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Pump-Assist Benjamin 392: Part 1

Po, 12/05/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Benjamin 392 pump assist modification is an interesting side street in the hobby.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • How is this historical?
  • What is it?
  • How does it work?
  • The inventor
  • How much?
  • The butterfly hand pump
  • What are they worth?
  • What comes next?

This is a report I have wanted to write for a long time. I actually did a 5-part report on this unique air rifle back in 2008. But this belongs in the historical archives, plus there are tens of thousands of new readers who haven’t even heard of this novel airgun.

How is this historical?

The Benjamin 392 multi-pump pneumatic is still in production. How can this be an historical report? Well, the 392 is still being made, but the pump assist modification is not. It has lapsed into the history of airguns.

What is it?

At its foundation, this rifle is a standard Benjamin 392. Not much is changed, as far as the performance of the rifle goes. The inventor did optimize each rifle he modified for a slight velocity increase, but that wasn’t the purpose of the modification. Don’t confuse this with the Steroid Streak conversion that Mac-1 can do. That one does increase the power of the gun by a considerable amount.

The pump assist is there to reduce the effort required to pump the rifle. For the first 3-4 strokes a 392 is fairly easy to pump, but as the number of strokes goes up, so does the effort that’s needed to complete them. Here is a comparison chart of pump effort for standard and modified guns.

Darker bars are the modified gun. Lighter bars are a standard gun. Scale on the left are the pounds of force applied to close the pump handle.

I will test the pump effort for you in Part 2, when I test velocity. In the past I have noted that the maximum pump effort remains around 14 pounds for the pump assist. I can’t remember if I actually tested it or just took the word of the inventor from the chart shown above. It’s just much easier to pump is the best I can tell you now.

How does it work?

This is the key to the pump assist. The mechanism, which you can see adds extra levers to the rifle’s pump, changes the geometry of the pump stroke as the number of strokes increases. It does this based on the resistance of the reservoir inlet valve that increases as the pressure inside the reservoir rises. The pump assist compresses the air more with each stroke, and the geometry of the pump mechanism increases in efficiency as it does.

This Sheridan Blue Streak pump mechanism is virtually the same as the standard 392. Notice there is a single pump rod that connects the pump arm to the sliding pump head.

The pump assist adds two additional rods that connect to the pump rod. Where they meet (at the lower right) is the fulcrum of the pump assist mechanism, and this is what changes (position) as the number of strokes increases.

The inventor

Robert Moss invented the pump assist and it took him a long time and many prototypes to get it right. It wasn’t just inventing something that worked the way he envisioned it. That was the easy part. The hard part was finding the right materials that would allow the pump assist to be built into a Benjamin 392 without adding a lot of extra weight and bulk. Also the materials that were needed were very exotic metals with high cost, so Moss had to find ways around that. Nobody wants to pay more to modify their 392 than the rifle costs originally!

The anchor point for the pump assist is silver soldered to the pump tube. The pin that the pump assist link pivots on (arrow) had to be made of extremely tough material to withstand the stresses of continual pumping.

In the end Moss found what he needed and learned how to make it. He was able to convert several new rifles and bring them to the Roanoke airgun show, where I bought one. But he wanted to reach more airgunners and was daunted by all the marketing that is involved.

He decided to enter into partnership with Air Venturi, to modify 392s and 397s for them. They already had the distribution network established, so it seemed to be the right thing to do. But it did add an additional layer of cost to the project, so Moss went back to the drawing board to see what could be done. The goal in the end was to get a modification that could be offered by Pyramyd Air for $100 over the initial price of the stock 392.

How much?

When people heard the price of the modified airgun they went ballistic. They thought Crosman should find a way to do this at the factory. People shouldn’t have to pay for it! Many shooters wanted the benefits of the pump assist, once they understood what they were. But very few were willing to pay for them. Bob Moss spent many years and a lot of money perfecting his idea, only to find the market wanted him to give it away. So the customers stayed away in droves, as they say. I think no more than 20 pump assist conversion were done. If it was more than that, it wasn’t a lot more.

The butterfly hand pump

Moss also showed Pyramyd Air owner, Joshua Ungier, a unique modification he had made to a high-pressure hand pump. I was visiting Pyramyd Air when he was there, so I saw it, too. He added two of his pump-assist mechanisms to a hand pump and created a hand pump that pumped with a lot less effort! The two pump assist mechanisms stuck out on either side of the pump and I thought it looked like a butterfly when it was pumped, so I gave it that title.

For some reason he wasn’t able to work out a deal with Pyramyd Air, so he took the idea to Crosman and they mocked up a non-working prototype that was shown for at least three years at the SHOT Show. I was thrilled at the thought of this new pump and really touted it in several SHOT Show reports, but so far nothing has come of it.

Crosman showed the butterfly hand pump for many years at the SHOT Show. They weren’t able to get it into production for a reasonable retail price. It has two pump assist mechanisms — one on each side.

What are Benjamins with pump assist worth?

That’s a good question. My friend Mac sold his pump assist 392 at the now-defunct Roanoke airgun show many years ago for around $200. Stock 392s were selling for about $135 then and as I recall the buyer was resistant to the higher price until Mac showed him what it was.

I wouldn’t sell mine for less than $300, and it’s not for sale. Maybe you can get a better deal at my estate sale in a few years. I like it because it’s a 392, but also because it shows the ingenuity of a man who wondered why something couldn’t be made easier. Then he made it easier and discovered that people weren’t willing to pay for it. That’s part of Marketing 101, but it’s a hard lesson to learn.

What comes next?

My plan is to test this rifle in the traditional way. Part 2 will look at the velocity, plus I’ll measure the pump effort for you and compare it to the effort of a Blue Streak. And I’ll measure the trigger pull, though that comes with the factory 392.

In Part 3 I’ll look at accuracy for you. We will see what a Benjamin 392 can do.

This should be an interesting report series.

BSA Airsporter Mark IV: Part 3

Pá, 12/02/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The BSA Airsporter Mark I is an all-time classic.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight-in
  • RWS Superpoints
  • Open sights
  • Is it my eye?
  • Eley Wasps
  • The eyes have it
  • Next?

Today is the first accuracy day for my new .22 caliber BSA Airsporter Mark IV. As the picture shows, it came with an old Dianawerk scope mounted, and I said I would test it with that first. So that’s what I did.

The test

Today I shot off a sandbag at 10 meters, just to get familiar with the rifle. I tried it both using the artillery hold and directly rested on the bag. The first groups were shot using the scope.


The scope was not exactly on target like I had hoped, but it was close enough on the first shot that I adjusted it to hit near the POI. The scope is not adjusted for parallax as close as 10 meters so the image is fuzzy. The reticle is a German hunting reticle with three heavy black lines — two on either side and a pointer coming up from the bottom. You put the tip of the pointer on the target when hunting, but it gets lost on a black bull, so I set it at 6 o’clock.

RWS Superpoints

The scope adjustments have no clicks and the POI moves very quickly, so I had to fuss with the adjustments a bit before I was satisfied. But after about 10 shots I was zeroed and decided to shoot a group with RWS Superpoints. Ten pellets landed in nearly two inches at 10 meters when the rifle was rested on the bag, so I used the artillery hold. Eight shots later I gave up on the scope altogether, because the group was already over 1.5 inches. Fortunately the scope came off easily. Now I would try the open sights.

Open sights

Shot number one with open sights was left and low, so I adjusted the rear sight a little. Shot two went into the black at 8 o’clock, so I started shooting my group. The gun was rested directly on the sandbag. Ten shots went into 0.751-inches at 10 meters. That’s okay but not great.

The BSA Airsporter put 10 RWS Superpoints into 0.751-inches at 10 meters when rested directly on a sandbag. That’s okay, but not exceptional.

I reckoned the rifle wanted to be shot from the artillery hold, so that was next. Same everything the second time except the hold. This time 10 Superpoints went into 1.392-inches! This is the first time that I can remember getting a bigger group from the artillery hold than directly rested on a bag! And it told me two things. First, the Airsporter wants to rest directly on the bag and second, Superpoints are probably not the best pellets for this airgun.

Eww! Yuck! Ten Superpoints from the Airsporter held with the artillery hold at 10 meters. The group measures 1.392-inches between centers.

Is it my eye?

I shot these groups with open sights using my right eye — the one that had the detached retina. That eye is now 20/100 and has a cataract that’s growing, but I was wearing my glasses, so I think everything was okay. The next group should tell me.

Eley Wasps

Next up were the pellets reader Dom recommended — the vintage 5.6mm Eley Wasps. I laid in a supply of these when they were still available in the late ’90s, so if they work I’m good to go.

Wasps hit the target much higher than Superpoints. They also got downrange faster and hit the steel trap with more authority. This time I watched as the hole in the target paper seems to grow slowly. I resisted looking at the target through a scope — hoping what I was seeing was really happening.

When the 10 shots were over I walked downrange and was very pleased by what I saw. Nine of the 10 pellets had indeed gone through the same hole, with the other shot landing a full half-inch below. I have no clue which shot that was, because they all looked perfect to me and I never looked at the target through a scope. I do believe that stray shot was caused by me and not by the rifle or pellet. It’s obvious that this Airsporter likes Wasps.

Nine of 10 Eley Wasps went into 0.413-inches at 10 meters. The other shot opens the group to 0.98-inches, and based on the tight round group of 9 I believe I did something to throw that one shot low.

The eyes have it

Clearly my eye is doing okay. Another shooter might do better, but this is probably as good as I ever could do with this rifle. And the Wasp pellet seems ideally suited to it.

I have to mention that the Airsporter feels as lot like shooting a powerful Hakim. The actions are similar, and the accuracy seems to be, as well.


The next move is to back up to 25 yards and try this again with open sights. I will probably try a couple different pellets at that distance, just to keep looking.

I am very pleased with this Airsporter so far. The trigger is crisp and the powerplant is tame with Tune in a Tube. It’s a delightful air rifle to shoot.

Christmas gifts for the airgunner: Part 2

Čt, 12/01/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Gifts for $25 and under
  • Gifts for $100 and under
  • Gifts for $250 and under
  • Gifts with no price limit

This guide is to help those who must find Christmas gifts for airgunners. Of course you should check with your airgunner to make sure each gift you select is one they want or can use.

This is the second part of the 2016 gift guide. Be sure to click on the link to Part 1 to see additional gift suggestions.

Gifts for $25 and under

These are the stocking stuffer gifts. Some are considerably less than $25, so check them all.

1. The first recommendation is a jar of JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. This is for cleaning airgun barrels, and your airgunner will need bore brushes to go with it. These are items he probably already has, but check with him before you buy this item. The bore brushes might give you a couple gifts that are related, and I will list them for you next.

2. Bore brushes. These are purchased by caliber, so I am giving you the links to each of the 4 smallbore calibers. Choose what your airgunner needs.

177 bore brushes

Pyramyd Air does not stock 20-caliber bore brushes. Buy them here.

22 bore brushes.

25 bore brushes.

I’ve recommended brass or bronze bristle brushes. If your airgunner tells you they will damage his bore, tell him that’s true only for barrels made of brass or bronze, and those never need to be cleaned. Steel barrels will not be damaged by these brushes, and they are perfect for use with JB Bore Paste.

If you are shocked that I sent you to Brownells for the .20 caliber brushes that Pyramyd Air does not stock, remember the movie, Miracle on 34th Street, and pretend I am Santa Claus.

3. Crosman Pellgunoil. This is another necessary product that your airgunner probably won’t buy for himself. It is used mainly for sealing CO2 airguns, but it’s also useful for lubricating/sealing multi-pumps and single-strokes.

4. An item I recommend every year is the Air Venturi Fly Shooter. So much fun for so little money! If Pyramyd Air carried the Bug-A-Salt, I would recommend that, too.

Gifts for $100 and under

1. I have to recommend a Daisy Red Ryder to keep my U.S. citizenship in order. But this year I’m recommending a special one — the Lasso Scoped BB Rifle. No, it’s not a rifle. I know it’s a BB gun. That’s just the name. You get a Red Ryder and a Lasso scope base with a Daisy 4X15 scope. That’s a lot of value for the price, plus you can remove the scope and have a standard Red Ryder anytime you want.

2. The MTM Predator shooting table is another great gift. Because it isn’t an airgun, your shooter probably won’t have one, though he needs one! End his days of balancing on your ironing board or that rickety card table and give him a shooting table that really works. BB uses one!

3. Okay, the Crosman 2100B air rifle IS an airgun, and if your shooter doesn’t have one already, it’s one he needs. This one shoots both BBs and pellets, and it was the base gun I used when I developed the $100 PCP with Dennis Quackenbush a few years back. Those who own them know this rifle is a great value!

4. I hadn’t planned to recommend the Umarex M712 Full-Auto BB Pistol in this category, but Pyramyd Air has a sale and it’s just under $100 right now. This one is fun! This is the kind of airgun you bring to a family outing and everybody is blown away by what it can do. If your shooter likes full auto guns, give him one of these.

Gifts for $250 and under

1. I mentioned the $100 PCP, so how about the Benjamin Maximus — the airgun Crosman made after they read that report? This is the least expensive precharged air rifle on the market, yet is has a lot of the accuracy and the quality shooters have come to expect. If you get one, you might consider getting a hand pump to go with it.

2. I recommend the Air Venturi G6 Hand Pump to go with the Maximus. Yes, it costs about the same as the rifle, but this is a tool that can be used with any and all PCP airguns. I’m recommending this one both because it is rugged and goes up to 4,500 psi, and also because it is rebuildable by the user.

Speaking of rebuilds, if you would like to save some money, there are a few refurbished G6 Hand Pumps available as this guide is written, Since the pump is rebuildable, they should be good as new.

3. If your shooter owns a .50 caliber big bore air rifle with a barrel that’s 21.5 inches long, or if he owns an Air Venturi Wing Shot air shotgun, I strongly recommend getting him the package of Air Venturi Air Bolts.

4. My last recommendation in this category is the Benjamin 392 air rifle. This is a multi-pump pneumatic that is descended from American airgun royalty. It’s still made of brass and wood the same way they were over a century ago. Who knows how much longer that will be true? If your shooter doesn’t want the .22 caliber model for some reason there is always the .177 caliber Benjamin 397. Same rifle; different caliber.

Gifts with no price limit

Now we come to the big toys. Here I suspend all the limits. These are the gifts shooters want when they win the lottery. If he has been a special good boy this year, these are his rewards.

1. I will start with an air rifle that is fast becoming a favorite of mine, Diana’s K98 air rifle. This one is large and in charge. It’s a lookalike, and an accurate spring rifle and it could also be considered a military trainer, though no military uses it that way. But a collector might like to have one, all the same.

2. It is a little pricy, but the Benjamin Woods Walker air pistol is a lot of value in an air pistol. You get the Marauder trigger and quiet performance in a powerful air pistol that can clip dandelion heads at 20 yards. If your shooter likes air pistols, this is probably on his short list.

3. Does your airgunner shoot precharged guns? If so he needs a 98 cubic foot carbon fiber air tank. Yes, this tank is 10 cubic feet larger than most carbon fiber tanks, so of course it holds more air. Make sure your airgunner can use this tank before you purchase one.

4. My final recommendation is an Air Arms Galahad Carbine FAC with walnut stock. I haven’t tested this one yet, but it’s on my to-do-soon list. Since this is made by Air Arms I have no qualms about recommending it. Yes, it’s very costly, but your airgunner will probably never stop thanking you for it! And the Galahad does come in rifle lengths, if he wants something slightly different.

Pellet shapes and performance: Part 2

St, 11/30/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

My Beeman R8 Tyrolean is an accurate pellet rifle that I enjoy shooting

Part 1

This report covers:

  • RWS Superpoints
  • Vogel pellets
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

Today I move back to 25 yards and we see how these three pellet shapes do. I shot 10-shot groups from my Beeman R8 Tyrolean off a sandbag rest at 25 yards. The scope setting was not changed for today’s shooting from where it was for the 10-meter test.

RWS Superpoints

You may recall that RWS Superpoints were the pellets that surprised me the most in the first test. They gave the tightest group. Today 10 Superpoints went into 0.464-inches at 25 yards. That’s larger than their 10-meter group, but it’s still impressive. I am changing my opinion of pointed pellets — at least in this rifle.

Ten RWS Superpoints went into 0.464-inches at 10 meters. The point of impact shifted up as expected, and also went to the right a little.

Vogle wadcutters

Next up were the Vogel target pellets. These I expected to begin spreading out. At 10 meters they grouped 10 in 0.379-inches between centers. At 25 yards the group measured 0.472. That’s much tighter than I expected. However 25 yards is about the limit at which wadcutters hold together. At 50 yards I expect to see a group that’s perhaps two inches or larger.

Ten Vogel wadcutter pellets made this 0.472-inch group at 25 yards.

Air Arms Falcon pellets

Air Arms Falcon pellets are the ones I was most excited to see at 25 yards. In the past these pellets have been extremely accurate in this R8. This time 10 of them went into a group that measures 0.509-inches between centers — the largest of the test again. Ah — but this time 8 of the 10 pellets are in 0.286-inches. That is about the group I expected for 10 shots with this pellet from this rifle.

Ten Falcon pellets went into a group measuring 0.509-inches between centers — the largest of the session. Eight of those pellets are in 0.286-inches, which is closer to what I expected the entire group to be.

I watched as shots number three and seven flew apart from the main group. The hold for those shots was perfect, so I cannot say I did anything to send them astray. The other 8 shots show what the rifle can do — and even wants to do with this pellet.


Once again the Superpoints gave me the tightest group. They are becoming something of an embarrassment, because they fly in the face of what I have been saying about pointed pellets for so long. They were an afterthought when I began, but I’m glad I included them in this test.

The wadcutters are holding their own with the Superpoints at 25 yards. I expected to see them start to spread, although I’ve seen wadcutters do well at 25 yards a few times in the past. But beyond 25 yards they have never held together in my experience. The test at 50 yards will be an interesting one!

I think the Falcon group shows part of what I had expected to see at 10 meters. The tight 8-shot group shows my past experience with this pellet in this rifle. The 2 stray shots are not what I have experienced. I might need to clean the barrel, though I won’t do anything until this test is completed.


This test was really just an excuse to get me shooting my R8 again, but look at all I have learned! I am really anticipating that 50-yard test!

Diana K98 pellet rifle: Part 1

Út, 11/29/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord

Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana’s K98 Mauser pellet rifle is very realistic.


This report covers:

    • Real deal
    • The rifle
    • Underlever
    • The stock
    • Finish
    • Sights
    • Size and weight
    • Tools?
    • Manual
    • Good feeling

It’s here! The Diana K98 air rifle is finally here and today I start testing it for you. I have fired it several times as of this moment, and my advice is if you want one, get it. Diana appears to have done everything right.

Real deal

Luckily for all of you I am a real airgunner, rather than some marketeer who is just doing this as a job. When it comes to looking at a new airgun like this, I know what to look for. For example, the stock is real wood! The picture on the box looks so good that I thought for a moment Diana had gone the plastic route like the Mosin Nagant BB gun I recently tested. No, sir! This one is all wood!

The rifle

I received the .22 caliber rifle and, yes, it does come in .177 as well. I thought given the power they claim (1150 f.p.s. in .177 and 850 in .22) that the larger caliber was the better choice. Normally I would give you the serial number of the rifle I am testing so you could hope to buy it after I’m finished, but I’m going to hold off on that for awhile with this one. I have a gut feeling I’m really going to like this airgun.


Obviously this isn’t a bolt action rifle like the Mauser K98 firearm. This one is an underlever with a sliding compression chamber that several other Diana rifles share. We know from experience that Diana has mastered this style of spring-piston powerplant. However, this K98 is unique. I am guessing that the powerplant was borrowed from the Diana 460 Magnum , but the underlever on the K98 is concealed as part of the Mauser firearm design. Instead of a cleaning rod section sticking out from the front of the long stock, what you see is the end of the underlever. It isn’t quite as long as the 460 underlever, but the cocking effort has still been greatly reduced. I will measure it for you in Part 2, but I would estimate that it’s at least 10 pounds less than the 47 pounds I measured when I tested the 460 Magnum.

Please remember, I am only guessing about this relationship. I base my guess on the fact that a manufacturer will use existing parts for a new model if they work, rather than going to the expense of creating all-new parts. That saves development cost plus it keeps the parts inventory lean. It’s why carmakers put one engine into many different models. Regardless of what parts are in the rifle, it is easy to cock, compared to the more powerful 460 Magnum.

The sliding compression chamber has a safety to keep the chamber from closing unexpectedly when you load the rifle. This safety is conveniently located for a right-handed shooter and I believe not as convenient for a lefty. When the rifle is cocked the safety slides back with the compression chamber and must be pressed to return the underlever and to slide the compression chamber home. Loading is directly into the breech, and on this rifle there is a hole in the spring tube below the barrel, so don’t drop the pellet.

The release for the sliding compression chamber is that button on the right side of the receiver, ahead of the closed chamber. Note that the Mauser banner is displayed proudly on top of the spring tube.

The stock

As noted, the stock is real wood, including the short upper handguard. On the Mauser K98 firearm the upper handguard keeps your hands away from the hot barrel when firing rapidly, but on this airgun it’s just for style. Also for style is the metal bushing in the butt of the stock. On the firearm that bushing is steel and is there for disassembling the bolt in the field. On the airgun it’s just for decoration and it’s made of non-ferrous metal. The last thing to note on the stock is the metal buttplate that very much resembles a Mauser K98 buttplate. This one is non-ferrous — probably to save weight.

As you can see, the stock is cut for the sling. The front barrel band has a heavy bar for the front part of the sling, just like the firearm. In fact, the most notable thing that’s not on this air rifle is a bayonet lug. It would get in the way of the underlever, anyhow!


I think the finish is exactly what airgunners want. The wood is finished with a semi-gloss finish that’s close to a military oil finish. The metal parts are deeply blued or blacked appropriately. You don’t blue aluminum, so those non-ferrous parts are probably anodized, but they all appear uniform. The only plastic part I can find is the triggerguard. Even the trigger blade is metal.


THANK YOU, DIANA! There are no fiberoptics on these sights! I might just buy the gun for that reason, alone! The front sight is a Vee on a wide base. And it adjusts for elevation! Yes, just use the special tool that comes with the rifle to turn the front sight one complete turn to change its height by 1 mm.

The rear sight is a fully adjustable leaf sight with a squared notch. It isn’t a copy of the Mauser K98 firearm rear leaf sight, but it’s located in the same place and it will work fine. I plan on testing the rifle thoroughly with the open sights.

There is a Diana scope base on the rear of the spring tube and I will mount a scope and test it that way for you, as well. But I will not leave a scope on this rifle. This is a rifleman’s rifle that was never intended to be shot with a scope. Yes, I know all about the 98K sniper rifles. If you examine them you will see that many compromises had to be made to mount scopes. But I will test this rifle with a scope for you — I promise.

Size and weight

This is a very large and heavy air rifle, as it needs to be to copy the Mauser K98 firearm. It weighs 9.5 lbs. which is slightly more than the firearm weighs, and there will be small variations for the density of the wood. It is 44 inches long, which is 0.3-inches longer than the firearm. So, this airgun is one close copy! This one happens to be quite muzzle heavy which I prefer for the stability it gives.


Yes, the K98 comes with a complete set of tools! You’ll need them to adjust the front sight and the trigger. What the big wrench is for I haven’t figured out yet.

This tool set comes with the rifle.


Whoever wrote the manual was a shooter — or they knew one! It’s well-written in 4 languages. And — (drum roll) — it is unique to this air rifle, alone! No cheezy photos and instructions for a trigger you may or may not have on your one-size-fits-all air rifle!

Good feeling

I have a real good feeling about this air rifle. A good feeling as in — Diana made it right in every way. I once called the Diana RWS 350 Magnum a rifleman’s air rifle, but if this K98 tests out the way I think it will, the 350 will have to move over!

Kids — we are going to have fun with this one!

Heilprin Columbian Model E BB gun: Part 1

Po, 11/28/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Heilprin Columbian Model E BB gun is one few people have seen.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Heilprin history
  • Today’s gun
  • Sheet metal fabrication
  • Trigger safety
  • BB caliber?
  • Money in the bank
  • What’s next?

Sometimes BB finds an airgun that few people have seen. Today is one such time. The Heilprin Columbian Model E lever action BB gun was made from 1914 to 1920 and according to the Blue Book of Airguns, maybe 50 or more probably survive. I’m not so sure about that number, but I know I’ve only seen a few at airgun shows. So when this one came up on Gun Broker a few weeks ago, I bid on it an won it. I don’t think there were any other bidders. I think they stayed away because they didn’t know what it is and they didn’t have the library to look it up.

I have seen more of an earlier Model M (1910-1914) at airgun shows. Dr. Dunathan (he wrote the book The American B.B Gun) says the Model M is rarer than the gun I’m reviewing today, but for some reason, there seem to be more of them around.

Both guns are 1000-shot BB repeaters. That’s very high-tech for their timeframe. Even BB repeaters weren’t that common back then.

The 1910 Heilprin Columbian Model M BB gun is the slightly more common one, in my experience.

Heilprin history

William Heilprin of Philadelphia was a businessman who probably was the money behind the guns that Elmer Baily invented. Early Heilprin BB guns are the ones that have the cast iron frame with intricate scrollwork and animal figures cast into the receivers.

This Heilprin Columbian Model 1906 BB gun receiver is very recognizable among BB gun collectors.

Today’s gun

The BB gun we are looking at today is small. It’s about the size of a Daisy 105, which is a small youth BB gun. It’s nickel-plated over the entire surface and has a wooden buttstock. It’s 33-1/2-inches long and weighs 2 lbs. 5 oz. The finger lever is quite small and obviously sized for young hands. It’s painful to try to hold the rifle by grabbing through the lever, but iot can be held on the outside. Also, the triggerguard is so small there isn’t much room for a finger.

The gun is made from sheet metal that’s nickel-plated over all the metal. It looks striking today, but in 1914 that was a common finish for a BB gun.

Left side of the receiver tells the model.

Right side gives the patent information.

The gun loads through a hole in the barrel, just forward of the receiver. A sliding cover is slid forward to expose the hole for loading, then slid back to keep BBs from falling out. This cover is held in place by friction and appears to be made of spring steel.

Just forward of the receiver on top of the barrel is the loading hole. Slide the cover forward and pour in the BBs. This may be a good place to oil the gun, too.

Sheet metal fabrication

In fact, the entire gun is a study in the history of sheet metal fabrication. If you examine it carefully you see holes that are punched in to fold the metal, stiffening the parts. There are also depressions punched into the metal that obviously hold internal parts in place. There is even one primitive rivet peeking out from the inside, where it must hold something critical in place.

The receiver is made in two half-sections that are stamped, rather than being folded around a mandril in a single piece the way Daisys were. The barrel is folded as a single piece. Where the ends of the barrel come together, the gun is open. Through the receiver halves I can peek at the mechanism inside. In 1913 Daisy perfected a method of welding thin sheet metal so they could make the barrels and compression chamber on their BB guns air-tight, but this gun doesn’t show that. I can see a sheet metal tube inside the two receiver halves that has to serve as the compression chamber, since the outside of the gun cannot be sealed air-tight.

Trigger safety

Above the receiver at the top of the wrist is a sheet metal button that must be depressed for the trigger to work. It’s identical in function to the thumb safety that Sheridan would use in the 1950s, only on this gun I find it much easier to reach. Perhaps that’s because of the small overall size of the gun? I don’t know, but it is an interesting look into the history of airguns.

There is a trigger safety (arrow) that must be depressed for the trigger to function.

BB caliber?

According to the Blue Book, the Model E is a true BB caliber, which would be 0.173-inches. I have my doubt because of when it was made. Daisy didn’t get into the steel BB business before 1920, and I thought the date was after 1925. That was when the BB size dropped to 0.173-inches. This gun wasn’t made that late. So I’m guessing this is really made for Air Rifle Shot that is lead and measures 0.175-inches. If I get to shoot it we shall see.

Why wouldn’t I get to shoot it? Well, a gun this old may not function like it’s supposed to. I haven’t even cocked it yet, because I’m still trying to figure it out. And I want to oil it, so until I do that — no cocky, no shooty! I called this a Part 1 and there will at least be a part 2, but I can’t guarantee this will be a normal report.

Money in the bank

A BB gun as rare as this is an investment. There are a limited number of serious collectors in the world, but it’s a safe bet there are more of them than there are examples of this gun. So I should be able to recover the money I spent when I finish with it — if I want to. This gun is so unique I am thinking of making it a wall-hanger conversation piece for my house.

That’s the thing with unusual airguns like this one. They are desirable for a number of different reasons, and your money is usually very safe. Buy them right like I did and you can even make money. You might not be familiar with a gun like this, but if I said you could buy an Air Venturi Bronco that’s like new in the box for $50 or an excellent FWB 124 deluxe for $200, would you do it? You would make money on those deals, almost guaranteed!

What’s next?

I will try to get this gun operating for a complete test. If I can’t, the next report will be a short one that describes what I tried and what I plan to do with the gun.

BSA Airsporter Mark IV: Part 2

Pá, 11/25/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The BSA Airsporter Mark IV.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • My mistake
  • RWS Hobby pellets
  • Eley Wasps
  • RWS Superpoints
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Airsporter Mark IV? I thought this was a Mark I, B.B. What gives?

My mistake

Apparently B.B. Pelletier is the only person in the world who can’t recognize BSA Airsporter variations. I read the serial number and compared it to the table and concluded this was a Mark I in .22 caliber. Their serial number begins with the letter G. Unfortunately, there is also a prefix GI in the list, which looks for all the world like the number one at the beginning of the serial number. Only it isn’t. I know that now, after an embarrassing first report.

Actually, I’m pleased this happened, because it illustrates one of life’s frustrating little problems — namely that BSA didn’t give much thought to assigning their serial numbers, or to the positioning of the prefix letters or to their fonts. Let me show you what I saw.

This is the serial number. It is supposed to read GI 06364. Does that look like the letter I after the G, or the number one? It’s a san serif font (no crossbars on the ends of the letter), plus they spaced it away from the G prefix.

This serial number makes the rifle an Airsporter Mark IV, manufactured from 1969 to 1971. That’s a more mundane rifle than the Mark I I thought it was, though it’s still an Airsporter.

Today we are going to see how well it shoots. Reader Dom thinks I may have lucked out and gotten one that’s very powerful. We’ll know in a few minutes.

RWS Hobby pellets

I decided to begin with RWS Hobby pellets, because they are so light. Also, I have found the skirts of Hobbys to be wider than average pellets, so I thought they might work better in a taploader.

Hobbys averaged 512 f.p.s. The range went from a low of 488 f.p.s. to a high of 524 f.p.s. That’s a span of 36 f.p.s., which is pretty broad. At the average velocity this 11.9-grain pellet produced 6.93 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. I think Hobbys may not be as good in this Airsporter as I envisioned.

Eley Wasps

Dom suggested trying Wasps in the Airsporter. They are certainly fat pellets. Ten Wasps averaged 535 f.p.s. with a range that went from 515 to 544 f.p.s. That’s a span of 29 f.p.s. At the average velocity this 14.5-grain pellet produced 9.22 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, which I believe was Dom’s prediction.

RWS Superpoints

The last pellet I tried was also a recommendation of Dom — the RWS Superpoint. He likes them for all taploaders because of their thin skirts that swell to seal the air behind the pellet. These 14.5-grain pellets averaged 487 f.p.s. with a range from 469 f.p.s. to a high of 500 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 31 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet produced 7.64 foot-pounds of energy. That tells me that the RWS Hobbys are definitely not the pellet for this rifle, because even Superpoints did better.

Cocking effort

The underlever cocks with about 23 pounds of effort if you pull it through the stroke fast. If you go slow it gets sticky and spikes to 10 pounds heavier.

Trigger pull

The single-stage trigger breaks at 3 lbs. 15 oz, which is very close to 4 lbs. I has guessed it was 2 lbs. before I measured it. It is extremely crisp! There are two adjustment screws, but I like it so well where it is that I’m going to leave it.


Well, Dom, you can relax. I have an absolutely mundane BSA Airsporter. It’s probably going to play the same in the accuracy test, too. We don’t need the mirror to tell us that this Airsporter is not the fairest in the land.

Christmas gifts for the airgunner: Part 1

Čt, 11/24/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Gifts for $25 and under
  • Gifts for $100 and under
  • Gifts for $250 and under
  • Gifts with no price limit

First of all, to my American readers — Happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and I hope you do, too.

With the holidays fast approaching we sometimes need help finding those perfect gifts. This blog offers some of my personal picks this year.

Gifts for $25 and under

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my book, BB Guns Remembered. It’s the perfect short story collection bathroom reader for someone who enjoys nostalgia. And this book makes the B.B. gun the star. At $10 it’s the perfect stocking-stuffer. If your airgunner likes to read, this is a good one!

Your airgunner may like a tin of Smart Shot Lead BBs. These BBs are on the large side and tend to be more accurate than steel BBs in many guns, plus they are much safer. Before ordering these, be sure to ask your airgunner if he has guns that can use them.

Shooters always need targets to shoot at and the paper ones your shooter copies are lousy. They tear and don’t give a good impression of the shots. He would probably love to have a stack of good paper targets, but will never order them for himself. Be a hero and do the deed!

Many shooters can use the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. It comes in 177 and .22 caliber, with .177 being the most popular. The seater is adjustable for seating depth. It helps those shooters with fat fingers and anyone who shoots a breakbarrel really needs one!

Gifts for $100 and under

First up in this category is the Beeman P17 air pistol. It’s only $35, yet it shoots like airguns selling for many times as much. It’s accurate, has a great trigger, adjustable sights and it feels great in the hand. What’s not to like?

Every shooter needs a bullet trap that will last and not get shot out, and the Do-All Bullet Box does just that. This is another item an airgunner won’t buy for himself, yet every one of us needs one. He’ll thank you every time he uses it!

The Tech Force M8 is priced right at $100, but as a breakbarrel spring piston rifle it offers value that other low-priced spring guns cannot give. Maybe your airgunner missed his chance to own an Air Venturi Bronco. The M8 is the next best thing for even less money!

For a great single-shot pellet pistol it’s hard to beat the Crosman 2240. It’s accurate, powerful and very ergonomic. It runs on CO2, so be sure to buy some 12-gram cartridges if you buy the gun. And don’t forget that it’s .22 caliber.

Gifts for $250 and under

My top recommendation in this category is the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun. At $140, it represents the best value in a target airgun. And be sure to buy some Avanti Precision Ground Shot which this gun needs to do its best. Better get some 5-meter targets, too, as they are not common items for airgunners to have.

Does your airgunner want a good accurate spring rifle? I recommend the Walther Terrus. It’s not overly powerful, but it is deadly accurate and a great value in a spring gun. I’m recommending the model with the synthetic stock because it works well with this rifle, and it’s less expensive.

Got a cowboy? Get him a John Wayne Duke Colt BB revolver. He’ll be proud of it and surprised by the accuracy, too. This family of airguns also comes in identical models that shoot pellets, if he doesn’t want a BB gun. I like the BB gun models best, but that’s just a personal preference.

Every dedicated airgun shooter needs a chronograph. They measure the speed of the pellet or BB coming out of the airgun and are useful in many different ways. But most shooters won’t buy one because of the cost. What a wonderul gift to give — one that he needs but would never buy for himself! I recommend the Shooting Chrony Alpha Master, because it has the remote display with controls that allow you to be up to 15 feet away from the skyscreens. That’s most useful on a crowded public range. He’ll love it!

Gifts with no price limit

These are the things most airgunners want, but probably have to wait for a birthday or Christmas (and maybe more than one) to get. I’ll start with the finest spring piston air rifle made today. That would be the Air Arms TX200 Mark III. This is an air rifle I have no reservations about recommending, because I know it performs. It needs no tuning, because it’s fine just as it comes from the box. Just mention it to your airgunner in a casual conversation and listen to see whether he wants one. I’ll bet he does! This rifle comes without sights and will need a scope and mounts.

Another great air rifle is the Talon SS from AirForce Airguns. This is the airgun that accepts interchangeable barrels, so it’s not just an air rifle — it’s a whole system. It can be any of four different calibers in three different barrel lengths. I recommend getting the .22 caliber base gun to start with. This is one of my go-to air rifles. And this one has great power that the next rifle doesn’t have. This rifle comes without sights and will need a scope and mounts

If your shooter likes the classic look of a rifle, then the Benjamin Marauder might suit him better. You can’t change calibers of this rifle like the Talon SS can, and the power is lower (but still respectable), but the Marauder does have some unique qualities. The adjustable trigger is near-perfection, and the shooter can adjust the fill pressure and the rifle’s power for best accuracy. And Marauders are very accurate — often just as accurate as the Talon SS. I have no caliber recommendation for a Marauder, so ask your airgunner what he fancies. This rifle comes without sights and will need a scope and mounts

My final recommendation today is for an air pistol that many shooter will like, but not all. The Beeman P1 appeals to the shooter who’s after ultimate accuracy in an air pistol. It holds like a 1911 firearm and has a beautiful adjustable trigger, and adjustable sights. But it’s hard to cock, so check with your airgunner before buying one.

That’s it for today’s gift guide. I’m thinking of writing at least one more.

Pellet shapes and performance: Part 1

St, 11/23/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

My Beeman R8 Tyrolean is an accurate pellet rifle that I enjoy shooting

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Shapes
  • RWS Superpoints
  • Vogel pellets
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • Conclusions

To be honest, I was looking for an opportunity to shoot my Beeman R8 Tyrolean rifle today and this came to me. We filmed this segment for “American Airgunner” back in 2010 and the results were very dramatic, so I want to share this with everyone who didn’t get to see that show.

The test

I will shoot three common pellet shapes at 10 meters, 25 yards and 50 yards, so we can compare how they do as the distance increases. I write about this a lot, but haven’t shown the direct results in any of my writing. Today we start correcting that.


Popular wisdom says the domed pellet is the most accurate as distance increases. The pointed pellet is the least accurate at any distance and the wadcutter is very accurate close up, but the accuracy falls away at about 25 yards. In an ideal world I would select the most accurate of each of these three pellet shapes to test at each distance. Well, guess what? The world isn’t perfect, and I don’t have that information. I could conduct another test of each pellet type to find that perfect pellet for the Beeman R8, but most of us won’t live long enough fto see such a test completed. I certainly won’t!  After three reports like that you guys would be using the comments section to talk about slot car racing!

So here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a domed pellet I know shoots well in the rifle, a good wadcutter and an RWS Superpoint that’s the best pointed pellet I know of, and go from there. This really isn’t about which is the best pellet for the rifle — it’s about what happens to each pellet shape as the distance increases. At 10 meters they all should be good.

RWS Superpoints

First up were RWS Superpoints. They thankfully landed just below the 10-ring that’s just a dot on this target. That was my aim point and I wanted to preserve it throughout the test.

Ten Superpoints went into 0.365-inches between centers at 10 meters. That’s better than I expected.

Ten RWS Superpoints went into 0.365-inches at 10 meters.

Vogel pellets

For the wadcutter I selected the Vogel wadcutter that sometimes does very well in a 10-meter rifle. In the R8 10 of them went into 0.379-inches at 10 meters. This group looks much larger than the first one because wadcutters cut clean holes, where pointed pellets slip through and allow the target paper to close after them.

This large group surprised me, but on shot 4 or 5 I took out my aim point. After that I was guessing where the dot was, and that probably made the group a little larger.

Ten Vogel pellets went into a 0.379-inch group at 10 meters when shot from the Beeman R8.

Air Arms Falcon pellets

For the domed pellet I chose the Air Arms Falcon pellet. It usually does very well in this rifle. This time 10 Falcons made a 0.411-inch group that was the largest group of the test.

Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets went into 0.411-inches at 10 meters.


Well, I certainly learned something from this test. I didn’t expect the Superpoints to group the best, but they did. I also expected the Falcons to be the best and they are the worst. Of course “worst” is a relative term, because this R8 is such an accurate rifle.

Also, 10 meters is much too close to learn anything about pellet accuracy. You’ll see that when I back up to 25 yards. I expect the wadcutters to start spreading at that range and the Falcons to surprise us by their accuracy. As for the Superpoints — I don’t know what to expect. And that’s why we do this.

Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 blowback BB pistol: Part 3

Út, 11/22/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Max Michel 1911 BB pistol from Sig Sauer.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Sig answers
  • The test
  • Daisy Premium Grade BBs
  • Recoil!
  • Slide hold-open works
  • Sig BBs
  • Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • Evaluation
Sig answers

Today is accuracy day for the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 blowback BB pistol. I have heard on my last report about the shot count from Ed Schultz at Sig. He was surprised my pistol got so few shots per CO2 cartridge. His experience has been an average of 77 shots per cartridge, so my test pistol is definitely running on the low end. To be fair, it was a pre-production sample they sent me more than a month ago. The production models may be more refined.

He also mentioned that this pistol was not meant for competition. That’s understood, since there is no action p[istol competition for a BB pistol like this one. Sig would do well to start one, though. It would give buyers a reason to purchase a BB gun like this.

This pistol is for training, with all the controls in the correct places and operating the same way as the firearm — save for the manual safety that we have already discussed. I think we all understand what a BB pistol can do, so the only thing that remains to be seen is the accuracy of this one. It’s it’s accurate, then the training can be beneficial. We aren’t looking for bullseye accuracy — just the ability to put all the shots relatively close together and also close to where the sights are aiming.

The test

I shot the pistol at 5 meters at a bullseye target. I was seated and I rested the front frame of the pistol on the UTG Monopod. I used a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. The shots were fired at least 10 seconds apart. Let’s see what happened.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs

First up were Daisy Premium Grade BBs. Ten of them went into as group that measures 1.434-inches between centers at 5 meters. Eight of the shots are in 1.051-inches. The group is well-centered on the target, which tells me the sights are right on. Also, the group is fairly round.

Ten Daisy BBs went into 1.434-inches at 5 meters, with 8 in 1.051-inches.


I can now comment much better on the recoil of this pistol. It is quite strong and will force the shooter to reacquire the target after each shot. That’s exactly what a trainer like this should do, and this Max Michel pistol does it well. No, the recoil is not as powerful as a .45 ACP, but it is much more powerful than the recoil of my Chiappa M1911 .22 rimfire pistol.

Slide hold-open works

The slide holds open after the last BB is fired. That tells you it’s time to reload. There is no guessing. This is no small achievement, because the gun has to sense there are no more BBs in the magazine to be able to do this. A firearm uses a lip on the magazine follower for this function, and I think the BB gun uses the follower button that sticks out to the left side of the magazine. Whatever the case, it works fine.

Sig BBs

Next up were the Sig BBs that came with the gun. Ten of them went into 1.835-inches at 5 meters. This group was also well-centered on the bull, but it was elongated on the vertical axis.

Ten Sig BBs went into 1.835-inches at 5 meters. This group is elongated vertically.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs

The last BB I tried was the Hornady Black Diamond BB. This one put 10 into 1.697-inches, or about midway between the Daisy and Sig BBs. This BB also landed slightly to the left of the aim point, and was the only BB to do so.

Ten Hornady Black Diamond BBs went into 1.697-inches at 5 meters. This group is both elongated vertically and slight left of the am point.

The Daisy BBs shot the best overall, giving both the smallest group and the roundest one, as well. They also shot to the point of aim, so they are the BB to beat.


Now that I’ve had a chance to test the Max Michel BB pistol thoroughly I can give you my opinion. This pistol has several things going for it. The feel of the handgun and its controls is very authentic. And the recoil is impressive for a BB gun. The heavy metal slide accounts for that. The recoil really threw my sights off target when the gun fired, which is exactly how you want to train for the firearm.

I was surprised that the pistol shot to the point of aim. That doesn’t happen often, and since the sights don’t adjust, it’s a very good thing!

I like the pistol, overall. I think it does a good job of being the trainer it’s supposed to be.

Mauser 300SL target rifle: Part 4

Po, 11/21/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Mauser 300SL. There are three finger scallops along the cocking lever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Bug Buster
  • Trigger adjust
  • The test
  • Qiang Yuan Training pellets
  • JSB Match light weight
  • Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets
  • Conclusions

I tested the Mauser 300SL target rifle with open sights last time and I wondered if I got everything the rifle had to give. Today I will try to shoot it as accurately as I can. The original plan was to install the best peep sight and front sight element I could find, but that plan didn’t work out. The front sight on the Mauser doesn’t fit any of the target inserts I own, so I can’t change the post and bead that’s there. Without a target element up front, no peep sight will make any difference. I have already tested these sights to their limits.

Bug Buster

I decided to install a UTG 3-9X32 Bug Buster scope instead. Running it at 9 power, nobody can say I didn’t give the 300SL every chance to show its best. I discovered some considerable droop in the barrel when this scope was installed, so I took measures to correct it. As a result, all my groups landed high on the target. Normally I like to zero a target rifle better than you see here, but this one was too much trouble.

Trigger adjust

Just to see what affect they had, I adjusted the two screws in the trigger. As I thought, they affect the length of stage one and the location of stage two. If that sounds like it’s the same thing, it can be. But the screws had been adjusted to remove stage two entirely, which on this trigger made stage one a long and confusing pull with lots of creep. I adjusted them so stage one was not as long. The creep remained in the stage one pull, because the trigger is so crude. But the trigger blade then stopped at stage two, which now breaks relatively crisply. When I say relatively, I mean compared to the vague way the trigger broke before. It’s still way heavier than I like for a target trigger, but it will have to do. I can’t disassemble this trigger to smooth the parts because I would have to destroy the fasteners that hold the pins in place and I don’t know where to get replacements.

The test

Like I did in the last test, I shot off a sandbag rest at 10 meters. The rifle was rested directly on the bag, which didn’t seem to cause any problems with pellets scattering.

Qiang Yuan Training pellets

The best pellet in the last test was the Chinese Qiang Yuan Training pellet, so that was the one I selected to start this test. With open sights I put 10 of these pellets into a group that measures 0.658-inches at 10 meters. With the scope, my 10-shot group measures 0.522. That’s more than a tenth of an inch smaller and is significant, but it’s still in the same ballpark as the group shot with open sights.

Ten Qiang Yuan training pellets went into 0.522-inches at 10 meters when the rifle was scoped. It’s significantly better than the open-sight group, but still in the same size range.

JSB Match light weight

Now it was time to try some different pellets. I shot some JSB Match light weight pellets next. I linked to middle weight match pellets instead, because the light weight pellets are out of stock. JSB calls most of their pellets match pellets, but only the wadcutter shape is allowed in 10-meter matches. They are either referring to other types of competition like field target, or they are using the term match loosely.

Ten of these went into 0.527-inches at 10 meters. That’s so close to the Chinese training pellets that it’s really too close to call. The difference could be a measurement error. If I were to shoot several groups with each pellet, the winner might switch back and forth.

Ten JSB Match light weight pellets made this 0.527-inch group at 10 meters.

Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets

The final group I shot was with 10 Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets. These are the top pellets made by this manufacturer, and we have seen them out-perform other world-class target airguns in past tests. In the Mauser 300SL they put 10 into a group that measures 0.577-inches between centers. That is the largest group of this test, and it demonstrates why you have to test a lot of pellets in your target airguns to find the best. In this rifle the Chinese training pellet shot better. That might reverse in another test, because these are very close. But even so, it shows you don’t need to spend a lot of money to be accurate with this rifle. Of course “accuracy” is a relative term.

Ten Qiang Yuan Olympic grade pellets made this 0.577-inch group at 10 meters. It is the largest group of the test.


This is the last test I will do on the Mauser 300SL target rifle. I think we have now seen its full potential. It is an interesting side road for a target rifle to take, and I hope this test has revealed the full potential of the model.

Is it worth it? Maybe to a collector of 10-meter target rifles, it is. Just as the Haenel models 311 and 312 are both “target” rifles capable of similar accuracy. You don’t buy them to compete; you buy them for their unique mechanisms.

It’s also a good informal shooter when you just want to have some fun. But keep your expectations low, because a Daisy 753 will out-shoot it.

BSA Airsporter Mark I: Part 1

Pá, 11/18/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The BSA Airsporter Mark I is an all-time classic.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Sleeper?
  • How to date your BSA
  • Condition
  • The rifle
  • Stock
  • Trigger
  • Wood
  • Rust
  • Firing behavior

A few weeks ago I landed several great airguns on the Gun Broken auction website. One was that Mauser 300SL target rifle that we aren’t done with yet and another was the BSF S20 pistol I’m looking at now. The third one was a BSA Airsporter. It’s an taploading underlever whose lever is concealed in the forearm, so it looks much sleeker. I’m sure when it first hit the market in 1948 that it sent shockwaves around the world. In fact Falke copied the action for their famous model 80 and 90 rifles, and Anschütz did the same when they made the sporting rifle that later became the Egyptian Hakim. They all started with the Airsporter Mark I.

The cocking lever extends down from the forearm.


According to the Blue Book, Volume 11, an Airsporter Mark I in 100 percent condition (like new) is worth $300. I will pay that for every one you bring me in that condition. I’ve never seen them go for that little in the U.S., and I’ve yet to see one that was better than about 85 percent. This rifle commands respect — especially the Mark Is and IIs. The later Marks do sell reasonably, but it’s the first two that people really want. So imagine my delight to discover that the Airsporter I had won in the auction was a Mark I. The seller could have doubled his bids if he had known to explain that in his description.

How to date your BSA

This rifle came in both .177 and .22 calibers, and the one I got is a .22. You can tell which Mark you have by the serial number. Here is a table to look that up. My rifle serial number has the prefix “G” which pegs it as a .22 caliber Airsporter made between 1948 and 1954. The 6-digit serial numbers tells me mine is a later gun in that range.


My rifle has about 80 percent original blue with some wearing of the black annodized aluminum (or should I say aluminium?) receiver. My stock has about 85 percent original factory finish on the beech wood, which looks cheap, but it’s one of the best-finished original Airsporters I have seen. Most of them have no finish left, and the wood has been waxed to a soft patina. They look much better that way, but in the condition mine is in it is definitely more collectible.

Mine came with a cheap scope. No — it’s not another of those scarce BSA scopes that came on my Meteor Mark I. It’s a cheap Dianawerk 4×20 tube that, in 1950, was probably all the rage. My rifle also has the original open sights that adjust in both directions. After the problem with the Meteor, that was a blessing! The front sight should have the same pressed metal hood that the Meteor has, but this one is missing. I will shoot the rifle with the scope first before I get to the open sights, because it was clamped down tight and might actually be on after all these years.

Rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation.

W.H.B. Smith reviewed the BSA Airsporter and concluded it would never be sold in the U.S. because the quality that went into the gun was so high that it would have meant a retail price of about $55 in 1957. This was just after Sheridan had learned their lesson that the Supergrade priced at $56.50 was too much for Americans. The few Airsporters that did enter the U.S. did so through returning servicemen, exports into Canada and a host of similar small doors.

The rifle

The Airsporter is a medium-sized air rifle, measuring 44 inches overall with an 18-3/4-inch barrel. The length of pull is 13-3/4-inches. The rifle weighs 8 lbs. In its day the size and weight would have shocked American sportsmen who were used to much lighter Benjamins and Sheridans. But today it seems to be sized like an average airgun. How the times have changed!

According to Smith, I should get velocities of around 550 f.p.s., but of course that would be with 1950s pellets. I imagine today’s pellets can be coaxed just a little faster. We shall see.


The stock on my Mark I is plain-Jane. Earlier Mark I stocks had raised panels on either side of the forearm with finger grooves running down their centers, but my stock is much plainer. The forearm is square-sectioned and feels clunky in my hands. I’ve felt those older stocks and they are much warmer and more comfortable to the touch.


The Airsporter trigger has two screws for adjustment. I will check them out and see what they do, if anything. The trigger blade is very wide and will feel good when I shoot for accuracy.

Trigger has two adjustment screws.


The finish on the wood stock is thin and chipping off. there are numerous scratches that show up vividly because when the wood is scratched, it turns very bright.


I have gone over my rifle with a tactical flashlight and I see some surface rust speckles in some hidden areas, so I think I’m going to remove the stock and clean the entire outside of the metal with steel wool and Ballistol. The steel wool won’t harm the blue and the Ballistol will stabilize the rusted areas. It might do the wood some good, too. I’ll experiment.

Firing behavior

When I got the rifle the cocking was stiff and jerky. It was as if the piston seal was hanging up inside the compression chamber. I filled the loading tap with silicone chamber oil then closed it and let the rifle sit for a day on its butt. The oil ran back into the compression chamber and softened the leather piston seal. I also put some Tune in a Tube grease through the cocking slot to cancel a buzzy mainspring. The rifle now shoots calm and steady with a puff of smoke that tells me the piston seal is still oiled.

That’s it for now. Just know we have another classic air rifle to test!

NOTE from the author — This is not a Mark I Airsporter. It’s a Mark IV. The serial number is not G, it’s GI, but the lettering they used looks like the number one. Thanks to reader Dom for spotting my mistake. I will change the title in Part 2

Generation 2 .25 caliber Benjamin Marauder: Part 10

Čt, 11/17/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Second-generation Benjamin Marauder in a synthetic stock.

UTG Bubble Leveler scope: Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

This report covers:

  • Mounting the Bubble Leveler scope
  • Back to the Marauder
  • Sight in
  • Shooting with this scope!
  • Unanticipated problem
  • I quit!

Oh, boy! This week I get to report on two world-beaters! First there was the Diana AR-8 N-TEC and today it’s the gen 2 Benjamin Marauder. I will show you why I am so happy in a moment, but first, there is another story to tell. I mounted the UTG 4-16 Bubble Leveler scope on this rifle and that gives me a lot more to talk about.

Mounting the Bubble Leveler scope

Why would mounting this scope be any different from mounting any other scope? Simple — because it has a bubble level inside. My trick of bisecting the rear of the receiver with the vertical reticle line took on a whole new dimension when there was a bubble below it. I had to rotate the scope in the rings until the vertical reticle line bisected both the bubble and the receiver, which meant how I held the rifle entered into the process for the first time. It took me a while to get the scope to where the sight picture looked right with the bubble level and the rifle feeling right in my hands.

However — and what I am about to say is even more important now that we have this new scope — there is nothing that’s “level” on any rifle, so you have to do this until it looks (and now feels) right to you. It makes absolutely no difference if it looks right to anyone else, because you are the one who is going to level the bubble for every shot. The rifle will therefore always be fired in the same attitude — irrespective of what your best friend thinks. Sure, you can hang a plumb line at 50 yards and line up on it if you want to — it makes absolutely no difference. Now that you have this bubble to check, you will always fire with the rifle in the same position. Today I learned just how important that is!

Back to the Marauder

The scope was now mounted and I was ready to shoot. But my house was being cleaned, and I could not use my 25-yard indoor range that shoots from the bedroom through the living room into the garage. Don’t want no dead housekeepers! So I moved outdoors to a range I used to use. But it’s only 20 yards — not 25. My testing today was done at 20 yards. I used to close the bedroom door and pop out the window screen which gave me 25 yards, but that was when I had Edith to control the cats and there wasn’t another person walking around the house. So, 20 yards it was.

I also used my quiet pellet trap, since this was shot outside. Even with that, though, the .25 caliber pellets still whack the duct seal pretty hard and make a lot of noise. And there was one other problem I hadn’t counted on that I will cover at the end of the report.

Of course I am still shooting the JSB Exact Kings that do so well. When you have a proven winner, why change?

Sight in

I must tell you that the bubble made me hold the rifle in an odd position. At first it seemed to be strangely canted, but as I shot, the more I realized I was holding it straight up and down for the first time. The amount of difference was way more than I would have believed.

I have used bubble levels on the outside of airgun scopes for years. But having a bubble inside the scope makes it so easy to center that bubble — especially when shooting from a sandbag. I know that I can have complete control over my rifle when shooting with this bubble.

I sighted in and discovered there is quite a bit of droop in my Marauder. I got on paper okay, but wasn’t able to get the pellet as high as the crosshairs were on the paper. This is good to know, because I want to go to 50 yards next, and with the scope mounted this way it will never be able to shoot that far. I used 2-piece scope rings, so I will swap them around, front and rear, and I’ll also add a shim in the rear ring.

Shooting with this scope!

But, it was shooting with the Bubble Leveler scope that really opened my eyes! Once I was “zeroed” (as best I could) I started shooting a group. Only the hole didn’t appear to get any larger! Yes, I was only shooting at 20 yards, but the pellets kept going to the same place — until shot number 6. With shot 6 I relaxed my concentration just a bit and the pellet dropped low to double the group size. After the shot fired I looked at the bubble and noticed that the vertical reticle was passing through the right edge rather than the center of the bubble. That answers the question someone asked about how centered the bubble needs to be.

Shots 7 and 8 passed through the group without enlarging the hole and I was finished. Eight shots went into 0.239-inches at 20 yards, with 7 of them going into 0.122-inches! Yes, folks, that is how that is done!

Eight shots in 0.239-inches, with 7 of them in 0.122-inches!

Unanticipated problem

Remember I mentioned an unanticipated problem with using the quiet pellet trap? Here it is. When pellet after pellet go to almost exactly the same place, they dig their way through the trap material. First the duct seal gives way and eventually the steel backing plate gets punctured. That actually happened on the 7th shot in this test. After that the pellets start working on my new cedar fence. So, no more quiet traps for this rifle!

I quit!

This one group was all I needed to see. The scope has to be remounted and shimmed for 50 yards, but I think I have just seen what the UTG Bubble Leveler scope can do for accuracy. The Marauder is a PCP, so there is no vibration with the shot. The trigger now breaks at mere ounces, so this rifle is set up to do its best. I need to get it to the 50-yard range quick!

Tom Himes, who tuned the action on my Marauder, said this is the most accurate .25-caliber Marauder he has seen, and I’m starting to believe him. This UTG Bubble Leveler scope really brings out the best in the gun. And the trigger that I consider too light is ideal for what I’m doing here. But let’s see what she will do at 50 yards.

After the 50-yard test I plan to mount the UTG Bubble Leveler scope on an accurate centerfire rifle, to test it there. This scope will get a workout from me!

Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 blowback BB pistol: Part 2

St, 11/16/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Max Michel 1911 BB pistol from Sig Sauer.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Loading the CO2 cartridge
  • Daisy BBs
  • Sig BBs
  • Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • Sig CO2 cartridge
  • Blowback is heavy
  • Trigger pull
  • Overall evaluation

Today we look at the velocity of the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 blowback BB pistol. Let’s get right to it.

Loading the CO2 cartridge

The CO2 cartridge loads differently than any I have encountered. Remove the left grip panel and pull up on bottom of the flat mainspring housing to unlatch, then swing the housing out of the grip and down under the grip. Now the large end of the cartridge must be inserted into the grip first. There are two flanges at the bottom of the hole in the grip that are too small for the cartridge to pas through, so the large end has to be inserted above them and then dropped inside the grip. That’s the first departure from the norm, but there is one more.

The mainspring housing is now swung back into position, but it stops when the piercing pin contacts the small end of the cartridge. You must squeeze the housing back into place. When you do this a roller bearing on the mechanism forces the cartridge up against the piercing pin, completing the procedure. This is one time where reading the manual will definitely help. I lost a little gas while I learned how to do this the first time.

Daisy BBs

The first BBs I loaded were Daisy Premium Grade BBs. The first shot went out at 397 f.p.s. They averaged 375 f.p.s. for 10 shots. I waited 10-15 seconds between every shot, but the velocity dropped in a straight line. Shot 9 was the slowest, at 361 f.p.s. So the spread for 10 shots was 36 f.p.s.

Sig BBs

Sig sent me a plastic bag of BBs with the pistol. They also sent a package of 15 CO2 cartridges, so I think they also plan to market BBs under their name and the packaging was just not ready when they sent me the gun. I loaded 10 Sig BBs next and continued the velocity test. Once again I waited 10-15 seconds between shots. These BBs averaged 381 f.p.s., with a low of 360 (last shot) and a high of 404 f.p.s. (first shot). The spread was 44 f.p.s.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs

The last BB I tested was the Hornady Black Diamond BB. On the first try these BBs averaged 350 f.p;.s. but that was because the CO2 was exhausted. The low was 305 f.p.s. and the high was 397 f.p.s. — again with a 10-15 second delay between shots. But I knew that was not an accurate test. so I exhausted the gas, getting a total of 46 shots from the gun before the gas pressure was no powerful enough to cycle the slide for the blowback. Then I installed a fresh cartridge.

Sig CO2 cartridge

The second cartridge I installed went better because I now understood the slightly strange procedure for piercing the cartridge. No gas was lost this time. And this one was a Sig cartridge. This I retested the Hornady Black Diamond BBs. This time they averaged 408 f.p.s. with a low of 386 f.p.s. and a high of 427 f.p.s. That’s a 41 f.p.s. spread.

After the first test I started seeing how many shots I could get from the cartridge by shooting and then waiting 5 minutes or more between shots. Shot number 37 was a Hornady BB at 395 f.p.s. After that shot the velocity started dropping. Shot number 40 was 381 f.p.s. Shot 45 was 327 f.p.s. Then I waited 2 hours before shot number 46, which went out at 315 f.p.s. The gun was clearly out of gas at this point. It went to 55 shots before the slide would no longer cycle the gun.

That’s 46 shots total on the first CO2 cartridge and 55 shots on the second one. This pistol uses a lot of gas to cycle that heavy slide.

Blowback is heavy

The slide is all metal and heavy so the blowback impulse is also heavy. The feeling is not unlike a .22 rimfire pistol when it’s fired.

Trigger pull

The trigger feels like a two-stage trigger, but that seems to be slop in the trigger linkage. Of course the hammer must be cocked for the trigger to work, so it’s really a single stage. The trigger breaks at a rather heavy 6 lbs. 6 oz. and there is some creep in the pull.

Overall evaluation

I hadn’t expected the gas consumption to be so high. A shooter will go through a lot of cartridges with this pistol. The trigger seems heavy for a competition gun.

The blowback does seem very realistic. It’s the most realistic blowback I have seen in many years of testing.

The next test will tell all. Accuracy trumps everything!

Diana model AR8: Part 3

Út, 11/15/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana AR8 N-TEC air rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

  • Mega-blaster
  • Baracuda Match 5.51mm heads
  • Initial observations
  • Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Bottom line?

Listen up, kiddies, because I don’t often get a chance to do what I’m about to do today. I have found a world-beater air rifle! It has some stuff I don’t like, but the bottom line is — the Diana AR8 is a winner. Allow me to explain.

First of all, I didn’t mount a scope for today’s accuracy test. The AR-8 comes with nice adjustable sights, so I shot it off a bag at 10 meters with open sights. I rested the rifle on my hand that was resting on a sandbag.


As noted in the velocity test, the AR-8 is a mega-blaster, and one with a gas spring at that. Because of that, I had almost no hope for accuracy. The thin thread of hope that I clung to is the fact that the Diana 340 N-TEC was very accurate when I tested it. But that rifle isn’t as powerful as the AR-8. Until today my experience with extremely powerful gas spring breakbarrel air rifles is they are not accurate. Except for the 340 N-TEC I just noted, the rest of them are punishing disappointments. The AR-8 changes that. Let me show you.

Baracuda Match 5.51mm heads

The first target I shot was with Baracuda Match pellets with 5.51mm heads. The first shot went high in the black bull, so I left the sights where they were. Ten pellets went into a horizontal group that measures 0.816-inches between centers. That’s not bad, but I hoped for better.

Ten Baracuda Match with 5.51mm heads went into this 0.816-inch group at 10 meters.

Initial observations

I was surprised that the pellets stayed as close together as they did. Usually these mega-magnum blasters throw pellets all over the place. However, because I was shooting Baracuda Match that comes in several head sizes, I decided to go up to the largest heads I had and see what a difference it made — if any.

I really appreciate the AR-8’s ultra-light trigger when I’m shooting targets. It makes everything so much easier.

The rifle doesn’t kick as much as I feared in Part 2. But it does vibrate. I got slapped in the face every time the rifle fired, and they were painful slaps. That’s something I could do without.

Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads

Next, I tried 10 Baracuda Match pellets with 5.53mm heads. This was the pellet for this rifle. They went into 0.49-inches at 10 meters. Now, THAT is a group! And it’s 10 shots. So, this AR-8 can really shoot!

Ten Baracuda Match with 5.53mm heads went into this 0.49-inch group at 10 meters. This is a group!

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

The last pellet I tried was the 18.13-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. Ten of them made a 0.735-inch group. That’s in-between the first and second groups, and closer to the first.

Ten JSB Exact Jumbos went into this 0.735-inch group at 10 meters.

Bottom line?

The bottom line today is that the Diana AR-8 rifle can really shoot. Yes, it does slap you in the kisser with painful vibration, but the trigger is superb and I don’t think hunters are going to mind that much.

Now that the detonations are over, this AR-8 has settled down to become a great shooter. Remember that, if you get one. There is a short break-in period.

I want to back up to 25 yards and shoot this rifle again with open sights. I know that’s not the way I normally do it, but that’s what I want to do. If this were my rifle, I would never mount a scope on it at all. That said, I will most likely conform to the usual plan and scope the rifle for the next test.

BSF S20 air pistol: Part 2

Po, 11/14/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The BSF S20 pistol looks like a rifle that’s been cut down to fit into a pistol grip.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Chinese copy?
  • An HW70 copy?
  • Velocity test Premier 7.9-grain
  • RWS Hobbys
  • Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoints
  • Breech seal?
  • Trigger pull
  • Cocking effort
  • What’s next?

Today we’re going to see what condition my new/old BSF S20 pistol is in. I will compare it to my BSF S20 Custom Match pistol that I tested back in 2008. That pistol is shooting at the rated velocity of 440 f.p.s., for pellets that were never specified in the ARH catalog, so I guess they are Hobbys or something equally light. But before I get into that testing, I have a surprise for you.

Chinese copy?

Reader Richardwales mentioned that he had owned a couple Chinese copies of this pistol in the past. Then reader JimQwerty123 mentioned that he had also considered buying one. I answered that I had allowed $10 in trade on one (a Chinese copy of the S20) at the Findlay airgun show several years ago, and I had always intended testing it for you. Today I’m going to show you that gun and ask both readers if it is the one they were referring to in their comments.

An HW70 copy?

I always thought the Chinese pistol I have looks more like a copy of the HW70 pistol (see the HW 70A pistol) than the BSF S20. And maybe the two readers are talking about a different Chinese pistol than this one. At any rate, I’m using this opportunity to show it to you and to announce that I intend testing it for you one day soon.

The Chinese pistol on the bottom looks something like the S20 pistol above. I thought it looked more like an HW 70 pistol, but I can see it either way.

Velocity test Premier 7.9-grain

Back in 2008 the Custom Match shot the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets at an average 398 f.p.s. In this S20 they average 249 f.p.s., which is 149 f.p.s.slower. The velocity spread went from 218 f.p.s. to 275 f.p.s., which is 57 f.p.s. This pistol is clearly in need of some help! This is one big benefit that comes from owning a chronograph, because the pistol felt and sounded strong to me.

RWS Hobbys

The RWS Hobby pellet is often used as a standard for velocity tests because it is so light for a lead pellet. In the S20 Custom Match pistol Hobbys averaged 438 f.p.s. — almost spot-on the 440 f.p.s. the pistol was advertised to get. In the S20 pistol I’m testing today Hobbys average 287 f.p.s., or 149 f.p.s. slower — again! The spread went from a low of 281 f.p.s. to a high of 296 f.p.s., which is 15 f.p.s.

Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoints

The final pellet I tested in today’s pistol was the Crosman Silver Eagle hollowpoint alloy pellet that is no longer offered. In the Custom Match pistol they averaged 553 f.p.s. In this S20 they averaged 386 f.p.s., or 167 f.p.s. slower. The spread was huge, though! It ran from a low of 290 f.p.s. to a high of 454 f.p.s. That’s 164 f.p.s.

Breech seal?

I noted that the leather breech seal is completely flat with one large divot out of it. It can’t be doing its job very well. I “fluffed” it with a small pick and got Hobbys to shoot about 15 f.p.s. faster than their average. This was just a quick and dirty way to determine that some improvement could be made by replacing the breech seal. It’s not a fix, but it does tell me a new seal is needed.

The old leather breech seal is completely flattened and has a divot out of it. Does it still work?

The seal is stuck in the groove pretty tight. So I picked the fiber out of the leather to “fluff” it up a bit, to see if that made it seal better.

I think the piston seal also needs to be examined. And the mainspring might even be a bit tired. Whatever it is, I will address it and see if I can get this pistol back to where it should be.

Trigger pull

The single-stage trigger has a long pull that releases when 4 lbs. 10 oz of effort are applied. Yes, there is a trigger adjustment, but I’m going to wait to see what the trigger mechanism looks like inside the gun before I start adjusting things.

Cocking effort

Most of the cocking stroke is light — at just 14 lbs. throughout the arc. Only at the end of the stroke does the effort spike to 21 lbs.

What’s next?

I think the next step for this pistol is a complete teardown and evaluation of the powerplant. After I see what’s inside I can make better decisions about what should be done next.

BSA Meteor Mark I: Part 7

Pá, 11/11/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSA Meteor Mark I.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 
Part 5
Part 6

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Scope not good!
  • Sight-in
  • RWS Hobbys
  • The state of the tune
  • RWS Superpoints
  • Results

Today I shoot the BSA Meteor Mark I with its factory scope. This is a 2-power scopes that I doubt was ever filled with nitrogen, so the optics are less than sparking. They are at the toy level, at best.

The test

I’m shooting at 10 meters, using the two pellets that were the most accurate in the last test. The rifle is rested directly on a sandbag, because it demonstrated that was okay in the last test. Last time I shot at 10-meter air pistol targets, but this scope magnifies two times, so now I’m using 10-meter air rifle targets.

Scope not good!

I cannot see much through this scope. The bulls appear as black dots and I have to center the reticle on the outside of the bull, rather than on the center. What I’m saying is I hold the rifle so the lines appear to bisect the bull at the outside edge. This is not precise aiming!


The scope was simple to mount. The bases are fixed on both the scope and the rifle, so all that had to be done was slide the clamps in place and tighten the thumbscrews. That took about one minute. In the end, though, the reticle is not completely vertical and the way this scope is constructed there is no way to correct it. So I held the rifle on a cant to align the reticle every time. That is not ideal, especially when the scope is so hard to see through.

Shot one was on paper to the right of the bull and slightly high. I adjusted the reticle and discovered something interesting. This scope has two distinctly different kinds of clicks. There are fine clicks and there are coarse heavy clicks. I think the fine clicks don’t do anything and the heavy clicks are the real ones. There are two or three fine clicks between every heavy click. It’s strange to say the least. It took me three more shots to get where I wanted and then I was sighted-in. You will see that it’s not perfect, but with this scope it’s about as good as I can do.

RWS Hobbys

The first group was shot with RWS Hobbys. I put 10 pellets into 0.685-inches with 9 of them landing in 0.443-inches. Shot number 4 is the one that strayed to the right, and, given how hard this scope is to aim, I can’t tell whether it was a wild shot or just an aiming error.

Ten RWS Hobby pellets went into 0.685-inches at 10 meters, with 9 of them landing in 0.443-inches.

The state of the tune

I will mention that the rifle is starting to buzz just a little. I think the Tune in a Tube is either settling in or wearing off. I’ll keep an eye on it and let you know because I will be shooting this rifle some more.

RWS Superpoints

The next pellet I fired was also the last one for today’s test. RWS Superpoints appeared to be the most potentially accurate pellets in the last test with open sights, and I hoped that with the scope they would shine. Let’s see what they did.

At 10 meters 10 pellets landed in a group that measures 0.817-inches between centers. But there is another flyer that happened somewhereiin the middle of the strong. Nine of the pellets are in a group that measures 0.586-inches between centers.

At 10 meters 10 RWS Superpoint pellets landed in 0.817-inches with 9 in 0.586-inches.


I’m not satisfied with today’s results. I think this rifle has more accuracy to show and the scope and open sights are both conspiring against it. That means there will be another test. Next time I will mount a real scope and I will back up to 25 yards for the test.

I like the Meteor Mark I except for the open sights that do not adjust for windage. I would never leave a scope on an air rifle like this, so whether it does better or not in the next test, I’m probably not going to keep it. I will sell it, but I paid top dollar and it may take some time to move. All things consideredn my Diana model 27 moves back into the top spot. BSA missed it by a sight!

Generation 2 .25 caliber Benjamin Marauder: Part 9

Čt, 11/10/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Second-generation Benjamin Marauder in a synthetic stock.

UTG Bubble Leveler scope: Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

This report covers:

  • What this is
  • Bubble Leveler scope
  • Today
  • Some variables
  • JSB Exact Kings
  • The bottom line
  • Trigger blade broke
  • How do you contact him?

Today I start another look at the .25-caliber gen 2 Benjamin Marauder. When I attended the Pyramyd Air Cup in September, I met Tom Himes. He showed me a Benjamin Marauder he tuned and asked me to cock the bolt. Every Marauder owner knows their bolts are stiff and sticky. But this one wasn’t. It was light and smooth.

What this is

Tom tunes Marauders for their optimum shot count on a fill. He also adjusts and lubricates their triggers for optimum let-off. And he has a number of other tricks and tips that he passes on to his customers. When he told me that he could tune my .25 caliber rifle to get roughly 30 shots at 806 f.p.s. with JSB Exact Kings, I was intrigued. If you have followed this series you know that the best I’ve been able to do is 16 shots per fill.

We talked a long time and I decided to have him tune my rifle for optimum shot count. I already knew that 806 f.p.s. was where it liked to be with that pellet, and I also knew that that particular pellet was the best I have found for this rifle. Tom told me that his experience agreed with mine, which made me feel comfortable. I decided not to get the trigger adjusted, because I am satisfied with it the way it is now. So I sent the barreled action to Tom and he did his magic. Now we will all look at the results.

Bubble Leveler scope

This tune is not going to change the accuracy of the rifle. We already know it is very accurate, and Tom said when he tested it, it is the most accurate .25 Marauder he has seen. More smiles from me, of course! But the photographer never tells a parent their child is ugly, either!

Since the Marauder is so accurate I selected it as the first rifle to test the new UTG Bubble Leveler scope. That’s why the link to that scope’s blog report is in the list above. After the Marauder, I plan to mount the scope to my super-accurate AR-15 and give it another thorough test.


Today I thought I’d test the velocity and shot count of my tuned Marauder for you. I’ll also give you my evaluation of how it feels to cock. Let’s go!

Before we get to the test, here is what Tom told me about tuning my rifle.

“We have your rifle completed and it turned out GREAT!  We achieved a full 30 shots from a 3,000 psig fill with no more than 3% velocity deviation. The minimum velocity is 790 ft/sec, the high is 815 ft/sec and with an average of 806 ft/sec.  All of this at a ambient temperature of 68°F to 70°F

I must also add, your rifle is exceptionally accurate – the most accurate .25 Marauder I have shot to date.  From the bench, shooting off the rear deck of my home, the rifle would nearly shoot hole for hole at 30 yards.

I was and still am very impressed with its accuracy.  This accuracy occurred after we cleaned the baffles as I noted before and also after we very lightly cleaned the bore with Balistol and dry patches.”

Some variables

I think it is helpful to see what the tuner had to say about the rifle as we examine it today. But before we begin, let me discuss some of the variables under which this test is being conducted. First is the fill pressure. Was Tom filling by the rifle’s built-in gauge or the gauge on his air tank? How closely does his tank gauge agree with mine?

And how closely does Tom’s chronograph agree with mine? These are not givens. There is some variation.

JSB Exact Kings

The most accurate pellet for this rifle is the .25 caliber JSB Exact King, and that was what Tom set it up to shoot. So this will be a velocity test with a single pellet. I will show you the entire shot string from one fill to 3000 psi. I filled the rifle to 3050 psi on my tank gauge, which pegged the rifle’s gauge at exactly 3000.

25……………786*below 790, the acceptable floor)

That’s 24 good shots from a rifle that only gave 16 before the tune. Am I satisfied? You bet! But this isn’t the final test.

See that first shot? It’s 808 f.p.s. — right in the middle of the acceptable velocity range. Are there other good shots before that one? What I’m asking is — did the disparity between our gauges cause me to clip shots off the beginning of the effective shot string? Only one way to find out. Fill the rifle to well above the start pressure of 3000 psi and shoot another string. While we don’t know if our two gauges agree, my results are close enough to Tom’s that we know they are close. The same goes for our chronographs.

I filled the rifle to 3,200 psi by my tank’s gauge and shot a second string. This time the rifle’s gauge needle was just inside the red sector.

3……………..787 *below 790, the acceptable floor)
5……………..786 *below 790, the acceptable floor)
28……………789*below 790, the acceptable floor)
29……………777*below 790, the acceptable floor)
30……………781*below 790, the acceptable floor)
31……………764*below 790, the acceptable floor)

This string gave me 22 shots in the acceptable range. Now consider this — the “acceptable” range is arbitrary! Until I get on a 50-yard range and see what kind of accuracy this rifle gives, I won’t know what is really acceptable. Past experience has shown that 808 f.p.s. is the ideal velocity, but how far I can deviate from that velocity was never tested. I just know that after 16 shots, my groups dropped lower on paper and opened up.

The bottom line

My rifle now appears to have at least 24 good shots per fill and maybe as many as 30. Since the 8-round magazine can be filled exactly three times for 24 shots, that’s what I’m going to use.

Trigger blade broke

What I haven’t told you is that the rifle arrived with the trigger blade broken. While that sounds like a bad thing, it’s really an opportunity to see what Tom Himes does about it. He sent me a new trigger blade by express mail so I could keep this test on track. It wasn’t his fault the blade broke, either. If you examine the blade you’ll see it broke at the weakest spot.

My trigger blade broke during the return shipment. Tom Himes replaced it immediately for free.

How do you contact him?

In my opinion this tune was well worth the $50, plus shipping, I spent. The rifle now cocks so easily that I don’t have to take it from my shoulder. I also have one additional magazine per fill, and we will see what that looks like at 50 yards next. Remember that I have the UTG Bubble Leveler scope mounted on this rifle now, so we’re going to start that test next time, as well.

Tom Himes can be reached at batts@spcracing.com. His website is www.spcracing.com. Remember that he also tunes triggers, if you want that.

Life in the golden age of airguns

St, 11/09/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Growth
  • Why do we shoot?
  • Accuracy
  • Smooth shooting
  • Pride of ownership
  • Technology
  • Today
  • Where to next
  • What to avoid

As I read your comments I can’t help but marvel at the changes I see in airguns. Let’s start with their popularity.


When I started writing about airguns in 1994 we had very little idea of how many airgunners there were in the United States. We knew how many people owned firearms because the NRA kept track of that number, and at that time there were between 5 and 10 million shooters in the U.S. The number depended on which definition of shooter you used. If you were interested in shooters who were very active, the number was smaller. If you defined a shooter as someone who shot a firearm in the last 10 years, the number was large.

But when it came to airgunners, we had very little idea of how many there might be. A safe number was between 5,000 and 15,000 — again depending on the definition. At the same time there were over a half-million young shooters shooting airguns in NRA-sanctioned marksmanship programs around the country, but none of them was considered in the number of airgunners. That’s because when their programs were over they moved on to other things. Very few remained as dedicated shooters. So, when I talk about airgunners, I’m only talking about adults who pursue some aspect of airgunning seriously — be it collecting, hunting, general shooting or competition.

I looked at those numbers back then and saw that our growth potential was huge! If we could influence even a small percentage of active firearm shooters to take up airguns, we would explode! Taking the lowest estimate of 5 million active shooters, just one percent of them taking up airguns would add 50.000 new airgunners. So I concentrated on the firearms side of the shooting sports in my writing, by addressing subjects common to all shooters. And it worked. Today this blog is read by tens of thousands of readers, worldwide. People who cannot legally own firearms in their native countries can often own and use airguns to do the same things that firearms shooters do. They just do them on a smaller scale.

Why do we shoot?

Airgun manufacturers should pay attention to this part. People shoot airguns for reasons too numerous to discuss. BUT — and here comes the money shot — those that STAY with airguns, and could potentially become your customers for life — shoot for just a few reasons. Among these are accuracy, smooth operation and pride of ownership.


Shooting airguns for accuracy is like throwing darts. Yes darts can be dangerous, but that isn’t why people throw them. They throw them to see how close they can come to their intended target. Throwing darts this way is fun and relaxing. Darts can be a social event or they can be solitary, just like airguns.

Smooth shooting

Who doesn’t like a pellet gun that shoots smooth? Yet some of you have never experienced a gun like that. And others don’t know whether or not they have because they have nothing to compare to. For sure a spring gun bought at a discount store will not be smooth.But the Air Venturi Bronco was quite smooth when it was available.

Pride of ownership

Whatever airguns you sell, they should be ones you are proud of. They may not stand up alongside an expensive gun, but they don’t have to. Just make sure they can stand by themselves.


Today we have air rifles that are capable of shooting 10 shots into one-half inch at 50 yards; air rifles that are capable of taking deer-sized animals humanely. And we have the most realistic lookalike air rifles and air pistols that have ever existed. The technology that goes into today’s airguns should be first rate, because that technology certainly exists.


Why is this happening now? Because there are more airgunners in the U.S. today than ever! Forget 15,000. Forget 50,000. Today this nation probably has over 100,000 active airgunners. I am defining an active airgunner as someone who owns and shoots airguns regularly. Many firearms shooters have discovered airguns and found they can shoot more because airguns are safer, quieter and require less space. They have found that they don’t have to give up their firearms to enjoy airguns. It’s not one or the other. They can do both, using the benefits of each to satisfy their shooting needs.

The number of airgunners in the U.S. has made it profitable for manufacturers to innovate and experiment. In the early 1990s an airgun that cost $1,000 was reserved for wealthy shooters. It wasn’t that profitable to build most airguns to that level, because the sales weren’t there. Today, they are. The guns must be worth their price, but if they are, there is no longer a population of only a few hundred potential buyers. Now that firearm shooters have joined our ranks we have tens of thousands of customers who don’t blink at steep pricetags. Their experience with firearms has prepared them for this level of participation.

On the flip side of the price issue are airguns like the Air Venturi Bronco, the Benjamin Maximus, the Benjamin Discovery and the Walther Terrus. Manufacturers are starting to offer guns with advanced features at unbelievably low prices. And they are being rewarded by sales that sustain their risks! Maybe these guns don’t bring in the largest percentage of profit. They do, however, position that manufacturer in the minds of the buying public as a company to do business with. Sometimes that is more profitable than making the last dollar.

Sell a Maximus today and you may sell a Marauder tomorrow. Speaking of which, back in the 1990s any PCP that sold for under $600 was used. Twenty years later with rifles like the Marauder on the market, any manufacturer entering the market with a PCP priced higher than $500 knows they have to offer better features — better accuracy, triggers, power, and so on.

I had one heck of a time in 2006 convincing Crosman that the Discovery would sell well. They had already tried to get into the PCP market unsuccessfully with British imports and didn’t really have a plan. Today the Disco is one of the cornerstones in their PCP lineup, and Crosman is known throughout the world for their PCPs.

Where to next?

Here is today’s lesson. If you can improve the accuracy of your airguns — do it! If you can improve the smoothness of the shot cycle — do it! If you can make an airgun that gives the owner a thrill of pride when opening the box, and then a year later that thrill is still there — do it!

• Make your breakbarrel/sidelever/underlever easier to cock.
• Make the shot cycle dead smooth.
• Build a gun that will, put 10 rounds through a wedding ring at 35 yards.
• Build a trigger that breaks cleanly and crisply.
• If you put adjustments into a trigger, make sure they work!
• People like open sights. At least make them available optionally and make them good ones.
• Build a valve that conserves air for a higher shot count.

What to avoid

Every retail store owner should know not to try to compete with the big box discount chains on price. And every airgun manufacturer should know not to copy the Benjamin Discovery. It’s already been done and you can’t do it any better. Don’t try to knock off an AirForce Talon SS. It only makes your gun the butt of numerous jokes. Every place your copy falls short will be criticized by the market.

Avoid the velocity race. Yes, velocity still sells — to customers who will give up airguning after a few months. In other words, one-time sales. The TX200 Mark III that critics say is too expensive continues to sell steadily year in and year out.

Today’s blog was brought to you by the word “success” and by the bottom line. I hope it starts a discussion among you readers that the airgun manufacturers will take to heart.

Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 blowback BB pistol: Part 1

Út, 11/08/2016 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Max Michel 1911 BB pistol from Sig Sauer.

This report covers:

  • Who is Max Michel?
  • The pistol
  • The safety
  • The grip safety
  • CO2
  • Sights
  • Magazine
Who is Max Michel?

Today we begin looking at yet another lookalike airgun — the Sig Sauer Max Michel 1911 blowback BB pistol . If you wonder who Max Michel is, let me tell you. Max Michel is an IPSC shooter with many world championships to his credit. He is the captain of Team Sig. He is noted for being a very fast shooter, which, in IPSC competition, means everything. And he is giving Sig permission to use his established name on this pistol, so you have to be impressed. His name means as much to him as Sig’s name means to them.

He actually says in the press release that he recommends this pistol for training, and for teaching younger shooters. If the pistol proves to be somewhat accurate, I will expand that to teaching all shooters.

In Sig’s press release for the pistol they come out and say this BB pistol is intended to give shooters on a budget more trigger time on a handgun that’s very similar to what they might use in competition. They note that dry-fire practice is important, but also note that it is very boring. For an IPSC shooter where competition is based on fast recovery after every shot and target acquisition, that is true. Dry-fire for an IPSC competitor would be like training to ride horses on a merry-go-round! This pistol at least puts a BB out the spout with every shot and has realistic recoil with a metal slide!

The pistol

Let’s push the hype aside and look at what we actually have. This is a 1911A1 model pistol that has several 1911 features. You can build an A1 firearm just like this. The scallops in the frame behind the trigger make it an A1. The flat mainspring housing and long trigger blade are 1911 features that can be installed on any A1. The lightened and bobbed hammer, ambidextrous safety with extended thumb shelves, beavertail grip safety, enhanced slide cutouts front and rear for ease of cocking, enlarged ejection port, Novak-style sights front and rear and the Picatinney rail in the frame, forward of the triggerguard, are all aftermarket custom features.

The pistol weighs slightly less than 2 lbs. 1 oz. on my postal scale. That’s 5 ounces less than a 1911 firearm that’s similarly equipped. And, for those who keep track, it says Made in Japan on the frame.

I’m testing pistol number 16E00001. Yes, it’s number one! It was sent to me direct from Sig Sauer and I doubt they will sell it to anyone.

The safety

Before moving on, let’s look at the safety again. Yes, it is ambidextrous, in the sense that there is a safety lever on both sides of the frame. But the lever on the right side is a dummy. It’s held to the frame by a screw and does not move.

The real safety lever is on the left side of the gun. And it operates differently than any safety I have seen. At the rear of the lever there is a protrusion — a button that just a bump. This “bump” must be pressed down to take the gun off safe. It’s not a natural move. I think the designers wanted to ensure that the safety was deliberately released. With some practice I could do it with the thumb of my shooting hand, but it had to be deliberate.

The safety has a button (arrow) at the rear that must be pushed down to release the lever.

The grip safety

I checked the operation of the grip safety and it does work as it should. It has a speed bump at the bottom for positive functioning, which all good firearm beavertail grip safeties have.


In case it isn’t obvious, this pistol operates by a single CO2 cartridge. It’s housed inside the grip and the left panel comes off for access. The panel removes easily, yet fits tight and has no movement.

To pierce the cartridge the flat mainspring housing is pulled out at the base, then pulled away from the frame and rotated down. It’s another design feature I have not seen before. It works like most other BB pistol piercing mechanisms, but with this subtle difference.

The flat mainspring housing pops out of the frame, then rotates down and out of the way.


The sights are combat sights, front and rear. The rear Novak-style sight does not adjust in either direction. It appears to slide from side-to-side in a dovetail, but that’s just an illusion.

The front sight has a single white dot and the rear has two dots, so the sight picture is three dots in a line. It’s very fast, but not for target shooting. I think I can light the target to eliminate the dots and use the profiles of the sights for greater precision. For fast action shooting, though, these sights are perfect.


The stick mag holds 16 BBs. It drops free of the pistol when the release button is pressed. It has an easy access for loading, although a speedloader cannot be used — at least not any speedloader I have seen. But the mag should be cheap enough to have several on hand for reloading the pistol in competition.

This should be a fun pistol to test. Sig and Max Michel are both putting their reputations on the line with this air pistol and I plan to see whether they can deliver!