The Webley Hurricane: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hurricane
Webley Hurricane

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The Great Enabler
  • Before we test
  • The velocity table
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • RWS Hobby pellets
  • What happened?
  • A test
  • Crosman Premier Lights
  • Do you see what is happening?
  • But wait!
  • RWS Hobbys
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • A huge lesson!
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today is one of the best blog articles I have ever written. A series of what what looked like minor failures turned around and became a huge success and a fantastic learning opportunity. Today we test the velocity of the recently lube-tuned Webley Hurricane.

The Great Enabler

Spouses beware! Today I will once more demonstrate how I earned the title of The Great Enabler.

Before we test

I was as much in the dark as the rest of you. I had not chronographed the Hurricane until this morning, and I knew as much as you did about what might happen. I did note that the pistol now cocks smoothly, though I doubt it is much easier than before. Maybe just a little because there is no feel from galling. It also shoots very smoothly, where before it had a slight buzz. read more


Testing the Beeman P1 for accuracy

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Parts 1 & 2
Part 3
Testing the BSF S20 and the Webley Hurricane

Beeman P1
Beeman P1 is a powerful, accurate spring pistol.

This report covers:

• Where does the P1 fit?
• Which is best — Scorpion or P1?
• The accuracy test
• Crosman Premier pellets
• RWS Hobby pellets
• RWS Superdome pellets
• Analysis
• Something to remember
• Blog navigation: One more change…and we want your feedback

Today, I’ll finish the test of spring pistol accuracy at 10 meters. I’m using the same pellets and holds that have been used throughout this test, so it’s apples to apples. This time, I’m testing the Beeman P1. I’d also said I would test the Beeman P17; but since it’s not a spring gun, that’s mixing things up too much.

Where does the P1 fit?
We’ve now looked at the accuracy of 3 powerful vintage spring pistols — the BSA Scorpion, the BSF S20 Target and the Webley Hurricane. Today’s question is how does the P1 compare to these handguns?

First and foremost, the P1 is as powerful or, perhaps, slightly more powerful than the BSA Scorpion that was the clear power champ among the vintage guns. Mine puts out 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellets at an average 508 f.p.s., compared to the Scorpion’s 497 f.p.s. average. So, they’re very close. Hobbys go out of the P1 at an average 553 f.p.s., and from the Scorpion they exit at 545 f.p.s. So, the power of the 2 airguns is pretty much equivalent.

The P1 cocks with less effort than the Scorpion, and no cocking aid is required. Once cocked, the P1 is harder to load, because the space at the breech is tight and also located inside the upper half of the receiver. The P1 trigger has it all over the Scorpion trigger. Not only is it adjustable, it’s as crisp as you could ever want.

The sights on the P1 are finely adjustable, just like the sights on the Scorpion. I would call it a wash between the two guns.

The P1 holds like a 1911 firearm, while the Scorpion has an ergonomic pistol grip that sits below the barrel. When the Scorpion fires, the gun bounces in your hand. When the P1 fires, the sensation is more solid.

Which is best — Scorpion or P1?
It probably sounds like I favor the P1, and that’s true. I like the Scorpion, also, but I favor the P1 over it. That said, the 2 guns are pretty much equivalent in everything but size. The P1 is even smaller than the Webley Hurricane, and the Scorpion is the largest air pistol in this test. So, I can’t pick a winner. In some categories, one gun beats the other, but in other categories the reverse is true.

Accuracy is a big part of why we shoot. The outcome of today’s test will suggest which gun is the winner, or at least which gun seems to dominate the others. At this point, the Scorpion is leading, with the Webley Hurricane running a close second.

The accuracy test
I decided to shoot the P1 under the same conditions as the other 3 pistols. While the 3 pellets used in the previous tests may not be the most accurate in any of the guns, all had to shoot them and should give a general indication of accuracy. All are accurate pellets that I also use in many other tests, so nothing strange is being done.

Crosman Premier pellets
The first pellet I tried was the Crosman Premier lite (7.9-grain) dome. Shooting from a rested 2-hand hold, I put 10 pellets into a 1.454-inch group at 10 meters. That’s not very good! The Scorpion put 10 of the same pellets into a 0.699-inch group. That’s less than half the size!.

Beeman P1 Premier group
Premier lite pellets did not do well in the P1. Ten went into 1.454 inches.

RWS Hobby pellets
Next up were 10 RWS Hobby pellets. They did better, going into a group that measures 0.996 inches between centers. Nine of those pellets went into 0.653 inches. In the Scorpion, Hobbys made a group that measures 1.016 inches.

Beeman P1 Hobby group
RWS Hobbys did much better. Ten went into 0.996 inches, with 9 in 0.653 inches.

RWS Superdome pellets
The final pellet I tested was the RWS Superdome. Ten pellets made a group measuring 1.257 inches, with no clumping of pellets within the group. In sharp contrast, the Scorpion put 10 Superdomes into 0.877 inches, with 9 of them in 0.592 inches.

Beeman P1 Superdome group
Ten RWS Superdomes made this 1.257-inch group. Also not very impressive.

Analysis
From these test results, I have to say the BSA Scorpion was the clear winner among all 4 spring-piston air pistols tested. I also have to say that I was not expecting such a result. As large and powerful as the Scorpion is, I expected it to throw its pellets all over the place, instead of stacking one on top of the other.

But before we condemn the P1, remember, that I’ve tested it before. Look at what it did at the same 10 meters with 5 RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets 3 years ago.

Beeman P1 air pistol RWS R10 pellets target 2

Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets at 10 yards went into 0.375 inches at 10 meters. read more


BSA Scorpion air pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Parts 1 & 2

BSA Scorpion
BSA Scorpion

This report covers:

• Powerful air pistol!
• How the test was conducted
• The trigger
• Crosman Premier lite pellets
• The next big test
• RWS Hobby pellets
• RWS Superdome pellets
• Overall evaluation

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the BSA Scorpion. In a moment, I’ll tell you what this test has inspired me to do. But first, let’s look at the Scorpion’s performance downrange.

Powerful air pistol!
We saw in Parts 1 & 2 that the Scorpion is a very powerful spring-piston air pistol. It pushed pellets out the spout at the same speed as my Beeman P1, which is another powerful spring-piston airgun.

We saw this Scorpion dominate my vintage BSF S20 Target pistol, which is probably in need of some TLC, and it also bested my Webley Hurricane, which was another contemporary during the day. The legend says the first Scorpions shot faster than 600 f.p.s. and exceeded the UK legal power limit for unlicensed air pistols (6 foot-pounds at the time).

How the test was conducted
I shot the Scorpion from a rested two-hand hold at 10 meters. I used the open sights as they were set when I got the gun. I shot at a 10-meter pistol target whose large bullseye gave me a good aim point.

The Scorpion sights are sharp and crisp. All I could ask for is a taller front blade and a wider rear notch; but as you’ll see, I was able to do pretty well.

The trigger
The trigger is single-stage and breaks at 3 lbs., 12 oz. While that sounds heavy, it’s actually not. This trigger is so crisp that the let-off feels like a full pound less than it is.

Crosman Premier lite pellets
The first pellet I shot was the Crosman Premier lite 7.9-grain dome. They fell deep into the breech. But from shot No. 2, I knew they were going to shoot!

I was holding at 6 o’clock on the bull and the pellet was hitting the paper about 2.6 inches high, which is above the top of the bull. Ten Premier lites went into 0.699 inches. For an air pistol this powerful, that’s very good!

BSA Scorpion Crosman premier lite target
Wow! Ten Crosman Premier lites went into this 0.699-inch group at 10 meters.

I was stunned by this first group. I hadn’t expected this big powerful pistol to be so accurate. This is rivaling what a Beeman P1 can do! And it inspired me to want to know more.

The next big test read more


BSA Scorpion air pistol: Parts 1 and 2

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSA Scorpion
BSA Scorpion.

This report covers:

• Brief history of the BSA Scorpion pistol
• Description
• Velocity test
• Trigger
• Sights
• Cocking effort
• Evaluation so far

Brief history of the BSA Scorpion pistol
When I first started reading about airguns in the 1970s, things were similar to today. There were always some models I couldn’t get, or guns that I had missed getting when they were new. I didn’t find out about them soon enough. It created a feeling of inferiority — as if I’d missed the party and could tell it had been a good one by the wreckage that remained.

One of the airguns I missed out on was the BSA Scorpion. BSA has never been represented very well in the U.S. anyway, and the Scorpion pistol was one of those elusive airguns I never seemed to connect with.

One of the stories told about Scorpions was they were actually breakbarrel rifle actions that had been shortened and put into a pistol stock. Like the BSF S20 pistol, you can look at a Scorpion and figure that out for yourself, even if no one told you. And, because they were made from small rifles, the very first Scorpions were supposed to exceed the 6 foot-pound power limit the UK placed on air pistols of that time. They were supposed to shoot faster than 600 f.p.s. in .177 caliber. Supposedly, the UK Home Office (the UK equivalent to the U.S. State Department) requested that BSA lower the output power of the Scorpion because of this.

I can’t tell you if any of this is fact, rumor or urban legend — but it’s true that the Scorpion is a powerful spring-piston air pistol. In its day it was one of the top 3, with the BSF S20 pistol and the Webley Hurricane pistol being the other 2.

BSA Scorpion BSF S20 Webley Hiurricane
The big three air pistols of the 1970s are (top to bottom) BSA Scorpion, BSF S20 Match and Webley Hurricane. The Webley seems dwarfed by the other two, though it’s considered to be a large air pistol in its own right. Isn’t it interesting that all three pistols have a hooded front sight?

The Scorpion is related to the Meteor rifle that we’ve already looked at, though most of the internal parts are not interchangeable. The powerplant is of a similar size. The spring tube is very wide — 1.245 inches outside diameter, compared to 1.024 inches for the BSF.

The Scorpion I’m showing today was found at a gun show about 2 months ago from a dealer who didn’t want it because it’s an airgun. I traded him a firearm he could use. The pistol is like-new in the box and has the original BSA inspection certificate, the cocking aid and the removable front sight hood. It’s the very first version of the Scorpion, as designated by the prefix letters PA in the serial number. That puts its production between 1972 and 1985.

My Scorpion is a .177 caliber, but it was also produced in .22 caliber. The second variation of the gun started in 1985 and ended in 1994, when the gun was terminated. The Mark II versions have scope grooves cut into the spring tube, but my Mark I has then too, as well as a fully adjustable rear sight. I think mine must be a late Mark I that was made as the company transitioned to the Mark II.

Description
The Scorpion is a large air pistol. It measures 15-3/4 inches overall without the cocking aid installed and a whopping 18-1/4 inches when the plastic aid is on the gun. The barrel is 8 inches of that length. The pistol weighs 56 oz., which is right up there with the heavyweights.

BSA Scorpion cocking aid mounted
The plastioc cocking aid slips over the muzzle and around the front sight base.

Where the equally large BSF S20 doesn’t recoil as much as you would expect from its size, and the smaller Webley Hurricane is actually a pussycat, the Scorpion lets you know it has power when the sear releases. It doesn’t jump in recoil like Walther LP 53. It just pulses in your hand strongly enough that you know something has happened. There’s a fair amount of high-speed vibration, but not a lot of spring twang.

The barreled action is entirely blued steel, but the trigger blade is made of the same black plastic as the one-piece stock/grip. The grip favors right-handed shooters, as it has a thumbrest cast into the left side. The angle is very ergonomic, making the pistol point like a Luger.

Trigger
The Scorpion’s single-stage trigger is adjustable via an Allen screw buried deep inside the plastic trigger blade. Access appears to be through a thin slot in the plastic triggerguard, but the slot is too thin for the right wrench, so the action has to come out of the stock — which is not a small operation! The only adjustment is the pull weight and mine is fine, so I’m going to leave it alone.

BSA Scorpion trigger adjustment
The slot in the triggerguard isn’t wide enough for the Allen wrench to pass through. The stock must be removed to adjust the trigger. read more


Why powerful mainsprings don’t always increase velocity

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is the one I mentioned forgetting in last Friday’s blog! Blog reader Errol reminded me about it yesterday.

I hear this so often from airgunners — how they think they’re going to add a more powerful mainspring to their airguns and increase the power. It sounds logical, but it often doesn’t work; and it nearly always doesn’t work as well as you think it should. Today, I want to discuss why that is.

Fact 1
The Weihrauch HW 35 was always considered to be one of the most powerful airguns in its day — which was the 1950s. They delivered over 700 f.p.s. when new in the 1950s; and over time, this rose to 750 f.p.s. Careful tuning could get close to 800 f.p.s. from certain guns. This model is still being made today, but now it sells because it’s so pleasant to shoot and doesn’t produce excessive power. How times change!

The HW 35 was so-named because the length of the piston stroke is 35mm. Piston stroke is the distance the piston travels from being cocked to being at rest at the end of the firing stroke. When Robert Beeman set out to make what eventually became the Beeman R1 rifle, he used the HW 35 as the starting point and increased the piston stroke to 80mm. And that’s where the additional power comes from — the piston stroke length and not the strength of the mainspring. Greater stroke length means greater swept volume, which means more air to compress for the shot. It doesn’t matter all that much how fast the air is compressed, which is the only thing a stronger mainspring does.

Fact 2
Then, there’s the story of the man who wanted to build a supersonic .22 pellet rifle. So he took the Beeman R1 as a starting point and built one that was 125 percent larger. The late Steve Vissage built a Frankenstein rifle that I documented in a report called Steel Dreams. It weighed 11 lbs., took 53 lbs. of force to cock and was larger than the R1 in every way, save one. It developed the same power! Yes, bigger mainspring and wider piston did not increase the power of the gun one iota.

Why is this true?
I know you want an explanation of why a more powerful mainspring doesn’t necessarily increase power. Here it comes:

THE MAINSPRING DOESN’T ACT DIRECTLY ON THE PELLET

The mainspring pushes the piston. The piston compresses air in front of it, and it’s that compressed air that gets behind the pellet and pushes it up to speed. The mainspring never touches the pellet. So, changing the mainspring has no direct effect on the speed of the pellet.

Here’s a good example everyone will understand. We have a house with a hollow-core door as the front door. Forget the fact that it violates all building codes — your cheap Uncle Rufus put it on when the old front door finally broke. This one was dirt cheap, which is why he got it. But your Aunt Thelma is justifiably worried about a break-in; so when Rufus is out of town, Thelma has a locksmith install a super-duper triple deadbolt lock on the door. Is that going to protect her? Of course not. Any burglar can simply break the door apart with one good kick. The lock will still be secure, but there won’t be any door attached to it.

Do any heavy mainsprings ever work?
Am I saying that heavier mainsprings never work? No, I’m not. When I was testing the Beeman R1 for my book, I installed the Mag 80 Laza Kit from Venom in England. Ivan Hancock created a drop-in kit of parts that worked well in the R1/HW 80 and increased the power. The mainspring was a very long stiff spring with thicker wire, and it was coated with a black tarry substance that I named black tar in my newsletter articles. That’s where the term black tar comes from. Black tar is also called velocity tar in some circles.

The R1 went from requiring 36 lbs. of force to cock to 50 lbs. with this kit. But the heavy mainspring was not directly responsible for the power increase. The kit also included a new piston that had 6 synthetic bearings that are now called buttons. These buttons rode against the spring cylinder walls and kept the steel piston from touching the steel spring cylinder.

Here’s the deal. The new piston was harder to slide inside the spring tube because the synthetic bearings pressed tightly against the sides of the spring tube. The powerful mainspring simply brought the piston’s speed back to parity with the factory piston. What increased the power was a combination of a better piston seal and the elimination of all piston vibration when the gun fired. The gain was just a few foot-pounds of energy, but the rifle was now getting everything the R1 design could possibly give.

A parallel in the pneumatic world
Most of you readers are aware that pneumatics work within pressure limits, and over-pressurizing them doesn’t add power — it takes it away. The reasons are different, but the end result is the same as for heavier mainsprings. The design of the gun is being overcome by one thing (the mainspring in a spring gun, or too much reservoir pressure in a pneumatic) and the performance balance is tipped toward the negative.

CAN a heavier mainspring increase the power of a springer?
Yes, it can if you also change the rest of the powerplant along with the mainspring. And no, it won’t if a heavier mainspring is all you add. The secret to more power is to balance all the components so the gun performs at its optimum. With all airguns, there’s a limit to how far you can go. Where that limit is depends on the rest of the design — the parts that are too expensive to change.

You can break your heart trying to buff up a dirt clod to a high shine. Or you can start with a gun that has some potential and make real progress by artfully changing the things that matter. The secret is to know which is which.

One last remark
Pyramyd Air is stocking the most recent issue of Airgun Hobbyist magazine. If you want to try just a single issue to see if a subscription is worthwhile, now’s your chance.


Beeman HW 70A air pistol: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Beeman HW 70A air pistol
Beeman’s HW 70A breakbarrel spring pistol.

Remember that I said I would return and do another accuracy test of the Beeman HW 70A pistol because I didn’t test the best pellet seated? I felt a little guilty about missing that; but after my wife, Edith, got done with me, I felt really guilty. Good job, Edith!

Today is a revisit to see the effects of deep-seating the best pellet, which you may recall was the Beeman H&N Match. The other two pellets I shot last time aren’t in the running, so they don’t get retested.

However, a reader commented that his HW 70A really likes the JSB Exact RS dome, so that one got tested, too.

Several readers described their pistols as very accurate. One person even said his was a tackdriver. That really drives me nuts because of the results I’m getting. And I’m a good pistol shot — plus, I’m shooting the gun rested! I ought to be there with the best of you, but up to this point I’m not.

Beeman H&N Match
This was the best pellet in the first accuracy test, so this is the one I started with. And I started with the deep-seated pellets. I’m using the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater, and the adjustment hasn’t changed since the last time, so everything is equal.

The first group was pretty poor. I thought I’d forgotten how to shoot because it looked nothing like the group of flush-seated pellets from the last time.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol Beeman H&N Match deep-seated
Ten deep-seated Beeman H&N Match pellets made this 1.532-inch group at 10 meters.

That prompted me to try a group of the same pellets seated flush. You will remember in Part 3 that, when these were seated flush, 10 of them made a 1.085-inch group. This time 10 flush pellets went into 1.067 inches. That’s pretty close to the last time, and very persuasive that flush-seating is what this pellet likes!

Beeman HW 70A air pistol Beeman H&N Match flush-seated
Ten flush-seated Beeman H&N Match pellets made this 1.067-inch group at 10 meters. That’s close to what they did the last time.

JSB Exact RS
Next I tried some JSB Exact RS domes — just to see if I could duplicate what a blog reader reported. Lo and behold, I did! As I was shooting, I could see that the group didn’t seems to be growing, and I had a sense that the pistol was drilling the target. As you can see, it was doing exactly that! Ten pellets in 0.761 inches at 10 meters. I wouldn’t call it a tackdriver, but it’s the next best thing.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol Beeman JSB Exact RS flush-seated
Ten flush-seated JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.761-inch group at 10 meters. Pretty good!

Next, I was going to try the same pellet seated deep, but that’s when I saw that the barrel was flopping from side to side at the breech! Oh, no! All that work for nothing!

Fortunately, this pistol has a pivot bolt that can be both tightened and also locked in position with a jam screw. However, I didn’t have time to do that because I was crashing on tests to put in the bank for my trip to see my friend Mac.

When I return from my trip, I’ll tighten the breech and rerun this entire test — plus shoot the RS pellet deep-seated. So, there’s fifth part coming.


Beeman HW 70A air pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Beeman HW 70A air pistol
Beeman’s HW 70A breakbarrel spring pistol.

Today you get a twofer. Or at least it will be more than just one test, as I’m starting to test a second product with today’s accuracy test of the Beeman HW 70A pellet pistol. The other product I’m testing is the EyePal Master Kit for Rifles and Pistols. Because it did play a pivotal part in today’s test, let’s begin with it.

EyePal Master Kit for Rifles and Pistols
The EyePal is a soft patch that’s applied to prescription or safety glasses to provide an aperture for the sighting eye. This concept is close to a century old, and many of the veteran readers will remember the Merit adjustable iris that had a suction cup to attach to glasses. The Merit was adjustable, so the aperture you looked through was controlled by the user. The EyePal is not adjustable. In the Master Kit I’m evaluating, there’s one soft patch for handguns and another for rifles. They have different sized holes, and the handgun patch that I used in today’s test has the slightly larger hole. The lids on the boxes and the patches themselves are color-coded so you know what each one is.

EyePal Master Kit for Rifles and Pistols
The EyePal Master Kit contains an eyepatch for pistols and another for rifles.

EyePal Master Kit for Rifles and Pistols pistol patch
The pistol eyepatch has gold lettering.

EyePal Master Kit for Rifles and Pistols rifle patch
The rifle eyepatch has white lettering, and the hole is slightly smaller than the pistol eyepatch hole.

EyePal Master Kit for Rifles and Pistols pistol patch on safety glasses
The EyePal patch attaches by just laying it on the surface of the glasses (safety or prescription) and rolling it flat.

I won’t report on the EyePal as a separate item because I need to use it more than a few times to get comfortable with how it works. So, very much as I reported on the Winchester Airgun Target Cube over several tests that spanned many months, I will do the same with the EyePal.

I’ve tried the Merit accessory in the past and found it to be quite difficult to position. Also, as it aged, the rubber suction cup that held it to the glasses hardened and became less pliable — to the point that it eventually stopped working.

The EyePal patch, in sharp contrast, attaches easily and can be removed just as easily, though it does have to be pried up at one corner before it comes off. I find that it’s very intuitive to use the first time and that repositioning it is simple and needs no explanation.

Shooting the HW70A
Now, it’s time for the test. I found myself faced with a number of test variables, so I decided to test all of them with the first pellet, and then use the best result from those tests for the other pellets. The first pellet was the RWS Hobby. The test was a rested pistol held in two hand at 10 meters. I used standard 10-meter air pistol targets.

When I say I shot the pistol rested, I mean that both my arms rested on a sandbag. The pistol was held forward of the bag, so it never touched them to set up a variable recoil reaction. I kept both hands in the same place on the pistol for each shot.

The variables
I had to test this pistol under the following circumstances:

* Pellet seated deep and EyePal worn
* Pellet seated flush and EyePal worn
* Pellet seated flush and prescription glasses worn with no EyePal
* Pellet seated flush and no prescription glasses worn with no EyePal

The 4 targets for the first part of the test are shown below. I used RWS Hobby pellets every time for these 4 targets. After you look at the results, I’ll critique them and tell you what I found.

Beeman HW 70A Hobby Target 1
Hobbys were deep-seated and EyePal was worn on prescription glasses. Group measures 1.522 inches between centers.

Beeman HW 70A Hobby Target 2
Hobbys were seated flush and EyePal was worn on prescription glasses. Group measures 1.863 inches between centers. The large central group within this group made me think this was the best group of Hobbys. read more