Things we don’t think about

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Today’s post
  • Why nobody makes muzzleloading big bores
  • Where is the muzzle?
  • Scoped
  • How fast does it close?
  • Summary

Yesterday’s report on reloading elicited a better response than I had hoped. Many of you don’t reload and never will but you are still curious. There is a lot more coming!

I write reports on subjects like that to attract readers from other disciplines. This blog is highly ranked in Google searches and usually goes straight to the top of most lists of whatever topic I write about. Reader Kevin joined us years ago because I mentioned Roy Weatherby as “the high priest of high velocity” in a report. Kevin was searching for Weatherby online and hit that blog. Then he looked around and found the blog to be interesting. Today he is an airgunner first class and you see his comments here all the time.

So, if many firearm shooters are now interested in reloading and they do a Google search, they will likely land on the blog, where I can show them a fascinating world of shooting that they may not know about. They discover they can still shoot all they want and more if they join us in the world of airguns.

Today’s post

Today I want to discuss a couple things that you may never have thought of. Don’t feel bad — I get surprised by these things all the time.

Why nobody makes muzzleloading big bores

Have you ever wondered why nobody makes muzzleloading big bores? Think about it.

What if a big bore muzzleloader had a slow leak in the firing valve? Pressure would build up behind the bullet until it couldn’t remain in the breech any longer. Then it would exit the muzzle at high velocity without the gun ever being cocked. Handling an airgun like that would be like handling nitroglycerin! There would be nowhere to safely store it, and you couldn’t handle it because you would always be afraid of a discharge. But, if you didn’t know about the leak it would be even more dangerous. Think about it.

Where is the muzzle?

When long-range rifle shooting was in vogue in the late 19th century, the Creedmore position was a favored one. In it the shooter laid on his back and rested the long barrel of his rifle either on his knees or his feet. It was a stable position and many matches were won that way. It works well with long-barreled rifles. But not with carbines!

Creedmore position
As long as the rifle has a long barrel, the Creedmore position works well. It’s not the best for a short-barreled carbine though

Imagine Hopalong on his second-story deck. He rests his feet up on the deck rail and sights through his scope at squirrels in the tree with his carbine. The scope is two inches above the boreline of the rifle, so he can see everything fine, but where is the muzzle? If it’s in the wrong place the shooter will be the first to know when the trigger is pulled.

Scoped

Precharged pneumatics don’t recoil that much. Shooters get so used to them that they place their sighting eye next to the eyepiece. Then they gently squeeze the trigger — of their new .50-caliber AirForce Texan!

PCPs don’t recoil as a GENERAL rule, but big bore PCPs do it with a vengance! So much so that the shiner and the crescent cut over the eye is called getting “scoped.” When something gets a slang name you know it’s happening a lot!

How fast does it close?

He just got a new breakbarrel. Well, it’s new to him, it’s not that new. It’s an HW50S loaned to him by his older brother who just deployed to the middle east. He is fascinated by the strength of the mainspring and wonders if he pulls the trigger with the barrel open, will it close all the way?

It will. In fact it closes so fast that it pulls the stock screws through the forearm before cracking the wood. And the barrel now looks like a ski jump. He wonders if his brother will notice it.

He sights at a target about 25 feet away and the pellet hits 4 inches high. He starts to think what he will tell his brother but it’s waste of time. Any airgunner who sees the wreckage will know right away what happened.He will tell his brother that his hand slipped off the barrel just as thew rifle was about to be cocks. Do you know how many times I have heard that lie? Repeating it doesn’t make it true.

bent barrel
Yep! Pull the trigger of a breakbarrel with the barrel broken open and this is what you get every time.

Summary

What are some of the other things you have discovered in your journey through airguns?


Benjamin Fortitude PCP air rifle Gen2: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


Fortitude
The Generation II Benjamin Fortitude.

This report covers:

  • Fill to 3,000
  • Crosman Premier Heavys
  • Discussion 1
  • RWS Hobby
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • Where are we?
  • After lunch
  • Discussion 2
  • Noise
  • Trigger pull
  • More velocity testing to come
  • Summary

Watch out, spouses! The Great Enabler is about to strike!

Today’s report is so astonishing that if I hadn’t been there I probably would have my doubts. The velocity test took me two and one-half hours to complete! That’s because the .177 Benjamin Fortitude had so many shots on a single fill to 3,000 psi! Let’s get started.

Fill to 3,000

I filled the rifle to 3,000 psi as indicated on the gauge of my large carbon fiber tank. The gauge on the rifle also showed the pressure was 3,000 psi, and I know the gauge on my air tank is very accurate. I waited for 4 days after filling and the pressure still showed 3,000 psi on the rifle’s onboard gauge, so I know the rifle holds well.

Fortitude fill
The Fortitude gauge agrees with my tank gauge.

Crosman Premier Heavys

Since this is a Benjamin (Crosman) airgun, I started the test with 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers. The Pyramyd Air website, as well as a slip of paper Crosman puts in the box, says the rifle comes from the factory with the power adjuster turned up 4 turns, which is on the more powerful side, but not the most powerful. They say to expect up to 90 powerful shots.

The first ten 10.5-grain Premier Heavys averaged 726 f.p.s. The low was 719 and the high was 733 f.p.s. — a difference of 14 f.p.s. For a regulated airgun that is not that tight.  But keep an open mind because today’s report is a lesson in PCP operation.

At the average velocity the 10.5-grain Premier going 726 f.p.s. generates 12.29 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Remember, this is just the factory setting.

The next string of 10 shots averaged 722 f.p.s. and the spread went from a low of 717 to a high of 726 f.p.s. — a difference of 9 f.p.s. It seemed to me the velocity was falling. So I shot a third string of Premier Heavys that I will now show you.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………717
2…………711
3…………708
4…………720
5…………did not register
6…………718
7…………713
8…………691
9…………693
10………..680

After this third string I was prepared to say that the rifle had fallen off the regulator, but when I looked at the pressure gauge, it was still 2,800 psi! So I shot another string of 10. They looked like this.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………718
2…………687 Waited 20 seconds before this shot
3…………714 Waited 30 seconds before this shot and all the rest
4…………704
5…………720
6…………717
7…………702
8…………714
9…………681
10………..718

Discussion 1

The average for this string of 10 was 706 f.p.s. What’s happening is the regulator is taking a long time to fill — AND, the reg and valve are both breaking in! I will continue to shoot the Fortitude and wait 30 seconds between each shot for the remainder of the test, until I say different. We have now seen 40 shots with Premier Heavys — let’s see what other pellets do.

RWS Hobby

The 7-grain RWS Hobby pellet averaged 867 f.p.s. from the Fortitude. At that velocity it generates 11.69 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The spread went from a low of 854 to a high of 876 f.p.s. That is a 22 f.p.s. spread.

JSB Exact Heavy

The next pellet I tried was the 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy. They averaged 743 f.p.s. with a 12 f.p.s. spread from 737 to 749 f.p.s. The average energy is 12,68 foot-pounds. I am still waiting 30 seconds between each shot.

Where are we?

The Fortitude has now fired 60 shots. The onboard pressure gauge reads 2,400 psi remains, so there should be a lot more shots. I therefore switched back to the 10.5-grain Premiers Heavys to continue. 

Shots 61 to 70 with Premier Heavys averaged 724 f.p.s. The low was 715 and the high was 735 f.p.s. — a difference of 20 f.p.s. That’s a total of 70 shots on the first fill. We are not done yet!

The next string of Premier Heavys averaged 718 f.p.s. The low was 707 f.p.s. and the high was 721 f.p.s. — a difference of 14 f.p.s.

The next string of Heavys averaged 717 f.p.s. with an 8 f.p.s. spread from 711 to 719 f.p.s. The string after that averaged 714 f.p.s.with a spread from 704 to 723 f.p.s. I thought surely at 100 shots on the fill the gun was out of air. But I continued.

The next string averaged 706 f.p.s. with a low of 691 and a high of 713 f.p.s. For sure the rifle had to be out of air by this point except that highest velocity was the last shot — number 110 since filling the rifle. So I continued.

The next string of 10 shots averaged 715 f.p.s. The low was 709 f.p.s and the high was 720 f.p.s. The string after that averaged 718 f.p.s. with a low of 710 and a high of 726 f.p.s. The last shot — number 130 since the rifle was filled — registered 723 f.p.s.

The next string of 10 shots, also Crosman Premier Heavys, averaged 718 f.p.s. The low was 704 f.p.s. and the high was 727 f.p.s. — a difference of 23 f.p.s.

At this point I had been shooting the rifle and recording the shots for a solid 2 hours 10 minutes. It was lunchtime and I hoped when I returned that this velocity test would be finished soon. Oh, and by the way, I ran out of Crosman Premier Heavys!

After lunch

I stopped for about 50 minutes for lunch. When I returned I continued the test, but my Crosman Premier Heavys were gone. So I switched to JSB Exact Heavys that had averaged 743 f.p.s. on the 6th string of this test. Let’s look at what they did now — starting with shot number 141 since the test began.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………790
2…………789 waited just 15 seconds before every shot that follows
3…………790
4…………792
5…………790
6…………778
7…………787
8…………778
9…………783
10………..776

Discussion 2

Why did I start waiting 15 seconds between shots instead of 30? Because the rifle was ready sooner. It indicates the regulator and valve are breaking in. Where I had to wait twice as long before, now the time is cut in half. Also the rifle does seem to perform more consistently with these pure lead pellets better than with the harder Premiers.

The average for this string is 785 s.p.s. That is 42 f.p.s. FASTER than the average for the same pellet 80 shots before!!! But the next string is the real telling point.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………776
2…………767
3…………766 started waiting 30 seconds between shots from this point on
4…………765
5…………761
6…………751
7…………750
8…………746
9…………736
10………..734

It should be obvious from the steady drop in velocity on this string that the Fortitude is now off the regulator and in need of a fill. But that last shot with 10.34-grain JSBs is just 9 f.p.s. slower than the average from the same pellet on the 6th string. I call that 160 effective and powerful shots on one fill. Over a total of 140 shots (with two strings of other pellets included) Crosman Premier Heavys varied from a low of 680 f.p.s (shot number 30) to a high of 735 f.p.s (shot number 61). That is a difference of 55 f.p.s. 

When the last shot was fired the gun gauge registered 800 psi. On the next fill my tank gauge agreed with that exactly.

Fortitude fill
When shot 160 was fired this is what the onboard gauge read.

Noise

The Fortitude is QUIET! I have to rate it a 1.6 on the Pyramyd Air 5-point scale. This is an airgun most people will be able to shoot without disturbing their neighbors — at least at this 12 foot-pound level.

Trigger pull

For the first 20 shots I thought the Fortitude had a single stage trigger. Then I felt a very subtle stop in the pull, and I got curious. What the Fortitude trigger does is pull heavy through stage one — just like the expensive Geisselle trigger on my AR. But then it stops against a definite wall. You have to feel for the wall. Bubba will miss it every time. But it is there.

Stage two has one spot of creep in it sometimes and then it breaks. Other times I don’t feel the creep. Like the valve and regulator, the trigger is also breaking in. I think when I get to the accuracy test I will be able to control it well.

Stage one stopped at 4 lbs. 8 oz. Stage two broke at 4 lbs. 15 oz consistently. In think I can work with this trigger.

More velocity testing to come

I still have not adjusted the Fortitude all the way up or down. I had hoped to get that in today, but this test took so long there wasn’t time.

Summary

I am getting excited about this air rifle! I think today’s test shows two things very clearly. First — if you want to shoot a PCP and just use a hand pump this might be your airgun. It does manage air remarkably well. As a regulated gun it isn’t too consistent, but both the reg and valve need more time in use to say that. When it is full broken in I would expect a velocity variation at this power level of 15-20 f.p.s. for the Premier Heavy pellet.

And, for those wanting quiet airguns, I can hardly think of one that’s quieter. Maybe the sound will increase when I dial the velocity up, but we shall see.


Diana Bandit PCP air pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana Bandit
Diana Bandit precharged pneumatic air pistol.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

    • Filled to 200 bar
    • Not able to adjust the rear sight
    • The test
    • Superdomes first
    • UTG Micro Reflex dot sight
    • Take rear sight off
    • Hades pellets at 200 bar
    • 180-bar Hades target
    • 170-bar Hades target
    • Is the sight mounted tightly?
    • How is the gun rested?
    • Ah HA!
    • Oh, well
    • Final target — Meisterkugeln
    • Discussion
    • Summary

    Today we look at the accuracy of the Diana Bandit PCP air pistol, and I have to tell you that it’s just a first look. This gun took a LOT of work to get it to shoot!

    Filled to 200 bar

    I re-read Part 2 and saw that the .22-caliber Bandit that I’m testing, as it comes from the factory, only gets 7 or 8 good shots per fill. I also saw that a 200-bar fill is probably too high but I didn’t have much to go on, other than the customer comments that seem to agree. Many who gave the pistol a high rating say they had to back off on the fill pressure to get any accuracy.

    The small reservoir fills quickly so you have to be quick on the valve when filling. I learned how to do it so I could nail the fill within an indicated 5 bar every time.

    Not able to adjust the rear sight

    I started the test shooting at 10 meters with the open sights that come on the gun. The first shot landed way to the left of the bull so I added some right adjustment and the adjustment screw fell out! The rear sight notch is still to the left of center and there is no way I can get it close to where it needs to be. So the open sights are out. I’ll tell you what I did in a moment.

  • The test

    I shot from 10 meters with the pistol rested on a sandbag. I shot 5-shot groups and refilled the pistol after each 5 shots except for the first target which was for sight-in.

    Superdomes first

    I shot RWS Superdomes first with the open sights. I will show the target but there is no group to show because I was trying to adjust the sights. I shot 9 shots on a 200-bar fill.

    Diana Bandit Superdome target
    There’s not much to see. I was all over the paper trying to sight the Bandit in with the open sights which proved impossible. The shots in the center of the bull were three of the final five that I shot. The two under the bull were the last two shots. These final five shots were shots 5 though 9 on the first fill.

    I later learned things that may have also pertained to Superdomes, but this was the first and only target I shot with them.

    UTG Micro Reflex dot sight

    Fortunately I had plans to mount the UTG Micro Reflex dot sight on the pistol before the test began, so I did at this time and then continued with the test. Pyramyd Air only carries the red dot version, but I have the green one that I can see a little better.

    Take rear sight off

    To fit the dot sight to the Bandit the rear sight needs to come off. Even though the Micro Reflex sight is very small you will have loading clearance problems unless the rear sight comes off. Then it’s fine.

    Hades pellets at 200 bar

    Several owners report good things about JSB pellets in their Bandits, so I switched to Hades pellets with the dot sight. I refilled the reservoir to 200 bar and shot another 8 shots. This time I thought I nailed it!

    Diana Bandit Hades target 1
    I numbered the shots as they were fired so you could see how they went. When I saw shots 4 though 8 I thought I understood what the Bandit wanted. The final 4 shots measure 0.31-inches between centers. This is one of the few times you will see the dime in this report.

    180-bar Hades target

    At this point in the test I thought I knew it all. Boy, was that wrong! For the next target I filled the pistol to 180 bar — measured on the large gauge on my 88 cubic foot carbon fiber air tank. The gauge that’s built into the Bandit registered 170 bar, which is pretty close for a small gauge.

    Diana Bandit gauge
    When the tank gauge said I filled to 180 bar the pistol gauge read 170 bar.

    The next target was a heartbreaker. I thought I had nailed the fill pressure, but look what happened.

    Diana Bandit Hades target 2
    Huh? Why did the first two shots hit low on a 180-bar fill? They should have hit where the others did. And look at the lowest shot. It went through the target sideways.

    But hope springs eternal in the human breast. The three shots in the bullseye, which were the last three shots in this 5-shot string, gave me hope that I was closing in on the fill pressure the Hades pellet liked.

    170-bar Hades target

    This time I stopped the fill at 170 bar. Okay — this target should be the one (I thought). So why, with the same Hades pellet and the same sight setting, did all 5 pellets hit the bottom of the target paper? I haven’t got a clue! Make up whatever comes to your mind for this one — I’m moving on.

    Diana Bandit Hades target 3
    There they are. Five, count ’em, five pellet holes at the bottom of the target paper! I haven’t got a clue. Do you wonder why I’m not showing the dime in most of these targets? I don’t even call them groups. They are targets.

    Is the sight mounted tightly?

    Yes, it is. And the free-floating barrel is giving no signs of moving as the air is expended. One owner criticized Diana for not installing a barrel band on the gun to tie the barrel to the reservoir. If they had one the complaint would have been to leave the barrel free-floated. Sadly these impromptu airgun designers are never present when the design is being put together.

    How is the gun rested?

    Throughout the test I rested the gun on the sandbag, pushing the triggerguard into the bag on every shot. The gun didn’t move, once on target.

    Okay, let’s continue. At this point I abandoned the Hades pellet in favor of another JSB pellet that at least one person said was good in his pistol — the 18.13-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. The fill was 170 bar for the first five shots. Five pellets went into a group that measures 1.563-inches between centers. It’s not that great, but at least it’s a group and not just shots on paper. It’s well-centered, but below the aim point.

    Diana Bandit JSB Heavy target 1
    With a 170-bar fill the Bandit put five JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets into a 1.563-inch group at 10 meters. Notice that 4 out of 5 pellets hit sideways.

    I wondered with this heavier pellet if a higher pressure fill would work better, so for the next 5 shots I fill the pistol to 200 bar. This time 5 pellets went no higher but they did go a little to the left. Five went into 1.538-inches and notice that most or all of them went through the paper sideways.

    Ah HA!

    So I’m sitting here at my keyboard, writing this test up and looking at all the scattered and sideways shots and saying to myself, “Why, with all those shots going wonky like that it’s almost like…

    And I swear to you — it happened just as I am describing now. I’m sitting here 4 hours after shooting the targets, typing the report and looking at all those targets, while saying to myself that if someone came to me with a bunch of targets like these I would tell him that something is tipping his pellets right after they leave the muzzle. Id say have a look at your silencer and see if there is a streak of lead. So, I looked but there wasn’t a streak.

    There was a WALL of lead built up in one place where it looks like each and every pellet hit as it passed through! Oh, my gosh! I still have four more targets to show you and now they have lost all of their meaning because I just figured out what the problem is — AFTER THE FACT.

    Diana Bandit lead
    Guys — that ain’t no streak of lead. That is a pileup! No way is a pellet going past that without hitting it and tipping.

    Oh, well

    What the heck. I shot them so I’ll show them.

    Diana Bandit JSB Heavy target 2
    Five JSB Exact Jumbo Heavys in 1.56 inches at 10 meter. Shot on 200 bar. The didn’t rise — they just went to the left.

    I then dialed the dot sight up 3 clicks and 2 clicks to the right.

    Diana Bandit JSB Heavy target 3
    Five JSB Exact Jumbo Heavys in 2.88-inches at 10 meters after sight adjustment. Shot on 190 bar.

    Dot sight adjusted one click to the right.

    Diana Bandit JSB Heavy target 4
    Five JSB Exact Jumbo Heavys in 3.239-inches at 10 meters after sight adjustment. Shot on 185 bar.

    Final target — Meisterkugeln

    At this point in the test I was still unaware of what was really happening, so I switched to RWS Meisterkugeln pellets and shot five of them on 185 bar. They grouped in about one inch and I thought, “Ah HA! It was the pellets!” So I dialed the very responsive UTG dot sight five clicks down and shot a second 185-bar group that I expected to hit the center of the bull. Only the pellets went to the same place! The group grew a little, but 9 or the 10 are in 1.193-inches.

    Diana Bandit Meister target
    The first 5 Meisterkugeln went into a nice group so I dropped the dot sight 5 clicks and shot the second five — into the same place! The top nine are in 1.193-inches.

    Discussion

    I was ready to throw up my hands and say I don’t know what happened today. I even started writing this report with that mindset. Then I had the epiphany to look at the muzzle.

    Summary

    I can’t call this an accuracy test of the Diana Bandit. It’s a shakedown cruise. The pellet/muzzle clearance problem needs to be resolved before accuracy can be tested. And no, I am not going in through the muzzle with a 5/16-inch drill (although that was my first inclination).

  • You know what this is? It’s a wake-up call for all you guys who want silencers on your PCPs. They are fine and they do quiet things down, but you have to know their weaknesses and what to look for. I know all of that but when my nose is pressed to the grindstone to get a report published it’s easy to overlook.
  • I think we have a lot more to learn about this air pistol.

What does the new year hold?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • What the new year holds
  • Big bores
  • High-tech projectiles
  • Price point PCPs (PPP)
  • Basic features of a PPP
  • Things that are good to have
  • Kiss of death for a PPP
  • Horsepower wars over?
  • Optics
  • Electronics in scopes
  • Scope mounts
  • Air compressors
  • Replica airguns
  • A dual-power spring-piston breakbarrel
  • M16 replica
  • M1 Garand replica
  • Summary

Happy New Year! May 2020 be a year of vision for all of you!

What the new year holds

I know a lot of you are trying to peek behind the curtain, to see what’s coming down the line. Some writers will divulge things, but I won’t. I would rather wait and see how something is presented before I announce it to the world.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t know some of the things that are coming. Today I would like to share a glimpse into the coming year with some things I know and also the trends I see unfolding. Let’s go!

Big bores

The coming year will be a hot one for big bore airguns. Expect to see muzzle energy over 800 foot-pounds, and this year it will be in actual production guns — not those that have been held up for scrutiny but have never quite made it to production.

Look for the outsider manufacturers — the ones not known for making big bores — to either increase their presence in the big bore arena or to enter it for the first time.

High-tech projectiles

Along with the big bore guns, I see an increase in projectiles that are designed to give greater performance. There is a lot of room for innovation here and the smaller big bore calibers (.257-.357) are where the largest potential benefits lie.

Look at self defense pistol calibers. Years ago the .45 caliber was highly touted, but when specialized .40-caliber and 9mm defense projectiles began hitting the market, calibers as small as .380 rose to credibility. The same could happen in the airgun world. Certainly the smaller projectiles travel much faster and speed is often a critical component of performance with high-tech projectiles.

Price point PCPs (PPP)

The price-point PCP (precharged pneumatic) took the world by storm a few years ago and quickly became the hottest sector of the smallbore market. Look for more new models, plus gen II and perhaps even gen IIIs that correct errors made at the initial launch.

Basic features of a PPP

Repeater
Shrouded barrel
Good trigger
At or under $300
Foster fill coupling (at some place in the fill line)
Light weight

Things that are good to have

Regulator (user adjustable from the outside of the gun)
Fill to 2,000, or to somewhere below 3,000 psi
Better adjustable trigger (Marauder grade)
Adjustable power
Reasonable power and number of shots
.177 — 18 foot-pounds and 20 shots
.22 — 22 foot-pounds and 20 shots
.25 — 25 foot-pounds and 18-20 shots

Kiss of death for a PPP

Fill higher than 3,000 psi
Proprietary fill coupling
Too much weight

Horsepower wars over?

Yes and no. For spring-piston airguns the horsepower wars are pretty much a thing of the past. Oh, there will still be some rattletrap breakbarrels at the discount stores, because their buyers haven’t watched the market as closely as mainstream airgun retailers, but the days of the “1,600 f.p.s. breakbarrel” have come to an end. But the horsepower wars are not over. They have just shifted to PCPs and especially to big bores.

Today’s airgunners seem enraptured with 80 foot-pound .25-caliber smallbores and 700 foot-pound big bores. Where does it end? Well, here is a little secret. A 100-pound anvil traveling 100 f.p.s. generates 15,547 foot pounds of energy. The secret to muzzle energy in airguns (because velocity is restricted by physics) is the weight of the projectile. But a heavy projectile may not be accurate or even stable in a given airgun. In other words, the heaviest projectile may just be for bragging rights.

Nevertheless, high numbers sell airguns. And muzzle energy is what many buyers are focused on today. So expect airguns with more muzzle energy this year.

Optics

I do know some specific new scopes that we will see this year. I’m sworn to secrecy but there are some things coming that you readers have specifically asked for.

Airgun scopes have lead the field of optics for years. The side focus parallax adjustment was on airgun scopes two decades ago, and firearms scopes only got it 5-7 years ago. Scopes with internal bubble levels are still not in the mainstream for firearms, yet they are so necessary for long-range accuracy.

Electronics in scopes

Look for more affordable thermal imaging devices and videocamera recorders in scopes of the future. And look for the prices to fall as they proliferate.

Scope mounts

Adjustable scope mounts that compensate for barrel droop are another airgun innovation. Though the AR-15-class rifles are notorious droopers, many of their users are not aware of this and adjust the droop out with elevation adjustment, alone. Then they wonder why they can’t hold a zero, when we airgunners have known why for decades.

Air compressors

Look for prices to drop this year as companies rebrand the Chinese compressors with upgraded parts and design. And, with the price drop, look for more people to enter the world of precharged airguns.

Also, look for more small compressors that are made to top off guns and not tanks. In the past these had to be connected to shop compressors, but now they stand alone and fill to 4,500 psi readily.

Spring rifle repeaters

Repeating spring-piston air rifle are another hot topic of the past few years. Look for more of them to surface this year and look for the focus to be on a lower profile, now that Gamo has set the bar with the Swarm Fusion 10X.

Replica airguns

This market has always been hot and could be called a perennial favorite. Do it right and succeed in a big way. But there are two parts to success. First the gun you copy has to already be well known. And second, your copy has to be perfect.

The M1 Carbine is a favorite of service members and shooters, in general. It’s small, light and handy to carry and use. And its replica airgun copies start with the Crosman BB gun of 1966 and are still going today with the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine. I look for a pellet-firing version of the carbine soon and eventually a precharged version.

The M14 was a not-so-popular transition that followed the Garand in the 1950s and ’60s. Service members who used it liked it, but the government wanted to move to a smaller cartridge in a lighter platform so the M16 replaced it. Look for an accurate replica of the M14, as the M1A (the civilian semiautomatic version) that first shoots BBs and eventually pellets.

Places where the market is open for innovation

A dual-power spring-piston breakbarrel

This is something people have long been asking for — an air rifle with two power levels. It already exists in air pistols. The HW 45 or Beeman P1 has been around for decades with two power settings. I have always thought that a rifle that develops 5-8 foot-pounds on the first cocking stroke and 15-20 foot-pounds on the second stroke would be nice.

M16 replica

There is no good copy of the M16/AR-15 in a pellet rifle. Crosman had the MAR177, a single-shot target upper that worked on an AR-15 lower. I actually built a lower to be able to test the MAR177. I wish I could have afforded one at the time, because it is no longer made.

 

Anschütz made a good airgun copy of the M16 years ago, but it was special order and not many people ever saw one. And my point is — there is  no accurate copy of the M16/AR-15 on the market today. The Crosman AIR17 wasn’t that close and while there are many airguns that resemble the AR today, there is no accurate copy.

M1 Garand replica

There was a replica of the 8mm Egyptian Hakim (the poor-man’s Garand) in 1954. But 66 years later there is no airgun replica of the rifle General Patton said was the “…greatest battle implement ever devised.” Oh, there are WONDERFUL airsoft replicas of it, but there have been accurate airsoft replicas of BARs and M60 machineguns since the 1990s! The airgunning world wants a Garand!

Summary

I believe 2020 will be a year when we see many new products. There will also be some refinement of existing products — the gen III guns I referred to earlier.

What I would like to see is more solid and innovative new designs like the Sig ASP20. When a company puts everything on the line and then nails the outcome, we all benefit — whether we buy their rifle or not. Because innovations like these set the standard for the entire market.


What about dry-firing?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • History
  • Luger
  • Soviet SKS
  • One more common problem
  • Designed to be dry-fired
  • Airguns
  • BB — get real!
  • Sillyiess
  • And the others?
  • Under The Gun
  • An aside that is pertinent
  • Pneumatics and gas guns
  • BB’s rule of thumb
  • Summary

Time for another basic report. We discuss dry-firing airguns a lot and things get out of control pretty quick, but I guess that’s the nature of the Internet. My wife, Edith, used to have a little saying about it. She said people would post:

“I have an HW77 that I enjoy.”

“Yes, Weihrauch airguns all nice, aren’t they?”

“I shoot my Gamo Expomatic in the basement every day.”

“I like ice cream!”

I’ll come back to that, but today I thought I would dive into the subject of dry-firing a little deeper, since it’s one that seems to affect all of us to some extent. I think I’ll start with firearms.

History

I’m going to begin with guns that have firing pins, though the subject of dry-firing does go back much farther than that. Older guns are usually not made to endure much dry-firing, if any. Their metal parts are hardened to withstand a lot of use without wearing, but hardness does tend to make metal brittle. The better guns have firing pins made from tool steel that can be both hard and also resistant to breakage from impact, but gun makers didn’t always do that because dry-firing was considered a no-no a century ago.

Luger

The German Luger, for example, had parts that were heat-treated (hardened) and then tempered (treated with heat for ductility) to a medium straw yellow color. The maker wanted the firing pin to work without wear, and also to not deform the parts with which it interacted. But the metallurgy of Luger parts was less complex 100 years ago than it is today and it is not recommended that you dry-fire a German Luger — especially if it is one from history. It can be done if the gun needs to be uncocked, but you run the risk of breaking the pin and other parts in the firing mechanism.

Legends P08 Erfurt Luger
The Legends P08 pistol with blowback is shown beneath a 1914 Luger made at the Royal Arsenal at Erfurt. This century-old pistol should not be dry-fired.

Soviet SKS

The Soviet semiautomatic rifle we call the SKS is another example of a gun that should not be dry-fired — though not because of the metallurgy.

SKS
This Soviet SKS was manufactured at the Tula Arsenal in 1953.

The reason you should not dry-fire an SKS is the tapered firing pin can get stuck inside the bolt in the fired position — protruding from the bolt. If that happens the gun can fire every cartridge it chambers. It’s essentially firing from the open bolt, which it is not timed correctly to do. It will shoot full auto until it runs out of cartridges and the action can blow up if a cartridge case lets go before it is fully chambered and the action is locked shut (that’s the timing). This is a common fault with the SKS and owners are cautioned to keep their bolts and firing pins clean and to not dry-fire their rifle. A firing pin return spring was installed in the earliest SKS bolts and can be retrofitted into guns without it to protect against this.

One more common problem

So, breaking parts and sticking parts are two of the most common reasons why dry-firing firearms is not recommended. And there is one more common reason. Many rimfires are designed so their firing pins will make contact with the edge of the chamber if there is no cartridge rim there to cushion them. This makes them fire more reliably. However, if guns like these are fired a lot with no cartridge in the chamber a groove or depression will form in the rim of the chamber and the gun will no longer fire reliably because there is nothing backing up the cartridge rim. Therefore the cartridge rim will not be crushed reliably to set off the priming compound and the guns either start to misfire a lot or they quit working altogether. It’s a real problem with older rimfires made before about 1960, and even some of the less expensive ones that are made today still have the problem. But many do not.

I’ll use the Ruger 10/22 as an example of a rimfire that can be safely dry-fired. The Ruger website even has a video that says so. And so can the Ruger Mark pistols. Their firing pins are purposely designed to stop a tiny fraction of an inch away from the rim of the chamber. You readers who understand manufacturing know how difficult it is to maintain those kind of dimensions across multiple parts so it always works out right after assembly!

I only use Ruger as an example. Many rimfires are designed this way today. But don’t take my word for it. Find out if YOUR rimfire is so-designed before you start dry-firing!

Designed to be dry-fired

Then there are the firearms that are purposely designed to be dry-fired. I’ll use a free pistol for my example. Because bullseye target shooters shoot many times more shots dry than with ammunition to train their eye-hand coordination, their guns have to be designed for it.

Hammerli 100 right
This Hammerli free pistol is a .22 rimfire pistol used in 50-meter bullseye competition.

The Hammerli 100 was produced from the late 1940s until the middle 1950s, when the model 101 superseded it. It has a lever on the left side of the receiver that cocks the trigger but not the firing pin. It allows you to practice with the trigger all day long without ever chambering a live round or cocking the gun.

Hammerli 100 dry-fire
That lever cocks the trigger of the pistol. It works regardless of the action being cocked.

Airguns

Let’s now turn our attention to airguns. I will begin with the target guns that have dry-fire devices to allow practice for the same reasons as the free pistols just mentioned. The top 10-meter rifles and pistols all have them, but so do the informal airguns (mostly pistols) that are designed for informal target practice. Take the Beeman P1 for example. If you lift the top strap, but not far enough to cock the pistol, you set the trigger and you can dry-fire it in the same way as a more expensive target pistol. The trigger feels exactly the same as when the pistol is fully cocked, but no pellet is shot when the trigger falls.

BB — get real!

All of that is nice to know, but it doesn’t answer the question that is in your mind, does it? You want to know about spring-piston air rifles, don’t you?

Silliness

Remember what I told you at the start of this report about conversations on the Internet quickly getting silly? It happens here sometimes, too. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Gamo at one time advertised that their spring-piston air rifles could withstand 10,000 dry-fires without damage and they had even tested for it. Well, that statement morphed into Gamo testing all (as in each and every one) of their spring-piston air rifles by dry-firing them 10,000 times! No — they don’t. If you think about it, they really couldn’t. That would add so much cost to each gun (the time spent putting them all into the cocking/firing fixtures then waiting for them to be cocked and fired 10,000 times, not to mention the vast number of fixtures they would need for a 40,000-piece model run) that a $200 air rifle would have to cost $400 or more.

Gamo doesn’t do that and they never did. But maybe the person who said that only meant that Gamo tests each type of gun (one test per model type — not each and every gun) with 10,000 dry-fires. They don’t do that any longer, either — or at least it’s no longer a part of their advertising campaign. Maybe they still test them that way — but they don’t talk about it as much. I said what I said in an historical context in my report titled, Does dry-firing damage airguns?. In that report a reader mentioned that Gamo addresses dry-firing in their frequently asked questions on their GamoUSA website. I went there to check and they no longer address it.

So, Gamo isn’t telling customers they can dry-fire their spring-piston guns. Except that I did find in the manual for the Swarm Fusion 10X they said that one way to safely test whether the rifle has a pellet in the barrel after it has been cocked is to fire it in a safe direction. If there is no pellet that would constitute a dry-fire, so they are okay with that.

And the others?

What about the rest of the spring-piston airgun makers? Are their rifles and pistols proofed against damage from dry-fires? Yes and no. Yes because of the materials being used today and because of the changes in design that lend themselves to more reliable performance, and no — because in a lot of instances this hasn’t been deliberate. I will illustrate with a scope analogy.

Under The Gun

Spring airguns break scopes. We have known that for a long time. But in 1998, when Leapers learned that was the case, they set out to design airgun scopes that could not be broken that way! They even designed test fixtures to test scope designs over the long term. During the same timeframe they added the name Under The Gun (UTG) to their scope line. Hence today UTG scopes are pretty much bulletproof. They are designed with Smart Spherical Structure (SSS) — a scope body that’s inherently stronger than other bodies because it addresses the interaction between the inner and outer scope tubes.

Now along come all the other scope manufacturers in the world — from the biggies like Leupold, Burris and Hawke to the little guys that make scopes for cheap. The biggies watch the scope market closely and, when some bozo named B.B. Pelletier starts waving his pom-poms, they purchase a couple of the UTG scopes he is raving about and examine them — CLOSELY. They discover that, indeed, there are some design features that are quite worthy and they find their own ways of emulating them. Next thing you know ten years have passed and all of the brand-name scopes are spring-rifle proof or, as in the case of Hawke, they know that certain ones in their lineup aren’t and they tell buyers up front. This migration doesn’t just happen through copying, either. Engineers change jobs and the word spreads.

Last to change are the cheapies, but they do change, because at the same time the manufacturers were getting smarter — so were the buyers. Maybe a full two decades have to pass before there are no more scope problems with spring-gun recoil, but it does happen.

An aside that is pertinent

Back to dry-firing. When major airgun manufacturers like Feinwerkbau, Diana and Walther used piston seals that are made of a synthetic that dry-rotted over time, they all got a black eye when the ship hit the sand. Quick as a bunny and with ZERO fanfare they all switched their formulas for their synthetic piston seals! What else could they do — advertise that their airguns now come with piston seals that DON’T dry-rot?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why dry-firing should not hurt a spring gun today — but don’t do it regularly. Now — what about the other powerplants?

Pneumatics and gas guns

I will address both pneumatic and gas guns together. When you dry fire these, unless they are purposely built for it like target guns, you exhaust either air or gas. Nothing in the conventional design of these guns should be adversely affected — HOWEVER! As the corporate lawyer points out, it doesn’t have to be a pellet or a BB that comes out of the gun. Anything stuffed down the barrel can become a projectile when the gun fires. So, for that reason more than for the safety of the gun’s mechanism, dry-firing is not recommended.

BB’s rule of thumb

Here is how I approach the subject of dry-firing airguns that aren’t made for it. Pneumatic and gas guns I don’t worry about. As long as I know the barrel is clear — such as immediately following a shooting session — I can dry-fire without worry. Spring-piston guns are a different matter.

If possible I try to uncock the spring-piston gun without firing. When that isn’t possible, I load a pellet and shoot the gun. This is why I never cock an airgun at a gun show without asking if I can, and can the gun be uncocked without firing? But if I make a mistake, such as “loading” a .22-caliber Beeman R1 with a .177-caliber pellet, which results in an unintentional dry-fire, I don’t worry about it. I haven’t wrecked the airgun (in all probability), but it’s time to wake up and start paying attention.

Summary

The dry-fire fear is very similar to the scope breakage fear and it serves as a marker to the continual improvement of the technology of airguns and their related equipment. Couch commandos the world over now sing the praises of side-focus scopes — completely ignorant that they were brought to them through airguns and more specifically the sport of field target.

Remember when velocity alone sold airguns? That day is over, though it will take more time before the word gets out to everyone.

Here is prediction from BB. At some time in the not-too-distant future shooters are going to realize that muzzle energy in a big bore airgun is pointless, once 500 foot-pounds is surpassed. We are currently in a race to produce more and more energy but it’s meaningless, since the bullets fired from these guns are passing through the bodies of American bison and elk.

Automobile speedometers in cars that can barely make it to 90 no longer come with top limits of 120 m.p.h. Things change with the passage of time.


Diana Bandit PCP air pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana Bandit
Diana Bandit precharged pneumatic air pistol.

This report covers:

  • Bandit
  • Customer reviews
  • The case
  • Description
  • Weight
  • Power
  • Sights
  • Magazine
  • Trigger
  • The point
  • Fill coupling
  • Discharge sound
  • Free-floated barrel
  • Summary

Today we begin looking at the Diana Bandit precharged pneumatic (PCP) air pistol. It is the pistol equivalent to the Diana Stormrider rifle.

Bandit

The Diana Bandit is a repeating PCP pistol that comes in both .177 and .22 caliber. It has a circular spring-loaded magazine that holds 9 pellets in .177 and 7 in .22. I selected a .22 for my test.

Customer reviews

I read some of the customer reviews of the gun before examining it. It seems to me there are two main camps that purchase a pistol like this. One camp buys it based in the price. It’s everything they want in a Benjamin Marauder PCP air pistol (they hope) for $190 less. The other camp buys the pistol to modify it into something they really want. First they have to fix all the things that Diana got wrong when they designed the airgun, like not putting in a regulator, then they move on to accurizing it with other barrels and exotic sights.

This report isn’t going to satisfy either camp. I’m going to test the Bandit as it came to me and see how it performs as it stands, right out of the box.

The case

Speaking of the “box” in this case it’s a soft case with a foam insert. It’s perfect for carrying and storing the pistol.

Diana Bandit case
The Bandit comes in a fitted soft case.

Description

The Bandit is a large air pistol. It’s just over 20 inches long and the 9.5-inch barrel is almost half of that. The pistol is largely metal and wood, with just a few synthetic parts like the sights. Looking at it I would say the folks at Diana are listening to the market very closely.

The grip is hardwood and I find it very ergonomic. I have read complaints that it is too large, but my hands are average and it fits them fine. Maybe even better than fine. It fits like a Luger that has been customized — or a Crosman Mark I/II pistol with custom grips. Maybe after accuracy testing I will have more to say about the grip but that will have to wait.

The cocking bolt is located on the left side of the gun. That favors the right-handed shooter, though lefties will have no trouble using it unless they mount a scope that gets in their way. The bolt handle has three rubber o-rings that provide a better grip for your hand. The handle is long enough to get a good grip and I find that the bolt cocks smoothly. There is an increase in pressure required at the back of the cocking stroke, but if you pull the bolt back sharply you won’t notice it.

Weight

As large as the pistol appears, it weighs just 2.2 lbs. That’s the way of precharged airguns. They are largely air! And with all that barrel and reservoir tube out front you might think it is muzzle-heavy, but it’s not. The grips grab your hand so tight that I think they absorb the forward weight.

Power

One thing several of the reviews mention is how powerful the pistol is. The .22 I chose is supposed to launch pellets at 630 f.p.s., according to the manual. And once more I have to give Diana credit, because the manual explains that velocity was achieved with different lead pellets! I would think it would be with something lightweight, like a Hobby, but we shall see in Part 2. Many owners are praising the Bandit for its accuracy. Diana claims 11.8 foot-pounds (16 joules) for the .22 version, so we shall see.

In .177 the manual says to expect 725 f.p.s. with the same caveats. And the power would be 9.6 foot-pounds (13 joules).

Sights

Most owners will probably scope their pistols or at least mount a dot sight. The top of the receiver is flat (yea!) and has 11mm dovetails behind and in front of the loading trough. If you shoot with the magazine you will probably have to use two-piece scope mounts and the rear sight will have to be removed.

The open sights are a squared-off post in front and a square notch in the rear. The rear sight is adjustable in both directions. THERE ARE NO FIBEROPTICS ANYWHERE! Once again, I think Diana is listening!

My plan is to shoot the pistol with the open sights at 10 meters. Then I will install a UTG Micro Reflex dot sight and sight that in at 10 meters. That sight has become my go-to dot sight for airguns. If the accuracy warrants it, I will do a second accuracy test with the pistol and dot sight at 25 yards. And if the pistol is REALLY accurate I may even scope it.

Magazine

The circular magazine installs from the left side of the receiver. It is held in place by a small rare-earth magnet. To load it into the receiver you must first remove the single-shot pellet tray (Diana calls it the loading base in the manual). Thank you, Diana, for providing that tray with the pistol. Pull the bolt back and cock the gun to remove the tray. Then insert the magazine in its place. Once the magazine is in the receiver, slide the bolt forward to load the first pellet. It is possible to work the bolt again and load a second pellet, so pay attention to what you are doing.

Trigger

The Bandit trigger is two-stage and adjustable. The adjustment controls the amount of sear engagement, so care must be taken to not get it so light that it becomes unsafe. The description calls it the Diana Improved Trigger.

The safety is completely manual. Once more Diana is to be commended! It’s a crossbolt safety that’s located in the trigger blade.

Fill

The pistol is filled to 200 bar. That is 2900 psi. Not 3,000 — 2,900. I had an urgent email last week from a person who doesn’t reads the blog, and he has a .45-caliber AirForce Texan that he told me wasn’t working. He said he filled it to 3,000 psi on the tank’s gauge and the bullets just pooped out. I told him his onboard gauge wasn’t reading correctly and to just reduce the fill pressure to 2,700 psi and shoot it through a couple 2 by 4s, which he did. He was happy about that but then complained to me that an air gauge that doesn’t read correctly is like having a car oil gauge that’s off.

First of all — no, it isn’t. The oil pressure gauge on a car (that has one) is a more expensive unit, and is coupled to a pressure sensor in the engine that sends information to the gauge. That’s assuming we aren’t talking about some hinky unit that has a live oil feed going up to the gauge!

Secondly — do cars even HAVE oil pressure gauges anymore? The little air gauges that are on PCPs are notoriously off in pressure, sometimes by hundreds of pounds. He had one that was way off. But the thing is — just learn where your gun wants to stop and stop there. Don’t worry about what the number is. Use those little gauges as “ballpark” guesses until you have more information about them.

The point

The point is — use the larger air pressure gauge on your fill device — be it a tank or a compressor. It is more likely to read accurately or at least be closer to it. If it doesn’t you will soon get a feel for how much it’s off and in which direction. It’s like knowing how to shut your kitchen cabinet whose door doesn’t quite line up as it should.

Fill coupling

Diana provides a probe-type fill coupling that has a male Foster filling on the ether end. That’s another gold star for them! However, the air probe fill hole is missing some kind of cover or plug to keep out the dirt when the probe isn’t in there.

Discharge sound

I haven’t shot the pistol that much, but so far I think it is quiet! Maybe not whisper quiet, but perhaps quiet enough for a large back yard. I’ll know more after the velocity test. I looked down the moderator and can see several baffles, so there is real technology in the can.

Free-floated barrel

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. The Bandit has a free-floated barrel that was all the rage about two years ago. Everybody wanted one. But now I read complaints that there is no barrel band. Go ahead, Diana. Put a barrel band on the pistol so they can tell you why it isn’t needed. I dare you! Why don’t I just shoot the pistol for accuracy and let the targets decide for us?

Summary

The Bandit looks and sounds like a very good value. I am hoping the accuracy is where folks say, because if it is, this is one to consider!


Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 1

nyby Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sen-X Crossbow
Onyx Tactical Crossbow.

This report covers:

  • Crossbow
  • The Onyx
  • Physical specifications and description
  • Who needs it?
  • So — who needs it?
  • Why you need it
  • Opening the box
  • Manual
  • The power source — for cocking
  • Why CO2?
  • Air source safety
  • The button
  • Final point
  • Summary

Today will be a completely different blog! This time old BB is the student. This is about a crossbow, which I do know a little about, but this crossbow operates differently than any other.

Crossbow

The Onyx Tactical Crossbow is a crossbow like all other premium crossbows, except for one thing. You cock this bow with the push of a button! Yes, this 225-pound draw-weight crossbow that is fully capable of taking big game is cocked with the push of a button. Let’s think about that for a moment.

Crossbows are to archers what rifles are to spear-throwers. They remove most of the skill required for the job and deliver powerful shots that are also accurate out to ranges that even experienced archers cannot achieve. It’s been that way for centuries, and for all of that time the longbow archers have insisted that crossbows are not true bows. I have to agree with them. A longbow is one thing — even when it has modern technology like sights and cams to reduce draw weight — things that weren’t around when this controversy started.

Crossbows are something different. They are more powerful than longbows and, if handled improperly, they can be more dangerous than longbows, though you have to handle both with caution.

The reason people lump them together is they both have bow in the name and they both shoot arrows — though technically the “arrow” fired by a crossbow is called a quarrel or bolt. Longbow arrows were also once called bolts, but the term arrow has taken a firm root with them. I’m not going to get into the history of the crossbow in this report (though that might be a fun one to do, sometime), but you do need to acknowledge their differences, because some of the crossbow operational quirks can maim and even kill you!

The Onyx

The Onyx is a conventional crossbow, except for the pushbutton cocking feature. It has a 225 lb. draw weight and can be cocked manually. To do that you either need to be Superman or to use an aftermarket cocking aid. For this bow I think a cocking windlass is required. Some are made to fit specific crossbows, while others are more universal and will fit a wide range of models.

cocking windlass
This is a universal cocking aid/windlass. It attaches to the butt of the crossbow and slowly pulls the bowstring back to the point that it is caught and held by the trigger mechanism (technically a part called the nut). I have no idea if this one fits the Onyx — I simply show it for information.

The Onyx cocks differently. You don’t draw the bowstring back to cock the bow. That was done before this point — the bowstring is already held back. The bowstring is not under much tension when the string is held back — unlike any other crossbow!

What the pneumatic mechanism on the Onyx does is push the bow’s limbs (the two springy arms on either side of the bow) forward to put tension on the bowstring! I remember at the Pyramyd Air Cup this year I became quite excited when a Pyramyd Air technician showing the bow to me put his hand in front of the arrow! It looked to me like the bow was cocked, but as I have just explained — it wasn’t.

Physical specifications and description

The online specs say the Onyx weighs 11 lbs. Without an air tank the test bow weighs 10 lbs. on my balance beam scale, so I think the specs are with the air tank attached. That means the Onyx is heavy for a crossbow.

The bow is 28.5 inches long and just under 11 inches wide when the limbs are collapsed. When the limbs are extended the width is about 34-inches.

The overall color is black, Most of the bow is aluminum and steel; the limbs are some sort of high-tech synthetic and the forearm grip, the pistol grip and the buttstock are synthetic.

The buttstock is an AR type that is adjustable to six positions of length. The pull length varies between 13-3/4-inches and 17-3/4-inches.

The pistol grip is also an AR A2 style. I have no idea whether it will interchange with actual AR grips, but economies of design would dictate that it should. It certainly looks like it would from the outside.

The forearm grip is designed to keep your off hand away from the flight deck and the bowstring. This feature is seen on many crossbows today, because that string can remove digits when the bow fires!

Who needs it?

You are probably asking right now who needs a $1,550 pushbutton crossbow? A good hunting crossbow can be purchased for $250-300. A premium hunting crossbow will cost $1,000 to $2,500. My Sub-1 from Mission Archery now sells for about $1,400, without a sight. I reported on that back in 2018. The Onyx is based on a premium crossbow, but the pneumatic technology they added to give it one-button cocking does increase the cost.

So — who needs it?

Let’s make a list.

• Hunters with physical limitations (handicapped)
• Hunters who cannot cock a crossbow
• You

Wait a minute, BB. I’m young(ish). I’m strong. I don’t need no pushbutton crossbow!

Why you need it

Okay, imagine you are sitting in a tree stand waiting for that prize whitetail buck to come along. Suddenly you see him working his way through the treeline. You count at least 10 points on his antlers at this distance. This is the one you want. He is 90 yards away and walking toward you like an infantry scout on patrol, looking for boobytraps. Now tell me — did you climb up into that high seat this morning with your crossbow already cocked and loaded? And did you sit there with the bow cocked for 2-1/2-hours? Of course not. Your mom didn’t raise no fools!

Well, then, are you going to cock your crossbow now? Sure, you say. I just have to wait to turn the crank slowly and then detach the crank mechanism, load an arrow and get ready to shoot when the deer isn’t looking. Good luck with that! His eyes and ears are sharper than yours and he has lived by his wits all his life. If you had a firearm would you have waited until now to load it?

Or — you could just push the button on the Onyx and be ready silently in a second, because the arrow is already loaded.

Now you understand! This crossbow isn’t for hunting in your daydreams on the couch! This crossbow is for hunting in the real world! Sure it’s heavy, but how bad is that when you are sitting in a blind?

Opening the box

I first looked at the bow in the box it came in and carefully considered everything inside. Had this been a pellet rifle I would have had it out and shot by this time. But the Onyx is something I know very little about.

Sen-X Crossbow box
The Onyx crossbow collapses to less than 11-inches wide for transport.

Sen-X Crossbow pins
As the bow comes to you, the quick-release pins that allow the limbs to fold are held in place by a rubber band that also holds the loose bowstring. This picture is as much for me as for you, so I remember to do this after testing the bow. Because I’m keeping that rubber band!

The limbs move around when they aren’t pinned in position for firing. I think a small bungee cord around them at the rear would be handy.

Manual

The manual is well written in all English and is 37 pages long. I read it cover-to-cover before doing anything with the bow. I know how crossbows work, but this one is unique. Look at it! It doesn’t have cam wheels! The power is supplied directly by the energy stored in the limbs, without passing through a complex series of pulleys that reduce the cocking effort — because the Onyxdoesn’t need its cocking effort reduced!

I recommend that everyone who gets the Onyx reads the manual before they do anything. There are straightforward things you need to know, of course. Things like never putting your hands on the flight deck in the path of the bowstring when the bow is cocked. But there are also things you might never consider. Like the fact that leaks from the source of compressed air can cock the bow without your knowing it! Read the manual!

The power source — for cocking

Let’s understand that this bow launches arrows by means of the energy that is stored and released by its bow limbs. In that respect it is a conventional crossbow.

The unconventional thing is how the bow is cocked. The Onyx is designed to use compressed air, supplied by an Air Venturi 3000 psi 13 cubic-inch tank that is regulated down to 1100 psi. The manual says the bow was designed to be cocked with high pressure air, and if you own a compressor that is the thrifty way to do it. But it can also be cocked by an 88- or 90-gram CO2 tank.

Sen-X Crossbow tank
The Onyx is set up to use a regulated Air Venturi 13 cubic-inch tank as a power source for cocking.

The tank coupling on the bow comes to you as shown above. That would be the setup for a right-handed shooter. That coupling can be switched around to point the tank forward, which moves the weight balance of the bow forward. It can also be moved to the left side of the bow for left-handed shooters, though that involves more work than a simple switch. An 88-gram or 90-gram disposable CO2 cartridge can also go into the coupling in place of the air tank.

Why CO2?

Those 88-gram CO2 tanks are not cheap and since they only cock the bow a couple times (maybe once more in warmer weather), what good are they? Well, let’s say you are about to hunt caribou in Canada. Imagine all the problems trying to carry an air tank through the TSA here, plus the CATSA in Canada. How much easier it is to just buy a disposable CO2 tank when you get where you are going.

Air source safety

The manual tells you to disconnect the air source when it’s not in use. That prevents the possibility of an accident. There are also safety things to do with the button that I’ll cover now.

The button

Let’s look at this button that cocks the bow. It’s located in front of the forearm grip, where it is centered. Both right- and left-handed shooters will find it convenient. When the air source is connected push the button in to cock the bow. That part is almost silent and takes about a second in 60+ degree weather. Pull the button out to uncock the bow. That emits a long hiss as the air escapes and it takes a lot longer for the bow limbs to collapse back to their un-tensioned shape. And you may have caught the fact that with this system you don’t have to fire an arrow into the ground and risk damaging it.

But we have to make certain that button is in the uncocked position before we connect the air source. If the button is in the cocked position and we screw a tank into the coupling, the bow will cock instantly when the high-pressure air or CO2 enters the system.

Sen-X Crossbow button uncocked
Here the button is pulled out and the bow is uncocked. If the cocking safety was applied (at the arrow, and the cocking safety is off in this photo) it would be impossible to press the button in to cock the bow. This keeps you safe when loading.

Sen-X Crossbow button cocked
When the button is pushed forward like this, the bow will automatically cock. It takes a second and is very quiet.

Final point

It’s easy to get confused about this technology when you learn the bow uses high pressure air. Here is a quote from the manual:

“A Steambow (Onyx) is a combination of a conventional crossbow and a PCP air rifle.”

Yes, it is, but don’t get confused. The high-pressure air has nothing to do with launching the arrow. It is there to cock the bow, and that is all that it does.

Summary

That’s enough for this report. I hope you can appreciate that this bit of technology will change the world of crossbows. It will allow more people to use them, and will allow hunters to be safer with them.

There is a lot more to learn about the Onyx. I have only addressed one of the three safeties, plus I need to cover other things that are more conventional.

Am I going to test the bow? Yes, indeed. So there is a lot more coming.