The AV-46M Single Stroke Pneumatic Match Air Pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

AV-46M lever open
The AV-46M target air pistol is a reincarnation of the IZH 46M for the American market. It is the easiest-cocking single stroke pneumatic around.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • Air Arms Falcon
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • H&N Match Green
  • Surprise!
  • RWS R10 pistol with boosted pumps
  • Pump effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today we look at the velocity of the new Air Venturi 46M target air pistol. There is a LOT of interest in this pistol and I must tell you that when the initial stock of pistols is gone you’ll have to wait until late March to get one. Russia is a long way away from Cleveland.

The test

I’m going to jump right into the velocity test because there is something special I want to do after that. Oh, and by the way — let’s remember that this is a 10-meter target pistol. It isn’t a magnum airgun made to shoot heavy pellets, and there is no convenient way to soup it up. This isn’t a sporting air pistol; it’s a target pistol.

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

I’ll start with RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets. They are a wadcutter target pellet, but at 8.2 grains they are really too heavy for this pistol. However, they will work, and, because the AV-46M is so powerful, they work better than I expected. Ten pellets averaged 449 f.p.s. The spread went from 435 to 461 f.p.s. — a difference of 26 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.67 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Air Arms Falcon

Next up was the 7.33-grain Falcon pellet from Air Arms. Ten of them averaged 489 f.p.s. Right there the pistol has exceeded it’s advertised velocity of 480 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.89 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

The interesting thing was this pellet only varied by 6 f.p.s. — from 487 to 493 f.p.s. That’s very stable!

RWS R10 Match Pistol

The next pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS R10 Match pistol pellet. It was the first pellet I tested that it suited to this target pistol. They averaged 501 f.p.s. for 10 shots and I apologize to our Canadian readers, and especially to Hawkeye, who cannot own air pistols that shoot faster than 500 f.p.s. without registering them! The low was 497 and the high was 505 f.p.s. — a difference of 8 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.90 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

H&N Match Green

Hopefully the Royal Canadian Mounted Police don’t test airguns with the H&N Match Green pellet, because at 5.25-grains, it will always be very fast. In the 46-M they averaged 532 f.p.s. with a 9 f.p.s spread from 529 to 538 f.p.s.

Surprise!

Well, all that testing was done by just shooting the pistol in the way anyone would. Now I did something special and I was surprised when I mentioned it in Part One that some of you didn’t know what it is. I have written about this little trick dozens of times in this blog, as well as showing it on the American Airguns television show back in 2010.

To boost velocity in a single-stroke pneumatic, pump the lever almost all the way, but not quite, several times. Then complete the pump stroke. The partial pumps expand the pump cup, warming it and making it more flexible. On the final pump the cup seals as well as it possible can and the velocity goes up as high as it can go. On TV I boosted a standard IZH 46 from 425 to about 460 f.p.s. this way. Let’s now see what I did with the AV-46M.

RWS R10 pistol with boosted pumps

What I did for each shot that follows was make 4 partial pump strokes that were almost complete. Then I pumped stroke number five all the way. That flexed the pump cup and made it seal better.

This time the R10 Pistol pellet that averaged 501 f.p.s. before this technique now averaged 523 f.p.s. The low was 517 and the high was 531, so a difference of 14 f.p.s. Let’s call this technique a 20 f.p.s. boost. Is it worth the extra effort? Not when the pistol is new and functioning perfectly. But when an SSP gets older and the pump cup gets hard, this trick can make an old pistol shoot like new again.

Pump effort

On my bathroom scale the test pistol took 22 lbs. of effort to close the pump lever. The secret to keeping the pump force as low as possible it to not “horse” the lever. Let it close smoothly, without rushing things.

Trigger pull

In Part One I adjusted the trigger of the test pistol from 310 grams to 524 grams, to meet the 500-gram minimum required for a match — not that I’m ever going to shoot in a match again. Today I tested the trigger and stage two broke at 526 grams, so it’s holding right where I adjusted it! Not only is that a testament to the refinement of this trigger, it also shows that the AV-46M trigger adjusts perfectly. I never had an IZH trigger adjust this well.

Summary

This pistol is testing out better than advertised. I love the trigger on the test pistol, and, if this was my pistol to do with as I wish, I would be sculpting these beautiful target grips to fit my hand.

My plan is to install a different rear sight blade to get the sight picture I prefer before I shoot the pistol for accuracy. And for the record, Tyler Patner tells me that the screws on the rear sight blade are left-hand threads, just like the IZH sight. That should keep you from twisting them off as you try to exchange sight blades.

I hope Alfa Precision makes as good a barrel as they claim. I can’t wait to see the accuracy!


The importance of dry-firing

by B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report was requested by blog reader NotRocketSurgery. He’s been watching the NSSF videos on You Tube about shooting in the Olympics, and the subject of dry-firing comes up repeatedly. He wanted to know why. I’ll address this subject with enthusiasm, because this is something with which I actually have some experience.

Have you ever watched the Olympics and seen a slalom racer standing at the top of the course with his or her eyes closed, swaying as they envision running the course? We might have made fun of such behavior in the 1960s, but today we know that’s what all the winners do. They’re conditioning their minds to respond correctly to the course ahead of them.

Dry-firing a gun is like that, but it’s more than a century older. We don’t close our eyes, nor do we sway about, so onlookers don’t have quite as much to comment on. When we shoot our guns without discharging a shot (dry-firing), we’re conditioning our brains and many muscles to work together.

I don’t suppose there’s a machine the downhill skiers can get on to simulate the experience of skiing while standing still, but all world-class target air rifles and air pistols do have a dry-fire mechanism built in. To not have one automatically eliminates the gun from serious consideration.

Top target shooters spend much more time dry-firing their airguns than they do shooting pellets. How much more differs from shooter to shooter, but I’ve heard one Olympic air pistol shooter say the number is five times as much. So, for every shot that makes a hole in paper, the shooter has also fired five more shots without discharging the gun. And it’s very common for a world-class shooter to shoot a full match every day, which would be 60 shots for a man or 40 for a woman. And five times that much dry-firing.

How do you dry-fire a gun?
You don’t just pick up the airgun and start shooting. Practice in the dry-fire mode must be identical to shooting a match, though a target doesn’t have to be in a bullet trap or even the correct distance from the shooter, since it’s all a simulation. I am going to describe this from an air pistol shooter’s perspective, but what I say applies equally to air rifle shooters. The moves are just different.

For those who are interested, I wrote an extensive blog on the subject of shooting a 10-meter target pistol. Part 3 demonstrates raising the pistol and sighting. You do it this way with both live-fire and dry-fire.

When you dry-fire, you first go through all the motions of raising the pistol and settling on the target. That is not a random movement! The gun is held on the shooting table in front of the shooter in a certain and repeatable way, and is raised to the same height each time. Some shooters like to raise the sights above the bull and then settle back down until the sights are aligned with it. Others like to raise the gun until the sights come in line with the bull on the way up and go no higher. Each shooter has a preference; but whatever it is, they always do it the same way.

Once the sights are on target, the shooter has up to about five seconds to get the shot off. Much longer and the gun will start to wander more than a little, so timing is very important. An amateur might hold out for the perfect sight picture for twice as long as a world-class shooter, but you’ll see the top shooters lower their guns if they don’t get the shot off within the time limit.

Many shooters, including me, take up the slack of the trigger’s first-stage pull as the gun is settling into position. To someone who is not trained, this sounds dangerous, and it actually is — because their guns will go off at a time that is not entirely of their choosing. But a top competitor knows exactly where the trigger releases, and they can wait until the sights are perfectly aligned before applying the final few grams of pressure that cause the sear to release.

When the sear releases, the shooter continues to aim at the target, noting where the sights are. With some practice they learn to call their shots — which means they know exactly where each pellet went without seeing the hole it made in the target. This is something you can read about and never understand. As you train, it comes to you all at once. And when that happens, you never forget it. You’ll be able to call your shots from that point on.

After the shooter has called the shot (to himself), the gun is lowered to the shooting table, reloaded and the cycle begins again. There are 90 seconds for every shot in a formal match. It sounds like a rush, but it’s actually more than enough time for a well-trained shooter. You don’t lower the gun without taking a shot more than a handful of times in a match, if that much, so time is never your enemy unless you have an equipment problem. I never thought about the time remaining in a match. What I concentrated on was how many pellets remained in my pellet tray, because that told me where I was in the match.

The dry-fire mechanism
I told you that all world-class airguns have a dry-fire mechanism, but now I’ll tell you that some are better than others. Most of them have some sort of switch that is set one way for live fire and another way for dry fire. The guns that have that usually have a very realistic trigger-pull in the dry-fire mode.

I shoot a SAM M10 that was made through cooperation between Anschütz and Caesare Morini. I’ve never shot a full formal match with it; but back in the late 1990s, I did shoot it for the record several times. That was when I was shooting at my peak, so I noticed things more acutely than I do today. I found the trigger to be very nice, though by that time I’d tested enough FWBs, Steyrs and Walthers to know what a world-class trigger should feel like. The M10 has a good trigger, but it’s not as nice as an FWB P34 trigger, which was the last FWB target pistol I tested.

The dry-fire mechanism on the SAM 10 is a lever on the right side of the action. Pull is straight back and the trigger is cocked, but the hammer isn’t. When you pull the trigger, it releases the sear without releasing the hammer to strike the firing valve — hence the dry-fire. Those who own a gun with double-set triggers know the feeling of the set trigger breaking is not the same as the feeling of the gun actually firing. With an airgun, which doesn’t recoil or make a lot of noise when it fires, this feeling is much more noticeable.


On the SAM 10 target pistol, the dry-fire lever at the top of the receiver is pulled back each time to cock the trigger. You can feel the sear release when the trigger is pulled; but since the hammer was not cocked, it doesn’t strike the valve and no air is exhausted.

As nice as the M10 trigger is, the dry-fire device isn’t as nice as the FWB or Steyr dry-fire devices. Both of those guns feel as though the hammer is dropped when they fire in the dry-fire mode.

Other 10-meter guns have to resort to a gimmick of some kind to get into the dry-fire mode. The IZH 46M, for example, requires the shooter to actually cock the trigger by pulling the breech up, then locking it back down. By omitting the pump stroke, there’s no compressed air in the gun. When it fires, there’s nothing to release. The effect is the same, but a little more work is needed for each dry-fire shot.

Other guns require the shooter to unscrew the compressed-air tank part way. They can be cocked and fired and the hammer will fall, but there’s no air in the firing valve because the compressed-air reservoir has been disconnected.

What benefit does dry-firing provide?
Hold on to your hats, apartment dwellers! Dry-firing allows you to train in a tiny apartment without making any noise or having to stop any lead pellets. Do people really do that? You bet they do! Dry-firing can get you ready for a match just as well as shooting live ammo. It’s probably good to shoot a few pellets from time to time; but if you can’t, there will be at least a chance to shoot them when you sight-in before the match.

Another benefit of the dry-fire mechanism is that the trigger can be cocked for testing before a match without firing the gun. The trigger on every air pistol must pass a minimum 500-gram weight test before it can be permitted in a match.

But the biggest benefit of dry-firing is the practice it affords. When you do the same thing thousands of times in repetition, your muscles and nervous system become synchronized to a degree you must experience to understand. That’s why competitive shooters can release the sear at the exact instant they desire.

Follow-through is the name of the game
You’ve read the phrase “follow-through” many times. What does it mean, and why do we talk about it so much? Follow-through is when the shooter continues to watch the target through the sights after the shot’s been fired. If the gun is gentle enough, like an airgun or a rimfire, then follow-through lets the shooter see where the sights were in relation to the target at the instant of firing.

Follow-through is at the root of dry-firing. We dry-fire to train ourselves to follow-through; and it’s follow-through — and all that it entails — that makes a better shooter. Dry-firing the gun many times is what reinforces follow-through in a shooter.