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2016 Texas Airgun show: Part 1

Út, 08/30/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Weather
  • Started late?
  • Flash flood of people!
  • What kind of show was it?
  • Some finds
  • The gate

Here we go! The 2016 Texas Airgun Show was the most different airgun show I have ever attended. I will try to tell you why, but as I do, you will learn that I did not see the entire show, so I’ll rely on the comments of others to assist me.

Weather

The weather was perfect! Normally Texas is above 100 degrees at this time in August, but this day was just 91. And the humidity was down, as well. Rain had been predicted earlier in the week, but the sun was out most of the day and I don’t think a drop fell.

Started late?

Every airgun show I have attended, which is over 40 by now, has had the dealers lined up at the door, pressing to get in even before it’s time. This Texas show was not like that. In fact, at 7 a.m., half an hour after the doors were opened for the dealers to set up, there were still only about one-third of the tables filled. I thought something was up. A few people said the show was hard to locate, but that was because they were using Google Maps to find it. If they switched to Map Quest, the directions were perfect.

Flash flood of people!

I grabbed my camera at 7:30 and started taking pictures and that is when the flood hit! It was a flash flood of dealers who surged through the door and everything was officially on. By 9 a.m. the place was filled and I started seeing early buyers. Since the Arlington Sportsman Club members were admitted free, the early buyers were mostly them.

We had a couple dealers drop out of the show at the last minute, but that was fine, because other dealers had been asking to buy additional tables. The hall filled and dealers started setting up on the porch outside. And then it was 9:30 and the public started swarming in. I think until that moment the club members weren’t sure that what I had told them about an airgun show was true, but they found out in a hurry. By 10 the hall was so packed that you could not move. This was the busiest airgun show I have ever seen!

My tables were 10 feet from the entrance, but I didn’t get outside to look at the crowd on the ranges until 11:30. When I did, I could see knots of 25-50 people on each range, either competing in one of the contests or watching one of the demonstrations. More about them in Part 2.

I had help setting up and manning my tables from my brother-in-law, Bob, plus Otho and Marsha Henderson. Several blog readers got to meet Otho and shake his hand, and Marsha stayed with the booth until my car was packed to go home. What a trooper she is! She held down the tables while I was outside doing demonstrations and filming for American Airgunner for a couple hours. More on that in Part 2.

What kind of show was it?

I saw airguns at this show I have never seen. That’s not unusual, but the types of guns I saw were. There was a Whiscombe JW70 fixed barrel for sale! That is the field target model that’s never seen. Same guy had a Weihrauch Baracuda that I have seen at several shows, but they aren’t common. You never see them at airgun shows.

Larry Hannusch had an antique butt-reservoir big bore air rifle for sale! I came so close to entering into negotiations on it. But tyhen his Mark I BSA Meteor threw me for a loop, and I had to walk away and talk to myself. To my great chagrin, I did not buy that rifle from him! I wanted to compare it to the rMark IV Super Meteor I tested for you several years ago!

Let’s start with AirForce. Their tables were right behind me, and were piled with new airguns FOR SALE!!! People always say they wish they could shoot these guns before making a decision to purchase. Well, on this day, you could. AirForce owner John McCaslin was on the range both demonstrating his big bore rifles and letting the public try them out all day. I don’t know how many Texans he sold, but I did talk to two folks who each bought one after trying it on the range. At the tables they always had three people selling, and they were busy all day!


The AirForce booth was selling all day.


Boxes of all their AirForce airguns and BKL mounts were piled high, but they didn’t remain! This is how you make money at an airgun show.

Sun Optics had tables at the show, but the place was too crowded for me to see much of them until the end. When I did get there I noticed some items of particular interest on their tables. First and foremost, they are now selling a mainspring compressor. This is the one B-Square invented years ago, but with improvements. They now have padded all the bolts that touch the guns, where I have to wrap leather around my guns to keep them safe. They made the screws on both ends of the compressor longer to serve as legs that hold the gun up from the table. And the tailstock has a new fixture that holds certain airguns more stable than the old compressor.

Some of the features like the rotating headstock have remained the same. You don’t fool with success! But when I commented that the pipes seemed to be finished better I was told that instead of electrical conduit they used seamless stainless tubing and paid attention to chamfering every hole along the legs. The result is a better-finished product. It retails for $200 and they sold two at the show. If you are going to work on spring rifles and pistols, you have to have something like this!


The B-Square mainspring compressor is back, and it’s now being made by Sun Optics! In many ways this is a superior product to the compressor I own!

The other thing I saw at the Sun Optics table was a new line of high-end riflescopes! My right eye was not working well this day, but from what I saw with the left eye, these are of the optical quality of the top-end Leupold scopes. I’m referring to their very expensive sniper scopes — not their lower-priced scopes! This is a line I plan to explore and test.


Sun Optics has a new line of premium-grade scopes that offer superior optics!

Some finds

I won’t tell you the money side of the show until Part 2, but there were certainly things to buy. I was offered a beautiful RWS Diana 45 for a very good price, but since I have already tuned one for you, I passed. I believe it was sold very soon after that. I also had a Diana model 27 walk up to me. This one was a little tired, but a 27 is still a 27. If I needed another project I would have snapped it up.

I saw a gorgeous HW35 on a table and had to restrain my hand from grabbing my wallet. My HW35 Luxus was out on my table too, but this one was like new. It sold for $350, which is quite good. And then an HW35 Safari walked up to my table! I had never even seen one, so I showed it to Larry Hannusch. The Safari sports a dyed green wood stock and matte finished metalwork.  The seller was asking such a low price that I nearly bought it for resale, but my conscience got the better of me.

The one airgun I did buy was a Crosman 600 in a rocket box. It’s been many years since I owned a 600, and I thought it is about time to revisit them for you. He said it worked the last time he tried it, but I know these oldies are finicky, so I just took a chance. We shall see!


I bought a Crosman 600 in a Rocket box.

The gate

This show was so crowded that it was impossible to estimate the attendance. I was told at the show’s end that there were 257 paid attendance and they estimated 150 club members attended, as well. That puts the gate right at 400, though it seemed like about 100 more than that to me.

I think the club was impressed with this show. I think it exceeded their expectations — it certainly exceeded mine in many areas. The club where the show was held has 2700 members and doesn’t need money, but they did want to put out the word about airguns to their members. They have field target, airgun silhouette and airgun extreme benchrest matches all the time, but they wanted a broader member awareness of airguns. I think the show managed to do that for them!

Next time I will wrap up the show for you. And that will be later this week.

Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun: Part 3

Po, 08/29/2016 - 08:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Avanti Precision Ground Shot
  • 4.4mm lead balls
  • 4.55mm balls
  • Final comment on the trigger
  • The end

Today we test the accuracy of the Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun. I’m not expecting much from this gun, based on its light construction and age. But it surprised me in the velocity test we ran last Friday, so maybe I will be surprised yet again. I know you want a report of the 2016 Texas Airgun Show, and I will get to that tomorrow, so sit back and enjoy this oldie with me today.

The test

I shot the gun at 5 meters, using the UTG monopod as a rest. I shot from the seated position, so the gun was about as steady as it could be. However, as light as it is (2 lbs. 9.25 oz) and with an almost 9 lb. trigger pull, it is going to be a challenge to get off a shot without some movement of the gun. It’s probably much easier to shoot it offhand, though nowhere near as accurate.

I used a 5-bull 10-meter rifle target and turned it sideways. I shot at the center bull on the first try, because if the BBs went wide I did not want to miss the trap altogether.

I shot all shots with a 6 o’clock hold. When I shouldered the gun the first time I realized the front blade is bent to the right. Someone has adjusted it in the past. That’s something little boys used to do to zero their sights.

Avanti Precision Ground Shot

First up was the Avanti Precision Ground Shot. Most of the BBs went to the left of the aim point, and the “group” was as large as I feared. It measures 3.123-inches between centers for 10 shots at 5 meters.


Ten Avanti Precision Ground Shot made this 3.123-inch group at 5 meters. I was holding at 6 o’clock on the bull at the right of the dime.

4.4mm lead balls

Next up were the copper-plated 4.4mm lead balls. The group tightened dramatically, to 1.868-inches for 10 shots. These BBs landed closer to the centerline, as well. I could hear they were going slower than the steel BBs, but when you are hitting the target, the speed of the projectile doesn’t matter as much.


Ten 4.4mm lead balls made this 1.868-inch group at 5 meters. This is much better!

4.55mm balls

The last test was with those 4.55mm lead zimmerstutzen balls. I knew they fit the bore tight, but one of them actually refused to fire, so it was just too tight to pass through. And a second one went far slower than the others. On the other hand, this is the projectile that gave me the best accuracy, with 10 going into 1.144-inches at 5 meters. That’s pretty good! It makes me wonder whether a 0.175-inch lead BB might actually do even better. After all — that is the caliber the gun was made to shoot.


Ten 4.55mm lead balls made this 1.144-inch group at 5 meters. That’s shootin’ for a century-old BB gun!

Final comment on the trigger

I said earlier that I thought the heavy trigger would present a problem when shooting this light gun, but it actually did not matter. The gun stayed steady despite the force needed to trip the trigger. So, I have no apology to offer.  These groups are about what you can expect from a gun like this.

The end

That’s the test. It looks like my old Quackenbush BB gun is reliable and accurate enough.

Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun: Part 2

Pá, 08/26/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Test 1 — 4.4mm copper-plated lead balls
  • Test 2 — Avanti Precision Ground Shot
  • Test 3 — 4.55mm zimmerstutzen balls
  • BBs stay in
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation

Today is more for me than for all of you. Today I test the velocity of my Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun. If you read Part 1 you know that I only discovered this gun works while researching that report. Until then I thought it shot an odd size shot that I would have to source from an industrial supply house as a ball bearing. But it was made to shoot 0.175-inch lead BBs, so all I had to do was find some of them. Well, that isn’t easy, either. Fortunately I used to shoot zimmerstutzens and other odd ball-shooting airguns, so I have some oddball stuff laying around.

Until the day I wrote that last report I didn’t know I could shoot this airgun, so I’m learning about it right along with you. I showed you how the BBs load in Part 1. Today I will test the velocity of two different lead balls of slightly different size and one additional surprise. Let’s get right to it.

Test 1 — 4.4mm copper-plated lead balls

In the 1990s when I was writing The Airgun Letter, there was a pawnshop in South Carolina selling Haenel 310 ball-shooting rifles imported from the former East Germany. Along with the guns, they also brought in a huge supply of copper-plated lead balls. I bought a lifetime supply of these balls and I still have plenty of them on hand. Upon reflection, I guess that’s a good thing, huh?


These copper-plated 4.4mm lead balls are really just slightly smaller.

The label says they are 4.4mm, but you know me. My caliper measures them at 4.39mm which is 0.173-inches. That puts them at the high side of today’s steel BBs. But it also makes them 0.002-inches too small for this airgun. They fall deep into the breech when loaded, but so far all have worked. They weigh between 7.5 and 7.8 grains, so we know the velocity is going to be lower that it would with steel, but since I would have to BB-gage every BB to find BBs that are big enough to shoot, I guess that doesn’t matter.

I shot 10 balls for an average velocity of 245 f.p.s. So the velocity is about that of a Daisy 499, but since these balls are about half again as heavy as steel, the Number 7 is a more powerful BB gun.

The velocity ranged from a low of 217 f.p.s. to a high of 256 f.p.s. Besides that one slow shot, all other shots went 242 f.p.s. or faster. So, 9 of the 10 shots ranged from 242 to 256 f.p.s., which is just 14 f.p.s.

Test 2 — Avanti Precision Ground Shot

Knowing the size of the lead balls gave me an idea. I knew that Avanti Precision Ground Shot runs large, so I measured 4 of them. Three were 0.1735-inches and the fourth was 0.173-inches. That’s the same size as the lead balls, or just a little larger. In fact 0.1735-inches is 4.4mm on the nose. They weigh only 5.5 grains, so they will be faster. Knowing they fit the breech, I tried them in the gun.

Ten Avantis averaged 296 f.p.s. with a spread from 291 to 306 f.p.s. That’s just 15 f.p.s., with no anomalous shots. Based on that, I’m going to try these in the accuracy test, too.

Test 3 — 4.55mm zimmerstutzen balls

This is where my fascination with zimmerstutzens pays off. Back when I had a couple zimmers I never passed up an opportunity to buy the lead balls for them. Even if they weren’t the correct caliber, I still bought them, because I never knew whether I might own one in that caliber one day.


These number 12 zimmerstutzen balls are 4.55mm in diameter.

Most people think all zimmerstutzens are just one caliber — 4mm, but the truth is there are more than 20 calibers, ranging from 4mm to 5.45mm. Not all of them are currently being produced, but shooting zimmerstutzens is still an active sport in Germany. I have several calibers of zimmer balls but the ones that excited me for this test are the ones that measure 4.55mm. I haven’t used them in 20 years, but today I opened the tin and went to work.

These balls measure 0.179-inches or 4.54mm in diameter. They weigh between 8.5 and 8.7 grains, so they are going to go slower. But they probably fit the bore of the gun much better. I shot them already a couple time, so I know they work.

These balls averaged 202 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 134 to a high of 216 f.p.s. The low velocity was just one shot, and the next slowest shot went 195 f.p.s.

BBs stay in

Given the unusual loading procedure I showed in Part 1, I wonderded if the BBs were secure in the gun, or would they roll out when the muzzle is depressed. I loaded the gun and bumped the muzzle on the carpeted floor and the BB stayed put. That’s good enough for me.

Cocking effort

The Number 7 is cocked by pushing the barrel straight back. It takes 45 lbs. of effort to cock this BB gun, which means they were probably usually cocked by pushing the muzzle against something — not by pulling it back.

Trigger pull

The trigger is single stage and the gun has a direct sear. It releases with 8 lbs. 15 oz. of effort. Tha;’s my definition of a heavy trigger! It is free from creep though.

Evaluation

The Quackenbush Number 7 creaks and groans as it is cocked and shot. The trigger is stiff and crude and the sights are nothing to get excited about. But the fact that this old gun even works at all amazes me. It started out as next to nothing and now, nearly a century later, it’s an ancient next-to-nothing. It’s too lightweight and flimsy to work well, and yet it works just fine. I guess that is the attraction.

Next up will be accuracy. I’m not hoping for much, but you never know.

Benjamin Maximus: Part 7

Čt, 08/25/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

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


The Benjamin Maximus.

This report covers:

  • JSB pellets are very uniform!
  • At the range
  • First test — JSB Exact 10.34-grain dome
  • Head-sized pellets
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • JSB RS
  • Predator Polymag
  • Last group
  • Final report

Today I take the Benjamin Maximus back to the 50-yard range to test a couple final things. I said last time that I wanted to sort JSB Exact 8.44-grain domes with the Pelletgage, to get the most consistent size from the tin. Then I wanted to see if 10 of those sorted pellets would shoot better than the 0.913-inch group shot with unsorted pellets in the last test. Since readers were still suggesting other pellets to try, I also wanted to test a few of them — just to say that the Maximus was given a thorough test. I have done all of that and here are the results.

JSB pellets are very uniform!

First, I sorted 12 JSB Exact 8.44-grain domes for the range. To my surprise, every one of them had a 4.51mm head, according to my Pelletgage. That is highly unusual. Usually in 12 pellets selected at random I will find at least 3 different head sizes if the pellets are uniform, and 5 or 6 different sizes if they aren’t. Only when testing the top-quality 10-meter target pellets — the ones that sell for $35/500 and up — do I find consistency like this.

I stopped testing after 12 pellets. Maybe there are some pellets in the tin that are different, but I don’t really care. Twelve pellets gives me enough for a group of 10 with a couple extra in case of an accident.

At the range

There was a slight breeze on this day at the range. It probably topped out at 5 m.p.h., so I waited for a lull before shooting each shot. I filled the rifle after each 10-shot string, just to give all the pellets the same chance.

First test — JSB Exact 10.34-grain dome

Before I tested the gaged pellets I thought it would be appropriate to warm up the gun and the shooter. This was done with 10 JSB Exact Jumbo 10.34-grain domes. Ten pellets went into 1.602-inches at 50 yards. That’s not too good, based on what this rifle has done with other pellets.


Ten JSB Exact 10.34-grain pellets went into 1.602-inches at 50 yards. This pellet is out.

Head-sorted pellets

Now it was time to test those JSB Exact 8.44-grain domes I had gaged. I was definitely in the groove by this time. Ten pellets went into 1.174-inches between centers at 50 yards. This group is 0.261-inches larger than that best group of unsorted pellets I shot in the last test. What I think it shows is that this pellet does not have to be gaged to shoot well and also that one inch is about what the rifle can do with 10 shots at 50 yards. That makes it possible to shoot 0.60-inch 5-shot groups from time to time.

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Ten JSB Exact 8.44-grain pellets with 4.51mm heads that were sorted with the Pelletgage went into 1.174-inches at 50 yards.

Air Arms Falcons

I tried Air Arms Falcon pellets next. When 5 of them went into 2.376-inches I stopped shooting. This was just wasting time, pellets and air.


Five Falcon pellets from Air Arms went into 2.376-inches at 50 yards. They are out.

 

JSB RS

Next I tried JSB Exact RS pellets, at one reader’s suggestion. They were even worse than the Falcons! Six of them went into 2.896-inches at 50 yards. I stopped at that point.


Six JSB Exact RS pellets from made this 2.896-inch group at 50 yards. I stopped right there.

Predator Polymag

Next I shot 10 Predator Polymag pellets. They grouped in 1.696-inches at 50 yards. While that isn’t terrible, in light of what the 8.44-grain JSBs are doing, I think these Predator pellets aren’t right for this rifle.


Ten Predator Polymag pellets made this 1.696-inch group at 50 yards. It’s good, but not great. This picture illustrates why 5-shot groups are often misleading.

Last group

The last group I shot was 10 unsorted pellets from the tin of JSB Exact 8.44-grain pellets. These came straight from the tin. Ten of them went into 1.122-inches at 50 yards That’s slightly tighter than the sorted-pellet group, but I wouldn’t make too much out of that. Just know that this pellet is pretty regularly a one-inch 10-shot group pellet in this particular Maximus.


Ten unsorted JSB Exact 8.44-grain pellets made this 1.122-inch group at 50 yards. It’s the best of this day’s testing and second-best of the series. This is the pellet this rifle likes!

Final report

This is my final report on the Maximus. I think these 7 reports sum up the rifles’s performance very well. The Maximus is an accurate PCP that’s priced for the entry-level shooter. It has everything needed and nothing that’s not needed to get the job done.

Walther Parrus with wood stock: Part 2

St, 08/24/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • First test
  • Second test
  • Third test
  • Back to JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Recoil and firing behavior
  • Evaluation

I’m moving right along on this report because there has been tremendous interest in the Walther Parrus with wood stock. Remember, the rifle I’m testing is in .22 caliber. Let’s get to it.

I’m going to change the test a little today. Normally I would report the velocity of three pellets — one lightweight, one medium weight and one heavyweight. But I encountered something during this test that allows me to show you one of the tricks of the trade. Actually it’s known to anyone who has spring gun experience and a chronograph.

First test

Let me show you the first 4 readings I got when shooting JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets.

Shot……… Velocity
1…………. 517
2…………. 802
3…………. 808
4…………. 472

What’s happening, here? I think the problem is I was holding the muzzle too close to the start screen of the chronograph, and the air blast was fooling the start screen some of the time. Lesson one is when this happens, back up from the start screen about a foot.

Second test

I backed up a foot from the start screen and got the following string of velocities.

Shot……… Velocity
1…………. 870
2…………. 880
3…………. 891
4…………. 480
5…………. 886
6…………. 897
7…………. 832
8…………. 829
9…………. 825
10……….. 808
11……… ..840
12……….. 816

I won’t give an average for this string, because it isn’t representative. When I looked at the numbers I saw that the gun was slowing down as it went. Shot number 4 is an obvious anomaly and probably not a true reading. The first several shots (through shot number 6) had been detonations (explosions on the shot) which told me there is too much lube in the compression chamber of the test rifle. That throws off the velocity on the high side.

By looking at the numbers in this string, I would guess the rifle is going to settle down around the 800 to 820 f.p.s. range with this pellet. That’s after 500 or more shots have been fired. It’s just my guess, but I’ve seen guns like this before.

The point is, we now know for certain that the first 4 shots were bogus. I have told you why they were bogus (detonations, plus muzzle too close to start screen) and what to do to correct it (shoot heavy pellets). We also suspect that the second string isn’t representative of the rifle. Not yet. But notice as the shots pile up the velocity drops. That’s the lesson here.

Third test

Now it was time to try a different pellet. This time I shot the H&N Baracuda Match pellet with the 5.53mm heads. A heavier pellet will promote more combustion that will actually end the detonations quickly in many instances. These pellets weigh 21.14 grains and the detonations stopped at once. Here is the string that was fired.

Shot……… Velocity
1…………. 710
2…………. 709
3…………. 697
4…………. 702
5…………. 707
6…………. 714
7…………. 681
8…………. 741
9…………. 724
10……… …724

The rifle is still spreading them too wide, as this pellet gave an average 721 f.p.s. with a spread of 43 f.p.s. At that velocity, this pellet generates 23.74 foot-pounds of energy.

Back to JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

This is where I would normally test a third pellet. Today, though, I retested the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. This time they gave the following string.

Shot……… Velocity
1…………. 881
2…………. 834
3…………. 822
4…………. 835
5…………. 790
6…………. 812
7…………. 809
8…………. 819
9…………. 814
10……… …789

The average for this string is 821 f.p.s., and, while that’s still a little fast, it’s now much closer to what this rifle can probably really do. The spread goes from a low of 789 to a high of 881 which is 92 f.p.s. but if we throw that first shot out, the top becomes 835 and the spread is 46 f.p.s. That’s a lot closer to reality.

If we take the average for all 10 shots and calculate the muzzle energy, the 18.1-grain JSB pellet gives us 27.1 foot-pounds! While that number is astounding, I do think the velocity will drop as the rifle breaks in. If we throw out that first shot, the average becomes 814 f.p.s with an energy of 26.64 foot-pounds So the 22 foot-pound energy claim is entirely reasonable. In fact, it’s probably an understatement.

Cocking effort

Cocking requires a manly 43 lbs. of effort. The Parrus is not for teenagers, nor for most adult women. I can feel some spring crunching during the cocking stroke, so lubrication might take off a pound or two. But don’t look for much more than that.

Trigger pull

I already told you that the trigger adjustment screw works in the first stage length of travel and I verified that it works. Stage two breaks at around 3 lbs. but the recoil made it difficult to pin down exactly. There is a little creep in stage two, but it’s not objectionable. I’ll know more after the first accuracy test.

Recoil and firing behavior

The Parrus has a very stout kick. Vibration is quick, but it’s there. I was holding the butt against my belly when I measured the trigger and I definitely felt the punch! This rifle would make a good testbed for that new UTG scope and mount I’m testing, and I’m considering using it that way

Evaluation

The Parrus has surprised me at several turns. First, it’s much larger than I thought it would be. Next, although the trigger doesn’t adjust in the traditional sense (first-stage travel, only) it’s really quite good. For the price of the rifle it comes on, it’s one of the best I have tested. If the finer adjustable RWS T06 trigger was not available on a rifle of equivalent price (the RWS 34P), the Parrus would run away with the prize.

But it is the power of the rifle that really surprizes me. Twenty-seven foot pounds of muzzle energy makes this Parrus a real big boy. The only question that remains is, will it be accurate?

Some frank talk about optics

Út, 08/23/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Dot sights — the good and the bad
  • The downside of dot sights
  • Dot sight summary
  • Compact scopes
  • Compact scope summary
  • High magnification
  • Summary of high magnification
  • Know the limitations of your equipment

Last week I asked for help determining how to test and evaluate a set of scope rings and a new scope. I got some good suggestions, but there was also a lot of discussion about optics that I would like to address today. I’m calling this report “Frank talk about optics” because this is what I would tell you if we were speaking privately. I’m not trying to sell you anything today. I just want you to consider some fundamentals when you select an optical sight.

Dot sights — the good and the bad

A dot sight shows an illuminated dot inside an optical tube that can be placed on a target of your choosing. Let’s start with the good stuff. I am preparing to demonstrate the Air Venturi Air Bolt system to the public at the 2016 Texas Airgun Show this coming Saturday, and I mounted a dot sight on the Sam Yang Dragon Claw 500cc rifle I’m using. I needed a sight that is quick to acquire the target and also very reliable, so I selected a red dot sight.

Dot sights usually have no magnification, and if they do it is very low magnification. So finding the target is quite easy. Of course it’s hard to see something very small that is also far away — say a tin can at 100 yards — so a dot sight is not the right tool for targets like that. Dot sights are for close targets that are similar to those you would shoot with open sights.

A dot sight is faster and easier to use than most open sights because there is just one thing to look at — an illuminated colored dot. Place the dot where you want the projectile to hit and you are done, as long as the gun is sighted in. I will be shooting at a 19-inch by 19-inch arrow stop placed at 25 yards. I have discovered that the Air Bolt is accurate enough to keep the arrows within two inches at that distance (stay tuned for more reports on that!) when I shoot offhand supported by a monopod, so the dot sight is the best way to go.

The downside of dot sights

As I was sighting-in it occurred to me that the dot sight runs on batteries. What if my battery goes dead in the middle of my demonstration? That would be like loosing a battery while you are hunting. The fix? Carry a spare battery and also a means of removing the dot sight from the airgun if you have to. You might want to use dot sights on guns that have open sights (that are sighted-in), or have an alternative optical sight at the ready. If you are going out for a half-hour of shooting, a backup plan isn’t as important as if you are flying with this gun to Alaska for a $10,000 guided hunt. Use common sense.

Dot sight summary

Dot sights are quick to acquire targets and easier to use than open sights at close distances. They are not precision sights, beyond hitting what open sights are expected to hit. They run on batteries, which has to be taken into account. For all other considerations like reliability, control and visibility of the dot, ease of adjustments and precision you have to consider the specific dot sight you will be using.

Compact scopes

Reader RangeRunner talked about compact scopes last week. I want to add to what he said. Compact scopes are good for keeping weight and the overall size of your air rifle to a minimum. But they have very limited mounting options. They have short tubes that require rings that are not too wide, and they cannot slide back and forth in the rings for eye positioning. Most of them compensate for that limitation with a somewhat longer eye relief, but on some airguns they just won’t work, because of where the scope stop limits rearward movement of the rings.

Compact scopes are similar to dot sights in that they normally have low magnification. Targets are acquired quickly, but you don’t have the same precision that larger scopes can give.

RangeRunner complained about the thick reticles on compact scopes — particularly on the UTG Bug Buster line. He’s right about them being thick, but Bug Buster scopes are not intended for precision shooting. You should not use a Bug Buster scope when you try to shoot a one-inch group at 100 yards, because the thickness of the reticle will not allow you to aim precisely enough.

On the other hand, if you are hunting squirrels in the deep woods, there are few scopes that can match a Bug Buster for speed on target. That thick reticle that’s too heavy for precision is exactly what’s needed for shots that have to be taken within seconds. No scope with a hairline reticle will work in that situation unless you can convince the target to remain stationary long enough to locate the hairline reticles.

Compact scope summary

Use a compact scope when you want to limit the size and weight of the airgun. Make certain you can mount it where it can be seen. Remember that, besides positioning, a compact scope has limitations such as thick reticle lines and lower magnification. Don’t choose it as an all-around scope. Use it for the purpose for which it was intended.

High magnification

High magnification has its place, and like the compact scope, it isn’t universal. Field target shooters often use scopes that magnify 40-60 times. SWAT snipers usually stop at 10 power. Each has their reason for what they use.

A field target lane is well-defined and contains a specific number of targets. You can get away with high magnification in that situation, although I have waited for a long time for some shooters to “find” the target in a match. That’s why there is a time limit per target when the shooter sits down on a lane — to keep the duffers from wasting all day playing with their equipment! On the other hand, when you can see a blade of grass at a far distance, it is easy to focus on it and determine the range from what your parallax ring or knob indicates.

A SWAT sniper never knows where he will be deployed or under what conditions he will have to take his shot. Despite what you may believe, SWAT snipers do not have a benchrester’s mentality. They don’t shoot the smallest groups possible. They shoot to hit their target every time. There is a difference, and it shows up in the scopes they use.

I personally have a benchrester’s mentality most of the time. You see that in the reports I write. But when there is a squirrel gnawing on the soffits on my roof, I don’t need a 40-power scope to take it out. I need a scope that will give me a quick shot that I know will hit a one-inch kill zone at 20 yards. So my most accurate springers have scopes of lower magnification — scopes I can absolutely depend upon.

In my opinion, the best all-around scope is either a 3-12 or a 4-16 power scope whose point of impact doesn’t change that much when the power setting changes. A lot of my air rifles have 3-9 power scopes that I find very suitable.

Summary of high magnification

Select high magnification when precision is important and time is not much of a factor. Also make certain you can find your target. Being able to see a blade of grass sharply does you no good when you don’t know which blade it is!

Know the limitations of your equipment

This report was written in response to the discussions we had on the optics tests I asked about last week. I felt some readers are expecting their scopes to do everything, when they may not be able.

Bear this in mind — a Rolex watch is a fine piece of jewelry that also keeps time reasonably well. But a quartz watch — even a cheap one — keeps much better time. Explorers and outdoorsmen choose the Rolex because they know it will keep running when they are far from home. They don’t care if they are 30 seconds off on the exact time. But astronauts do care! That’s why they wear quartz watches with batteries, and the space agency provides backup support for their watches to the extent possible.

Webley Senior straight grip: Part 4

Po, 08/22/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns


Webley Senior straight grip air pistol.

This report covers:

  • Pictures
  • Start
  • Remove the end cap
  • Remove the piston
  • The piston
  • What now?
  • Summary

Today we look inside the Webley Senior air pistol. Let’s get to it!

Pictures

There are a lot of pictures in this report and I didn’t spend much time cleaning them up. They show the details that are important, plus there was one unexpected lesson in photography you will soon see.

Start

We start with the pistol uncocked and unloaded. I first photographed it on a black background that made the dark black gun appear to be silver. So for the first photo of the pistol, I jaid it on a white paper towel, which got it looking dark again.


Start with the gun unloaded and uncocked.

Remove the end cap

The first step is to remove the end cap. There are several minor steps involved. First remove the short locking screw on the left side of the gun and the long pivot screw on the right side.


Two screws are removed from the end cap. The bottom screw is on the left side of the gun and comes out first. It threads into the top screw, which is the pivot for the cocking link. Notice the dark gun is now silver against the dark background.

Now release the barrel at the breech. It has to be free for what comes next.


Release the barrel at the breech, as if cocking the pistol.

Now it’s time to lift the barrel lug up out of the end cap. It is very tight, but not an interference fit. It will come out. I use the barrel as a lever and insert a screwdriver shank between the barrel and the gun to lever the lug out. You’ll see what to do if you ever disassemble one of these pistols.


The barrel lug has been pried up out of the end cap. Notice the cocking linkage is still attached to the pistol at the rear.

The lug is out but the barrel isn’t free until you detach the cocking linkage from the pistol. Slide the link backwards towards the breech and it will stop at the disassembly hole. Pull it out and the barrel is free of the gun.


Slide the cocking link to the rear to remove it from the gun.


The barrel is free of the pistol.

Now we turn our attention to the end cap. The end cap is threaded, and on a pistol that has not been apart much, it will be very hard to turn. I put something to act as a large screwdriver in the jaws of a vise and I turn the pistol with my hands. The “screwdriver” remains stationary in the end cap slot while I turn the pistol.

After the first disassembly years ago I put grease on the end cap threads so they would always come out easily. I still use the “screwdriver” because the end cap slot is quite wide. A regular screwdriver would just mar it. I cut off one end of an open-end wrench and use the flat section as my “screwdriver.”


The slot in the end cap where the barrel lug was located is very large. A regular screwdriver would just mar it.


I use the cut-off end of a wrench as a wide screwdriver. Tighten it in a vise. When it’s in the end cap, slot,turn the gun with your hand. Once it is free I start it turning with the pliers. Notice that when the gun is back on the white paper towel, it is dark again.

Now I unscrew the end cap from the gun. I do this by hand, knowing that the mainspring will push the cap about two inches out of the tube when the cap is free. It’s a stout push that you need to be ready for. This would be very difficult to do in a mainspring compressor, but you need to know that spring has a lot of force!


The end cap has been turned all the way out. This is how far the mainspring sticks out when it is not restrained by the end cap.

As you can see, the mainspring and inside of the powerplant are still well-greased. I used surplus military grease that was made to lubricate an M1 Garand, but regular white lithium grease works fine for this. It doesn’t dry out over time. This pistol has been lubricated this way for over 30 years!

Now you can pull the end cap out of the gun. The mainspring should come with it. You will see that the spring guide is a part of the end cap.

Look at the mainspring. Is it reasonably straight or does it have one or more prominent bends? A bent mainspring should be replaced, and they are available from the British parts houses like T.R. Robb and John Knibbs. A new one doesn’t cost much and will change the performance of your pistol noticeably. The spring in my gun has been in there over 30 years and still looks pretty good, because I don’t shoot the gun that much.


The mainspring looks straight. Now you see that the end cap is also the spring guide.

Remove the piston

That entire procedure was just to remove the end cap. It’s a lot of small steps, but each one is straightforward and not too technical. If you follow my instructions, you should be able to do the same with not just a Webley Senior, but also a Mark I and Mark II, and a Premier Mark I and II. Even the Tempest, Typhoon and Hurricane are pretty much the same, with some modern touches added for lower production costs. All Webley spring pistols are constructed in a similar way.

The next step is actually the final one. The piston has to be removed from the gun.


Looking through the cocking slot, you can see the bottom end of the piston.

I will tell you now that the piston will be tight inside your gun. There are two steps to removing the piston. Step one is to use a screwdriver through the cocking slot to push the piston out of the gun. There are many machined surfaces on the piston for the screwdriver to grab. When you get it as far as it will go you have to move to the front and place the screwdriver against other piston surfaces to completely remove the piston from the pistol. The piston is a hollow tube with all its connections to the air pistol machined around the outside, so there are several places to pry on.

The piston will slide a little way then stop on the sear. You have to pull the trigger while sliding the piston to get it past the sear.

It does slide all the way out, and when you put it back you will lubricate the outside with lithium grease thoroughly so there will never again be a problem removing it from the pistol.

The piston

Once the piston is out, you can examine it. Note that there are circular rings at the front and rear that keep the piston aligned with the inside of the spring tube/compression chamber. Most spring-piston airgun pistons have similar design, but few are as sharp and obvious as those on the Webley piston.

You will also be able to see the piston ring when the piston is out of the gun. If it needs replacing, you should be able to see some flaw like a break or a bend. Don’t just replace it for no reason, because these things don’t wear out. The one on my pistol is at least 40 years old and I would not be surprised to learn that it’s original to the gun.


With the piston out of the gun you can see the piston ring (arrow). Notice, also, the rings around the piston (two arrows), front and rear, that guide it inside the spring tube.

What now?

Now that the pistol is disassembled this far, it’s time to clean all the parts and lubricate them as described in this report. Then the gun goes back together in the reverse of how it came apart. There are a few tips you should know.

First — now is when you lubricate all the parts. Use white lithium grease and nothing else, unless you know for a fact it’s better. You can grease the inside of the spring tube/compression chamber, but I find the piston does that when it’s installed. I don’t bother doing it separately.

Second — the piston doesn’t want to go back into the pistol. The piston ring may need to be compressed to get it in the gun. Do this with your fingers, and it should slide into the gun.

Third — when the head of the piston encounters the sear it will stop. You must pull the trigger to get the piston to slide all the way in. Remember that the fit is tight. It will go in, and the lubrication will help you.

Fourth — when you put the end cap back you have to cup it in your hand and be prepared to push against the spring until it encounters the threads. This may take some trying before things line up. Screw it in at least one turn before releasing to adjust your grip to turn it some more, and don’t leave it hanging by a thread! After it is a couple threads in you can use your “screwdriver” to turn it in farther.

Summary

It took me about 45 minutes to disassemble the pistol. That included taking the pictures. I expect the first time you disassemble a Webley pistol it will take a similar amount of time, though once you have lubed it, it should come apart in 15 minutes.

We also learned that you can make airguns appear lighter or darker in photographs, depending on the background they are placed on. Flash doesn’t bring up the details. Flash often turns a dark gun into a black silhouette. Use a tripod and let the camera’s brain figure out the exposure.

Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun: Part 1

Pá, 08/19/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


Quackenbush Number 7 BB gun.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • What is it?
  • Quackenbush airguns
  • No such luck!
  • Smart Shot
  • Some facts about the Number 7
  • Adjustable trigger!
  • Push-barrel
  • Sights
  • Summary
What is it?

What in the world is a Quackenbush Number 7 airgun? Well, for starters we aren’t talking about anything made by Dennis Quackenbush. No, we are looking at an airgun made by a distant cousin of his, Henry Marcus Quackenbush, of Herkimer, New York. He worked for the Remington Arms Company as his first job out of school, and, in 1871, started his own company under his name.

H. M. Quackenbush was a bright and gifted man who is credited with the invention of the nutcracker in 1878. The company he founded still exists under the name HMQ Metal Finishing Group and I believe are still in business today in Syracuse, NY. Look in your kitchen for those initials on your nutcracker.


Almost every household in America has one of these nutcrackers.


And Henry Marcus Quackenbush made it.

Quackenbush airguns

We are interested in their airguns, though. When Dennis Quackenbush came out with his Brigand in 1996, the old-time collectors moaned, “There goes the neighborhood! In 20 years no one will know there ever was another Quackenbush.” Well, it’s 20 years later and they were partly right. The average airgunner thinks of Dennis when he hears the name Quackenbush, but the collector is very aware of Henry Marcus.

H.M. Quackenbush made airguns and rimfire rifles. His “bicycle rifles” — so-named because they were small enough to carry while riding — are favorites of the rimfire collector crowd. Today, though, we are looking at his Number 7 air “rifle”. It’s really a smoothbore BB gun. I bought it, hoping it was really a vintage BB gun that was bored 0.175, because it is an early 20th century airgun and BBs were that size at that time. And for once I lucked out, because that’s what it is!

Great luck!

However, when I received the gun, I tried loading BBs and they fell through the barrel! Was I duped? No.

Today I was reading John Groenewold’s excellent book, Quackenbush Guns, and found the end label from a Number 7 box pictured in the book. It contained all the loading instructions! I had thought the projectile was supposed to be loaded from the muzzle, and the bore of the gun is too large to work with a 0.175-inch BB. It falls all the way through. But when the same BB is loaded PROPERLY into the breech, it fires with great force — as defined by complete penetration of 2 sheets of stout cardboard box. I’m not looking for an elephant rifle, here. I just want to shoot the thing, and, thanks to this book, I can!

I used 4.4 mm lead balls I have for other air rifles. At 0.174-inches, nominally, they are just slightly too small, but they do work.

Some facts about the Number 7

The Number 7 is one of three similar airguns made by Quackenbush. Number 6 was the first, and it was designed by Henry’s son, Paul, to be a less-costly-to-make (but not cheap) competitor for the BB guns of the day. The earlier Quackenbush models are made from solid material that is mostly brass. They are heavily nickel-plated. In fact, nickel-plating is one of Quackenbush’s hallmarks. No Number 7 gun was ever plated, though. They are either blued or browned, and mine is nicely browned with rust — the patina of age.

These are tin-plate guns — the title some collectors give to the technology of folded-metal construction. They had to be, to compete on cost with the other BB guns of the era. But the Number 7 is made from metal that’s much thicker than most BB guns.

Overall length of the test gun is a whisker over 38 inches. Taken down the longest part is the action that measures 26 inches. The pull is 13 inches. The gun weighs 2 lbs. 9.25 oz, which is in the ballpark with other single-shot BB guns.

The stock is a shaped slab of what appears to be gum — an inexpensive hardwood that can be stained to look like walnut. The shape is simple, as is the inletting. All of this is what is expected in a gun that competes on price. It retailed for $5.50 in 1918 — a time when $5 bought a Daisy Number 40 repeater that came with both a sling and a bayonet. A better price for a single-shot airgun like this would have been around $2.95 at the time, but Quackenbush was not willing to compromise on quality. Though it doesn’t look it, the Number 7 is a very well-made BB gun!

Looking at the muzzle would lead you to believe this gun is incomplete. It looks like the shot tube is missing. That’s just an illusion caused by the design of the gun. In fact, it’s all there.


The muzzle looks unfinished — like something is missing. The shot tube is deep inside the barrel jacket.

The Number 7 was made from 1912 until 1936, with a total of 15,011 guns sold. That does sound rare, as a lot of those guns have been thrown away by this time. But the Number 6 (1907-1923) gun that proceeded it is much rarer, with just 2,365 sold. The Number 7 is an upgrade of the Number 6 breech, making it easier to load.

The gun is a take-down model, which is in-keeping with many Quackenbush airguns. A single thumbscrew on the forearm comes off to separate the action from the buttstock.


One nut comes off and the gun comes apart like this.

Adjustable trigger!

When I removed the stock, you can imagine my utter shock to discover this inexpensive folded metal airgun has an adjustable trigger! Of course it is a direct-sear type that no lawyer worth his or her salt would approve today, but this was an earlier time with simpler people who thought about things before they did them and accepted the consequences if they messed up!


Look at what they did! The arrow points to a portion of the spring that’s punched out to form the sear. The screw to the left of it controls the amount of contact area. Not only is this the sear spring, they also made it the trigger return spring! This is how good engineering shaves cost while still creating a winning design.

The breech opens for the loading of darts, which I may also try, now that I know the gun works. I’m just glad I can shoot it at all. I have had it on hand for several months, thinking I got skunked on the deal. It turns out I probably blundered into a great deal on this one.


The breech is closed, but you can see the rear of the actual barrel through the cutout. The tab underneath is what catches on the frame when the outer barrel jacket is pulled back during cocking.


Gun is cocked and you can see the chamfered BB seat.


The 4.4mm lead balls fall deeper into the breech than a 0.175-inch BB would.

Push-barrel

Most Quackenbush airguns cock by pushing the barrel straight back. That was common for the era, but not as common today. I think the Crosman M1 Carbine (derivative of the V350 BB gun) may be the last American-made example to use that type of operation. The British Gat pistols and rifles also cock that way. The push required is pretty stout, making this a gun for adults and older youths (or yoots, as Cousin Vinny likes to say). I will measure the effort in Part 2, when we look at velocity.

Sights

Yes, there are sights. They are just better than vestigial. The rear sight is a simple notch that may slide crossways in a dovetail. The front sight is a triangular blade that is actually the forward part of the shot tube. There’s not going to be any adjusting these sights. Wherever the gun hits, I will have to learn to hold off-target by that amount. And you can forget about optical sights. They are about a pertinent on this gun as they would be on a flintlock!

Summary

We are looking at a very old BB gun in the Quackenbush Number 7. It’s impossible to say when this one was made because there is no serial number, nor were there major design changes throughout the model’s life. I think it is a rare testimony to the longevity of a simple design like this that it has lasted for perhaps a full century and is still working well.

Optics test — please help

Čt, 08/18/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • P.O.I. rings
  • What do you want to know?
  • Not cheap
  • New scope
  • That’s it

Today will be different. For once I am stymied how to test two new products in a meaningful way. Maybe I’m biting off too much to test them together, but they do seem to compliment each other, so this seems to be the thing to do. I’m hoping some of you can help me decide how to proceed.

P.O.I. rings

The first product is a set of the new UTG Precision Optics Interface (P.O.I) rings from Leapers. I saw these rings at the 2016 SHOT Show and told you about them in the Day Two report.


P.O.I. rings are very stout, and come with a torx wrench for installation.

These rings are supposed to be more accurately aligned, and have tighter tolerances than other rings. They are made thicker, so the appearance is one of strength, but how do I test strength and precision? I want you to tell me what you think I should do. Remember that I am not a tsting laboratory. I have to test in the same way you would.

What do you want to know?

I’d like to know what you expect from rings. These have Weaver bases, so they fit both Weaver and Picatinny rails. But I can always install them on a rifle that has 11 dovetails by using the proper adaptor. One thought I had was to mount the rings on my super-accurate AR-15 for one test. How easily do they mount? How readily do they align with the bore? I already have a jumbo scope on that rifle, so there is a baseline for comparison. I know what the rifle can do; can it do it any easier or better with this scope?


My AR-15 currently has an 8-40X56 Tasco Custom Shop scope. I set the power at 30X because the optics get hazy and dark fast at higher power.

The joint where the caps meets the ring base is very smooth. You can barely feel it. So the scope tube is surrounded more completely for better purchase.

The bottom jaw that clamps to the rifle’s scope base is guided by two steel pins that keep the jaws in perfect alignment. This jaw is spring-loaded, so it backs out smoothly when you loosen the Torx screw with the wrench that is provided.


The spring-loaded jaw is guided by steel pins, to move effortlessly and stay in perfect alignment

I also want to test the rings on an accurate air rifle. My TX200 is the most accurate springer I own and my Talon SS is the most accurate PCP. I know I should test the rings on the TX, but it doesn’t recoil very much, so I’m not sure what that would prove.

Not cheap

Just because these new rings have the UTG name, don’t think they will be cheap. The advance literature has a suggested retail price of $64.97. They may not cost quite that much, but they will never be budget rings. I hope to discover if they are worth the expenditure.

New scope

The other item I need to test for you is a new UTG scope. It’s the Accushot 8-32X56 with a G4 illuminated dot reticle. It looks similar to this scope. This is a large scope for target and long-range shooting, but the feature you will like most is the G4 reticle. There is a 1/2-mil dot at the center of the reticle that is the only thing that illuminates. Like all UTG illuminated reticles, it has 36 colors/degrees of brightness. That comes in very handy when you are colorblind as I am. I can barely see the red dot, but there is a purple color that stands out for me! When the only light is a 1/2 mill in diameter, you need all the help you can get!

This scope is made for long-range precision, and that is exactly how I intend testing it. But once again, how do I do that? My AR-15 should be involved, I think. But what air rifles? Should I use one of the the two already mentioned? What about something else?


The new UTG Accushot 8-32X56 scope with illuminated 1/2-mil dot at the center of the crosshairs. This is a large scope!


This is what the G4 reticle looks like. The tiny dot is illuminated in this image!

Another feature this scope offers is one I have never noticed before, because I don’t typically use the illumination feature on a scope. With one click you cal recall the last color and brightness setting, rather than having to toggle through a menu of colors and brightnesses. I plan to learn how that works, because with a dot of light this small I’m going to need a lot of help!

The scope comes with a set of 30mm rings that have Weaver bases, but I will be setting them aside to test the new P.O.I. rings, instead. It also comes with batteries — one for the illumination and a spare. The reticle is etched into glass, so there is nothing mechanical to fail.

All lenses are emerald-coated for maximum light transmission. They are protected at both ends of the scope by spring-loaded lens caps.

The scope has side-mounted parallax adjustment. And it focuses from 10 meters to infinity — making this a fine scope for field target. Naturally an optional larger UTG sidewheel can be slipped over the focus knob for better acuity in determining distance (i.e. — a rangefinder).

It will be easier for me to evaluate the scope, because I know things to do to test it. But I still want to hear what you have to say. Sometimes I’m too close to these things, or I don’t think the way some of you do.

That’s it

There you go. That is your assignment. Help me make sense of this pair of product tests for you.

Walther Parrus with wood stock: Part 1

St, 08/17/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


Walther Parrus with wood stock.

This report covers:

  • What’s new?
  • Why .22?
  • The rifle
  • Ambidextrous
  • Open sights
  • Scope rail
  • Adjustable trigger
  • One last feature
  • What is this?

Well, well. What do we have here? A breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle in .22 caliber that is supposed to send alloy pellets out the spout at 1,000 f.p.s. Does that mean that it could possibly shoot a normal lead pellet at 750-800 f.p.s.? If so, this is a breakbarrel air rifle with the power of the venerated Beeman R1 at half the cost.

What’s new?

I have been wanting to test the new Walther Parrus since seeing it at the 2016 SHOT Show. It is a more powerful version of the Terrus that I liked enough to buy, But is it different enough from the Terrus to call it a new airgun?

Why .22?

I tested the Walther Terrus in .22 and liked it so much I bought it. I have been wanting to tear into it and tune it for you, but other things got in the way. It’s still on the back burner though.

The Parrus is much more powerful (supposedly 22 foot pounds, compared to 14 foot-pounds), which is why I wanted to test it. In fact the power is so high that .177 seemed like the wrong caliber. They advertise .177 alloy pellets going out at 1300 f.p.s., which is way faster than I want to shoot. Twenty-two seemed ideal for this one.

The rifle

The Parrus I am testing (serial number PG002158) comes with a blonde beechwood stock that has a schnabel at the end of the forearm. The stock is thicker through the forearm than I prefer, making the rifle feel large and bulky. The stock is checkered on the pistol grip and forearm, but the diamonds are shallow and slick. They do nothing to improve the grip.

The half-inch thick butt pad is black and solid. The rubber is soft and grippy, so the rifle won’t slip on your shoulder or when you stand it in the corner.

Ambidextrous

The stock is 100 percent ambidextrous. The safety is located at the top of the pistol grip and comes on automatically when the rifle is cocked. It can be released and the rifle can then be uncocked manually by squeezing the trigger and holding the barrel as you close it slowly. That’s a feature not found on many spring rifles these days.


The safety is ambidextrous.

All metal parts are finished satin black. Most of the action is metal except for the trigger, triggerguard and the enlarged muzzle brake that the front sight sits on.

The weight is listed as 8.8 lbs. and my test rifle weighs 8 lbs. 13 oz, which is spot on. Overall length of the rifle is 47-3/4-inches, and 19-1/2 inches of that is the barrel. The pull is 14-3/8-inches, so the Parrus is a large air rifle.

Open sights

The Parrus has open sights that are fully adjustable in both directions. The rear sight adjusts with crisp click detents, though I must observe that the horizontal adjustment knob is too small for easy use.


Rear sight adjusts in both directions.

The rear sight has no fiberoptics, but the front sight has a red dot. An open hood protects the plastic fiberoptic tube. Sight replacement will not be an easy task, but both sights on the rifle look very useable.


Front sight is fiberoptic and covered by an open globe.

Scope rail

The Parrus also comes with an 11mm dovetail cut direectly into the top of the spring tube. A hole at the rear of the dovetail provides a place to anchor the rear scope mount. While five years ago this type of scope base was normal, I am seeing so many Weaver/Picatinny bases on spring guns these days that I’m expecting it. This is an area Walther needs to look at in the future.

Adjustable trigger

The trigger adjusts for the length of first stage pull. The adjustment is a screw located behind the trigger blade, and that one screw is all there is when the rifle is in the stock. I have tried adjusting it already and it works.


One screw adjusts first stage travel.

The trigger release is light. I feel some creep, but the rifle is brand new. Let’s wait until we get some shots on it before we criticize.

One last feature

The muzzle has a knurled cap that comes off to reveal 1/2-inch UNF threads for a silencer. Now, silencing the muzzle report of a spring rifle is like putting a quieter clock inside a hot rod. That’s not where most of the sound the comes from. Any silencer you buy that fits those threads will have to be registered with the BATF&E, through a process that takes upwards of a year the first time you do it. No doubt this feature is for European buyers who don’t face the same regulations we do.


The muzzle is threaded for a silencer.

What is this?

The Parrus is a Walther breakbarrel with power. We have already looked at a Terrus, which I liked enough to buy. We also looked at an LGV Challenger I also liked enough to buy, but which Umarex gave to me before I could. And we looked at an Walther LGV Master Ultra.

What is common to those three Walthers? They are all extremely accurate. Now we have a powerful Walther breakbarrel that is also low cost. If it’s accurate and has nice handling characteristics as well, we may just have a world-beater on our hands!

Benjamin Maximus: Part 6

Út, 08/16/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


The Benjamin Maximus.

This report covers:

  • Texas Airgun Show
  • Pyramyd Air Cup
  • Am I done?
  • My thoughts
  • Readers’ thoughts
  • Crosman Premier Copper Magnum
  • Baracuda Match 4.53mm head
  • Does sorting help?
  • RWS Superdomes
  • JSB Exact 8.44-grain pellets
  • The trigger
  • Evaluation so far
Texas Airgun Show

The Texas Airgun Show is fast approaching! It’s held on Saturday, August 27 and opens to the public ($5 admission) at 9 a.m. Dealers and early buyers (cost for early buyers is one table — $30) can get in to set up at 6:30. Bring eye protection if you have it, because you have to wear it all the time you are outdoors. The hall is next to the skeet ranges and shot sometimes falls (like rain, with very little velocity) where people are.

AirForce Airguns has donated a Texan big bore in the winner’s choice of .35 or .45 caliber for the door prize, so anyone who buys an admission ticket is entered for the drawing. Airgun Depot is sponsoring the show and has donated one of their .40-caliber Badgers rifles for the raffle. Hatsan donated a Bull Boss PCP, Umarex USA donated a .22-caliber Octane, a $100 gift certificate, an S&W MP40 blowback pistol and 6 hats, Pyramyd Air donated a Benjamin Maximus rifle and a Zombie Slayer Paper Shooter, and American Airgunner donated 6 hats. Buy lots of raffle tickets and increase your odds at all these prizes that will be raffled from 10:30 until 1: 30.

Nobody knows how large this show will be, but it draws on the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex of 6.6 million people that is the 4th most populous area in the United States. So we could see a huge tidal surge of attendance!

Pyramyd Air Cup

Don’t forget, too, the Pyramyd Air Cup will be held September 9-11. There will be competitions of all kinds, as well as a chance to see, handle and shoot some airguns you have only read about until now.

I will be there, so please come out and say hello if you can. Click on the link at the top of this page for more information.

Now, let’s get into today’s report. Yes, this is Part 6 and there will be a Part 7! Why? Read this report and you’ll find out.

Am I done?

I asked in Part 5 if I was finished with this report. Of all the readers’ comments, Chris USA hit the nail on the head. I was asking whether I should test the Maximus some more. I had shot it at 25 yards and again at 50 yards, and many readers thanked me for taking it that far. But Chris saw what I was asking. I thought the rifle deserved more testing and I wondered if you could tolerate it.

My thoughts

I wondered if sorting the best pellets (of the ones I have tested thus far) would produce better results at 50 yards. I already had a baseline for them from the last test, so this would be interesting to find out.

Readers’ thoughts

You readers had some suggestions for me, as well. You suggested I try JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets, RWS Superdomes, Gamo Rockets, H&N Field Targets and JSB Exact 10.34-grain pellets. I wasn’t going to test both the head-sorted pellets and all those new ones, but I did add a couple of the more likely new pellets to today’s test. Let’s look at the head-sorted pellets first.

Crosman Premier Copper Magnum

The first test was of the 10.6-grain Crosman Premier Copper Magnum pellet at 50 yards. When I sorted them with the Pelletgage I found head sizes ranging from 4.51mm to 4.56mm. The bulk of them were 4.55mm, with the next largest group at 4.54mm. Since this is a new pellet, I decided to test a group of 10 in each of the two principal sizes.

The first test was with pellets having a 4.55mm head Ten landed in a group measuring 1.636-inches between centers at 50 yards. Previously ten of the same pellets that were unsorted went into 2.105-inches at the same distance, so this is an improvement of approximately one-half inch. That’s significant.


Ten Crosman Premier Copper Magnum pellets went into 1.636-inches between centers at 50 yards.

I next tried the same Copper Magnum pellet with a 4.54mm head. Ten of those made a 1.999-inch group at 50 yards. That’s a lot closer to the unsorted group size of 2.105-inch group, so I would say the 4.55mm heads are best with this pellet.


When the head size was sorted to 4.54mm, the Copper Magnum pellet group expanded. Ten went into 1.999-inches between centers at 50 yards.

Baracuda Match 4.53mm heads

I tried the H&N Baracuda Match pellets with the 4.53mm heads next. Of course just because they say 4.53mm on the bottom of the tin doesn’t mean the Pelletgage is going to agree. In this case it said that most of these pellets had a head size of 4.55mm. There were a few that were smaller and maybe one that was larger, but the bulk of the pellets measured 4.55mm with the Pelletgage.

Ten pellets went into 1.638-inches at 50 yards. In the first test with unsorted pellets, 10 made a group that measured 1.852-inches. While that’s larger than the group I got with these sorted pellets, it isn’t that much larger. It could just be due to a difference in my aim on the two days.


Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.55 (the sorted measurement) heads made this 1.638-inch group at 50 yards.

Does sorting help?

Sorting the pellets by head size did produce smaller groups with all three pellets I tested, but the amount of improvement in two of the three tests is so small that it isn’t significant. Based on the target I shot with the Crosman Premier Copper Magnum pellets with the 4.55mm heads, however, I have to say sorting does help. But none the groups thus far are spectacular. Let’s see what different pellets can do.

RWS Superdomes

Someone suggested I try RWS Superdomes, so I did, They hit very low on the target and also way to the left. I can’t be certain that all 10 pellets actually hit the target paper. What I have looks like a group of 9 holes that measures 1.83-inches between centers. Based on that, plus the fact that all the holes are torn on the left side (indicating tipping at the target), I think Superdomes are out.


It looks like 9 out of 10 RWS Superdome pellets went into 1.83-inches at 50 yards. This group landed 2 inches below the aim point and an inch to the left.

JSB Exact 8.44-grain pellets

The last pellet I tried was the JSB Exact 8.44-grain dome. This is where it got interesting. Ten pellets went into a tight 0.913-inch group at 50 yards. It was vertically centered on the bull, but about 3/4-inches to the left.


Now, this is a group! At 50 yards ten JSB Exact 8.44-grain domes went into 0.913-inch inches.

This is accuracy similar to that of the Benjamin Discovery! This is great accuracy for the price. I know of nothing that can beat it in this price range. It’s why I say I am not finished testing this rifle. If it can do this well, it deserves a closer look. But wait — there’s more!

The trigger

While I was shooting the rifle I noticed that all creep has left the trigger. It still pulls too hard, but now it has no creep that I can detect. That makes the job of modifying it so much easier. It is now a two-stage trigger with very little travel in stage one. I could easily reduce the pull weight if the rifle were mine to modify. Even some moly grease in the right place might make a noticeable difference.

Evaluation so far

I was both surprised and extremely pleased by the accuracy demonstrated in this test. Apparently the Benjamin Maximus rifle is picky about the pellets it likes, but given the accuracy that we see today, I don’t think that really matters.

A single group isn’t enough, thpough. I want to see more. Next time I will shoot these JSB pellets, both unsorted and sorted, to see how they do. I will also try a few other pellets I haven’t yet tried. I’m not going to test every pellet I have, but I’d like to get a sense of the potential for the Benjamin Maximus. So stay tuned!

What is accuracy?: Part 1

Po, 08/15/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The big question
  • Epic experiments!
  • Shooting Gibraltar
  • Use the best barrels
  • Rotate the barrel
  • Damage the bullets
  • Are bullets balanced?
  • Did Mann learn anything?

Chris USA suggested today’s topic last Friday, when he asked my about the tantalizing results I got from the Webley Mark II Service air rifle. Among his comments, he said this, “Perhaps the biggest thing to consider,… and maybe more accurate,…. it is just plain LUCK. Maybe, it is just the plain and simple fact as to how the pellets flew and just happened to be where they landed. So yea,… I would be interested hear your thoughts on what would appear to be sporadic anomalies.”

Among the “sporadic anomalies” he referred to was the last group, where 3 shots went into a tight cloverleaf and the other 2 were wild. What causes a rifle to do that — to put several shots so close together and then throw the others far away?


This is the target Chris referred to. Why are 3 pellets so close and the other 2 so far away?

The big question

I told Chris he had just asked the big question — the one people have been discussing since the firearm was invented. It all boils down to the title of today’s report, What is accuracy?. I told Chris that Dr. Franklin W. Mann spent 37 years of his life experimenting to discover the answer. He wrote a book about his findings titled, The Bullet’s Flight from Powder to Target, whose subtitle tells more about what is inside — A STUDY OF RIFLE SHOOTING WITH THE PERSONAL ELEMENT EXCLUDED, DISCLOSING THE CAUSE OF THE ERROR AT TARGET. This book was first published in 1909 and contains detailed descriptions of the fascinating experiments that Dr. Mann conducted to test his many theories.

I would suggest a different title for this book — Why don’t all bullets go through the same hole? That is the underlying question we all have and it’s what keeps our sport so fascinating.

Epic experiments!

Dr. Mann spent a fortune testing every concept he could dream up to find why bullets did not all go to the same place. One notable one was his benchrest.

Shooting Gibraltar

I’ve been told hundreds of times that I need to test airguns in a vise. I “just don’t get it” that a vise is the only way you can be certain the gun is completely out of human hands (true) and can therefore be most accurate (doubtful). Dr. Mann built such a contraption. It was a 3,500-lb concrete pillar he called the “Shooting Gibraltar.” It stood 26-inches above ground and extended 40 inches below ground to rest on gravel that showed no sign of being disturbed with the last glaciation. On top of this he installed his v-rest and machine rest to hold his barreled actions in complete rigidity. He then constructed a 100-yard fabric tunnel from the bench to the target, so his bullets flew in dead-calm air. This tunnel was curved to allow for the drop of the bullet along the flight path.


Mann shot through a 100-yard long fabric tunnel to cancel the wind.

Surely what he did exceeds the requests of even the most particular shooter. And what did he discover? That shooting from a rigid vise made very little difference. His bullets still struck the target with separation that was random and inconsistent. I try to explain that to readers, but if they haven’t read Mann they don’t understand this has all been thoroughly tested before.

Use the best barrels

Franklin Man was a contemporary of Harry Pope, who is acknowledged to be one of the finest barrel makers of all time. Pope made many barrels for Mann, including specialty barrels that were one-of-a-kind masterpieces. One such barrel had 8 screw holes drilled and tapped into the side of the barrel at the muzzle that went all the way into the bore. Screws were put in each hole and then removed to test the effects of exhausting gas before the bullet exited the muzzle. What is special about this barrel is the fact that Pope built it so the holes were exactly between the rifling lands and had no burrs on their inner surface. He bored and threaded them before he reamed and rifled the barrel. They were just holes that in no way damaged the bullet — until Mann wanted to! Pope also provided him with 8 screws that had points, so Mann could purposely distort the bullet before it left the muzzle! He tried numerous experiments with this rig.

Rotate the barrel

Mann also built a special circular action, so he could rotate the barrel in his rest. He then tested it in 4 different angles (0, 90, 180, 270 degrees) of rotation, to see where the bullets landed on target. His best barrel put 4 bullets in 0.56-inches at 100 yards. The worst barrel put 4 bullets into 16 inches at 100 yards. I have been telling people for years that barrels are never drilled straight. Dr. Mann proved it with this test.


Four shots from his straightest Pope barrel at 90 degrees rotation with each shot produced this 0.56-inch group at 100 yards.

Damage the bullets

Mann also experimented with bullets that were intentionally damaged. He did hundreds of experiments, but they all come down to this — the nose of the bullet is not critical to accuracy. The base is! When he shot bullets with damaged noses, they grouped as tight as did the same bullets undamaged, but bullets with damaged bases became very erratic.

Are bullets balanced?

We worry about the head size and the weight of the pellets we shoot. Dr. Mann worried about the balance of his bullets. To test that he built a machine to spin the bullet up to high speed so it would balance like a top inside a glass Petri dish. Lead bullets were impossible to spin up to speed, so he machined steel bullets. At this point he was testing not the stability of cast bullets but the inherent stability of the bullet’s shape and design. He then photographed the bullet as it was spinning in a darkened room for several minutes. He left the shutter open for up to two minutes to see if any wobble was detectable.


Each steel bullet is photographed for two straight minutes in a dark room while spinning on its nose. These bullets show remarkable stability.

But he also actual photographed lead bullets that were spun to a slower number of revolutions per minute. With these he discovered inherent instability that could be seen on paper targets when the bullets passed through.


These two spinning lead bullets from a certain mold show that one bullet (left) is more stable than the other when both were cast in the same mold.

Did Mann learn anything?

Dr. Mann’s experiments were gathered over a lifetime of work. The question is — was anything learned? And the answer is yes, a number of things were learned from these experiments.

1. No barrel is ever drilled perfectly straight
2. Shooting in a vise does not increase accuracy.
3. Damage to a bullet’s base affects accuracy negatively.
4. Accuracy is as dependent on each bullet as upon any other factor.

What Mann did not learn, however, was the single set of rules that guarantees accuracy. He learned that in a batch of barrels all made to the same specification, some will be more accurate than others. He learned that there are imponderables that cannot be named that affect accuracy. In short, more research remains.

Conclusion

This is Part 1 because there will be a Part 2. Some of the material in Part 2 will cover some of the same ground Part 1 has covered, but there will be new material, as well. If there is room I will address airgun accuracy concerns in Part 2. If not, there will be a Part 3.

Webley Mark II Service: Part 5

Pá, 08/12/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


Webley Mark II Service air rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Artillery hold?
  • RWS Hobbys
  • Shooting left-handed
  • Eley Wasps
  • The peep sight
  • One last group of Hobbys
  • Where to from here?

Today we start looking at the accuracy of the Webley Mark II Service air rifle. You will recall that my redneck breech seal fix got the rifle performing again. Whether or not it is up to full par is questionable, but at least it’s shooting okay.

I decided to begin with the sporting rear sight that’s attached to the barrel and then switch to the peep sight that flips up. Good thing I did, as you will learn in a moment.

The test

I shot the rifle off a rest from 10 meters. Though reader Dom warned me that the Webley is an area-fire airgun and not a precision one, I thought it would probably be on paper at this distance. Fortunately for me and the garage wall, it was!

Artillery hold?

Yes, the Webley is a spring-piston rifle and yes, it does move around when it fires. So I thought the artillery hold would have to be employed. But the shape of the rifle does not lend itself to that hold very well. There is no forearm, so I ended up with the flat metal bottom of the receiver resting on the palm of my off hand. It felt very strange, and I found I did have to pull the rifle back into my shoulder a little, but in the end I would say I got about an 80 percent artillery hold. Well, I wasn’t expecting much, so let’s get going.

RWS Hobbys

The first pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. It tested well in the velocity test and Hobbys are often very accurate, so I thought I’d give it a try. The first shot landed outside the bull at 4 o’clock, and when I had fired 5 shots I had a 0.674-inch group at 10 meters. No, it’s not a screamer, but it’s better than I expected!


The Webley Mark II Service put 5 RWS Hobby pellets in 0.674-inches at 10 meters.

Shooting left-handed

I had to shoot left-handed because I couldn’t see the front sight with my right eye. But with the left eye everything was very clear. I have to say once more that trigger breaks so cleanly that it’s a real treat to use!

Eley Wasps

Next I tried some Eley Wasp pellets. These shoot very good in this rifle. It was made with something like them in mind. But the group I got was not so good. Five Wasps went into 1.458-inches at 10 meters. Maybe I could do better with the peep sight, because this isn’t very promising.


Five Eley Wasps went into in 1.458-inches at 10 meters.

The peep sight

Now it was time to try shooting with the flip-up peep sight. I shot once from 10 meters and the pellet didn’t hit the paper. The sight was all the way at the top of its standard, so I moved up to 12 feet and tried a shot. The sight was way too high! Fortunately, this sight is easy to adjust, though it doesn’t have detents. The sight moves in all directions on plain threads, so I had to watch where it went and judge accordingly.

When I was about on target I looked through the peephole and discovered the sporting sight was now in the way. Of course it was! Both sights were adjusted to hit in the same place! Duh!

After chasing the pellets around the target awhile, I decided to forgo the peep sight for this test. If I want to use it, the sporting sight needs to come off the rifle.

One last group of Hobbys

I thought I would end this session with a last group of Hobbys. This time 5 pellets went into 1.001-inches at 10 meters. I do think it will get better when I shoot it with the peep sight, but according to Dom, the Mark II Service was never a tackdriver. On the other hand, three of the five pellets did manage to group in 0.27-inches. What if they would all do that?


Five Eley Wasps went into in 1.001-inches at 10 meters. Three of them are in 0.27-inches.

Where to from here?

I still want to fix the breech seal permanently, plus I want to look inside the action and possibly give it a lube tune. The rifle shoots harshly for the available power, and I’d like to smooth it out a bit. We will be seeing this rifle again sometime.

Schofield Number 3 BB revolver: Part 3

Čt, 08/11/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2


Schofield BB revolver.

This report covers:

  • The test
  • ASG Blaster BBs
  • Air Venturi Copper-Plated Steel BBs
  • H&N Smart Shot lead BBs
  • Center aim
  • What to make of all of this?
  • Evaluation

Today is accuracy day for the Schofield Number 3 BB revolver. Lots of interest in this one, so let’s get started.

The test

I shot from 5 meters. I was seated and the revolver was resting on the UTG monopod. I used a 6 o’clock hold for most of the targets and I shot 6 shots at each target.

ASG Blaster BBs

First up were ASG Blaster BBs. Six of them made a vertical group that measures 1.579-inches between centers. It’s a lot larger than I thought it would be.


Six ASG Blaster BBs made this 1.579-inch group at 5 meters.

Air Venturi Copper-Plated Steel BBs

Next I loaded 6 Air Venturi Copper-Plated steel BBs into the cartridge noses and shot them. Again, the hold was 6 o’clock on the bull. These BBs went low and a little to the left, making a 1.488-inch group.


Six Air Venturi copper-plated steel BBs made this 1.488-inch group at 5 meters. This one tended to go a little to the left.

H&N Smart Shot lead BBs

Next to be tried were the H&N Smart Shot lead BBs. These are slightly larger and I thought they might show some improvement over the first two steel BBs. They did, or maybe they didn’t. You’ll have to wait until the end of this report. They also showed something else that may or may not be happening, and I will address at the end.

Six Smart Shot BBs went into a 2.314-inch group. Four BBs are in a tight 0.777-inch group, but two BBs went way outside that, to open up the group. When I first saw this target I just thought Smart Shot BBs were not good in the Schofield, but later examination of all the targets revealed the possibility of something else.


Four Smart Shot BBs went into a tight group that’s well centered and under an inch (0.777”), but two other BBs opened that to 2.314-inches — the largest of the test.

At this point I had planned to end the test, but I wasn’t satisfied that I had really seen the gun’s potential, so I got a bottle of Hornady Black Diamond BBs for another try. This time the group was more like what I expected. Six BBs went into 0.978-inches at 5 meters. The 0.978-inch group is slightly left of center and below the aim point.


This is more like it! Six Hornady Black Diamond BBs made this 0.978-inch group at 5 meters.

This was good, but was it just a fluke? Six shotsdoesn’t reveal much more than approximately what the gun can do. That’s why I normally shoot 10 shots per group. I could shoot 12 shots, which is two cylinders, but I also wanted to try something else. Since this revolver was hitting at or below the aim point with all BBs, I decided to try a different aim point on the next target. This is the one target in whch I did not use a 6 o’clock hold.

Instead, I aimed for the center of the bull, which is many times more difficult. The black front sight post gets lost in the black bull, and it’s also difficult to determine exactly where the center of the bull is. If I were hunting, though, this is how I would aim — knowing the bullet/BB would strike the target at the top center of the front sight post, under ideal conditions. I figured if these Black Diamond BBs were really that much more accurate, I could raise the group higher on the target and still shoot a credible group.

Center aim

I got what I was going for — almost. Five of the six BBs landed in a 0.781-inch group that was higher on the target but just as far to the left as the first group with the same BB. The group is still below the target a little, but higher than it had been with a 6 o’clock hold.

Unfortunately, the sixth shot landed far below the other five, opening the group to 1.265-inches. It is still the second-smallest group of this test, which proves the Black Diamond is the BB to beat in this airgun, of the four I tested.


Six Hornady Black Diamond BBs made this 1.265-inch group at 5 meters. Five went into 0.781-inches.

What to make of all of this?

At this point I stopped shooting and took pictures of all the groups. Then I looked at the pictures and a couple things occurred to me. First, the Hornady Black Diamond BBs were noticeably more accurate than the other three. Even when I used a center hold, this was the second smallest group of the test.

But I also noticed something curious. All of the groups except for the first group of Black Diamonds have one BB that isn’t with the others. In the case of the Smart Shot BBs, there are two that are wild. If this was a firearm I would suspect that one chamber in the cylinder was not bored concentrically with the breech. But the way this Schofield BB revolver works, I have to suspect the cartridges, because they are equivalent to the chamber in a firearm revolver cylinder. That is fortunate, because you can always swap cartridges until you have 6 that you trust. It’s worth considering.

Evaluation

The Schofield Number 3 BB revolver is a very realistic BB gun replica of a rare and expensive historical firearm. If you like the firearm but have problems owning them, this may be as close as you can get to it. It operates, looks and weighs very close to the original.

On the down side, my testing shows that the accuracy is only average for a BB revolver or worse. Don’t buy this BB gun for shooting targets. But for an authentic cowboy action pistol you can shoot at home, I think you will be very pleased with the Schofield.

Benjamin Maximus: Part 5

St, 08/10/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


The Benjamin Maximus.

This report covers:

  • Another Meopta test coming
  • The test
  • Group 1 Crosman Premier 7.9-grains
  • Group 2 Crosman Premier Copper Magnums
  • Baracuda Match 4.53mm head
  • One final group
  • Air Venturi G6 hand pump
  • Am I done?

Today I take the Benjamin Maximus out to 50 yards. This is the test people have been waiting for, so let’s get right to it!

This test actually stretched over two range days, as I was kicked off the range on the first day after shooting the first group. The lawn had to be mowed. That takes 2 hours on the range I was on, so I left and took my target. The next range day came a week later, and I was able to complete today’s test.

I went to the 50-yard range on day two That range ios easier to mow — in case I got caught again.

Another Meopta test coming

This 50-yard range at my club has high berms on both sides of the range, so the daylight doesn’t get on the range as early as it does on the 200-yard range (with 50- and 100-yards berms) I usually use. The lack of bright sunlight seemed to make a huge difference when I used the smart phone with the MeoPro 80 HD spotting scope. I got better results than before, and they will be reported next week.

The test

I shot the rifle from the bench with the stock resting in a long sandbag. I filled the rifle to 2000 psi after each 10-shot group except the final one. That one I shot following another 10-shot group (they were shots 11 through 20) — just to see if the rifle would still group.


Benjamin Maximus on the bench at the 50-yard range.

Group 1 Crosman Premier 7.9-grains

First up were 10 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. They went into a group that measures 1.643-inches between centers. The group is centered nicely on the bull, but just a little low. I cranked up the elevation a few clicks and then the day ended, as the lawn had to be mowed.

Yes, there are 11 holes in this group. There is a technical reason for this. I can’t count to 10.


Eleven Crosman Premier lite pellets went into 1.643-inches at 50 yards.

Group 2 Crosman Premier Copper Magnums

On the second day at the range, the first pellet I tested was the new 10.6-grain Crosman Premier Copper Magnum. This is the first time I’ve tested this pellet at 50 yards. Ten of them went into 2.105-inches. This group was also well-centered but it was still below the bull, despite the elevation adjustment after the previous group.


Ten 10.6-grain Crosman Premier Copper Magnum pellets went into 2.105-inches at 50 yards.

Group 3 Baracuda Match 4.53mm

The tightest group at 25 yards came with the H&N Baracuda Match with 4.53mm heads, so I expected the best from them at 50 yards, as well. Unfortunately Pyramyd Air is out of that head size right now, so I had to link to the pellets with the 4.52mm heads, instead. I was not disappointed by their performance.

Ten pellets went into 1.852-inches at 50 yards. While that is not the best 10-shot group of this test, 9 of those pellets are in a smaller group that measures 0.946-inches between centers. Since most airgunners only shoot 5-shot groups, I think that says a lot about the accuracy potential of the Maximus.


Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.53mm heads went into 1.852-inches between centers at 50 yards. Nine of them are in 0.946-inches.

A couple things occur to me from this target. First, I wonder if I had sorted the pellets by head size what the group might have looked like. That one pellet on the right is pretty far from the others. It looks like it doesn’t belong.

Next, I must admit that the hard creepy trigger probably did open the groups a little. I can normally adapt to most triggers, but the Maximus is a light rifle, and a crisper lighter trigger just might make a difference. If the rifle was mine, I would probably modify the trigger. I don’t think a Marauder trigger is needed — just a trigger that releases at 4 lbs. or less and has little creep.

One final group

I was curious about one more thing. If you remember, I had shot all these groups on fresh fills to 2000 psi. So each group is from a fully charged gun. But in the velocity test in Part 2, we learned that the Maximus has about 20 good shots. The velocity spread for those 20 shots is 100 f.p.s., so we had to try the rifle at 50 yards to see whether that makes a difference.

Also remember that I adjusted the scope to shoot higher after the first group was shot. So, what you are about to see is the same Crosman Premier lite pellet, but shot as the second 10 shots after the fill. These 10 shots went into 1.895-inches at 50 yards.


On the second 10 shots after the fill, 10 pellets went into a group that measures 1.895-inches at 50 yards.

Air Venturi G6 hand pump

Perhaps you remember that I was unable to attach the Air Venturi G6 hand pump to the Maximus for testing. No matter — I filled the gun with the Benjamin hand pump which worked fine. But I got another female Foster filling for the G6 from Pyramyd Air and now I can fill with that pump. It was simply a matter of tolerances at the couplings. I note that both pumps take approximately the same number of pump strokes, but the G6 seems a lot smoother. It also bleeds faster, which is helpful with some PCPs.

Am I done?

This rifle has to go back to Crosman, so I need to know if I am done with it. In my opinion, the Maximus is a best buy for the price. I believe it is just as accurate as the Benjamin Discovery, and the savings can get a lot more shooters into precharged guns.

Air Venturi Air Bolt: Part 1

Út, 08/09/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


Air Venturi Air Bolts turn a .50 caliber big bore rifle or shotgun into an air bow.

This report covers:

  • Like no other!
  • Another air bow?
  • Is the Air Bolt any good?
  • What I was told
  • We begin
  • Muzzle-loaded
  • Shot 1
  • 30 yards
  • Great air conservation
  • Evaluation

Today I start looking at the Air Bolt from Air Venturi. This product is a package of 6 arrows that sell for $120.00 at Pyramyd Air, and I know there will be lectures on the cost of crossbow arrows today. Because that’s what the Air Bolt is — a crossbow bolt.

Like no other!

HOWEVER — and this is the news today — with the Air Bolt, you don’t have to buy another gun. If you already own a .50 caliber big bore airgun — and hundreds, if not thousands of serious U.S. airgunners already do — there is nothing more to buy. You have everything you need to begun shooting.

Does that mean that this bolt works in a Wing Shot air shotgun? Yes! I am testing it in a Sam Yang Dragon Claw 500cc rifle which will be important to know later in today’s report.

Another air bow?

The first thing I thought when I was told about this product is — oh, boy — another air bow! We don’t know yet what to do with them, as they are not yet legal for hunting game in the United States. You can hunt hogs and other pests with them, as there are no laws governing the guns used for pests, and you can hunt game on exotic game ranches because they do not come under the state fish and game laws. But for taking the whitetail, blacktail and mule deer that are the most common game animals in this country, they are not yet legal.

Crosman, who brought out the Benjamin Pioneer air bow earlier this year, is actively working to change the game laws and get air bows legalized. But it’s an uphill battle. Not only do they have the various state governments to contend with — there is also strong opposition from the archery community. Archers don’t want to see air bows considered equal to conventional bows. But it’s worse than even that.

The archery community is itself split into numerous warring factions. Longbow users dislike crossbows who were their greatest enemies before the air bows came along. Now they find themselves begrudgingly aligning with the crossbow camp against the air bows. This factional war is very much like politics in the middle east, with camps aligning for some purposes while maintaining their distance for others. I used to think airguns had a lot of special interest groups, but we are one big happy family, compared to archery!

This situation will take time to resolve, yet there are many shooters who could not care less. They don’t plan to hunt with the air bow — they just want one in case they ever need to. That is where the Air Bolt comes into play. With the Air Bolt you can own a big bore air rifle that is legal for deer in 6 states already, with more on the way. And, just by buying the Air Bolts, you suddenly own an air bow. too. But — it is any good?

Is the Air Bolt any good?

That is my challenge. To discover for you whether the Air Bolt makes any sense. Is it accurate? Is it powerful? Is it a product you should consider?

What I was told

When Pyramyd Air sent me 12 Air Bolts to test for you I was told they are a 430-grain field point (meaning not a hunting-type broadhead) that exits a Sam Yang Dragon Claw at up to 500 f.p.s. I was also told to expect to shoot some Robin Hood shots (where one arrow goes inside another because it hits at the same place) at substantial yardage. Those two things caused me some concern.

I asked Pyramyd Air to send me 12 Air Bolts to cover the lost and damaged ones I expected to have. But a greater concern was the backstop. What could I get that would be strong enough to stop an arrow weighing 430- grains and traveling that fast? No crossbow in the world comes close to that kind of power! In fact, when I went to the archery store to buy a backstop they were amazed when I gave them the specifications. They had nothing that was made for that power level. So I just bought the strongest backstop they had, which is rated to stop arrows traveling up to 400 f.p.s. and hoped it would do the job.

We begin

I went to Otho’s house to test the Air Bolt the first time. He has a shooting range with a dirt berm that would stop the arrows if they passed through the backstop. I filled the Dragon Claw to 200 bar (2900 psi) and commenced shooting from about 10 meters. I didn’t want to miss the backstop and I was shooting with open sights. It turned out that the arrow hit the bag on the first shot and for all 30-40 subsequent shots fired on this day. Hitting the target wasn’t a problem.

Muzzle-loaded

The Air Bolts are loaded from the muzzle, so of course the gun is uncocked when you load it. I had a little difficulty fitting the tail of the bolt into the barrel until I wet the o-ring with saliva — the fit is that tight.


Air Bolt tail is almost .50 caliber, and contains an o-ring that seals the bore.


Air Bolt point is also nearly .50 caliber, and rides on the top of the rifling.


Air Bolt field point unscrews, allowing broadheads to be attached.

Once the shaft started down the bore it was easy to reach the bottom. A little of the point sticks out of the muzzle when it is loaded. I imagine with different rifles you might need a short ramrod if the barrel is longer than the 21.65-inches of the 500cc Dragon Claw I am shooting. I also imagine that barrels much shorter will not work as well, since the arrow head won’t be supported.

Shot 1

I fired shot 1 on low power to keep the arrow from passing through the arrow backstop. I needn’t have worried, though, because the arrow stopped easily inside of 8 inches. It seems the large head slows the arrow down very effectively. Also, it was very easy to remove from the backstop. Problem solved and time to back up to 30 yards.

30 yards

At 30 yards Otho and I both tried our hands with the Air Blot. We discovered that on high power the arrows dropped about 12 inches at 30 yards. They also went sightly to the right. We both shot several times offhand to become familiar with the operation of the Air Bolts.


We shot from 30 yards offhand to become familiar with the operation of the Air Bolts. The arrow that is the least deep in the backstop (arrow) was shot on low power from 10 meters.

Once we were familiar, Otho tried a shot by aiming off the amount we now knew would place the arrow where he wanted it. It struck the center of the heart/lungs, which is a perfect deer shot for an arrow.


Otho put one into the boiler room from 30 yards by aiming off a precise amount. He points to where he aimed.

Great air conservation

By this time we had fired 20 to 30 shots between us. I was impressed by how many shots I got on a single fill of air. That 500cc air supply really comes into play with Air Bolts! So I topped off the rifle at 200 bar according to the onboard gauge and tried 5 consecutive shots from 30 yards. I shot offhand supported, which means I steadied the rifle against a tree. I aimed off to hit the critical kill zone of the deer on the arrow stop face.


This is a 5-shot group I shot offhand supported from 30 yards. I didn’t see each arrow land, but it looks like they hit the mark with the first 2 shots and then started hitting lower on the target.


After 5 consecutive shots on high power the gun’s air pressure has dropped from 200 bar to about 160 bar. The arrows are hitting the target lower at 30 yards.

Evaluation

Today’s report was different from what I usually do. It had to be, because this product is different and I had to learn how it works before I could say anything about it. Obviously this is not an airgun I can chronograph in my office. Like a big bore air rifle, the Air Bolts have to be shot outdoors, with some thought given to stopping them.

Pyramyd Air has started testing the Air Bolts with broadheads. They used 100-grain Rage Chisel Tip 2 broadheads and three shots out of three passed completely through a backstop target bag that is as rugged as the one I am using. Broadheads are the tips that can’t be stopped. Tyler Patner reports putting 3 arrows with them into about 1.5 inches at 30 yards. They struck the target a couple inches below where the field points did, but you adjust the sights for that.

This product seems to be beyond a regular air bow, because it does not require you to buy a new gun and because it allows you to get double duty from your .50 caliber big bore. The only thing that would make it better is if the product could be caliber-selective, where you buy the shafts and ends separately. Then you could also have .45 caliber Air Bolts. There are a lot of .45 caliber big bores out there!

I plan to conduct a “normal” test, now that I know what to expect. I will mount an optical sight on the rifle next time.

Sheridan Blue Streak: Part 2

Po, 08/08/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


My Sheridan Blue Streak was purchased new in 1978.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • What about a Steroid?
  • Today’s test
  • Test 1
  • Test 2
  • Test 3
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation

Today we will look at the power of my vintage Sheridan Blue Streak. I bought this multi pump pneumatic new in 1978 and it has never had any maintenance. All I have done is faithfully oil the pump piston head with Crosman Pellgunoil when it needed it (at least every 6 months if you shoot it regularly, but every time if you only shoot it occasionally like me) and I always stored the gun with a pump of air in it. In the past 6-8 years I’ve upped that to 2 pumps of air.

What about a Steroid?

Always when I talk about a Sheridan, the topic of the Steroid Streak comes up. Why haven’t I had my rifle upgraded by Tim McMurray? Well, the readers of The Airgun Letter know that I did own a Steroid Streak. It was a Silver Streak I bought new and sent to Tim to convert. Yes, it was more powerful, but I decided after testing it that I didn’t need the extra power. What my old Blue Streak could do on its factory trim is good enough for me.

I even went beyond a Steroid Streak. Greg Fuller sent me his conversion of a Blue Streak to test. It got up to 25 foot pounds, as I recall. I also recall a final pump stroke (number 15 or 18, as I recall) took100 pounds! Yes, that’s right — 100 pounds. Greg built his rifle just to see what was possible on the Blue Streak platform. He never meant it to be a practical air rifle, and it certainly wasn’t. It was a study of the extreme potential.

My point is — if you think you want a Steroid Streak conversion, get one. Tim strengthens the pump mechanism to take the additional strain, so I don’t think it will shorten the life of your gun. But also recognize that many shooters are perfectly content with the Blue or Silver Streak just the way they are.

Today’s test

I’m going to do a couple things as I test this rifle for you. I will select the .20 caliber Crosman Premier pellet as my standard pellet. Although Crosman no longer makes their 14.3-grain Premier in .20 caliber, I have a couple boxes set aside just for special things like this. However Crosman does offer the 14.3-grain Benjamin Cylindrical pellet, which is a cross between the vintage Sheridan Cyindrical and a true diabolo.


Benjamin’s Cylindrical pellet is a cross between the old Sheridan Cylindrical and a diabolo.


The vintage Sheridan Cylindrical pellet is not a diabolo in any way. It is a reincarnation of the pellets sold in the late 1800s.

Test 1

In this test I will record the velocity achieved with 3 through 8 pumps. Then, just so you know, I will pump the rifle more than 8 times, until the valve starts locking up and the velocity starts to drop. Older Sheridans will often allow more than 8 pumps when their pump piston head gets worn and hard.

Pump           Velocity
3………………400
4………………422
5………………444
6………………455
7………………486
8………………462 (this is where the manual says to stop)
9………………456
10…………….476

This test was surprising and confusing. I expected to end at around 600+ f.p.s. with this pellet, but obviously that didn’t happen. Also, the highest velocity came on pump 7 rather than pump 8. Even though pump 9 went slower than pump 8, there was no air left in the gun after the shot — as confirmed by firing a second shot. And then pump number 10 increased in velocity, when I expected it to go slower than pump 9. Again, no air remained in the gun.

That caused me to run several shots over, just to see what they would be a second time.

Pump          Velocity
7………………480
8………………473
9………………459
10…………….454

I wish I could say that clears things up, but it really doesn’t. Shot number 10 was the real puzzler.

Test 2

Now I will test the consistency of the rifle at the same number of pumps. I’ll still shoot Premiers and pump the gun 5 times for every shot.

Shot             Velocity
1………………393
2………………402
3………………425
4………………429
5………………432

I stopped after 5 shots and oiled the pump head, thinking the gun needed it. Then I resumed shooting.

Shot             Velocity
6………………404
7………………432
8………………428
9………………426
10…………….414

Obviously, oiling was not the answer. The average for this string was 419 f.p.s., but I don’t know what that tells us. My rifle seems sick and in need of a rebuild.

Test 3

This time I will look at other pellets. Now I’m not exactly overrun with choices of .20 caliber pellets, because it’s not a caliber I commonly shoot. But I do have a number of vintage pellets that will be used in the accuracy test, So I’ll include them in this test. The gun will be pumped 5 times for each pellet.

Pellet                               Weight          Velocity
Sheridan Cylindrical……….unk…..………366
Beeman Ram Jet………….11.7………….447
Beeman Silver Sting………10.5………….436
Beeman Silver Arrow……..15.5………….364
Beeman Silver Jet………….unk…………..376 (on the second try!)

I tried to weigh all the pellets, but my electronic powder scale picked today to fail. I gave my Ohaus 1010 mechanical scale to my friend Mac years ago, thinking I would never need it again. Now I know why that wasn’t correct!

The Beeman Silver Jets loaded hard and did not come out of the barrel on the first try. I pumped the gun again and got the velocity you see. Yes, they were .20 caliber pellets. Beeman used to color-code their pellet tins and boxes and yellow or gold was the .20 caliber color. The .22s were in green tins/boxes.

Trigger pull

The Sheridan Blue Streak trigger has the same pull regardless of the number of pump strokes you make. It’s single stage and breaks at a reasonably crisp 3 lbs. 14 oz.

Evaluation

I have a rifle in need of a rebuild. This performance is way below what I expect from this gun. Fortunately I have been tracking the rifle for the past 22 years with a chronograph and I know what it should be able to do. It’s not doing that, or even close to that. So it needs a rebuild. I am contacting the right place to do the job, and I will tell you about it when I get the gun back. Until then, we wait.

How a vintage BB shot tube works

Pá, 08/05/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Technology
  • Gravity
  • Shot tube is the true barrel
  • The shot tube
  • What keeps the BB from rolling out the barrel?
  • A spring!
  • That’s all, folks

Today’s report was suggested by a question from reader 45Bravo, who asked, “How does the shot tube retain the BB then, if not by a magnet?” That’s a good question and I know if one person wants to know there are hundreds of others who haven’t asked, but also want to know.

Technology

Bear in mind that when the Red Ryder first hit the market around 1939, there were no rare earth magnets. They came along in 1966, and have been advancing ever since. So the question remains — how do the shot tubes of older BB guns work?

Gravity

They work by gravity. They work by the same principal that the magazine of the first Gatling Gun used, back in the late 1860s. Gravity pulls the cartridges (and the BBs) down, so all that’s needed is a chute to guide the ammunition to the loading/firing mechanism. It’s a little more complex than that, but not much. And it’s all mechanical.

Shot tube is the true barrel

In a vintage Red Ryder like the one I recently tested for you, the shot tube is the actual gun barrel. What looks like the barrel, and what most people refer to as the barrel is a sheet metal jacket that surrounds the shot tube and forms the outside of the BB magazine. It isn’t really a magazine, though. The shot tube performs that function. The barrel jacket is really more of a BB reservoir that stores the BBs until it’s time for gravity and the shot tube to take over.


The shot tube is inside the barrel jacket. The gun is fired in this drawing.


BBs are shown in the gun. They are evenly distributed around the shot tube, but I have omitted them so you can still see the tube.


In this drawing, the gun is shown cocked. The plunger has been withdrawn during cocking, and the air tube backed up far enough to permit one BB to enter the barrel. When the cocking lever was released, the plunger went forward a fraction of an inch, pushing the BB in the barrel up past the opening in the side of the shot tube breech and closing that hole to any additional BBs.

The shot tube

Now that you know what the inside of the BB gun looks like, let’s examine the breech end of the shot tube of a vintage Red Ryder. This is the shot tube from my gun that I reviewed for you recently.


This view of the shot tube shows the organizing chute the BBs roll down inside the barrel jacket. The barrel jacket itself forms the outside of this chute. The flange at the right side of the picture is wide enough to prevent BBs slipping past, and it is angled to start them rolling down the chute when the gun is cocked. The hole at the breech (arrow) is large enough to admit just one BB when the air tube is completely withdrawn during cocking. When the lever is relaxed, the air tube moves forward a fraction of an inch, preventing a second BB from entering this hole.

What keeps the BB from rolling out the barrel?

Okay, we now understand how BBs are fed by gravity, one at a time , to the breech of the shot tube. But once inside, what prevents them from rolling all the way down the barrel when the muzzle is depressed? That was 45Bravo’s question.

A spring!

On the opposite side of the shot tube breech there is a wire spring whose end is curled and sticks through the breech into the barrel. It protrudes far enough into the barrel to prevent the BB from rolling forward, until the air tube pushes it past during firing. So the loaded BB rests between the end of the air tube and this spring when the gun is cocked.


The wire spring protrudes into the barrel (arrow) to stop the BB from rolling forward. The other end of the wire at the right does not protrude into the barrel. A simple but effective way of holding the BB until the gun fires.

That’s all, folks

And that is how the shot tube of a vintage BB gun works. Once you understand it you see the necessity of elevating the muzzle of the gun during cocking, but the design of the gun forces a shooter to do that. The gun was too difficult to cock any other way.

We have looked at vintage BB guns from several different viewpoints in this historical series. Today’s report completes the journey into how they work. Thank you, 45Bravo, for posing such an interesting question.

Teach me to shoot: Part 13

Čt, 08/04/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today Jack will start teaching Jamell, how to shoot a muzzle loading rifle.

Our guest writer is reader, Jack Cooper. Take it away, Jack.

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • A fowler?
  • Jamell Fowler
  • A refresher
  • Flintlock basics
  • Description
  • Loading sequence
  • Speaking of ramming
  • Priming sequence
  • Flash in the pan
  • Wet weather
  • Next

DANGER: Today’s topic talks about loading and shooting a black powder firearm. Black powder is explosive, even in the open. Be sure you know what you are doing before using black powder!

I went with Jamell to pick up the custom flintlock she ordered. It was part of a trade for one of her sculptures, and she took pictures of the clay rendering she had made to show to the gun maker. He was thrilled with her work, which will be an 18-inch bronze of a mountain man facing a grizzly bear. Apparently he will owe her some money plus the gun, but I stayed out of their business.

A fowler?

I was surprised to learn that Jamell had changed her order from a flintlock rifle to a classic 20 gauge (.61 caliber) flintlock fowler. That is what later turned into the shotgun we know today, though at the time people shot single balls, buckshot (large lead balls of around .30 caliber and larger) and birdshot in the same gun. Shooters did not typically shoot birds on the wing with flintlocks, though “shooting flying” as it was called, was invented about this same time.

She chose a fowler because it was more authentic to what was carried day in and day out in the 1750-1800 timeframe. Rifles did exist, but if a person owned just one gun, it was a fowler.

I learned from the gun maker that if this fowler is loaded correctly it should put 5 round balls into about three inches at 50 yards. That surprised me. He and I agreed to speak again about the right way to load and manage this gun, so I can be sure to teach Jamell the right way.

Jamell Fowler

When he handed the gun to her he told her it has a name. “This is Jamell Fowler. It was traditional to name long guns at this time period, and I thought I would name it for you. The name has been inscribed on the inside of the metal butt plate, so everyone will know it.”


Jamell Fowler is tall and beautiful like her new owner.

Tears formed in her eyes when he told her this, and I have to admit, I had to look away as well. This was one artist giving a special gift to another artist. Both of them appreciated the skill and love that went into the making.

“Jamell, it has been many years since I made a gun lock myself. They are readily available from the black powder supply houses, so why would I go to all the time and effort to make one? I normally make the barrel and the stock, but I buy the lock and all the other small parts I need. But this time, I made the entire gun for you — lock, stock and barrel.”

“Is that where that expression comes from?” I asked.

“Yes. And there are several other popular expressions that come from flintlocks. I have written a list of them for you. I expect you to teach them to Jamell as you show her how to shoot her new gun.”

A refresher

We then went over the basics of loading, maintaining and caring for a flintlock fowler. I knew a lot of it from my experience with muzzle loading rifles, but there were a couple things I didn’t know. I will cover all of them for you as I teach Jamell about her new gun.

When we left the gun maker’s house, Jamell could not stop talking about her new pride and joy. She confided to me that although her sculpture was worth twice what the maker had asked for this gun, there would be no exchange of cash. He gets his bronze for the fowler, straight across. Excuse me — for Jamell Fowler!

Flintlock basics

Let’s take a moment to examine Jamell’s new gun. Being a fowler, the barrel has thinner walls than a rifle because there is no rifling. Although many people today call any long gun a rifle, it has to have a rifled barrel to qualify. What Jamell has is properly called a gun.


A fowler is a smoothbore predecessor to the shotgun. The barrel walls are thin.

The flintlock is one of the most significant developments in the whole history of firearms. Before the flintlock, firearms used a slow burning wick called a match — hence the term matchlock. The pilgrims came to North America with matchlocks and the much more complex wheelocks that work like lighters. John Alden’s wheelock (yes, the pilgrim!) can be seen in the National Firearms Museum.

The flintlock was better than both the matchlock and the wheelock because it was less complex than the wheelock and more reliable than the matchlock. It was also an all-weather gun — sort of. I will get to that!


Lock is cocked and the frizzen covers the priming charge in the pan.


The gun has been fired. The flint in the jaws of the cock struck the frizzen, forcing it back and opening the pan. At that time a shower of sparks fell from the frizzen onto the pan, igniting the priming charge.

The flintlock forces a piece of flint to strike a hardened steel plate called a frizzen, sending a shower of sparks down onto a small charge of black powder that’s held in a pan. The charge ignites and burns in an instant, sending fire in all directions, including through a small hole called a vent or touchhole, where it ignites a larger charge of powder inside the barrel that propels the bullet.

This all takes time to happen — several hundredths of a second when it’s done right. The human senses are acute enough to detect a lag time between the ignition of the priming charge in the pan and the main charge inside the barrel. The time this takes is called the locktime — the second phrase given to us by flintlocks.

When a lock is made right and loaded right it has a fast locktime. When either of those is not right, the locktime is slower, which causes natural flinching. It doesn’t matter how tough you are — a charge of black powder exploding in your face will cause you to jump. And you better wear some kind of safety glasses every time you shoot a flintlock! In the old days they closed their eyes.

The fixture that holds the flint is a moving vise called a cock, because it resembles a rooster holding something in its beak. When you prime the flashpan, you pull the cock back to half cock. That is a safe position where the trigger cannot fire the gun, as long as both the trigger and the cock are in good condition. You don’t want your gun to go off half-cocked! Yes, “going off half-cocked” is the third common phrase we get from flintlocks. It means starting something before you are ready.

Speaking of the cock, that is where we get the verb, “to cock the gun.” So there’s number four!

Description

Jamell Fowler is 57 inches long overall, with a 41.5-inch octagon-to-round barrel. There is a “wedding band” at the transition from octagon to round. The pull is 13-3/4-inches, which the maker determined is perfect for Jamell. The gun weighs 6 lbs. 14-3/4 oz, and balances just forward of the lock. The wood is curly maple that the maker says is 50 percent figured. I can see stripes along the entire length of the gun, but they are not as complete and vivid as they need to be for 100 percent coverage. Instead of a $5,000 wood blank, this one only cost $400. When you get into perfect curly maple you are bidding against violin and guitar makers. Of course the hundred-plus hours spent inletting the barrel and action added considerable cost to the stock!

Al;l the metal is browned by the slow rusting process. It looks completely correct.


A wedding band marks the transition from the hand-filed octagon to round barrel.

Loading sequence

One reason the fowler was the preferred weapon over the rifle is the speed with which it can be loaded. It’s about 2-3 times faster than loading a Kentucky rifle, which was the fastest-loading rifle (generally speaking) of its day.

The first step in loading is to make certain there are no burning embers inside the barrel before you load the powder. If you are shooting more than one shot (rare for a fowler, unless you are at a range or hunting birds) it’s best to run a damp cloth or a wet wad of tow (fibers of the flax plant) all the way down the bore and back out, first.

Next you measure a charge of powder and pour it into the barrel. Jamell’s gun uses 100-110 grains of FFg powder for a single .61-caliber ball or 80 grains for a 3/4-ounce charge of shot.

Follow this with a wad of tow or paper to hold the powder in one place. Then load a ball and ram it down onto the powder. You do not need a patch if the barrel is made right and if you have the right size lead ball. Jamell Fowler is a 20 gauge smoothbore that takes a .61 caliber ball. It’s called a .62 caliber smoothbore but it measures and takes a .61 caliber ball. The ball weighs 342 grains, so it packs a punch! And 100 grains of powder in a gun weighing just 6 lbs. 15 oz. (yes, it’s lighter than a Beeman R9) means the punch will be felt at both ends!

Speaking of ramming

Although the gun came with a period correct wooden ramrod, Jamell bought a stout fiberglass rod that she will make to actually load the gun. The wood rod is fine for occasional use in the field, but for full time use a fiberglass rod is the best.

Another patch of tow goes on top of the ball and the loading sequence is finished. It is extremely important that the gun is loaded the same way every time, because, as with airguns, consistency is the key to performance in a black powder gun.

Priming sequence

The gun is loaded before it is primed, for obvious safety reasons. Now the cock is pulled back to half cock. It will remain there until you are ready to shoot.

Priming consists of dropping a very small charge of FFFFg powder into the pan. The maker said to use about 4 grains or less. A common mistake new shooters make is pouring too much priming powder into the pan, thinking it helps ignition. Some even try to make a trail into the vent hole. All that does is usually slow the lock time and make ignition less reliable.

Flash in the pan

If the gun fails to fire, we call it a hangfire for at least a full minute. Keep the muzzle pointed downrange the entire time, because the gun can fire many seconds after the power flashes in the pan. But if it does not fire after a full minute, you have just witnessed a “flash in the pan.” Yes, that is phrase number five. It means something that started well but failed to deliver.

Lower the frizzen to cover the pan and the gun is ready to fire. Just before you fire, pull the cock all the way back (cock the gun). The trigger on this fowler is very light, maybe only three pounds and utterly crisp. You can tell it has been made by a master.

Wet weather

The gun maker who made Jamell Fowler said the pan is nearly waterproof in the rain, but not if the gun is dropped into a creek. You can improve on that by sealing the edges of the frizzen that covers the pan with melted candle wax, but for gosh sakes — do not hold a burning candle near a flintlock! Melt the wax away from the gun and bring over just the liquid wax. Better yet, don’t do it that way. Just get a leather cow’s knee cover for the entire lock.

The thing is, the moment you take a shot in the rain the pan opens to the weather and the gun is no longer reliable. Flintlocks in wet weather take a little more management than cartridge guns.

Next

Now that I have taught Jamell how to load and manage her gun, the next stop is the range, where we will shoot it for the first time. Stay tuned!

Schofield Number 3 BB revolver: Part 2

St, 08/03/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


Schofield BB revolver.

This report covers:

  • Let’s get started
  • Trouble at first
  • This comes with experience
  • ASG Blaster BBs
  • Air Venturi Copper-Plated steel BBs
  • H&N Smart Shot lead BBs
  • Shot count
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far

Today we look at the velocity of the new Schofield Number 3 BB revolver. I also encountered a small glitch that will help some of you with your new CO2 guns. This should be an interesting report.

Let’s get started

I installed the first CO2 cartridge and found the Allen wrench in the left grip panel is very handy. I think I like that arrangement best of all, because the grip panel serves as a convenient handle for the wrench. I had the cartridge installed and the gun working in seconds, and yes, there was a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the cartridge tip.

Trouble at first

I cocked the pistol to fire it once, just to make sure the cartridge was pierced. But the hammer didn’t fall! This is a single action, so cocking the hammer is the only way to fire the gun. I played with the gun a few moments before discovering that the hammer had to be pushed forward slightly before the gun would fire. So then I cocked the hammer, pushed it forward slightly and then shot the gun like normal.

Before you start whining, please listen to me. A new gun sometimes has problems like this. It’s obvious that there is a burr or a rough bit of finish in the mechanism somewhere that prevents the hammer from falling like it should. No — the gun does not have to be disassembled and worked on. All you need to do in a case like this is keep shooting and the glitch will soon work itself out.

This comes with experience

I say this for the newer readers — especially the ones who are worried that their new airguns aren’t performing 100 percent like they should. Sometimes there is a problem, but little things like this do resolve themselves with use. By the time 60 shots had been fired the problem was almost gone. The lesson is sometimes a sticky action just needs to be broken in.

ASG Blaster BBs

First to be tried were ASG Blaster BBs. They averaged 430 f.p.s. for 12 shots, and I did allow the gun to warm for 10 seconds between shots. The low velocity was 421 f.p.s. and the high was 439 f.p.s. The spread was 18 f.p.s. across 12 shots.

I did note that the BBs pop into the plastic noses of each cartridge. There is a definite, audible pop that is noticeable, so be sure you hear it for each cartridge.

Air Venturi Copper-Plated steel BBs

Next up were Air Venturi Copper-Plated steel BBs. These averaged 426 f.p.s. for 12 shots. The low was 417 f.p.s. and the high was 444 f.p.s., so the spread was 27 f.p.s.

I will note that the Schofield action is very crisp. It feels made for fast shooting. I never shot a Schofield firearm before — only an S&W Frontier in 44-40. That gun which is also double action feels very slow to me, but maybe that’s because it is an original that I didn’t want to abuse.


S&W Frontier revolver owned by my buddy, Otho. It’s a 44-40 and I have hit the target at 25 yards with vintage loads. But it is no Schofield.

H&N Smart Shot lead BBs

At the end of today’s test I tried some H&N Smart Shot lead BBs. We know they are 50 percent heavier than steel, so we expect the velocity to be lower, and it is. The average for 12 shots was 336 f.p.s. — almost 100 f.p.s. slower than the steel BBs. The low was 321 f.p.s. and the high was 346 f.p.s., so the spread was 25 f.p.s. This slightly larger BB really popped when I inserted them into the cartridges!

Shot count

Shot number 50 was an ASG Blaster moving out at 409 f.p.s. That’s on the low side, but still within the range. Shot 61 was the same BB leaving the muzzle at 383 f.p.s. The gun is definitely out of liquid CO2 at this point. Shot 70 went out at 363 f.p.s. and number 80 departed at 333 f.p.s. There are at least 13 cylinders of shots on a cartridge, and I’m guessing people will continue to shoot it for up to 15 cylinders (90 shots).

Trigger pull

Because the action is single action only, the trigger pull is quite crisp. According to my electronic gauge the gun fires with 3 lbs. 3 oz. of pressure, though the pull is so crisp that I guessed it to be a full pound lighter. You will like it.

Evaluation so far

I like the Schofield revolver so far. In fact, it makes me wish I could try the firearm in this action. I mentioned in Part 1 that the grip angle isn’t as friendly as the Colt SAA for rapid fire, but for shooting deliberately with one hand it is just about ideal.