Crosman 38T Target revolver: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

38T
Crosman 38T.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Lotsa pellets
  • Jim outshot BB
  • Getting tired
  • The next day
  • What the heck?
  • BillJ — this is for you
  • Summary

Well, I’m hot into it now, and as long as that’s the case I decided to do the accuracy test on the .177-caliber Crosman 38 T Target revolver. Reader Jim M. was down for a visit and to help me pack up all the guns and stuff I’m returning to Pyramyd Air, so when we finished I thought I would let him get in on the test, too.

The test

We both shot from a rested position at 10 meters. The revolver was rested directly on a sandbag and we used a two-hand hold. We shot with a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye and we shot 6-shot groups, since that’s how many pellets the revolver holds.

Jim and I both shot on the first day. But I also shot again alone on day two.

I backed the bullseyes on the second day of the test with white duct tape to help the pellet holes show more sharply.

Lotsa pellets

I had no idea of which pellet or pellets this air pistol might like, so we went through a lot of them! Actually, Jim and I shot a great many targets until we both seemed to tire — or at least I did. After all, we had been working for several hours packing boxes and accessories and checking them off a spreadsheet.

38T pellets
We shot many pellets on the first day and I added a few more on day 2.

38T targets
And we shot more than a few groups.

Jim outshot BB

At first Jim was not familiar with the heavy trigger pull, which on this 38T is 4 lbs. 14 oz. But he adapted quickly and soon proved to be the better shot. Of the four different pellets we tried this day, H&N Finale Match High Speed proved the most accurate. I put 6 into 1.401-inches at 10 meters and then Jim trounced me with 6 in 0.831-inches at the same 10 meters.

38T BB target
I put six H&N Finale Match High Speed pellets into 1.401-inches at 10 meters.

38T Jim target
And then Jim put 6 into 0.831-inches to skunk me!

Getting tired

We shot so many groups that I had to change the CO2 cartridge. Jim and I had worked a lot before that and I was pooped, so we called it a day after shooting 8 groups. But I was not satisfied that we had tested the pistol thoroughly. So I left the indoor range set up, vowing to resume shooting the next morning when I was rested.

The next day

The next morning I picked up where I left off. The CO2 was still good, as I had replaced it just before shooting the final group on the previous afternoon. I started with three different pellets — The Crosman Premier Light, the Premier Heavy and the RWS R10 Match Heavy pellet. All three gave me open groups that measured over 1.5 inches between centers.

At that point I figured I could either wear myself out again trying different pellets or I could return to the one pellet that both Jim and I shot the best the day before — the now-obsolete H&N Finale Match High Speed. It’s lighter than the current Finale Match Light, but that would be the place to begin to look for something equivalent.

On day one I put 6 of them into 1.401-inches, center-to-center. This day I put another 6 into 0.981-inches and almost in the same place on the target. I had adjusted the rear sight to the right at the end of the day before and hadn’t touched it since.

38T Finale day 2
On day two I was fresher and better able to concentrate. These six Finale Match High Speed pellets went into a group measuring 0.981-inches between centers.

What the heck?

As I was ending the test I decided to try just one last pellet — the RWS Superdome. Lo and behold, six of them went into 0.97-inches at 10 meters. And not only that but without adjusting the rear sight they went to the center of the bull. When I use the right pellets this 38T can shoot!

38T Superdome day 2
This group of 6 RWS Superdomes is my best group of the test. It measures 0.97-inches between centers.

At this point I was inspired to shoot a second group of Superdomes, to prove that the first group wasn’t a fluke. Then common sense prevailed and I said, “Naaaah! Why tempt fate?” I’ll just pretend that I can pick this revolver up anytime and shoot another group just like this one.

BillJ — this is for you

Reader BillJ commented that Crosman ashcan pellets were the best in his 38T “back in the day.” Here is what he said.

This column made me recall when I had a 38T (in .22, mid 70’s). I suppose that I should have never sold it. But I broke the rear sight (plastic), couldn’t glue it or replace it so I sold to a guy that I worked with that said he’d take it, as is.

As I recall, it was fun to shoot and ‘reasonably’ accurate (tin can wise), before the rear sight went away.

The pellets that I used to shoot were the Crosman ‘ash cans’ and also AmPell pellets.

I found these ‘on the back shelf’ (see picture) and weighed a few. The weights (in grains) were:
16.2
14.3
16.0
14.8
16.0
16.0
14.8
16.0
16.2
15.8
I can only guess that quality control was somewhat short of what it is now.

“I have kinda poked around the internet, and haven’t seen any new ashcan style for sale (but I wasn’t looking too hard).

When I said that those were found ‘on the back shelf’, they really were. I bought these for use with the 38T that I had in 1977, so they are over 40 years old! (The price tag on the side says $1.50.)


Even if they were available, I don’t know that I would get any new ones unless the QC was way, way better.”


Bill

Well, I have a supply of .177 ashcans, so we are up for one more test. Next time I will test with vintage Crosman ashcans, RWS Superdomes and RWS Superpoints in this 38T. I just wanna know, and a bet a lot of you do, too.

Summary

Though it may be 40+ years old, this one hangs in there with the best of the modern air pistols. I’m looking forward to the next test.


The AV-46M Single Stroke Pneumatic Match Air Pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

AV 46-M
The AV-46M target air pistol is a reincarnation of the IZH 46M for the American market.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sights
  • Sight-in
  • Shot a lot!
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • New method of resting the pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Training pellets
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • Vogel
  • The trigger
  • Other pellets
  • Summary

It’s accuracy day for the Air Venturi 46M single stroke pneumatic target pistol. A day I think that will be the first of several.

The test

I shot off a rest from 10 meters. I started with the gun rested directly on the bag and held with two hands, but during the test I discovered a better way to hold the pistol. I will describe it when we get to it.

I shot 5-shot groups so I could test more pellets. That turned out to be a good idea with all the shooting I did.

Sights

I said in Part 2 that I would be changing the sights for this test, but when the pistol was extended far from my eyes the sights it came with are sized correctly. I will say, though, that the screws that hold the rear sight blade to the unit are left-hand threads — just like those on the IZH-46M.

Sight-in

The pistol was shooting high and to the right when I started. I adjusted the rear sight as far to the left as it would go, but the pellets still hit the bull too far to the right. However, these pistols have a number of secondary adjustments, so I stopped to examine the pistol.

It appeared that the front sight might have been installed one or two degrees to the left of center. I say it appeared that way, because it was not obvious. There is a single slotted screw under the front sight. Loosen it and rotate the sight unit in the desired direction. I rotated the sight ever-so-slightly to the right (front sight moves in the reverse of how you want the pellet to move) and tightened the screw. I could not detect the difference in angle visually, but the problem was solved.

46M front sight
Loosen that screw under the front sight assembly to move the sight blade.

As I shot the pellets today I didn’t worry about centering them on the bull. That will come later, when an accurate pellet has been selected.

Shot a lot!

I shot many more groups than I’m going to show you here. Some had called pulls that I will explain as we go, and others were just not the right pellets for this pistol. It took me the entire test to discover that this pistol probably wants to shoot a 4.49 mm or a 4.50 mm wadcutter. I’m not certain of that, but the results seem to indicate it. That’s more of a note to me than to you, but owners will want to pay attention.

As a result of shooting so much today (60-70 shots) I got tired. Toward the end of the test when I discovered the best hold, I was no longer shooting at my best.

RWS R10 Match Pistol

The first group I will show is one I shot with RWS R10 Match Pistol wadcutters. Five pellets landed in 0.605-inches at 10 meters with 4 of them in 0.326-inches. That turns out to be a theme in today’s test — three or 4 pellets in a nice tight group with one or two that went wide.

46M R10 group
Five RWS R10 Pistol pellets went into 0.605-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.326-inches.

Air Arms Falcons

The only domed pellet I tried today was the Air Arms Falcon. The AV-46M put five of them in 0.455-inches at 10 meters.

46M Falcon group
Five Air Arms Falcon pellets went into 0.455-inches at 10 meters. The group looks smaller than it is because it was shot with domed pellets.

New method of resting the pistol

At this time in the test I tried a new method of resting the pistol. I had been holding it with two hands as it rested on the sandbag, but now I stretched out my shooting hand and just used that with the pistol still resting on the bag. That put the sights farther from my eyes which gave a sharper sight picture. The pistol was dead steady on the bag. I used this hold for the remainder of the test.

Qiang Yuan Training pellets

Sometimes this Qiang Yuan Training pellet does very well and this is one such time. I shot five into 0.679-inches, but the lone pellet on the left was a called pull. Now let me explain what I mean by that. When the trigger is as nice as the one on this pistol, you aren’t going to pull it by mistake. The “pull” in this case was that the gun fired when I could see slightly more light on the right side of the front post than on the left side. I didn’t want to fire at that moment, but the trigger was ready to go. That happens during matches all the time and the trick is to prevent it from happening to the best of your ability.

The other 4 pellets landed in a group that measures 0.285-inches between centers. This is a pellet to watch!

46M Chinese training group
Five Qiang Yuan Training pellets went into 0.679-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.285-inches.

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

Next to be tried were RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets. Once again four landed in a tight group and a fifth hit outside — this time lower. Four are in 0.381-inches and five are in 0.647-inches. This was not a called pull.

46M Meisterkugeln Rifle group
Five RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets went into 0.679-inches at 10 meters, with four in 0.381-inches

Vogel

The last pellet I will show you is the Vogel target pellet with a 4.50 mm head. Five went into 0.65-inches, which isn’t that great compared to the other pellets — but three of the pellets are in 0.20-inches. That’s trime territory! I tested this pellet twice and got the same three-shot group inside of 5 shots. That told me that this is a pellet to consider and also that I was tiring out.

46M Vogel group
Five Vogel target pellets went into 0.65-inches at 10 meters with 3 in 0.20-inches.

The trigger

The trigger on an airgun is revealed during accuracy testing, and the one on the pistol I’m testing is gorgeous! There is no creep in stage two — something every IZH-46 I’ve ever shot cannot say. It also adjusts easily and stays where it is put. This is a trigger to admire.

Other pellets

Other pellets I tested but have not shown in this report are JSB Match S100 with 4.52 mm heads, H&N Finale Match Heavy with 4.50 mm heads and H&N Match Green with 4.50 mm heads. Their groups were just too large to consider.

Summary

I’m not done testing this pistol. I shot it so much today that I got tired and didn’t give the pistol a good chance to shine, once I figured out how best to hold it.


About as new as you can get

by Tom Gaylord

Writing as B.B. Pelletier

S&W 79G Boxed
45Bravo stumbled into this treasure! A like-new S&W 79G in the box with everything — and more!

Merry Christmas everyone!

History of airguns

Today’s report is another guest blog from reader Ian McKee who writes as 45 Bravo. Today he shows us his latest acquisition — which is a real find!.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at [email protected]

Over to you, Ian.

About as new as you can get

Ian McKee 
Writing as 45 Bravo

This report covers:

  • The right place and time
  • Limit yourself
  • Exposure drives prices up
  • A good one?
  • Back story
  • A tidbit for everyone
  • The air pistol
  • The S&W CO2 cartridges
  • The S&W pellets
  • A question

The right place and time

The deals are out there, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. This time I lucked out and stumbled onto a gem!

I have said before I have a standing notification on Gunbroker for any new listing that include 78g, and 79g, and anything with Daisy 780, 790 and 41 in the listing, along with Crosman MK1 or MKII listings. I am always looking for one of these, to pick it up at a good price and reseal it. Then to get it back in circulation. 

Limit yourself

I limit myself at about a $125 bid price for one that needs resealing, so I can buy parts, and reseal the gun, and still resell it at a reasonable price. That gives someone else a chance to get addicted to these vintage airguns.  

Exposure drives prices up

As you readers know, I have written a lot about this type of air pistol already. This series has apparently sparked a renewed interest in the guns, and inadvertently, has driven up the asking price of the Smith & Wesson air pistols at online auctions, but you also see fewer and fewer that need resealing offered for sale. 

I frequent the online airgun classifieds also, but some sites are a haven for scammers, so you have to be careful. 

A good one?

I saw a listing on one of the sites for a Smith & Wesson 79G in the box with the box of CO2 cartridges.  Asking $110 shipped. The photos were a little fuzzy, but it still looked good. 

SW 790 boxed stuff
This one came with all the paper and things not normally found.

The seller listed a phone number, so I called him and we talked awhile. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t think he was a scammer, so while we were on the phone, I sent him the money. 

Back story

The back story was he had bought this pistol at an estate sale years ago, for his collection, but had never tried to shoot it.  Now, years later, he wanted to pass it on to someone who would use it and enjoy it.

I am now the proud owner of a like new 79G. I did not own one of my own, so I have been using a Phase 2, Daisy 790 that I had resealed and after finding out how well it shot, I upgraded it to an adjustable trigger from a 78G someone was parting out on ebay a few years ago.

This pistol is serial number 104159, so it is later production, late enough to have the German Freimark, denoting a power level of less than 7.5 joules, and the darker grips, and no trigger adjustment. Come to think of it, I have never seen a 79G with an adjustable trigger.

SW 790 serial freimark
Here you see the serial number and Freimark.

A tidbit for everyone

From what I understand, unlike the UK, that has a hard 6 foot-pound (8.1 joules) limit on their pistols, the Germans have a tolerance built into their system, it has to average less than 7.5 joules, and no single shot over 8.5 joules. [Ed: Now I’m learning things I never knew! If that is true it is a surprisingly enlightened law!]

This pistol came with all of the factory paperwork, and 5 unused CO2 cartridges in the blue Smith & Wesson co2 box, and a pellet sample pack with 3 CO2 cartridges and 150 pellets in a ziplock bag, and the pellets were in a partition of their own. I had never seen this sample packaging before.

SW 790 package pellets
Apparently Smith & Wesson used this packaging near the end of the production cycle to reduce the number of pellets and CO2 cartridges that came with a new pistol.

From searching for parts for the Daisy 41, I have become acquainted with several airgunsmiths around the country who specialize in this series of pistols. 

One of them informed me that he had seen the packaging before. It should contain 3 S&W CO2 cartridges, and 150 pellets, which works out to 50 shots per cartridge.

That makes sense if you remember some of the pistols came with a 5 pack of CO2 cartridges and a tin of 250 pellets, that again, is 50 shots per cartridge. 

Smith & Wesson saved money by reducing the number of cartridges and pellets included in the kit, and eliminated the cost of CO2 and pellet packaging.

The sample pack did include 2 unused CO2 cartridges and 1 used CO2 cartridge, and 125 pellets.

The air pistol

This air pistol does not have a mark or blemish on it. And, after resealing it, I firmly believe it has only fired 25 pellets in its life!

SW 790 loading tray
No wear on the loading tray.

SW 790 bolt release
No wear on the bolt release.

I can tell you I had sweats while working on this one trying not to put any marks on it accidentally. I used urethane o-rings, and a rebuilt factory valve stem, it should shoot to factory specs, and be good for another 50 years.

It is now holding gas, but I have not shot it for velocity or accuracy yet. 

The S&W CO2 cartridges

I have weighed the CO2 cartridges and compared them to the empty one. The empty one weighs 32.83 grams. The lightest one weighs 42.02 grams, 9.19 grams heavier than the empty one. The heaviest one weighs 44.14 grams, 10.31 grams heavier than the empty one. So I think they are all still holding gas.

The S&W pellets

I have weighed 10 of the pellets, but haven’t measured them for head size as I don’t have a pellet gauge. Of the 10 pellets I weighed, they ranged from 8.02 grains to 8.33 grains. They look a lot like the Crosman “flying ash cans” from the same era. 

SW 790 pellets
The pellets that came with the pistol look like Crosman “ashcans” to me.

If its accurate, it will probably become my personal gun. However, if it can’t out-shoot the Daisy 790 I mentioned, it may get passed on to a collector.  

A question

I wanted to ask you, the readers, should I test it with one of the factory Smith & Wesson CO2 cartridges and some of the included pellets?

I don’t think Tom has tested one of the guns with the supplied pellets and gas. At least he hasn’t printed about testing them. [ED. No, Tom hasn’t tested one with the supplied pellets and gas.]

So sound off — should I test it with the factory sample pack? Or should I just save them and test it with modern pellets and CO2?

Cheers and Merry Christmas, Ian.


The AV-46M Single Stroke Pneumatic Match Air Pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

AV 46-M
The AV-46M target air pistol is a reincarnation of the IZH 46M for the American market.

This report covers:

  • It’s here!
  • Alfa Precision
  • Air Venturi
  • The pistol
  • Dry-fire
  • Easy to pump
  • Happy, happy
  • But wait….!
  • Sights
  • Weight
  • Owner’s manual
  • The price
  • Summary

It’s here!

This is the pistol many of you have been clamoring for, for years. It’s the IZH 46M match pistol. Only it isn’t from IZH anymore. Air Venturi has negotiated the construction and purchase of this iconic AV 46-M target air pistol from Alfa Precision, a non-military Russian barrelmaker. That means it is legal to import it into the US. They are available for sale right now!

Alfa Precision

Some airgunners are already aware of Alfa Precision. They are sort of the Russian equivalent of Lothar Walther — and I’m sure I will hear about that remark! Alfa Precision makes hammer-forged firearm and airgun barrels that have shown surprising levels of accuracy. They also know and understand airguns. These are all good things! 

Air Venturi

Most of you know the Air Venturi brand quite well. Over the years I have tested a number of their airguns and other important products, such as high-pressure air compressors. The good news about them in this picture is they can provide the support you need. That means parts, service and information. So, this target air pistol should be around for some time to come. And now for the question on everybody’s mind — is this one really as good as the IZH 46M that people are paying high prices for in used condition? There is a whole lot of testing to be done, but in the several hours I have had with it so far I have to say that it is. In fact, it’s going to surge ahead of the IZH just a little.

The pistol

The AV-46M is a single-stroke pneumatic 10-meter target pistol. To charge the pistol you pull the long underlever forward, and at the end of the stroke you pull the lever a little harder to cock the action. When the breech flips straight up the pistol is cocked. A target (wadcutter) pellet is then loaded into the breech that is very accessible and the underlever is returned home. Close the breech and fire. That single act pumps the pistol one time and should be good for a muzzle velocity of around 480 f.p.s. with lightweight pellets.

AV 46M lever extended
The pump lever goes far forward, and at the end it opens the breech and cocks the pistol. As it is brought back, the fulcrum of the pump stroke constantly changes to an optimal position.

AV 46M breech open
When the breechblock stands up like this, the pistol is cocked.

You can only pump the gun one time. If you attempt a second pump stroke, all the air from the first stroke will be lost. That’s why it is called a single-stroke pneumatic.

Dry-fire

The ability to cock and fire the trigger without firing a pellet is called dry-fire. Every respectable 10-meter pistol must have this feature. To dry fire the 46M you pull forward on the breech cover to unlock the breech block, then pull the breech block straight up until the mechanism is cocked. Return the block to its closed position under the breech cover and you’re ready to shoot. A shooter typically fires five times as many shots each day dry-fire than with pellets.

Easy to pump

One of the principal features of the 46M pumping mechanism is the sliding fulcrum that reduces the pump stroke effort. It take pounds off the pump force and gives you a muzzle velocity of close to 500 f.p.s. The description says 480 f.p.s., but you know I’m going to test that for you. And I know a secret that may boost the velocity a little.

Happy, happy

BB Pelletier loves airguns! I love them all, but I have been a competitor in 10-meter pistol shooting and that gives me a special appreciation for target pistols. This new 46M gives me the opportunity to test a target pistol that many of you already know is the best deal on the market — hands-down.

But wait….!

Yes, there is more. In the first place, what is it that Alfa Precision does? That’s right, they make barrels. Are their barrels any good? From the reports I have read, they are quite good. And they make the barrel for this AV 46M. What does that mean? Well, we will all have to wait impatiently for the Part 3 accuracy test, but I have high hopes.

And in the second place, what was the one criticism many shooters had with the IZH 46 and 46M? The grip! That’s right, the IZH grip was always on the small side and quite bland. It worked, but it wasn’t in the same class as what we see on an FWB or a Walther 10-meter pistol. Well, didja happen to notice anything special about the grip on this pistol? That’s right — this one isn’t made from pallet wood! In fact, this grip is made in Finland and it looks very much like it belongs at the party.

With the IZH you built up the grip with wood putty in places to conform to your hand. This snazzy new laminated grip has some meat on it that allows you to carve off what you don’t need and it will still look snazzy.

And finally we come to the trigger. The IZH 46/46M trigger was good, but it was far from perfect. A 10-meter shooter could always detect some creep in stage two. So far the trigger on the AV-46M pistol I am examining is perfect. No creep! And I can detect creep that a lot of folks can’t.

When the pistol arrived at my house, stage two was breaking at 310 grams. While that is a nice light trigger, it won’t get you into a match. Your trigger must break at 500 grams or more. I adjusted the trigger to break at 524 grams. That’s all I’m going to tell you today, and I only said that to remind myself of what I have done.

Sights

The AV-46M sights are fully adjustable with positive click detents. That is as it should be on a target pistol. But there is more. The rear sight blade has two notches of different widths, so the blade can be flipped to adjust the notch width to your preference. The pistol comes with a second rear sight blade that has another two notches of differing widths, so you can play around until you are satisfied.

The rear blade also slides from side to side to give you more horizontal adjustment, should you need it. All things considered, this rear sight is everything needed for a world-class 10-meter pistol.

The front sight has three replaceable blades of different widths. These should be matched to the rear notch to optimize the length of your arm, your eyesight and your personal preference for blade-to-notch fit.

AV 46M rear sight
The AV-46M rear sight offers everything a world-class 10-meter pistol sight should.

AB 46M rear sight elements
Besides what comes on the pistol, you get these sight elements.

Weight

The AV-46M weighs 1181 grams, which is 2 lbs. 9.7 oz. That is on the heavy side for a 10-meter pistol these days. Most world-class target pistols are weighing just under a kilogram, today. This pistol’s weight is more in line with the FWB 65/80/90 of several decades ago. Of course the modern pistols do have optional weights that can be added to satisfy all shooters. I competed with heavier pistols, so the weight doesn’t bother me, but a buyer needs to know this up front. This would probably not be the pistol on which to start a junior shooter.

The pistol is muzzle-heavy. That’s a trait many target shooters prefer, as it stabilizes any shakiness of the hand.

Owner’s manual

The owner’s manual was written by an American, so it’s easy to read. The sight adjustments are engraved on the adjustment knobs so no confusion there. However — while the manual does tell what each trigger adjustment screw does, it doesn’t tell which way to adjust for anything. So, some ‘sperimentin’ will have to be done. That being noted, the manual does tell you how to store the pistol to keep the breech seals as fresh as possible.

The price

Here’s where the tire-kickers have to depart. This pistol is no longer cheap. Yes, in the mid-1990s they did sell for less than $300, but by the time the pistol could no longer be imported into the US, that had risen to around $500. Used IZH-46Ms are selling for over $500 today, and with the Finnish grips and the special barrel on this one it should come as no surprise that the price is almost $600. That’s still low compared to other serious 10-meter pistols, but it is significant. And even at that price I don’t anticipate the first batch staying around very long. So if you want one, now’s the time.

Summary

This doesn’t happen every day. Here is an iconic air pistol we all thought was lost to time and world politics. It’s back again, and, from what I have seen so far, it’s better than ever!


Walther LP53 – the James Bond airgun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Walther LP53

Walther’s LP53 was their first attempt at a target air pistol.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Blue Book coming!
  • James Bond
  • Two versions
  • Two frame finishes
  • Total manufactured
  • Breakbarrel
  • Cocking aid
  • Weights
  • Grips
  • Adjustable trigger!
  • Performance
  • The good news
  • Summary

Blue Book coming!

The Blue Book of Airguns will ship soon. The 13th edition is 1008 pages — up from 840 pages in the 12 edition. A lot has been added and a lot has been corrected. Watch for it!

Blue Book
The Blue Book of Airguns, 13th Edition, will ship soon.

Today we start looking at the Walther LP53 target pistol. The LP53 (LP stands for luft pistole – German for air pistol) was Walther’s early (1953-1983) attempt at making a .177 target pistol. It copied the lines of their famous .22 LR model 1936 Olympia II target pistol, and it used a spring piston to compress the air. When you look at the pistol, you wonder where the spring and the piston could be, but they are tucked away inside the pistol grip.

Walther Olympia
This Walther Olympia II is a bare-bones pistol with a straight backstrap.

Walther Olympia
Walther’s model 1936 Olympia II target pistol won gold in the 1936 Olympic Games. Shown here with all the added weights.

James Bond

The LP53 is all metal with beautifully formed plastic grip panels. The early pistols had a beavertail extension that curved down over the web of the hand; later guns also had an extension, but it was straight. The trigger blade is thin and elegant – looking exactly like a firearm trigger. In fact, there’s nothing about the LP53 that doesn’t look right, which is why the movie posters for early James Bond films show him holding an air pistol instead of his service PPK. The story is that the photographer used the air pistol instead of Bond’s service (at the time) Walther PPK because they were in England where the laws concerning firearms are more restrictive. That could be true, though the LP53 is much larger than a PPK and makes a bolder statement.

Walther PL53 James Bond
Sean Connery posed as James Bond with a Walther LP53 air pistol for publicity photos. Of course nobody caught that his finger is on the trigger in violation of one of the most important gun safety rules!

Two versions

There were two distinct versions of the LP53. The earlier version is the more common one and is characterized by a curved backstrap that hangs over the hand and brown plastic grips. The later version has a straight backstrap and black grips. The grips fit either model, so of course they aren’t a positive clue, but the backstraps are. I have seen several first version guns with black grips, so perhaps it isn’t the best way to differentiate.

Two frame finishes

The earlier version of the pistol started out with a frame finished in a flat blue. After around serial number 23,200 the frame was finished with a black crackle paint. The gun I am testing for you here has the earlier blued frame and a serial number of 014388. So it’s definitely an earlier gun from the mid to late 1950s.

Total manufactured

The number of LP53s that were made has been stated in many places as around 125,000. I found a man who has seen three of them with serial numbers higher than that. Beyond that I have no other information.

Breakbarrel

The pistol is a breakbarrel that cocks in the traditional fashion. But instead of pushing a piston back to compress the mainspring, the cocking lever pushes the piston down towards the bottom of  the grip. When the gun fires the piston springs up and compresses the air in a tiny compression chamber in the grip. Some promotional literature claimed that this gave the pistol a realistic feel, like a .22 target pistol being fired, but that wasn’t true. The pistol jumps up in your hand and may also buzz if the powerplant is dry like mine is.

Cocking aid

The LP53 doesn’t cock easily, so Walther provided a cocking aid that fit over the muzzle of the gun to protect the hand from the sharp front sight. My pistol didn’t have the aid when I recently got it but John Groenewold sells a replacement. So I ordered one. It would be quite easy to make, but as I am not a competent wood butcher, I leave that to those who are!

The pistol also came with a cleaning rod and two sets of inserts for the front and rear sights. They are in addition to the inserts that come installed in the pistol. All these things came with the pistol in a brown cardboard Walther box. I used to own an LP53 in the box, but I got rid of it. My current pistol came from an estate sale and came in a commercial hard gun box with one front sight insert and a spare set of brown plastic grips.

Walther LP53 box
This LP53 in the box is an older one with the blued frame. It has all but one of the extra front sight inserts and it shows the wooden cocking aid over the muzzle.

LP53s also came in deluxe padded cases. The oldest ones were lined with a blue-gray material, while newer ones have a maroon fabric. These are fitted cases with slots for every additional piece of the set. They easily double the value of the pistol today.

Weights

Looking at the photo of the Olympia .22 rimfire target pistol above you see that Walther furnished weights for its target pistols. The LP53 was no different, and I have seen beautiful cased sets that had the weights with everything else. Add another multiple of the pistol’s value, or more, for a setup like that! 

Walther LP53 weights
The air pistol came with weights, as well. They aren’t as fancy or heavy as the firearm weights, but they do exist!

Grips

The year 1952 wasn’t a high-water mark for ergonomics on this planet. The LP53 was created as a target pistol for the right hand so of course the thumbrest was on the left grip. As far as I can tell, Walther did not offer the pistol with left-hand grips.

Adjustable trigger!

Yes, some LP53s do have an adjustable two-stage trigger. Don’t get your hopes up, though. Walther did away with the adjustable trigger in this model around 1960. The one I’m testing was made earlier than that, so it has the adjustment.

Walther LP53 adjustable trigger
There’s the trigger adjustment.

Performance

I’m going to test both the velocity and the accuracy for you, but let me get you thinking in the right direction. The LP53 is not a powerful air pistol, despite a cocking effort that many will find difficult. And it also isn’t that accurate — or at least that hasn’t been my experience. Imagine pellets in the low to mid 300s and five-shot groups measuring 2-inches at 10 meters. I hope to do better, but that’s what I think it will be.

The mainspring is actually two coiled mainsprings — one inside the other. That sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t add that much.

There is a performance kit for this pistol. It has a single mainspring with thicker wire. I don’t know anything about it other than I would expect it to cock even harder, though in some reports I read that it’s lighter. The inner spring also functions as a spring guide and Walther has received a lot of criticism for that. It’s doesn’t add much power but it sure increases the cocking effort, as well as making the action buzzy. Oh, well — we shall see!

The good news

The good news is I have already stripped my pistol, so you are going to watch it come apart and go together again — I hope! I have ordered a new piston seal to replace the leather seal that’s in my gun now. It could be reused, but it’s looking tired and as long as I’m inside…

Summary

This series should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned!


The Diana model 10/Beeman 900 target pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Beeman 900
The Beeman 900 pistol is another form of Diana’s model 10.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Godfather’s Gold Gun Giveaway
  • Shooting the Beeman 900/Diana model 10
  • The test
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets
  • Qiang Yuan Training pellets
  • Gamo Match pellets
  • JSB Match Heavy Weight
  • H&N Match Green
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Godfather’s Gold Gun Giveaway

I am selecting the winner of the Godfather’s Gold Gun Giveaway this weekend. After my selection I will contact the winner to see if the airgun is legal in his locale. I hope to announce a winner on Monday.

Shooting the Beeman 900/Diana model 10

This is a day I have long awaited. I have shot these pistols in the past, but never under my strict test conditions, so today I hope to start the “book” on this one!

The test

I shot the pistol rested at 10 meters. The pistol was rested on the sandbag, touching the bag just ahead of the triggerguard. That is okay because the Beeman 900 is recoilless.

I shot 5-shot groups because target airguns often make groups so small that shooting more than 5 is just a waste of pellets. I wore my 1.25-diopter reading glasses that make the front sight sharp and clear, which I always do with an open-sighted pistol.

I had no idea where this pistol was sighted, but I shot for group size and wasn’t as concerned with where the pellets landed. I could always adjust the sights as I went.

RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets

First to be tested was the RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet. I suspected it might be the best pellet for this pistol, just because of how carefully they are made.

I checked the target after the first shot to make certain the pellet hit the paper. After that I never looked again. The first shot was low in the 8-ring. But when I saw the group I was disappointed. Five R10 pellets went into 0.92-inches at 10 meters. That’s what a sport pistol should do — not a target pistol!

Beeman 900 R10 group
The Beeman 900 put five R10 Match Pistol pellets into 0.92-inches at 10 meters. I expected to see all five in something like that three shot group in the center.

Since the R10s shot low but seemed well-centered, I adjusted the rear sight up 7 clicks.

Qiang Yuan Training pellets

The Chinese Qiang Yuan Training pellet that was next often surprises me with its accuracy. But not today. Five of them went into 0.865-inches at 10 meters. That’s not much better than the R10s.

Beeman 900 Qiang Yuan Training group
Five Qiang Yuan Training pellets went into 0.865-inches at 10 meters.

Obviously 7 clicks up was way too much adjustment, so after seeing this group I dialed the rear sight down three clicks.

Gamo Match pellets

Gamo Match pellets are certainly not world class, but I have seen them do some surprising things in the past. So I gave them a chance in this pistol. But they blew it!

I miscounted while shooting, so I shot 6 Gamo Match at this target and they went into a group measuring 1.253-inches between centers. Not much I can say about that.

Beeman 900 Gamo Match group
Six Gamo Match pellets went into a group measuring 1.253-inches between centers at 10 meters.

After seeing this group I dialed the rear sight another two clicks down.

JSB Match Heavy Weight

Next I fired 5 JSB Match Heavy Weight pellets. This time things were better, though not as good as I had hoped. Five pellets landed in a group measuring 0.789-inches between centers. This time the group is almost perfectly centered, so I planned to leave the sights alone from this point on.

Beeman 900 JSB Match Heavy group
Now we are getting somewhere! Five JSB Match Heavy Weight pellets grouped in 0.789-inches.

H&N Match Green

The last pellet I tested was the lead-free H&N Match Green. These did well in the velocity test and have been accurate before in other airguns. In the Beeman 900 five of them went into 0.888-inches at 10 meters. It’s too open to be exciting, though it’s not much larger than the JSB Match pellet group that is the best of the test.

Beeman 900 HN Match Green group
Five H&N Match Green pellets went into 0.888-inches at 10 meters.

Discussion

Today’s test was disappointing. What you see here is not what I expected. I expected far better. The trigger is spot-on and we know the pistol has all the power it’s supposed to. But try as I might I just could not get this pistol to shoot. I expected a gold dollar group today (under 0.15-inches) but we didn’t even come close to a trime (under 0.20-inches).

I do note that the heaviest pellet was also the most accurate. And my first Diana model 10 did well with the 8.2-grain RWS Meisterkugeln. So a second test with heavier target pellets is in the works. I won’t do it right away, to allow us to see some other historical airguns in the interim, but I will return to this pistol.

Summary

That’s it for today. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect them to, but you just keep on trying.


What’s it gonna be today?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The beginning
  • Walther LGR
  • HOWEVER!
  • Diana model 10
  • What is a Diana 10?
  • The grips
  • The top spacer
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • Power
  • Summary

Today is a special treat. We are going to go back into my distant past and see something that was pivotal in my life. It was, and yet this one wasn’t. This is something that made me the airgunner I have become, and I have been telling you about it on this blog for many years. I have and yet I haven’t. Read on, Grasshopper.

The beginning

The year was 1976 (I think), and I was walking with my first wife and son through Rothenburg ob der Tauber — a walled medieval town next to the Tauber river in northern Bavaria, Germany. Rothenburg is a tourist town today, because it is so well preserved and colorful. I enjoyed going there with my little family on my time off and just walking around seeing the sites!

One day, however, something different happened. Up a side street I saw the sign for a gun store. Now, ANY gun store in Germany would catch my attention, but one in Rothenburg just had to be special, like everything else in that quaint old town. So, we wandered in and looked around.

Walther LGR

The owner spoke good English, so there was no problem communicating. And he saw right away that I was a gun guy. So all barriers came down. He saw my eyes alight on a Walther LGR target rifle, which he brought down and handed to me. It was the first 10-meter air rifle I had ever seen! I was blown away, and the owner could see it. When he told me how the gun was charged to shoot I was even more flabbergasted. I think he was, too, and he just wanted to show off his special toy. If you want to see what I’m talking about, read this three-part report.

But like I said — I was a family man with a young family. I didn’t have the kind of money the LGR was commanding, and although I had a credit card I had learned by that time that the bills always come due. So — looky and even touchy but no takey home.

HOWEVER!

Then I spotted a brown leather briefcase in one of his glass sales cases. Inside, resting in bright yellow foam was an air pistol I had never seen. That one was every bit as exotic as the LGR, plus it had a price tag of less than half that of the rifle! This the family man could do (his wife said).

Diana model 10

That pistol was a .177-caliber Diana model 10 ten-meter target pistol. I didn’t know what 10-meter target was at the time, and it was just about a decade from becoming an Olympic sport (rifle in 1984 and pistol in ’88). Europeans had their matches going, but I was unaware of them.

The pistol, though, spoke for itself! And today I will let it speak to all of you. What I bought in that German gun store that day was a Diana model 10. But Robert Beeman sold it as the Beeman 900. It was at the top of a line of Dianas that Beeman Precision Arms once sold.

Diana 10
This is what a Diana model 10 pistol looks like in its case.

The gun I recently purchased from an estate and am testing for you now wasn’t marked as a Diana model 10. It was marked as a Beeman model 900. And there was no case, no manual and no tools.

Beeman 900 marks
This is how the test pistol is marked.

According to the Blue Book of Airguns (the new edition of which will be available again before the end of this year — stocking stuffer), The first model 900s were marked Beeman’s Original Model 10. “Original,” if you remember your airgun history, is what the German Diana company had to mark their guns for a time after WW II, because Milbro in Scotland was awarded the rights to manufacture airguns using the Diana name.

So, Beeman sold it as a model 900. They also sold the Diana model 6 that was closely related as their model 800 and the 6M target configuration that was even closer as the model 850. But their 900 is a Diana 10, The same as that 10 I bought in Rothenburg.

What is a Diana 10?

The Diana model 10 is a 10-meter target pistol from the 1970s. At the time it was in competition with the FWB model 65 and Walther’s LP 3. The 10 is a breakbarrel spring-piston target pistol that uses the Giss counter-recoiling pistons to cancel recoil. You feel a pulse of energy with the shot but no movement from the gun. 

This is the air pistol I used to convert my gun-hating father-in-law from California into an airgunner. That story is worth reading if you have the time.

The earliest model 10s had a lump at the muzzle end of a synthetic spring-loaded barrel jacket. The shooter pulled the jacket forward and rotated it 90 degrees until the lump was above the front sight. The lump was your hand’s protection when you broke the barrel to cock the pistol. It sounds awkward, but after 10 shots everyone becomes a pro.

Beeman 900 lump down
The lump is down most of the time.

Beeman 900 lump up
Rotate the lump up to protect your hand when you want to cock the pistol.

The grips

The grips are a set of walnut panels with a palm swell on the right side. The palm shelf at the bottom of the grip slides up to make the grip tight, because 10-meter competition is shot with one hand, only. The shelf can also be tipped up in back to make it even tighter and the Diana 10 grip has a feature I have never seen on another 10-meter pistol. Believe me — I have looked!

Beeman 900 grip
The Diana 10 /Beeman 900 grip is extremely adjustable to grab the shooter’s hand and hold it tight!

The top rear of the palm shelf can be slid back just a trifle to wedge into the shooter’s wrist joint, making this grip the most positive one I have ever felt. And I’m a 10-meter pistol shooter, so believe me — I have tried a lot of grips! But wait — there’s more!

The top spacer

There is also a spacer on top of the grip where the top of the hand touches the spring tube. This spacer pushes down on the top of your hand to make the Diana 10 grip the tightest one ever created! You don’t grab this pistol, you put it on. It can actually hurt to hold the gun for a full 60-shot match, but the gun is going nowhere your arm doesn’t allow. You don’t hold this pistol— it holds you!

The top spacer can be removed from the pistol, for those who can’t tolerate it. Or you can just adjust the palm shelf down until the grip is nice and comfy. The little shelf on the rear of the palm shelf doesn’t have to be deployed. Heck, you can even hold a model 10 with two hands if you want to blaspheme the sport of 10-meter pistol! But a hand that has to be massaged after a match belongs on a winner! Hoo-rrrrah!

Seriously, guys, 10 meter rifle shooters have an expensive fitted leather jacket and pants that bind them up like sausages. They can’t gain more than 5 pounds or this stuff no longer fits. They also have expensive shooting shoes, and a heavy leather shooting glove and kneeling rolls for their legs. All the leather is in “their colors.” They bring two cases on wheels to the competition — one for their rifle and the other for all their stuff.

Ten-meter pistol shooters show up in jeans and a tee shirt. That pistol grip is their one interface and believe me, it matters a lot to them!

Sights

Naturally the sights on the model 10 are adjustable. But they adjust in ways most of you have never seen. The front sight adjusts for width! Instead of different inserts, the sight swivels to be wider or narrower within the range of adjustment. Or take it off and there is another lower and skinnier blade waiting.

The pistol also came originally with several different rear sight notches. Install the one you like and then adjust the width of the front post to suit. Unfortunately someone has painted this front blade with orange phosphorescent paint! No doubt it was to see the front post better, but when the target is illuminated correctly in a match, a dark black post is best. I have to do something to fix it.

Beeman 900 front sight
By turning that front blade you change its width in the rear notch. Remove it altogether for a skinny front blade. Gotta get rid of that orange paint though!

Beeman 900 rear sight
This photo not only shows the rear sight, it also shows the top spacer that puts additional pressure on the hand holding the pistol. I believe it can be removed.

Trigger

I know you want to know about the trigger, but I plan to cover it next time. It adjusts for first stage length, second stage weight and I think overtravel. The front of the blade also cants to the right, because this pistol is made for right-hand shooters. A left-hand grip does exist, so I have to believe the trigger blade face will also cant to the left.

Beeman 900 trigger
We’ll talk about the trigger adjustments next time, but you can see how many there are! I bet you all know what that one with the red sealant on it is! It’s the sear engagement! No touchie!

Power

The Diana 10 is a powerhouse among early 10-meter pistols. I remember velocities in the 450-475 f.p.s. range. Unfortunately, Diana put in seals made from a synthetic material that degraded over time and all of them have to be replaced at some point. New seals should last a lifetime.

I was told that this pistol shoots in the 370s with RWS Hobbys, so it may need a reseal. That’s an expensive proposition because of timing the Giss system, so I will hold off as long as possible. We will find out more when we test velocity.

Summary

That’s it for our first look. There is more to see before we get to velocity, and after that we get to see the accuracy. I can’t wait!