getting tired. I didn’t want to bias the results, so I put the neutral hold (the potentially best hold) at the end of the test.

Directly rested on sandbags
The first shot off the bag went through the center of the bull, and shot 2 went through the same hole. At that point, I thought this test was going to prove that I was wrong and that this gun really could be shot directly off a bag. Because of that, I knew that bias could creep in at this point. So, shot 3 was taken with the greatest care; yet, shot 3 went way to the right, and I knew the wisdom of not resting directly on sandbags was holding true.

KJSB Exactv RS pellet rested on sandbag
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 0.593 inches at 25 yards when the rifle was rested directly on the sandbag.

Deer hunter
This hold is one where you grasp the rifle tightly, pulling it into the shoulder the way a hunter might hold a powerful rifle. This was the most difficult hold to execute because the rifle was twitching around from the tight muscles. I didn’t have a death grip on it — just a firm hold; but through the scope, the movement was disconcerting.

JSB Exact RS pellet rifle held firmly
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 0.949 inches at 25 yards when the rifle was held firmly like a hunting rifle. The horizontal spread is due to tense muscles.

Artillery hold without settling-in
This hold just felt wrong with every shot because I knew I hadn’t settled in. Were I to relax before the shot while using this hold, the crosshairs would invariable move to the right. And see what kind of group I got? There’s one large hole surrounded by 4 wild shots. This is the kind of group that will drive a shooter nuts because it looks so good in general but still has those few wild shots. You wonder what’s wrong and want to blame the rifle, the barrel crown and the pellet. But in actuality, it all came down to the hold.

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold under tension
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 0.728 inches at 25 yards when the rifle was held using the artillery hold but not settling in. The wild shots are caused by tense muscles.

Now comes the big lesson!
Here is where the test turned around and taught me more than I anticipated. By the time I got to this point, I’d already fired 30 good shots without a single called flier. The dispersion you see on the targets above is entirely due to the holds that were used to create them. But taking 30 good shots is very tiring. And it showed on my next attempt to shoot a good 10-shot group.

What happened was I didn’t relax as completely as I should have. There was still a bit of tension in my muscles. Part of that is because my R8 has a Tyrolean stock whose high cupped cheekpiece is horrible for shooting off a bench rest because it forces you to put your cheek against the stock. But knowing that these shots were fired with a bit of tension in this case turned out to be a wonderful thing because I got 2 distinct groups!

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold with a little tension
Four JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 2 distinct groups at 25 yards when the rifle was held using the artillery hold, but I still didn’t settle in as completely as I should have. The “group” on the left looks like a single shot, but I know for a fact that it contains 2 pellets. The group on the right is very obviously two pellets. The distance between the centers of these 4 shots is 0.574 inches.

Why is this bad target such a good thing? Because it clearly shows a phenomenon that happens to all shooters. A small change in the hold sends the pellets/bullets to 2 distinctly different places. How many times have I seen this on the rifle range and blamed my ammunition or rifle? Here’s the proof that it can be caused by just a small change in the hold.

But the learning wasn’t over! The next target I shot was with a fully relaxed artillery hold, but it’s still larger than I would like. What went wrong? Well, perhaps, where I’d my off-hand was the problem. It was back, touching the triggerguard. Maybe, it needs to be more forward with this rifle.

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold good relaxation hand back by trigger guard
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.475 inches at 25 yards when the right artillery hold was combined with the correct settling in. This is the best of the 5 groups fired thus far, but I felt the rifle had more to give.

I slid my hand forward to almost the end of the stock. Then, I shot the final group, which was the best one of the day. Fifty-four shots had been fired before this group was started; yet, when I settled in correctly and used the artillery hold as I was supposed to, this hold produced the best group of the session — 10 shots into 0.405 inches between centers.

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold good relaxation hand forward
This is what happens when everything is done right. Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.405 inches at 25 yards.

This little test turned out to be one of the most important things I’ve done in months because it demonstrates not just the importance of the right hold and settling in but also what can happen when even one of those things isn’t done exactly as it should be.

Settling into a firing position

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

Today was supposed to be Part 2 of the report on the BSA Scorpion 1200 SE, but I had an accident (actually a stupident) last night that prevented me from completing the test. I was slicing open a roll of bullet grease for my sizer/lubricator, and I slipped and cut my hand deeply. Today, as I was pumping the Hill pump to fill the rifle for the test, the wound reopened and I had to stop. Because the BSA fills to 232 bar and has a proprietary fill probe, I use the Hill pump because I don’t want to change out my more common Foster adapter on my carbon fiber tank since it fills most of the PCPs I own. Proprietary fill couplings are relegated to the hand pump.

This is also going to delay the next report of the Hatsan AT P1 pistol and the Evanix Rainstorm 3D bullpup rifle, as both of those PCPs also have proprietary fill probes and, of course, none of them fit any other gun — nor do they fit the BSA rifle! So, the only PCP I can report on for a week or 2 will be the Benjamin Marauder because it has a standard Foster fill coupling.

Today, I want to address the issue that blog reader Beazer brought up the other day when I talked about calling shots and following through. He mentioned that with his heavy-recoiling gas spring rifle, which he calls Mr. Nasty, he cannot keep the crosshairs on the point of aim after the shot fires. He wondered what to do about it. Let me pull a quote from his comment that explains everything well.

… should my sight picture return to p.o.a. after all the dust settles? Asked another way, if my reticle winds up off target, but my shot is close to on target, is something wrong in my shot execution?

Several other readers made similar comments about recoiling firearms. Obviously, this was a point that I failed to make in that report. Today, I want to set things right and talk about the ideal shooting position.

Let’s say I’m shooting at a 100-yard target with the open sights on a bolt action O3-A3 Springfield military rifle. This rifle is caliber .30-06, and it does recoil significantly. Nobody can hold the sights on the point of aim while this gun recoils. What I was trying to say in the report is that at the last instant before the shot fires, you look at your aim point reference for calling your shot. Someone else said it better — I think it was Fred. He says he takes a “mental snapshot” of the sight picture just before the gun fires. That’s a great way of saying what has to happen. No one can hold so still that they always know where the shot will go, but experienced shooters do watch their sights so they know where the gun is at the instant it fires. That tells them where the shot is going, and that’s how you call the shot.

So, on the O3-A3, I’m watching the front sight blade through the rear peep aperture, and I note the instant that the big service rifle fires. Of course, I lose all track of the target and sight picture after that. But if I saw where the front blade was at the moment of cartridge ignition, I know what I need to know to determine where the bullet probably went.

But what about what Beazer asked? Should the rifle return to the aim point after firing? In an ideal world, I guess it should, and maybe that’s possible for pellet rifles and rimfires more than it is for powerful centerfire firearms. The big kickers, like my .30-06, are going to push you around some, so don’t be surprised if you aren’t on target after the dust settles.

Instead of looking at it that way, I would like to turn things around and look from a different perspective. I would like to talk about how you settle in before you take the shot.

When I’m on a benchrest, or even when I’m in a seated or standing-supported firing position, it takes time for me to settle-in properly. I keep adjusting things until the rifle is aimed at the target when I’m completely relaxed. Don’t get confused — I don’t necessarily mean that I’m holding the rifle loosely. If the gun is a pellet rifle, I’m probably holding it loosely; but if I’m shooting a hard-recoiling rifle like a .30-06, you can be sure that I have the butt tight against my shoulder and the thumb of my firing hand is positioned to not break my nose when it comes back at me in recoil! Cowboy Star Dad told us that he’s learned to hold his .22 Magnum rifle firmly for best results, so maybe it’s only pellet rifles that are held loosely.

When I settle in the first concern is to rest the rifle as straight as possible toward the target. I’m now talking about looking through the sights and centering the rifle using them. If I’m using a rifle rest, that’s what gets moved from side to side. If I’m resting the rifle on my hands or directly on a sandbag, I put the butt to my shoulder and sight through the sights, then move the bag or my hands to center the rifle. If the rifle is handheld, my elbows also determine where it points; so once the gross corrections are made with the rest, I begin to make small adjustments of the elbows.

The object is that when I hold the rifle, the sights are aligned with the target so that when I close my eyes and relax, the sights remain aligned as before. I actually do this sometimes — close my eyes, take a deep breath and let it out, then open my eyes and see where the sights are. If they’re not aligned as I want them to be, I make adjustments to the hold and do it again. This works for rifles that are loosely held and for those that are held tightly.

I haven’t mentioned elevation yet, but of course that’s just as important as right and left. If I’m shooting off a rest that has a vertical adjustment capability, it gets adjusted up and down until the front sight is perfectly aligned. If the rifle is handheld, I do the same thing with my grip and the sandbag under it, if there is one.

One more thing
There’s one last step to this hold. That’s to touch the trigger and make sure the rifle doesn’t move away from the target as it’s squeezed. Sometimes this final step is the place where that last little bit of muscle tension gets revealed and corrected.

Do this for every shot
I know it sounds anal, but I repeat this process for every shot. You may think that a .223 Remington cartridge doesn’t recoil much; and in an AR-15 rifle, it certainly doesn’t — but even that pipsqueak cartridge moves the rifle enough to warrant this kind of attention, shot after shot.

If you’ll settle in like this for every shot, you’ll find that your groups grow smaller and smaller. You may already be using the artillery hold, but this procedure is part of it. I haven’t talked about this very much until now; but if you read my R1 book, you’ll see that I give today’s settling-in procedure the same importance as the artillery hold. This is what allows for calling the shot and for following through.

What about handguns?
Everything I’ve said today applies to rifles, only. Is there anything equivalent for handguns? You bet there is! There’s enough material to warrant at least one whole report of its own if there’s any interest among you readers. Today, I wanted to remain with rifles because there was so much to explain that I didn’t want any distractions.

A simple test to demonstrate the hold
I have an idea. What if I shoot 3 groups at 25 yards with the same accurate spring rifle? My Beeman R8 seems like a good candidate. From past tests, we know that JSB Exact RS pellets are a good choice for that rifle. One group will be shot using the classic artillery hold and the settling-in procedure I described today. A second group will be shot using the artillery hold without settling-in. I’ll use my muscles to hold the rifle on target, but I’ll use the artillery hold. Then, I’ll shoot a third group while holding the rifle like a deer rifle — gripping the forearm and pistol grip tightly and pulling the butt firmly into my shoulder. I promise to try to shoot my absolute best with each position. One 10-shot group should show a difference if I’m right about this. Boy, will I be embarrassed if I’m not!