Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

Today is accuracy day; before we begin, I’d like to share a Beeman P1 anecdote with you. I interviewed Robert Beeman for the podcast that will go live in the near future. After we were finished, he told me some stories about the old days, when Beeman Precision Airguns was getting started. This one relates to the P1 and the gun that was never designed.

After the success of the R1, Robert and his wife, Toshiko, embarked immediately on the design of the P1 pistol. They wanted a powerful spring-piston pistol made with the handling characteristics of the M1911A1 pistol. They also wanted dual power levels. They had sketches drawn and took their ideas to Hans Weihrauch for implementation.

Several months passed, and the Weihrauchs called the Beemans to Europe to see the new gun. When they arrived, they were ushered into a conference room where both Hans and his wife, Christa, were waiting along with both their sons. Everybody was hopeful that the design would blow away the Beemans.

When they showed the gun to Robert, he said, “What is this?” This is a single-stroke pneumatic. We wanted a powerful spring-piston pistol with dual power.”

“But you left the firing mechanism blank on the sketch!” was the reply.

“Yes. Because we aren’t airgun designers. We figured you would know what to put in that space to make the gun we wanted.”

“We thought you left it blank to indicate an air reservoir!”

Needless to say, the meeting did not go the way the Weihrauchs had hoped, but they asked for a few more months and would deliver the Beemans exactly what they wanted.

When the Beemans returned home, they had an artist sculpt a chalk model of the pistol to better guide the effort. It was darkened with finish and sent to Germany. A couple months later, they flew back to view what we now know as the P1.

A year after that, Hans Weihrauch caught Robert and said, “Herr Beeman, would you like to see the pistol you designed?”

Beeman knew he hadn’t designed any other air pistol, but he said yes out of curiosity. The Weihrauchs brought him the single-stroke pistol we now know as the P2. It was nearly an exact copy of the P1, but of course it operated entirely different. Beeman was so impressed that he added it to his growing line of airguns.

Pyramyd Air no longer imports the Beeman P2 pistol, but they still carry the Weihrauch HW 75, which is the same gun.

Accuracy test
I’m still not strong enough to hold the pistol properly, so I shot off a rest with my shooting arm rested on a sandbag and the pistol extended out in front of the bag. I held the gun as I described in the last report, and it made a huge difference. The distance was 10 meters.

My eyesight has improved to the point that I was able to shoot with my prescription shooting glasses. With a 500-watt light on the target, the bull was very sharp, and with concentration I could bring the front sight blade into sharp focus, too.

These shooting glasses have my prescription lens in the sighting eye. I used them when I competed in 10-meter pistol, and they still do the job.

Not surprisingly, the gun shot to a different point of aim, so it had to be resighted for this rested hold. I used a conventional 6 o’clock hold on the target.

I shot 5-shot groups instead of 10-shot groups, for reasons you will soon see. In a match, a competitor only shoots one pellet per bull because of the difficulty of scoring multiple hits stacked so close to each other.

RWS R 10 Match Pistol pellets
The first pellet I tried was the RWS R 10 Match Pistol pellet. It’s always been good in this P1.

The sight-in target was five RWS R 10 pellets. It showed promise, but the sights needed adjustment.

The sights needed to come down and to the right, which was easy to do since the P1 sights are so adjustable. All it takes is a thin-bladed screwdriver. It took several more targets to get the sights dead on, but that was good practice for this unconventional hold I was using.

Five R 10 pellets score a perfect 50. This is why I don’t shoot 10 pellets at the same target. When they clump together like this, it’s difficult to see the individual holes. Back when I was competing, I could sometimes do this with my target pistol in a conventional one-hand hold, though I don’t think I ever did it with a P1.

The best target really is a great one. Ask any 10-meter pistol shooter how hard it is to shoot five 10s in a row like that. Of course, my arm was resting on a bag in this test, so this wasn’t that difficult.

H&N Match Pistol pellets
Next, I tried some H&N Match Pistol pellets. They do well in P1s, though in the past I’ve used the Finale Match Pistol pellets that are a little more expensive.

Five H&N Match Pistol pellets also produced a good target, though not quite as tight as the R 10s.

The bottom line
The Beeman P1 is an exceptional air pistol. If you don’t believe me, just read all the comments from other owners who have had the same experience.

The one thing I wish I hadn’t done was lighten the trigger-pull, because now the pistol is too sensitive. Air pistols need triggers that have at least 1 lb. of resistance, and this one now breaks at just 11 oz., making it too sensitive. You can control that in a rifle, but not in a pistol.

I’ve tried this gun with both red dot sights and scopes. It works fine with both, but being a veteran handgunner, I do not care for optical sights. As long as my eyes can still see the front sight, I’m not going to use them.

The power of this pistol is legendary. And I’ve shown you in this report that the power doesn’t diminish over time. The lube tune I did was probably unnecessary and cost me some velocity, so I would just start shooting a P1 as it comes from the box and leave it alone. Remember to dry-fire the gun two times on high power if it ever starts detonating.

Dr. Beeman said this is one of the four airguns he would rather not do without, and I can see why. It’s an heirloom airgun that will perform well throughout the years for both you and those to whom you pass it when you are through.

Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

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

A departure from the usual camo-wearing players we see in airsoft skirmishes, Joey Demonti is wearing a suit and overcoat. I don’t know which scenario he’s playing out, but the Thompson should take care of it. Wonder where he put his violin case?

Part 1
Part 2

The Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

Today’s report is a special one, requested by several readers who want to learn how to hold their Beeman P1s for best accuracy. I wrote about this originally in the January 1996 issue of The Airgun Letter.

It started with the 1911
Like most of you, I grew up thinking the Colt 1911 semiautomatic pistol (and its many variants) was a hard-kicking, inaccurate sidearm. I was very familiar with wheelguns in the early 1970s, but not so much with pistols. I even owned two 1911s by the time I went into the Army as a second lieutenant in 1970, but neither of them had changed my opinion of the gun or the cartridge. The funny thing was that I was reloading and shooting Colt Single Action Army revolvers with the much harder-recoilling .45 Colt cartridge that I loaded to Elmer Keith’s specifications, so I wasn’t recoil-shy. But something about the old slabsided pistol turned me off.

As a young officer in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, it fell to me quite often to run firing ranges for annual qualification and familiarization. In the cavalry, we had more weapons than typical soldiers, so not only did we have to qualify with the M-16 and the .45 if we carried them (which I did), but we also had to shoot a plethora of machine guns and the M3A1 submachine gun. Cavalry units don’t have just one kind of machine gun. We had four — five if you count the 20mm automatic cannon we had on the M114A1E1 scout vehicle. And there are 40mm grenade ranges, demolition ranges, mortar ranges, etc. In short, it was the best of times for a gun-lover like me.

One day I was running the squadron qualification range for the 1911A1 pistol. Out of a thousand men, perhaps 400 were armed with the pistol and had to qualify, so it was a long two days on the range for me and my non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who are all sergeants of one level or another. We had shooters lined up 20-25 at one time with one safety NCO to every four shooters and then several other safety personnel behind them, all the way back to me and my bullhorn.

Hour after hour, I watched men shoot the pistol, sometimes kicking up dirt 10 feet in front of them as they flinched in anticipation of the discharge. The safety and operations personnel could never relax because all one shooter had to do was turn around with a cocked and loaded pistol in his hand and there was trouble. To say all of us were focused is an understatement.

Then, the brand new Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Bonsall, arrived at the range in his jeep. I had never seen a lieutenant colonel at a small arms range before. I’m sure they went, just never when I was running the range. The colonel introduced himself, because I hadn’t met him yet –he was that new. Then, he asked to qualify. Well, sure he could qualify. It was his range, when you got down to it!

I directed him to a table upon which we had about 50 pistols waiting for the next shooters. You’re supposed to qualify with your own weapon, but to keep the range moving we had 50 pistols that the entire squadron used. That way there weren’t a lot of malfunctions. After weeding out the bad magazines in the first few relays, we had the range running smoothly. It was also much easier to clean only 50 pistols instead of 400.

Colonel Bonsall selected a weapon and took his place on the line with another 24 shooters. The shooting commenced and that’s when I lost track of him until my chief NCO came up and discretely asked me if I had noticed the colonel’s target. We were shooting at man-sized silhouettes at 25 yards. Each man got a fresh target when his relay began and the course of fire was 50 shots at the silhouette. We called it qualification but it was really more like annual refresher training. Most of the silhouettes looked as though they had been peppered by a shotgun firing huge balls. But the colonel’s target had a small hole right where the heart should be. He had fired about 30 rounds through a one-inch hole when I caught up with him, and the rest of his shots didn’t stray far from it.

The upshot of that day at the range was that our new commander wore the Army Distinguished Pistol Shot badge, a qualification badge so rare that not only had I never seen one, I had never even heard of it! And I was a gun buff serving in the Army! As of 2006, there were 1,689 Distinguished Pistol Shot badges awarded since its inception in 1903, making the badge rarer than the Army Medal of Honor that has been awarded over 2,000 times, though admittedly over a 40-year longer span of time.

The U.S. Army Distinguished Pistol Shot badge is a rare shooting distinction.

After we cleared the colonel off the range, I examined the pistol the he’d used for his demonstration. It was a typical loose-as-a-goose arms room M1911A1 with green phosphate finish and brown plastic grips. It had probably been made around or just before World War II, and the only special care we gave it was to bring it to the range in the bed of a 2-1/2-ton truck inside a wooden footlocker with 49 others just like it. When it wasn’t being shot, it laid on a table in the hot sun while dust blew over it and through it all day long. By the time the colonel got his hands on it, it had probably already been fired several hundred times without cleaning or lubrication. The parts inside were just good enough to avoid condemnation during a major inspection.

That was the day when Elmer Keith’s last printed lie turned out to be true — you really CAN hit a man at 100 yards with a 1911 pistol. Repeatedly! But you have to know what you’re doing. Anyway, the colonel got my attention. Being a kindred gun buff, he taught me how to shoot the pistol. Now, I’ll pass on to you what I learned from him.

It’s all in the hold and the trigger action
How you hold the 1911 or the 1911A1 determines how tight it will shoot. Yes, the gun can be gunsmithed to shoot even tighter, but even a tired old clacker will surprise you if you hold it right. The Beeman P1 has the same grip frame and responds to the same hold in the same way.

You must always grip the pistol the same way every time you hold it. Hold the palm of your shooting hand flat with the thumb extended and place the pistol into the web of your hand. The three fingers that aren’t the trigger finger should be wrapped around the grips, and the thumb comes in on the other side of the grip, Now — and this is the key — you squeeze the pistol straight back into the web of your hand with the middle finger, which is the highest of the three fingers wrapped around the grip. The other two fingers apply absolutely no pressure on the gun. They’re just along for the ride. The thumb also puts no pressure on the gun. Only that middle finger squeezing straight back.

This graphic is copied directly from the January 1996 edition of “The Airgun Letter.” It illustrates the correct hold.

The other aspect of this hold is that the trigger finger presses straight back until the gun fires. Use the pad on the end of the finger for this, not the crease under the knuckle or any other part of the trigger finger. The object is to exert as little sideways influence as possible, so the gun always recoils in exactly the same way. Once you learn to shoot like this you will always be able to outshoot those who use a two-hand hold. They can move the gun faster from one target to another, but you have precision on your side.

A lot has been written about the P1’s recoil simulating that of a firearm. In my opinion, it doesn’t do that at all. The P1’s recoil is quicker than that of a .22 rimfire, and it’s nothing like the recoil of the .45 ACP. It does move when it fires, though, and that’s what this special grip is designed to counteract. Think of it as the artillery hold for pistols.

One last update
I took out my 1996 newsletter for this report and I read what I had said back then. Everything is still true today. I didn’t bother mentioning in the newsletter where I’d learned how to shoot this way, but I thought it was appropriate to do so here because I know you guys better than I knew my newsletter subscribers. You know my weaknesses and have come to understand that I’m not a special shot. What I do well, I do because others who were far better taught me how.

In reading that article, I saw that after a 500-shot break-in period, the pistol was shooting RWS Hobby pellets at an average of 593 f.p.s. As I’d mentioned in Part 2 of this report, my lube tune did slow down the gun quite a bit.

Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

A large and impressive spring-piston air pistol, the Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

In Part 1, we received so many comments and questions about the Beeman P1 that it’s now certain that this report will have more than three parts. I’ve been asked to show you how to hold the handgun for best results, and while I’d hoped to get to that today, something has come up in today’s testing that caused me to postpone that until the next report. I want to spend some time explaining a spring-gun phenomenon that I’ve read about but, until this test, have never seen.

However, first things first. I promised the links to the older reviews of the P1/HW 45. The first link goes to a report I wrote back in 2007, which was supposed to be an update on this pistol: Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol.

That report was supposed to update the report I did back in 2005: Beeman P1/HW 45: A shoulder stock, red dot sight and more!

After reading both of the older reports, I see that a lot was left out. I hadn’t started using the current report format yet, so I wrote things pretty much as they came to me and as the readers asked for them. Today, I’ll try to hit all the important points in every report. The later report does explain how to fit the piston seal to the compression chamber by dry-firing the gun, though. That’s a factory procedure, so don’t worry about it.

Back to today’s report
Today, I’m going to report on the velocity I get from my P1, which is now 15 years old. As I mentioned in the first report of this series, I lubricated my gun when it was new, and that was the last time I was inside the powerplant. I also made a trigger modification, but that has no bearing on the powerplant.

What you see today is the performance of a Beeman P1 after 15 years of relatively light use. I estimate fewer than 5,000 shots have been fired in all that time. Many airgunners have speculated that since the wire used in the pistol’s mainspring is thin, it will degrade over time, causing the pistol to lose power. Let’s see how much truth there is to that. The spring wire has to be thin to fit inside the small compression/spring cylinder that’s hidden inside the top of the pistol. There’s only so much room for things inside the small package that I showed you in Part 1.

Cocking effort
I measured the cocking effort by placing the topstrap on a bathroom scale and pressing down to open the pistol and cock the spring. It took exactly 12 lbs. of force for this, though I would have estimated the number at 20 lbs. if the scale wasn’t available. I guess the closeness of the two levers (the topstrap and the rest of the gun) when cocking makes the effort seem greater.

This is how you test the cocking effort of the P1. Just keep pulling apart the action and bearing down on the scale as you do.

It seems to take no more effort to continue to cock the gun to the second sear stop, but you do have to apply the same force over a longer arc, so arguably it really does take more effort. However, practically speaking, once the lever is moving, it’s just as easy to go all the way as to stop halfway, which is why I never use the low-power setting.

The first pellet I tested was the venerable Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellet in the brown cardboard box. I noticed that some of our newer readers don’t understand that when I link to a certain pellet in the Pyramyd Air website, that’s the pellet I use. I don’t normally use any Premiers unless they come in the brown cardboard box. I’m telling you this because a couple of readers were speculating about whether to use the Premiers in the tin can or in the box. As a veteran who has used Premiers since they first hit the market, I find it difficult to think of anything that’s not in a box as a Premier. It’s an old habit that has a lot less significance now that die-lots mean so much less than they used to.

Premiers on low power
On low power, Crosman Premier lites averaged 416 f.p.s., with a spread from 407 to 424 f.p.s. That works out to a muzzle energy of 3.04 foot-pounds.

Premiers on high power
On high power, Premier lites went 98 f.p.s. faster, on average. At 514 f.p.s., they generated 4.64 foot-pounds. The spread on high power went from 508 f.p.s. to 517. So, on high power, the total spread was 9 f.p.s., while on low power it was 17 f.p.s.

RWS Hobbys on low power
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby, which is one of the lightest pure lead pellets around. On low power, they averaged 445 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 3.08 foot-pounds. The spread went from 439 to 449 f.p.s., so only 10 f.p.s.

RWS Hobbys on high power
On high power, Hobbys averaged 553 f.p.s. That’s a muzzle energy of 4.75 foot-pounds. The spread was from 545 to 557 f.p.s., so a total of 12 f.p.s.

These pellets are extremely uniform in this P1, as evidenced by their tight velocity spread at both power levels. In Part 1 and also in one of the older reports, I told you that this pistol averaged 559 f.p.s. with Hobbys. So, the difference of just 6 f.p.s., between the old and current velocity readings is almost too small to have any impact. The gun is virtually shooting as it did four years ago and even as it did 15 years ago. That should answer the question of whether or not the mainspring breaks down over time. Clearly, it doesn’t.

And now for the special event
I wasn’t expecting what I am about to show you, but I’ve never shot super-lightweight pellets in my P1 before. I knew they would be faster. They would have to be, because they’re so much lighter. But they also did something that I didn’t expect.

Crosman High Velocity Super Sonic pellets on low power
When I began shooting Crosman High Velocity Super Sonic Pellets they registered 530, 524 and 541 f.p.s. on the Shooting Chrony Alpha model chronograph I was using. Imagine my surprise when shot four registered 597 f.p.s. Was it just a fluke? No, it wasn’t, because the next four shots after that all registered between 580 and 598 f.p.s.

I wondered if I had somehow “awakened” the gun with these lightweight pellets. But just as I was thinking that, shot nine registered 533 f.p.s, followed by shot ten at 532 f.p.s. The velocity had dropped back to exactly where it had been before the sharp increase. What was happening?

Cardew was right!
I thought for a bit and then remembered that one of the Cardews who wrote the book The Airgun, From Trigger to Target had written that all spring guns exist at one of four possible phases of function. They’re either a blowpipe, a popgun, a combustion gun or a detonation gun. Most of the time, the guns we deal with in this blog are in the combustion phase, in that they diesel with each and every shot. By diesel I mean that they burn some of the lubricant that makes its way into the compression chamber by igniting it through the heat of compression.

Most of the time, we deal with only a single phase in one gun. What I believe has happened in this test is that the P1 converted from being a popgun to a combustion gun for five shots in the shot string, then reverted back to being a popgun for the last two shots. When it was launching pellets at 530 f.p.s., it was doing so by the pressure of compressed air, alone. When it began to push them out at above 580 f.p.s., it was burning some of the fuel (oil droplets) that were in the compression chamber. Bear in mind that this gun was tuned with Beeman M-2-M moly (now sold as Air Venturi Moly Metal-to-Metal Paste), alone, and that was done 15 years ago. Even that small amount of “fuel” is apparently enough to raise the muzzle velocity significantly, as can be seen in this one test.

The “average” velocity for this test was 562 f.p.s., but no one pellet in the shots string went close to that speed. What we actually have here is a bimodal distribution in which the test samples are not all coming from the same source. Some are when the gun is functioning as a popgun and others when it’s functioning as a combustion gun. There are actually two separate distributions of velocities for this pellet when fired on low power, and the only explanation I can think of is the one I’ve given. At the “average” velocity, the muzzle energy is 2.81 foot-pounds.

As I said at the beginning of this report, I felt this was such an important event as to warrant some extra explanation. Let’s look at what happened when I shot the same pellet on high power.

Crosman High Velocity Super Sonic pellets on high power
The average velocity on high power was 677 f.p.s., but, again, no pellet within the shot string went close to that speed. I got another bimodal distribution, with the slower pellets down in the 653-666 f.p.s. region, while the faster pellets were all over 700 f.p.s. (up to the maximum of 704 f.p.s.). I didn’t expect that at all. I thought that at high power the pellets would come out at one consistent velocity, but that’s not what happened. By the way, at the average velocity, the muzzle energy was 4.07 foot-pounds.

Well, I never expected a physics lesson from testing this pistol. Still, it’s nice to know the old gal still has what it takes to get the job done. And, the cocking effort is so much less than I would have imagined!

Next time, I’ll show you how to hold the pistol for the best accuracy, plus I may have another tidbit for you.

Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Daisy is celebrating its 125th anniversary this June. They’re holding a special event at the Daisy Airgun Museum June 3-4. Make reservations to attend by calling 479-986-6873. Daisy will issue a special commemorative, limited-edition gun that will be available only to people who are registered for this event in advance (by May 13).

A large and impressive spring-piston air pistol, the Beeman P1 sits in the top tier of air pistols for power and quality.

I’ve written about the Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol several times in the past, but never in the current three-part format we use today. The last report we did was by a customer, way back in 2007. It’s definitely time for an update. This time I’ll do a thorough three-part report.

The gun I’m now testing for you has been in my possession since it was new in 1996. I tuned it once within the first year of ownership, and I modified the trigger for a report in The Airgun Letter. I also resized the Teflon piston seal by dry-firing the gun a couple times, which is the factory-recommended way to do it. So, the gun I am testing isn’t fresh from the box. It’s had many years of occasional service, though I bet fewer than 5,000 total shots have been fired from it. In my job, I shoot airguns all the time, and I just don’t get to my classics very often. This test will be enlightening for all of us. Also, you’ll get to see how the pistol stands up to the test of time.

Some of you may be upset that I’m not testing a brand-new pistol, but look at the opportunity testing this old one offers us. You get to see how one of these pistols holds up. The model goes all the way back to 1983, so it’s a veteran, just like the Beeman R1 rifle.

The Beeman P1 is also known as the Weihrauch HW 45. Pyramyd Air still stocks the P1, however the HW 45 is no longer stocked. It’s a single-shot spring-piston gun that cocks via an overlever arrangement. Like a Webley Hurricane, the top of the P1 lifts up in the rear and pivots forward on a hinge located at the front of the gun. Unlike the Webley, there are two distinct stops for the sear and each produces different power. The first stop limits the piston stroke and gives low power. It’s just as hard to cock to this point as it is to go all the way to high power, but the shorter piston stroke guarantees slower muzzle velocities.

I always cock to high power because it’s no harder to do so. It has become a habit and I don’t find anything that low power does better than high.

On the first sear detent, the pistol produces low power.

Pull the topstrap further forward, and the gun goes to high power. It’s just as hard to cock to low power as it is to go all the way to high power.

High power comes at the second sear stop, when the topstrap is swung as far forward as possible. I will test both power levels for you in Part 2 so you won’t have to wonder about the velocity specs much longer.

An anti-beartrap device prevents early closure of the topstrap, but it also means that the pistol cannot be uncocked. If you cock it, you must shoot it.

The pistol is built on a frame that resembles a Colt 1911 pistol more than a little. Grip panels made for the 1911 fit the P1 just fine and vice-versa. The current pistol is sold with walnut grip panels in a classic diamond pattern, but you can install anything that fits on a 1911 or 1911A1.

While the grip frame resembles the 1911, the part that rises above the frame is considerably larger than the firearm. It has to be to contain the spring cylinder that powers the gun. There’s no denying the Desert Eagle size, though it comes without the weight of the magnum gun (I’m refering to the firearm, because the airgun is very light). In fact, at 40 oz., the P1 is not much heavier than an unloaded M1911A1 that it mimics — and loaded, the firearm is heavier.

Beeman P1 dwarfs the 1911 firearm below, though the grip frames of both guns are the same size. The Beeman has to be larger on top to hide the spring cylinder. Notice that my vintage P1 has grips with the old Beeman company logo in them. When loaded, the pistol on the bottom is the heavier gun.

Adjustable trigger
The trigger is adjustable for the length of the first stage and also for the pull weight. Before I modified my trigger, I had adjusted it to break glass-crisp at about 30 oz. After the modification, it breaks at 11 oz. and is just as crisp. In my opinion, the factory trigger will serve you fine with adjustment. All the trigger lacks that many firearm 1911s have is an overtravel adjustment.

The safety is located on the grip frame behind the trigger and it’s ambidextrous. Thankfully, it’s not automatic. In fact, the P1 is completely ambidextrous because the latch to unlock the topstrap is disguised as the hammer. Pull down and back and the topstrap pops up. Just this action cocks the trigger, so if you want to practice dry-firing you can do so without cocking the pistol. Just release the topstrap each time to reset the trigger and you’ll be good to go.

Beeman always advertised 600 f.p.s. for the .177 caliber on high power. My pistol got close to that speed when brand new, but an early lube tune took away 40 f.p.s. The last time I tested it, it averaged 559 f.p.s for Hobbys. Curiously, Weihrauch claims the HW 45 does 560 f.p.s. in .177, so my pistol is close to their specification, as of the last test I did. For our velocity tests, we’ll try some alloy pellets and see what the P1’s full potential for speed really is.

A Beeman P1 is not an easy air pistol to cock. It takes a technique, and you have to learn how to position your hands to cock the gun. It isn’t what I would describe as a plinking gun by any definition. And even stopping at low power uses almost the same amount of energy. After 50 shots, you will be feeling it. I’ll try to measure the cocking effort for you during the velocity testing.

A look behind the curtain at the spring cylinder. Here, the twin cocking links have dragged the piston to full mainspring compression. This powerplant works backwards of a spring rifle. The piston travels to the rear when the trigger is pulled.

The barrel is opposite the spring cylinder and held within the topstrap. When the gun’s cocked like this, the breech is accessible for loading.

As you would expect, the rear sight is fully adjustable in this pistol. In fact, it’s controlled by precision detents, so you know exactly what you’re doing when adjusting it. It’s very similar to the adjustable sights found on Smith & Wesson revolvers, so you’ll need a small flat-bladed screwdriver to adjust it.

The pistol is made in .177, .20 and .22 calibers. Both the .177 and .20 caliber models have the dual power levels, but the .22 has just high power to avoid sticking a pellet in the barrel. The .177 is by far the most popular caliber and the one you most often find for sale used. Speaking of that, I noticed at the recent Malvern, Arkansas, airgun show that a nice used P1 will be priced at something over $300. They definitely hold their value.

Perfect for training
One aspect of the P1 that’s unique to the pistol is its value as a trainer for all 1911-type firearms. You have to employ the same hold as with the firearm to get the airgun to shoot. At 33 feet it should be easy for a good shooter to hold all shots inside an inch, and the pistol is capable of much better. When you’re really hot, the P1 can hold all its shots inside the 9-ring of a 10-meter target, which is about the size of Roosevelt’s head on a dime.

Is it worth the price?
Normally, I would try to answer this question after the final report, but years of experience as a P1 owner have already provided the answer. If you’re infatuated with accurate air pistols and if you value build quality above all, then yes, the P1 is well worth the asking price. If a new one seems beyond your reach, consider buying one used. They’re rugged enough to pass on to generations unborn, so think of it as a long-term investment.

Stay tuned for the power report that’s next.

The great accuracy test: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Well, when was the last time we had a discussion this large on this blog? You were talking on yesterday’s report and on the first part of this series, all at the same time.

And, we were talking apples, oranges, cinnamon wafers and pseudo-dadaism in the post-war cinema! All at the same time.

So, once more, I will attempt to state what it is that we’re trying to do. We’re trying to discover some things that, if applied in certain ways, will always help improve accuracy. As I explained to several readers, the artillery hold is one such thing. I didn’t invent it. I just gave it a name so I could talk about it, and people would understand what I was talking about.

Now we’re looking for more things like the artillery hold that, if applied properly, will always improve your accuracy.

Today, you’re going to have to read the report very carefully, because the results you are about to see are the opposite of what you expect. But please read everything, and I’ll explain what I think has happened.

Yesterday, I tried using common reading glasses to improve the accuracy as I was shooting an Air Venturi Bronco rifle. I shot 6 groups of 10 shots each at targets 25 yards away. There were three pellets that I tested. Each pellet was shot first without me wearing reading glasses and then again with the glasses on. I showed you the targets as they occurred, and I told you after the shooting was finished that I could not discern any advantage to shooting with reading glasses.
Now I’ll show you what happened when I pre-sorted the pellets by weight before shooting. We’ll compare the best of the two targets shot yesterday with each pellet against a target shot with that same pellet sorted into a group of 10 pellets that weigh the same, down to the nearest tenth of a grain.

Those readers who do not have problems with their eyes can do today’s test as well by simply shooting two 10-shot groups — one with sorted pellets and one without.

Let’s begin
The first pellet shot was the same 8.4-grain JSB Exact domed pellet that I used to begin the test. I used that pellet because back when I tested the Bronco for you, it turned in the best results.

I weighed all the pellets on an electronic powder scale set to register grains. The scale weighs to the nearest tenth grain, so that was how I grouped them. Only those pellets that registered the exact same weight on this scale would be used.

Sorting the JSBs proved to be a big surprise for me, because they were not that uniform. Weights varied from 8.1 to 8.6 grains for a pellet that is nominally supposed to weigh 8.4 grains. I do appreciate that anything manmade will vary, but it has been my experience that premium pellets like these JSBs do not vary that much. But these did. In fact, I had to use the pellets that weighed 8.3 grains, because there weren’t enough of the ones that weighed 8.4 grains.

To get 10 pellets that weighed the same 8.3 grains, I rejected 26 others that varied from 8.1 to 8.6 grains.

Then, I shot the group. I took as much care as I had with all the other groups, plus these groups came after the first test, so I had 60 shots under my belt by this time. I expected to see a super-tight group.

It looks like only 6 pellets went through, but the holes next to the numbers 7 and 6 on the target have multiple pellets through them. I can tell that from the back of the target paper. This group of pellets sorted by weight measures 2.061 inches between centers.

That group surprised me a lot, I can tell you. I expected a lot better performance from sorted pellets. Look at yesterday’s best group, shot with unsorted pellets.

Ten shots with the same 8.4-grain JSB Exact pellet, only these were randomly selected from the tin. This group measures 2.085 inches between centers, which is only a trifle larger than the sorted group, above. These happened to be the ones shot while I was wearing reading glasses.

The next pellet to test was the BSA Wolverine. In sharp contrast to the JSB Exacts, above, these pellets were extremely consistent in weight, and I rejected only one while picking 10 to shoot.

What a contrast! Only one pellet was found not to weigh 8.3 grains, and it weighed 8.2 grains. These pellets are extremely consistent in weight.

Well, I figured the consistent Wolverines were going to win the day, except they hadn’t been that accurate in the first two tests, and they should have been if weight variation matters to accuracy. And this time they were a real surprise!

This group of 10 sorted BSA Wolverine pellets measures 2.481 inches on centers. It’s the worst group of the test (including all the shooting seen both yesterday and today).

I was really stumped, but please hang on because there’s an explanation coming. First, though, have a look at the best target shot with unsorted Wolverine pellets.

This Wolverine target shot yesterday without reading glasses measured 2.048 inches between centers. The target shot while wearing glasses measured the same size. Both are considerably smaller than today’s target shot with pellets sorted by weight.

The last pellet I tried was the RWS R-10 heavy pellet. I assumed that because it’s a target pellet it would be very uniform in weight. WRONG!

I had to weigh 18 RWS R-10 pellets to find 10 of the same weight. Those in the tin are the rejects, and they all weigh 8.1 grains. The pellets in the pile to the right weigh 8.2 grains.

And, you may remember that the R-10 pellets were by far the most accurate pellets of all in the first test. Well, this time they surprised me.

This group of sorted RWS R-10 pellets measures 1.743 inches between centers. It’s the largest group of R-10 fired. While the best group of the day, it’s larger than the random R-10s fired the day before.

Let’s look at the best R-10 group, fired during the first test.

This group of R-10 pellets shot without reading glasses measures 1.158 inches between centers. Not only is it better than the group sorted by weight, it’s the best group of all the shooting done thus far.

Okay, here comes the explanation I promised. All these targets from yesterday and today were shot at the same time, so these three final targets shot with pellets sorted by weight were shot last. They represent shots 61 through 90.

I can’t prove it, but I believe that pellets of a uniform weight should not be less accurate than the same pellets of random weights. The results of today’s test seem to indicate that sorted pellets are less accurate than unsorted pellets if we go just by the group sizes, but I think something else is at work here. I believe there’s a whole lot of test bias in what I have reported both yesterday and today. I believe today’s results were skewed to the bad end of the scale because they were the last groups I shot and I was getting tired from all the sighting techniques I was undergoing to use the reading glasses.

As twotalon observed, are we talking about something so ambiguous that it will be different for every shooter? I don’t think so. But I do think that the test design I have done yesterday and today doesn’t work.

I believe the problem is lighting, as in not enough light on the target in these tests. I say that because today I went to the outdoor range and shot two 10-shot groups with a .30 caliber M1 Carbine at 50 yards and each group measured about three inches across the two widest shots. The M1 Carbine has a very large peep sight that has been criticized for its crudity, yet I shot well with it using the same reading glasses that failed in these tests. And, today I was able to see the bull quite well, even though it was twice as far away.

Finally, even out at 25 yards, the uniformity of pellet weight appears to not be much of a factor. The BSA Wolverines that were the most uniform weight did worst of all. Of course, the results of these tests are so large and open that all kinds of errors and truths may be camouflaged within.

From these two tests that I will have to consider as failed, we can draw some important conclusions. First, I need to either use a scope or a dot sight when conducting accuracy tests. Tomorrow, I’ll show you some groups that demonstrate that I can still shoot well with a scope.

Perhaps a future experiment might be for me to put a dot sight on the same Bronco and re-shoot this test. I’ll use the same three types of random pellets (not sorted by weight) for that test, then I’ll mount a scope on the rifle and shoot the same test again. If there’s a definite difference between the results from the two optical instruments (and I’m thinking there will be), I’ll select the most accurate optical sight and rerun the weight-sorted test.

Meanwhile, you can select as much of this test as you desire and try to do it yourself. When we’re finished, we should know the value of pellets sorted by weight and those of you who have old eyes like me might give the reading glasses trick a try, but only outdoors or where there’s a lot of light.

The great accuracy test: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

No other single blog report has had the reception this one has! We have had readers awaken to discuss their favorite things and other readers say they are leaving the blog because they don’t want to read the lengthy comments made by enthusiastic readers who have been stimulated about this subject.

We also had a number of readers who failed to understand what this series will attempt to do, so perhaps I had best state it again clearly, so we all know. The purpose of this series is to discover those things a shooter can do to improve accuracy with an airgun. This is a quest to find out what works, as far as improving accuracy is concerned.

Today, I’m conducting an experiment for you to learn if the trick I mentioned yesterday about using reading glasses works for rifles. I selected an Air Venturi Bronco as a test rifle for several good reasons. The first is that it’s accurate. Next, it’s easy to cock. There will be a lot of shots fired in this test, and I need something that’s easy to cock. Yes, it’s a spring-piston rifle and a PCP would be easier to shoot accurately, but that’s not the point. More of you own springers, so using one is easier for a lot more people. You see, I want you to do this test right along with me. That way, we get a lot more results.

I’m shooting off a rest at 25 yards, so the artillery hold comes into play. Even I make mistakes holding a spring rifle from time to time, so I’m shooting 10-shot groups that will give me some leeway for the occasional bad shot.

This is just the start of a lot of testing with this one rifle, and even so, it’s only the beginning of the great accuracy test. Some of you got that from the title, but for the rest of you I imagine this series could run for a long time and many individual reports. There might even be a book in all of it, if enough worthwhile data is uncovered. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s just see how today goes for starters.

Today’s test is simple and goes like this. I want to discover whether wearing reading glasses is beneficial to my accuracy, so I’m going to shoot groups both with and without the glasses. I will shoot several pellets, but because I’m shooting 10-shot groups, there isn’t enough time for me to shoot all the groups I need to. That’s where some of you come in. Read my test and then conduct one of your own. You can use a different rifle, different pellets and even shoot at different distances if you like, though I would recommend that you shoot out to at least 25 yards to get the group separation needed to show significant differences. Try to model your test after mine, so we can all talk about the same thing.

The test
I’m shooting a Bronco with a Beeman peep sight that was used in the report on the Bronco. The first pellet I tried was the 8.4-grain JSB Exact domed pellet.

Remember that my eyes have recently started to change their prescription during the day. I no longer can see the sights like I could a month ago, and the whole purpose of this test is to find a way to correct that.

JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes
I first shot the Bronco without glasses, trying to see the front sight as best I could. The sight was thin and fuzzy, so it was difficult to see the demarcation between the top of the post and the bottom of the bull. The bull was very clear to me. I shot quickly, but I wasn’t rushing.

Ten JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes shot at 25 yards without the aid of reading glasses. As you can see, I’ve lost the ability to see the sights. This group measures 2.135 inches between centers.

Next, I put on the reading glasses and shot another 10 shots with the same pellet. The front sight was razor-sharp, but the bull was dim, as though in a dream. However, I found that if I shifted focus to the bull and back to the front sight, the bull became much more distinct. I could walk the sight post in to it fairly well that way. It’s another technique that I’ll have to learn and get better at, but it’s possible.

Ten shots with the same 8.4-grain JSB Exact pellet, only this time I was wearing the reading glasses. This group measures 2.085 inches between centers. That’s not a big difference from the first group, however, look at the six pellets in one hole. The first group only had two pellets touching and the central cluster was much larger.

From this first set of targets, I would have to say that it looks like the glasses are helping a little. But one set of data is meaningless, so I continued with other pellets.

BSA Wolverines
The BSA Wolverine is an 8.3-grain domed pellets that is very accurate in certain precharged rifles, so I thought it might do well in the Bronco, too. The first group was shot without the glasses.

The BSA Wolverine pellet grouped like this when I shot without glasses. Yes, there are 10 pellets in this group. Four of them are in the larger hole at the edge of the bull. The group measures 2.048 inches between centers.

I shot 10 more Wolverines with the aid of reading glasses. This time, I knew the technique better, but that didn’t make it any easier.

When using reading glasses I got a group of 10 that measured the same size as without glasses, as near as I can measure it. It measures 2.048 inches between centers. There’s a cluster of three pellets in the lower hole. This target caused me to wonder if this technique is worthwhile.

After seeing this target, I started to wonder if the shooting glasses thing was working as I’d hoped. With two sets of targets in hand, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. However, I pressed on.

RWS R-10 pellets
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 heavy target pellets. These are the heavier rifle pellets that are suitable for the Bronco’s power.

Ten RWS R-10 pellets shot without the aid of reading glasses. Well, you can certainly see that the point of impact changed dramatically and the group got smaller. Obviously, this is a good pellet for this rifle. This group measures 1.158 inches between centers.

Then, I tried the same pellet with the glasses.

With reading glasses, the RWS R-10 heavy match pellets made almost the same size group. This group measures 1.327 inches between centers. It’s larger than the no-glasses group, but only by a small amount.

What can be said about this test, thus far? Well, I was surprised that the results came out as they did. I thought there would have been a big difference between the two sighting methods, but from these three sets of target it doesn’t seem that way. However, now you can do the same test, those who need the reading glasses, anyway, and see what you come up with.

For you people with good eyes, I haven’t left you out. Tomorrow, I’m going to show you the rest of the test, which is something you can all do, as well. I won’t tell you what that is, nor the results I got, but I will say that it’s quite compelling. In fact, it opens up a whole new test for us to do in the future.

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.