The making of Tom Gaylord

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

A number of our blog readers suggested this report in various different ways. GunFun1 asked about the darts that might have been used in the old Tyrolean bugelspanner I wrote about. What did they look like, and why were they so accurate? He also talked about making a bugelspanner room in his house, where he could shoot the bugelspanner to his heart’s content.

Several others asked about the darts and wondered why I thought darts were more accurate than pellets. Today’s report is not about the darts, although I must share some exciting news with you on that front. Larry Hannusch, who is without a doubt the leading writer of vintage and antique airguns, read about my bugelspanner and is sending me some original pre-war darts that I can show you. So, there will be a Part 2 to that report, thanks to Larry, who also helped me remember how to disassemble a bugelspanner. I hope to take it apart for you and show you the insides in the same report.

But let’s go back to the notion of a bugelspanner room. That put me in mind of my past experience with guns — indeed, all of it. And that brings me to the story of how I became who I am.

Where it all started
I started out very young, as I’m sure you must have guessed. I was a very curious lad who was also quite naive — more prone to believe legend and myth than facts. I wanted Paladin to be faster on the draw than anyone else. I wanted Superman to be real (I mean the real Superman, George Reeves, who was killed June 16, 1959, by a 9mm bullet in the head under suspicious circumstances). And I sort of liked guns — sort of.

Then, I was given a subscription to Guns & Ammo magazine as a Christmas present. On the cover of the first issue was the picture of a zimmerstutzen rifle. Inside, I read the story of shooting these curious parlor rifles on cold winter evenings high in the alps. I guess that shooting was very similar to the circumstances under which our parents walked to school — uphill both ways for 10 miles and always in the snow! For some reason, when you talk about target shooting in Germany it’s always associated with beer and it’s perpetually winter.

Whatever the magic was, I was smitten. I wanted a zimmerstutzen in the very worst way! Maybe that’s why I considered a career in the Army and embraced my first overseas posting to Erlangen, Germany, a suburb of Nürnberg. I knew I was going to northern Bavaria, so I pictured all the men wearing lederhosen and the women in dirndls. In my mind, Chevy Chase’s European Vacation was about right.

Well, culture shock set in when I saw what Germany was really like. I felt like a refugee from Afganistan when walking amongst those upscale, sophisticated Deutchlanders, whose spoken English was better than mine! I spent nearly 4 years there and never saw a vintage zimmerstutzen, though I saw plenty of modern ones made on .22 rimfire bolt-action rifles. I lived in the hometown of the famous BSF airgun factory for 42 months without knowing it; and when I returned home, I was no further along in my quest than before I went.

But once back in California, I did buy a German Aydt falling-block rifle chambered in .22 long rifle. It was a Tyrolean-style rifle. too, just not in the traditional 4mm zimmerstutzen caliber. So, I set up a Sheridan target trap (Sheridan once made a .22 rimfire trap) in a schrank (a freestanding cabinet that serves as a closet in Germany) in the living room of my government quarters at Fort Knox. Then, I stood in my dining room and fired CB caps into the target from about 19 feet away. This was all offhand, of course.

target trap in schrank
The very target trap and schrank at which I shot back in the 1970s. I kept the schrank and the trap but sold the rifle. Where are my priorities? Zimmerstutzen target came from collector Gary Staup.

BB cap and 22 long rifle cartridge
The 4mm zimmerstutzen cartridge (left) is dwarfed by the .22 long rifle cartridge.

The rifle had a 5-lever double-set trigger, which was especially fine. And its 28-inch barrel ate nearly all the discharge sound of the CB cap cartridges I shot, so it was quiet enough for indoors. I’m describing to you my “bugelspanner room.” I didn’t shoot when the family was home, for safety reasons; and, in truth, I didn’t shoot this way very much. But in my mind, I’d finally gotten my zimmerstutzen. All I needed was a keg of beer in the dining room!

In those days, I didn’t take very many pictures, so there’s no picture of that gun. But it looked very much like my new Bugelspanner, so I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

Then I got divorced, left the Army and had to sell all my guns to pay bills. Then I met Edith and got married again. Then she suggested I write about airguns and I did. Then I happened to stumble across an airgun owner who was puzzled as to what gun he had. It turned out he had a real zimmerstutzen — which I bought, tested and wrote about. While researching the topic, I met John Gary Staup, America’s foremost schuetzen and zimmerstutzen collector, and he helped me research the article that I eventually published in Airgun Revue No. 2. It was the longest article about zimmerstutzen rifles ever printed in the English language, as far as Gary or I were able to determine. And that article is posted for you on this website in its entirety.

my first zimmerstutzen
My first zimmerstutzen, and the one that I wrote about the most. It was 4.3mm caliber and used separate ammunition.

How accurate?
Of course I tested the zimmerstutzen for accuracy. After searching for one for so many years, I’d high hopes for stunning accuracy. Zimmerstutzens shoot at 15 meters instead of the 10 meters we’re used to; but when I tried mine, it was on my standard 10-meter range. The accuracy wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. First, of course, those round lead balls tear ragged holes in the target paper, unlike the wadcutters that target air rifles use. The targets look worse and are much harder to score. Five shots went into about a half-inch or so.

The gun was very loud, and the velocity of the 7-grain lead balls was highly variable — from 800 to over 1,000 f.p.s. It wasn’t as pleasant as the myth I’d created in my mind over the years, which was a real let-down. Vintage target air rifles were more accurate than this thing I had been pursuing for over 3 decades. It kind of took the wind out of my sails. I did have a second zimmer for a short while; but I bought it as an investment, only, and I never fired it.

When I saw the Tyrolean bugelspanner  of airgun collector Don Raitzer on display at an airgun show, my interest piqued, again. Bugelspanners are not known for their accuracy, so why was this one outfitted for extreme competition? I also saw Larry Hannusch’s Tyrolean bugelspanner at the same show and got to wondering. What were these strange things all about? Who uses a paddleboat to go water-skiing? Photos of both those guns are in the linked zimmerstutzen article, if you’re interested.

When I say things like my interest piqued, I don’t mean that the subject occupied my every waking moment. More like every couple of months I would give it a casual thought. So, things moved very slowly while these thoughts percolated on the back burner of my mind. A few weeks ago, when the opportunity to own a Tyrolean bugelspanner arose, I was spring-loaded for it.

Which brings us to the present time. I now know that zimmerstutzens were accurate for their time, but they weren’t better than the 10-meter target air rifles we have today. They weren’t infallible. And it’s my guess that the dart guns of the 18th and 19th centuries were also not as accurate as the reports make them out to be.

So, I’m still wondering why anyone would go to the effort and expense of making a dart gun with all the features of a super-accurate offhand competition gun. And I guess that’s what keeps this hobby fresh and exciting for me.

Buglespanner spring-piston air rifle

Why did the makers put so much accuracy potential into a smoothbore dart gun?

This is just one of the things that defines me. My time working as a ride operator and deputy marshall at Frontier Village amusement park in San Jose, California, is another part. That was when I read Elmer Keith from cover to cover and shot guns for a living as part of the hourly gunfights in the park. But what made me a lover of quirky single-shot rifles was my 30-year saga in search of the German zimmerstutzen.

Finding a Diana 5V air pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

A few weeks ago, blog regular Fred PRoNJ told us about a great find he made. Today, he’s going to tell us more about it.

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

Bloggers must know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Take it away, Fred!

by Fred Nemiroff, aka Fred PRoNJ

You can find airguns in the most unlikely places!

Say hello to Murray and Tom. In the image above, Tom, the gentleman on the left, is a retired accountant, Vietnam vet and a once-avid hunter and target shooter. The owner, Murray, is being shielded from a customer, on is the far right of the building.

The day before I left for the Roanoke Airgun show, I bid good-bye to Tom and Murray. When I told Tom where I was going, he told me he had an airgun he inherited from his father. I asked him if he was interested in selling it, and he said he’d think about it. Two weeks after I returned from Roanoke, Tom told me he’d sell me the airgun.

The next Saturday, Tom stopped by my house with a wooden box that held the pistol, a holster, pellets and more.

This wooden box holds my newest prize…a Diana 5V air pistol.

Lots of goodies came with the gun, including a holster. The holster is a lefty and is face down when the gun is properly inserted. The gun and holster were flipped around to give you a better view of them in the box. Those feathered things are darts, which came with the gun originally.

In addition to the Diana Model 5V in the 1905 Rock Island Arsenal holster, there were a bunch of oxidized pellets in the little box and in the unmarked tin, and some darts.

Left view of the gun showing hand-checkering on the grip.

The unmarked tin contains oxidized wadcutter pellets.

The gun is a spring-piston breakbarrel with a fixed barrel sight and a breech mounted sight that’s adjustable for elevation. A screw that goes through a threaded hole in the sight is how the rear sight adjusts up and down.

Note the capital “D” and arrow. That makes this a rare gun!

The Blue Book of Airguns states that this may be the only example of any of the guns manufactured by Diana that used the circle “D” trademark. The gun was manufactured from 1933 to 1945. I’ve looked all over the gun and find no serial number. I haven’t removed the grips to check underneath, not wanting to be the first one to take the gun apart. Looking closely at the various screws, there’s no evidence that this gun has ever been opened since it left the factory. The Blue Book goes on to say that the gun was made with a smoothbore as well as a rifled barrel. This example has a rifled barrel.

My gun is a .22, yet the Blue Book mentions only .177 cal. guns.

One other item of interest. The Blue Book only lists this gun as being made in .177 caliber. This model is a .22!

Some rust, although it looks worse in the pictures than in person.

There’s a moderate amount of surface rust along the barrel where it’s grabbed to cock the gun. The wood grip appears to be in very good condition. I don’t know what type of wood this is. Anyone out there reading this blog care to hazard a guess?

Being a man of limited patience, I cocked the gun and inserted an RWS Hobby pellet. From 10 feet away, I bounced a pellet off the paper target that was resting on a piece of cardboard. The impact was so light that I couldn’t tell where the pellet hit the paper.

The breech seal is leather, as you’d expect and as you can see going back to the photo of the rifled barrel. The piston seal is probably leather also. I took out my container of 30-weight motor oil and put an ample amount on the breech seal and poured some down the transfer port. The gun then sat on its butt for two days.

After two days of allowing the seals to soak up the motor oil, I repeated my firing test 10 feet away from my target. This time, the pellet penetrated paper and cardboard. Now, it was time for a session with my Shooting Chrony. The average velocity of the .22 cal. Hobby pellets (11.9 gr.) was 208 fps. I recorded a high of 216.9 fps and low of 200 fps.

Finally, I needed to find out what level of accuracy this old feller was capable of. From 25 feet away, I launched a pellet right into the wall some 2 feet above the target. While the gun is not powerful enough to penetrate sheetrock, it did leave a nice mark. I lowered the rear sight as far as it would go and, from 10 feet away, confirmed the pellet was hitting paper. Backing up to 25 feet, I giggled as I found out I could actually watch the pellets trundling their way through the air to strike the target.

I used a two-handed stance, shooting 5 Hobby pellets and 5 RWS Superpoints. The accuracy, I think, is pretty good, and I’m sure if I’d tried to shoot from a semi-rest or if a better shooter was available, the groups would have been much smaller.

RWS Superpoints, although not the most accurate of pellets in my experience, would at least penetrate this sheet of paper.

Hobbys produced a slightly better grouping. The target is compressed because I shrank it to take up less space in the blog.

I estimate that this gun is 80-90% condition due to the rust. Since this is a rifled, .22 cal. example and is probably a very limited gun, I’m not sure what it’s worth. I’ll enjoy owning it and eventually will take it to Roanoke or Baldwinsville and offer it for sale to someone else who would love to have this rare gun in their collection.

My new Webley Junior – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This Webley Junior is in fantastic condition for a 60+ year-old air pistol.

Normally Part 3 would be an accuracy test; but if you’ve followed this report, you know that my Webley Junior was shooting very slow when I tested it for velocity. So, I told you I would disassemble it and have a look inside to learn what I could about the shape of the powerplant.

The first clue I had took no disassembly whatsoever. I simply looked through the cocking slot on top of the gun and noticed that the mainspring was bone dry. I’d lubricated the breech seal and piston seal before velocity testing, but I left the mainspring alone. I’m glad I did, because I learned that this gun was really too dry inside for proper operation. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Step one
The first step in the disassembly of any Webley classic pistol is to remove the barrel. One screw was removed, and the .177 smoothbore barrel came out, though not easily. From the appearance of the machined surfaces on the barrel lug, it was obvious that this pistol had not been apart many times in its 60+ years since leaving the factory. Perhaps never!

One screw — and the barrel comes off. The sliding shoe coupling on the end of the cocking link is extracted from a widened hole in the cocking slot.

Step two — the tricky part
The mainspring is held in place by a threaded end cap that also incorporates a spring guide. The cap threads are fine, and a pistol that hasn’t been apart presents a real challenge. The challenge is to get the cap off without disturbing the sharp edges around the slot in the cap.

I chucked up the handle of a big pair of channel lock pliers sticking straight up in my bench vice and inserted it into the end cap slot. Using the pistol grip as a handle to turn the gun, I broke the cap free. Once it was free, the threads were exposed in a couple places, so I squirted some Kroil penetrating oil on them to loosen the cap more. It came off with nary a mark left on the end cap.

The mainspring is under this much tension when the end cap is screwed in. Notice how dry the spring is.

Spring out
The mainspring is under a bit of compression, so when the last thread is out the end cap springs away from the pistol. I was surprised by how far this one moved, and I photographed it for you. It seems close to a brand-new mainspring, but the look of the parts inside tells me the gun probably hasn’t been apart since at least the late 1960s. I say that because of a pristine leather piston seal and spacer. Those items were changed to synthetic by Webley in 1965, so I think they’ve been in this gun a very long time.

The piston can then be removed by pulling the trigger to get the sear out of the way. A screwdriver through the cocking slot does the rest, and you slide the steel piston out the front of the gun. The piston and mainspring were both dry but quite dirty, as though some minimal oil had dried on their surfaces decades ago. A couple wipes with a rag removed the grime, leaving the parts sparkling. The piston seal was oily, which was to be expected.

The end cap and mainspring came out easily. You must pull the trigger to slide the steel piston out of the tube.

That completes all the disassembly I need to do. It took me half an hour for everything, but after I lubricate the parts and the end cap threads prior to assembly I’ll be able to tear it down next time in 15 minutes.

Now what?
I expected to find a bad piston seal in this gun and am stymied that it’s as nice as it is. I can’t honestly see one part that requires replacement. On the other hand, I seriously doubt lubrication alone will let the gun gain the 100+ f.p.s. that it lacks. That just hasn’t been my experience. However, I will now clean the powerplant and all parts, lubricate everything correctly and assemble the gun to test once more.

This photo shows the piston seal, which looks fine and the slot on the end cap that must be used to unscrew the cap. Notice that the edges are still sharp and free from gouges. This was a careful job!

My new Webley Junior – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Before I begin today, just a word about the upcoming Daisy Get Together in Michigan. It’s in Kalamazoo on Sunday, August 22. That’s a one-day show. Admission is $2 to see a room full of fine collectible BB guns. For a flyer and more information, contact Bill Duimstra (616-738-2425) or Wes Powers (517-423-4148).

Today, I’ll test the velocity of the new Webley Junior. These guns are supposed to be low-powered, so expect velocities in the 275 f.p.s.region.

One thing I know about older vintage airguns is that they have leather piston seals. The Webley pistols also have a leather breech seal connecting the air transfer port to the breech. It’s a hollow metal tube surrounded by leather that also needs to be oiled. So, the first order of business is to oil the seals.

As distorted as it looks, this breach seal is in pretty good shape. I may round out the metal center for a little more unifom air flow just to make a good job.

Since I didn’t know how long the gun had gone since its last oiling, I intentionally overdid it. The oil gets dropped into the transfer port with the piston retracted in the cocked position. That took care of both the piston seal and the breech seal. Then, I waited two full days before firing.

Cocking effort
Despite being made for younger shooters, the Junior is still quite a handful to cock. I doubt most 12-year-olds have the strength. As I cocked the pistol, I felt some scraping that I didn’t like. I’ve not felt that before in a Webley pistol.

RWS Hobbys
The first pellets I tried were RWS Hobbys, but they didn’t come out of the barrel when shot. Not a good start. The Hobby fits the bore fairly tight, but it should still fire okay, so I began to wonder if something might be wrong.

I tried JSB Exact RS pellets next. They exited the bore at an average of 146 f.p.s., with a spread from 144 to 150 f.p.s. That’s definitely slow. They should hit at least 250 f.p.s. with ease. They fit the breech loosely, which I think helped them to shoot at all.

Eley Wasp
Next, I tried some vintage Eley Wasp pellets. These are what might have been shot in the gun when it was fairly new. They fit relatively loosely and averaged 94 f.p.s., with a spread from 81 to 97 f.p.s. Egad! That told me there’s something wrong inside the powerplant. Maybe, under the circumstances, most people would be upset that a new gun needs repairs. Not me. That gives me the justification to disassemble the pistol and let everyone see what’s inside. Then, we’ll see just what’s needed.

Gamo Match
Just to double-check my numbers, I shot a string of Gamo Match pellets that averaged 56 f.p.s. with a spread from 52 to 59 f.p.s. So, there was no longer any doubt that the powerplant needs attention and may even be disintegrating as I shoot.

What’s the next step?
What’s next is to disassemble the pistol and see what’s inside. The breech seal looks good at this point, but I’ve had to replace them before, too. What ever happens, I’ll show you what I do and where I get any parts that may be needed. Like my FWB 124, this will be a voyage of exploration for us. Accuracy testing will wait until the gun is shooting properly.

My new Webley Junior – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

When I came home from the hospital, all my internet business was in disarray. Edith had been keeping up with my email, but she hadn’t known about the various accounts I have, nor did she have the time to look at them. One of these was the Texas Gun Trader, an online in-state trading place where I meet others to buy and sell firearms. I had over 1,400 guns to look at!

One of those listings was a Webley Junior pistol, which caught my eye. It was priced close to the top of the market, but it seemed to be in very nice condition. So, I contacted the seller down near Houston and we negotiated. Normally, I meet the seller face-to-face, but in my current condition that was impossible, so we worked out a deal to ship the gun. Being an airgun, this was entirely legal.

When the pistol arrived, I had the pleasant surprise that the gun was in better cosmetic condition than I had imagined. The seller had posted photos, but a Webley pistol is all black and difficult to show any detail. I did the deal on trust that they were telling me the truth, and I feel they understated the fine condition. That made me very happy, because a vintage gun in beautiful condition always retains its value.

Edith had reprinted my Webley Junior article from Airgun Revue #6 in the blog while I was in the hospital, but that report was based on my brief examination of a Junior more than 10 years ago. Now, I own one, and can test it any way that I like. I especially want to try it with darts, for which it is ideally suited.

My new air pistol is a post-war Junior, where the one reported in May was a pre-war gun. And it’s a very early version of the post-war gun, being made sometime between 1946 and about 1950.

My new Webley Junior is in fine condition. The book is all about Webley air pistols and essential to collectors. It’s out of print, so search the used book sites.

The clues to the age of my gun are the lack of an adjustable rear sight and the grips. From 1946 to ’51, the Junior grip had an extra 1/4″ projection at the top. Gordon Bruce thought it might have been a thumbrest, but there’s no proof. Also, the checkering was coarse at first and finer in the later versions.

The Junior grip had a quarter-inch projection at the top that served an unknown purpose. It was removed after 1951. Also, the checkering is coarse. It got finer in ’51.

The early post-war Juniors had a fixed rear sight. And of these, only the very earliest had a rounded notch like this. They squared the notch in the 1940s, so this is a very early post-war gun.

The book says the Junior is for children, but I will confirm that the “kids” are probably in their teens because it isn’t that easy to cock the gun, even for an adult. The price was the lowest of the Webley line, and most Juniors like mine have smoothbore barrels. Hence, my interest in shooting darts.

The frame is malleable cast iron, made outside the Webley plant but machined by Webley. That’s why the finish appears so different between the frame and the spring tube, which is high-quality steel.

This barrel latch keeps the barrel closed during firing. To open for cocking, just push it back.

I’ll enjoy getting to know this little (but heavy!) air pistol. I purposely have not yet fired it, so you and I will be only hours apart as I discover what kind of a gun I have.

Homecoming gift
When I returned from the hospital, a group of friends presented me with a fine single-action revolver. I hope to get to the range to shoot it one of these days, but I thought I’d share it with you today.

This beautiful Uberti single-action revolver was presented to me as a homecoming gift. I know you guys like fine firearms, too, so I wanted to share it with you.

Next time, we’ll test the Junior’s velocity.

Airgun darts

by B.B. Pelletier

Update on Tom/B.B.: When I visited him Monday afternoon, we discovered that he’d lost 50 lbs. of water in less than a week. All vital signs are stable and things look quite good!

Today’s blog was written by B.B., but we have an announcement first.

Pyramyd Air is having its 3rd Annual Airgun Garage Sale on June 5. As in previous years, there will be a mountain of guns and accessories with slashed prices and dented pellet tins at huge discounts. Come early, bring cash or credit cards, and shop til you drop!

Now, on to today’s blog.

An airgun dart is very accurate due to the high drag of its animal hair or fiber skirt. It’s forward-weighted and has fletching, just like the hand-thrown dart.

Here’s another subject I’ve hit before: Darts in airguns. Back in the 1600s, darts were the most accurate ammunition available for airguns. They were considered for target use only, were very low-powered and were shot from smoothbore guns of approximately .40 caliber. When airgunners see these old guns, they imagine things that just aren’t true, such as shooting them with lead balls, bullets or pellets. The truth is that darts were at one time a very popular airgun ammo.

The progression: from then to now
The early darts were very carefully made with metal bodies and animal hair fletching. Accuracy was controlled by removing hairs from the tail of the dart…one at a time. One hair was always a dark one, and that one never got removed. It was the way you oriented the dart in the barrel of the gun each time you loaded (e.g., always put the dark hair at the 12 o’clock position in the breech).

In the 19th century, they started producing darts with machines. This made them cheaper to buy but considerably less precise. They were still the ammunition of favor until the late 1870s.

The felted slug acted like a modern diabolo pellet.

Henry Marcus Quackenbush
When H.M. Quackenbush brought out his popular line of airguns, he also made darts for them, and that was considered their best ammunition. Later, he brought out several different types of ammo for the same guns. Cat slugs were solid lead cylinders with felt glued to the tail. The felt acted like a modern diabolo waist and flared skirt, creating high drag that kept the slug on track. Later still, some H.M.Q. guns were made to fire modern diabolo pellets and lead balls. Once, again, they were never very fast because of their roots in a dart gun design.

After WWI, the popularity of darts faded quickly. Webley kept them alive for their smoothbore pistols, most notably the Junior model, on which I reported recently. By the 1950s, the concept of the airgun dart was not very well understood in the USA. Benjamin made and sold them for their smoothbore guns that were also BB guns. But, most owners paid no attention and shot the metal body darts in their guns with rifled brass barrels!

You can still buy darts, but not many people do. A good dart gun is very low-powered and a very smooth shooter. Anything else defeats the purpose. They’re not, as some airgunners believe, super-penetration hunting ammunition.

Before I sign off today, I have another announcement.

Oehler 35P now available again
Most of us are more than happy with our Shooting Chronys, but a few of you have asked me for years about getting an Oehler 35P printing chronograph. I’m not here to sell an Oehler to you, but there’s no substitute if that’s what you really want.

The new package includes 3 skyscreens, a skyscreen bar, tripod, chronograph with built-in printer, and diffusers…all packaged in a hard rifle case. The Oehler is the only chronograph I know of that has a second proof channel that constantly compares to the output of the main chronograph channel. Both channels print out on the built-in printer. The price for this package is $575 with shipping (which is an introductory offer). At that price, this product isn’t for everyone. For 95% of my testing for Pyramyd Air, I use a Shooting Chrony.