What I got for Christmas

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Good morning and Happy Day After Christmas. I thought today that we could all share some of the special gifts we got for Christmas. I know some of you don’t celebrate Christmas; but from the comments, I can see that many of you have been rewarding yourselves with holiday gifts, nonetheless. So, join in if you want.

My first gift
The first gift of the season was a Sears BB gun that’s an 1894 model made by Daisy. My brother-in-law, Bob, picked it up in an antique store. It doesn’t work, but I read online that these often do go bad after storage for several years. I’ll attempt repairs on my own; but if I’m not successful, I’ll probably get another working 1894, because I know many of our readers really love this gun. It was Daisy’s first Spittin’ Image BB gun, with production starting in 1961 and continuing until 1986. This variation was made for Sears from 1969 until 1973. One way or another, you’ll probably be reading a review of the 1894 Daisy in 2015.

Daisy 1894
My Daisy 1894 is a variation sold by Sears.

What B.B. wanted
This year, I asked for an M40 Swedish Lahti 9mm pistol — the Swedish Luger. I’ve known about this gun for several decades and been fascinated by the background. It’s a Swedish military handgun made from steel that isn’t up to the task, because of wartime shortages. It has a bolt accelerator that turns out not to be needed because the cold doesn’t affect semiautomatic handgun operation quite as much as the Swedes feared. So many of the accelerators were removed, so the bolts wouldn’t crack the receivers from too much speed. It’s said to be very accurate; but, as always, I’ll be the judge of that — with you looking over my shoulder.

You actually saw this gun a few days ago in my report on why guns wear out and break. I used a photo from Gun Broker, since at the time I had not opened my present.

I’ll test my new Lahti M40 pistol for you next year.

A gun I didn’t ask for, indeed did not know I was getting, was given to me by a combination of my wife, Edith, and friend Otho. It’s a Mossberg model 42M-B .22 rifle. That would be nice enough, but this one says United States Property in 2 different places. And while that is wonderful, this rifle has one additional feature. It also has British proof marks, because this rifle was loaned to the United Kingdom on the Lend-Lease program! So, this little .22 has a bundle of history attached to it.

This Mossberg rifle was U.S. property and was loaned to the UK during WWII.

I’ll review all of these guns for you in the coming year, so don’t fret — they’re coming. But, now, I’m going to turn over the blog to you. Tell us what you got this year!

The Crosman Mark I and Mark II – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

TheSeptember podcast went live yesterday. If you enjoy hunting, you’ll like this podcast! My voice still sounds a little weak, but I think that I also didn’t set up something properly in Garage Band, which is how I record the podcast. Now, on to today’s blog.

Part 1
Part 2

Today, we’ll look at accuracy. Several years ago, I wrote a feature article for Shotgun News in which I pitted the Mark I and a Smith & Wesson 78G against a modern Crosman 2240. I thought the vintage guns would run away with the contest when it came to accuracy, but the reverse happened. The 2240 beat both other guns for power and accuracy. So, tomorrow I’m starting a special three-part test of the 2240, just to keep the playing field level. Today, it’s the Mark I’s turn in the spotlight.

I go back to school
The first couple groups I shot at 10 meters weren’t good. I wondered what had happened to me, then I remembered that I shoot a lot better without my bifocals on. For some reason, my glasses make it difficult to focus on the front sight.

So, off came the specs and on went the shooting glasses. The groups got smaller, but not as much as I was hoping for. Then I did something I’ve preached against for the past 40 years. I closed my left eye! Suddenly, I could see the front sight and the rear sight clearly, and the groups tightened right up to what they were supposed to be. So, lesson learned for the umpteenth time. Don’t shoot with your regular glasses on and cover up that non-sighting eye. My shooting glasses do all that, I was just too lazy to go find them. Besides, I wanted to see if I could still shoot without that aid.

The trigger-pull is still set rather heavy, breaking at around 5 lbs. on stage two. But, when the gun is rested, as it was for this test, that’s not a hindrance.

RWS Hobbys
Remember, the Crosman Mark I is .22 caliber, not .177. The RWS Hobby is a lightweight wadcutter pellet in both .177 and .22. It seemed to fit the breech of the pistol fairly well, with a little resistance as the bolt pushed it home. They grouped well but had a couple fliers that could have been caused by my sighting experiments. I was shooting 10-shot groups as usual, and that takes a lot longer than the same number of 5-shot groups, so I didn’t run the Hobbys again because other pellets promised more accuracy.

RWS Hobby pellets showed promise with this 10-shot group at 10 meters. Six of the 10 went into a very tight group, and this was during the time when I was experimenting with sighting!

Gamo Hunter
I initially tried Gamo Hunter pellets and got a pretty good group, despite my sighting problems. And, when I went again while doing everything right, the 10-shot group was truly rewarding!

This group of 10 Gamo Hunters was shot after I got the sighting sorted out. The first group showed lots of promise, and this was the payoff. The lower pellet was not called as a flier.

RWS Superdomes
I didn’t wait to hear from disgruntled readers that I’d overlooked the RWS Superdome pellet yet again, so they were included in this test. The first group was shot while I was having sighting problems, and also during a CO2 cartridge changeover, and it still was tight enough to recommend a further look. That further look, shot after the sighting problems had been resolved, proved to be the best of the test! So those who tout RWS Superdomes were right in this case.

And there’s the money shot. Ten RWS Superdomes went into that tiny group at 10 meters. Clearly, the best pellet of those tested.

Crosman Premiers
I did try Crosman Premiers, as well, but they fit the breech very loosely and didn’t have the same grouping potential as the others. Perhaps on another day….

The bottom line
The bottom line for the Crosman Mark I vintage air pistol is that it’s a very worthy handgun. The prices seem to have risen over the past year, but they can still be bought if you’re a careful searcher. The prize seems well worth the effort.

The Crosman Mark I and Mark II – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Crosman’s Mark I Target is a beautiful single-shot air pistol. It resembles the Ruger Mark I.

Well, today I’ll test the velocity of my Crosman Mark I pistol. And you’ll recall that I’d planned to adjust the gun’s power for you as well. Well, I discovered that the pistol was already set as high as the adjustment will go, so that’s where I’ll start this report.

This buggered-up screw sticks out the front of the receiver, just beneath the barrel. Turn it out to slow the pellets and in to speed them up.

The gun has two power levels that are determined during cocking. The first click of the twin cocking knob selects low power and the second click is for high. On low power, the trigger is single-stage, and on high power it’s two-stage. It didn’t have as much creep on low power as I remembered, but there’s definitely a little bit.

On high power, I’ve adjusted the trigger to release at a much heavier weight than I remembered, but I do remember that I had backed it off to release at less than a pound and it had become unsafe. So, I cranked in a bunch of trigger adjustments, and now it breaks at around 5 lbs.

Adjusting the trigger is a matter of turning in or out on the Allen trigger-adjustment screw located in front of the trigger blade. You can make the second stage break very light, but just remember to test it with an unloaded gun, because you don’t want a gun that fires on its own.

The trigger adjustment screw is on all Mark I and II models.

Power adjustment
As it turned out, my pistol was set to the highest power level it could attain, so the first velocity figures are the best it can do. Since it’s a Crosman gun, I reckoned it would be best to test it with Crosman Premier pellets first.

Crosman Premiers
The .22 caliber 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellet averages 431 f.p.s. from my Mark I on high power. The spread went from a low of 428 to a high of 434 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 5.9 foot-pounds at that velocity.

On low power, the same pellet averaged 310 f.p.s. with a spread that was somewhat larger. It went from a low of 305 to a high of 316 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 3.05 foot-pounds.

Then, I adjusted the power as low as it would go. The power-adjusting screw turned counter-clockwise until it seemed to stop, which I guess is a design feature. At that setting on high power, the pistol averaged 325 f.p.s. with a spread from 320 to 331 f.p.s. That’s a muzzle energy of 3.35 foot-pounds.

On low power, the velocity averaged 132 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 127 to a high of 141 f.p.s. The muzzle energy averaged 0.55 foot-pounds.

I don’t know what benefit the power adjuster gives, since high and low power can be selected during cocking. I can understand why Crosman eliminated this feature in the later years of the pistol’s production. Maybe, with a modified gun there’s an advantage, but with a stock pistol I don’t see the need for power adjustment.

Is it repeatable?
Once the low-power adjustment test was finished, I adjusted the screw all the way back to high power and shot it once more through the chronograph. It registered 437 f.p.s., so close enough to where it was before.

Velocity with Hobbys
RWS Hobby pellets weigh 11.9 grains in .22 caliber, so you know they’re going to go faster than Premiers. On high power, they averaged 472 f.p.s.. The spread went from 464 to 479 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 5.89 foot-pounds.

On low power, they averaged 355 f.p.s., with a spread from 352 to 362 f.p.s.. The average muzzle energy was 3.33 foot-pounds. Do you notice how close the power is to the results I got with the Premier pellets?

Velocity with Gamo Hunters
The Gamo Hunter pellet weighs 15.3 grains in .22 caliber. On high power, they averaged 413 f.p.s., with a spread from 408 to 416 f.p.s. That works out to an average muzzle energy of 5.8 foot-pounds, or just a little behind the other two pellets.

On low power, the average velocity was 306 f.p.s. The spread went from 304 to 310 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 3.18 foot-pounds.

So, my Mark I is pretty consistent in the velocity department, as we expect a good CO2 gun to be. All shots were indoors with an average temperature of 70 deg. F.

The hold is near-perfect, improved over the stock Ruger Mark I grip by the super-ergonomic grips Crosman designed. And, the gun seems to get plenty of shots per CO2 cartridge. Let’s see what it can do downrange next!

The Crosman Mark I and Mark II – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman’s Mark I Target is a beautiful single-shot air pistol. It resembles the Ruger Mark I.

Ruger’s Mark I was a pistol worthy to be copied.

I am writing this report at the request of a reader, but also because I feel it’s worth telling the full story. I did a very brief report about it back in 2005, when I hadn’t yet developed my formula for airgun tests. As a result, that report is very thin and leaves a lot out. I also wrote another brief report about the LD modification that Mac 1 does to this platform; but, once again, that wasn’t too detailed.

For those readers who are new and might wonder where they can up look this sort of stuff, I use the excellent Blue Book of Airguns, eighth edition as a guide. If you want to be in the know regarding airguns past and present, you need a reference library, and this excellent resource should be the cornerstone.

The Crosman Mark I and Mark II target pistols began production in 1966. The .22 caliber Mark I stopped production in 1983, and the .177-caliber/BB-caliber Mark II continued until 1986. There were two main variations of both models. The first version featured adjustable power and lasted through 1980, and the second variation continued to the end of production for each model. These guns were produced right at the time America transitioned from .22 to .177 caliber as the principal airgun caliber of interest. The market influence of Air Rifle Headquarters, and especially Beeman Precision Airguns, was what made that change inevitable.

Both pistols are very similar, except for the calibers. The .22 caliber Mark I was made as a single-shot target pistol, but the Mark II was suitable for either lead pellets or steel BBs. It had what I have in the past called a “compromise” barrel, which means the rifling was designed to allow the use of steel BBs without damage. I’ve tested Mark IIs and found them to be surprisingly accurate with lead pellets, though not so with the smaller BBs. The loading bolt on the Mark II has a magnet at the tip to hold the BB in place until the shot is fired, because the bore is too large to restrain it. But lead pellets are sized to fit into the rifling and they’re seated into the breech exactly as the .22 pellets are, which is just past the gas transfer port. But one interesting thing was perhaps learned from the Mark II bolt.

The magnetic tip of the Mark II bolt is thinner than the tip of the Mark I bolt, and that may have given airgunsmiths the idea of reducing bolt thickness at this critical gas-flow point to allow more gas to flow past. It’s right at the transfer port, which is essential to the gun’s performance. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but thinning the bolt tip is now a standard trick in the power modification of the Mark I.

Today, you’ll see many more .22 caliber pistols of this type than were originally made. That’s because many .177 Mark IIs were rebarrelled with premium .22 pellet barrels because of the power potential of the pistol. That’s not to say you can’t get a pistol rebarreled with a premium .177, but .22 caliber is by far the most desirable. You can tell a Mark II by the presence of black plastic grips, while the Mark I has a reddish-brown grip. But grips are easily swapped between the guns, so this is not a positive I.D. You have to read the frame to know for sure how your pistol started life.

This pistol runs on a 12-gram CO2 cartridge that fits neatly into the grip. My stock pistol gives me about 45 powerful shots on one cartridge. You’ll find out how powerful that is in Part 2. My gun was resealed by Rick Willnecker about 10 years ago, and it still holds and shoots well. Of course, there have been numerous modifications to this gun, including the attachment of bulk tanks under the grip that supply gas for hundreds of shots. With longer barrels and certain other mods, the Mark I can be a very powerful air pistol, clear up to 12 foot-pounds.

The gun was patterned after Ruger’s Mark I .22 target pistol. Crosman engineers with whom I’ve spoken tell me they were enamored with the Ruger style, to the extent that Crosman took the grips a full step beyond Ruger and made it extremely ergonomic. With a thumbrest on the left side (sorry, southpaws), it feels extremely comfortable in the hand and the weight seems to disappear. There are aftermarket grips, but I’ve never found a pair I liked better than the factory plastic grips supplied by Crosman.

The operation of loading is separate from that of cocking. The loading bolt simply pushes the pellet into the breech and seals the breech against gas loss. Cocking is accomplished by pulling forward on two round knobs located on either side of the receiver. The first click is low power and the second is high. I seldom use low power because the trigger has some creep on that setting, while on high power the trigger is almost as crisp as glass.

The bolt simply opens the breech for loading.

Once the bolt is closed, the breech is sealed from gas loss.

The cocking knobs are forward of the trigger. Pull forward one or two clicks.

The sights are fully adjustable for windage by the “push me-pull you” method. You loosen a screw on one side, then tighten the other side to push the sight sideways. Remember to move the rear sight in the direction you want the pellet to go. Elevation is more straightforward by a simple screw that elevates the rear notch against it’s own spring leaf.

Windage is via two opposing screws. Elevation is more traditional.

A Patridge with a sharp undercut to eliminate glare. Just like the Ruger.

The front sight is a target Patridge type with a deep undercut to eliminate glare. It is razor-sharp and, together with the rear notch, makes a sight picture you can really work with. I’ve shot two-inch offhand groups at 50 feet with my Crosman Mark I, which is about the same I can do with a Ruger .22 Mark I.

I have the power adjustment screw on my pistol, though I never bother adjusting it. The gun shoots so well that I don’t see the need to screw around — pun intended. However, for this report, I will demonstrate the velocity range the screw gives so you know what can be expected.

The finish is a black gloss paint, though many of these pistols have been refinished by now. And when custom barrels are installed, they’re often blued instead. The pain flakes off easily on some pistols, but there are many people who will refinish your gun if you don’t want to.

The barrel is eight inches long, which comes as a surprise to many shooters. It sits so far back in the action that it appears to be two inches shorter. The rifling is very often extremely good, so a Mark I can be a real shooter without any modifications. Modern high-quality pellets will boost performance to a level the original Crosman “ashcan” pellets were not able to achieve. We’ll see about this in the accuracy test.

A handsome airgun in all respects, the Crosman Mark I is a true classic.

Beeman P3 air pistol – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Test and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1
Part 2

This is the other test result you’ve been waiting for. Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the Beeman P3 single-stroke pistol.

All accuracy testing was done at 10 meters using conventional 10-meter pistol targets. Remember that Mac has a red dot sight on his gun. And the pistol rested on a single leather bag that was pushed up snug with the triggerguard.

Mac gives this tip for those with astigmatism and see the red dot as a sparkle. Turn the lamp intensity as low as you can still see it, and the dot will grow smaller and sharper.

RWS Hobby
The lightweight RWS Hobby pellet turned in the second-best performance, with a 0.24″ spread for five shots. That’s quite extraordinary, in light of what all the other pellets did. Hobbys are quite affordable, so this is a good solution for this pistol. P3 owners — be sure to try them.

Five Hobbys went into this well-centered hole measuring 0.24″ between centers.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
The P3 didn’t do as well with the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet. The pistol pellet is light weight, though, at 7.56 grains but not quite as light as Hobbys.

Five H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets went into this group that measures 0.45″ across the widest two centers.

JSB Exact Match
JSB Exact Match pellets, which are not a match pellet at all but a domed field pellet, performed a little better than the H&N Match Pistol pellets but were not close to the RWS Hobbys. The JSB is a domed pellet weighing 8.4 grains, which is getting heavy for a single-stroke pistol powerplant.

Five JSB Exact domes went into this group measuring 0.39″ across.

Crosman Premier lites
Last but not least were the 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. They turned in the best performance of the test…an amazing group of 5 inside 0.11″ at 10 meters. And, they did it not one time but repeatedly. Mac was highly impressed by the accuracy and repeatability of this pellet.

Five Crosman Premier lite pellets made this phenomenal group that measures 0.11″ across the centers. Mac shot several like this, and it was clearly the best of the test.

The bottom line
With groups like these, I hardly have to justify the Beeman P3 pistol as one of the top guns for a very affordable price. You’re seeing very nearly 10-meter target pistol performance for a fraction of their purchase price.

If you’re interested in shooting targets but don’t want to spend the money for a full-blown target pistol, let the P3 be on your short list of alternatives.

Beeman P3 air pistol – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Test and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1

The Beeman P3 with dot sight is a great-looking air pistol.

Today, we’ll look at the performance of Mac’s personal Beeman P3 pistol. You’ll remember that this is a single-stroke pneumatic pistol with some fine handling features and a great trigger. Two things that many owners have mentioned is that the pistol is difficult to load and that it’s hard to pump (they often say cock). I disagree with the loading statement but agree with the pumping one. While the P3 isn’t as easy to load as a breakbarrel rifle, it’s not that difficult, either. You just have to learn the technique.

As for the pumping, it’s about average for a single-stroke of this power and size. It’s surprising those without previous single-stroke experience. A Gamo Compact target pistol of similar size and power is equally difficult to pump. For the record, Mac agrees that the pistol is difficult to load.

It’s been very hot on the East Coast this summer; and when Mac tested the P3 outdoors, it was 95 deg. F with high humidity. The wind was still on test day.

Crosman Premier lites
The 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite averaged 383 f.p.s. with a total velocity spread from 380 to 387. That’s just seven f.p.s., which is pretty typical of a single-stroke. Their reservoirs hold the same amount of air from shot to shot and they tend to be very consistent. I did not test my Marksman 2004 (which is now the Beeman P17) with Premiers, so no comparison is available. The average energy for this pellet was 2.57 foot pounds.

RWS Hobbys
The RWS Hobby pellet averaged 409 f.p.s. with a 10 foot/second spread from 406 to 416. That’s an average muzzle energy of 2.6 foot-pounds. The Hobby weighs only 7 grains and is made of nearly pure lead, so it should be among the fastest of the lead pellets. Once again, I have no comparison numbers from my Marksman 2004 with Hobbys.

JSB Exact pellets
The next pellet Mac tested was the JSB Exact Match, weighing 8.4 grains. The name Match is misleading because this is a domed pellet, not a wadcutter, but that’s what it says on the tin. They averaged 385 f.p.s. with a max spread of 9 f.p.s., from 379 to 388. The average muzzle energy was 2.77 foot-pounds — the highest of the four pellets tested. By coincidence, I’d also tested the Marksman 2004 with this pellet. In my gun, it averaged 411 f.p.s., so somewhat faster than Mac’s gun. I estimate my pistol has about 400-600 shots on it, while Mac figures his has about 1,000.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
The 7.56-grain H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet averaged 396 f.p.s. with a 6 foot/second spread, from 393 to 399. The average muzzle energy was 2.63 foot-pounds. That was the lowest velocity spread of the four pellets tested.

This o-ring seals the breech when the barrel is closed.

The comparison?
In this report, I did something I almost never do. I compared two airguns against one another. I did it because the Beeman P3 and Beeman P17 are so much alike, yet their prices are so far apart. The differences that I know of boil down to this: the P3 has an ultra-crisp trigger while the P17 trigger has some creep, and the P3 has a reputation for reliability while the P17 has been known to have sealing problems.

In the next report, Mac will show us the accuracy of this pistol. You’ll recall that he’s mounted a red dot sight on his gun, plus he shot it rested, so you can expect the best the gun has to give. We’ll learn what that is in Part 3.

Beeman P3 air pistol – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Test and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Mac tested his own P3 with a ProPoint red dot sight.

I’ve already tested and reported on a gun similar to this one. Back in 2006, I tested the Marksman 2004 — a carbon copy of the Beeman P3. At the time, I said it was a wonderful value in light of the price for a P3.

Well, the Marksman 2004 went away in 2006, and the Beeman P17 took its place. Same gun, different name. Still made in China, as opposed to the P3, which is made in Germany. This report looks at the genuine German-made P3.

The Beeman P3 is a single-stroke pneumatic single-shot pistol that performs like a target pistol. I will explain why I say that as we go through Mac’s test. The gun is made primarily of engineering plastic, which is the same stuff Glock frames are made of, so no wear-out and breakage fears. It’s an overlever design, where a top strap is lifted away from the frame and rotated forward to open the air reservoir and provide access for loading the pellet. When the top strap is returned to its starting position, the air is compressed in the reservoir.

P3 in the open position. (Photo from Pyramyd Air website)

The barrel is housed inside the top strap, so the breech is available for loading when the top strap is forward. Mac and many other owners feel the loading is somewhat clumsy, but I found it easy to adapt to with practice. When the top strap is closed, the air inside the reservoir is compressed. It takes about 20 lbs. of force to close the top strap for firing.

Pellet is placed into the breech when the barrel is exposed like this. Many feel this is clumsy.

How long can you wait before shooting after the gun is charged? Let’s call it five minutes, because the pump head is also the reservoir seal, and it isn’t strong enough to hold the compressed air for a long time. It has to flex to do its job, and that means it has to be made to give a little around the edges. So, five minutes max before you shoot. It’s best not to charge the gun unless you plan on shooting immediately.

The safety is automatic and sets when the pistol is cocked. It’s located on the left side of the frame which makes it impossible to operate with just one hand.

The safety is automatic and must be released before each shot.

The trigger is adjustable through an Allen screw set in the trigger. Mac reports the test pistol trigger breaks with 16 oz. of pressure and no creep or overtravel. That’s a lighter pull than would be legal on a 10-meter target pistol in competition.

The trigger adjusts through the blade via an Allen screw. It’s crisp, light and breaks cleanly.

The plastic sights are very durable with repeatable adjustments. They also have a very sharp post and notch, so sighting is particularly easy. The front sight has a fiberoptic dot that can also be a solid black post with the right lighting. But Mac preferred to use a ProPoint red dot sight instead, and that was mounted on the 11mm dovetail that is on the top strap.

Rear sight is very adjustable.

Mac’s pistol has approximately 1,000 rounds on it. That answers another question about longevity. The Marksman 2004 and P17 have sometimes had sealing issues with their compression reservoirs, but the P3 doesn’t seem to share them.