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Benjamin Maximus: Part 1

Út, 06/28/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Benjamin Maximus.

This report covers:

  • $100 PCP
  • What is the Maximus?
  • Finish
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • Dual fuel?
  • 2,000 psi
  • Differences
  • Yet to come

Okay — this is the report you have been waiting for. Today we begin looking at the Benjamin Maximus precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle. The rifle I’m testing is in .177 caliber, but they also come in .22 at the same price. They are available for sale, too, so the game is on.

$100 PCP

Two years ago Dennis Quackenbush and I experimented with the most inexpensive PCP we could envision. I called it the hundred-dollar PCP, and you might remember the series, Building the $100 precharged pneumatic air rifle. It was an experiment that we hoped would get people both thinking and talking. Well, it certainly did! One dealer was already selling a PCP for $100 that he was converting from a CO2 rifle. When he ran out of the initial supply of rifles, though, the price jumped to around $180, I believe.

Crosman representative, Chip Hunnicutt told me at the 2015 SHOT Show that his company was looking very hard at what could be done in this arena. But I must admit I was surprised to see the Benjamin Maximus announced at the 2016 SHOT Show. That’s fast! Now let’s look at what it is.

What is the Maximus?

The Maximus is not the $100 PCP. Crosman took their own Benjamin Discovery as the starting point and shaved cost, rather than following the route Dennis and I took, which involved starting with a $60 rifle and building it up. I think they did that for liability reasons. The rifle Dennis made was just a proof-of-concept gun that no company would ever produce. Dennis knew that the rifle would be in my hands for the test and I would never do anything to it that he didn’t approve of. The same cannot be said for something sold over the counter.

At least two CO2 rifles that were converted to precharged air operation have already exploded. So Crosman’s approach was to take a rifle of proven quality and see how much cost could be eliminated. Even at a retail of $200 they cannot be making very much money on the Maximus. The Discovery is already a budget PCP, so how much more can be saved?

The Maximus has a synthetic sporter stock with a schnabel at the tip of the firearm. The stock sounds hollow at the butt, so when the gurus on the forums prepare a list of all the things Crosman did wrong, that will be near the top. Actually, Crosman is giving you a PCP you can restock, and they aren’t charging you a lot for what comes on the rifle. I like both the shape of this stock and the feel as I hold the rifle. It feels svelte at the place where I hold my off hand. It’s very light, which helps the rifle’s overall weight of just 5 pounds.

The buttpad is also hard synthetic instead of rubber. So be careful when you stand the rifle on its butt!


The metal parts are finished matte as expected on a rifle in this price range. Wipe them down ocassionally with Ballistol and they will remain rust-free for a long time. The stock is also matte black, so you have the perfect non-reflective finish for a hunting rifle.


Both front and rear sights are fiberoptic, and I don’t mean the common dark fiberoptics found on Asian guns these days. These tubes are bright, and they gather light well. I’d say you had better either get used to fiberoptics or color the tubes with a black marker.

The rear sight adjusts for both elevation and windage. The adjustments are basic, but they work. I do plan to test the rifle with the open sights first.

The rear sight adjusts in both directions. It’s simple but should be effective.

Naturally an 11mm dovetail for mounting a scope is cut into the top of the steel receiver. I do plan on testing the Maximus with a scope, as that will be the most likely sight shooters will choose. I just like the fact that Crosman gives you the open sights because of the low price point of the rifle (some buyers may not be able to afford a scope) and also because there is a small but passionate group of shooters who only use non-optical sights.


The trigger certainly feels like a Discovery trigger to me. It’s single-stage, but there is slack in the linkage that feels like a short first stage. It’s non-adjustable and will be another platform for the forum airgun engineers to redesign/fix. For real shooters, it does work, though it is by no means in the same class as the trigger found on a Benjamin Marauder. I will measure the pull force for you in Part 2.

Dual fuel?

The gauge/manometer that is built into the gun at the bottom of the stock (yes, they did put a pressure gauge on the Maximus) has a scale for both CO2 and air. But the owner’s manual makes no mention of CO2. I think Crosman has given up that idea because it caused a little confusion among first-time users of the Discovery and Marauder. I imagine they are using up the supply of dual-fuel gauges, but think air, only, when you buy a Maximus. Will it operate on CO2? I’m sure it will because of the low operating pressure, but you’ll have to find your own coupling to fill the gun.

2,000 psi

The rifle is filled to 2,000 psi (yea, Crosman!) and it operates down to around 1,000 psi. I will find out how many useful shots you get in Part 2, but I’m guessing the valve is a lot like the one in the Disco, and the number will be 20-25. And of course I will test the velocity with several pellets.


What are the differences between the Maximus and the Discovery? Well, the stocks are the big ones. The Disco has a wood stock that adds a couple ounces of weight to the rifle. And the Disco barrel is 24.25-inches long, while the Maximus barrel is 2 inches longer. That may make a small difference in performance, but I’m going to wait to see what it is. There are probably some other differences, but I don’t know what they are. I hope the Maximus barrel is as accurate as a Discovery barrel. And that’s what we will find out together.

Both airguns are loud by today’s standards, because there is no attempt to moderate the muzzle blast. I’m sure most readers know there are aftermarket products to do that, but just as the BATF knows exactly what a “solvent catcher” is (a silencer for a firearm), they are also not fooled by the term lead dust collector. Airgunners completely encrypt that term, though, by using just the initials, LDC. Fly Silencer Airways at your own risk.

Yet to come

I will test the velocity and shot count next. I plan to use the Air Venturi G6 hand pump to fill the gun because of the low fill pressure and the small reservoir (135cc). Then I plan to shoot the rifle at 25 yards with both the open sights and a scope. If the accuracy seems good enough I will also do a 50-yard test.

Let’s try to keep our perspective in this test. Yes, the Maximus is a PCP, but it’s being built to the lowest possible price. I can forgive less accuracy from a rifle in this category, though it still has to be okay.

How hard can it be?

Po, 06/27/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Are old airgun parts really that simple to make?
  • It’s a simple plastic part
  • The question
  • Are old airgun parts really that simple to make?
  • It’s a simple plastic part
  • A fork in the road
  • Hold on!
  • Okay — stop!
  • But I only want to buy ONE!!!
  • The connection

We had a comment last Thursday that I had to turn into a blog report. A new reader named Don was asking about replacement grips for a Crosman Single Action 6 (SA-6) — a .22-caliber pellet revolver made from 1959-69.

The Crosman SA-6 is a single action pellet revolver that resembles the Colt SAA.

Here is his question.

The question

“I have a Crossman “single Six” .22 cal. circa 1959? and it needs replacement grips. I was wondering if Ruger or Colt SA grips would fit? Going to use it for re-enacting and the plastic grips don’t cut it.
Thanks folks,
Glad I found your sight.

I told him that the SA-6 grip frame is one-piece, which means the one-piece wood grips found on a Colt single action cannot possibly be mounted. But more than that, the SA-6 grip frame is entirely different at its mating surfaces than the Colt. The Colt is simple, with just a pin to locate and hold the grips in place, along with the screw through the center. The SA-6 grip frame is really quite similar to the Colt grip except it has a solid center, where the Colt grip frame is made in 2 pieces and is open. The shape and size of the Crosman grips is not identical to the Colt grips, but it is close enough that a pair of 2-piece Colt grip panels should fit with some work. I told this to Don.

He got back to me with this comment.

“Well, Crossman doesn’t carry “old parts” according to the women I talked to……….. she did give me a guy in Penn. (Marty Levan – 717 507 2630) unfortunately he didn’t have them either, but he gave me another guy in another state, (Dennis Baker 937 660 9152) so I’ll try him when I get a chance. If all else fails, I try and make some…..how hard can it be????  Ha!  (after all they are just slab sides like a 1911 colt)
Thanks again for your reply.

Are old airgun parts really that simple to make?

Don’s question started me thinking about a lot of things. The grips he wants are actually one of the easiest parts to recreate, and several people have done so over the years. But what about those parts that aren’t so simple? They begin with vintage sights and devolve into proprietary valve parts and seals. You hope the parts you need are off-the-shelf items that anyone can buy, and those things do exist. When that’s all you need, you’re in luck. But when the part is a proprietary item that was specially made for a particular airgun, you are in trouble.

It’s a simple plastic part

You need a valve seat for a vintage air pistol. It doesn’t look like much when you hold it in your hand, but what does it take to get one made? Most people look at the part and imagine that it will take a skilled craftsman about 30 minutes to set up the job and make the part. Even if they aren’t getting the brother-in-law deal, they think the man making the part earns about $35 and hour, so the part should cost them $17. Let’s see about that.

The company that employs the craftsman who will make the part does pay him $35 for every hour he puts on his timecard, but he actually costs them a lot more than that. With retirement contributions, vacation, sick leave, unemployment contributions and government-mandated healthcare, that person actually costs the company about $59 an hour. But wait — there’s more. They have to put a roof over his head, and that’s called overhead (ha-ha). And the CNC machining center he works at cost them $193,000, which they amortize on every job he does.

A fork in the road

Now, this is where it starts to get tricky. If they used a 3D scanner to determine the initial dimensions of the part, that hardware/software suite that they use costs another $63,000 and also gets amortized into the production cost, plus someone has to pay for the time it took to take the initial scanned dimensions of the worn-out part and massage them into the dimensions of a new part. Too bad you weren’t able to give him a dimensioned drawing when you brought the part in, but that’s life.

And of course the company making the part for you isn’t in business as a charity. They have to make a profit, too. So your “simple” part will cost you $121.50 and you’re getting a deal. they will be able to work it into their schedule sometime within the next 6 weeks.

Hold on!

Okay, you went to the wrong place. You should have gone to this other place called Bob’s Job Shop that doesn’t have all that fancy-schmancy equipment. The craftsman works on a conventional 12-inch Atlas lathe that you remember from metal shop. And he doesn’t make $35 and hour. He gets $18.50 an hour, and Bob’s has him working just enough hours to keep his benefits package real low. They still have to put a roof over his head, but nobody said it had to shed water when it rains! These guys can do the job for $47.75, which sounds like a bargain compared to what the first place wanted. Just be careful they don’t rush the job so much that the sealing surfaces of the valve seat aren’t smooth enough to seal!

Okay — stop!

Come on, B.B., we are talking about a simple plastic part here! It shouldn’t have to cost that much! It’s not being made to aerospace specs. Don’t I have a right to get a part that works? Why can’t I get this part for $1.25, which still looks like too much money, but is one heck of a lot better than what you have been telling me.

Oh — you want to pay $1.25 for the part! Why didn’t you say so? To do that the part has to be made with little or no human intervention. In other words — no time on the clock. That’s possible if the part is made by a volume process like injection molding. In fact, one part will only cost you $0.42, but you have to buy 20,000 for that price. If you buy just 5,000 they will be $1.63 apiece. And the mold that you will have to have made will run around $12,000, give or take. But once you have it you can make hundreds of thousands and not spend another cent, other than the per-item cost.

But there is another way. If you only want 5,000 we can get them for $0.91 apiece from a CNC shop. There will be a $900 setup charge, after your dimensioned drawings have been entered into their CAD system and debugged. But hey, the next time you want to buy another 5,000 we will only charge you a $350 setup charge. That’s cheap!

But I only want to buy ONE!!!

Okay, gotcha. The good news for you is that Rick Willnecker, a guy in Pennsylvania who owns a large repair center, has already done all the up-front investing. He has had dozens of important vintage Crosman parts remanufactured — and bought the requisite numbers of them to get the prices down to something reasonable. The part you want is one he had made up ten years ago. It was cheap. He was able to buy 5,000 for $0.67 each, after he paid the $900 setup fee. Over the past 10 years he has sold 734 of these parts to repair stations and private individuals like you at $3.50 apiece. That’s $2,569 he has made, and it only cost him $4,240 to make it. Hey — he should run for a government office, right?

This is one of his slower-selling parts, of the 46 vintage Crosman parts he has in inventory. The year 2023 should be a good one, because that’s when he expects to turn his first profit on this part. You can get better odds from the Powerball lottery!

Are you upset because Rick charges $3.50 for something that costs him 67 cents? Do the math and see what the real cost is.

Yes, there are hidden costs for those vintage airgun parts. If someone invents a time machine, they could go back and buy them from Crosman when they were selling for just 30 cents each. Of course at that time Crosman would demand to be paid in silver certificates that will only cost you…

The connection

The one bit of truth in today’s report is that Rick Willnecker of Precision Pellet really does have a supply of vintage Crosman and Benjamin parts that he has had remanufactured. He is the source of many key parts for the repair stations.

The Daisy 853: Part 5

Pá, 06/24/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy Avanti 853.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Don’t despair!
  • Thanks to Daisy
  • Sighting-in
  • The rear sight
  • RWS Hobby
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy
  • H&N Finale Match Pistol
  • Vogel
  • The trigger
  • The verdict

Okay, this is Part 5 and I am finally ready to test the Daisy 853 10-meter target rifle for accuracy. It’s been awhile since we looked at the 853, so allow me to recap. I bought the rifle used at a good price and tested it for velocity in Part 2. That was when I learned that my rifle wasn’t quite performing up to standard, so I got some parts from Daisy and proceeded to rebuild the powerplant. It was a basic rebuild that addresses the pump piston seal, the felt wiper that holds the oil for the piston and all the inlet valve parts.

Don’t despair!

After the first rebuild the velocity was consistently around 450 f.p.s. with RWS Hobby pellets. According to the Pyramyd Air website, Daisy rates the rifle at 510 f.p.s., and I initially made the mistake of thinking that my rifle was not up to snuff yet. I ordered more parts for a more intensive overhaul, but while I waited for them to arrive I heard from 853 owners and from coaches around the country. They were all getting similar velocities from their rifles. Only reader Bulldawg76 seems to get over 500 f.p.s. from his rifle, and he has done some non-standard modifications to it.

When the new parts arrived I installed many of them. Of particular interest was the new bolt that I thought might have been a problem. But it turned out not to be. The velocity with Hobbys after the new parts were installed was still 450 f.p.s., more or less. That leads me to an observation. Maybe some Daisy 853s will shoot up to 510 f.p.s., but not all of them want to. There is no magic about that number, either. Plenty of 10-meter target air pistols do fine at 450 f.p.s. I used to compete with one! My advice is as long as your rifle is in the 400s, just use it as is. If it drops below 400 f.p.s. then I think it’s time for a rebuild.

I’m glad I rebuilt the powerplant because the felt wiper was almost disintegrated when I removed it. So it wasn’t going to last much longer. And I had to oil the piston head heavily to get over 400 f.p.s. That is when a gun needs a rebuild. Now the rifle works as it should, and the felt wiper keeps it oiled all the time without my constant attention.

Thanks to Daisy

I want to thank Daisy for their help with this article. I ordered parts 3 times from them and they always sent them for nothing. I probably could have ordered almost anything, but I don’t like to abuse generosity when it’s given, so I kept my orders to the minimum. Thank you, Daisy!

The 853 is not an easy airgun to work on. Although it does come apart and go back together as Daisy describes in their .pdf document, it takes both skill and persistence to get it together again — at least that was my experience. This is not a job I would undertake lightly, nor one I would recommend to someone new to airguns.

But now everything is done and the rifle is back working as it is supposed to. The next step is to see what she’ll do on targets. That’s what we will do today. And I also want to look at that adjustable rear peep sight more closely than I ever have before. Let’s get started!

I shot from 10 meters with the rifle rested on a sandbag. To make the stock longer I installed all 3 stock spacers.


This rifle is used, plus I have had it apart two different times and the rear sight has been off. And I replaced the front aperture insert with one that is smaller. You can’t mess around with the sights much more than that! So I wondeerd if it would even be on paper at 10 meters. But it was.

It not only was on paper, the impact point was pretty well centered when I started sighing-in with RWS Hobby pellets. But they were hitting the target about a quarter-inch too high. Now, I could find out about that rear sight!

The rear sight

My rifle came with the Daisy 5899 peep sight. It’s made of plastic and I have heard coaches cuss over that fact. But I have also seen kids win matches with the same sight. Years ago a coach told me that whenever he adjusted the sight in the opposite direction from the one it had been moving, he moved it three clicks (yes, it does have clicks, though they are not pronounced and must be felt rather than heard) to take up the slop. Then he could adjust the sight very precisely. For 20 years I thought this was private wisdom passed on by a coach with experience.

I received the manual with my new/old 853 and when I read about adjusting the rear sight I was surprised to see that warning right there in the manual! All these years I thought I knew a secret. Well, given how few guys ever read a manual, maybe I did!

I now needed to adjust the impact of the pellet down, so I looked at the elevation wheel and got another surprise. The direction of adjustment is the opposite of what I expected! I would normally turn it to the right (clockwise) to move it lower. If I hadn’t looked at the arrow on the adjustment knob I would instinctively have turned the knob in the wrong direction.

The manual also actually tells you that each click moves the strike of the pellet 0.048-inches at 10 meters. If that’s not precision, I don’t know what is!

I didn’t know the state of the rear sight when I adjusted it the first time, so I just cranked it down 5 clicks. The pellet moved down, but not far enough. Two more clicks dropped the impact just below the 10, so I now had an opportunity to adjust the sight in the opposite direction from the one in which it had been moving. I adjusted it up 1 click, expecting it to not move, but it did. The rifle was now sighted in perfectly for the RWS Hobby pellet.

The top group holds 7 pellets, including 2 that were fired after the rear sight was adjusted. I adjusted the sight one time (5 clicks down), which dropped the pellet lower, but not low enough. Two more clicks down gave me the bottom group.

RWS Hobby

After adjusting the rear sight up 1 click, I moved to a different target and put the first shot through the 10-ring. I decided to leave the sights there and I finished the 5-shot group with 4 more shots. Total group size for 5 Hobbys measures 0.195. That’s pretty darn good for a non-target pellet!

Five RWS Hobby pellets went into 0.195-inches at 10 meters. This rifle can shoot!

RWS R10 Match Pistol

Next I tried 5 RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets. These have 4.50mm heads, and no, I did not sort them with the PelletGage. One test at a time is enough! Five pellets went into 0.247-inches at 10 meters. Not as good as the Hobbys.

Five RWS R10 Pistol pellets with 4.50mm heads made this 0.247-inch group at 10 meters. Probably not the pellet for this rifle.

Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy

Next I tried some Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy pellets. I didn’t try these during the velocity test, but I got sidetracked by the need to fix (I thought) the powerplant and really only tested the gun with Hobbys. This pellet is lighter than a Hobby — at 5.25 grains, so we expect it to go to a different place on the target — probably higher. And that’s exactly what it did.

Five Sig target pellets went into 0.25-inches at 10 meters. Yes, that is exactly a quarter-inch! I don’t plan this stuff — it just happens and I write it down as I go.

Five Sig Match Ballsitic Alloy pellets went into exactly 0.25-inches at 10 meters. It’s good, but I think the rifle can do better.

H&N Finale Match Pistol

I tried H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets next. I tried the ones with 4.50mm heads. Five of them went into a well-centered group that measures 0.152-inches between centers. This looks like a pellet to use in this rifle.

Five H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets with 4.50mm heads made this 0.152-inch group at 10 meters. This is the best group of the test and may be the one for this rifle!


The last pellet I tried in the 853 on this day was the Vogle from Pilkguns. This one also has a 4.50mm head. Five went into 0.155-inches at 10 meters — almost identical to what the Finale Match did.

Five Vogel pellets with 4.50mm heads made this 0.155-inch group at 10 meters. Very close to the Finale Match.

The trigger

The trigger is one of the known drawbacks of the 853. The pull is long and creepy. The test rifle trigger breaks at between 4 lbs. 6 oz. and 4 lbs. 12 oz., with an average of 4 lbs. 8 oz. Of course it is very possible to modify the trigger for a lighter letoff, but that involves disassembling the rifle. Like a woman who has just given birth, I want to avoid doing that for a while. Let’s just enjoy what we have, shall we? I do have the parts and I probably will get around to doing it, but let me take a breather.

The verdict

As expected, the Daisy 853 turned in a great accuracy test. For the price there is nothing on the market to match it — at least not that I am aware of.

The trigger is rough and heavy, but it’s not so bad that it spoils the accuracy. Pumping is heavy but easy enoiugh for an adult, if not for a kid.

All said and done, the 853 is a wonderful target rifle. Yes, technology has passed it by, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still hold its own. Tens of thousands of them are still doing just that!

Teach me to shoot: Part 10

Čt, 06/23/2016 - 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

This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today Jack starts teaching Jill’s friend, Jamell, how to shoot.

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

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • Getting started
  • Wants to hunt
  • Field trip
  • Watch the crowd
  • Etiquette lives!
  • High art
  • They do a deal — sort of
  • Diana the huntress
  • Big girl, big rifle
  • Next time at the range

I told you that I had promised Jill I would teach her friend, Jamell, how to shoot. Of course Jamell already knows how to shoot on several levels. She met Jill at a Babes with Bullets camp, where both of them took the Beginner Handgun course. So she not only knows how to shoot, she is also a recent graduate of one of the best training courses in the U.S. My job was to fill in the blanks that weren’t covered at the camp; subjects Jamell has never been formally taught.

Getting started

We met at Jill’s apartment and talked awhile. I found out she knew most of what I’d taught Jill, except for the part about firearms etiquette. Just like Jill, she wasn’t even aware it existed. So I covered everything. Things like never pick up a gun that’s not yours unless you ask permission first. That’s fundamental, yet I see people do it at every gun show. And, from that one simple rule flow many other rules that are obvious when you understand the first one. Things like always ask permission to examine the gun after you have picked it up. That’s permission to open the bolt or pop out the cylinder or rack the slide — basically anything you need to do to see whether the gun is loaded. If you don’t know how a gun works, always ask the owner to show you before handling it. Not only are some guns unique in their operation, a particular gun may have a problem that has to be address as it is handled.

When one person hands a gun to another person, the second person examines the gun to see whether it is loaded, even though the person who just handed it to them just finished doing the same thing. People who aren’t shooters think this is either redundant or insulting to the first person. Jill understood it because surgeons often do similar things. Jamell was surprised to learn it, but she saw how it would help lower gun “accidents.” It’s my contention that there are very few accidents with guns. people used that term to cover for the mistakes they make in proper handling.

Wants to hunt

Jamell told me the reason she wants to learn to shoot a rifle is she wants to hunt. She knows what she did with her father was just plinking at targets of opportunity and now it is time to get serious. Hunting is a common theme among women coming into shooting today. After defense it probably ranks as the second most popular reason to learn to shoot.

Field trip

Rather than just talk, I decided to take both Jamell and Jill on a little field trip after our initial discussion. One of the largest gun shows in our area of the country was running this Saturday, so we all loaded into Jill’s car and went there. Surprise number one happened at the door, when Jill flashed her NRA life member card and got a discount off admission. I didn’t know she had joined yet.

Watch the crowd

I told both Jill and Jamell to watch the people at the show and try to spot any safety infractions or incidents where firearms etiquette was not being observed. It soon became obvious that this was going to be a daunting task, as they both saw numerous infractions right away. My ribs became sore from their elbows during the first 15 minutes of the show. So we decided to watch the show for awhile, then gather someplace out of the crowd where we could talk about what we’d seen.

Jamell noticed that most of the dealers were very safe in their handing of guns, but their customers were a mixture of both safe and sorry. She finally realized she could spot the people who weren’t going to be safe by how they dressed and by their age. I told her that was profiling and she responded, “So? If it works, why wouldn’t everyone do it?” Why not, indeed?

In fact, all the older dealers did just that! I told both of them to watch how those dealers dealt with their young male customers — especially the ones who were dressed in, shall we say, pop garb. That’s cargo pants belted below the waist with cuffs dragging the floor, tee-shirts with skulls on them and baseball caps on backwards. When they went back to observing, both of them saw what I meant. Many of those boys were picking up handguns (always semiautomatics) from the tables without asking, pointing them at their friends with their fingers on the triggers. A few even turned the guns on their side, gangsta-style. In one instance it was actually embarrassing because all the handguns were held together with the same rubber-sheathed steel cable. When the guy picked up one gun rapidly, he sent several others tumbling out of their boxes and crashing into each other. The dealer actually said, “These aren’t toys, son!”

This lesson was so powerful and these kinds of customers so prevalent that I had to direct both ladies’ attention toward something else, to keep them from being overwhelmed. I asked them each to watch an older small dealer as he dealt with a single customer. We all went in different directions and agreed to meet again in 30 minutes.

Etiquette lives!

When we were back together, both women had lots to tell. Both had seen a couple of the small private dealers talk to just one customer and they saw the firearms etiquette I had been talking about. Jill was impressed by what she saw. She told me she thought I had been overstating the etiquette points, but these guys were doing just as I explained. Jamell had seen something similar, but she also saw something else — something that was to going change the entire direction of her training.

High art

She had visited the table of a man who makes muzzleloading rifles, and she watched him show them to a customer. “Those rifles he makes are works of art! After the customer left I stepped up and asked the dealer to show them to me. When I picked one up I was amazed by the natural way they felt. That’s the kind of rifle I want to learn to shoot!”

Oh boy, was this unexpected! Jamell is a sculptor, so she has an eye for beauty, and being female only strengthens that. But I have never before seen a woman respond to any firearm so strongly. Even Jill, who now loves to shoot, just thinks of the guns as a means to an end. For Jamell, the Pennsylvania rifle is an end all unto itself!

She took us both back to this maker’s table and I had to admit she was right. His rifles were gorgeous. They were also quite expensive. The one Jamell liked best was a .45-caliber flintlock done in the Lancaster style. The barrel was 48 inches long and the rifle stood nearly 6 feet high. Jamell is tall, so it didn’t look that large in her hands, but the pull, which was 14 inches, was too short for her. That rifle had a $6,000 pricetag on it, so this was way outside of any box I might have envisioned.

The stock was honey-colored curly maple with figure all the way to both ends of the stock and it was covered in bas-relief carvings and German silver shapes. It had a full stock that stopped about a half-inch short of the muzzle. We were all impressed when the dealer slid one of the carved metal pieces out from the bottom of the ornate cheekpiece and it turned out to be the handle of a fine wire flashole pick. He told us all flintlock shooters carry such a pick in their possibles bag to periodically clean out the flashole, but his were built right into the stocks of his rifles!

They do a deal — sort of

The maker liked the way Jamell appreciated his work. As artists, they were kindred spirits, and the two of them talked for a long time. When he learned that she is a sculptor he asked her if she could make something for him. The upshot of the meeting was he promised to build a rifle to fit her and she promised to show him her portfolio of animal sculptures. They decided to wait to talk about the price for the rifle until after they knew all that was going to happen.

She talked about that rifle all the way back to Jill’s apartment. She said she didn’t even care about shooting it — she just wanted to hold it and look at it. OMG! I just made a gun nut! Well, that would help me with her training. We set up an appointment for me to come to her studio one evening during the coming week, where I would start her with the Daisy 499, just as I had Jill. But, because of what happened at the gun show, I also brought a surprise.

Diana the huntress

I started her training with the Daisy 499 in exactly the same way as Jill. We were never going to shoot handguns, though, so I had also brought along my Diana 66 breakbarrel target rifle. While it can’t compare to the beauty of that long flintlock rifle she’s having made, there’s a fundamental beauty to how well it is built. Jamell saw it right away and I actually had to insist that she start with the 499. She really wanted to shoot that Diana! Well, Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt, which is the primary reason Jamell wants to learn to shoot a rifle in the first place. So I shortened the 499 lesson to just 2 targets and got her started shooting the pellet rifle.

She has 10 meters in her studio if a door to the supply room is opened. We placed my UTG BB/pellet trap on a shelf in that room and used a studio light to light it. We started with the 499, and then when it was time for the pellet rifle we just backed up.

Big girl, big rifle

Jamell is big-boned and strong. She has to be, to be a sculptor. So holding the Diana 66 offhand is no problem for her, once I showed her the correct way to do it. Like shooting a handgun with one hand, there is also a right way to hold a rifle offhand so that the skeleton takes most of the weight. It does help a lot, but there are limits, too. I don’t think Jill could ever adapt to the Diana 66 that weighs 11 pounds, but it worked very well for Jamell.

The offhand rifle stance is something like the handgun stance, in that the placement of the feet determines where the upper body naturally wants to point. Jamell is right-handed, so she turned to the right for the rifle. That’s the opposite of how you would turn for a handgun.  And for a rifle the turn is even farther than it is for a handgun — almost a fiull 90 degrees. The rifle comes across the chest, almost touching it. Not quite but it’s close.

The elbow of her left upper arm rests against her rib cage to support the weight of the rifle. She doesn’t have as much meat on her ribcage as I do, but she does have some muscle on her upper arms. Some women and young children have to throw the hips out to the left to help align that arm, but Jamell doesn’t.

The rifle rests on either the flat of the palm, the knuckles of a closed fist or on the tips of the off hand fingers. Which one depends on the length of the shooter’s arm Jamell used her fingertips. When she was in position I showed her that the weight of the big rifle was entirely supported by her off hand. The buttpad on the 66 is deeply curved and held the butt to her shoulder. It’s actually against the top of the right bicep, next to where the arm joins the shoulder.

Next time at the range

Her first 5 shots netted a 39. She shot another 3 targets and never got above a 37 after that. Obviously practice was what she needed, so I left her the rifle, pellets, safety glasses and trap. But I already knew enough. She is ready to shoot a firearm at the range. And because she wants to shoot a muzzleloader, I will take my Dixie Gun Works Po Boy percussion rifle to the range for the next session. True she wants to shoot a flintlock, but I don’t own one. A percussion gun is the next best thing. The Po Boy is a muzzle loader on which she can learn most of the techniques.

Hatsan 85 MOBU Sniper Combo: Part 7

St, 06/22/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan 85 Sniper rifle combo.

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

This report covers:

  • Back to the Hatsan 85 MOBU Sniper
  • A test of the new trigger adjustments
  • Many different holds
  • Try something different
  • Evaluation so far
Back to the Hatsan 85 MOBU Sniper

Today we return to the Hatsan 85 Mossy Oak Break Up rifle, to see whether Bulldawg76′s trigger adjustment screws have any impact on accuracy. I don’t think they will, but I do think they will make it easier to shoot the rifle at targets. That will be a help by itself.

I am shooting off a rest at 25 yards. Naturally the artillery hold is being used. I’m resting the rifle on my off hand, back by the triggerguard

A test of the new trigger adjustments

I began where we left off in Part 5. The rifle is sighted-in and I selected the H&N Baracuda Match with 4.52mm head as the pellet to try. Boy — was I shocked when the first shot was a 10! For a few shots everything looked good, but then on shot number 6 the group opened up. By the time 10 shots had been fired the group measured 1.551-inches between centers. That’s very similar to the 1.422-inches I got with the same pellet before the trigger was adjusted.

The first 25-yard group of 10 H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.52mm heads measures 1.551-inches between centers. Sorry about resting the head of the pellet in one of the holes. I didn’t see it when I set up the photo.

Many different holds

I fiddled around with different holds, trying to improve things, but I always came back to holding the rifle balanced on my off hand touching the triggerguard. The rifle is very muzzle-heavy when held that way, but it seems to do best when I’m behind the trigger.

After shooting a bunch more shots with other holds, I returned to the first hold and tried another 10 shots. This time the group opened up to 2.237-inches and I knew the day was over for me and this rifle. I had lost my ability to concentrate. Or had I?

The second 25-yard group of 10 H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.52mm heads measures 2.237-inches between centers, and is obviously due to shooter error. I’m getting tired from concentrating too long.

Try something different

I thought I would try some pellets I had not tried before and see whether one of them might do a little better. Certainly as tired as I was, if one did do well, that meant it had a lot of promise.

The first pellet was a bust when it missed the target altogether. On to pellet number 2 — a BSA Wolverine. The Wolverine is an 8.44 grain dome that sometimes does surprisingly well in powerful air rifles. When the first shot went to the left of the target I thought it was going to be a bust. But when shot number 2 went to the same place I perked up. To make a long story short, 10 Wolverines landed in 1.172-inches at 25 yards. That’s the best group this rifle has shot to date for me. And I could tell I was tired from shooting and concentrating on the hold. I think the Wolverine might do even better.

This group of BSA Wolverine pellets measures 1.172-inches between centers. It is the smallest group I have shot at 25 yards with this rifle to date. I know this isn’t the best 25-yard group I ever shot, but it does show a lot of promise for the Hatsan 85.

There will be at least one more part to this report. I’m curious to see what the Wolverine pellet can do when I’m fresh and on my game.

Evaluation so far

The Hatsan 85 MOBU Sniper rifle is turning out to be a niice poweful breakbarrel spring-piston rifle that doesn’t go too far with the power. In other words — it’s a gun you might like. The scope that comes with the combo doesn’t work well with it, and I substituted a UTG 4-16X50 scope in its place in Part 5. That scope is mounted in a set of 2-piece BKL rings that are holding the scope rigid.

I felt the trigger was too heavy after adjustment, so reader Bulldawg76 sent me a set of screws that are longer and give a broader range of trigger adjustment. That setup, which was installed and tested in Part 6, is working fine and does help me shoot the rifle.

Bottom line is this may be a spring rifle to consider. It’s less expensive and more powerful than the RWS 34, and even though the accuracy is not comparable, it still seems good. Next time will tell for sure!

When the fix is so simple it’s difficult to see

Út, 06/21/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The start
  • Owner’s manual a bust
  • Here he comes to save the daaaaay!
  • Duhh
  • Call a real man
  • Once upon a time…
  • … presto!
  • Manuals and aftermarket support
  • Analysis of the problem

Most days my blogs come from tests of airguns, ammunition and shooting equipment. They are straightforward and unfold in familiar ways. But ever so often a blog idea jumps up in my lap and licks my face like an excited puppy. That describes today’s report.

The start

It all started about 3 weeks ago when I went to fill my carbon fiber air tank, using my high-pressure Omega Supercharger compressor. I flipped the start switch and the fan came on but not the water pump. The Omega Supercharger is water-cooled and has numerous safety features built in. One of them is the compressor pump will not operate if the water pump is not on. That’s so the compressor pump will always be cooled — a reliability feature.

But now my water pump wasn’t coming on and I had to sort it out. That has happened several times in the past after the compressor has been transported any distance in a car, but I was always able to get it started eventually (meaning in minutes). This time was different.

Owner’s manual a bust

The owner’s manual that came with my compressor isn’t of much use. You basically have to know how to operate the compressor to make sense out of the instructions. And, no, there is no schematic!

I played around with the various safety switches and electrical connections for several days before calling my gun buddy, Otho, for assistance. I thought he might swoop in and fix it with a glance, like he sometimes does with other things that puzzle me.

Meanwhile I took my carbon fiber tank over to AirForce and asked them to fill it with their industrial compressor. It took that wonderful machine only 10 minutes, but the drive over to the plant and back was why I got a compressor of my own.

Here he comes to save the daaaaay!

Last Thursday Otho came by with his multimeter and we took the access panels off both sides of the compressor. I had hoped to find a loose wire that could be attached to an obvious connection, once the insides were exposed. Alas — no luck! Lots of wires, but none that were loose.

Next, we traced the wires from the front panel, where the names of the switches they are connected to told us their functions. Again no luck. I am going to show you a picture of the back of the panel, so you can see what we saw.

Lots of wires that all have to be checked at both ends! This is not as simple as I hoped.

I pulled on every wire at both ends, hoping to find a loose or broken connection. Again, no luck. Everything is wired well and all the wires seem to be doing their jobs.


By this time I had spent a couple hours looking at the compressor and Otho had spent nearly an hour of his time, as well. We decided that the next thing should be a continuity check of every wire in the cabinet — hence the multimeter.

If all of this sounds involved, that’s because it is! Very involved! But how else are you going to do it? How else, indeed!

We put off working on it that day, but knew we’d have to tackle it real soon.

Call a real man

Otho and his wife were over at my house to watch a movie Sunday evening and one of their friends called. He wanted to take them to dinner but when he got to their house they weren’t there. So he came over to my house, and that’s when the lightning bolt struck! Otho’s wife, Marsha, said, “Why don’t you ask Joe to look at the compressor?”

Otho burst into a smile that threatened to separate the top of his head from the bottom. Joe, you see, knows about stuff — stuff Otho and I just putter around with.

Once upon a time…

Actually, war stories don’t begin that way, but this is a family blog and I can’t write the real lead-in for my war story. Other than the intro, though, war stories and fairy tales are exactly the same.

… presto!

Joe looked at the compressor while I described its operation. Then he looked at the transparent water hoses in the back of the cabinet and noted the large air bubbles above and below what I think he called the water pressure sensor. Then he said, “I think it may be vapor-locked.” Instantly I was transported back to the summer of 1955, standing on the side of the road with my father and mother and sisters, next a hot 1953 Chrysler that had vapor-locked. I knew he was right!

Large air bubbles that were in the two transparent water hoses (were the arrows indicate) were the clue for Joe that the compressor water pump was probably vapor-locked).

The other side of the compressor cabinet holds the heat exchanger where the fan cools the hot water. More transparent water hoses. Now, I know why they are transparent.

“I can hear the pump trying to run but it has no water to push. I think if we just turn the compressor upside down so these bubbles go back into the holding tank, the compressor will run again.” So he did. And it did. And that’s my little story — almost.

Manuals and aftermarket support

This was not a report about an air compressor. They are all different and each has its unique operating quirks. However, by a strange coincidence, Otho’s wife brought me a manual for a Freedom8, a simpler version of the Freedom F10 Shoebox compressor on this same Sunday evening. After spending time trying to fix my compressor, I was pleasantly surprised by this manual. It seems to be very well written and would be a great help to anyone with a problem like mine.

And here is today’s lesson. Manuals and after-sales support are far more important than people think. Sure, with certain kinds of products you don’t really need them. I mean, who needs a manual for an icecube tray? But when equipment becomes complex, users often need the technical information that should go with it to operate it properly, and to know what to do when it quits. Sometimes calling the manufacturer is impossible and the importer may be difficult to contact. That’s when good information comes into play.

Analysis of the problem

My specific problem (what caused the compressor to quit this time) is I don’t use my compressor often enough. I might fire it up once every 6 weeks, and this time it had been more than 3 months since I last used it. In that time, some water will evaporate. By simply turning on the water pump and running it for 30 seconds every week, I can probably keep all bubbles out of the water lines and avoid ever having this problem again. That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be in the manual.

Webley Senior straight grip air pistol: Part 2

Po, 06/20/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

A history of airguns

Webley Senior straight grip air pistol.

This report covers:

  • Lubricated
  • Breech seal
  • Velocity — Eley Wasps
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far

Several readers liked Part 1 of the report on the straight grip Webley Senior. What did they like about it? They liked that the gun was made of steel. They liked how quirky it is. And, much like me, they liked it just because it exists. Well, today we’ll start learning how good it shoots.


There is more to this gun than just its historical value and charm. I told you in Part 1 that I replaced the breech seal and lubricated the action after I bought it around 1978. I have oiled it over the years, but never fully lubricated it since the first time. Later in this series I’ll disassemble the gun for you and show you the insides, but for now know that the piston serves as the mainspring guide and the pistol is sealed by a metal ring, much like the piston of an internal combustion engine.

I want to check on the lube after 38 years! Yes, it’s been that long since I applied it. Finally I will have a concrete example with some age that let’s me show how long these modern lubricants can last. And, yes, I plan to show you, as well.

Breech seal

The breech seal is different than most spring gun breech seals and I will show you what it looks like when the seal for my Webley Mark II Service rifle finally arrives. I wanted to shoot that rifle for accuracy for you, but until the breech seal is replaced I think it’s pointless. We would only wonder what it would do with a good seal.

These breech seals are deeper (longer) than conventional seals, and they have a hollow brass tube running through their centers that serve as the air transfer port. They can be made of either leather or fiber, and as I remember, the one in this pistol is fiber. The gun is running at a very conservative power level, so the seal has been under no particular strain, other than the years it’s been in the gun.

Velocity — Eley Wasps

Let’s look at the velocity, shall we? First up is the pellet I think matches the gun’s own vintage age — an Eley Wasp. This is the 5.56mm pellet that’s oversized for most modern pellet guns. In this pistol, though, they stop level with the breech after being dropped in.

Wasps averaged 310 f.p.s. over 10 shots. The low was 301 and the high was 316, so the spread was 15 f.p.s. For a vintage .22-caliber spring-piston air pistol this is a very good velocity. I’ve seen vintage Dianas do less. Next I think I’ll try a lighter pellet that’s more modern.

JSB Exact RS

The .22-caliber JSB Exact RS dome weighs 13.43 grains, compared to the Wasp’s 14.5. It falls deep into the breech, so its smaller as well as lighter. I expected to see somewhat higher velocity. But it wasn’t there.

Ten RS pellets averaged just 306 f.p.s. The spread was tighter, only 10 f.p.s. separate the low at 301 from the high at 311 f.p.s. I don’t know what that suggests. Maybe they will be more accurate, but I get the feeling the Senior wants more to push against. Let’s try a lighter pellet that I know is larger than the RS.

RWS Hobby

At 11.9 grains the .22-caliber RWS Hobby is a little lighter than the RS, but the skirt is also larger. It falls into the breech only slightly deeper than the Wasp. And the velocity surprised me. The average was a whopping 357 f.p.s. and the spread was 24 f.p.s. — from 343 to 367 f.p.s. I have the feeling at out to 10 meters the Hobby may hold its own for accuracy.

Cocking effort

The way the Senior cocks, it is extremely difficult to measure the cocking effort. And the effort changes drastically when you hold the barrel differently. I use the thumb of my left hand as a fulcrum, opposite the pistol’s own fulcrum at the barrel pivot. I will estimate the effort is between 15 and 20 pounds to cock the gun, which is a close as I’m going to get. It’s not quite as difficult to cock as a Beeman P1, which cocks in exactly the same fashion, though with improved cocking geometry.

Trigger pull

I have never before measured the trigger pull of this pistol. I only know that I like it a lot. If you pull the trigger slowly and deliberately, the effort is 5 lbs. 5 oz. That’s heavier than I thought. Heavy, but oh, so smooth!

Evaluation so far

The test is turning out pretty much as I thought it would. The gun has a lot of power for its age and powerplant, plus the recoil is almost nonexistent. There is zero vibration, so I will have to look at the old lubrication carefully. I doubt it can be improved upon.

The trigger is as nice as I remembered, but heavier than I thought. The smoothness masks the pull nicely.

Will the gun be accurate? I don’t know. I know I’ve shot it at things in the past, but we are talking many decades since I shot it seriously. In that time new pellets have come to market and it will be interesting to see if they have had any affect.

Vintage pellets

Pá, 06/17/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • When I was a boy…
  • Tins are collectible
  • Pellets oxidize
  • Accurate?
  • Two targets
  • Come a long way

Let’s be honest — the hobby may be about airguns, but without pellets it dies real fast. Most of us don’t think about the pellets we shoot, other than how accurate they are in whatever we are shooting or do they do the job on the target. If you’re an airgunner for any length of time, eventually you’ll end up with pellet tins from the past — maybe even a past that happened before you got into the sport.

When I was a boy…

One phrase my father used all the time started with, “When I was a boy…” There was usually some object lesson after that. Like, “We walked 5 miles to school regardless of the weather.” Or, “We found ways to make our own money. Nobody gave us anything!” Because he was my father, his mother — my grandmother — never contradicted him in front of me. What has become popular today (intentional embarrassment of a parent in front of their child) was unthinkable in the 1950s. Little pictures have big ears and children should be seen and not heard were the watchwords of the day.

Well, dear readers, when I was a boy the only pellets you could buy were Benjamin high-compression pellets. They came in a green tin that was recognizable to most kids. When I got back into airgunning as an adult and returned to the U.S. those tins were nowhere to be found. They had been replaced by colorful tins from German, the United Kingdom and Japan. The Beeman company had just started up and they had colorful boxes and later tins of their own.

The green lithographed Benjamin tin was familiar to many small boys. To the right is a plain tin with a green Benjamin sticker — the start of cost controls. The price on the tin on the left was marked up after sitting in a store unsold for 30 years.


n the 1970s Benjamin dropped the green boxes and tins in favor of an orange and white sticker. Sorry if it’s not orange — I’m colorblind.

Pardon the appearance, but that is what a half-century of oxidation does to a lead pellet. Two Benjamin high-compression pellets from the 1930s-1960s.

 Beeman pellet boxes and tins used to be color-coded by caliber. Blue for .177, gold or yellow for .20, green for .22 and red for .25.

Tins are collectible

Today those Benjamin tins are collectors items in their own right and the colorful Beeman boxes I once thought of as state-of-the art are getting to be collectible, too. Here’s a question for you — were those vintage pellets from the time of the dinosaurs any good? The answer depends of what you mean by good.

Pellets oxidize

I remember seeing tins of Benjamin pellets sitting on store shelves. When the tin was opened, the pellets inside shined with a brilliant luster. The oil they were packed in was there to preserve that luster, and I can remember the day I opened a tin to find the oil dried up and the pellets turning dull gray and even white from oxidation.


Were those pellets accurate? Again, it depends. We thought just hitting a tin can with a pellet at 30 feet was a pretty astounding feat in 1956. Yes, Benjamin pellets were that accurate. But I remember a test I did for The Airgun Letter in the ’90s that involved shooting a Crosman 160 rifle using the new .22-caliber Crosman Premier pellets and then with the period Crosman “ashcan” pellets of the ’60s. There was no contest. The Premiers buried the ashcans, revealing the fact that the 160 was quite accurate with the right ammunition. Who knew? Better yet, we couldn’t have done anything about it if we did know, because were were trapped in time. Ashcans were what we had.

This was the Crosman pellet box in the 1960s.

Crosman ashcan pellets from the 1960s (do I need to tell you they’re on the left?) and two Crosman Premiers.

Two targets

I did another test. I shot the same rifle at 10 meters, using two different pellets. The top target was shot 5 times with RWS R10 heavy pellets of today. Bottom target shot with Crosman ashcans. If that target doesn’t illustrate the advancements in pellet technology, I don’t know what will.

RWS R10 pellets shot the target on top at 10 meters, and the same air rifle shot 5 Crosman ashcans at the target below. The difference is pretty astounding!

Come a long way

We’re come a long way when it comes to diabolo lead pellets. Today’s pellets have more potential than most shooters realize. But if you had to shoot the pellets that used to be available, you’d see the difference right away.

Teach me to shoot: Part 9

Čt, 06/16/2016 - 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

Before we begin, a word about the upcoming Texas Airgun Show. Remember, it’s Saturday, August 27 at the Arlington Sportsman Club in Mansfield, Texas. AirForce Airguns has decided to donate a Texan big bore as the door prize. Every paid attendee will receive a door prize drawing ticket as part of their admission and someone will win a new Texan big bore in their choice of caliber — .30, .357 or .45. How’s that for a reason to come to the show? Now let’s get to today’s blog.

This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today, though, I’m changing it up. Instead of letting fictional guest writer Jack Cooper write, I am taking over. Jack asked me to show you how to get into position to shoot targets with a handgun, holding it with just one hand. This is the way he taught Jill, back in Part 4. Today is a very short and focused lesson, so let’s get started.

This report covers:

  • Addressing the target
  • Final alignment
  • Positioning the feet for stability
  • Anchor your off hand
  • That’s it!
  • My surprise
  • Next

Several readers requested specifically that I show them in videos how to get into position to shoot a handgun with one hand. That’s all I’m going to show today. I do have a small surprise for you at the end of the report, however.

Addressing the target

Getting into position for shooting with one hand is the most important thing you can do. For my American readers, have you ever watched a major-league baseball pitcher when he first comes to the pitcher’s mound? He will spend up to several minutes getting his feet planted in exactly the right place before he ever throws the ball. He knows that when his feet are positioned correctly, he will not miss his target — which is home plate — as long as he maintains the proper form when he throws.

The same thing is true for handgun shooters. When you are in the right position, you cannot miss the target by very much, as long as your shooting form remains true. So, let’s learn how to get into position. Step one is to address the target.

Stand at the firing line, looking at the target, and turn away from the target to the weak side of your body. If you shoot with your right hand, you will turn to the left. Watch the video.



Final alignment

In this step you will align your upper body with the target so your shooting hand points directly at the target. My video shows an exaggerated alignment. It’s not usually that large. But you will be able to tell when you are in perfect alignment.

Watch the video and especially watch what I do with my feet. The lead foot, which is my right foot (I’m right-handed) moves first, and it moves more than the trailing foot. But both feet can be moved to refine the position. Let’s watch the video, then I have more to tell you about this step.



Okay, this is just a rough alignment. After you do this the first time, pick up your gun, close your eyes and raise the gun in your shooting hand, then lower it to point at the target. If the sights aren’t perfectly aligned (you will probably have to either raise or lower your hand the first few times you do this), move the feet slightly to bring the sights into alignment. Then lower your gun, close your eyes and do it again. Keep refining the stance until the sights appear to be perfectly aligned, side-to-side, after you open your eyes.

Positioning the feet for stability

When you move your feet, the object is to point the toes of both feet in — each pointing toward the other foot. This tensions the knees to make your legs rigid, and that, in turn, stabilizes your upper body. Don’t just move the leading foot. Make sure both feet are moved in this procedure, so both legs are tensioned. Let’s look at the last video now.



Anchor your off hand

Okay — the final step. Anchor your off hand (the hand not holding the gun) by either placing it in a pocket or shoving it inside the belt line of your pants. That off hand is a weight that will move around and throw you off target if it’s free to move. And, once your feet are planted and properly adjusted — DON’T MOVE THEM!

That’s it!

That is the entire process of getting into position to shoot a handgun with one hand. Reader levans asked me to show how to hold a 1911 pistol, and I’m going to do that, but not today. When I do show that, I’ll show you how to use your upper body to hold all pistols with one hand and not have to bear most of the weight. It works for all handguns — not just 1911s. That one will have videos, too.

My surprise

I originally started this blog series because I became beyond angry at the sloppy and damaging training I saw men giving to women they were supposedly teaching to shoot. As I was researching this material, I actually overheard a conversation between two men, one of whom had bought “the little woman” a .38 Special snubnosed revolver because it fit in her purse. At least they knew better than to give her a semiautomatic pistol that even they couldn’t operate without a lot of cussing and frustration! But to hand someone a handgun that you know is going to hurt when it fires is cruel.

I thought I knew better and wanted to do something about it. As I went about my research I discovered that it isn’t just women who are having this problem. A lot of men can’t take the punishment of a lightweight .38 Special snub nose shooting hot defense rounds. Some of them have arthritis in their hands and others (like me) just don’t like the feel of the vicious recoil a small lightweight gun can have. I shoot a .357 Magnum Desert Eagle with the hottest reloads possible, so recoil by itself is not the issue. The issue is recoil that passes through a grip that’s small, and concentrates the force.

I had shot a snubnosed revolver with .32 H&R Magnum cartridges several years ago and remembered what a pleasant experience it was. But after Jack taught Jill and used the same cartridge, I started to get concerned. Had I remembered correctly? So I bought a Taurus .327 Federal Magnum snubnosed revolver to test my memory. If you will recall, that is the revolver Jill chose as her carry gun.

Well I remembered correctly. The recoil is minimal for the power and actually pleasant. What I had not tested before, but did last week, was the accuracy of that cartridge in a snub-nosed revolver. At 15 yards, which is 45 feet, I was able to keep 20 shots of .32 H&R Magnums in a group that was just larger than the size of my hand. The recoil was very pleasant – not as light as a .22 rimfire, of course, but not like hitting a fastball with a cracked bat, either!

My Taurus snubby put 20 shots into about 7.5-inches offhand from 45 feet. That is minute-of-bad-guy accuracy!

The way this series is blossoming, I am thinking of expanding it into a small book. Of course there is more to come, so we are a long way from the final book decision, but even if this is never more than just a blog, it will have served its purpose. It will be a place I can refer people to when they ask me how to teach someone to shoot.


Still to come are my explanation of how to hold a 1911 pistol and Jack has promised to teach Jill’s new friend, Jamell, how to shoot a rifle. There will be a surprise or two coming there, as well.

Hatsan Gladius .177 long: Part 2

St, 06/15/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Hatsan Gladius Long.

This report covers:

  • Quiet
  • A couple things
  • High Power
  • Baracuda Match 4.50mm
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • Low power
  • Medium power setting 4
  • What to make of this?
  • Trigger pull
  • Accuracy
  • Evaluation

We’re back with the Hatsan Gladius .177 long today for the velocity test. Hatsan advertises that this rifle gives up to 90 shots per fill. You may get that many, but not on full power. This is a hunting rifle and you want hunting rifle accuracy. For me that means keeping all your shots inside an inch which is the size of the kill zone on the smaller game the Gladius is designed to take. Now, when you throw distance into the equation things get confused very fast, so my way to simplify things is to say that 50 yards is the distance at which I would like to see one-inch groups.

Plinking, though, doesn’t require such accuracy and I’m sure that is what Hatsan has in mind when they say 90 shots per fill. You also need to know that the manual doesn’t mention the power adjustment, but it’s there on the rifle and I’ll test it for you today.


I learned a lot from today’s test. For starters I learned that the Gladius is silenced very well. Given the enormous power of the rifle, I found it easy and not at all disturbing to shoot in my office on full power without hearing protection. It’s not silent by any means, but for the power it is very well-mannered. My cat, Punky, slept in the office the entire time I tested the rifle without complaint. It’s about the same level of sound as a powerful spring-piston rifle.

On the lowest power setting the noise is so low that the rifle could be used in tight suburban yards. You Gladius owners have to learn what works best for you.

A couple things

I told you in Part 1 that the safety sets automatically, even though the owner’s manual says it is manual. It comes on each time the rifle is cocked. You can also set it manually if you like. It is a manual safety that’s also automatic.

Next, there is no mention in the owner’s manual of the power adjustment knob. It’s on the rifle, though, and I will test it for you. Let’s look at it now. On the right side of the receiver is the power wheel with 6 settings. A button on the opposite side of the receiver must be pressed in to unlock the power wheel.

The power adjustment wheel has 6 settings. But it doesn’t rotate freely. You have to push a button on the opposite side of the receiver to unlock it.

This button (arrow) must be pushed in to unlock the power adjuster.

High Power

Okay, let’s see what this rifle can do. I will begin on power setting 6, which is as high as the rifle goes.

Baracuda Match 4.50mm

The first 10 H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.50mm heads averaged 1138 f.p.s. At a weight of 10.6 grains, this pellet generated an average 30.49 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Hatsan only claims 27 foot-pounds, so they are very conservative! The spread went from 1150 f.p.s. to 1126 f.p.s. — a spread of 24 f.p.s.
The velocity started falling off on the third shot in the string and continued downward steadily. I will shoot a group at 50 yards with this pellet, just to see how it does. There probably aren’t two magazines’ worth of shots at this power setting.

JSB Exact Heavy

For fun I shot a second magazine of 10 JSB Exact Heavy pellets. They averaged 1096 f.p.s. but the velocity was still falling steadily, so that’s not what the first magazine would have done. At that velocity this pellet produced 27.84 foot-pounds of energy — still higher than the Hatsan claim!

The spread went from 1117 f.p.s. on the first shot to 1071 f.p.s. on the last shot — a spread of 46 f.p.s. As the pressure drops the velocity gets less stable.

After these two magazines (20 shots) I fired one more Baracuda Match and got 1074 f.p.s. Clearly the rifle is low on air, though there was about 2500 psi in the gun when I filled the tank. Time to adjust the power

Low power

I set the power to 1 — as low as it will go. Using the same Baracuda Match pellets, the first 10 shots averaged 562 f.p.s. The high was 569 and the low was 551 f.p.s., for an 18 f.p.s. spread. The power with this pellet averaged 7.44 foot-pounds.

I then fired 40 blank shots to use up some air. Then I reloaded the magazine for shots 51 through 60. The average was 466 f.p.s. — nearly 100 f.p.s. slower than shots 1-10. So your plinking has to be at close range to get this many shots! Are there 90 shots per fill? Maybe. A lot depends on what you are doing.

Medium power setting 4

I thought by using a medium power setting that I would get more than one magazine at the same velocity. No dice! The velocity still dropped steadily, just as it had on high power. I do like the velocity range better though.

First 10 shots with the same Baracuda Match averaged 956 f.p.s., which is good for 21.52 foot-pounds. The high (first shot) was 974 and the low (last shot) was 936. The spread was 38 f.p.s. I then shot 10 blanks and then 10 more shots for record. These averaged 869 f.p.s. — 87 f.p.s. slower than the first 10. The high (second shot) was 893 and the low (shot number 7) was 852. The spread was 41 f.p.s. and the average energy was 17.78 foot-pounds.

What to make of this?

I’m not going to concern myself with the Gladius’ power band and constantly falling power. If it will group at 50 yards, I don’t care how broad the velocity spread is. And if it can’t — it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Trigger pull

The trigger is adjustable, of course. It came set to two stages with stage two breaking reasonably crisp at 4 lbs. 3.5 oz. I think I will leave it where it is for now.

The trigger failed to fire numerous times at the end of today’s session. I had to re-cock the gun numerous times to reset the trigger ever time it failed. That may just be an adjustment issue. I hope that’s all it is.


I think I will start shooting the Gladius at 25 yards indoors, to get the feel of the gun. That will give me time to adjust the stock and trigger as well as find the best pellet. In the long run it should save me some time and give me one additional report on this airgun.


The low noise of the Gladius was a surprise. So was the power adjustablity. The rifle is heavy, but pretty ergonomic, which offsets the weight a bit.

The trigger was the worst feature so far. Let’s hope it returns to normal in the next test.

MeoPro HD 80 Spotting Scope: Part 2

Út, 06/14/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

MeoPro HD 80 spotting scope from Meopta.

This report covers:

  • Quality you can see
  • Interview with the GM
  • History
  • Iron curtain falls
  • Military and industrial applications
  • The best optics you never heard of
  • First test
  • Test at 100 yards
  • 200-yard test
  • Second 200-yard test
  • Evaluation so far

Sometimes I know how a report is going to go before I write the first word. This is such a time.

Quality you can see

I knew from looking through the Meopta binoculars at the 2016 SHOT Shot that this MeoPro HD 80 spotting scope was going to be good. And it is. How good will be the subject of this report.

Interview with the GM

I was able to arrange a phone interview with Meopta USA’s general manager and chief operating officer, Reinhard Seipp. He told me that he is an optical engineer, so he not only knows his company’s business profile — he knows the products and the technology that’s behind them. That is rare to find today. So many companies have businesspeople at the helm who haven’t much of a clue about the technical side of what their firm does. What I’m saying is when you want to talk about airguns, it’s nice to talk to an airgunner.


So, why haven’t most of us heard of Meopta? How did this monster optics firm with 2,500-plus employees and almost 1.5 million square feet of production space in New York and the Czech Republic come to be? I may not be an optics nerd, but as a shooter and photographer I do know the biggies. As it turns out, Meopta was right there among them all along, from their inception in 1933.

They started out in the ’30s making darkroom products like projectors and enlarging equipment. When the war came, they turned to military optics, and when the iron curtain went up in 1945 they found themselves on the communist side. They continued making military optics, and, since the communists had no free trade, they were under no pressure to control costs. The combination of meeting military specifications and a lack of competition meant they were free to turn out the finest optics they could, so that’s what they did. They made no consumer products at this time.

Iron curtain falls

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the company had over 6,000 employees — all suddenly unemployed! Following the fall of communism during the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic in 1993, and life became the “anything for a buck” ritual that West Germany had endured after the war. American entrepreneurs started marketing the company’s optics capability and soon found willing buyers among the world’s best-known optics houses — places like Leica and Hasselblad!

At first they sold lenses ground to specification, then optical subassemblies and packages. Finally they gained enough respect among their customer base that they were asked to make entire OEM products. If you are a user of ultra high-end optics you may already have used Meopta products without knowing it.

Military and industrial applications

Meopta continued to make optics for the military and also for industry. These are their two biggest divisions. For example, one of their industrial lines includes the high-speed optical scanners that check integrated circuits after manufacture. This work is extremely precise and requires the best optics — way beyond the level of normal consumer optics.

A lens-coating station can be purchased for around $60,000. Meopta has several of them that cost $1.5 million each. The difference is seen in the precision of their lenses. But most of us will never see their military or industrial products.

The best optics you never heard of

In 2007 the Meopta brand of sport optics was introduced to the American market. No wonder I never heard of them! I stopped learning new things in 1995!

Seriously, Meopta considers itself to be a boutique manufacturer of sport optics, and though they still manufacture high-end OEM products for others, they don’t compete with them. They rely on word of mouth rather than advertising, and on the reports written by outdoor sports writers. The MeoPro HD 80 spotting scope I am testing for you won the 2016 Outdoor Life Editor’s Choice award for spotting scopes.

They excel because they have that high-dollar precision machinery that can be used for sport optics during downtimes of industrial and military production. They don’t care about sales volume in the sport optics line — it’s not their major moneymaker. But when they pitch an industrial or military customer, it doesn’t hurt to have a stunning reputation for sporting optics. So they will not compete on price, yet the lack of an advertising budget coupled with the ability to use ultra-sophisticated optical manufacturing equipment means they can offer a superior product at a relative bargain price.

Their prices seem high to the uninitiated, but are actually a fraction of what optics of similar quality with sell for. The MeoPro HD 80 is particularly outstanding at a street price of $1500, because it sells for less than half of half what an equivalent Swarovski spotting scope costs, yet gives the same quality. Let’s test it!

First test

Test number one was to mount the scope and just see how it worked. My first image was of a head of rye grass at about 75 yards with an inchworm crawling up the head. That was with the scope set at 20 power. A good start!

The elbow eyepiece makes the MeoPro HD 80 easy to use while standing. I’m viewing with my injured eye.

The image seen through the eyepiece is bright and large. I read one online customer rating of a different spotting scope that criticized it because the image appeared circular! Apparently this guy had never looked through a telescope before and was basing his judgement on what he saw on television. All the spotting scopes and binoculars I have ever seen give circular images.

The focus on the MeoPro is around the barrel of the scope and it is very slow. It’s easy to get a razor-sharp focus without a fine-tuning adjustment knob.

Also, the eye relief is long enough that your eye does not have to touch the eyepiece to see the whole image. That reduces the amount of vibration the scope will have, which at high magnification can be significant.

Test at 100 yards

Next I mounted the scope on my bench stand and focused on a target at 100 yards. I was shooting my AR-15 and I needed to confirm the zero because I haven’t shot it in over a year. It’s no trick seeing .22 caliber bullet holes at 100 yards. My 15-45X60 Burris can do that. And while I’m on the subject I would like to add that my Burris is just as clear andf sharp as it ever was. I thought it would suffer by comparison to the MeoPro, but it didn’t. It only goes to 45 power and has a 60mm objective lens that keeps it from seeing the smaller objects in dim light, but it’s still the pick of the litter for a spotting scope under $250.

Because the scope was on the bench stand, I uasd another feature of the MeoPro to turn the scope sideways so I could see through it while seated. The mount circles the barrel of the scope and allows it to be rotated aroind its axis 360 degrees, so there isn’t a position that isn’t comfortable for the user.

Here I have rotated the scope mount so it can sit sideways for seeing while seated.

I used this mount for my 100-yard testing and it worked fine, but the weight of the scope way out on the mount arm was at the limit. Any vibration was magnified.

200-yard test

This was the first acid test of the MeoPro scope. Now that the rifle’s zero was confirmed I wanted to see how it would do at 200 yards on 60-power. I had hoped to test it with bright sunlight on the target, but an old paper target on the backer board flapped up and shaded my target after I returned to the firing line. I would be looking at a target in the shade — an extreme acid test of Meopta’s optics!

The first bullet hole hit the bull at 4 o’clock and I could just barely make it out from 200 yards away. My Burris scope has no chance of equalling that — it just doesn’t have the power. But my shooting buddy, Otho, has a vintage 60-power Redfield spotting scope that is comparable. That obsolete scope is in high demand and often sells for $700 and up when it becomes available, because the optics are so good. But on this test that scope could not see the same bullet hole.

I shot three more times and could not see any of those three bullet holes through the MeoPro. So we are right at the scope’s limit — .22 caliber bullet holes in black target paper in the shade at 200 yards. Sometimes yes and other times no. With sunlight I think the odds of seeing would improve.

This target was shaded by another piece of paper. The hole at 4 o’clock (top one) was the only hole I could see through the scope at 200 yards. Four shots in this target.

I found that the scope mount I was using was just too flexible for this sensitive work, so I switched to a camera tripod. Once again the ability to position the scope so the eyepiece was in the perfect place proved to be a big bonus.

Mounting the MeoPro on a stout camera tripod steadied it a lot.

With the MeoPro mounted on the tripod it was easier to look without bumping the scope.

Second 200-yard test

I decided the second test needed to be shot at one of my square targets. These are mostly white, which makes the bullet holes easier to see, even with the Burris. But the first shot hit almost the center of one of the vertical black lines. I couldn’t see it with the Burris, but it was clear through the Meopta. The next shot hit the same line below the first and shot three went into the same hole as shot one. This was another test of the MeoPro. I could see that the hole from shots 1 and 3 was larger than shot 2, but with the Redfield at the same 60 power, it was not evident. So an ever-so-slight advantage goes to the MeoPro.

After 4 shots I had a sub-three-quarter-inch group working at 200 yards, so naturally shot number 5 opened it up to 1.65-inches and made me an honest man again. No reflection on the spotting cope — just my lousy luck.

At 200 yards the first and third shots are in the top hole on the right line. Shot number two is below them and shot four is to their left. Shot five is even farther to the left, ruining what was trying to be a good group.

Evaluation so far

So far the MeoPro HD 80 is stacking up exactly as I anticipated. As I said, it doesn’t make my Burris look worse by comparison, but it does offer several advantages the Burris lacks. Meopta USA sent me something to adapt my iPhone 6S Plus to the scope, but it is incomplete. It’s just an eyepiece connector to mate with the spotting scope. It lacks a phone holder, so I haven’t been able to attach it yet. But I do plan to do that in this test. Maybe I can jury-rig something or find something commercial that I can adapt.

I plan to purchase the MeoPro for my business. The extra sharpness and other features will make things much easier for what I do, though I will not sell the Burris. I quit letting go of accurate guns and sharp optics a decade ago!

Before anyone mentions it — yes, Meopta does make rifle scopes. They are great low-light scopes, but unfortunately they do not adjust for parallax as close as the 10 meters demanded by airgunners. Meopta apparently is not aware of the sport of field target, where $2,000 for a competition scope is considered okay. If they ever do decide to get into the airgun world, look out Nightforce and Leupold!

Webley Senior straight grip air pistol: Part 1

Po, 06/13/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

Webley Senior straight grip air pistol.

This report covers:

  • Design
  • Piston ring
  • Power
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • Quirky

Today we start looking at a Webley Senior straight grip air pistol. This model was made from 1930 to 1935, according to the Blue Book of Airguns, 11th edition. There were two versions — a first version that has a trigger adjustment screw sticking out the front of the triggerguard and the second version, which is the one I have. I bought the pistol at a small gun show in Kentucky in the 1970s, when I was assigned to Fort Knox. I paid $75, which was considered a lot at the time, but I owned the first edition of the Airgun Digest and I knew what this pistol was. It’s worth a lot more today.

The pistol is all steel except for the black plastic grip panels. The steel is polished and blued similar to a firearm of the time, which makes the value of Webley pistols recognizable to even firearms buffs who have no knowledge of airguns. It just looks and feels like quality! My gun has about 50 percent original bluing remaining, and it’s peppered by rust that’s been stabilized by frequent wipes with a rag coated with Ballistol.

I had already owned two Webley Premier pistols prior to this purchase, so I knew the brand and the basic pistol pretty well. The Premiers (not the later Premier Mark II that had some aluminum parts) were actually a better, more refined version of the Senior and were the last of the all-steel Webley pistols.

This pistol stimulated a desire in me to own more Webley air pistols. I had to pass on one as a kid because it cost $29.95 and my paper route money wasn’t enough. I bought a Crosman Single Action 6 instead. But I knew the Webley was the gun I wanted. That happened around 1959 or so, and the gun I passed on was a slant grip Senior that still looks very cool.

Webley Senior slant grip.

The slant grip Senior was made between 1935 and 1964, with time out for World War II. It was replaced by the Premier model I just mentioned.


All of these Webley pistols share a similar powerplant. The mainspring is cocked by raising the rear of the barrel and rotating it forward. It looks and feels clumsy at first, but once you become familiar with it, you’ll never forget how.

Once you learn to cock a Webley pistol, you never forget how.

The breech is held shut by a spring-loaded latch that rides over the top of the barrel and forces it down into a groove at the breech. It looks crude, but it works very well — certainly much better than the cammed bolt that’s found on the Mark II Service rifle.

When you cock the gun, press the bottom of the barrel latch forward with your right thumb (sorry, boys, Webley didn’t think about southpaws) and raise the rear of the barrel. Then flip your left hand over so your thumb is down by the cocking link and all your fingers are under the barrel. Rotate your left hand forward and up until the sear catches the piston.

When the pistol fires the piston comes straight back, which is the reverse of the direction most spring pistons travel. On the straight grip model the powerplant sits high in your hand and you do feel a little backwards recoil, similar to a .22 rimfire. The slant grip models cancel this feeling a lot more because of their ergonomic grip shape.

Piston ring

Another interesting quirk of the older Webley pistols is that many models used a single piston ring for compression, rather than a seal mounted on the crown of the piston. It looks and works exactly like a piston ring in an internal combustion engine and it normally lasts a lot longer than a conventional seal — even one made of leather. I have no way to prove it, but the ring in my 1933-35-era pistol appears original. Replacements are still available from vendors in the United Kingdom, and as I told you, I did order one for my Mark II Service air rifle a couple weeks ago.


When I bought my Senior it seemed a little anemic, so I ordered a new mainspring and breech seal. When I replaced them I also lubricated the new mainspring and the piston with lithium grease. The power of the gun is low enough that lithium seems like a good match. Not only does it lubricate, it also dampens vibration a little. The Webley is very simple and straightforward to work on, so I plan to show you the insides in this report.

The breech is sealed by a fiber seal (arrow) that has a brass tube in its center to keep the airway open.


The Senior has adjustable sights, but they are the crude kind found in the 1930s. The front sight is machined into the front barrel band that also serves as the cocking pivot. The rear sight is a two-part sliding arrangement that’s held fast by a single screw passing through both parts. Any adjustment is a by-guess-and-by-golly arrangement.

The rear sight consists of two plates that slide together, giving you adjustments in both directions. It’s simple, but it works. Hard to get it exactly right, though!


While my Senior’s trigger doesn’t adjust, I have to tell you it is one of the finest handgun triggers (outside of 10-meter target triggers) I have ever used. I’m sure Webley intended it to be single-stage, but a little slop in the linkage after 81 years has given it a false first stage. Then the pull is incredibly smooth, though not that light. You can feel the sear parts sliding against each other with absolutely zero creep (starts and stops due to binding). I will measure the pull weight during the velocity test.


If you like quirky, and from the stats I know a lot of you do, then this is the air pistol for you. It looks like its owner should be riding a pennyfarthing and wearing a bowler!

Crosman 101 multi-pump pneumatic: Part 3

Pá, 06/10/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

Crosman 101 multi-pump pneumatic.

This report covers:

  • Different test
  • Crosman Premiers
  • Peep sight adjustment
  • Back to Premiers
  • JSB Exact RS
  • H&N Baracuda Match — 5.53mm head
  • Eley Wasps
  • RWS Superpoints
  • Overall evaluation

Today we look at the accuracy of the .22-caliber Crosman 101 multi-pump pneumatic. Although I have owned it for many years, it isn’t an airgun I shoot a lot, so this will be as interesting to me as it is to you.

Different test

Because the rifle is so difficult to both cock and load, I shot 5-shot groups today instead of the usual 10. All shooting was done off a sandbag rest at 10 meters. I did find the tiny peep hole a bit challenging to use with my recovering eye, but it was possible. I had the target attached to the backstiop on its side, so all the bulls appear sideways. Let’s see how the rifle did.

Crosman Premiers

Because this is a Crosman rifle, I started the test shooting 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellets. The first shot went very high and to the left, so it was time to adjust the peep sight.

Peep sight adjustment

The way this peep sight works, if it is adjusted below a certain point it interferes with the bolt, which will not open far enough to load the rifle. Cocking is via a separate knob, and is unaffected, but loading is a problem.

The bolt has a pin (arrow) that sticks up above the receiver when it is opened. The pin contacts the peep sight crossbar and will not allow the bolt to open far enough to load the rifle.

I adjusted the peep as low as It would go and also as far to the right. Then I started the test.

Back to Premiers

The Premiers were now hitting the bottom of the bull, but were still too far to the left. If I want to do better, I’ll either have to modify the existing peep sight for more adjustability or I will have to make a new crossbar with greater range. I think if I do that I will also open the peep hole a little, because it is really hard to see! Five Premiers went into a group at 10 meters than measures 0.499-inches between centers. That’s a half-inch in my book. Not great, but as it turned out, it was the best group of this test.

Five pellets went into 0.499-inches at 10 meters, once the sights were adjusted. That high shot is where the rifle was originally sighted.

JSB Exact RS

For the second test I tried some JSB Exact RS pellets. Because they are soft with thin skirts, I had thought they might be more accurate in the 101. Alas, that was not the case. Five RS pellets went into 0.653-inches at 10 meters. Even though the sights were not adjusted from the last group, the RS pellets went higher.

Five JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.653-inch group at 10 meters.

H&N Baracuda Match 5.53mm head

Do you remember what I said about why I chose the H&N Baracuda Match with 5.53mm head for this test? I thought the barrel was too big and perhaps the rifling wasn’t that prominent, and I thought the 5.53mm head might help that. Well, it did load much harder than the first two pellets had. I could definitely feel that large head entering the rifling. Unfortunately my theory was incorrect. Five Baracudas went into 0.974-inches at 10 meters. That was the second-worst group of the test by a tiny margin. And notice how horizontal that group is, compared to the first two groups. Baracuda Match pellets are definitely not the right pellets for this rifle.

Five H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 5.53mm heads went into 0.974-inches at 10 meters.


Eley Wasps

I tried Eley Wasps next. These are 5.56mm pellets and they also went into the breech hard. Being larger than the Baracudas. I had some hope for them. But no dice. They gave me the worst group of the test by a tiny margin. — 0.986-inches between centers.

Eley Wasps gave the worst group of the test. Five went onto 0.986-inches between centers at 10 meters.

RWS Superpoints

The Crosman 101 is a vintage airgun, and I sometimes select RWS Superpoint pellets for vintage guns. They work well in Hakims. And apparently they also work well in Crosman 101s. Five Superpoints went into a 0.597-inch group at 10 meters. The group is nice and round, too. That’s what I like to see.

Five RWS Superpoint pellets made this 0.597-inch group at 10 meters.

Overall evaluation

That was a good look at a classic. My Crosman 101 is a funky old airgun. It looks funky and it shoots funky. It’s not much on performance, but there’s something about the look that keeps me coming back for more. I don’t shoot it as lot, but I do want it in my collection.

FWB P44 10-meter target pistol: Part 4

Čt, 06/09/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

FWB P44 target pistol is Tom Gaylord’s dream airgun!

FWB P44 10-meter target pistol: Part 1
FWB P44 10-meter target pistol: Part 2
FWB P44 10-meter target pistol: Part 3
Morini 162MI Part 1
Morini 162MI Part 2
Morini 162MI Part 3

This report covers:

  • A test of 2 target pistols
  • P44 benefits
  • Today’s test
  • H&N Finale Match Pistol
  • Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy
  • Vogel pellets
  • Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets
  • Qiang Yuan Match pellets
  • RWS R10 Pistol
  • Results

Today we start testing the accuracy of the FWB P44 10-meter target pistol. Normally I test accuracy one time and then either end the series or move on to other things, but in this report I want to show you something different. I’ll start doing that today. I spent time adjusting the pistol to fit me perfectly in Part 3, and now I will take some time discovering which pellet is the best for the gun. So there will be several accuracy sessions before I finish this series.

A test of 2 target pistols

I also want to remind you that I am comparing the P44 to the Morini 162MI 10-meter target pistol that I tested earlier this year. That’s why I have linked to all those reports at the top of the page. When I bought the P44, the president of Pyramyd Air asked me why I chose it over the Morini. I had to think about it a while, because the Morini is a better value on the surface. It comes with 2 air tanks, where the P44 comes with just one for a slightly higher price. However, there are several things I like better about the P44.

P44 benefits

The P44 grips fit me almost perfectly right out of the box. The Morini grips need work. The P44 has a smaller test group than the Morini. In fact it is the smallest test group I have ever seen on any target airgun! That’s no guarantee the gun will shoot any better, but it is a confidence-builder. The P44′s grips have more adjustments that I have now dialed-in to suit myself. And the P44 has that anti-recoil mechanism that makes the gun absolutely dead neutral when it fires. I have not adjusted it yet and there is still some movement with the gun, but I will look at that in an upcoming report.

Today’s test

Today I’m going to shoot the pistol off a sandbag rest, held at arm’s length so I can see the sights correctly. I am sighting with my eye that had the detached retina, and the vision is not back to 100 percent yet, but according to a test by the eye doctor that eye now sees 20/20. Before it was about 20/30. I will be keeping both eyes open and today I won’t be using my prescription shooting glasses. Safety glasses, yes.

The target will be a 10-meter pistol target placed at the regulation 10 meters. Except for how I hold the gun, this will be a realistic test of the pistol.

I plan to shoot 5-shot groups, because with 10-meter target guns the groups get very confusing with 10 shots. It’s difficult to pick out the individual pellet holes when there are that many shots. And 5-shot groups allow me to shoot more kings of pellets, which is the primary goal today. Let’s get to it.

H&N Finale Match Pistol

First up were H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets with a 4.50mm head. I had no idea how the pistol was sighted, but this test is looking at group size — not scores. Five pellets landed in a rather vertical group that measures 0.815 inches between centers. That puts this pellet out of the running, unless I discover that I cannot shoot, because of my injured eye.

Five H&N Finale Match pistol pellets made this vertical group that measures 0.815-inches between centers. This is not good for a 10-meter target pistol!

Notice that the Finale Match pellets struck the target high and somewhat to the right. After seeing where they hit I adjusted the rear sight down about 8-10 clicks. I’m not interested in hitting the 10-ring today, but I wanted to be closer than where the Finale Match pellets landed. This was the one and only time I adjusted the sights for today’s test.

Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy

Next I tried Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy pellets. This lead-free pellet has been surprising me every time I test it in an accurate airgun. In the P44 five pellets grouped in 0.443-inches. That’s much better than the Finale Match Pistol pellets, but still not quite as good as I had hoped.

Five Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy pellets groups in 0.443-inches between centers at 10 meters. It’s better, but still not quite what I wanted.

Vogel pellets

The next pellets I tried were Vogel pellets with 4.50mm heads that are made and sold by Scott Pilkington, of Pilkguns. I have read some good reports on these pellets, and I believe they are being used at the world cup level of competition, so they seemed worth a try. Five Vogels went into 0.242-inches at 10 meters. This is the level of accuracy I was looking for!


Five Vogel pellets with 4.50mm heads went into 0.242-inches at 10 meters. Now, we’re cookin’!

Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets

The next pellet I tried was the Qiang Yuan Olympic pellet. I got a result that is difficult to interpret, so I will have to test this pellet again. On shot number 3 I pulled the shot low and to the right. The final group appears to be 4 pellets in a tight cluster that measures 0.163-inches between centers. The other hole is definitely low, but not to the right. In fact it is slightly to the left. If this is a single pellet hole, then this pellet shows huge potential, but the hole is not that clear. Two pellets could have passed through — it’s simply too close to call. This is a pellet I will definitely need to re-test.

The Quiang Yuan Olympic pellet may be the best for this P44. If the top group contains 4 pellets and I know that the low shot was called as a pull, then this will be the one to beat. Four (?) pellets in 0.163-inches and the pulled shot opens the group to 0.612-inches.

Qiang Yuan Match pellets

Next up were Qiang Yuan Match pellets. While less expensive than the Olympic pellets, these still cost $32.48 for 500, so they are no bargain. But if they are good, I don’t care what they cost. This time there was no called pull, but I still got a flier. Four pellets are in 0.176-inches, and the flier opens that to 0.499-inches. I will have to try them again, to know for sure.

Five Qiang Yuan match grade pellets went into 0.499-inches, with 4 of them clustered in a tantalizingly tight 0.176-inch hole. I definitely need to test this pellet again.

RWS R10 Pistol

My final pellet for this test was the RWS R10 Match Pistol. Five went into a group that measures 0.340-inches. There is a smaller cluster of 4 in 0.142-inches, which puts the R10 Pistol pellet on the list to be tested again. There were no fliers called.

Five RWS R10 Pistol pellets went into 0.340-inches at 10 meters, but once again there is a clister of 4 in 0.142-inches.


From the best groups, I can see that I’m still able to aim with my damaged eye. So I’m setting that concern aside and proceeding as if nothing is wrong.

The following pellets had mediocre results and will not be tested again.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
Sig Sauer Match Ballistic Alloy

And these pellets need a second test.

Qiang Yuan Olympic
Qiang Yuan Match
RWS R10 Pistol

This was an interesting test. The P44 surprised me with the potential for stunning accuracy, but it will take another test to sort out which pellets work and which don’t. I’m looking forward to it.

Boxes — keep ‘em?

St, 06/08/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Love my job
  • Boxes everywhere
  • Good or bad?
  • Time adds value
  • Designing a box
  • Keep or not?
Love my job

I may have mentioned this before — I love my job! I get to handle and shoot airguns every day of my life, and I get to tell others about it. What’s not to like? Well, there may be one thing. Boxes.

My house is taken over by boxes. There isn’t a room in the house that doesn’t have at least one gun and one gun box. What’s that? You think my bathrooms are free? Think again. I bet I have the only guest bathroom in the world with an 1822 French horse pistol resting in the vanity drawer!

1822 French pistol. Guest bathroom, left side of vanity, second drawer down.

The kitchen? Guess again. Where do you think I work on these things? The Paper Shooters Zombie Slayer (and its box) lived there 5 weeks and then the Daisy 853 took over. The Hammerli Trainer for the K31 rifle cycled in and out over a period of 2 months. Believe me, my kitchen has seen its fill of firearms and airguns.

Boxes everywhere

I have a lot more airguns than most, I suppose, because Pyramyd Air sends them to me to test. They aren’t mine, unless I purchase them, so they have to go back. When they do they have to be in their boxes. So right now there are about 100 airgun boxes — both primary containers and some shipping containers — in my house.

But I also have airguns of my own with boxes. Back when I had five airguns, the boxes were never a problem. But back then I don’t think I had a single box, either. Then I started writing The Airgun Letter and I started “collecting” some vintage airguns. What I do really isn’t collecting — it’s more of gathering and disbursing, because I don’t hang onto most of them for a long time. I might gather a nice set of guns like the Daisy number 25 and have them for 5-10 years, and then get rid of them in a wild potlatch when my interest shifts. One of those was a modern Daisy Number 25 100-year commemorative that was still in the box. That gun will fetch $300+ in the box today — $100 without the box.

Back in 1968 when the Crosman model 600 was still being made, the plain-looking box with the rocket on the outside wasn’t must to look at. Today a “rocket box” 600 commands a premium.

Good or bad?

Okay, you understand where I’m going with this — but which boxes should be saved? Those beautiful strong boxes that have dense foam inserts are no-brainers. They are almost as nice as a fitted hard case. They protect the gun, so saving them isn’t such a leap of faith. But what about the cheap-looking plain cardboard boxes with no graphics on them — keep or toss? Before you answer, think about this. Some of the ugliest airgun boxes ever made are prized collectibles because of where they came from.

The Soviets made millions of 9mm Makarov pistols. Each one was shipped inside the cheapest-looking gray pasteboard box you ever saw. At first glance it’s a tosser, because who would keep such a thing? Well, before you pitch that Makarov box consider this — it has been featured in a great many mystery stories and action novels. Somebody needs one or more Maks and they buy them off a truck parked on a side street in some exotic European city. Author Tom Clancey mentioned that box in more than one of his novels.

This Makarov BB pistol is in the same box that 9mm Makarov firearms were shipped in. It might not look like much, but it adds to the collector value of the airgun.

I have owned two Makarov 9mm firearm pistols and two Makarov BB pistols that were made from the firearm. I can tell you with authority that the air pistol comes in the exact same box as the firearm. And why not? The Soviets, now Russians, are frugal people. They don’t throw much away. If they already have the box the firearm came in, why not pack the BB pistol back inside after the conversion is complete? So, think before you throw those ugly boxes away.

Time adds value

When Daisy brought out their commemorative wire stock BB gun patterned after their first model of 1888, they put it in a vintage-looking cardboard box. They filled the box with excelsior, just like the original box contained, to cushion the gun.

How many original 1888 Daisy boxes do you suppose there are? I have never heard of a single one. If there is one, it is much more rare than the gun it once contained. So, how many of the commemorative wire-stock Daisy boxes do you think there are? The number approaches 100 percent. Collectors realize that the box is part of the collection. The gun without the box is worth only a fraction of what a boxed gun will bring.

The Daisy wire stock box and packing was copied from the original with the same care and detail as the BB gun.

Designing a box

Some of you realize how important a box is. Maybe you appreciate the added value of a nice stout cardboard box with colorful lithographed graphics and a fitted styrofoam liner to hold the gun. Perhaps the gun will never go back into the box after you get it, but you will never forget the first moment you saw it in there. Smart manufacturers realize this and design their boxes accordingly.

Many of you have written comments about those horric plastic clamshell containers in which some inexpensive airguns come. They are useless the moment the gun is out. You complain bitterly about plastic clamshells, and you know it!

When I worked at AirForce Airguns, I watched them go through countless design reviews as they hashed out the details of their boxes. They thought about the box from the customer’s viewpoint and made certain it presented the product well.

Unlike many companies, AirForce didn’t put graphics on their boxes. They used labels on the end of the carton, so one box could fit all their products, and the decision of what went inside didn’t need to be made until the warehouse workers packed it. Money saved that way went into a video owner’s manual years before any other company was doing it. In fact, it is still not that common, even today. Early guns were shipped with a VHS tape inside. Later guns have a DVD.

They also put dense pluck-and-pull foam in each box, with cutouts made to fit any configuration of gun they make. The density of the foam was itself a topic of endless discussions.

I’m quite certain that other airgun companies go through similar gyrations with their boxes. Most of them know how important that first impression is. And the ones that seemingly don’t? Well, guess what that says about the product inside?

Keep or not?

But should you keep the box? That was the question that started this whole report. And here is the answer. Keep the box if you want the gun to hold its value. If you plan on hanging it on a nail out in the chicken coop, toss the box the moment it is opened. And here is an example of what I mean, to illustrate my point.

Look at the picture of the Makarov BB gun again. Notice that it’s still IN THE BOX!

I rest my case.

Hatsan Gladius .177 long: Part 1

Út, 06/07/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan Gladius Long.

This report covers:

  • The rifle
  • Synthetic and metal
  • Repeater
  • Magazines
  • 200 bar
  • Trigger
  • Ergonomics
  • Rails
  • Compressed air
  • Impressions so far

Today I start looking at the Hatsan Gladius .177 long. This is a large, powerful precharged pneumatic (PCP) hunting rifle that has a very high rating from satisfied customers. I’m testing the rifle in .177 caliber, but it also comes in .22 and .25. There is also a short Gladius in all three calibers that retails for $50 less than the long ones.

The rifle

The long Gladius is large, weighing in at 10.6 lbs. without a scope. The Gladius is a bullpup design that doesn’t take full advantage of the bullpup style — at least in the long version. I asked for the long rifle so I could test the maximum power (in the selected caliber) and shot count. With a PCP the length of the barrel determines the power to a large extent. Now, you may argue that a powerful air rifle like the Gladius should be tested in the larger calibers that can generate the maximum energy, but others want to see the fastest velocity with the flattest trajectory. Whichever way I go, some will be dissatisfied. And, no, I’m not planning to test this rifle in the other calibers. I’ll let the published numbers speak for themselves. The last big Hatsan PCP I tested was a BT65 QE rifle in .25 caliber. A test of a .177 Hatsan PCP was past due.

The long rifle is 38 inches overall, so it is compact. But that makes the weight even more apparent. The barrel length is 23-inches, which is good for lots of power. In the short version, which is more of a true bullpup, the overall length is 34.4 inches and the barrel is 19.4-inches. Both versions have shrouded barrels that should be very quiet. They rate the velocity for the .177 at 1170 f.p.s., and we know from experience that Hatsan tests all their guns with realistic pellets. That tells me I will be testing this one with the heaviest pellets I can find, which is perfectly suited to a hunting rifle.

Synthetic and metal

The rifle is all black with a tactical look. The parts are mostly aluminum and steel and the rest are rubberized synthetics. The metal parts have a matte surface that won’t reflect light. The butt pad is rubberized for a good grip on the shoulder. The aluminum magazines are unfinished with a matte surface.


The Gladius is a repeater, using round clips (Hatsan calls them magazines, and I will use that term from this point on) that stick up proud of the receiver. On most rifles this would present a problem with mounting a scope, but because the Gladius is a bullpup design, there is a fixed scope base forward of the receiver that negates any interference. The rifle comes with 4 mags, so you have everything you need from the start.


Three mags are stored in the slots in the bottom of the stock and the fourth is installed in the receiver. To remove it and insert a loaded mag, first cock the sidelever and leave the lever

all the way back. Then push the magazine release bolt forward and up, to lock it in place. The empty mag is slipped out and a loaded one goes in its place. The mags are designed to fit just one way. The rifle is also designed to not allow double-feeding of a pellet. I will test that feature for you.

The mag sticks out of the top of the receiver (upper arrow). Under the stock 3 additional mags are stored.

In .177 and .22 calibers each mag holds 10 pellets. In .25 caliber the number is 9. Because of its shape, the mag will limit the length of pellet that may be used, so that is something I will check carefully when I shoot the gun.

200 bar

The rifle is filled to 200 bar, which is 2900 psi. That makes it very convenient for U.S. shooters whose air supplies are mainly limited to 3000 psi. The promotional data says you can expect up to 85 shots on a fill, but that sounds quite optimistic to me. That will be something I will check carefully — both with velocity testing and groups at 50 yards.


The trigger is a Quattro that I have found quite nice on Hatsan PCPs in the past. It is 2-stage and the first stage adjusts for length. You can also change the weight in both the first stage pull and the sear release separately.

The manual says the safety is manual, but that’s not correct. Every time the rifle is cocked the safety comes on. It’s just something to get used to.


The cheekpiece raises up on a post to align your eye with the scope. The butt pad also moves up and down to help with scope alignment. It also moves out to adjust for a longer length of pull. I will set up the rifle to suit myself before accuracy testing, and I’ll report on that in part 3.


There are three Picitinny rails on the forearm. The one on the bottom is for a bipod and the two on either side are for anything else you want — like flashlights, rangfinders, lasers, video cameras, etc. The sling swivels are permanently mounted to the stock and are out of the way. They are for 3/4-inch slings, though, which are smaller than normal. But Hatsan includes a fabric sling with the gun, so you’re in business.

Compressed air

The rifle is filled at the front of the reservoir with Hatsan proprietary fill probe. There is a manometer (pressure gauge_ on the front of the reservoir to tell you how much air remains onboard.

Impressions so far

The Gladius is for hunting — I think that is obvious. Don’t think of it as a substitute for a Benjamin Marauder, because it isn’t. It’s more expensive and also more powerful. I think the Marauder probably has the better trigger and, as for the accuracy, that remains to be seen.

As powerful as it is, I think the Gladius has a good chance of becomming a hunter’s primary rifle. The accuracy test will tell.

Webley Mark II Service: Part 2

Po, 06/06/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Webley Mark II Service air rifle.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Eley Wasps
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Superpoints
  • What to do?
  • Barrel removal
  • Trigger pull
  • Cocking effort
  • Other neat things

Before I begin today’s report, here is another reminder about the Texas Airgun Show, on Saturday, August 27 at the Arlington Sportsman Club. Find information here. And don’t forget the Pyramyd Air Cup, that’s held September 9-12 at the Tusco Rifle Club in Dennison, Ohio. I will be at both events, so come out and say hello. Now, let’s take a second look at the Webley Mark II Service air rifle.

There was a lot of interest in this rifle in the first part of the report. We will look at velocity today, and I’ll also show you things several readers asked about. This should be an interesting report, so grab your coffee and let’s get started.

I told you that I felt an air leak at the breech when the rifle fires. It’s a major leak that affects velocity more than a little. After I show you how the rifle did I’ll discuss what I can do about it.

Eley Wasps

I thought the first pellet I should try is one that is somewhat vintage in its own right. The 5.56mm (head) Eley Wasp was discontinued many years ago and I bought several tins when I saw it happening. I save them for older British airguns like Webleys, because they fit those slightly larger bores well.

The first shot went out at 589 f.p.s. and was very loud. I’m sure it was a detonation, both because of the sound and also because of the oil smell after the shot. After that I fired 10 more shots that averaged 308 fp.s. Let me show you the string.

Shot…………………………Velocity (f.p.s.)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a pattern in this string (Where is Rocket Jane Hanson these days?). The gun is steadily loosing velocity. If it was a pneumatic I’d suspect a leak, but spring guns aren’t supposed to do this.

The blast of air coming from the breech is significant. If the breech were sealed better I think the rifle would shoot this pellet in the high 400s or even the low 500s all the time.

JSB Exact RS

Next I tried some JSB Exact RS pellets. Not only are they lighter than the Wasps, they are also softer and have thinner skirts. I have a lot of hope for them.

They averaged 325 f.p.s. in the rifle. The low was 315 and the high was 339 f.p.s. so the spread for 10 shots was 24 f.p.s. That’s reasonable, given how poorly this rifle is currently doing.

RWS Superpoints

The last pellet I tested was the RWS Superpoint, whose thin skirts usually seal the bore when needed. Superpoints averaged 297 f.p.s. with a spread that went from 282 to 316 f.p.s. That’s 34 f.p.s. between the slowest and fastest pellet.

What to do?

This rifle needs a new fiber or leather breech seal, which is fortunately available . I ordered one from John Knibbs (www.airguspares.com) in England, along with a new metal piston ring. Will that fix the rifle? I’m not sure, because there is a design weakness that may prove fatal. It’s in how how the barrel is attached to the action.

The breech seal is either fiber or leather with a brass pipe running through the center. This one is worn out.

Barrel removal

When I mentioned that the barrel was removable in part 1, there was a lot of interest. In fact, it doesn’t just come off — it is the fastest, easiest barrel to remove that I have ever seen. Unfortunately, it’s also a weak spot in the design.

To remove the barrel on the Webley Mark II Service air rifle, open the bolt and raise the rear of the barrel. Then press a spring-loaded button on the left side of the barrel hinge and pull the barrel straight out of the barrel hinge. The entire operation takes about 5 seconds or less. Installing is the reverse or removal.

Push in on this spring-loaded button and pull the barrel out of the rifle.

The “secret” is a keyway in the barrel hinge that interfaces with a key machined on the barrel. And this is where the weakness lies. Not in the key or keyway, but in what it’s attached to.

There is a half-round slot machined into the key that the spring-loaded pin fits into. That fit is tight, but the hinge mechanism that holds everything to the gun’s action is itself loose. You can grab the barrel and wobble it side-to-side. The sporting rear sight is mounted to the barrel and will cancel some of the slop, but the peep sight is mounted to the receiver, where any barrel movement (that also moves the front sight) will be magnified.

This key aligns and positions the barrel in its hinged mount. Even if the fit is exact, the hinge it fits into wobbles from side-to-side, destroying accuracy potential.

Trigger pull

The non-adjustable trigger is single-stage and releases at 4 lbs. 12 oz, which is not that heavy but for some reason, feels fairly stiff. It might be because it is single-stage.

Cocking effort

Cocking this rifle has a unique feel. At first it feels heavy until the mechanical advantage overcomes the effort, then it becomes lighter. By all rights it should feel easy, as the maximum effort is just 25 lbs., but once again, it feels heavier than the number suggests. The barrel does not break open very far because the piston stroke is so short.

With that long barrel out, the rifle is quite compact.

When cocked the barrel does not break down very far.

Other neat things

When I went looking for the breech seal I discovered that Airgun Spares also manufactures Mark II Service barrels to the original specification. They even make a .20 caliber barrel. Each new barrel comes with a front sight and costs 250 British Pounds, which is about $363.00. All calibers except .20 are out of stock at the moment, but I got on the list. I would pay that much for a .177 barrel, and perhaps for a .25 barrel at some time in the future. They also make the sights and other critical parts that are next to impossible to find, so this site is an incredible resource for the Mark II Service.

That’s it for today. Next time we will look at accuracy, unless the breech seal has arrived. If it has, I’ll install it and retest the velocity before moving on to accuracy.

The Daisy 853: Part 4

Pá, 06/03/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy Avanti 853.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Reader ideas
  • Re-oiling the pump head
  • Old stock screws caused trouble
  • Break the spacer
  • Disassemble the action
  • Assembly
  • What’s next?

Before we begin I want to remind all of you about the Pyramyd Air Cup. It’s just about three months away! I plan to be there this year, so come out and say, “Hi” if you can.

I also want to remind you about the Texas Airgun Show that’s even closer. The tables are almost filled and most of the major manufaturers and importers will be there. Plus, American Airgunner will be there all day.

Yes, sports fans, we’re back with the Daisy 853 today. Here’s what I learned from all of you after the last report. I learned that many of you consider the 853 to be tricky to work on, as I reported. It’s not because of complexity; it’s because of the method of construction. This rifle is held together by its parts in ways that make assembly a challenge. I suppose you do get better at it after working on many guns, but there are a lot of little tricks I don’t yet know, so I find it challenging.

Reader ideas

A couple of you emailed me offline to tell me that your rifles are performing like mine or worse after a pump rebuild. One guy mentioned seeing air leak at the breech from each shot, which leads me to suspect the bolt. I mentioned that in Part 3, because mine appeared to be chewed up. Today I plan to replace the bolt in my rifle. I’ll show you both the old and new bolts side by side so you can decide whether I’m right in my suspicions.

One reader mentioned in the comments that some clubs require the guns to be stored with the bolts open. That’s going to put a strain on the hammer spring, and since that spring is made from small-gauge wire, it could weaken over time. That would definitely result in lower velocity.

A reader mentioned that when he switched from silicone chamber oil to Crosman Pellgunoil to oil the pump head his rifle gained 15-20 f.p.s. I lubed the o-ring with silicone after the rebuild, so the first thing I will do today is re-oil the pump head with Pellgunoil, which contains 20-weight motor oil.

Finally, a reader commented that perhaps his aluminum pump tube was degraded, though he couldn’t see any evidence of it. I have the same situation. My pump tube appears perfect. But if today’s fixes don’t bump up the velocity of a light pellet, I may install a new tube.

Re-oiling the pump head

First I shot 10 RWS Hobby pellets with the gun as it was. That was with silicone chamber oil on the o-rings and the felt wiper. It averaged 454 f.p.s. with Hobbys. That’s a trifle faster than the last velocity test, but still very close.

Then I oiled the pump head and wiper with Crosman Pellgunoil very liberally and tried again. This time the Hobby averaged 458 f.p.s. That’s too close to call. I don’t think there is much of a difference. Now it was time to disassemble the rifle and replace some parts.

Old stock screws caused trouble

This should have been a 30-minute job. But the front stock screws got cross-threaded and hung me up for over an hour. The right-hand stock screw is hollow and threaded internally to receive the left hand stock screw, and it had cross-threaded. As I was removing the screws I got the left hand screw out, but the right hand screw remained stuck in the stock, where it was jammed crossways in its hole.

Break the spacer

I finally had to break the right side plastic stock spacer to get the barreled action out of the stock. So I won’t be able to install it in the stock until I get new spacers from Daisy. On examination, the threads on the tip of the old stock screw are pretty messed up, which is why I had the problem.

The old stock screw (right) is stripped at the end. On the left is the new stock screw, shown threaded into the hollow screw from the right side of the gun.

The rear stock screw will also be replaced when I put the rifle together again. Instead of a clumsy 2-screw arrangement, Daisy simplified everything with a longer rear stock screw.

The old stock screw system was 2 screws. One screwed into the action and provided a boss (arrow) for the second screw to attach to.

The two screws on the right were replaced by the single screw on the left. Much simpler!

Disassemble the action

Once the barreled action was free of the stock I disassembled it. It went much faster this time, until I came to the actual action. I needed to replace the hammer spring and the bolt, so the sideplate had to be removed from the action. If this photo below of the inside of the action doesn’t discourage you from working on an 853, you are probably good to go.

The inside of the action looks daunting at first. Take that to heart before undertaking this job!

I replaced the hammer spring, though it didn’t seem much different than the new spring. I used the existing hammer because someone had lubed it with moly and it is a part that doesn’t wear out.

The new hammer spring (top) looks about the same as the old one. I replaced it anyway.

I also replaced the bolt, because the old one had a number of nicks on the probe that I thought might leak air.

The old bolt probe (right) has several nicks that I feared might allow air to escape. I replaced it.


Assembly went much faster than before because I knew some of the tricks. Getting the action side plate back on all those parts and springs took some doing. I probably spent 15 minutes just doing that. Then things went together quickly.

I found that I had to cock the hammer to get the new bolt installed. Daisy doesn’t mention that in their instructions.

The other trick they do tell you about is to use a mallet to strike the top of the receiver (what they call the cover) to seat it. It works, but the first time you do it you will be concerned. This time I was ready for it and got it on the first try.

Then the pump arm was assembled to the action and the rifle was as far along as I could go. I need to order some new stock spacers, plus I had to glue a large chip of wood that removal of the right-side screw blasted out.

The rifle is not together yet, but I did want to see what these parts had done, so I managed to shoot a few shots out of the stock. The average hovered around 450 f.p.s. with Hobbys, so nothing has changed.

What’s next?

Next I plan to assemble the rifle and then test it for accuracy. I will use it at the current power level, which is stable, if not as high as I hoped.

In the future I may return and replace the pump tube and piston — just to see if they have any affect on velocity. Then I hope to modify the trigger for a lighter pull. There is a lot more to come!

MeoPro 80 the MeoPro 80 HD Spotting Scope: Part 1

Čt, 06/02/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

MeoPro 80 HD spotting scope from Meopta.

This report covers:

  • Sometimes you just have to pay the price
  • So what?
  • My tale of woe
  • Meopta
  • The scope
  • Not a fair test
  • My evaluation

Today’s report is about a piece of equipment that has been central to my entire shooting career, yet one that has troubled and eluded me the entire time — a spotting scope. In fact, I have written about this subject before, through few of you probably remember.

Years ago I told you how I paid more than retail (in a trade) to wrest a Burris spotting scope away from a friend, after seeing how clear and sharp it is. That scope might have been the pick of the litter (it probably was) — performing well beyond the Burris spec for their $250 scope, but what do I care? It’s clear and sharp and lets me see tiny .22-caliber bullet holes in a black bullseye at 100 yards on a sunny day. In short, it does the job — sort of.

But, are there better scopes? Undoubtedly. There must be scopes that let you see .22-caliber bullet holes in the black at 200 yards on an overcast day. If there are, I want one, because seeing bullet holes far away is a large part of my job.

Sometimes you just have to pay the price

Sometimes, the answer is to just buy the best. For years I preached about the stunning qualities of the Air Arms TX200 Mark III air rifle. The TX is at the absolute top of the spring gun performance chart. And, it is expensive.

I had readers ask me which Chinese copy came closest to the TX200 performance. And, there was one that did come very close for a long while — the BAM B40 that Pyramyd Air carried for many years.

Other readers tried to bully me into admitting that the HW97 underlever was every bit as good as the TX — and I know there are more than a few of you who still feel that way today. I had readers ask me what inexpensive breakbarrel could be bought and subsequently tuned to equal the performance of the TX. In fact, there was a lot of interest in everything except just buying a TX and enjoying it.

Then came reader Chris USA. He was new to airgunning and wasn’t ashamed to admit it. He told us if the TX was the best there was, then that was what he wanted. So he just bought one. Then we started hearing from him what a wonderful airgun it was. He enjoyed his purchase, discovering that all the hype wasn’t hype at all — it was true!

So what?

That brings me to today’s report. As I said, spotting scopes have been my Achille’s heel for my entire shooting career. For over half a century I have cursed the darkness, instead of lighting one little candle. But after I test today’s subject scope — maybe no longer!

My tale of woe

I won’t bore you with all the sub-par spotting scopes I have owned. Just one example will suffice. About 10 years ago I asked for a Celestron C70 Mini Mak 70mm spotting scope for my birthday. I knew Celestron’s reputation from astronomy (another interest of mine) and I trusted the name.


It seems that Celestron’s marketing department went to China (funny how that works, huh?) and sourced the cheapest Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope they could find, then slapped their name on it. Sure, it magnified all the way up to 45 power — just like your Chinese breakbarrel air rifle shoots the right (light) pellets over 1,400 f.p.s. But, to see anything at that power you had to have the bright sun directly on the subject. And even then, the image was not sharp.

Just like you will probably get rid of that Chinese breakbarrel after you learn the truth about its performance, I sold that spotting scope (for a loss) at a gun show to another unsuspecting hopeful. I did tell him it was dark and not as clear as it could be, but he wanted a Celestron! Good for him, but better for me! That story illustrates what I have been going through for decades — scope after scope. No wonder I gave so much for the Burris, after seeing how sharp and clear it is!

Now let’s look at a different way to go about this.


I told you I saw Meopta products for the first time at the 2016 SHOT Show. The binoculars I saw in their booth were as bright and clear as any I’ve ever looked through. I was stunned that I had not known about this manufacturer before. Perhaps the reason is because their parallax-adjusting riflescopes do not adjust as close as the 10 yards/meters that airgunners demand. That one fact may have kept me apart from them all these years.

Meopta is a huge optics manufacturer with a plant in the Czech Republic, and another on Long Island. They make sporting optics, industrial optics and military optics. But let’s concentrate on the spotting scope.

Several weeks ago I received a press release about Meopta’s MeoPro 80 HD spotting scope, that is a lower-cost version of their flagship MeoStar 82mm spotter. I say lower-cost, but the MSRP for this scope is still $1,724.99, so it is far from inexpensive. In the past that price would have stopped me cold, but after looking through Meopta binoculars that are every bit as clear and sharp as Steiners or even $3,000 Swarovskis (in my opinion), I knew this spotter would be good. I had to at least test it. And, if it can out-perform my current cherry-picked Burris by a large enough margin, who knows?

The scope

Before I describe this spotting scope you should know that it is this year’s Outdoor Life Editor’s Choice for spotting scopes. In fact, that was the press release that caught my attention. Now let’s begin our look.

First, this scope is heavy, when compared to my 1 lb. 13.5 oz. bantamweight Burris Landmark that magnifies from 15X to 45X and has a 60mm objective lens. The 4 lb. 6.38 oz. Meopta is a light-heavyweight that magnifies from 20X to 60X — and I plan on testing it right up to the limit. The objective lens is 80 mm and the weight alone makes me believe the optics are better. They are certainly bigger!

If this scope can give a bright clear image at 60X it will be better than any spotting scope I have ever used. Sure, I’ve looked through the Zeiss scopes at IWA (the German equivalent of the SHOT Show) but you can’t really tell much by watching a fly crawl on a ceiling girder at 50 yards inside an exhibit hall. I want to see bullet holes at 200 yards.

To keep the cost comparatively low, the MeoPro 80 HD eyepiece is fixed. Many users of high-end spotting scopes have different eyepieces for different tasks – each one optimized for its magnification. Having just one that doesn’t detach obviously forces some compromises, and I will be looking for them in the test. However, it also has a huge advantage.

Each optical package in a spotting scope has to be filled with nitrogen and sealed. If the eyepiece removes from the scope body, both the scope body and the eyepiece have to have a window on one side (where they connect) to keep the nitrogen inside. That window is just another piece of glass and does absolutely nothing for the performance of the spotting scope. By having an intergrated eyepiece, there are two less pieces of glass in the optical path, and that means greater light transmission. So it’s not just cheaper — it’s also better. I learned that from a conversation with Reinhard Seipp, the general manager and chief operations officer of Meopta USA.

The mount base is a ring around the equator of the scope tube that rotates 360 degrees. So you can rotate the scope tube to position the eyepiece anywhere you want, but your tripod or mount needs to be strong. Mine will support a heavy medium-format camera whose weight is similar to this scope, so this should be no problem. I will show you how this flexible positioning works when I get to the range.

A sunscreen is built in and extends quietly from the objective end of the tube. You need it with that 80mm objective! And both lens caps are on positively — something my other spotting scopes have never had.

The focus ring is also wrapped around the scope tube. No matter what orientation the scope is in, the focus is always placed convienently. But again I stress the need for a solid tripod or mount.

They also include a mount for your smart phone that lets you attach it to the scope. You can watch the target on the screen of your phone instead of looking through the optics! The mount is for conventional phones — not the gargantuan iPhone 6 I have, so I may have to borrow a phone to test this feature.

I intend taking this Meopta scope to the range and looking at .22 caliber bullet holes in a black bullseye at 200 yards — hopefully on an overcast day. Thanks to the current Texas weather, that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. I’m loading some .223 Remington for my AR-15 that thinks it’s a benchrest rifle.

Not a fair test

I realize this is not a fair test. Besides being top-of-the-line product, the Meopta scope is much larger than the Burris. But, as they say, “All’s fair…” I’m not trying to be fair — I’m trying to see tiny bullet holes a long way away.

A spotting scope of this quality will probably not appeal to many shooters, because until you need one this good, you really don’t care. I suspect hunters like our Kevin, who guided in the Rockies, probably already own equivalent scopes. Varmint hunters certainly have them — at least those varmint hunters who are serious. And, every benchrester alive has a good spotting scope, unless they are only out on the range to pull bullets.

Years ago I learned that to be a good gun writer, I need good equipment. Even airgun writers put their equipment to the test all the time. Over the years I have upgraded my stable of equipment until I have everything I need — except for a good spotting scope. Will that change?

My evaluation

To be perfectly honest, I’m out of my element, testing this product. I’m a user — not a tester. Like Joe Sixpack, I know what I like, but I don’t know all the tests that determine one optic over another. I am red-green colorblind, so the degree of color-correction that I’m certain this scope has will be lost on me. My right eye that I normally use for spotting has recently had the retina detached and surgically repaired, so it’s not 100 percent, either. The doctor says I see 20/20 through that eye now, but the image it sees still doesn’t line up with the left eye’s image. Will that matter with a monocular spotting scope? I think not.

In the most literal way, we shall see. Best of all, maybe I shall see!

Welcome, fellow Jedi!

St, 06/01/2016 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Back in the day
  • Parallax
  • Twist rate and rifling styles
  • Velocity versus accuracy
  • Oh, how far we have come!

I was going to show you a brand new spotting scope today, but something came up that I want to address. I don’t always respond to your comments these days — there are simply too many of them for me to cover. But I at least scan all of them and I read many of them.

Yesterday it dawned on me as I was reading the comments – many of you are ready to take your test to become full-fledged Jedi knights! A few may even go on to become Jedi masters. Well done, my enthusiastic Padawan learners!

Whenever I write about a technical subject I cringe, thinking of all the questions it will bring. That used to be bad, because I had to answer each any every question myself. But that isn’t the case anymore. I have been following conversations between Bulldawg76, GunFun1 and ChrisUSA and I am amazed at the level of expertise being displayed. I remember when each of them first started commenting on the blog, and they don’t seem like the same people anymore.

Back in the day

I remember in 2005 when this blog began, I fielded the typical level of technical questions. That went on for many years. I still get those questions from new readers, and I want to encourage them to write with all their questions because who else are you going to call? But I now see there is an advanced group of readers on the blog who can take the next steps in complexity.


Over the past few days reader Fido3030 has been asking questions about parallax. At first I thought his questions would be basic, but he soon got into an advanced conversation with GunFun1. I stepped in to clarify a couple things, but that conversation was what woke me up to the high level of understanding on this blog.

Twist rate and rifling styles

A couple weeks ago I read a different conversation about twist rates and pellet stability. The readers involved understood a lot more than my readers used to. One of them even referred to my 13-part twist rate report where I tested three different rifling twist rates and their affects on velocity and accuracy at differing distances.

Velocity versus accuracy

Then there was recently a new reader who said that a pellet gets destabilized when it goes supersonic. That used to be the prevailing wisdom, and there still might be a kernel of truth to it, but my 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test that ended in 2011 disproved that assumption. Vibration and not velocity is what affects accuracy the most.

Oh, how far we have come!

I remember years ago having a long conversation with a reader about the two aiming points a scope sight gives you because of the curved trajectory of the falling pellet. He did not like that and asked me question after question until finally, he asked if it was possible to have the scope intersect the trajectory at just a single point. His rationale was that at all other distances — both closer and farther away — his pellet would be below the aim point.

Yes, he was right about that, but his reasoning was similar to the man who wants to drive his car on two wheels to save the rubber on the other two!

Strength in numbers

Tens of thousands of you readers have registered, but behind the scenes are a great many more who have not yet registered. I think it is not unreasonable to think that we may have several times as many who are not registered, but read this blog faithfully every day.

And numbers is the reason I don’t like to answer questions privately. I would rather share the answer with the readers, partly to spread the knowledge but also because my readers often know things I don’t. Having them look at the questions is a good way to ensure a quality answer.

This is now a mature blog with an unparalleled reader base. I will continue to write about the basics, because we get new readers all the time, but you veterans who are now also Jedi can expect some surprises, too!