Are vintage Sheridan pellets better than modern pellets?

by B.B.Pelletier

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

Mathias Moe Varga submitted the above photo of Miles Alexander Varga, who got in some shootin’ with his Crosman XT air rifle.

Today is Friday, and I’ve already written a couple reports this week that belong on a Friday blog, but a question came in from a shooter who will probably never read this report — yet, it was so intriguing that I wanted to answer it for you today.

This shooter owns a vintage Sheridan multi-pump pneumatic, and he’s been perplexed for years because .20-caliber Crosman premier pellets are not carried in stores. He remembers the old cylindrical pellets that used to come in the red and white tins and later in the yellow plastic boxes, but he doesn’t know if any .20-caliber pellets are still being made today.

This is the box that vintage Sheridan cylindrical pellets came in when Sheridan was still in business (before Benjamin bought them…and then Crosman bought Benjamin).

Vintage Sheridan cylindrical pellets. Notice the small driving band at the base, which engages the rifling.

Of course, they’re being made and in greater diversity than ever before. But you don’t typically find .20-caliber pellets at a sporting goods store, and they’re never found at a discount store. The best selection will be found on the internet.

His question made me think of this: Are today’s pellets better or worse than those of long ago? What I thought I would do today is find out which is better — the old pellets or the new.

I have been telling people for years that the .20-caliber Crosman Premier pellets in the cardboard box are noticeably better than the older cylindrical Sheridan pellets, but are they really? The only way to find out is to shoot some and see what happens.

Twenty-caliber pellets
I bought my Sheridan Blue Streak in late 1977, though I have also owned a vintage Silver Steak that was made between 1950 and about 1960. I no longer have that vintage gun, but the ’77 Blue Streak is still here, so that will be the test bed.

I used to buy Sheridan pellets in yellow plastic boxes of 500. They were the only .20-caliber pellets on the market when I bought them, but Dr. Beeman changed that in the 1980s when he began bringing in European spring guns in .20 caliber. Twenty caliber still occupies third place out of the four smallbore airgun calibers (.177, .20, .22 and .25) in terms of popularity, and its position is currently being threatened by a resurgence of interest in .25 caliber. Both .177 and .22 calibers are so far ahead of these other two calibers that there’s really no comparison when it comes to sales and usage.

Beeman’s pitch was that the .20 caliber was a great compromise between .177 and .22, but that pitch never quite caught on. Many shooters felt the truth was just the opposite — that .20 was both more expensive than the .177 and not as effective on game as the .22. You can argue this all day long and never change anyone’s opinion, but the truth is that there just aren’t as many great pellets in .20 caliber as there are in .177 and .22.

However, if there’s even just one good pellet, maybe that’s all we need. And the Crosman Premier pellet may just be the one.

I thought I’d test-fire several groups with my Blue Streak at 25 yards. Because it’s a multi-pump that takes some time for each shot, I’m going to shoot only 5-shot groups, but I’ll shoot several with each pellet. I’ll pump the rifle 6 strokes per shot because I’m shooting at 25 yards. That should give me decent accuracy, though I’m only using the open sights that came on the gun.

As I write this, I’ve not yet fired the rifle, so I have no data to consider. I do think the Crosman Premier will shoot more accurately than the old cylindrical pellet, but we’ll have to test it to see.

Let’s shoot
It’s been about two years since I shot the Blue Streak, so I oiled the pump head with Crosman Pellgunoil before starting. Then, I fired a single shot at the bull 25 yards away. It hit within about one-quarter inch of the aim point, so I finished that group and changed targets for the next.

The first three groups are all Crosman Premiers. I think the groups speak for themselves.

These three groups of Crosman Premiers were easy to put side-by-side because they’re so small. They were shot in order from left to right. The groups measure from left to right — 0.749 inches, 0.911 inches and 1.088 inches between centers.

Next, I tried the vintage Sheridan cylindrical pellet. Once more, I verified that the first shot was close to the aim point, then no more checking.

First group of vintage Sheridan cylindrical pellets looks like I wasn’t trying! It measures 2.63 inches between centers.

The first group of Sheridan pellets looks like I wasn’t trying, but I assure you I was. I really gave each shot everything I had.

This second group of Sheridan pellets was better than the first, but still not good. It measures 1.66 inches between centers.

Group two was better but not really good. I was relieved to discover that the reason was the pellet and not me. However, it gave me an idea. After group three with the vintage pellets, I would shoot a fourth group of Premiers, just to see if I could still shoot. I thought I might be getting tired at this point.

The third group of vintage Sheridan pellets measured 2.133 inches between centers. It was in-between the first group and the second.

The third and final group of vintage Sheridan pellets confirmed that they’re not that accurate. It was in between the first and second group, even though I was doing my best to aim precisely.

Was I tiring out? I had to know, so I shot a fourth group of Crosman Premiers that had established themselves as accurate pellets.

This final group of Crosman Premiers shows that I was still shooting about the same as at the start of the test. It measures 1.106 inches between centers, which fits in with the first three Premier groups.

As long as I was shooting the rifle, perhaps I should shoot a group with one other pellet that’s given good results in the past. The .20-caliber Beeman Kodiak is actually a medium-weight pellet — at just 13.27 grains. I shot only one group, but it seems to confirm that this pellet is in the same class as the Premier for accuracy.

Five Beeman Kodiak pellets made this 1.143-inch group. It’s close in size to the Premier group and should be considered for this airgun.

An interesting pattern
When I took the last target down from the pellet trap, the pattern in the fresh cardboard that backed all targets was quite interesting. Though I made no attempt to mount each of the eight targets in the exact same place, the cardboard tells the whole story about where all the pellets went.

Here’s the history of where each of the 40 shots went. Though no attempt was made to position every target in the same relative position, I find this is an interesting record of all the shooting.

Final thought for the day
This was written and tested on a Thursday — yesterday to everyone who is reading it on the day it is first published. I had been planning on going to the range to shoot some firearms yesterday, but the weather wasn’t cooperating, so I shot at home, instead. I’d planned to shoot my .32 cap-and-ball rifle, and shooting the Sheridan was very similar. You have to take time before each shot to get the gun ready so you’re extra careful to make every shot count. Also, going at this pace calms you and soothes you. I felt wonderful after this shooting session. Contrast that to shooting some uber-magnum springer that cocks like the bow of Hercules! Give me the slow lane every time.

Beeman R7 – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald

The Beeman R7 has always been a handy little rifle. By bobbing off four inches of the barrel, it’s been made even shorter.

Before we begin, here’s another update on the Roanoke Airgun Expo that’s coming up Friday and Saturday, October 22 and 23. Pyramyd Air will probably be coming, with some new guns as well as some stuff from the back rooms. I’ll be returning a couple years of guns I’ve used for testing, so here’s your chance to grab a bargain on a gun you’ve read about.

Their plans are not solidified, yet, but it looks good at this time. If you want them to bring something particular to the show for you, this is fair warning that you should call them.

I’m also planning on bringing a larger number of my personal guns to sell, including some of those Daisy No. 25s I mentioned a few days ago. I’m also bringing my old 10-meter Chameleon target pistol that I no longer need since I bought Mac’s SAM-10. I’m coming to wheel and deal, and I hope to meet a lot of blog readers. I’ll take plenty of pictures for those who cannot attend so you’ll feel like you were there. Now, on to today’s report.

Here we are, looking at the rifle many shooters feel is one of the nicest spring guns ever made: the celebrated Beeman R7. Only today’s R7 is not the rifle Dr. Beeman designed. There have been numerous changes in the appearance of the current model that Mac will highlight for us. The first is that someone made the decision to omit the open sights. I think that was a mistake on a rifle of this power level, but we’ll see what the world thinks.

Next, the barrel was cropped noticeably shorter. It won’t affect velocity or accuracy, of course, but it’ll boost the cocking effort. The aluminum muzzlebrake was added to make up for this. The actual rifled barrel of the new R7 is about four inches shorter than the previous model. Mac says it feels to him like cocking an R9, but when he measured it, the effort required was only 18 lbs. That’s a solid youth rifle number and a force you can tolerate all day long.

Mac has his own R7 made back in the 1990s. I tuned it for him years ago; and from time to time, he’ll make comparisons between it and the new R7. My tune was just to quiet the powerplant, so the factory mainspring was retained.

While the R7 is touted as a youth rifle, the pull is 14.25 inches, making it ideal for full-grown adults. However, with the shorter barrel, the balance has now moved decidedly toward the butt, and the scope that must be mounted on the rifle accentuates the butt heaviness. The aluminum muzzlebrake doesn’t offset the loss of four inches of steel barrel.

The overall length of the new R7 is just 37 inches on the nose, putting it deep into carbine territory. If you look at the new design, it looks very inviting from that standpoint. It’s a faster-handling air rifle, which should thrill those who like carbines.

The fit and finish is high quality, both wood and metal. This is still an heirloom-quality air rifle, made to Weihrauch’s highest standards. However, Mac noted a few differences. The palm swell is gone. That’s a swelling on the right side of the pistol grip that feels better in the hand than a flat pistol grip.

The stock forearm is now checkered, along with the pistol grip. Before, only the pistol grip was checkered. The stock is no longer contoured at the triggerguard. And speaking of that, the trigger and return screw are both plated gold, as Beeman has been doing with several R-series guns in recent years. The Rekord trigger is set to break at 20 oz., which Mac feels is just about ideal.

The old Rekord trigger in a triggerguard that’s sculpted into the stock.

The new Rekord trigger is gold-plated and simply set in the stock without the sculpted look.

The stock comb is not as pronounced as before, and Mac has provided photos of this so we can see the difference. The baseblock is also no longer tapped for open sights. Of course, this makes mounting sights much harder, but it also means you don’t have to buy a separate plate to cover the holes if you use a scope.

The new R7 butt (top) has a longer, lower comb, and the pistol grip is slanted more than the old one.

Mac’s rifle came with a Bushnell Banner 4-12x40AO mounted in rings. Although he noted that the barrel seemed to have a lot of droop, the scope was pretty well sighted in, which surprised him. We’ll hear more about that in the accuracy test to come.

The bottom line thus far is that Mac likes the new R7. He’s presented the most significant changes, and some, like the loss of open sights, he doesn’t like. But most, like the extra checkering and the shorter overall length, he likes just fine.