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Getting started with a precharged air rifle: Part 2

Út, 09/19/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Talon SS?
  • Triggers
  • Accuracy expectations
  • Scopes
  • Get parallax adjustment
  • Match the scope to the task
  • More to come

This is Part 2. In the first part I was brutally honest about the precharged pneumatics (PCP) I think are good for beginners. Now that I am doing my experiment about learning to sharpen straight razors I appreciate the level of information most new guys are seeking and are able to accept. There will always be some folks who don’t get it the first time around, but I won’t talk down to the rest of you to cover that. I will answer their questions and explain in greater detail as they require.

Talon SS?

Reader Cal raised an issue in Part 1 and answered it at the same time. Why didn’t I put AirForce rifles like the Talon SS into the entry-level category? Can’t someone who is new to precharged airguns shoot one of those? Of course they can! The Talon SS is no more difficult to learn to operate than any other PCP. The reason I held off is the style of the rifle.

When you shoulder a Talon SS for the first time, it feels different than most rifles that have conventional stocks. The straight line of the air reservoir that also serves as the stock bothers some people. They feel they can’t get their face low enough to see through the scope. I can show a person how to hold the rifle properly in a minute, and have done so many times, but even then some folks just will not like doing it my way. Because this series is for new shooters, I thought I had better not recommend a rifle they might not feel comfortable with, once they get it in their hands. However, if you can accept the difference, the Talon SS makes a wonderful first PCP that will out-shoot anything near its price range!


Let’s talk about triggers and what your expectations are. Some people buy a PCP thinking that the trigger will be like one they have read about on a thousand-dollar rifle. It won’t. For the most part the trigger is the one place in which entry-level PCPs are lacking. Other than the Benjamin Marauder, most entry-level PCPs have triggers that are just okay. The Marauder is the only one that’s highly adjustable and lives up to the PCP trigger expectations. The Talon SS trigger is very good, but it’s not adjustable.

Is it possible to modify an entry-lever PCP trigger to make it better? Sure. You can do any number of things that range from a basic slick-up and tightening of the bearings to (sometimes) installing a Marauder trigger like Lloyd Sikes did on my Disco Double. Expect to pay for what you get.

This point is very important for new buyers. Don’t expect a world-class trigger on a $200 air rifle.

Accuracy expectations

What do you expect from your new PCP? If you expect 10-shot groups that are sometimes smaller than 3/4-inches at 50 yards, either buy a Marauder, a Talon SS or wait for me to test those entry-level rifles I haven’t tested yet. First of all, I am talking about TEN-shot groups — not five-shot groups. There is a world of difference in the group size when you shoot 10 shots.

Next, don’t think that any rifle can always shoot groups that small. None of them can. There will always be groups that are larger than your expectations for a variety of different reasons. But a really good PCP can shoot groups this small quite often, under the right conditions.

The Marauder and Talon SS can both do it, with the SS getting 10-shot groups of around 0.60-inches in the right shooter’s hands. But surprisingly, several of the lower-priced rifles in the budget entry-level category can do almost as well. With the Benjamin Discovery you may need to play with the positioning of the forward barrel band, but when you hit the sweet spot the Disco will surprise you.

And remember this — one of a PCP’s biggest advantages is the fact that they have no vibration or movement to throw your shots off. With a spring gun you are fighting recoil and vibration on every shot.


Here is where things start to get hairy for the first-time PCP user. Nearly everyone will scope their new rifle, but you have to adjust your thinking when you select a scope for an accurate rifle. I am all for you choosing an inexpensive PCP, because you don’t know if you’re going to stick with this hobby. But a cheap scope can undo all the positives that the manufacturers build into their airguns.

However, just because a scope isn’t cheap doesn’t mean that it can’t be economical. For not too much more than you spend to buy an off-brand scope you can get a reasonably good one that has decent optics. It will probably offer lower power (3-9 is common), but the image will be reasonable clear.

Get parallax adjustment

I recommend that you any scope you buy comes with parallax adjustment. Do you notice that I am not suggesting any specific scope models? That’s because there are hundreds to choose from. Get one whose features you like and whose name you respect. Hawke and Leapers/UTG are two that come to mind, but there are others. Just stay away from those Red Star scopes that you find at gun shows for $30. [That remark is going to wake up somebody who swears by Red Star scopes, I just know it!]

If you push me to recommend a scope it’s going to be the UTG Bubble Leveler. Sorry if it costs more than the PCP you have chosen, but remember — you can use this scope on any airgun or firearm.

Match the scope to the task

If you want to shoot groups at 50 yards, get a scope with higher magnification. Sixteen power would be the minimum I would recommend.

If you want to hunt, get a scope that’s lighter weight and smaller — so it’s less cumbersome to carry in the field. Also consider one of the shorter scopes like the Bug Buster 3-9X32. They are not only lighter but also a lot smaller, so they don’t get caught in brush when you walk through the woods. Just bear in mind that a short scope like a Bug Buster has limited mounting options. The short scope tubes that are available to go into the rings don’t give much back-and-forth movement. I see shooters trying to mount these scopes on rifles that have a scope mount base located too far forward on the rifle. Then they can’t slide the compact scope back far enough to get the best eye relief.

More to come

There is at least one more report in this series. I want to talk about filling options for your entry-level PCP.

The Diana 27: Part 1

Po, 09/18/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

My .22 caliber Diana 27 is actually a Hy Score 807.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Not the pre-war 27
  • First time
  • Why a 27?
  • Great feeling!
  • Description
  • Sights
  • Seals
  • Breech seal
  • Trigger
  • Overall evaluation

What is a classic? One dictionary defines it as “…of the first or highest quality, class or rank. Serving as a standard, model or guide.” Although that definition is somewhat subjective, I believe it captures the essence of the word. The Diana model 27 air rifle is certainly a classic by that definition.

Not the pre-war 27

Before we dive in let’s understand that Diana also made a model 27 before World War II. That one had only a wooden buttstock with no forearm. It looks significantly different than the rifle we are examining today. It’s not the same air rifle.

First time

As many historical airguns as I have covered, this will be the first time I’ve addressed the Diana 27. I’ve certainly written about it many times, but never for this history section, so today I begin correcting that oversight. The Diana model 27 is my all-time favorite airgun.

Why a 27?

Before I describe the rifle let me tell you about my first encounter with one. I was living at Ft. Knox, KY in the late 1970s and had already hooked up with Beeman. I got their catalogs regularly, owned a copy of the first volume of Airgun Digest, written and edited by Dr. Beeman, and already owned a Diana model 10 target pistol, a Sheridan Blue Streak, a Webley Senior pistol and an FWB 124 that I bought in the Beeman store in Santa Rosa. What I’m telling you is I was already a snooty airgunner who thought he knew it all.

I was also a family man with two children and didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend — not on an Army captain’s pay! So when I wandered into a pawn shop in the local town of Radcliff, KY, one day and happened to see an old weatherbeaten Diana 27 for sale, I had to think long and hard. They wanted $20 for it and I negotiated like a carpet salesman in a caravan to get the price down to $18 out the door. In other words, no tax (out of my pocket).

That pellet rifle was well-used, with no finish remaining on the wood stock and lots of rusty scale on the metal. The emblem in the stock said it was a Hy Score 807, but I was able to discover that it was really a Diana 27 in .22 caliber. The 27 also came in .177 and I have owned several of both in many different names over the years. For some reason I prefer the .22 — perhaps because it was my first.

I had some RWS Superpoints (as I recall — this was 1978) for my Webley Senior, so I had something to shoot. When I cocked it the first time I was amazed at how light and butter-smooth it seemed. Then I shot it for the first time. The trigger was long and not that crisp, but the firing cycle was very smooth. And, I hit what I aimed at. That’s always a plus.

Great feeling!

For some reason I could not explain, I kept cocking and shooting that rifle just to feel the light cocking and smooth shot cycle. It was accurate enough at the 20 to 40 feet I was shooting, but could not compare with the accuracy of a 105mm cannon on an M60A1 tank (I was a tanker and Ft. Knox is the Armor Center — that’s tanks) that can put a round through a 24-inch circle at 1,200 yards when sighted-in, or even my .270 Weatherby Magnum that put five into an inch at 100 yards. Even so, I was intrigued. My FWB 124 was prettier, shot harder and was more accurate, but there was something undefinable about this Diana 27 that captivated me.

When I left the Army in 1981 following a divorce I sold all of my firearms and airguns to pay bills, but I gave the model 27 to my closest friend. I hope he still has it. It would be 12 long years before I would get my next 27, another Hy Score 807, and that is the one I have pictured for you today. Uncharacteristically, I have kept this airgun since buying it for $110 at my first Winston-Salem airgun show in 1993. That’s enough background, now let’s look at the rifle, and it will be my Hy Score 807 that we look at.


The Diana 27 (1953-1987) is a breakbarrel single shot spring-piston air rifle. It was made in both .177 and .22 calibers, though when some companies like Hy Score (807) and Winchester (427) rebranded it, they did so in .22, only.

The rifle has a one-piece beech wood stock that’s fairly flat, so not a lot of shaping was done. The barreled action is all steel. Though plain looking, it also looks upper class when compared to the new air rifles we see today.

The rifle I’m testing weighs 5 lbs. 9 oz. It’s 41-3/8-inches long overall and the barrel is 17-1/4-inch. According to the date code that many Dianas have, it was made in August of 1967.

Some Dianas have a date code on the left side of the spring tube. Sometimes it’s below the wood line. Older Dianas stamp the date on the wooden butt.


The sights are a hooded square post in front and an adjustable notch in the rear. The front sigh element is fixed and cannot be replaced unless the entire front sight assembly is changed.

The rear sight adjustments have quiet but crisp detents, so you know where you are going. Besides adjusting in both directions, the rear sight has any of four different notches to select, depending on your taste.

Not only is the rear sight fully adjustable, it also has 4 different notches to choose from.


The piston seal and breech seal are both leather. I confirmed that when I overhauled the rifle in the 1990s. At the time I didn’t know about Almagard 3752 grease, and Beeman’s Mainspring Dampening Compound would slow a gun down by a lot. The 27 was never fast to begin with and this one is a .22, so I opted for something else. The something else was enough white lithium grease to drown the powerplant. I slathered it on, to both quiet the buzz on shooting and also because lithium grease will migrate forward as a liquid and keep the leather seal lubricated a long time. That “tune” is about 20 years old and shows no signs of needing an upgrade. I never oil the piston, yet it is still fresh.

The piston seal is leather.

Breech seal

I refurbished a Diana 27 leather breech seal in two reports. I removed it in this report, and replaced it in this one. That was a different .177 caliber Diana 27, but the breech seals are all the same.


Here is where it gets interesting! The Diana 27 has a unique trigger that works by three ball bearings releasing the piston rod. I have called it their ball-bearing trigger for the past 25 years and I think everybody else does as well. While this trigger is made of numerous parts that are simple stampings they work together to produces the best two-stage release in the business. It’s every bit as crisp as a Rekord, if not able to be adjusted as light. Yet when you consider the swarm of cheap parts that make it up you wonder how they ever managed it.

This mess of parts makes one crisp trigger when assembled.

In Part 2 I will give you instructions for adjusting this trigger. This same trigger is dound in other vintage Dianas, and all of them adjust the same way.

Overall evaluation

The Diana 27 is lightweight, easy to cock, slim, accurate and has a wonderful trigger. It’s the kind of lightweight little pellet rifle that makes shooting airguns fun. And if all my airguns were taken away, this is the one I would most want to keep.

The Beeman R10/HW 85: Part 1

Pá, 09/15/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Weihrauch HW 85.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • A word on straight razors
  • History
  • Weihrauch model numbers
  • Enter the R10/HW 85
  • Son of R1
  • Thin spring tube
  • Trigger
  • Description
  • Stock
  • Sights
  • Summary
A word on straight razors

Before we start I have a word on straight razor sharpening. I made a major discovery yesterday morning. It has to do with sharpness, the shape of the blade, how the blade is ground and its applicability to the task at hand. Very similar to airguns and power! It will be in my next report, which will be in a few weeks.

Now, let’s look at the Beeman R10/HW 85.


The FWB 124 started the velocity wars in the very early 1970s. But Dr. Beeman invented the rifle he called the R1, that was also produced as the Weihrauch HW 80. That air rifle really broke things open. It came out in 1981. Inside of 18 months Beeman had gotten the muzzle velocity of the .177 R1 from 940 f.p.s. to 1,000 f.p.s. and the race was on! Before we continue, let’s see how they did it.

The R1 was designed on a computer. It wasn’t a CAD-CAM program, because nothing like that existed for spring guns in those days. But it was a modeling program that allowed the modification of certain design parameters like piston size, length of stroke, mainspring strength and so on. With this software it was possible to make changes to these variables and see the results without building anything. Such programs have existed for decades in other disciplines like aerospace, but this was the first time one was used to design an airgun.

They started with the HW 35 as a baseline and modified its parameters until they had what they wanted. Then they gave the specs to Weihrauch to make. Beeman got the rights to North American distribution and Weihrauch took the rest of the world.

Weihrauch model numbers

Weihrauch numbers their spring guns by the length of the piston stroke in millimeters. So the HW 35 has a 35mm stroke and the HW 80 (what Weihrauch calls their version of the R1) stroke is 80 mm. The piston bores are similar. That additional stroke took the rifle from 9.5-11.5 foot-pounds to about 20 foot-pounds. So, yes, it mattered. It mattered a lot!

As it turned out, Beeman probably sold as many R1s in the U.S. as Weihrauch sold HW 80s to the rest of the world. Both models are still being made and sold. But because in most other countries, airgun power is limited by law, it’s harder to sell a powerful airgun. However, velocity does sell everywhere in the world, and by hitting 1,000 f.p.s., Beeman had kicked the anthill!

Enter the R10/HW 85

Beeman enjoyed huge sales for the R1, but when shooters actually held the rifle they were surprised by how large and heavy it is. Of course that meant tremendous potential for power upgrades, and the R1 became the first production air rifle to top 1,200 f.p.s. in the hands of the very capable tuner, Ivan Hancock. But Robert Beeman wanted a smaller, lighter gun that delivered the same power. In 1986 he got his wish fulfilled with the new Beeman R10. Like before, he forged a deal with Weihrauch that gave them the rest of the world to sell what was a very similar rifle — the HW 85. Weihrauch was surprised to discover that British and European shooters also preferred the additional power and the ability to mount a scope — even though they had to jump through certain legal hoops to own the rifle they wanted.

Son of R1

The R10 was a full pound or more lighter than the R1, and the dimensions were smaller in every area. Yet when it first came to market, Beeman advertised it as generating 1020 f.p.s. in .177 when Beeman Laser pellets were used. In the 1989 catalog they called it the “Son of the Beeman R1.” Besides being lighter it was a little easier to cock.

This is the first announcement of the R10 in the 1986 Beeman catalog.

The HW 85 came out at the same time, and was available in all other markets. I have to assume that it was equally powerful, because, as long as you are going build an airgun that puts you in the realm where the law gets involved, why hold back anything? Besides, it’s cheaper to make just one gun with different stocks for each model.

Thin spring tube

One thing isn’t obvious when you look at this rifle and that is how thin the spring tube is. But a careful observer will notice that there is a separate scope rail attached to the rear of the tube, where the R1 has the 11mm dovetail scope grooves cut directly into the spring tube.

The spring tube is so thin that the scope rail had to be attached separately with screws.

What you can’t see is the threaded end cap. Like the R1 the R10 has a threaded end cap, so the rifle disassembled in exactly the same way. This cap must have caused production problems because of the thin tube. How many tubes were ruined when the threading machine broke through? I don’t know, but I do know that when the R10 went away in 1995, the R9 that followed it used an end cap held in by 4 tabs.


Like most top-end Weihrauch rifles the R10/HW 85 has the Rekord trigger. This trigger that is now legendary was an important feature of Weihrauch spring guns. That means the Rekord automatic safety is also present. When the rifle is cocked the spring-loaded safety pin pops out on the left side of the end cap, putting the rifle on safe.

The rifle I am examining is the one I bought from reader David Enoch at the 2017 Texas airgun show. The trigger and safety are both gold-plated because David’s brother, Bryan, tuned this rifle. In fact, it is that tune that I really bought. I can’t wait to start testing it!


The HW 85 I am examining for you is a breakbarrel single shot pellet rifle in .22 caliber. This one is 45-3/4-inches long overall, with a 19-5/8-inch barrel. The stock ends behind the pivot bolt, where the R10 stock went to the end of the base block — another two inches farther. That is the most significant difference between the two models. The rifle weighs 8 pounds on the nose. The weight will vary a little, based on the weight of the wood stock, and this one is on the heavy side. The advertised weight of an R10 is 7.9 lbs.

Weihrauch rifle stocks usually end at the pivot bolt, rather than extending to the end of the base block.


This wood stock has no checkering, where an R10 would have a checkered pistol grip. It has a Monte Carlo raised comb but no raised cheekpiece that the R10 would have. The wood is beech and finished to a medium dark brown. The butt pad is soft rubber that’s grippy for both your shoulder and when you stand it on its butt.


Like the R10, the 85 came with an adjustable rear sight and a globe front sight that accepts inserts. The rifle came to me with a squared post up front, but having owned many Weihrauchs over the past 25 years, I have the rest of the inserts.


That’s the rifle so far. If you are a reader who has been with me for any time you know this is a very special airgun. I bought it for the incredible tune. I can’t wait to test it for you — and me!

The Hatsan Sortie PCP pistol: Part 3

Čt, 09/14/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan Sortie semiautomatic pistol.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • An announcement
  • Today
  • Familiarization
  • Still learning the magazine
  • The trigger
  • The test
  • The sights
  • RWS Superdome — sight in
  • JSB Exact RS
  • H&N Baracuda with 5.50mm head
  • H&N Field Target Trophy with 5.53mm head
  • Summary
An announcement

This morning I shaved with a straight razor in a completely different way, after reading a book about shaving that was written in 1905. While very different from anything I had been doing, it all sounded very good and authoritative until I tried it. Then I needed a pint of blood after finishing! The author of this book says many things that run contrary to conventional wisdom and what is being taught today.

As a result of this experience, I have decided that there is more to sharpening a straight razor than I thought. There will be another report coming in which I examine some of the facts and some old wive’s tales about sharpening straight razors. I will try to show you the results more graphically. I don’t want to wreck the surprises that I hope are coming, so that is all I will say at this time. Let’s now turn our attention to today’s report.


I will shoot some groups with the Hatsan Sortie today, but I don’t think I will consider this accuracy day. I’ll explain that in a moment.


I wanted to get familiar with the Sortie’s semiautomatic action. So, instead of my normal 10-shot groups, I only shot 5 of each pellet. I wanted to concentrate on learning how the Sortie action works, rather than to split hairs on target. That turned out to be the right decision.

Still learning the magazine

The Sortie magazine is still a challenge for me. I think if this was my only PCP I would get it straight much faster, but I shuffle between so many repeaters that, unless the mag is intuitive, it forces me to stop and think. And the Sortie mag is not intuitive — at least not to me. That said, I have shot the pistol about 90-100 times so far and the mag has never malfunctioned once. None of the three have. There is a lot to be said for that!

The trigger

I find the Sortie trigger easy to use. It pulls through a long travel like a single stage trigger, and there is no definite pause before the shot, but there is also no creep. This is a very comfortable trigger to use.

The test

I decided to test the pistol at 10 meters, just because I didn’t know it that well. That was a good decision because I wasn’t able to elevate the rear sight high enough to center every pellet tested in the bull.

I shot with the pistol resting directly on a sandbag. Because the Sortie is a PCP, there is no recoil to be concerned with and the vibration is negligeble.

The sights

This is why I am considering today familiarization day instead of accuracy day. The Sortie’s fiberoptic sights are pretty large for a good test of accuracy. Now I understand why Hatsan mounted a dot sight on the pistol when they brought it to the Texas airgun show! Also, my eyes could not focus on the front sight, which is a problem with me — not with the pistol. I have to admit it, the miles are starting to show!

I haven’t decided yet whether to mount a dot sight or a scope for the next test at 25 yards. The magazine sticks up 3/4-inch above the top of the scope rail, so whatever I mount will have to clear it.

RWS Superdome — sight in

The first pellet to be tested was the RWS Superdome . The first shot landed too low and off the target paper. I then adjusted the rear sight as high as it would go and shot number 2 was at the bottom of the bull when I used a 6 o’clock hold. That would have to do!

I reloaded and then shot a 5-shot group. It measures 0.593-inches between centers, which is too big for this pistol at 10 meters, but look how narrow and tall it is. The tall  is me not being able to focus on the front sight. You will see that in 3 of the 4 groups I shot. I think the narrow-ness of the group tells us the Superdome is probably very good in the Sortie.

This 0.593-inch group of 5 RWS Superdomes at 10 meters is better than it appears. The vertical stringing is due to my inability to see the front sight clearly.

JSB Exact RS

The second pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. Given the Sortie’s power level, I felt this one might be ideal. Five RS pellets went into 0.644-inches at 10 meters. This group is also vertical, with one shot straying to the right. Those other 4 holes are so tight (0.438-inches) that even though they are strung vertically, they hint at superior accuracy.

This group of 5 JSB Exact RS pellets is larger 0.644-inches between centers) than the first group, but the 4 that are together are 0.438-inches between centers. I think this shows promise!

H&N Baracuda with 5.50mm head

Hatsan sent some pellets with the Sortie, so I tried a couple. First was an H&N Baracuda with a 5.50mm head. These really surprised me by putting 4 into 0.31-inches at 10 meters. Shot number 5 opened the group to 0.575-inches, making this the best pellet of the test. I will have to try this pellet again!

Five Baracudas went into 0.575-inches at 10 meters, but 4 are in 0.31-inches.

H&N Field Target Trophy with 5.53mm head

The last pellet I tested was the H&N Field Target Trophy with 5.53mm head. Hatsan also sent this one. Five went into 0.796-inches at 10 meters. As you can see, this one hit the target higher and also spread to the left and right rather than up and down. Given the performance of the first 3 pellets, I don’t think I will try this one again.

Five Field Target Trophy pellets went into 0.796-inches at 10 meters. This one is a little too open for my taste.


I learned quite a lot today, so I’m happy to have had this chance to get familiar with the Sortie. I especially know what I have to look for in a scope or dot sight to clear that high magazine.

I think the Sortie has a lot to offer and we will see it in the next test.

Something else

St, 09/13/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Always something else
  • Change it
  • Make ‘em pumpers
  • Farco air shotgun
  • A good rifle
  • The 1873 Springfield
  • A long shot
  • The point
  • Summary
Always something else

One thing has stood out about airgunners for me. No matter what you are talking about, they always seem to want something else — something different. I remember many years ago when powerful precharged guns didn’t exist, the Yewah 3B Dynamite multi pump from Korea was looked at as a big deal. It was powerful, large caliber (.25) and airgunners were in awe of it — mainly because few of them had ever seen one.

Change it

Then I read about a guy who had one and reported how very powerful it was, but, man, was it ever hard to pump! The 3B required 150 pump strokes to fill initially, and then you could top it off after every shot with another 20 pumps. This fellow liked the power but hated all the work. So he machined a fill coupling and turned his 3B into a precharged airgun! He said the gun became lighter when the pump mechanism was removed, and it was no longer a chore to fill.

Make ‘em pumpers

Several years later there was a huge cry to put a pump mechanism on a PCP. The proponents of that move said you would have all the accuracy of a precharged pneumatic, but no longer be tethered to a scuba tank. I was one of the ones who said that and was fortunate enough to purchase a used Daystate Sportsman Mark II, which was a modernized Titan multi pump. Five pump strokes took that .22 rifle up over 25 foot-pounds, and with as few as three pumps you still got over 15 foot-pounds.

That Sportsman was accurate, beautiful, had a great trigger and was all things people said they wanted, except for the pump mechanism. It was heavy, unbalanced the rifle to the right side and the final two pump strokes required 77 pounds of effort, each. That rifle was a scarce one because it cost about the same as a PCP. If there had been more of them I’m sure someone would have removed the pump mechanism and converted it to a PCP. He then would have touted all of the advantages such a conversion brought!

Today we have the FX Independence, which gives us the best of both worlds — precharged and multi-pump. It’s expensive, but it does exist.

Farco air shotgun

I remember the Farco air shotgun. It was .51 caliber, or 28 gauge. And it operated on CO2. Because it was made in the Philippines, the temperature/pressure fluctuation with CO2 was not considered a problem. But what did American airgunners want? They wanted to shoot a round ball from the gun, and Farco importer Davis Schwesinger, the owner of Air Rifle Specialists in New York, killed a wild pig in Florida with his Farco shooting such a ball.

Then I published the velocity of the ball from a Farco in The Airgun Letter. As I remember, it was around .45 caliber in a shotgun shot cup and exited the muzzle at around 500 f.p.s. Golly gee but that was too slow. So guys started converting their Farcos to operate on high-pressure air. As long as they didn’t fill to more than 1,200 psi, the CO2 valve could still deal with the pressure and the better flow of the thinner high pressure air did increase the velocity. But it wasn’t enough. Someone converted his Farco to run on air at 3,000 psi. That is dangerous, because the Farco is made of soldered brass. In essence that turns the shotgun into a large pipe bomb!

You know, the funny thing about fringe experiments like this is the guy doing them always says there is no problem. And there isn’t — until there is. There are a number of tragic You Tube videos with similar circumstances.

A good rifle

So, let’s say I report on a spring-piston air rifle that I find delightful to shoot. Let’s call it a Diana model 27. Many guys read my report and get stuck when I report the muzzle velocity of 475 f.p.s. That’s too slow! What can be done to increase that to 700 f.p.s.? Well, things can be done, but when you get there that rifle won’t be a Diana 27 any longer.

The 1873 Springfield

In 1870 the U.S. Army was in the middle of developing a new rifle for soldiers. After the Civil War the government had a million .58-caliber muskets they wanted to modernize, rather than scrap and start all over. So they started a program at the Springfield Arsenal to convert the 1863 musket into a breechloading rifle. They went through models 1865, 1866, 1868, 1869, 1870 and finally ended at model 1873. During this same development period the cartridges went from .58 caliber rimfire (closest to the original musket) .50 caliber rimfire, .50 caliber centerfire (the famed .50/70 cartridge) and finally ended at .45/70. By the time the development was finished, only a few common parts like the sling swivels could be reused.

Despite all the “wisdom” at the start of the project, the smaller caliber with a lighter bullet shot farther, dropped less and hit harder at distance.

A long shot

Let’s talk about distance for a moment. In June of 1874, at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, buffalo hunter Billy Dixon shot and killed an Indian medicine man/chief at 1,538 yards. It took 11 shots for him to connect with his .50/90 Sharps, but the Indian, Esa-tai, sat still on his horse because he had told his men that they and their horses were painted with invisible paint. The white men couldn’t see them. He was in the unfortunate position of having to put his mouth where his money was!

In the early 1990s Army physicists said it was impossible for a blackpowder bullet that left the muzzle at 1,250 f.p.s. to carry that far, so they were challenged by a group of modern buffalo hunters to test it. With millimeter-wave radar they were able to track the trajectory of the bullets of a number of buffalo guns and determine that, not only was the Billy Dixon shot possible, it was well within the range of such a gun. Dixon’s rifle could shoot past 2,500 yards, and the venerable .45/70 bullet will pass 3,000!

The point

My point is this. When you shoot a pellet, you don’t need a flatter trajectory. You need more accuracy. Your 500 f.p.s. pellet rifle can easily hit targets at 100 yards and farther. The question is — can you?


It’s okay to want something different. That’s how progress happens. But when you do want such a thing, make sure you really want it and aren’t just kicking over rocks to see what’s underneath.

Getting started with a precharged air rifle: Part 1

Út, 09/12/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The PCP boom
  • A gamble
  • Buy in bulk?
  • The advantages of a PCP
  • How to get into PCPs
  • Entry-level PCPs
  • 2000 psi fill rifles
  • Benjamin Wildfire
  • 3000 psi rifles
  • What if you just want to dive in?
  • Advanced PCPs that are forgiving
  • If you ignore my advice
  • Summary

There has been a lot of discussion on the blog about getting into precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns. I want to weigh in on this discussion.

The PCP boom

Ten years ago the world had one entry-level precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle — the Benjamin Discovery. It came to market in 2007 and revolutionized the airgun world. When it hit the market it established the parameters of what an entry-level PCP should be and cost.

The Benjamin Discovery, packaged with a hand pump at an affordable price, broke the PCP market open in 2007.

A gamble

Before it was launched no one knew how the Discovery would be received. When I pitched the idea to Crosman in 2006, their CEO, Ken D’Arcy, asked me if I thought they could sell a thousand of them in a year. I told him I thought they could sell two thousand! Of course I didn’t know for certain, because something like this had never been done before. But I did know airgunners. I knew they were very curious about PCPs, but also quite cautious. Companies like Crosman had tried putting their name on PCPs made by others before (Logan, in Crosman’s case) and it didn’t turn out very well. Once airgunners discovered who really made the guns, they reasoned why buy from Crosman who had to mark up the guns to make a profit? If you wanted a Logan, why not go directly to the source? With the internet it is impossible to conceal things like this today.

Buy in bulk?

Now, you may think that Crosman is large enough to buy a thousand Logans to get a better price, so they may not have to sell them for any more than Logan does. Well, that works for things like automobiles that sell in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of units. It does not work in a market as small as the American airgun market. In that market selling a thousand of anything other than a discount store springer is a real big deal. D’Arcy was asking the right question and I was guessing when I answered.

Fortunately it was a very good guess. Crosman had about 4,000 walnut stocks left over from a 2260 promotion that never happened, and, since the Discovery is based on the 2260, they fit. The first Discoverys all had walnut stocks. I don’t know how many Discoverys Crosman sold that first year, but I do know they ran out of walnut stocks and switched to beech before the year was over.

Ever since that year, the airgun market has been scrambling to bring out more new and enticing entry-level PCPs. In 2007 PCPs were considered the dark side of airgunning. In 2017 they are fast becoming the mainstream.They solve a lot of problems that a new airgunner doesn’t want to deal with — allowing them to enjoy their shooting experience all the more. This report will address what I think are the important things for a new airgunner to consider when making that first purchase.

The advantages of a PCP

I will start with power, by saying it is not an advantage in this discussion. Yes, the PCP powerplant is the most powerful of all airguns, but that should not enter into the new airgunner’s thoughts when selecting a rifle. Of course it does, just like speed sells cars, but power is no guarantee of any other performance factor. You want a good airgun — not bragging rights to something with little practical value.

You want accuracy, and in that realm PCPs dominate. You want reliability, and PCPs can be anvil-dependable if you get the right one. You want simplicity and a PCP is the simplest powerplant on the airgun market — alongside CO2 guns. But CO2 has problems with temperature that pneumatics don’t share, so again the PCP wins.

On this last point the spring-gun advocates will argue that a PCP needs a source of compressed air, and they’re right. They say that makes it more complex than a spring gun that’s just cocked and shot. If you look at it that way, the spring gun is simpler to operate, but remember this — a bicycle is simpler than a car, but which would most people use for daily transportation?

How to get into PCPs

When I got into PCPs in the mid 1990s, you had to dive in head-first. There was a lot to learn and very few people were willing to teach you. The user manuals were full of jargon that had to be decoded, and there was no codebook. PCP manufacturers all seemed to have chips on their shoulders and wanted only those customers who knew the technology. In truth the manufacturers of PCPs were making very few units per year, compared to the numbers being made today. They could afford to be haughty because the market wasn’t that large. Today everything has changed, thanks to companies like AirForce Airguns, Crosman and Pyramyd Air. PCPs are mainstream and will no longer tolerate an elitist atmosphere.

There are still some PCPs whose makers don’t help the new shooter as much as you would expect, but I’m not going to recommend any of them to first-time buyers. Their airguns may be wonderful, but the lack of support, in the form of documentation, makes them a challenge to learn. If you stick to the airguns I will present, you will find things more straightforward. Let’s get started.

Entry-level PCPs

This is a category of airguns that are inexpensive to purchase, and yet offer the safest way into PCPs. Before I list them, stop and consider where your compressed air will come from. PCPs that fill to 2,000 psi are much easier to fill from a hand pump than those that require a 3,000 psi fill. Several of the entry-level guns have 2,000 psi fills.

If you don’t want to spend a ton of money starting up, I strongly recommend getting an entry-level rifle and a hand pump. That was the original concept for the Benjamin Discovery — that a rifle, pump and pellets would all come in one box, so the shooter would be set to go from the start. And I also recommend you get a gun that has a 2000 psi fill, so filling it won’t be so difficult.

2000 psi fill rifles

These rifles are my top recommendations for the person who is new to PCPs. They get you into the game at a low cost, yet they are powerful enough and accurate enough to be useful. They may lack refinements like better triggers, but all have open sights, to keep the cost down for you. And they are easier to fill with a hand pump.
Benjamin Discovery
Benjamin Maximus
Beeman QB Chief (I have not tested this rifle yet)

Benjamin Wildfire

I am not recommending the Benjamin Wildfire as an entry-level PCP because the Wildfire has different features than the other airguns in this class. It is a repeater, but has what the maker calls a semiautomatic action, meaning the trigger is pulled for every shot with no additional cocking required. That makes the Wildfire more of an action air rifle, putting it into a category by itself. The Wildfire does fill to 2000 psi, though, and, if you want its other features (open sights and 12-shot semiautomatic repeatability), it is the only rifle that has them at an affordable price.

3000 psi rifles

These rifles don’t shoot any faster than the rifles that fill to 2,000 psi, but they do get more shots per fill. So, why get one? Well, they have features you can’t get in the other entry-level PCPs.

Umarex Gauntlet (I have not tested this rifle yet)
Diana Stormrider (I have not tested this rifle yet, and it uses a fill probe)

What if you just want to dive in?

Not everyone wants to proceed this slowly. What if you are ready to ride the whirlwind? I still recommend that your first PCP be one of a few reliable choices. I recommend rifles that are “forgiving.” Those are rifles with good documentation, reliable manufacturers behind them and common features like Foster quick-disconnect fill couplings. An easy way to get off my recommended list is to have an oddball fill device.

Advanced PCPs that are forgiving

Benjamin Marauder (fill level adjusts from 2,500 psi to 3,000 psi.)
Umarex Gauntlet — I am putting the Gauntlet in two classes because it has features that rival the Benjamin Marauder. For example, the Gauntlet has a regulator, while the Marauder doesn’t. Since I haven’t tested it yet I can’t comment on the trigger, shot count, accuracy or noise level. But with all its features I do feel the Gauntlet belongs in this higher class.

The Umarex Gauntlet offers many high-end features for a bargain.

The 09-12-17-03-Diana Stormrider is also a repeater. It doesn’t have the regulator and until I test it I can’t comment on the trigger or noise level. But it does have open sights and has a higher power than most of the other rifles, except the Marauder. The fill probe is the only drawback I see, and you may not think it matters, if this is your first PCP.

The Diana Stormrider is a repeater for less than $200.

If you ignore my advice

A lot of people think I say these things because I don’t have any faith in their ability to learn new things. That’s not it at all. I am trying to help them avoid the steep learning curve some of us had to endure. I do the same thing with spring-piston air rifles. When someone wants to buy the latest discount store supermagnum breakbarrel and they ask me to help them choose between two models, I try to steer them to something I know they will enjoy more. I know they won’t enjoy the hard cocking, viscous recoil and mediocre accuracy those rifles all have. Sometimes it works, but not always.

I was once asked at an airgun show, “How many FPS?” The guy was pointing to a rifle on my table. So, I asked him, “Do you know what f.p.s. stands for?” He did not. He just knew that a big number was better and he wanted the biggest number he could get. Sometimes you just have to let people make their own mistakes.


I will end today’s report here, but there is more to cover. We need to discuss accuracy expectations, triggers, and scopes at the least. And perhaps some of you who are looking to buy your first PCP right now might give us your concerns.

The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 4

Po, 09/11/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Low light
  • The test
  • RWS Superdomes
  • RWS Superpoints
  • Falcon pellets
  • Discussion of the results
  • Next

Today we are back with the Diana model 50 underlever spring rifle, shooting at 25 yards. I have a couple things to tell, so let’s get started.

Low light

First, my quartz light that I always us to illuminate the target was on the fritz, so for all of today’s shooting I illuminated the target with a powerful flashlight. It wasn’t ideal, but I believe it worked okay. I learned one thing for sure — I need a backup quartz light!

I remembered to switch the front sight post to the large square-topped one that’s best for target shooting. I wouldn’t have that as an excuse for poor marksmanship!

The test

I had planned to shoot the test with both the peep sight and the open sight for a little surprise. But moving the open sight takes time and I wanted to give this test my full attention, so I will do a separate test with the open sight at 25 yards.

And this was where one surprise came up. While examining the rear sight I noticed the peep is loose with seemingly no good way to tighten it. I will look into this more, but that could be a problem for accuracy.

I remembered that the rifle likes the artillery hold, but I didn’t quite remember how nice the trigger is. It moves in stage two but there is no creep and the release comes as a surprise. When coupled with the slim stock, the trigger is a real plus, because the rifle feels just right to me.

RWS Superdomes

The first pellets I tested were the RWS Superdomes that proved so accurate in the last test. This time 10 pellets went into 1.044-inhes at 25 yards.

Ten RWS Superdome pellets went into 1.044-inches at 25 yards.

RWS Superpoints

I had to try RWS Superpoints next because they were so tantalizing last time. You may recall that 9 went into 0.549-inches at 10 meters, and the other one opened the group to 1.064-inches. That was both the best and worst group of that test.

This time the greater distance sorted things out. At 25 yards, 10 Superpoints made a 1.959-inch group. I think the lighting may have had something to do with this, but not that much.

Ten RWS Superpoint pellets made this 1.959-inch group at 25 yards.

I expected a better group from the Superpoints. That led me to wonder about other pellets I hadn’t tried yet. The Air Arms Falcon is always a contender, so I decided to make it the last pellet of this test. They certainly got down to the target quicker than the first two!

Falcon pellets

Ten Falcon pellets made a 1.809-inch group at 25 yards. So the Superdome is still the clear winner in the Diana 50.

Ten Falcon pellets went into 1.809-inches at 25 yards.

Discussion of the results

I expected smaller groups from this rifle. The lighting was one possible problem and the movment of the peep sight was another. If I get much better results from the open sights in the next test I may revisit this test.

Accuracy aside, I really like the way this Diana 50 shoots! I like the trigger and I like the way the rifle holds.

There is a little bit of buzz when it fires, so it might be necessary to inject some Almagard 3752 grease into the mainspring to quiet down the powerplant. That could only make the shooting experience that much better. I might have a go at the trigger adjustment while the stock is off (for access to the mainspring). Don’t know if I will do any of this, but I’m writing it down as a reminder.


Next I want to test the rifle with open sights at 25 yards. Hopefully I’ll have the light sorted out by then.

How to sharpen a straight razor: Part 3

Pá, 09/08/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Dealers matter!
  • Let’s resume
  • Sharpening
  • All blades honed
  • Something new
  • Results
  • Care for the stones
  • Dress all waterstones?
  • How does it shave?
  • Proof of sharpness
  • Summary

Boy, there were a lot of questions and discussion on Part 2 of this report! Today I will tell you how to both hone the razor and also how to take care of the waterstones that are so essential. And I have some things to clear up and correct.

As you recall, I’m writing this report to put myself in the shoes of a new airgunner. What is it like to not know what you don’t know, and don’t even know who or where to ask? That’s what it was like for me, learning how to sharpen a straight razor!

Dealers matter!

I have been spoiled by the service Pyramyd Air gives their customers. I forgot that most web retailers do not do the same. For example, I found one website — shavenation.com — that is laid out well and easy to navigate. The owner of the site, a man who calls himself geofatboy, makes great videos about topics that deal with shaving. Those videos are a lot like this blog, except he doesn’t have any easy way on his website for viewers to comment.

I bought a lot of supplies from his site initially — shaving cream, a badger shaving brush, pre-shave, after-shave, several waterstones and many other things. I spent a lot of money with him. Then I decided to get a new straight razor to compare to the vintage ones I bought off Ebay and sharpened myself. I was prepared to spend at least another hundred dollars with him, but first I had several fundamental new-guy questions. So I wrote him and asked. Three weeks later I’m still waiting for a reply.

Since he did not answer me I went elsewhere and saved 30 percent! The razor he wants $108 plus shipping for I was able to get for $76, shipped. I will continue to shop with him for things I can’t get elsewhere, but he will never again be my first stop.

What I am saying is that when you are a new guy, the dealer really matters. I don’t shop price anymore. I shop service.

Let’s resume

Last time I left you right after finding that my expensive vintage dubl duck razor had numerous nicks and pits in the edge of the blade. Oh, by the way, the company’s name is dubl duck — all lowercase and duck is spelled out. This new guy was fooled by some Ebay vendors who misspelled the name — just like they do Crossman and Daisey.

I ordered a Norton 220/1000-grit waterstone (not from Shave Nation) to augment the stones I already had. When your blade has nicks and pits you have to use a really aggressive stone to remove them, and 220 is where it starts.


I also did more research on sharpening straight razors. The picture I showed you of me sharpening the blade last time was incorrect. You don’t push the razor away from you and pull it toward you over the stones. You move it across the face of each stone in a sideways motion, holding onto the tang of the blade, only. It’s like stropping, only when honing, the blade leads, rather than follows. While the first way sounds like you can maintain better contact with the blade against the stone, the second way does much better. It’s counter-intuitive and you won’t know until you try it.

The right way to hold the blade is by the tang. Move it an equal number of times in each direction. At the end of each pass, roll the blade on the spine to reverse it.

I also learned to use a magnifying app on my smart phone to magnify the edge of the blade, so I could inspect it better. Unlike a jeweler’s loupe that is difficult to keep in focus, this is like watching the blade on television!

I started with the 220-grain stone, then progressed to the 1,000, the 4,000, the 8,000 and finally the 12,000-grit stones. On the 220-grit stone I sharpened until all the nicks disappeared — using the smart phone. On each of the finer stones I sharpened 10 times in each direction.

The 220 and 1,000-grit stones make a lot of noise as you work the blade across. The 4,000 is quiet and I can’t hear the 8,000 and 12,000-grit stones. But on all of them I can see black streaks forming on the stone, which is steel being removed from the blade.

All blades honed

I honed each of my three blades. The one that had nicks also has the tip broken off. I plan to grind a new contour into that end to make a shorter blade with a rounded tip — something to get into the tight places on my face like under the nose. The dubl duck was already shaving sharp, but the bevel on the edge wasn’t a consistent width. It was narrow in the center and wider at both ends. I hoped this new method of sharpening would even it out. And, it did! It also taught me something new about sharpening razor blades.

Something new

The shape of the blade determines the size of the bevel! You can see this better in an exaggerated illustration.

A thick spine makes the bevel angle steep (bevel will be short).

Thinner spine makes the bevel wider/longer.

Each razor comes with a specific spine and they are all different. This is a subtlety of straight razor design, just like the type of piston seal is spefcific to a spring-piston air rifle.


When I was finished, all three razors were shaving sharp after a good strop. They should stay that way for the next 6 months of shaving. I looked at all the bevels and saw that they were now more uniform, though not entirely. The dubl duck bevel is the most uniform of the three, and it also shaves the best. In fact, it shaves as well as the new Dovo, but its longer blade with a pointed end doesn’t fit my face as well as the Dovo. I guess it’s a learning curve from this point on.

Care for the stones

We are not finished. Waterstones wear much faster than oil stones, and they must be dressed flat to work their best. For this you need a special flattening stone.

This stone is for “dressing” the waterstones.

Each stone needs to be “dressed” or flattened, to work its best. To do that you draw a grid pattern of pencil lines on the stone.

With a pencil, draw a grid pattern on the face to be dressed.

To dress each stone, rub the dressing stone against the face of the stone to be dressed. Do this under running water. Scrub straight back and forth, along the axis of the waterstone.

Scrub the two stones back and forth under running water.

As you scrub, the grid pattern starts disappearing. When it is gone, the stone is dressed. The coarse grit stones dress fast. This 12,000-grit stone takes about a full minute to dress.

Dress all waterstones?

Before you ask, I don’t know if waterstones that are used to sharpen knives need to be dressed as often as stones that are used for straight razors. Flatness is vital to the sharpening process for a straight razor, as you have seen. Of course it is important to knives, too, but maybe not as important. Knife edges — even sharp knife edges — are many times larger and coarser than razor edges.

How does it shave?

Shaving with a straight razor is exciting. First, there is the preparation of your face and beard that benefits all types of razor blades — even cartridge types. Preparation is 75 percent of the job — just like the artillery hold makes most spring guns accurate.

As the razor moves across the face you feel and hear the whiskers being cut, but there is no pain. Even in the sensitive areas under the nose and in the corners of the mouth there is no pain when the razor is sharp and the blade is held at the correct angle. It’s learning to hold the blade at different angles, depending on which part of the face you are shaving, that takes time. It’s like learning how to hold an air rifle in all situations, both on the bench and in the field. As you gain experience, it gets easier and you get better at it.

One thing is dangerous and that is speed. You don’t shave fast, because that’s just asking to be cut. Take your time and consider each stroke of the blade.

I am not good at this yet. I’m better than I was two weeks ago, and I can now shave 90 percent of my face well, but for the other 10 percent I have to follow up with a safety razor and a double-edged blade. Hopefully I will reduce that to nothing after a while.

Proof of sharpness

Shaving proves the razor is as sharp as it is supposed to be. Therefore I have accomplished my mission of learning how to do something brand new. I spent too much money doing it and I discovered the importance of good dealers who communicate. I also renewed my understanding of how it feels to be a new guy.


I think this will be the final report in this series. Unless you have questions I haven’t addressed, I’ve done all that I set out to do.

As you may surmise, I will continue to shave with a straight razor. After perhaps 40 years of shaving with indifferent electric razors that produced so-so results, I now look forward to shaving every morning. It’s like a spa for my face. This is a result I didn’t see coming. Talk about a trip to Serendib!

The Hatsan Sortie PCP pistol: Part 2

Čt, 09/07/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan Sortie precharged pistol.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Three magazines
  • Filling
  • RWS Superdome
  • Loading
  • H&N Field Target Trophy (5.55mm)
  • Hand pump
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Discharge sound
  • Is this a semiautomatic?
  • Trigger
  • Evaluation so far

Today we look at the power of the new Hatsan Sortie semiautomatic air pistol. I told you in Part 1 that it is a 12 foot-pound gun, so the discharge sound shouldn’t be too great, but we will find out today.

Three magazines

I didn’t show you the stuff that comes with the gun in Part 1, so let’s look at it now. First and foremost, there are three magazines in the box with the pistol. That’s very generous of Hatsan, and the two extras save you about 50 dollars! You also get a fill probe and a set of o-rings and a seal for the gun.

The Sortie comes with 3 magazines, a probe and a set of seals.

There is also a Hatsan probe to fill the gun, but if you are already into PCPs I recommend you consider getting an adaptor from Pyramyd Air into which your probe is screwed. That saves you lots of time. It also fits the probes from other airguns and saves you from having to change adaptors to fill certain airguns.

Pyramyd Air sells the black Foster adaptor that your probe screws into. Then you don’t have to waste time changing adaptors on your hose.


The reservoir volume is 62 cc, so the air charge is small. That makes this pistol a perfect candidate for a hand pump. The Sortie takes a fill to 200 bar, which is 2,900 psi, so I will fill it with an Air Venturi G6 pump and let you know how it goes.

Hatsan put a plug in the port for the fill probe to keep the gun clean between fills. Remember to put it back after you fill.

A plug in the fill port keeps dirt out between fillings.

The Sortie arrived with a partial fill to keep the valves shut. I filled it from a tank for the first set of shooting. I filled to 3,000 psi, because some pressure is lost in the line bleed and more goes from the heat of compression.

RWS Superdome

The first pellet I tried was the venerable RWS Superdome . Ten of them averaged 681 f.p.s. That’s 14.94 foot pounds at the muzzle, so this Sortie is hotter than advertised. They ranged from 674 to 687 f.p.s., so a spread of 13 f.p.s.


I should mention that the magazine loads from the back. Each pellet is inserted into the magazine tail-first, which feels odd and does slow the loading a little. Once I got used to it, it was okay, but it isn’t my favorite feature.

H&N Field Target Trophy (5.55mm)

Next I loaded 10 H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. These have a 5.55mm head, so they are big! They averaged 658 f.p.s., but the Sortie came off the power band after the 5th shot in this second string, which was the 15th shot following the fill. Let me show you all the velocities, so you can see what I saw.

Shot…….. Velocity
6…………….654 — off the power curve

At the average velocity the FTT generated 14.1 foot-pounds. The spread went from 643 to 672 f.p.s., so 29 f.p.s.

All the velocities in this string are good enough for accuracy, so I will say the Sortie has a shot count of at least 20 per fill. Given the small reservoir, that’s very good.

At the end of this string I saw that the onboard pressure gauge was at the bottom of the green. That indicates it’s time for a refill.

When the second string was finished, the gauge read like this.

Hand pump

I refilled the pistol using an Air Venturi G6 hand pump. It took a few strokes to fill to the pressure that was in the reservoir. The pump gauge said that was 1800 psi. Then 60 more strokes to fill to 3,000. I’m 70 years old and it’s easy for me, so judge for yourself if you want to fill with a hand pump.

JSB Exact RS

The final pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. Given the power of the Sortie, this was the first pellet I thought of using. Ten averaged 690 f.p.s. with a 17 f.p.s. spread from 680 to 697 f.p.s. At the average velocity the RS pellet generated 14.2 foot pounds at the muzzle.

Discharge sound

No doubt about it — the Sortie is not silenced in any way. It makes a solid 4-level bang on the 5-point Pyramyd Air noise scale. It won’t deafen you, but everyone will know something has happened when you shoot.

Is this a semiautomatic?

One question I had before the test was whether the Sortie is a true semiautomatic pistol, and not just a double action revolver? I’m pleased to tell you that it is really a semiautomatic. You’re getting what you’re paying for. However, the trigger needs to be understood.


The Sortie trigger is two stage. However, stage two has a lot of travel, almost like a single stage trigger. Stage two breaks at 3 lbs. 14 oz., so the pull isn’t too heavy. It’s something you will get used to.

Evaluation so far

So far, so good, I think. This is a brand new air pistol to me and I am learning to understand it, but I think Hatsan has put a lot of value into this package. Accuracy is next and you will remember that I plan to shoot with open sights first.

Sig Sauer Spartan BB pistol: Part 3

St, 09/06/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Sauer Spartan BB pistol offers a lot of pistol at a budget price.

Part 1
Part 2 

This report covers:

  • The test
  • H&N Smart Shot
  • Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • The trigger
  • Air Venturi Zinc-Plated BBs
  • Overall evaluation

It’s accuracy day for the the Sig Spartan BB pistol, and I have to tell you I am excited. The trigger on this pistol, while heavy, breaks so crisply that I am expecting good things.

The test

I shot from 5 meters, seated and resting my shooting arm on a UTG Monopod. The Spartan’s sights are fixed but they are wide enough for good accuracy and the front post is sharp. There was no problem seeing the sights on the target for a 6 o’clock hold.

H&N Smart Shot

I tried the H&N Smart Shot lead BBs first. I did that because the Spartan only got 40 good shots on a CO2 cartridge in Part 2 and I wanted the pistol to be as powerful as possible with this heavier BB.

The first BB went high and centered on the bull. Shot number 2 hit right next to it and we were off to a great start. Ten BBs went into 1.636-inches at 5 meters, which is a little larger than I would like. I think it isn’t worth the extra expense to use these lead BBs, unless you are doing it for their extra safety.

Ten H&N Smart Shot lead BBs went into 1.636-inches at 5 meters.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs

Next up were some Hornady Black Diamond BBs. Ever since they shocked me in the test of the Gletcher Stechkin pistol, I have vowed to try these in every BB gun. In the Spartan 10 of them went into 1.336-inches at 5 meters. That’s acceptable accuracy for a BB pistol in my book. You can certainly roll tin cans with it.

Ten Hornady Black Diamond BBs went into 1.336-inches at 5 meters. A BB to consider for this pistol.

The trigger

I have to comment on the Spartan’s trigger. If you shoot rapid-fire you won’t notice anything, beyond the fact that it’s heavy. But for bullseye shooting it is extremely crisp. I wish some of my 1911s were as crisp.

Air Venturi Zinc-Plated BBs

The final BB I shot was the Air Venturi Zinc-Plated BB. I used them to represent all the premium BBs on the market. I didn’t think they would challenge the Black Diamonds. But they did. Ten went into 1.472-inches at 5 meters. While not quite as tight as the Black Diamonds, it’s plenty tight enough for casual plinking.

Ten Air Venturi Zinc-Plated BBs went into 1.472-inches at 5 meters. Another BB for the Spartan!

Overall Evaluation

Well, I have now tested the Spartan BB pistol thoroughly. I know it’s very similar to the Max Michel 1911 that I tested a year ago, so I purposely did not look at that old test. I wanted to see the Spartan with fresh eyes.

Seeing it that way, I have to say I like this BB pistol. It’s so true to a 1911A1 that it’s easy to imaging it as a firearm. And I do like the special finish the Spartan has. In fact, it took some resistance to not buy a Spartan 1911 firearm, after seeing this one! I do that from time to time, you know.

There are many 1911 BB pistols, so you certainly have a good choice. I think you’ll want to look at the Spartan is the finish resonates with you. It’s acceptably accurate, if a little bit of a gas hog. The blowback is great, the trigger is crisp and the sights are very sharp and clear.

The 2017 Texas airgun show: Part 3

Út, 09/05/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Hatsan on the range
  • Raffles
  • Other goodies at the show
  • Dealer sales
  • The private dealers
  • Grand prizes
  • The end

I plan for this report to be the final one on the 2017 Texas airgun show.

Hatsan on the range

We have already seen AirForce Airguns, Crosman, Sig Sauer and Umarex USA. What I didn’t show you was the new Umarex Gauntlet being shot by the public. The rifle has not been released yet, but we expect it very soon. This was a rare chance for the public to test an airgun before release, just like I get to do at the SHOT Show sometimes. I also didn’t get any pictures of Crosman demonstrating their Pioneer airbow on the big bore range. But they were out there with it in the afternoon.

I did get to the Hatsan range, though, and saw the new Sortie pistol I’m now testing for you. I also got to shoot the Hercules big bore in .45 caliber.  Hatsan sent one for me to test for you and that will start soon, so I wanted to try it out with a Hatsan tech person at my side.

The other gun they were shooting that I didn’t get to try was the new Hatsan Barrage semiautomatic rifle. I didn’t get to shoot it because the line to try it out was too long. But I also have a Hatsan Bullmaster semiauto to test after I finish with the Sortie, so we will get to see a Hatsan semiauto rifle in action, too.

The line to shoot the Hatsan Barrage was too long for me to wait!


All day long there were raffles for fantastic prizes. Because of hurricane Harvey, attendance was down this year (we estimate 250 attendees, down from 400 last year), so the chances to win one of the prizes was greatly increased. Raffle prizes were donated by:

Airgun Depot
Hawke Sport Optics
Pyramyd Air
Sig Sauer
Sun Optics
Umarex USA

The drawings were held inside the show hall every hour, beginning at 12:30. If there was no immediate claimant, they went out and announced the ticket numbers outside on the ranges, as well. Throughout the entire day I only saw one raffle prize that was not claimed when drawn.

Sig and Crosman also gave away the guns they shot on their respective ranges. The host club 4H members charged a dollar to shoot, and 2-part tickets were given with each purchase. Those tickets were then entered into a raffle drawing for the guns being shot on the range, as well as some additional guns that were donated, over and above those that were shot. These drawings were held right on the ranges.

Sig Sauer donated the guns they shot on the range that day. They also donated the P320 pistol I tested for you earlier this year.

Show organizer, Jeff Cloud, conducts the drawing for a Benjamin Wildfire — one of three given away!

What the public didn’t know was iraqveteran8888 also donated $400 cash to the 4H volunteers on the ranges. AirForce Airguns matched his donation with another $400. At the end of the show, the Arlington Sportsman Club 4H chapter had made their entire year’s budget from the work they did, ticket sales, the food they sold and these generous donations!

Other goodies at the show

Let’s go back inside now and look at some of the other nice airguns that were there.

Dealer sales

I read on a forum that there weren’t many dealers of modern airguns at this show, but that’s not the case. In fact there were more retailers at this show than at any other airgun show that has ever been held in the U.S. You just had to take the time to look for them. Airgun Depot, the show sponsor, was able to sell anything from their website right at their table! I have already shown AirForce Airguns and the mountain of guns they brought and Sun Optics, who was right next to them. My tables inside the show hall were next to Hawke Sport Optics, who was also selling directly.

The Hawke representative chats with Eric Henderson.

Sig had two sales tables in the show.

Airgun Depot, the show’s sponsor, had sales tables, too. They were also selling those large red cowboy hats. The kilt and sporran, however, were not part of the deal!

The private dealers

I haven’t shown all the private dealers yet, either. While the number of tables was down from last year, the quality of airguns on them was up.

That’s an Air Arms Shamal with 100 percent barred walnut — like curly maple only rarer! Above it is a Sharp Ace Target. Find another one for sale! Yes, this is my table.

That’s an engraved, gold-plated HW35 in a beautiful walnut stock above that Whiscombe!

I also saw something I have been needing ever since acquiring the 98 cubic foot carbon fiber tank from Pyramyd Air. A carrier! It’s made by airguntailor.com and there is a wide spectrum of choices. I’ll show it to you when I get it.

This carrier will fit a 98-cubic foot air tank. It has saddlebags to carry tools, adaptors and stuff

Grand prizes

The day ended with two major drawings. One was for the grand prize in the raffle — an Air Arms RSN70 Limited Edition precharged rifle that was donated by Pyramyd Air. This $4,000 air rifle was going to make somebody’s day, and people talked about it all day! In a finish that sounds like Hollywood wrote it, the winner was a young man who was celebrating his birthday that day!

This lucky young man won the $4,000 Air Arms RSN70 Limited PCP donated by Pyramyd Air. And, it was his birthday!

Following the last raffle prize, the door prize was given. All it took was your stub from the admission ticket. This year AirForce Airguns donated a decked-out Texan .308, and I know a lot of people wanted it. In the end it was won by a woman

who is the mom of one lucky airgunner. I heard him telling people about it in the parking lot after the show.

Mom won the .308 Texan door prize. Perfect end to a great show!

The end

That was the end of this year’s show. There were more prizes than I have ever seen at one show, and more things for people to do, as well. We will be televised on iraqveteran8888’s You Tube channel in a few weeks, so you can watch it yourselves.

This year’s show suffered because of the weather, so I decided to let the club pick the date next year. I tried to avoid the other airgun shows this year and ran smack dab into the Pyramyd Air Cup. Best-laid plans…

The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 3

Po, 09/04/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Before we begin…
  • Rear sight conversion
  • Accuracy — the test
  • RWS Superdomes
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • RWS Superpoint
  • RWS Hobby
  • Things I did wrong
  • Summary

We start looking at the accuracy of the .177-caliber Diana model 50 underlever today. I say start because I want to shoot this rifle a lot more. I will look for interesting ways to do that.

Before we begin…

However, before I jump into the accuracy there are a couple things I need to clear up. Reader Halfstep asked about the loading tap. It was shown in the closed position in Part 2 and he asked if I could show it open. He also wondered how far into the tap the pellet falls, so I’ll show that, too.

The tap is open.

An RWS Superpoint has been dropped into the tap. See how deep it is?

Rear sight conversion

Reader Siraniko asked to see how the rear sight converts from a peep to a sporting open sight. Here that is.

To remove the peep sight disc, loosen the screw on the left (arrow).

The peep just lifts off.

Accuracy — the test

Now let’s look at accuracy. I shot at 10 meters for all of today’s test. I forgot that the front sight has 4 different posts, so I suffered through the whole test with a post and bead. That’s the worst front post to use with a peep sight because it has the least precision, when used with the peep. It’s difficult to center that sight (the bead is not centered — the top of the bead is)

RWS Superdomes

I started the test shooting with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag. Since RWS Superdomes were recommended so highly by several readers, I sighted-in with them.

On the first shot my head was so close to the peep that my eyebrow touched the rubber cup. When the rifle fired I got a heavy hit in the eyebrow that stopped that immediately! It was like getting hit in the eye with a scope and was very unexpected.

The first shot landed high, so I adjusted the rear sight 8 clicks down for the first group. Someone asked whether the rear sight has clicks or is indefinite, and this is the answer.

Then 5 more shots went into 0.738-inches at 10 meters. The group is open and horizontal, so I reckoned I would try it with the artillery hold next. I also adjusted the rear sight to the left to move the group over to the bull.

First shot went high, then after adjustment the first group landed about centered and to the right. Group measures 0.738-inches between centers.

The group of Superdomes shot with the artillery hold was well-centered. It measures 0.575-inches between centers for 10 shots at 10 meters. The artillery hold is definitely the way to go with this rifle!

Ten RWS Superdomes in 0.575-inches at 10 meters. The Superdome seems to be a very good pellet, and now we know that the Diana 50 can shoot!

H&N Finale Match Light

Next to be tested were 10 H&N Finale Match Light pellets. The Diana 50 is a sort of target rifle and a wadcutter pellet like this one is appropriate. Ten Finale Match Lights landed in a 0.626-inch group at 10 meters. This group is also well-centered.

Ten H&N Finale Match Light pellets made this 0.626-inch group at 10 meters.

The rifle was shooting well at this point. I find the trigger light and relatively crisp, though if I could adjust it to be crisper I would. When the rifle fires it torques sideways a little. The softer I hold it the less I notice this.

RWS Superpoint

Now it was time to shoot the RWS Superpoint pellets that I felt were best for this rifle. They landed lower on the target than all the others. One time the gun fired as I was settling-in for my next shot. I called that shot to the left, but I wasn’t ready for it, so my call could have been wrong.

When I saw the group I thought I had gotten lucky and the called shot had not strayed, but as I was sitting at the computer writing this report and measuring the groups I noticed something on the target that proved to be the stray shot. Nine shots are in 0.549-inches and that wild one opens the group to 1.064-inches. A shame!

Ten RWS Superpoint pellets made this 1.064-inch group at 10 meters. Nine are in 0.549-inches but the shot that got away from me opened up the group. I didn’t notice the hole when taking the pictures but look where the arrow indicates.

RWS Hobby

The last pellet I tested was the lighweight RWS Hobby. Hobbys are sometimes very accurate — especially in Diana airguns! Ten Hobbys made a 0.556-inch group at 10 meters — the smallest of the test! Truthfully, though, all of these groups are so close that it’s difficult to say which is better — the Superdomes or the Hobbys. Without precision measuring equipment these group sizes are only approximate.

Ten RWS Hobbys made this 0.556-inch group at 10 meters. This is the best group of the test, though it’s arguably the same size as the Superdome group.

Things I did wrong

Next time I will select a fat squared-off post for the front sight. I think my accuracy may have suffered from guessing where the center of the bead actually is.

I will also pay more attention to that trigger. It’s really light!

Where I place my off hand doesn’t seem too critical, but it was about 8-10 inches up from the triggerguard. I say that just to remember for next time.


From today’s test I think the Diana 50 is an all-around accurate airgun! I think no matter what pellet I choose within reason (weight-to-power ratio), it’s going to work. That isn’t common with air rifles.

How to sharpen a straight razor: Part 2

Pá, 09/01/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The goal
  • The proof
  • My mistakes
  • What had I learned?
  • Things to avoid
  • Sharpening a straight razor
  • Sharpening stone grits
  • After honing — the strop
  • What was wrong?
  • Research pays off
  • Summary

I started this series so I could experience coming into a hobby as a new guy. That would make me more sympathetic to the thousands of readers who are either new to airguns or new to shooting altogether. It certainly did that, as you will learn today!

The goal

When I started this project, I had what I thought was a simple and straightforward goal — learning to sharpen a straight razor. That’s not any different than the guy who buys an air rifle to eliminate pests. But I completely underestimated the scope of the project — again, not unlike many new airgunners. And that’s a good thing because today you get to watch me make all the new-guy mistakes.

The proof

Once I began, I realized I would need some kind of test to prove whether I had been successful in sharpening a straight razor. Cutting paper or shaving the hair off the back of your arm isn’t going to do it! These parlor tricks are only applicable to knives. Straight razors have to be ten to one hundred times sharper to do what they are designed to do.

This is very much like the guy who didn’t think about what level of accuracy he expected until after he purchased an airgun. Then he discovered that the type of powerplant, the quality of pellets and even the way he holds the gun all have an impact on accuracy. He wanted the kind of accuracy that only a few spring guns and PCPs can deliver, but his first airgun purchase was one that struggles to approach his expectations.

My mistakes

I did exactly what most newbies do, except I did it a lot faster for the sake of this report. I first bought the cheapest used straight razor I could find on Ebay. I did that even before it dawned on me that I would have to shave with it to know if I had gotten it sharp enough. I was just thinking about sharpening at this point in the project. When it arrived I could see my mistakes right away. The tip of the blade is broken, and it has rusted at sometime in the past. I will show you later on what rust can do to a straight razor blade.

I set that razor aside and bought my second razor, also off Ebay. This one was a name I recognized — Henckel. They make good knives, and I hoped they would also be the Diana of straight razors. Perhaps they are, but that didn’t guarantee that I bought the right model, or that it was even one in useable condition. I was still buying used to save money. I know! I’m great at lecturing you about the mistake of trying to save money when buying something you don’t understand. I’m not so good at practicing what I preach!

By the time this one arrived I had learned that I needed extra equipment to do what I set out to do — sharpen straight razors. That’s like you discovering that when you buy a Benjamin Marauder PCP you will also need a carbon fiber tank to fill it — not to mention some way to fill that tank! So, I bought a vintage sharpening stone, again on Ebay. It was cheap, and perhaps I can use it for knives, but for straight razors it is as much of a challenge as the razors, themselves. It’s shown in Part 1.

What had I learned?

So far I had learned that buying straight razors is not something to do without a lot of information and understanding. That’s very much like airguns. I was doing a lot of research by now, but my blunders were not quite over. Or, perhaps “blunder” is too harsh. Because, in the end, my next purchase turned everything around.

I bought one more straight razor. This time I researched the internet heavily and found several sales sites and chat forums that all agreed that the Dubl Duk razors of the recent past are among the best vintage straight razors around. They are American-made, but they all have German blades from Solingen — not unlike the Beeman airguns that were made in Germany by Weihrauch but sold under an American name.

Why a vintage razor? Because the point of this exercise is to learn how to sharpen razors — not how to shave with them, although to do the former you almost have to do the latter. That’s the bitter irony I was now experiencing. So, I bought a Dubl Duk Wonderedge that is widely acclaimed to be the pick of the Dubl Duk litter. Think of it as the FWB 300S of straight razors.

Things to avoid

My early mistake taught me what not to buy. My first razor was a big lesson. I now knew to avoid a rusty or pitted blade. I have said that a Dubl Duk is a fine vintage straight razor, but look at a Dubl Duk Goldedge (one level below the Wonderedge I bought) that went for a low price ($86) on Ebay.

From my research this picture tells me two things. First, the blade is rusted, and that will leave pits when the rust is removed. That’s the kiss of death for a straight razor. As you will see, pits destroy a razor’s edge at the microscopic level! And second, the shadow under the blade on the right side tells me this one is possibly bent (the paper underneath may also not be level). If it is bent, it cannot be sharpened until that is corrected.

I avoided this damaged blade and bought a nicer one, instead. That one was advertised to be shave ready. Kind of like buying an air rifle that’s been tuned. Good luck! Best laid plans…

My two best razors are a Henckel (top) and a Dubl Duk Wonderedge (below)

Sharpening a straight razor

I will come back to the razors I bought in a moment. First, let me describe what it takes to hone any straight razor. You only have to hone them about every 5-6 months, depending on your shaving frequency and the toughness of your beard. Between honings, stropping keeps the blade sharp. Human whiskers are the same toughness as copper wire of the same diameter, and that is what a razor’s edge has to cut through cleanly.

To hone the edge to shaving sharpness, you have to start with a straight blade. The illustration in Part 1 will show you why. If the blade isn’t straight, the entire cutting edge will not contact the honing stone, and you won’t get a consistent shaving edge across the blade.

The fastest and most precise way to hone a straight razor is with water stones. These are flat sharpening stones that are lubricated with water instead of oil. In fact, many water stones have to be immersed in water for some time (10 minutes) to absorb as much water as they will hold. Then you use water on top of the stone as the razor is pushed across it.

The bubbles show the stone is absorbing water. This takes about 10 minutes.

Sharpening stone grits

Water stones come in several grits, ranging from 220 to 12,000. The higher the number the finer the grit and the less metal it removes from the razor blade. I had what I thought were two good blades in the Henckel and Dubl Duk, so I bought a combination 4000/8000-grit stone and another that’s 12,000 grit. I figured these would be all I would need, besides the chromium oxide for the strop. That is 61,000 grit! When the stones arrived, I sharpened all three razors — using the first one that was damaged as a training aid before going to the better blades.

The razor is sharpened by pushing the blade across the stone in the direction of the sharp edge. Take about 10 strokes in each direction, rotating the blade so the sharp edge always leads. The razor’s spine holds the edge at the correct angle to the stone. Use an equal number of strokes on each side of the blade. The bottle is more water for the stone.

After honing — the strop!

After the blade is honed, it is stropped on coarse linen fabric 25 times in each direction. The fabric has been coated with chromium oxide that is 61,000-grit. The strop does not remove metal from the blade like the hone. Instead, it aligns the “teeth” of the new edge. After the fabric strop, the blade is stropped on a smooth leather belt 50 times in each direction. There is no coating on the belt. All it does is refine what the fabric strop started.

The razor is dragged along the fabric strop with the edge following. The fabric straightens the microscopic teeth in the razor’s edge. The green color is from 61,0000-grit chromium oxide.

That bar of chromium oxide is rubbed into the fabric strop.

The leather strop finishes the job of aligning the teeth. Sorry about the focus, but I was holding the strop, the razor and the camera for this shot.

At this point the razor should be ready to shave. I sharpened both razors this way and then tried to shave with them.

For five days I tried shaving with the two straight razors. I never shaved my whole face with them, but I did get up to 50 percent of my whiskers off this way. The shaved areas were the smoothest skin I have ever had, but there were a lot of cuts. So many, in fact, that I had to stop shaving. I needed a blood transfusion after each shave!

What was wrong?

Was I a guy who couldn’t shave with a straight razor for some reason? Was my skin too tender? Did it take a much longer time before I could learn to do shave this way successfully? When you are a newbie you don’t know what you don’t know. And chat forums are useless because they are filled with people who either can already shave this way or are liars who talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. This was exactly the experience I had hoped for. I was in the same place as a newbie airgunner!

Research pays off!

All the while I was doing this I was researching how to shave with a straight razor, plus how to sharpen one. Finally, one video paid off. A guy was trying to sell a cheap straight razor and he made a video to show its sharp edge. Though it was cheap the edge was uniform. I had never looked at the edge of my two best razors. Perhaps it was time to do so. So I got my 10X jeweler’s loupe and looks at both blades. What I saw was shocking!

The Henckel blade is pitted over the bottom half of the blade’s surface on one side. My best blade — the Dubl Duk Wonderedge — was pitted right on the shaving edge. It was jagged at the point where it met the skin of my face!

This image shows a small portion of the Dubl Duck razor’s edge, magnified about 100 times. The arrows point to rust pits on the edge of the blade. This is after honing with 4000, 8000 and 12,000-grit stones and stropping the edge 200 times in each direction on both strops!

The “shave-ready” blade I bought on Ebay for a considerable sum was still jagged with deep pits, even after I had honed the blade. That was what was grabbing my whiskers and pulling them, plus cutting my skin. It sounds sad, but it’s a blessing in disguise for this series, because it forced me to get serious about sharpening this blade.

If this was an airgun, I had just done a lube tune and then discovered that the mainspring was bent. No amount of grease will quiet the powerplant when that happens. You have to do the right thing and replace the mainspring, or your airgun will not perform — I don’t care whose name is on the outside!.


There is still some road to travel with this story, because I am still learning. At this point in time I can tell you that there is a very happy ending coming, but the details of that will have to wait for the next report.

The Hatsan Sortie PCP pistol: Part 1

Čt, 08/31/2017 - 01:01

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan Sortie.

This report covers:

  • What is it?
  • Power
  • Presentation is important
  • Semiautomatic!
  • Description
  • Sights
  • The action
  • Silencer?
  • Evaluation so far

Today I will do the impossible. It’s not perpetual motion and it’s not levitation. Today I will scoop myself! Today I will start a report on something I was hoping to surprise you with in Part 3 of the Texas Airgun Show next week.

I haven’t reported on all the dealers who were at the show yet, and Hatsan is one I planned to cover next time. Well, I figured you needed to see an airgun after all these other reports, so I opened a large box Hatsan sent me recently and, lo and behold, inside there is an airgun I hadn’t heard of before seeing one at the airgun show — the Hatsan Sortie.

What is it?

The Sortie is a precharged pneumatic repeating air pistol, and besides that you can learn as much as I know right now  from looking at the picture. Pyramyd Air has them in both .177 and .22 calibers. It’s a repeater that gets 14 shots in .177 and 12 in .22. Is there a .25? Not that I know of, but if the Sortie is received well I would think they would have it in the works.

The air reservoir is 62cc, which is on the small side. Rather than being bad, that’s actually a good thing because this pistol will be easier to fill from a hand pump. I will test that for you. The gun operates on a 200 bar fill (2,900 psi).


The Sortie is not a super-powerful air pistol. It’s a nice shooter that they say develops about 12 foot-pounds in .177. If that’s true I expect it to be over 13 foot pounds in .22, but that’s why we test these guns. The velocity claim is 750 f.p.s. in .177 caliber, but Hatsan has always tested their guns with real-world lead pellets. That’s one of their trademark operational concepts. I say that because an 8-grain pellet needs to exit the muzzle at about 822 f.p.s. to produce 12 foot pounds. So, they must have tested it with a heavier pellet.that weighs around 9.5 grains

As American airgunners become more familiar with all the technology and limitations of pellet guns, 12 foot-pounds is becoming a very useful hunting power level. The Brits have known that for decades, because that is the limit of their airguns before the Firearm Certificate is required.

Presentation is important

I have to show you this, because it is most impressive. I took the Sortie cardboard box out of the bigger box it came in and open it to find a hard case inside. Hatsan does that with a lot of their airguns, and I like it. It gives you somewhere convenient to store the gun when you aren’t using it. That’s a big deal in my world!

The Sortie comes in a convenient hard case.


Perhaps the biggest thing the Sortie offers is semiautomatic operation. Every time you squeeze the trigger it fires a pellet, until they are exhausted. I am most interested in this. Is it a true semiauto that cocks itself after each shot, or are they calling a double action revolver a semiauto, thinking most people won’t know the difference? Knowing Hatsan’s dedication to honesty in their claims, I’m thinking this one is the real deal. Of course I will report on that in Part 2.


In the picture the Sortie looks big and that’s no illusion. The pistol is 16.5 inches long and weighs 4-3/4 pounds, so you know you’re holding something. Look at the first photo and you will see a second place for a hand to grip, forward of the trigger. I think they made this one for hunters and I can already hear the rumbling in the bushes — does it have a shoulder stock? I have to say not yet, because I know in my heart airgunners will not leave this detail alone.

The pistol is all black with a synthetic stock/pistol grip. The grip is sculpted for a right-handed shooter and I have to say a lefty will not be at all comfortable with this grip. I don’t see a left grip option at this time, but if the Sortie takes off I’m sure Hatsan will offer one down the road. The grip fits my medium-sized hand quite well.


The Sortie comes with open sights that are adjustable in both directions. They are fiberoptics, which makes sense on a hunting gun. I plan to test it with open sights first.

The Sortie rear sight is adjustable.

There is a scope rail on top of the receiver and it’s Hatsan’s rail that accepts both 11mm and Weaver type scope ring bases. When I scope the pistol I’ll have more to say about it.

The website mentions mounting a dot sight. I normally would mount a scope, but at the Texas airgun show the Sortie they had was sporting a holographic dot sight. I am going to have to get one of those because more and more airgunners want to put dot sights on their air pistols and the shorter holographic sight seems to be the best way to go. All my dot sights have long tube that do better on rifles. So, while I did say I was going to “scope” this pistol, I may very well mount a dot sight instead.

The action

I want to save my discussion of the action for part 2, but know that the pistol has a bolt that gets pulled back to remove and install the magazine. There was no owners manual with the pistol I received (this is a brand new release), but I think the action is close enough to the Barrage semiautomatic rifle action, that the operation will be the same. There is a manual on the Pyramyd website for that one, and I verified that is is the same.

The Sortie magazine will seem similar to many PCP owners.

The Sortie action has a bolt that is pulled back and locked to permit installing and removing the magazine.


Like many PCPs today, the Sortie has a coiled steel mainspring inside its barrel shroud. The coils break up the exhaust gasses and make them diffuse before they exit the muzzle. The hole at the muzzle is quite large, so it remains to be heard how loud this pistol is.

A coiled steel mainspring inside the shroud at the muzzle breaks up the exhaust gasses.

Evaluation so far

So far it looks like there is a lot to evaluate on the Sortie. I think this will be an interesting report. I just hope you can live with the power. If it’s accurate, I sure can!

The 2017 Texas airgun show: Part 2

St, 08/30/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Back to the show
  • C1
  • What did BB buy?
  • One more thing
  • Compressed air
  • Sun Optics
  • AirForce
  • iraqveteran8888
  • All American Targets
  • More to come
Back to the show

I stopped yesterday while talking about some of the dealers. Do you know that I forgot to show you the Gauntlet that was on the Umarex range. It wasn’t being shot when I was there, so I didn’t get a picture, but I was told they expect to start shipping in September. Now let’s go back inside the show hall and see some of the other things


I know you are interested in vintage airguns, so how about a Beeman C1? I have written about the C1 over the years. You can read my report here. If you read it you will see that I didn’t have good luck with the one I reported in the blog. But the first one I owned was a different story. That was the airgun that taught me the artillery hold.

Well, I didn’t see one on a table, but one of our readers walked up and showed me the C1 he had just bought. This one had no sights, but I felt the pivot pin and it felt tight, so the rifle will probably be very accurate. Just remember to break it in with 3,000 to 4,000 shots. The trigger gets smoother and the cocking gets easier. Also — remember to use the artillery hold!

A reader walked up and showed me this Beeman C1.

What did BB buy?

I went to the show knowing that reader David Enoch was bringing a Beeman R10 that his brother, Bryan, had tuned. I shot that rifle at the airgun show in Malvern, Arkansas several years ago and was so impressed with the performance that when I came home I arranged for Bryan to tune my Beeman R1.

Before the show David contacted me and asked if I was interested in that gun. He called it an R10, but it’s actually a Weihrauch HW 85, which is the rifle the R10 was designed from. I bought it at the show, but I don’t want to say any more about it now because it will become a long historical series, I hope!

As I was packing up a guy came by and asked whether I was open to trading. Of course I am and I did, so I will also be testing a Beeman P1 pistol for you at some time. I have tested the P1 in the past, but the one I own has a modified trigger. This one is stock. And it is supposed to smoke when fired at present, which I hope to fix and show you how it’s done.

And then there is that Crosman 102 repeating multi-pump thyat I showed yesterday. I have arranged to buy it, so it will be in an upcoming test, as well.

One more thing

I didn’t buy this next item, though I offered to. Mac and Prowler (see www.macandprowler.com) were in the AirForce tent when I encountered them and I was shown a coyote call made by Randy “Mac” McMillan from a deer antler button. Things like that always catch my attention, because I love handmade stuff, but I have a particular application for a coyote call. When it was demonstrated I could tell that it will be much easier to modulate in the field than an electronic game call. I like game calls for things like crows, but for coyotes that need to be coaxed and enticed, I like to be in control of the call.

I gushed over the call so much that Randy gave me not one by two different coyote calls that he makes. One is the call in a deer antler and the other is the same call in a .223 cartridge case. They have different sounds and in my dreams I am already calling “dogs” with them!

Coyote calls from Mac McMillan.

Compressed air

High Tide Scuba from Mansfield, Texas was there all day, providing compressed air, and answering questions for those curious about the dark side. They had tables in the show and also brought large bulk tanks to support the PCP guns on the range. With the great number of big bores that were shooting all day, they were a blessing!

High Tide Scuba.

Sun Optics

Speaking of compressed air, Sun Optics brought the latest version of their 4,500 psi compressor. It runs on 110V AC and 12V DC — just flip a switch. They had it set up and running all throughout the show. Nobody knew it, of course because the thing is so darned quiet, but they were filling AirForce guns all through the show.

The Sun Optics air compressor (red box) ran all show long, filling AirForce tanks. It was so quiet I had to put my hand on the case to feel it run! That tractor battery powered it all day.

It’s not a large compressor, but it is reliable and quiet. And it is stand-alone, needing no separate compressor to do its job. When they hit the market I will test one for you.


That brings us to the AirForce booth — or should I say tent? AirForce Airguns has been a staunch supporter of the Texas airgun show since it began in 2014. Each year they donate a huge door prize that can be won by anyone purchasing a ticket to the show. This year the prize was a scoped .308 Texan!

AirForce has always sold products at the show. Many manufacturers do not have products to sell, but AirForce sells like crazy. And they bring all their blemished airguns to offer as show specials for those who want the best bargain.

This year they asked to be outside the hall to allow more room for their products. A large tent was erected outside the hall for both AirForce and Sun Optics, but there is more room for others out on “Manufacturers Row.”

It took a bucket brigade to unload the AirForce trucks.

Once the gates opened to the public there was a steady stream of customers at the AirForce sales tables. Guns were piled high, but I watched as the stacks dwindled toward the end of the show. Of course they had all their other products there to sell as well, but the stacks of guns were the most impressive.

AirForce guns were stacked up like cordwood at the start of the show.

They also had their Texan rifles on the big bore range all day, and anybody could shoot them. The line was pretty steady all day.

AirForce allowed the public to shoot their big bore rifles all day. The targets were steel Cowboy Action targets that didn’t have to be reset.


Besides supporting the show directly, AirForce also helped to promote it. This year they invited iraqveteran8888 to come film the show for his You Tube channel. He has 1.4 million subscribers, so we are getting the broadest possible exposure throughout the shooting world.

There is more to say about both AirForce and iraqveteran8888, but that can wait for Part 3 next week. I have one more exciting thing to tell you about this show today.

All American Targets

While I was at the Crosman booth, I met Tim of All American Target Concepts, who was helping Mark DeBoard run the Crosman range. Tim had his latest invention set up on the range and I was impressed. No, strike that — I was blown away! It is a moving target or action target that is adaptable to powerful smallbore airguns, or big bore airguns or handguns up to .380 ACP caliber.

All American Target stands 6 feet high, yet assembled quickly without tools. It comes with parts to scale it from smallbore airgun to powerful big bore of .380 ACP. Knock off one paddle and the whole target starts spinning.

This target is so well constructed that I watched it spin for minutes following a gentle push. every angle is designed to deflect pellets and bullets away from the shooter.

Swap a thin paddle (right) for a thick one and the target goes from being a smallbore target to a big bore action target in seconds.

I was so impressed with this target system that I plan to test it for this blog and also for a feature article in Firearms News. This is the kind of stuff I live for!

More to come

There is a lot more to see at the show. We haven’t tasted the dessert yet — in the form of all the prizes they had! If you regret not attending from reading these first two reports, number three will have you crying your eyes out! Stay tuned.

The 2017 Texas airgun show: Part 1

Út, 08/29/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Smaller show
  • Fewer dealers?
  • On the other hand…
  • TX200 Mark III
  • Behind me — a Supergrade and …
  • What about dealers — Sig
  • Crosman
  • Umarex
  • More to come

Last Saturday the 4th annual Texas airgun show was held at the Arlington Sportsman Club in Mansfield, Texas. Let’s begin with the weather, since Hurricane Harvey had many people concerned.

Smaller show

We lost many dealers from south Texas. It’s hard to say how many for sure, but I estimate 5-10 at least. Then there was the loss of the public that I would put around 50. They had to stay home and contend with the weather, and I understand that.

But there were also lost a lot of folks from other states who read the word Texas and Hurricane and thought the entire state was getting hit. Folks, Texas is large. Very large. The airgun show is hundreds of miles inland from any coast (about the distance NYC is from Washington D.C.), so by the time it gets up here it’s just a lot of constant misting rain and perhaps a constant gusting wind of 40-50 mph. The Arlington Sportsman Club ranges are all covered very well, so shooters and guns didn’t get wet from the several brief showers we did have. The wind was very pleasant 10 mph and the day was a balmy 78 degrees at the hottest. That’s paradise in Texas in August! I’m saying the weather was perfect for the show and anyone who was there will tell you the same thing.

Fewer dealers?

There were many more manufacturers, importers and retail dealers at this year’s show, but fewer private dealers. That probably relates to the weather, because we didn’t have the 4-5 dealers who always arrive without reservations on show day and want tables.

On the other hand…

The private dealers that did come had the best selection of airguns I have ever seen. Perhaps not as many tables of them, but when I finish telling you what was at this show you’re going to kick yourself if you missed it! Let’s begin with two (yes, I said TWO) Whiscombes for sale! And one of them was sold! I did not get a picture of the happy buyer, but that is a major score at any airgun show.

TX200 Mark III

Reader Jonah had asked me to bring my TX 200 Mark III so he could at least try one. I did, but I never took it out, because Jonah found exactly what he was looking for on a table. There were two Mark IIIs for sale at what I thought were astoundingly good prices. There may have been others, but these were the first ones I saw.

That TC200 Mark III with a Hawke scope was the first air rifle I saw at the show. I almost bought it on the spot! Above it is another .177 TX that was priced at $450!

A happy Jonah holds his prize!

Jonah didn’t even ask to see my rifle, because he found the same two rifles I found, and one was a .22 that he wanted. It had a Vortek tune on it. He came by my table to ask what I thought of the .22 TX and, when I told him I almost bought it myself, I think he was pleased. Guys, this is how to do it. Jonah knew what he wanted, came to an airgun show, found a nice one at what I think is a fantastic price and got to shoot it before he bought it. That’s the way airguns should be sold!

Behind me — a Supergrade and …

I’m just warming up! Behind my tables were the tables of the show’s organizer, Jeff Cloud. He was selling a beautiful Sheridan Supergrade. Jeff has become interested in multi-pump pneumatics and has learned how to seal many of them, including Supergrades. He resealed my Blue Streak that I reported on last year.. Besides that Supergrade, Jeff was selling a Crosman 101 pumper, a rarer model 100 (the .177 caliber version) and a 102 repeater. Those guns stayed on his table for the whole show. Dumb old me wanted to buy the 102 to test for you. So I sat next to it for the entire show and just now it dawned on me what I had failed to do! DUH!

Show organizer, Jeff Cloud, had a beautiful Sheridan Supergrade for sale! Underneath are a Crosman 101, 102 and a model 100. Guys, you don’t see these guns at every airgun show!

He also had a Hahn 45 BB revolver in the box. This is very similar to the .22 caliber Crosman Single Action 6 that Crosman also made. I see these at a lot of airgun shows, but seldom in this condition. I would rate this one as excellent to almost new in the box. Now, I have seen shows with as many as 20 of these for sale, but like I say, not in this condition

An almost new in the box Hahn 45 BB repeater.

Jeff also allowed other folks to display their airguns on his tables. There was a used Shoebox compressor, plus many pellet gauges, because Mr. Pelletgage, Jerry Cupples, manned the table for the entire show.

What about dealers — Sig

I have so much more to share with you, but right now let’s move outdoors to see some of the dealers who came. Sig Sauer was a first-time displayer at this show and they also had a local dealers selling their airguns inside the show! They were on the range all day where the public could shoot their Sig MP-X submachine guns at the SIG Texas Star target — a target that Dani Navickas from Sig showed me can be reset by shooting at it — you don’t have to call the range cold and walk to the target. She had people knocking them down and back up throughout the entire show!

Sig had a strong presence at this year’s show. They ran a range all day and sold new guns inside!

When I visited the Sig range, Dani Navickas had this gentleman demonstrating the Sig Texas Star!

The Sig Texas Star can be shot down and back up again! Dani Navickas discovered that on her own!


Next to Sig, Crosman was letting the public shoot the new Benjamin Wildfire at falling plate targets. Twelve plates and 12 shots in a magazine. Turns out it isn’t as easy as it looks on television!

They had three rifles running for most of the show. And I would like to point out that because the Wildfire runs at a 2000 psi fill and is very conservative with air, they ran all three rifle on one 98 cubic-foot carbon fiber tank!

Crosman had three Benjamin Wildfires going throughout the show!


Next to Crosman and Sig on the same range, Umarex USA was set up. They probably had several different airguns, but as soon as I walked up I heard the zipper-like sound of a sub-gun. Sure enough, they had the Umarex Legends MP40 on the line, and the young fellow who was shooting it was absolutely delighted with the experience!

This lad was gettin’ on some targets. A commando in training?

More to come

I have so much more to tell you and show you! But that will have to come in the next installment. Want it tomorrow?

The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 2

Po, 08/28/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Loading tap
  • Rear sight
  • Pre-test preparation
  • Fastest way
  • Velocity RWS Superpoints
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far

Today we will learn the velocity of my new/old .177 caliber Diana model 50. But there are several things I need to clear up before we get to that. Let’s start with the loading tap.

Loading tap

The Diana model 50 is an underlever spring-piston air rifle. That means the barrel doesn’t open like a breakbarrel, so there has to be another way to load a pellet. On some underlevers the entire compression chamber slides back, exposing the breech, but others like the model 50 use a loading tap. A tap sits behind the barrel and rotates open to load the pellet and closed to align the pellet with the breech.

Drop a pellet into the open loading tap, nose-first.

Rotate the tap closed and the pellet aligns with the breech, ready to be blown through the barrel with the shot.

Push the loading tap lever forward (to the left) to open for loading.

Rear sight

I said in Part 1 that I thought the peep sight was dedicated and didn’t convert to a sporting open rear sight, but reader Mike Driskill showed me different. So, for this report I have removed the peep disk to show you.

The peep disc has been removed and the spring-loaded rear sight plate, with three different sighting notches and the large groove, is rotated to show the notches more clearly. Any notch can be selected.

This feature turns the model 50 into a sporting rifle. The entire rear sight is moved forward to a different sight base on the spring tube for the best eye relief.

I was also asked what the numbers on the left of the rear sight mean. They are elevation reference numbers that an index mark aligns with as the rear sight is elevated.

The index line on the bottom aligns with the elevation numbers as the sight goes up and down.

Pre-test preparation

Pop quiz — the Diana 50 was made from 1952 to 1965. What is the piston seal most likely made of? Answer — leather.

What should we do to a leather piston seal before shooting it? Answer — oil it.

Extra credit — how do you oil the piston seal of a taploader?

There are two ways. The first takes the longest. Stand the rifle on its butt with the tap closed and drop 10 drops of oil down the muzzle. The oil will run down through the barrel, through the loading tap and into the compression chamber, where the piston seal will soak it up.

Fastest way

Here is the quicker way. Open the loading tap. Fill it with oil, close it and stand the rifle on its butt for an hour. The same thing happens without the barrel getting in the way.

More extra credit — what kind of oil should be used? That depends on the power of the gun which we don’t yet know. But we can guess pretty close. A spring-piston rifle made between 1952 and 1965 rifle will probably generate less than 12 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Velocities with be slow, so regular household oil can be used. I used Crosman Pellgunoil.

Velocity RWS Superpoints

Since this is a taploader I want to use pellets that will fill the tap when the gun fires. The RWS Superpoint is my favorite pellet for this, because it has such a thin skirt.

This string was both interesting and instructive. I will show you every shot from start to finish, because I want to discuss it. Remember — this was fired 60 minutes after oiling.


Wow! That string is a classic illustration of why a chronograph is so important to airgunners. The rifle was full of oil because I over-oiled it. So, all the extra oil shot out with the first several pellets. I’ve seen this before, so I just kept shooting and watching the numbers on the chronograph screen. When they stopped increasing, the rifle would be in its power band.

It’s arguable where they stopped but I am calling it at shot 12, which was 646 f.p.s. That one and the next 9 will be the string. So, for this pellet the low was 618 and the high was 685 f.p.s. That’s a large spread of 67 f.p.s. That much variation is probably due to the extra oil in the barrel. No doubt the velocity spread will tighten a little with more shooting.

The average for the string I selected is 660 f.p.s. I think that’s probably about where this pellet will be when the rifle settles down. At the average velocity an RWS Superpoint generates 7.93 foot pounds at the muzzle. That is about what I expected.

JSB Exact RS

Next I tested the JSB Exact RS dome. They are lighter than the 8.2-grain Superpoints. They weigh 7.33 grains. They averaged 648 f.p.s. in the model 50, with a spread from 572 to 708 f.p.s. That is 136 f.p.s., which is too much to expect any accuracy. Since the rifle had started to settle in, I think this shows that the RS pellet isn’t right for this rifle. I won’t test this pellet for accuracy. At the average velocity this pellet generated 6.84 foot-pounds.

The results of this pellet are another reason to have a chronograph. They clearly show when a rifle doesn’t like a pellet.

RWS Hobby

For the final pellet I chose the RWS Hobby. Since the rifle is a target rifle I wanted to try at least one target/wadcutter pellet, but I selected Hobbys for one additional reason. They have wide skirts that work well in loading taps.

Hobbys averaged 673 f.p.s. in the 50. The spread went from 640 to 685 f.p.s., so a difference of 45 f.p.s. See how much tighter that is? At the average velocity, the Hobby generated 7.04 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Cocking effort

The rifle cocks with 25 lbs. of effort. It feels like a little more than that to me, but I think that’s because I can feel the coils of the mainspring compressing as it is cocked. The rifle cocks with a crunch.

Trigger pull

The trigger is set up to release with a single-stage pull that breaks at 1 lb. 8 oz. That’s on the light side, but it’s the single stage pull that throws me. It’s not breaking crisply like a good two-stage trigger would. Since this is a ball bearing trigger I thought I should be able to adjust it to a good two stages with a clean break on stage two.

The front screw locks the setting and the rear screw is the adjustment screw. The previous owner has either Locktited the locking screw to make a permanent bond or he glued it with Epoxy. It isn’t moving! If I want to adjust it I will need to put it in a press to hold tension on the screw as it is turned. Or I will have to drill it out and replace it. I don’t like it when I encounter things like this, but at least the trigger isn’t too bad where it is right now.

Evaluation so far

This model 50 is a fine classic airgun. It cocks easy, has a light trigger, decent power and intriguing sights. I can’t wait to test the accuracy!

Collecting airguns: Modifications and refinishing 5

Pá, 08/25/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Scarcity Part 1
Condition Part 2
What is collecting? Part 3
Collecting airguns: Fakes and counterfeits Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Hypothetical
  • It’s a Tucker!
  • Dig in or knuckle under?
  • What about it?
  • However…
  • Specifically
  • When not to modify
  • What about an FWB 124?
  • Controversy
  • The end

Today’s topic will be controversial. Many of you will feel that this isn’t any of my business. If you own something you have the right to do anything to it that you like — including destroying it. I would agree with you on that. If it’s yours, it’s yours to do with as you like. But it isn’t that simple. If it was, there would be nothing to say.


Let’s say you have inherited a vintage car from your favorite rich uncle. It was made in 1948, and it has some lines that you think are cool, but others that you don’t care for. You want to do extensive bodywork and also to lower the suspension several inches.

The engine needs a rebuild, too, and it’s not a common engine. A local shop estimated it will cost $50,000, just to rebuild it! That’s because they say they will have to make many of the parts. You don’t want to do that, so you have decided to install a modern engine of a type to be determined later. The engine in the car right now is a massive 589 cubic inch flat 6.

It’s a Tucker!

Oh, and one more thing. Your car is a Tucker Torpedo. That is a rare car with only 51 made in 1948 and just 47 remaining today. The last one to sell publicly went for a hair under three million dollars at a Barret-Jackson auction in 2012. Ah — but that was for a run-of-the-mill Tucker — if such a thing exists. Your car is one of just five that were built with this extra-large engine. There’s no telling how much it’s worth.

A 1948 Tucker Torpedo.

Now — what do you think about modifying the car?

Dig in or knuckle under?

This is where the curmudgeons will dig in their heels and swear that if they owned the car they would do whatever they wanted. They would dare the world to tell them they are wrong. Yes, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel could use a second coat of paint! And, while you’re are it, the water in the public bath is getting cool. Throw another pile of those ancient manuscripts from the Library of Alexandria on the fire!

Many of us, however, would have to admit that if we owned something this rare it would be our duty to conserve and preserve it for future generations.

What about it?

But really, what about modifying or even just restoring a vintage airgun to its original glory. What’s wrong with that? Depending on the airgun — nothing — or everything. Let’s get specific.

You want to restore your old Crosman 101 multi-pump pneumatic. The metal parts are all painted, so who’s to say they aren’t original when you finish? And what if they aren’t? Crosman 101s abound. Guns in shooting condition sell for as little at $100. Nice ones can go for $200. This is not an airgun you can mess up.

A Crosman 101 is not so rare that a good refinish won’t improve it.

In fact, a refinish done well will increase the value of an airgun like this. It can take a beater $80 gun (one that doesn’t hold and has a poor finish) to the $200 mark.


But, you might want to stop and think before you pay another $300 to have a custom Tyrolean buttstock carved for your 101 that’s just been resealed and refinished. It won’t add a penny to the value and it puts you $300 upside-down in the gun. At the very least keep the original stock and don’t modify the rifle in any way that prevents it from being reattached.

If you just want it that way, that’s your business. However, don’t suppose other folks will feel the same. I have seen rifle stocks carved from extremely expensive wood that looked good enough to eat. But they were shaped like electric guitars and put off a large part of the shooting public. Do something like this only if it’s what you want, because you may meet with resistance when sales time comes.


Let me get specific. I once owned a Falke 90 air rifle — a rare gun of which fewer than 200 were supposed to have been made in the 1950s. My gun was not working when I got it and was in NRA Horrible condition. A blog reader named Vince got it working again, and then I sent it to a stockmaker to have the damaged stock restored. He did a beautiful job, in my opinion. You can read about it here.

That was a partial restoration — the wood but not the metal. Was it “worth it?” Well, before the work was done, the airgun didn’t work and was ugly to look at. After it was refinished, it shot well and looked okay. Fewer than one-sixth as many of this air rifle were made as Colt Walker revolvers (200 to 1,500). Yet the Falke 90 is not well known today. You have to give the potential buyer a history lesson on the company before there’s any interest. The Colt Walker is well known.

Refinishing a Colt Walker is an absolute no-no, no matter how far gone it is. That gun is a piece of history, as we learned in Part 1 of this report. Refinishing a Falke 90? You would be lucky to find anyone who even knows what it is, let alone someone who’s interested in the original finish. Sure, if it’s a nice gun to begin with, don’t refinish it. But a dog like mine can be made to bark another day with little risk. I lost money when I sold that rifle at the 2016 Texas Airgun Show, but when you consider all the blogs I got to write and the feature article I wrote for Shotgun News, for which I was paid, the “loss” wasn’t that hard to suffer. And the buyer got a great deal.

When not to modify

You have a Feinwerkbau 300, but the stock is too short for you. For some strange reason the pull of your rifle is only a little over 11 inches. You decide that a 3-inch piece of wood can be added to bring the pull out to where you want it. It’s your air rifle — what’s to stop you?

Unfortunately, nothing. What you have ia a rare FWB 300 Mini, and you are about to wreck it to create an FWB 300S that is worth several hundred dollars less. There are lots of FWB 300S rifles for sale. Find a Mini! Oh, and yours is also left-handed. Poor you! You can sell that rifle and buy a pristine right-hand FWB 300S that’s like new in the box, and it’s just been resealed. With the money left over you can buy another fine airgun.

But hack up that Mini stock and you have lost hundreds of dollars. A left-handed FWB 300 Mini is both rare and desirable — not only as a collectible, but as a shooter. It’s not that old — maybe 20 years or so. But it’s something that was never made in quantity and also something that shooters today will treasure.

What about an FWB 124?

Few spring-piston airguns have been modified/customized as often as the venerable FWB 124. Shooters love the light cocking and smooth action (if tuned) the 124 offers, and so they modify it left and right. I remember a time 15 years ago when the 124 was just taken off the market, you could buy factory stocks for a song. Everybody was taking them off and installing their version of an airgunner’s dream. Only one of those replacements has any value that’s guaranteed. That was an outsized stock made by Air Rifle Headquarters (the original ARH — not the company that’s doing business today) in the early 1970s.

People criticized the long cocking slot of the 124 factory stock because it allowed the rifle to buzz when fired. ARH had a custom stock made that was several inches deeper in the forearm. The cocking link was entirely contained inside the forearm, so no slot had to be cut. It looks outlandish when you see it, but it’s also so rare that I have only seen one. There probably aren’t 50 in existence, and that’s just a guess. I say that because the 124 was already an expensive airgun in the 1970s ($144.50 in 1973) and this stock added 90 dollars to that price. It was called the FWB 120 Custom when the pistol grip was checkered.

FWB 120 Custom from the old Air Rifle Headquarters is a rare bird! The forearm is inches deeper than the one on a standard rifle so there doesn’t need to be a cocking slot — everything is contained inside the large forearm! Sorry for the poor photo. it was taken from an old ARH catalog.

If your custom stock isn’t that one, it needs to be a classic design if you want the rifle to have value. And, don’t throw the factory stock away !


Today’s report is a controversial one, because it touches on taste, which is very personal by definition. If your collecting is just so you can have what you want, then most of what I have said about the money side is meaningless. Just promise me you won’t customize any Tucker Torpedoes or refinish any Colt Walkers.

But if you collect with an eye towards reselling at some point, my arguments should be considered. I am the type of collector who never had enough money to buy everything he wanted, so I worked my way through things as I could. I had to consider the money side all the time.

The end

I know I haven’t touched on everything in collecting, but most of the major topics have been addressed. Unless there is something you feel I’ve left out, this will be the end of this topic.

Sig Sauer Spartan BB pistol: Part 2

Čt, 08/24/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Sauer Spartan BB pistol offers a lot of pistol at a budget price.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Install the CO2 cartridge
  • Velocity with Daisy BBs
  • Recoil
  • Air Venturi Copper-Plated BBs
  • H&N Smart Shot lead BBs
  • Trigger pull
  • Shot count
  • Evaluation so far

Today we look at the velocity of the Sig Spartan BB pistol. The specs rate it at 410 f.p.s. Today we find out. I will also comment on things like the blowback and the trigger. Let’s get started.

Install the CO2 cartridge

The first step is to put a fresh CO2 cartridge in the gun. It goes into the grip, of course. Lift off the left grip panel and then pull the mainspring housing from the back of the grip. That is the lower flat part of the grip that’s has a coarse raised pattern in the metal for a better grip. In the 1911 firearm, it houses the mainspring, but on this BB pistol it’s the lever that pierces the CO2 cartridge.

You will notice that there is a roller bearing at the bottom of the CO2 compartment. When the mainspring housing is pulled out, that moves out of the way. Once the cartridge is in the gun, the mainspring housing is pressed back in place — flat against the gun. The roller goes in and forces the cartridge up into the hollow piercing pin. Just be careful with this because it can be a pinch point.

That roller at the bottom of the CO2 chamber is connected to the piercing linkage. As it rolls back into the grip it pushes the cartridge up against the piercing pin.

The piercing pin is a hollow tube that a lot of CO2 pistols use these days. The face washer, however, is very thick and robust-looking. It looks like it should last a long time. Just remember to put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of each new cartridge, when you install it.

The piercing pin on the Spartan is hollow and is surrounded by a thick face washer that looks like it should last a long time!

Velocity with Daisy BBs

First to be tested were Daisy Premium Grade BBs. As I loaded them I noted some things about the stick magazine. First, there is a notch at the bottom to catch and hold the spring-loaded follower. Some BB mags don’t have this and you have to use one of your hands to hold the follower down during loading.

The other thing I noticed is there is a loading hole on the back side of the mag. A lot of stick mags force you to load them at the top where the BB will come out. This is a great feature!

Ten Daisy BBs averaged 376 f.p.s. I waited a minimum of 10 seconds between shots, but the velocity still dropped continuously from the first shot at 403 f.p.s. until the 9th shot at 362 f,.p.s. That one was a 1 f.p.s. increase over shot 8. The total spread went from 351 to 403 f.p.s, so a max of 52 f.p.s.


The recoil ranged from very aggressive in the beginning to average as the velocity decreased. At its most aggressive I would rate it as the same as a .22 rimfire pistol, which is very heavy for an airgun.

Air Venturi Copper-Plated BBs

Next up were Air Venturi Copper-Plated BBs. They no longer seem to be available, but I’m sure they aren’t much different than Air Venturi Zinc-Plated BBs. The pistol didn’t record on the first shot, so the first number I recorded was 390 f.p.s. I think the gun was still cool from the first string. There is no reason this BB is any slower than the Daisys.

As before the velocity dropped steadily with each shot. This time there was no rebound. Shot 10 went out at 339 f.p.s. So the spread went from 339 to 390 f.p.s., a range of 51 f.p.s, over 10 shots. And I waited 10 seconds minimum between all shots.

H&N Smart Shot lead BBs

Last to be tested were H&N Smart Shot lead BBs. They are about 50 percent heavier than the steel BBs so we expect slower velocity from them and, indeed, we got it. From the first shot at 333 f.p.s. to the last at 267 f.p.s. the velocity declined with each shot once more. The spread was 66 f.p.s.

Trigger pull

I told you in part one that the trigger pull feels like two stages, even though this is a single action pistol that should have a single stage trigger. That first stage is undoubtedly just a little slop in the trigger linkage.

The trigger releases at 5 lbs. 13 oz. The release is reasonably crisp and I think I can do good work with this one. It’s very reminiscent of the trigger on the 1911A1 firearm — especially if it’s a Series 80 pistol.

Shot count

By this point in the test I had fired a total of 37 shots from the CO2 cartridge. I then loaded a full magazine (16 shots) of Daisy BBs and registered the velocities. Here is that string.

1……………..326 (this is shot 38 from the start)
6……………..Did not register
11……………201 Failed to cock

I stopped the test at this point. I got about 40 useable shots from one CO2 cartridge in this test. That will vary a little from cartridge to cartridge and will also be affected by the temperature at which you shoot. My office was 73 degrees.

Evaluation so far

I purposely did not read the review of the Max Michel pistol, as we acknowledged this one is so close. But after the velocity test I did go back and see that the two pistols are practically identical. I even said the same things about the trigger!

The Spartan seems to use a lot of gas per shot. That must be to power the heavy metal slide for blowback.

I like the crispness of the trigger and the feel of the grip safety. I don’t care for the extra button on the manual safety, though.

Next it’s accuracy. If this pistol can shoot it will move up higher in my ratings.

A million questions

St, 08/23/2017 - 01:00

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Lots of questions
  • Down to the basics
  • Shape and balance
  • Accuracy
  • What about droop?
  • Reliability
  • Which does BB enjoy the most?
  • Who makes what?
  • BB’s evaluation
  • It takes time

I get a lot of questions on other parts of the blog. Sometimes the people asking them seem frustrated by all the things they don’t know. Last week I received this comment from reader Winterz.

“Yes, I am the person who uses obscure threads to ask you questions like the dual collaborative piston breakbarrel air rifle. I also wrote you about the Forge review.

I don’t know where to ask this, and it might be worthy of a writing topic, but of the springer varieties – breakbarrel – underlever — sidelever…. which style do you most enjoy shooting? Which is the most reliable?

Sidelevers look awkward to me, and seem to add complexity. Underlevers are less attractive…but if they have a durability benefit or if droop is a serious problem in some rifles, then they could be considered.

Clearly most entry level springers are breakbarrel, and the couple i am currently eying are both that — the Forge and the Walther Parrus (might break in with the Forge, and then get a Parrus when I’m sure this is me).

A side question which may be inappropriate for you to answer in this venue…. do you feel the Umarex-Walther rifles are comparable in quality to the Umarex-RWS rifles, or nearly such?

I think I finally understand the Dana/RWS/Umarex lineage and history, but wonder if it has substantially changed the mfg of these arms.
Thanks again,”

Lots of questions

There are a lot of questions here. This is one of the reasons I am writing the report on sharpening a straight razor — because what can you do when you don’t know what you don’t know? I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a person in this predicament.

Down to the basics

I can’t address all of his questions in one report, but I don’t think he wants them all answered. They way I see it, I need to address two things. First, what do I think about the three types of spring-piston airguns — breakbarrel, underlever and sidelever. And second, I need to address the airguns made by Walther and Diana. For simplicity I will only address rifles, because they are all the Winterz is talking about in his comment. Let’s get started.

Spring-piston airguns are all the same, in that the piston is pushed by a spring (it can be steel or compressed gas), and when the gun fires the piston compresses air in front of it as it travels a short distance inside a compression chamber. The three names — breakbarrel, underlever and sidelever — refer to how the gun is cocked. In other words, how the piston is pushed back to compress the spring — again regardless of whether it is a coiled steel spring or a cylinder of compressed gas.

There are several things to consider — the shape and balance of the gun, accuracy and overall convenience. I will explain what I mean as I discuss each thing.

Shape and balance

The shape and balance means how easily can you hold the airgun. Is it fat or slim? Is the rifle heavy or light? Is it muzzle-heavy, neutral or butt-heavy? How easy is it to cock?

The breakbarrel has the potential of being the sleekest, lightest, slimmest air rifle of the three. That’s because it doesn’t have a separate cocking mechanism. The barrel handles that job. However, just because a breakbarrel has that potential doesn’t mean that every breakbarrel is sleek and slim. That is why when I report on an air rifle I try to describe how it holds and feels when hefted. Is the stock thick or thin (this is especially noticeable through the forearm)? It the rifle heavy? Is it muzzle heavy (more of the weight toward the muzzle, giving the rifle a heavy feel in the off hand when held). Muzzle heavy is common. Butt-heavy is not common, but some airguns are decidedly butt heavy, and it affects how they feel when held.

The El Gamo 68 XP is one example of a breakbarrel that is butt-heavy.

This vintage Walther LGV Olympia target rifle has a heavy barrel sleeve that makes it muzzle heavy.

Underlevers tend to be heavier because of their mechanisms. Beyond that, they can be just as slim as a breakbarrel, though most aren’t. But manufacturers have shortened their barrels so their underlevers don’t weigh that much more than a breakbarrel of similar power. Because the barrels are shorter, underlevers tend not to be muzzle heavy, though there are exceptions like the Diana 460 Magnum and the Diana K98.

Sidelevers are the quirkiest. Like underlevers they tend to be heavier, but also because their lever mechanism is on one side of the rifle (almost always on the right side) they tend to be a little off balance when held. When many sidelevers fire they twist in the direction of the side the lever is on. Some of that is mental, but there is some actual twisting too.

Like underlevers, sidelever tend to have short barrels for weight reduction. And since most of the cocking mechanism is located behind the off hand, sidelevers are almost never muzzle heavy.


I have found no inherent difference in accuracy between breakbarrels, underlever and sidelevers. My underlever  TX200 Mark III is accurate, but my breakbarrel Whiscombe JW75 (which is also an underlever, by a strange quirk of design) is equally accurate. And so is my breakbarrel Tyrolean Beeman R8. I have a couple vintage 10-meter target rifles that are breakbarrels (see that vintage Walther LGV, above) and they rival my FWB 300S that is a sidelever. On any given day any one of them can beat the others, although to be honest, the FWB 300S usually triumphs at close range, while at distance (50 yards) it’s a tossup between the TX and the Whiscombe.

What about droop?

This is the reason I am answering this question. From his questions I can see that Winterz assumes that all breakbarrels are droopers, while underlevers and sidelevers aren’t. I have spent a lot of time recently talking about the Diana 34 breakbarrel that is the king of droopers, but don’t think for a moment that sidelevers and underlevers don’t also droop. In fact — here is some heresy for you. I have seen AR-15s that drooped so much their owners couldn’t sight them in! Oh, they must have had a bad scope — so they said. That’s what I heard them talking about with their friends at the range.

When I heard that I went to their shooting bench to help and, sure enough, the elevation on the scope was adjusted almost as high as it would go. The owner told me it was a cheap scope and he didn’t have much faith in it, but when I explained about the erector tube floating, he understood right away. I bet his AR was hitting 24 inches low at 100 yards. A droop-compensating scope mount is made specificaly for the AR platform, so the industry has noticed it, too.


I thought about this question a long time and I’m not quite sure what it means. All three cocking systems are completely reliable. And once the cocking systems are out of the picture, the spring piston powerplant is so simple it is almost foolproof. Unreliability may creep in if the gun is overstressed, such as those mega-magnums that try to produce 1600 f.p.s. But even they will settle in if the shooter handles them right and takes the time to break them in. Shooting one with ultra-lighweight lead-free pellets all the time would be wrong in my mind, because the piston wouldn’t be stopped before smashing into the end of the compression chamber. But other than that and perhaps one or two hinky trigger designs, I can’t think of how these airguns can be unreliable.

Which does BB enjoy the most?

I like accuracy, so I like the underlever TX200 Mark III. But I also like the Beeman R8 breakbarrel. If I had to pick the best feeling air rifle I ever shot it would have to be the Diana model 27 — a slim and lightweight breakbarrel.

Who makes what?

Winterz said he understands the RWS Diana Umarex lineage, but for the rest of my readers who don’t, here is a little primer. RWS doesn’t make airguns. They are a huge munitions corporation based in Germany. They export airguns made by Diana, another German firm, all over the world. They have been doing this since at least sometime in the 1970s, and people often get confused about who does what.

Umarex is a large conglomerate that owns Walther and Haemmerli, among other companies. Walther makes airguns in Germany. Umarex also buys airguns from other manufacturers and sells them under the Umarex banner. These guns are not made by Walther, but people sometimes confuse Umarex (the large holding company) and Walther (the firearm and airgun manufacturer).

RWS versus real Gewrman-made Walther airguns? A slight tip of the hat goes toward the Walthers because of finish and materials, but the Dianas give up nothing as far as power and accuracy are concerned. And there are higher-end Dianas that give up nothing at all. The Umarex airguns that are sourced in China are not in this evaluation.

BB’s evaluation

Winterz asked a lot of questions, but I will answer the one he didn’t ask. What spring piston air rifles does BB like best, and why? I like the TX200 Mark III for the ultimate in power with accuracy. I like the Diana 34P for the best value in power and accuracy. And I like the Diana 27 as a quiet rifle that’s easy to cock and fun to shoot.

Over the years I have written about many spring piston air rifles that I like. The Walther LGV Challenger (no longer made) was one that combined light weight and good accuracy in a .22 caliber rifle.

It takes time

Looking at catalogs or online websites is just the first step. To really know whether you like an airgun you have to spend some time with it. Going to an airgun show where there is shooting, like the Texas airgun show this Saturday or the Pyramyd Air Cup this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, is the best way to do this for free.

Plan on spending time finding out what it is that you like about airguns and then finding the gun that give it to you. It doesn’t happen overnight, but what else are you doing for the rest of your life?