Crosman Vigilante CO2 Revolver: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Crosman Vigilante.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • RWS Hobby single action
  • Circular clip doesn’t advance all the way
  • Hobby double action
  • Air Arms Falcon domes single action
  • Air Arms Falcon domes double action
  • RWS Superdome single action
  • RWS Superdome double action
  • Shot count
  • Discussion
  • Crosman Black Widow BB
  • Air Venturi Dust Devils
  • H&N Smart Shot
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today we look at the power of the Crosman Vigilante CO2 pellet and BB revolver. I learned a few interesting things about the revolver’s operation during this test. Let’s get started.

RWS Hobby single action

The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. I shot the revolver single action for this string by cocking the hammer for each shot. The first string of 10 averaged 408 f.p.s. but the spread went from a low of 399 to a high of 440 f.p.s. That’s a difference of 41 f.p.s. At the average velocity this 7-grain pellet produces 2.59 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Circular clip doesn’t advance all the way

While shooting the pistol I discovered that the cylinder doesn’t advance all the way to where the pellet lines up with the barrel. The amount is small but there on every shot and it doesn’t matter whether I advance the circular clip with the hammer or by pulling the trigger. This will make a difference when it comes to accuracy and it could affect velocity, too, so I made sure to manually index the clip for every shot. read more

Crosman Vigilante CO2 Revolver: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Crosman Vigilante.

This report covers:

  • Come on, Crosman!
  • The Vigilante
  • Dual ammo
  • Pellets?
  • Breakopen
  • Adjustable sights!
  • Overall impressions
  • Summary

Today we start looking at the Crosman Vigilante CO2 revolver semi-auto. The what???

Come on, Crosman!

Is this a revolver, or a semi-auto? Or, has Crosman resurrected the Webley-Fosbery semiautomatic revolver? A semiautomatic revolver has to somehow advance the cylinder to the next round and also cock the hammer for the next shot without any input from the shooter. The revolver does all the work. The Webley-Fosbery is recoil operated to accomplish these things.

The Webley-Fosbery is one of the very rare semiautomatic revolvers. Prepare to spend five figures for one, if you can find it!

This Crosman revolver is just that — a revolver. In no way is it semiautomatic. Pyramyd Air wisely avoided the Semi Auto portion on the pistol’s title when they put it online. read more

The Cody Thunderbird revolver: The face of innovation

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

• History
• Design
• Innovation
• Sights
• Disassembly
• Safety
• Flaws
• Summary

Thunderbird revolver
The Cody Thunderbird revolver was produced at the end of the 1950s.

Want a look behind the scenes at what it’s like to write a blog? Yesterday, for example, I was about to test the Webley Rebel for accuracy, when everything fell apart. I will explain what happened when I do the report on the Rebel, but suffice to say I wasted 90 minutes fiddling around and getting nowhere.

That’s when I punt. I’d been wanting to cover the Cody Thunderbird revolver for a long time, so here it goes!

The 1950s were a time of great prosperity in the U.S. People were working, businesses were being started; and in the world of firearms, the future seemed bright. A number of companies were making .22 rimfire guns, including the toymaker Wamo and Sheridan, the airgun manufacturer.

In Chicopee, Massachusetts, a firm that was making M1 Garand parts under contract to the defense department was approached by a New York City company and asked to manufacture a 6-shot revolver called the Thunderbird. The new company was called the Cody Manufacturing Corporation, and they used an American Bison as their trademark.

Like many other firearm makers of the time, they would manufacture the new gun as inexpensively as possible so the retail price could be low. The design was new and not a copy of anything then being produced. At its heart, the Thunderbird is a 6-shot revolver that fires both in single-action and double-action modes. Double-action is a problem, however, because of a trigger linkage that wasn’t sorted out in the development stage. The DA pull is 35-40 lbs. and cannot be lightened without modifying the gun. The single-action pull is more on the order of 6-7 lbs., with reasonable crispness.

To cut down on manufacturing costs, steel in the gun appears only where necessary. The barrel is a thin steel tube that’s rifled with a right-hand twist of what I must assume is 1:16″. The barrel’s enclosed in an aluminum housing that was easier and faster to machine plus reduced the weight of the gun. My 4-inch barreled model weighs 19 oz., though the Cody ad says it should weigh 22 oz.

Thunderbird revolver barrel
The actual barrel is a thin steel liner.

The gun came with barrel lengths of 2.5 inches, 4 inches and 6 inches. It came in two finishes, Brylite Black, which is a shiny black that’s on my gun, and polished aluminum Hybrite, which simulates polished chrome. The one-piece grip is made from reddish-brown plastic and features checkered panels with the company bison on both sides.

Thunderbird revolver ad
Ad from September 1957 “Guns” magazine.

The interesting parts of the gun are a front sight that adjusts for elevation and the method of construction that allows disassembly for cleaning the cylinder and barrel in seconds without tools. This is also one of the world’s few revolvers with a safety! Let’s look at the sights first.

The front sight blade is hinged on a pivot so it swings back to present a high blade for close work (gun will point down) and swings forward for distance shooting. But it doesn’t end there. There’s a slotted screw the size of an eyeglass frame screw in front of the front sight that allows fine adjustments up and down when the sight is swung forward.

Thunderbird revolver sight back
Front sight flipped back for close range.

Thunderbird revolver sight forward
Front sight flipped forward for long distance.

Thunderbird revolver sight screw
Turn that screw in to raise the front sight blade when forward.

The rear sight is a fixed notch, but it’s also the latch that locks the revolver closed. To open it for extracting, ejecting and loading, the rear sight is lifted up. Then, the barrel breaks down and causes something called the starwheel to rise and extract the cartridges from their chambers in the cylinder.

Thunderbird revolver broken open
As the gun breaks open, the “starwheel” rises to extract the cartridges.

The gun disassembles for cleaning in seconds without tools. Simply break open the barrel and rotate the cylinder by hand while pulling it up at the same time. When you reach the right point, the cylinder lifts up off its arbor and you have access to it and to the barrel.

Thunderbird revolver cylinder out
It takes a second to remove the cylinder like this for cleaning.

Finally — this revolver has a safety! Safeties are rare on revolvers, and none work like this one. Pushing it up locks the action if the hammer is down. But if the hammer is back, the safety does nothing. So its only function is to prevent the gun from being cocked and fired single-action or the trigger being pulled for double-action when the hammer is down.

Thunderbird revolver gun safety
Take a good look, because outside of a British mystery, you aren’t likely to see a safety on a revolver again! read more

S&W 327 TRR8 BB revolver: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

S&W 327 TRR8 is an exciting new BB revolver.

Today is accuracy day for the 327 TRR8 BB revolver, and there’s an additional surprise in this report. I was glad to get another chance to shoot this interesting BB revolver that feels so good in my hands. It actually has made me curious about the .357 Magnum firearm. Ain’t that always the way?

I inserted a fresh CO2 cartridge for this session, and we know from the velocity test that there are at least 65 good shots from a cartridge. I’m talking about the best part of the power band, where no excuses for accuracy can be made. So, I could conceivably fire 10 cylinders (60 shots) and be safe. As it turned out, I didn’t even need to shoot that many.

Before the cartridge went in for piercing, it got a couple drops of Crosman Pellgunoil on the small, flat end. That ensures some of the oil will be blown through the firing valve, where trace oil will coat every surface, including all seals and valve seats. I want this gun to hold gas forever, and this is cheap insurance!

I used Daisy zinc-plated BBs, which have proven to be the most accurate steel BBs I’ve found. I was recently surprised to learn that Daisy imports these BBs from China in 55-gallon steel drums, but I do know that they then put every BB through a sorting process here in the U.S. before packaging. Whatever they’re doing is working, because these are the most accurate standard steel BBs I’ve seen. Only the Avanti Precision Ground Shot is more accurate — and you’ll probably only see the difference in a precision target gun like the Avanti Champion 499.

I shot the gun at 5 meters, which is the international distance for BB gun competition. I used a rested two-hand hold with my forearms resting on a sandbag. I don’t believe I can hold the gun any better than I held it for this test.

I had said earlier that I thought I’d be using the bright green fiberoptic sight for this test. This revolver has some of the brightest sights I’ve ever seen. But when I lit the target with the 500-watt lamp, I found that I had to use the conventional sight picture of the front post level with the rear notch and lined up at 6 o’clock on the black bull. The bright light on the target made the fiberoptic tubes of the front post and rear notch go black. It was as if this was a conventional set of sights. The sights were crisper than I originally thought when the target was lit this brightly, so everything worked out quite well.

First group
The first group was shot single-action, which proved to be the most accurate way of shooting this revolver, as expected. I was so close to the target that I saw the first shot rip through the black bull. After that, I fell into a rythym and didn’t check the target again. I shot 12-shot groups, since the cylinder holds six loaded cartridges. When all 12 shots were fired, I checked the target through binoculars and couldn’t believe my eyes! It really appeared as if only 6 shots had been fired, because nine BBs all went into a single tiny hole. I doubt very much that I could repeat such a grouop if I tried 100 more times.

The first group was phenomenal! It appears that 9 of the 12 shots went into the tiny group at the lower right, though the hole just above it may have more than one shot. Entire group measures 0.685 inches between centers.

Second group
With the success of the first group under my belt, I thought it prudent to shoot a second group single-action, just in case the first one was a fluke. As it turned out, it was. But I could see this group as it formed, and it looked better than the first one from the firing line. I wasn’t until I examined it in the binoculars that the whole story became obvious.

The larger hole in the center of the bull was visible from the firing line as I shot, but the holes that aren’t in the main group were hidden until I looked through binoculars. This is a more representative 12-shot group and measures 0.858 inches between centers.

I’m satisfied that the 327 TRR8 is an accurate BB gun. I was very relieved that the fiberoptics didn’t have to be used, because look at the precision I got. Combat sights (fiberoptics) aren’t ever going to give you that kind of group.

Next, it was time to try my hand at double-action shooting. This is more difficult, because the longer, heavy trigger-pull causes the gun to move in the hand as the trigger is pulled.

The first 6 shots went so well that I thought I’d be recanting my position on double-action shooting, but the first shot from the second cylinder fired before I was ready and as a result it went wide. It was a called flier that I could see because I was concentrating on the front sight so intently.

The rest of the shots went into a fairly nice group, except that there was one high shot that I cannot account for. But when you’re pulling a double-action trigger and the gun shifts by just a few degrees of angle, it’s enough to throw you off target.

Not bad for a double-action group. Only the shot at the low right, next to the BB was a called flier. Group measures 1.44 inches between centers. read more

S&W 327 TRR8 BB revolver: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

S&W 327 TRR8 is an exciting new BB revolver.

The 327 TRR8 BB revolver is distributed by Umarex, which claims the muzzle velocity is 400 f.p.s. In fact, they print it right on the box!

To appreciate what I’m about to tell you, there are two things you must bear in mind. First, the manufacturer of an airgun has to publish the top velocity that gun could achieve. If they don’t, and if there’s ever a lawsuit, it would be bad if the gun was more powerful than advertised. A plaintiff could argue that they bought the gun, thinking it was capable of shooting at a certain velocity, when in fact it was actually capable of higher velocity. They could then argue that they would never have allowed their children to shoot (they may say “play with”) that gun, if they had known its true power.

This argument sounds bogus to a shooter, who would know that any gun is potentially dangerous, regardless of its velocity, but jury selection teams work hard to keep people with such knowledge off the jury, if they can. And to the uninformed, hearing that the gun is more powerful than advertised somehow makes it more evil, if the facts are presented in the right way.

Second, if a manufacturer advertises a certain gun to have a certain velocity and it clearly does not, they have just scored a black eye in marketing and public relations. They are called liars who just want to skew the facts in favor of their product.

This is the dilemma every manufacturer and distributor faces when they advertise their airguns. So what I am going to tell you today must be considered in this light.

Loading the CO2
I showed you the CO2 compartment in Part 1. The cartridge goes in easily, and the piercing screw is turned until a hiss of gas it heard. I then turn the screw just a little farther to make certain the hole in the cartridge is large enough. The pressure of the gas will prevent you from screwing the piercing screw too far.

I should add that, as always, I put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of the cartridge before installing it. The oil gets blown through the gun’s valve and gets onto all the seals. It’s the best thing you can do for your CO2 gun.

The 327 TRR8 BB revolver has both a single-action and a double-action trigger-pull, and each must be tested for velocity. Sometimes, they’re fairly close, but there have been guns where the way the trigger was pulled made a 100 f.p.s. difference.

I used Daisy zinc-plated BBs for all shooting in this test.

Fresh CO2 cartridge — single-action pull
The first 10 shots on a fresh CO2 cartridge averaged 447 f.p.s., which is well about the advertised velocity. The string ranged from a low of 431 to a high of 462 f.p.s. That’s considerably above the advertised velocity and produces an average of 2.26 foot-pounds.

Then, double-action
Next, I fired 10 shots double-action and got an average 441 f.p.s. The low was 428 and the high was 445 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 2.2 foot-pounds. So, there’s not too much difference between single-action and double-action in this revolver.

The trigger-pull seemed heavier than I remembered from the first report. It averaged 6 lbs., 4 oz. in the single-action mode, which is on the high side. However I must report that the trigger-pull is very crisp. It’s a single-stage trigger in this mode, which means there’s no travel before the trigger stops at the break point.

In the double-action mode, the trigger is easier to pull than on many other revolvers. It breaks at an average 9 lbs., 5 oz. on the test gun. When it’s pulled, there’s a definite stop point where the pull force increases before the release. It feels very much like a Colt double-action trigger from the 1920s rather than a Smith & Wesson trigger — because the Colts always stacked at the end of the pull, while the Smiths did not.

Loading BBs
The 327 TRR8 comes with a speedloader, and Paul Capello showed us in his video of the Dan Wesson BB revolver how to quickly load the BBs. The 6 cartridges are loaded into the speedloader, which is then pressed down onto a layer of BBs held in the lid of a pellet tin. All 6 cartridges will be loaded this way, and it works perfectly every time.

To load the cartridges, lock them in the speedloader, then push them into a single layer of BBs held in a pellet tin lid like this. They load perfectly every time.

Shot count
As powerful as this revolver is, I was concerned about how many shots a single CO2 cartridge would give. And I wanted to stretch the number to as many as I could get, so I paused a minute between shots. Doing it that way, the first 25 shots were all in the 430+ f.p.s.range, regardless of whether they were fired single- or double-action.

After 46 shots had been fired, the velocity remained in the 412-425 f.p.s. range, again with a minute’s pause between shots. After 62 shots, the velocity was definitely falling and ranged from a high of 397 f.p.s. to a low of 286 f.p.s. at shot 85. In other words, there are plenty of shots in this revolver for the average backyard plinker. The high number of shots surprised me a bit, given the high velocities we saw at the beginning, but I did nurse the gas by pausing so long between shots. If you fire faster, and most shooters will, you can expect at least 10 percent fewer shots and all at a lower velocity. You’ll be able to hear when the velocity trails off and can stop shooting before you jam a BB in the barrel.

Observation thus far
So far, the 327 TRR8 seems to be holding up well. It’s powerful, reliable and gets a good number of shots from a cartridge. The trigger seems good, if not very light. The sights are fiberoptic, but have the brightest green tubes I’ve ever seen, so they’ll be used for the accuracy test, which comes next.

S&W 327 TRR8 BB revolver: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

S&W 327 TRR8 is an exciting new BB revolver.

Smith & Wesson’s firearm 327 TRR8 revolver is designed for self defense. The revolver is an 8-shot .357 Magnum revolver that employs a tactical rail, hence the TRR (for tactical rail revolver) designation. I wonder why S&W chose the number 327 for this revolver, because Federal Cartridge Company recently introduced their .327 Magnum cartridge that’s been touted as more effective in the real world than .357 — whatever that means.

The firearm revolver this BB gun copies retails for just a few dollars under $1,300, so you know it has to be a serious handgun! At 40-60 percent more than other models, the 327 must have a lot going for it. Its purpose is to provide a revolver that gives up nothing to the 1911A1, because it holds a similar number of rounds. Remember the comparison is being made with the .45 ACP, not a smaller law enforcement caliber; and .357 Magnum is considered to be equivalent to the big .45 as a man-stopper and superior in other aspects such as penetration. SWAT teams can now choose between a 1911-style semiauto or a revolver.

The firearm frame is made of Scandium, S&W’s lightweight metal that replaces steel. Although its large, it’s lightweight, at 35.3 oz. The BB gun is just a trifle heavier, at 35.9 oz. The firearm comes from the S&W Performance Center and has a custom-tuned trigger, trigger stop and a tuned action. That’s where the extra money goes.

I don’t own a 327 firearm, nor have I ever shot one, so I can’t evaluate the claims that it has the best trigger S&W is currently putting in revolvers or that it handles the recoil of the .357 cartridge more effectively than any other revolver. The closest handgun I have that also handles .357 Magnum recoil is a Desert Eagle pistol, and that comparison would be unfair and unbalanced in every way. This report will have to focus on the BB gun, by itself.

The prototype firearm is a high-capacity revolver, but shockingly the BB gun holds only 6 rounds instead of the 8 promised in the model name. And the size of the BB gun is on the small side. I find the finger grooves are too close for comfort. Instead of an N-frame Smith, this seems like more of a K-frame gun. I find that confusing. Isn’t the whole purpose of the gun to hold 8 shots? But looking at the BB-gun cylinder I can see there isn’t enough metal for any more than 6 rounds, so I must assume that the cylinder on the firearm is larger than the one on the BB gun. But the BB gun is about one full inch longer than the firearm, which I attribute to the angle of the grip that houses the CO2 cartridge.

Six chambers instead of eight come in the BB gun cylinder. Each cartridge holds one BB.

This revolver has a cylinder that swings out to the left side of the gun when the cylinder catch is pressed forward. And when it is pressed back, the safety is engaged. Once out of the frame, the ejection crane does not come all the way back to fully extract the cartridges from their chambers. It isn’t necessary, because the cartridges do not swell during firing the way firearm cases do. So you can simply tip the muzzle up and the cases will drop from the cylinder on their own.

The spring-loaded breech of the barrel is rounded to fit into the front of each chamber, which is the primary way the cylinder locks during firing. There is a locking bolt that engages the rear of the cylinder, as well, but it doesn’t lock very tightly. It is possible to turn the cylinder in either direction with the gun’s hammer down in the fired position.

There are six brass-bodied “cartridges” that hold one BB each, and they are used to load the gun. They are approximately the same size as a .357 Magnum cartridge, so you get the realism of handling ammo when you load the gun.

The gun comes with a speedloader to hold the cartridges and it will be used to rapidly load each cartridge by pressing all six cartridge “mouths” into a flat pellet tin filled with a layer of steel BBs. When the speedloader is inserted into the cylinder, a central release button is automatically depressed, releasing all six cartridges into the cylinder. Gravity will do the rest and the cylinder can be closed. You may need to practice this move several times to develop a feel for it, but once you do, it seems to work fine.

The sights are fiberoptic on the BB gun. While I don’t like fiberoptics in general on any gun, in this case they work because this isn’t a target gun. It is supposed to be a rapid-acquistion handgun, and these sights support that goal perfectly. All three green dots are bright in nearly any light. Your eye will pick them up quickly, and putting them in a row give you the sight picture you want. So, forget groups on paper targets and think of rolling soda cans. That’s what this gun was designed to do.

The fiberoptic dots are bright in almost any light.

Besides the open sights, there’s a Picatinny rail located atop the frame and another under the muzzle. The gun was built for optical sights. I may try that after the conventional accuracy test.

The CO2 fits neatly inside the grip with nothing showing outside. Even the piercing screw is hidden, which is what most buyers say they want.

The synthetic grip rotates open like this to accept the CO2 cartridge.

The gun fires in both the single-action and double-action modes. I’ll describe the trigger-pull in greater detail in Part 2, but for now let me say that, in single-action, it’s relatively crisp; and a single-stage pull in double-action is short and reasonably light.

This revolver is distributed by Umarex. It’s very realistic-looking, even to the matte finish that the firearm has. It will be an interesting gun to test.

Smith & Wesson pellet revolver: Part 3

by B.B.Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

S&W 586 revolver is impressive!

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the S&W 586 pellet revolver. My memory of this revolver dates to several years ago, and I had been shooting five-shot groups for accuracy back then; but for today’s test, I shot 10-shot groups. Given the nine different pellets I tried, and a couple of them twice, I shot well over 100 rounds in this test.

I shot so many shots because I was looking for a good pellet. Most of the pellets were giving group sizes of around two inches, and I knew the gun was capable of better than that. So, I hung in there until I discovered two pellets that did relatively well. All shooting was done at 10 meters with a two-hand rested hold. My ability to hold a handgun with one hand has diminished in the past several years, and I didn’t want that to influence the outcome of this test.

Nine different pellets were tested in the S&W 586. That’s a lot of shooting!

Beeman H&N Match
The first good pellet I tried was the Beeman H&N Match. They did so much better than any other pellet up to that point that they stood out. The first group measured 1.289 inches. That’s pretty good for 10 shots — it might equate to a 5-shot group that measures 0.90 inches between centers.

The first good group of 10 was this one with Beeman H&N match pellets. It measures 1.289-inches across.

After that first good group ,I settled down knowing the gun could shoot. My next group with the same Beeman H&N Match pellet was a little larger, at 1.656 inches.

The second group of Beeman H&N Match pellets was a little larger, at 1.656 inches across.

That’s still okay, but I thought the gun could do even better — so I continued testing different pellets. Only H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets were in the same league as the Beeman H&N Match, but I didn’t bother pursuing them, because I wanted to find a pellet that was even better.

Knowing that target wadcutters were shooting better than domed pellets, I continued to try them. However, the JSB S100s I tried were uncooperative. And Gamo Match pellets were only in the two-inch range.

RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets
Finally, I tried

RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets read more