John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Lil Duke and scope
John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • What happened?
  • I thought I knew better
  • Is it really tight?
  • The scope
  • The test
  • Air Venturi Steel BBs
  • Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • Avanti Match Grade Precision Ground Shot
  • Smart Shot
  • Old Dust Devils
  • Dust Devil Mark 2
  • What have we learned?
  • Summary

I tested the John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope in Part 4, but if you read that report you’ll see that the scope base was a little loose. Today’s report clears that up.

What happened?

Reader Chris USA asked me if I read the instructions that came with the scope base, Of course I read them. The better question to ask was when did I read them? I read them as I was editing my report and wondering why Pyramyd Air would let a scope base this flimsy go out. That was the reason for the Oh, fudge! title at the end.

I thought I knew better

You see, I tested a BB-gun scope base like this back in 2016. You may remember the Brice scope base for the Red Ryder BB gun. That was years before this base hit the market and I thought I knew everything there was to know about BB gun scope bases. read more

Clear talk about optics

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Cheap costs money
  • What to buy
  • Mixing ammo when sighting-in is always bad
  • Spotting scope
  • Back to riflescopes
  • One final thing about riflescopes


Tip 1. Don’t buy the cheapest scope.
Tip 2. Don’t listen to the guys that have their own agendas. They’ll spend your money freely.
Tip 3. While a scope may improve your accuracy, a dot sight generally won’t. It is easier to see, though.
Tip 4. Find the best ammunition and stick with it.
Tip 5. Every telescope has a limit of power beyond which it is no longer clear.
Tip 6. Try before you buy — if possible.
Tip 7. Buy scopes from reputable dealers, only.

My brother-in-law, Bob, is a casual shooter who often comes to me for advice. I like working with him because his needs and questions are basic and they help keep me focused on the beginning shooter. But sometimes my answers miss the mark because I have assumed he knows something that he doesn’t. This recently came up in a lengthy discussion about optics.

Cheap costs money

It began last year with his need for a scope to go on his 1976 Colt AR-15. Bob’s eyes have never been good and now that he is 72 he is feeling the pinch of both poor eyesight and age that causes further degradation. But Bob started out scoping his rifle by making the most fundamental optics mistake that can be made — his first scope was the cheapest one he could find!

His rationale was he didn’t shoot the rifle that much, so he didn’t need an expensive scope. Up to that point, I agreed with him. But he shopped until he had located the absolute cheapest scope he could find that would work on his AR-15. That was a mistake!

He didn’t need me to tell him that, either. He could see how bad his cheap scope was all by himself. He had someone at his gun club zero it for him. As he zeroed the scope this fellow also told Bob it was a piece of junk.

Tip 1. Don’t buy the cheapest scope.

The guy who zeroed the scope then recommended a scope that sells for about $1,200. It was ideal for an AR-15, he said. Somehow Bob knew better, and that’s when he started talking to me. I told him the expensive scope was one that an AR fanatic might use, but his old Colt isn’t accurate enough to warrant such an expense.

Tip 2. Don’t listen to the guys that have their own agendas. They’ll spend your money freely.

While all this was happening, Bob bought a laser boresighter — the kind you insert into the muzzle of the rifle and project a laser dot on the target, thinking it would give him the precision needed to sight-in his rifle. I held my tongue, but I didn’t think it was the answer. He got the laser dot and the crosshairs aligned, but the next time he went to the range, his rifle still was not on the paper.

At this point Bob decided that I was right about his AR. It was not that accurate and a dot sight would work just as well as a scope. So that was the next thing he bought. He brought his rifle up when he visited us this past July 4th. We zeroed his dot sight at my rifle range — and get this. He used the peep sights on the rifle to zero the dot sight! To his surprise, his rifle shot just about as well at 50 yards with peep sights as it did with the dot. I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking that many shooters don’t trust non-optical sights as much as they should.

Tip 3. While a scope may improve your accuracy, a dot sight generally won’t. It is easier to see, though.

Bob also has a Remington 700 in 30-06 that he wanted to scope. The scope that came with that rifle was bad, so he asked me what I thought he should get.

What to buy

I told Bob if he wanted a good quality scope for not a lot of money — and don’t we all want that? — he should buy something made by Leapers. That would be a UTG scope. For the money I think they are the best value on the market. Are they the absolute finest scopes that can be found? No, but at their price I don’t think there is anything that can compare.

I recommended a 4-16 variable which is what he bought and now enjoys very much. More on that in a little bit. But for now let’s get back to the subject of optics and how they work.

Bob tried to zero his 30-06 at his local gun club and had the same problems he had with his AR. He wasn’t able to get bullets on the paper. I talked him though boresighting, which means removing the bolt and centering the bullseye in the bore, then adjusting the scope until the crosshairs are also centered. He did that and got on the paper, but was still unable to get decent groups. It was many more weeks before I discovered the reason why.

Mixing ammo when sighting-in is always bad

I learned over the course of time that he was shooting a mix of military surplus and commercially-loaded ammunition in this rifle — thinking that, even if the bullets didn’t all go to the same place, they surely wouldn’t be more than a couple inches apart at 100 yards. Would they?

You know what I am going to say next, but Bob had to learn it the hard way. Bullets (and pellets) travel to widely different places downrange — even when fired from the same gun! When you are sighting in a rifle it is imperative that all rounds be the same — or as close to the same as it is humanly possible to ensure.

Tip 4. Find the best ammunition and stick with it.

Spotting scope

There’s more to this part of the tale, but now we are going to look at yet another optic that plagued Bob at the range. The public range he shoots at provides spotting scopes as part of the range fee. But they are old, tired, cheap scopes that have suffered years of abuse from thousands of users who didn’t care. In short, they are junk. Bob was having a hard time seeing whether his bullets were hitting the black at 100 yards (they usually weren’t) through these scopes, so he bought a spotting scope. Guess what his number one selection criterion was? That’s right — the price. So he bought a Barska spotting scope. What, Bob — Yugo doesn’t make optics? Barska is not a name that is widely revered in the world of shooting optics, any more than Red Star or some other brands.

But that’s not all. When he called to complain about the poor image quality, I heard the brand name of the spotting scope and told him I thought that was his problem. I was sure it was. Then, a week later, he called to tell me he had dialed the magnification back down from the maximum 60X to 40X, and was now he was able to see the target and bullet holes. Well, shut my mouth!

Here I was berating the brand, when it was operational error all along! My apologies to Barska and to all who own their products.

Folks, if your spotting scope goes up to 60 magnifications, do not turn it there and attempt to use it! Unless the name on the outside of the scope is Swarovski and you paid $3,000 for it, your scope will probably not hold up at the maximum magnification setting. The image will be blurry and out of focus, no matter what you do. There are exceptions to this, but in my experience they are very rare.

I have a Burris spotting scope that retails for just under $200. I gave a lot more than that for it in a trade, though, because it is one of the clearest, sharpest spotting scopes I had ever seen. I’ve looked through other spotting scopes that cost far more than mine that aren’t half as sharp. So I made a trade offer the owner could not refuse and he regrets it to this day. And still, as sharp as my scope is, I only run it at 40 X, because above that power the image starts to blur.

I have a Tasco Custom Shop 8-40X riflescope that cost me over $600 back in the mid-1990s. That’s over $800 today. On a sunny day the highest power I can get from that scope with clarity is about 30X. On 30X I can see .22 caliber bullet holes in black paper at 100 yards. At 40X I have a hard time seeing the bullseye as a single image. That’s what too much magnification does when the optics are not perfect.

Hey, guys — it isn’t just me! There is this telescope in earth orbit (the Hubble) that cost over $2 billion and it was blurry from day one. It cost a king’s ransom to put it right again. Fooling around with telescopes set on their maximum power will break your heart and also your bankroll if you don’t follow my advice.

Tip 5. Every telescope has a limit of power beyond which it is no longer clear. read more

Back to the basics — Scope tips: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Use a bigger target
  • Don’t look through the sight when adjusting it!
  • Don’t go too far!
  • Don’t adjust on the basis of a single shot
  • Don’t change the reticle!
  • What have you learned?
  • Big bore match at the 2015 Texas airgun show
  • Coming tomorrow: Log-in to make a blog comment
  • read more

    Back to the basics — Scope tips: Part 3

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    Part 1
    Part 2

    This report covers:

    • Droop — or downward slant
    • My point is…
    • I must care about this
    • Scope placement

    This series examines the task of mounting a scope on an air rifle and sighting it in. Part 2 addressed mounting a scope, but it didn’t cover all of the problem areas, so today I’ll continue the discussion.

    Droop — or downward slant

    I will say that 80 percent of all the firearms and airguns I have examined have some degree of downward slant of their bores in relation to the line of sight of a scope that’s mounted on them. And I will go on to say that half of those are so serious as to cause problems. The airgun term for this is droop. The firearm world has no term for it and is generally ignorant of the problem. The single firearm that doesn’t seem to have this problem to the extent mentioned here is the AR platform. Perhaps the designers recognized the problem and solved it through engineering. I don’t know, but ARs seem to be relatively droop-free.

    I used to think droop was an airgun problem; and like most airgunners, I thought it mostly affected breakbarrels. It’s easy to think that way. But all powerplants, including those with fixed barrels, will droop. And most of them do. The barrel isn’t actually drooping like a limp noodle — it’s simply pointed down and away from the scope’s line of sight.

    About a year ago, while helping another shooter at my rifle range resolve a scope problem with his Remington 700 rifle, I realized firearms were also infected with droop. This guy had his vertical elevation cranked up as far as it would go, and he was still shooting low. Obviously, the fix was to shim the scope on top of the rear ring saddle and under the rear of the scope. That makes the scope slant down. We did and it worked, but not completely. We got him up to the point of aim at 100 yards with 2 shims made from soda can aluminum pieces, but his scope was still cranked up too high.

    The real solution was to swap the rings front and rear. And if this had been an airgun, we could have done that. But his rings only fit the rifle one way, so that fix wasn’t possible. What he had to do was install a universal scope base (actually 2 small bases) onto which a Weaver scope ring would clamp.

    After this encounter, I started paying attention to firearms with scope issues and my eyes were opened! Barrel droop is a universal problem!

    Do you remember the Schuetzen rifle I mention acquiring a few weeks ago? I had it out to the range and had to dial the scope’s external adjustments as high as they would go to hit the target 10 inches below the point of aim at 50 yards. The bases on my rifles were the wrong ones, and one of them had to be exchanged to give the scope the correct downward slant. The scope is also way off to the right, so a lot of adjustment has to be dialed-in to get the group centered. In this case, whoever mounted the scope on this rifle was not a careful worker. The holes have to be redrilled for the correct bases and to align the scope properly left and right.

    My point is…

    When you mount a scope, believe that you’re mounting it on a drooper. That’s what I do when I mount scopes, and I’m seldom disappointed. This tip, alone, is worth the entire price of today’s report!

    Here’s why my tip almost always works. If the gun is, indeed, a drooper, you solve the problem during the mounting process. No need to take the scope off and start over. If the gun isn’t a drooper, you just gained a lot of additional useful elevation adjustment. The bottom portion of the elevation adjustment range (i.e., adjusting the reticle down below the midpoint) does not put the scope in peril like the top portion (adjusting up above the midpoint) does. You can always adjust down, but going up is where the problems lie.

    There are a couple rare instances where my tip won’t work. One is when the gun slants up instead of down. The other is when the gun is such a severe drooper that extreme measures have to be taken. You’ll encounter these situations with only a small fraction of the guns that are scoped. And both can be fixed the same way — if you have the courage.

    I wrote a blog about Bending airgun barrels that addresses what must be done to correct a severe drooping or upward-slanting barrel. This will also work when a barrel points to the right or left, though I believe the scope mount should be fully explored before you try bending a barrel this way.

    I must care about this

    I have spent a long time today discussing one point of scope mounting, so I must think it’s important. You would do well to consider what I’ve said.

    Scope placement

    The next thing I’ll address is where the scope is positioned on the rifle. It has to be close enough to your eye so the full image can be seen when the rifle’s mounted on your shoulder in the usual fashion. Some scopes, like compacts and Bug Busters, are so short they can only be mounted close enough to the eye on a few air rifles. On most rifles, the scope stop location forces you to mount the compact scope too far forward, and the image is reduced to less than optimum.

    The height of the eyepiece is another consideration. Some airguns, such as the TX200 Mark III, have ultra-high cheekpieces for high-mounted scopes. All the AirForce precharged sporting rifles use high-mounted scopes.

    Other guns, like the Hatsan BT65 QE I’m now testing, have adjustable cheekpieces. This makes the rifle adapt to the high scope mount it needs to clear the magazine.

    Hatsan BT65 QE
    The Hatsan BT65 QE (seen here at the SHOT Show) has an adjustable cheekpiece to raise the eye to the necessary high scope.

    Too many shooters obsess over mounting a scope as low as possible. A low-mounted scope on the right rifle is very convenient; but on the wrong gun, it is a disaster! And a large percentage of rifles are not suited to low scopes.

    There’s no accuracy advantage to mounting a scope low. Shooters will tell you that the lower the scope is mounted, the less trajectory you have to deal with — and that can be demonstrated in software ballistic programs; but if you know your rifle, it makes no difference downrange. The only advantage I see to mounting a scope low is the lessening of cant as an aiming problem.

    That’s my discussion for today.

    Aeon 8-32X50 AO scope with trajectory reticle: Part 1

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    BSA Supersport SE: Part 4

    This report covers:

    • Is compact good?
    • The trajectory reticle
    • Thin reticle
    • Buy this trajectory reticle for targets, only
    • And the scope?
    • Brightness
    • Image area
    • Reaction to recoil
    • Do scopes need to be broken in?
    • Evaluation so far

    Today I start looking at the Aeon 8-32X50 AO scope with trajectory reticle. We actually began our look in the final section of the BSA Supersport SE review, which is why there’s a link to Part 4 of that review at the top of this page.

    For starters, I said this is the shortest 8-32x scope I’ve ever seen. I showed you a picture of the scope mounted on the BSA rifle, but the only comments that picture got were about the Diana Bullseye ZR recoil-reducing scope mount. Apparently not many of you own an 8-32X scope; and so when you see one that’s several inches shorter, it doesn’t make much of an impression. So, the first thing I’ll do today is show you the Aeon scope next to a UTG 8-32X (no longer made), so you can appreciate what I’m saying. The Aeon is 13.75 inches long, compared to 17.52 inches for the UTG.

    Aeron8-32X50 with Centerpoint 8-32X50
    The Aeon scope is on top. The UTG 8-32X50 is below. The UTG represents the size of most 8-32X scopes. Now you see what I mean when I say this Aeon scope is compact for its power.

    Is compact good?

    The Aeon scope is small, but is it also a good, clear scope? It costs a little less than an equivalent UTG, but the prices are fairly close. People shouldn’t buy it just because it’s short, regardless of the other features. I used this with the BSA Supersport SE I tested yesterday, and I learned a lot from that first experience.

    The trajectory reticle

    I asked for the trajectory reticle because I wanted to see what airgun applications it had. The point of a trajectory reticle is that the intersections of the crosshairs allow the shooter multiple aim points for different engagement ranges.

    Trajectory reticles seem like a wonderful idea until you acknowledge that none of them — and I mean absolutely none — not even the ones in $5,000 sniper scopes that are made for specific 5.56 sniper ammunition — work right out of the box. All of them require the shooter to create a logbook of data on how that specific reticle performs on their specific rifle using one specific round of ammunition. Snipers and varmint hunters understand this. The general public does not. They believe that the crosshairs on the scope’s reticle somehow magically are all in the right places for the ammo they’ll be shooting — once the scope is sighted-in.

    This is not a condemnation of the trajectory reticle! It’s just an advisory that the reticle is only the starting point. More work has to be done before you can begin to use all the features of this intricate reticle.

    Aeon 8-32X50 reticle
    This is the trajectory reticle. It’s very busy! The lines are super thin for precision aiming.

    Thin reticle

    I’m testing the scope with the trajectory reticle, so that’s all I can report on. The reticle lines are very thin, which I like in a scope that’s meant for shooting paper targets and small varmints at long ranges on sunny days. When the reticle lines are thin, I can see them sharp enough at 100 yards to gain an extra quarter-inch of aiming precision — or at least that’s what I believe.

    When I shoot groups off a bench, I typically shoot at a hollow box target at 100 yards and 200 yards. A thin reticle line allows me to bisect that square very precisely. The closer I can get the intersection of the crosshairs to the same place on the target for every shot, the more consistent my aim. When the goal is to make the smallest groups possible, every advantage must be taken.

    Aeon 8-32X50 hollow box target
    My targets for shooting my AR-15 at 100 and 200 yards are hollow boxes like this. A thin reticle gives a lot of precision on this target.

    BUT — and this is an important but — for almost all other shooting situations, a very thin reticle line is more difficult to see than one that’s bolder, and is, therefore, less precise than it could be. I think I encountered that yesterday in the SE test because I lost the reticle several times. I didn’t shoot until I could see it clearly against the bull; but with the concentration required for the optimum artillery hold, this was one additional frustration I didn’t need.

    Buy this trajectory reticle for targets, only

    My point is that the trajectory reticle is great for targets. When you have the time to pick out the thin reticle lines against the target, this reticle gives you all the precision you want. For general applications, this is not the reticle I would choose.

    And the scope?

    That’s enough about the reticle. What about the rest of the scope? Is this a scope to buy? Well, I want to test it more under different circumstances, but I’ll tell you what I see so far.

    First, I mentioned that the point of impact seemed to shift when I changed the power from 8X to 14X. But, was that shift real or just imagined? I don’t think it was real, because look at how open that group was, and the very next group with the same pellet was tight. I think that big 2-center group was caused by the nut behind the trigger.

    BSA Supersport SE targets

    The target on the left shows 2 points of impact that might have been caused when the scope’s power was changed. I believe they’re due to the shooter, not the scope. That’s because the group on the right was shot with the same pellet and looks much tighter. read more

    Back to the basics — Scope tips: Part 2

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    Part 1

    This report covers:

    • What we’re doing
    • Many things going on
    • First things when mounting scopes
    • Clean the gun and mount
    • The mount
    • Installing the mount
    • Install the scope
    • Install top caps and screws
    • Align the vertical reticle
    • Time to tighten the caps

    What we’re doing
    Today, I’m going to mount a scope for you and show some of my mounting techniques. These have been available for 10 years in the Pyramyd Air articles pages as a 3-part series — Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

    Many things going on
    I’ll also add some things to this report. For starters, I’m making this a multiple blog by also reporting on the new Diana Bullseye ZR recoil reducing scope mount. And, I’m installing this mount on the BSA Supersport SE that I promised would have a Part 4. Another benefit! Finally, I selected the Aeon 8-32X50 AO scope with trajectory reticle for the rifle. The special trajectory reticle can be useful when shooting rifles at different distances. Aeon also has the same scope equipped with other reticles.

    The Diana Bullseye mount is also sloped for some barrel droop compensation. Because of that, it ‘s important to orient the arrow on the mount toward the muzzle.

    In today’s report, the focus will be on how to mount a scope. I’ll point out some features of the other products, but each will get its own special attention in other reports. This will just be your introduction to most of them.

    First things when mounting scopes
    I’ll assume you’ve read Part 1 of this report, and I don’t have to recap those subjects. The first thing you need to do is clean both the scope base on the gun and the bottom of the scope mount. Let me show you why.

    BSA SE dovetails
    Horrible, isn’t it? This is what happens to dovetails when they sit around for a couple days! I used a camera flash to highlight the dirt. Use a powerful flashlight and magnifier to see it stand out like this.

    Clean the gun and mount
    Use a cotton swab and alcohol to clean each dovetail (there’s one on the opposite side), and also clean out the vertical scope-stop pinhole. After that, use a toothbrush, or better yet, a makeup brush (finer bristles to get into smaller places) to brush out the remaining dirt.

    BSA SE dovetails clean
    Yes, it’s clean. Unless you have access to a clean room, this is about as good as it gets. The alcohol got rid of the oils that hold the dirt. and the fine brush swept them away. read more

    Back to the basics — Scope tips: Part 1

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    This report covers:

  • Reason for this report
  • What I won’t do!
  • Things to consider when mounting a scope
    • Consider the scope mounts.
    • Consider the type of scope
    • Consider the gun and where the scope has to fit
    • Pay attention to how much elevation your new scope needs
    • read more