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Diana’s model 5 air pistol: Part 2

19 hodin 49 min zpět

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This Diana model 5 air pistol is marked as a Winchester model 353.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • A valuable report!
  • RWS Hobby pellets
  • Oil
  • Crosman Premier lites
  • The oiling
  • Experience pays off
  • Qiang Yuan Training pellets
  • Back to Hobbys
  • How is it doing?
  • Trigger pull
  • Cocking effort
  • Evaluation so far

Today’s the day I discover how healthy my new/old Diana model 5 (Winchester 353) air pistol is. This is best done with a chronograph, which is the Nth time I have told you that.

A valuable report!

Today’s test will be a valuable lesson in spring gun dynamics. Because of how I conducted it, this test shows things that are not often seen this clearly. Let’s begin.

RWS Hobby pellets

I wanted to know up front whether this pistol is in good condition or not. So I used the RWS Hobby pellet first. In my research for this report I found stated velocities for the Diana model 5 pistol between 375 f.p.s. and 450 f.p.s. Those numbers were no doubt obtained with a light pellet, and in the days that the model 5 was selling, lead pellets were the norm. I thought a lightweight lead pellet would have to give me the fastest average velocity. I was wrong, but let me tell you how the test went.


Before shooting I oiled the piston seal with a couple drops of Napier Power airgun oil that comes packaged with certain UK airguns. I have tested this oil in the past and found the manufacturer’s claims of faster velocity are false. But it is a good airgun oil that can bring a spring gun back to its optimum performance, just like many other oils on the market. In other words, there is no magic in this particular oil.

Okay, let me show you the first string. These are RWS Hobby pellets


This string averages 376 f.p.s.. The spread is a large 31 f.p.s. — from 361 to 392 f.p.s. This tells me my Diana model 5 is probably performing as it should, because the velocity predictions from the Blue Book of Airguns and the internet ranged from 375 to 450 f.p.s. But look at how the velocity rises and then falls again over these 10 shots. That’s telling us something, too. We’ll see what in a bit.

Crosman Premier lites

Next I tried Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellets. These pellets fit the breech very tight, plus they are almost a full grain heavier than the Hobbys, so I expected the velocity to drop considerably. Let’s see what happened.

3………………..326 (oiled piston seal after this shot)

The average for this string was 351 f.p.s., but the spread was a huge 104 f.p.s. It went from 326 f.p.s. to 430 f.p.s. And look at how the string went. After I oiled the gun, it came alive again, then tapered off towards the end. What gives?

The oiling

First I will tell you that this time I didn’t use Napier oil. I used silicone chamber oil that has a long needle applicator that allows me to reach through the transfer port and get right to the piston. I don’t know how much oil I used this time, but certainly more than a couple drops! Maybe 10 drops. I think the needle applicator is the reason for all that’s about to unfold. The Napier oil has to drop through the transfer port on its own because I can’t even get the tip of the bottle next to the transfer port. The silicone chamber oil can be put right where I want it. That makes all the difference, I think.The type of oil is not important.

Experience pays off

Notice that the velocity dropped off after the oiling this time, as well? You might think the airgun needs even more oil, but I know from experience that after a heavy oiling like I just did, this gun needs to settle down again. It has enough oil for the next thousand shots. Let’s shoot another pellet and see what I mean.

Qiang Yuan Training pellets

The next pellet I tested was the Qiang Yuan Training pellet. This all-lead wadcutter weighs even more than the Crosman Premiers. At 8.2-grains, it is the heaviest pellet of the test. BUT — and this is a big one — it also fit the breech very loosely! They dropped into the bore deeply! Now let’s see what this heavier lead pellet did in the Diana model 5.


This heaviest pellet of all averaged 406 f.p.s. The spread was 27 f.p.s., but if you examine the string you’ll see that the pellet “settled down” in the low 400s after shot number 4. In other words, the model 5 is now shooting more consistently than it did immediately after the second oiling. That’s the experience thing I just mentioned.

Back to Hobbys

Now that I think the pistol is shooting like it should, I wanted to retest it with Hobbys. Here we go.


The average this time was 393 f.p.s. The spread was just 16 f.p.s.. That’s down from 31 f.p.s. the first time. And the average has increased by 17 f.p.s. (376 to 393 f.p.s.).

How is it doing?

In my opinion, this Diana model 5 pistol is shooting as it should. Could it be tuned to go faster? Certainly. But that’s unimportant to me. I have other spring-piston pistols that are much faster than this one. All I want for this one is to know that it’s healthy, and today’s test demonstrates that it is.

Trigger pull

The two-stage trigger breaks at a measured 1 lb. 2 oz. Stage 2 is very light and you need practice to feel it before the pistol fires.

Cocking effort

The cocking effort was difficult to measure precisely because the action wanted to open jerkily when operated slowly. Going faster makes it smooth out. I will say the cocking effort is somewhere between 22 and 25 lbs.

Evaluation so far

This pistol appears to be in fine shape as it is. It doesn’t seem to need any maintenance — just more shooting. Because of its age and also because of the timeframe in which it was made, it does need to be warmed up with several shots before it settles down. I’ll look at accuracy next. And because of the need to be fired to settle down I will probably warm up the gun before shooting for record.

ASG X9 Classic BB pistol: Part 1

Čt, 03/23/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

ASG X9 Classic.

This report covers:

  • Strange things
  • Patterned after the M9
  • BB pistol
  • Action
  • Power
  • Not from Pyramyd Air
  • Summary
Strange things

Today I begin looking at the X9 Classic BB pistol from ASG. This CO2-powered pistol is unique in many ways. First, it was shipped with a box of plastic BBs that are called rubber on the box lid. Yes, this is a real steel BB pistol in every sense of the word, but it evolved from airsoft, and in this case it may not have left airsoft behind.

These are the first BB-sized airsoft balls I have seen. That’s a real steel BB and two 6mm airsoft BBs for comparison.

The next strange thing I noticed was a warning sticker on the bottom of the magazine that tells you to release the CO2 when you are finished shooting. The warning says this is to protect the o-ring seals, but I’ve not seen an o-ring that could not withstand constant pressurization. It will make the gun safer, though. They obviously mean this, so I will take them at their word — making this the first CO2 gun I’ve ever depressurized after shooting.

The warning sticker tells you to depressurize the gun after shooting. I will do it, but the sticker has to come off to press the button to remove the floorp[late and gain access Allen piercing screw.

Patterened after the M9

The X9 is quite obviously patterned after the U.S. military 9mm M9 pistol that is scheduled to be replaced starting in 2018 with the new Modular Handgun System that was awarded to Sig earlier this year. The M9 has been around since 1985 and is well-known to many current and former servicemen and women. And the Beretta 92F that is the basis of the M9 is known around the world to military, law enforcement and civilians alike. So the X9 has a large established audience who are very familiar with the platform.

BB pistol

The X9 is a true semiautomatic, with a blowback slide. The airgun is all metal, so the weight is there and the recoil simulation from the moving slide ought to be very realistic.

The gun is all black with a matte finish. Sights are a wide rear notch that’s fixed and a low front post that has a white bead in the center. The safety is located on the left rear of the slide and works like the one on the firearm. All the other controls work and the slide stays open after the last BB has been fired.

The pistol can be disassembled. I showed that to you in the 2017 SHOT Show report.

The X9 comes apart like the firearm.

The gun weighs 1 lb. 15 oz. without a CO2 cartridge installed. The grip is very wide because of the firearm’s double-stacked 9mm magazine. I prefer a 1911-sized grip, but shooters with larger hands probably prefer this.


The X9 is both single action and double action. Those who forget the definitions for each type of operation won’t have to worry with this one. Since the slide blows back with each shot, it cocks the exposed hammer, so the usual way of shooting is to fire the first shot double action and then continue single action. I will measure each trigger pull for you in Part 2, but I can tell you now that the double action pull is very light and smooth.


The drop-free removable magazine holds 16 steel BBs in a stack at the front. A spring-loaded follower pushes them up. The CO2 cartridge also fits in the mag and is pierced by an Allen screw on the bottom of the mag flooplate. But loading is not as straightforward as you think!


I had to read the manual (I know — but somebody has to do it) to discover how to load a CO2 cartridge into the mag. The magazine floorplate has to come off to access the piercing screw. Until that sticker is removed, you can’t depress the button that unlocks the floorplate, allowing it to slide off. Yes, it is fiddly. Here is a picture to show you what I’m talking about.

The floorplate has to be removed to gain access to the piercing screw.

I think this extra step will put off some buyers. Airgunners are not a patient lot, and anything that’s extra tends to frustrate them. Of course nothing prevents you from leaving the floorplate off while you shoot. Like those removable cocking aides some spring pistols have, I believe people will leave the floorplate off while they shoot.


The manual tells me to expect velocities around 312 f.p.s. That’s slow for a modern BB pistol but it has advantages. First, there will be fewer violent BB rebounds — the bane of all steel BB guns. Next, the shot count should be greater, though the blowback may use some gas, too. Finally, the pistol should be quieter.

Not from Pyramyd Air

As of this time the X9 pistol is not stocked by Pyramyd Air. I don’t know if they plan on picking it up or not.


That’s it for today. Let me know is there is anything particular you want me to look at on this pistol.

AirForce International Orion PCP air rifle: Part 3

St, 03/22/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Orion PCP repeater from AirForce International.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • UTG Bubble Leveler scope
  • The test
  • Zero
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Trigger is spongy
  • Loading the magazine
  • H&N Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Evaluation so far

Today we start looking at the accuracy of the AirForce International Orion air rifle. Though I seldom compare airguns, we have discussed that this one is positioned against the Benjamin Marauder. This accuracy test should sharpen that focus.

UTG Bubble Leveler scope

The rifle needs a scope, so I mounted the best one I have — the UTG Bubble Leveler scope. This was the first time I looked through this scope since my cataracts were removed and — WOW! That bubble is bright, clear and apparent. Guys, if you’re having trouble seeing the bubble, schedule a visit with your eye doctor! The optics on this scope are the sharpest of any scope I own, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. This is a best buy and a world-beater!

The test

Despite what reader RidgeRunner predicted, I started the accuracy test at 25 yards, rested. Yes, I did fire one shot at 12 feet after mounting the scope, and it was close enough to proceed. The scope had been on my Marauder, so the mounting was very similar because the rifles are similar. It took me all of 10 minutes to scope the Orion.

The velocity test showed me there were more than 2 full magazines of shots (26 shots) per fill, so I decided I could get 30 good shots between fills. That could be 3 10-shot targets, which was all I needed.


The first shot from 12 feet landed in line with the center of the bull and as far below as the center of the scope was above the center of the bore. That’s good enough! I backed up to 25 yards and started the test.

JSB Exact Heavy

I began with the JSB Exact Jumbo 15.89-grain pellet that reader Munt from the Netherlands recommended. The first shot hit high and to the right of the bull, but I decided to just go with it. I was testing accuracy potential, not trying to hit anything particular. I also figured that 9 shots were as good as 10, since this was just a test to learn about the Orion’s potential, so I went with what was left in the magazine.

Nine JSB Exacts went into 0.636-inches at 25 yards. That’s not the smallest group I ever shot at that distance, but it is pretty good. Remember, I have yet to tune this rifle for a specific pellet!

Nine JSB Exact Jumbo pellets went into 0.636-inches at 25 yards. It’s good, but not great.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

Next, I tried the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellet. This is the one that weighs 18.1-grains in .22 caliber. They averaged 899 f.p.s. in the velocity test and looked like a good match for the rifle.

Ten pellets went into 0.535-inches at 25 yards. While that’s only slightly smaller than the first group, remember that there is one additional shot here. Also, this group is a little rounder. This is a pellet to pursue!

Ten JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets went into 0.535-inches at 25 yards. This is much better accuracy, in my opinion.

Now I feel that the Orion is showing us what it can do. Of course we will have to see what it looks like at 50 yards before we form any concrete conclusions.

Trigger is spongy

I must say I don’t care for the Orion’s trigger that much. It is light enough for good accuracy, but stage 2 is hard to identify. It feels light and spongy.

Loading the magazine

Each time I load this magazine I find I have to learn it all over. It doesn’t feel natural to load pellets skirt-first. They drop in easily enough, it just feels odd. Okay, lets get back to shooting.

H&N Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads

The next pellet I tried was the H&H Baracuda Match with 5.53mm head. The Orion is certainly powerful enough to shoot this pellet well. The first several went into a tight group, but then they started scattering. After 10 shots I had a 0.742-inch group that was disappointing. This is not the pellet for this rifle.

Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 5.53mm heads went into 0.742-inches at 25 yards. In light of what the first two pellets did, I don’t think this one is suited to this rifle.

JSB Exact RS

The last pellet I tried was the lightweight JSB Exact RS. But these are not for this Orion. Not only do they scatter, they have feeding issues that caused me to stop shooting. I believe they are too small to feed through the magazine reliably.

Evaluation so far

The Orion is accurate, I will say that. And it is quiet. If this was your first PCP rifle it would be a good start.

I don’t care for the trigger nor the magazine. However, if the rifle shoots accurately at 50 yards I can live with both of them.

The rifle is still slim and light. And it is well-suited to the UTG Bubble Leveler scope that’s now mounted. I look forward to the 50-yard range.

Air Venturi Rail Lock spring compressor: Part 1

Út, 03/21/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Air Venturil Rail Lock spring compressor is compact.

This report covers:

  • Attaches to the scope rail
  • Let’s look at the unit in detail
  • How shall I test it?
  • Developed for gas spring guns
  • Installation
  • The coolest feature
  • Quirks
  • The price

Today we start looking at a mainspring compressor that’s very different from any other. The Air Venturi Rail Lock spring compressor is a compact 1.5-pound unit that attaches to the scope rail of the gun being disassembled. The threaded rod is then pressed against the end cap of the rifle — whatever configuration that might take. From that point this compressor works the same as any other, but in the next few reports I will show you in detail, plus today we will look at its design very closely.

Attaches to the scope rail

Right off the bat you might be wondering if this unit will fit most spring-piston airguns. As long as they have a scope rail either cut into the spring tube or attached, it will work. There are a few vintage spring rifles and pistols that don’t have rails like the Haenel model 28 pistol and some Diana model 27 rifles, and this compressor won’t work without a rail. But the majority of spring rifles being sold today, plus a number of spring pistols, do have a scope rail. On them the compressor should work well.

11mm dovetails and Weaver/Picatinny dovetails
It fits both kinds of dovetails — 11 mm and Weaver/Picatinny. There’s no worry there.

The compressor rails are a short section of dovetail grooves on the unit. They clamp to both 11mm and Weaver/Picatinny dovetails.

Let’s look at the unit in detail


Here are the parts of the Air Venturi Rail Lock mainspring compressor.

How shall I test it?

My thinking is I will start with an easy disassembly and proceed to more difficult ones after I get the hang of operating the compressor. The Beeman R1 is the easiest spring rifle I can think of that needs a compressor for disassembly. The TX200 Mark III is even easier, but that’s mainly because a compressor is not needed for disassembly.

Developed for gas spring guns

This compressor was initially created as a shop tool — not for resale. Tom Gore of Vortek needed a compressor that would work on gas piston and gas spring rifles as well as airguns with conventional coiled steel springs. Gas spring airguns may only need a fraction of an inch of compression to get them together, but because the gas pressure is so high they are very difficult to assemble. So Tom created this unit, which he says makes assembly of a gas spring easy. I guess I need to try it that way.


The unit clamps to the scope rails of the airgun with the rail shown above. A screw at the front and rear of the unit clamps it tight in place. I will report on how well that works when I test it. Two Allen wrenches are packaged with the compressor for all adjustments.

Here’s the compressor installed.

One thing several readers noticed in my 2017 SHOT Show report is the threaded screw doesn’t align with the center of the spring tube. That depends on the diameter of the tuibe. It isn’t necessary that the unit be centered for it to work and we will have a chance to look at that as this report progresses.

The coolest feature

I will cover installation in the next section of the report, but you can guess how it works. The dovetail of the compressor is clamped to the dovetail of a spring piston airgun and then the threaded rod is screwed down for tension. Bur the coolest feature is the quick release button that allows you to slide the threaded rod in and out. So installation goes fast. I will have more to tell you about that after I’ve used it.


Where this may get dicey is on strange airguns like vintage BSAs and oddballs like the Hakim. Not all spring guns have end caps. Some, like the BSAs. require you to use a tool that reaches inside the rear of the spring tube and also passes around a crosspin to engage an inner sliding sleeve. Additional adaptors may have to be made for these guns, but that’s true of any mainspring compressor. It’s too soon to know for sure how the Rail Lock compressor will do, but I plan to challenge it in this test!

The price

Well, it’s $100. That’s half of what the only other mainspring compressor is selling for. Whether it’s worth it will depend on how useful it is, but I know there is a demand for a good mainspring compressor, so let’s see how good this one is.

BSF S70 air rifle: Part 1

Po, 03/20/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S70 rifle is the father of several famous Weirauch models.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • It’s here!
  • History
  • Related models
  • Whadda we got?
  • Trigger
  • Sights
  • Summary
It’s here!

I told you about this BSF S70 rifle a couple weeks ago. I thought I didn’t win it in the online auction, but in fact, I did.

I have tested an S70 for you in the past. So, what’s so special about this one? Well, the truth is, that other S70 had some problems. First, it had no rear sight — just an optional peep that was sold by Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman in the 1970s and ’80s. Next, it was very powerful. Though it carried the German Freimark that is put on all airguns of less than 7.5 Joules (5.53 foot-pounds), that rifle was producing over 12 foot-pounds. Either someone had been inside, or something funny was going on with the Freimark.

That F inside the pentagram is the German Freimark (free mark). It means the airgun develops less than 7.5 joules and is free from ownership restrictions.

The third problem was at sometime in that rifle’s past someone had pulled the trigger with the barrel broken open, and the rapid slamming shut had bent the barrel upwards. It was so bad that I wrote an entire series about bending airgun barrels — just so I could fix this one. At the end of that series I got that rifle shooting where the sights looked, and it is now a real pleasure to shoot. But in retrospect, did I actually test a BSF S70? Given everything I just told you, I think not.


The S70 is the deluxe version of the BSF S55, which was one of the 4 most powerful spring-piston air rifles in the world in the 1970s. The other three were the RWS 45, the HW 35 and the FWB 124. Of these, the RWS 45 and the BSF S55/70 vied for the top spot. Robert Law of ARH  talked about these rifles exceeding 865 f.p.s. when fully broken in and lubricated. The S70 I just mentioned averaged 868 f.p.s with RWS Hobby pellets.

BSF is a contraction of the company name — Bayerische Sportwaffenfabrik. They were headquartered in Erlangen, just north of Nuremberg, Germany. Erlangen, by an ironic coincidence, is the town where I was stationed with the Army from 1974-1977. I didn’t know BSF was there, and only discovered them after returning to the United States.

BSF made some beautiful airguns, several of which I have tested for you over the years, but the S70 stands out for the influence it had on airguns we know much better. The company fell on hard times in the 1980s and was purchased by Weihrauch (before 1987). The new owners used the parts of rifles that were on hand at the time to produce two interesting new models that Marksman brought over to sell in America.

These two rifles, called the Marksman 55 and Marksman 70 (interesting model numbers), were essentially the BSF S55 and S70. Initially they came with simpler triggers that were probably  the original BSF triggers. Before long, though, they were being shipped with Rekord triggers. Both Marksman rifles continued to use the BSF rear sight that we will see on this S70. Was the piston seal changed? I don’t know. Perhaps.

I don’t know how many of these two Marksman rifles were made, but it’s obvious they were made to use up the parts that Weihrauch got when they bought the BSF company. They were not new additions to the Weihrauch line. I think they all came to the United States, and they make an interesting footnote to both the BSF and Weihrauch histories.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Weihrauch had now become familiar with the insides of BSF breakbarrel powerplants, and within a short time the Beeman company, Weihrauch’s biggest North American customer, announced the Beeman R10. They called it the “son of the R1” because it produced R1 velocity while weighing several pounds less. The “secret” that allowed this to happen was a long piston stroke in a spring tube that was considerably narrower than the R1/HW80 tube.

I am not saying that the BSF S70 became the R10. I doubt there are many parts that will fit both guns without machining. But the idea of the long-stroke narrow piston was certainly how BSF achieved the power that it did. The R10 is very much a scaled-down R1, but I believe that there is at least a trace of BSF DNA in it. I know, for instance, that the R10 has a scope base that’s attached to the top of its spring tube instead of grooves cut into the spring tube, just like the BSF S70.

The scope base is attached to the top of the spring tube, rather than cut into it.

On the left rear of the scope base, a screw provides a positive mechanical stop for the rear ring. This was decades ahead of where most spring rifles were at the time.

The R10, which wasn’t a success, was soon followed by the Beeman R9 that was. The R9 was a redesign of the R10 that got most of the R10’s performance in a package that was more produceable. So, you could say that the Beeman R9 owes its existence to the influence of the BSF S55/70.

Related models

Although they aren’t seen in the U.S. as often, there is also a BSF model S60 and an S80. They fit into the scale of quality where their model numbers imply. I tell you that for the record, but know that the S55 and S70 are by far more prevalent in the U.S.

Whadda we got?

Now, let’s turn our attention to the rifle I’m testing. What is an unaltered BSF S70 rifle like? Well, they aren’t small and they aren’t large — sort of in the middle. The Blue Book of Airguns says they should weigh about 7 pounds and makes no mention of the length. Mine weighs 7 pounds on the nose and is 43.5 inches long. The barrel is 19 inches, stem to stern. The forearm is a square section that’s pleasantly thin. Overall the rifle feels and handles very much like an R9, which is to say light and easy-handling.

This is an old-school air rifle, so all the metal parts are either steel that’s been polished and blued or anodized aluminum, and there is precious little of that. The checkered panels in the forearm and pistol grip are pressed in and do nothing to help your grip. The beech stock is heavily finished with what looks like a clear synthetic finish.

Speaking of old-school, let me tell you what that means. Although this rifle could have been produced in the 1980s, its design was frozen in the 1950s. So the look , finish and materials all date to that time. It’s like a Checker Marathon in that respect.

This 1983 Checker Marathon station wagon looks like it was made in 1958.


The trigger is adjustable, and BSF triggers are the only ones that have the adjustment instructions written on the triggerguard. The words are in German, but the plus and minus symbols tell you what the adjustments will do to the pull.

The directions for adjusting the trigger are engraved on the triggerguard.

I will say one more thing about the trigger. It is curved and the blade is slanted too far forward for my tastes. It just feels odd to my finger, and I always notice it.


The sights are conventional. Up front is a rather tall post with a bead on top. A sheetmetal hood goes over the front sight and clamps to the base, but this rifle didn’t have it when it arrived. It’s there to protect your hand while cocking, as much as anything else. The rear sight adjusts up and down via a sliding elevator up a stepped ramp. Windage adjusts with a thumbscrew and the adjustments have obvious detents. This is the sight my other S70 doesn’t have, so I finally get a chance to test it. And now I have the vision I need for the test.

The front sight is very tall. It’s supposed to have a sheetmetal hood.

The rear sight adjusts in both directions.


That’s as far as I will go today. At one time in the 1970s this rifle was at the top of the power pyramid. Today it will be a gentle shooter. I am extremely curious whether it will really have 7.5 joules of power. I’m betting it is more powerful that that.

Diana’s model 5 air pistol: Part 1

Pá, 03/17/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This Diana model 5 air pistol is marked as a Winchester model 353.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Iconic air pistol
  • History
  • Winchester
  • Gun Broker
  • The gun
  • Grip
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • Expected performance
Iconic air pistol

Today we begin looking at one of the most iconic air pistols of all time — Diana’s model 5. In all my years as an airgunner, I have never owned a model 5! I’ve seen them, handled them and shot them, but have never owned one. I have owned 2 Diana model 10 target pistols that are related to the model 5, if not that similar. The model 10 has the Giss anti-recoil mechanism and is the target version of the model 6, while the model 5 is a conventional recoiling air pistol. Models 5 and 6 look a lot alike, except for the round caps on either side of the model 6’s spring tube that house the Giss anchors.


The model 5 has a long and colorful history. It was made from 1931 to 1940 as the model 5V, and, although the Blue Book of Airguns tells us that model is not the same as the post-war model 5, they are related. The 5V had a wooden grip and was actually documented in a guest blog some years ago.

Diana made the model 5 pistol we are looking at here from 1958 to 1978, but if you include the models 5GM and P5 Magnum, that time extends to 2008. There was a break in manufacture from 1978 until the ’90s, so the ’58 to ’78 timeframe is the most accurate for the pistol before us today.


Actually, the pistol I am testing for you is marked as a Winchester model 353. Winchester never made airguns, but in the 1970s they had Diana make certain models with their name on them. These airguns are no rarer than Diana airguns marked with the maker’s name, but in the United States people often put a premium on the Winchester name. Airgunners know better, but firearms people often don’t. So, if you find one of these at a gun show, expect to pay more, based on the Winchester name.

The Winchester name often adds value to the pistol in the U.S.

Gun Broker

I found this pistol on the Gun Broker auction website. A trusted dealer I buy from was listing it, so I felt secure. However, if it needed any work, there are still plenty of parts available. Usually these “Winchester” airguns draw a lot of interest, but for some reason this was one wasn’t, so I got it. It’s in 95 percent condition, with 100 percent bluing and some light scratches on the plastic stock/grip. The action is tight and new-feeling, and even the breech seal looks good. As old as it is (40-45 years), I’m thinking this one might have recently been overhauled.

The gun

The model 5 is a large breakbarrel spring-piston air pistol. Overall length is slightly more than 15-3/4-inches, with the barrel being slightly more than 7 of those inches. The weight is 3 lbs. 1 oz., which is more than the Blue Book states (2.4 lbs.). That makes it a large air pistol — definitely not for younger shooters. In size it’s the equivalent of the BSA Scorpion that is similar to the BSF S20 and larger than the Webley Hurricane.

It’s a breakbarrel, which also makes it a single shot. This one is a .177, though the model was also offered in .22. The effort to break the barrel and cock the pistol is in-keeping with its size and weight. I will test that for you in Part 2.

The rest of the gun is very conventional. Mostly blued steel on the outside, other than the plastic grip — a very conservative airgun of the style of the 1950s.


The dark brown plastic grip is an extension of the pistol’s stock that houses the entire barreled action. It is one piece and features coarse checkering all around the grip. And there is a thumbrest on the left side because, as you know, until around 1990, everyone was right-handed.

Coarse checkering is characteristic of Diana model 5 grips.


The sights are a strange mix. The front sight is a fixed tapered post inside a globe. It belongs on a cheaper air pistol. The rear sight, in sharp contrast, is a highly adjustable target-type notch. The rear sight begs for a front sight with interchangeable inserts, but this one doesn’t have them.

Some model 6 pistols have the identical front sight, while others have a globe sight with interchangeable inserts. As far as I can see, though, the nicer sight will not fit on the model 5, because it attaches to the model 6 barrel with a purpose-built sleeve. Maybe a reader with more experience than I can elaborate.

The front sight appears to be a globe with inserts, but this photo shows that its really a fixed tapered post. Some model 6 pistols have this same front sight.

The rear sight is fully adjustable. I need to find out why this one is adjusted way over to the right.


The trigger is 2-stage and there is a single adjustment with a locking screw. My guess is the adjustment is the control the length of the first stage. At present stage 2 is difficult to feel. The let off pressure is nearly equal to the first stage pressure and both are light.

Expected performance

According to the Blue Book I can expect to see up to 450 f.p.s. with lightweight pellets in .177 caliber. That should tell me how healthy this powerplant is when I test it.

There is a lot to see and experience in this report. I know many of you own model 5s, so please tell us your experiences. Let’s see what this one can do.

AirForce International Orion PCP air rifle: Part 2

Čt, 03/16/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Orion PCP repeater from AirForce International.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Where to start
  • Magazine height
  • Load the mag
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Firing behavior and sound
  • We learn more
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Crosman Premiers
  • Loading
  • Trigger pull
  • Power adjustability
  • Discussion
Where to start

Today we test the velocity of the AirForce International Orion. Many of you are new to precharged pneumatics (PCP), so let me show you how I select which pellets to test when I don’t know the airgun. I start by looking at the advertised velocity, which for this rifle in .22 caliber is said to be around 800 f.p.s. Knowing how AirForce states things like this, that number is obtained with a reasonable lead pellet, so I will guess it was a Hobby, though they might have shot something heavier. Still my velocities are going to be between 700 and 800 f.p.s. and that tells me I should start with medium weight lead pellets — something in the 13 to 16-grain range. Once we know more we can go from there.

Magazine height

Before I continue, a reader asked about the height of the mag above the top of the receiver, because that will affect the scope ring height. The owner’s manual I am reading suggests a ring height of at least 21mm, which is a high ring. I hope that answers your question.

Load the mag

The Orion mag is spring-loaded, but its loaded from the bottom and not the top. The pellets are loaded skirt-first as the spring-loaded clear top is advanced. Because this isn’t the norm, I will comment on the ease of loading for each pellet. Let’s get started!

JSB Exact RS

The first pellet that falls in my arbitrary weight range is the JSB Exact RS that weighs 13.43 grains. RS pellets are pretty accurate in most air rifles, too, which is a bonus. This pellet fell into the mag easily.

I loaded the magazine with all 13 rounds, which is what the .22 magazine holds. In a moment you will see why that was a good thing. The average velocity for all 13 rounds was 999 f.p.s.. But let me show you the string and you will see something interesting.


What you are seeing from the string shown above is the fill was a trifle high. High enough to slow the initial shots just a smidgeon. Don’t fixate on that, though, because the differences are too small to matter that much. Fill the rifle to the 200 bar (the manual says that’s 3000 psi, but it’s really 2900 psi) the manual calls for. Just be aware this may happen.

The spread for this 13-shot string was 35 f.p.s. If you look, the spread is the same over the first 10 shots. That’s high for a PCP, but until we get to the 50-yard range, we will reserve judgement.

At the average velocity this pellet is generating 29.77 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. That’s pretty good for such a light pellet.

One final comment — this rifle is much faster than the description says. This is easily a 1000 f.p.s. air rifle in .22 caliber.

Firing behavior and sound

The rifle recoils noticeably when it fires. That’s because of the power it is producing. It is also remarkably quiet for that much power. It sounds about like a powerful breakbarrel, but certainly not a mega-magnum springer.

Punky, my tuxedo cat, slept in my office through most of the testing. And Dale Evans, my female calico who is very sensitive to sounds, never raised a peep. She was asleep in the room across the hall. She is usually parked outside my office, wailing her head off until I stop.

We learn more

One of AirForce’s dealers emailed them some test targets with results from 30 yards. They were 5-shot groups and they were shot with the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy that weighs 18.1-grains. Although the groups are only 5 shots and therefore not conclusive, they do show remarkable potential for accuracy, so I tested that pellet next. It also fell into the mag easily.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

Eight pellets averaged 899 f.p.s. Why only 8? Because I had a double feed, which seems easy to do with the Orion if you do not cock the bolt deliberately. Here is the string.

2…………….. —
3…………….. — double feed registered as 633 f.p.s. but not included in the average.

This heavier pellet produced 32.54 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. That’s what we would expect from a heavier pellet in a PCP. Incidentally, my velocities match those the AirForce dealer got with a different .22 caliber Orion.

The spread for this string was 17 f.p.s. The rifle seems to still be on the power curve, because the velocities rose within the string. To check that I fired 2 more RS pellets.


That’s conclusive proof the rifle is still on the power curve. To this point, 25 pellets have been fired on one fill.

Crosman Premiers

Next up were Crosman Premiers — another good .22 caliber pellet, and they are back in my arbitrary weight range. These weigh in-between the first two pellets. I would expect velocities in the mid to high-900s. And this pellet fell into the mag easily, too.

Premiers averaged 968 f.p.s., but the string of 10 is revealing.


Even if you don’t own a chronograph, this string should tell you the rifle began to fall off the power curve almost immediately. Perhaps the first 3 shots were still on the curve, then the slow decline began. This is why a chronograph is such an important piece of equipment for the airgunner.

At the average velocity of the string shown above, Crosman Premiers generated 29.76 foot-pounds at the muzzle, but since the rifle is falling off the curve, let’s take 980 f.p.s. as a more realistic average. At that speed the rifle generates 30.5 foot-pounds. I think that’s about right.

Just to see whether I’m right, let’s look at the velocity of two RS pellets, now that 35 shots have been fired on this fill.


Yes, it has dropped off the curve, but the decline is slow! I fired 37 shots through this rifle and they all did well. Therefore in my opinion, there are easily 2 good 13-shot magazines per fill, which is 26 shots total. That gives a large safety buffer for hunters. if you’re a plinker, 3 magazines are possible.


Speaking of the magazine, I would want a second magazine with this rifle. Loading pellets backwards (skirt first) is not a natural act, and having a second mag at the ready seems like a good plan.

Also, I know some of you will want to know how long a pellet this mag will accept, so I loaded an H&N Baracuda Match, to find out. This pellet fell into the mag easily.

Look at all the room in front of this H&N Baracuda Match.

Trigger pull

The trigger is very light, breaking at 1 lb. 1 oz. It is 2-stage but stage 1 is heavy enough to mask stage 2, so it might feel like a single-stage pull until you get used to it. I think it will be very easy to shoot with.

Power adjustability

I told you the Orion’s power is adjustable, and it is. But I think I want to test accuracy before messing with that, because I don’t know where this rifle is, in terms of accuracy. As I told you, the Orion’s power adjustment is meant to tune the rifle to a specific pellet, so let’s find that pellet before we charge in and mess things up.


The Orion has good and bad points. The power, nice  trigger, stock adjustability, shot count per fill, slender stock profile, adjustable comb and low discharge sound are all plusses. How you load the magazine and the possibility of a double feed are things you have to watch out for.

Will the Orion give the Benjamin Marauder a run for the money? If the accuracy I see in the dealer test proves out, I think it will.

Umarex Throttle air rifle: Part 3

St, 03/15/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Umarex Throttle offers a lot for a little money.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • StopShox
  • Mount the scope
  • Accuracy
  • RWS Superdomes
  • Crosman Premiers again
  • JSB RS
  • Some other pellets
  • What next?

Today we look at the accuracy of the new Umarex Throttle air rifle. You may remember that I was very pleased with the performance of this new air rifle, up to this point. If it is also accurate, we have a winner.


This rifle contains the StopShox mechanism that takes the sting out of shooting a gas spring. That unit works, because the Throttle definitely does not sting.

Mount the scope

The Throttle came with a 3-9X32 scope and 2-piece scope rings. The Throttle has a Picatinny rail they call the LockDown mounting system. It’s mounted to the top of the spring tube, and the rings are Weaver, so mounting the scope was fast and easy. The optics are clear and this scope has AO (adjustable parallax) that adjusts down to 10 yards.

I mounted the scope that came with the Throttle. The LockDown base and rings made this easy.


Let’s get right to the accuracy because I have a lot to tell you. I had no idea of which pellet to start with, so I chose .22 caliber Crosman Premiers for no particular reason. I shot one shot at 12 feet and it landed where I expected, which was 3 inches below the aim point — about the same as the height of the scope line of sight above the bore line. I was satisfied that the rifle would be on paper at 10 meters, so I backed up to the shooting bench.I shot with my off hand rested on a sandbag and the rifle rested on the flat of my open palm — the artillery hold.

I could not get Premiers to group while using the conventional artillery hold, with the rifle balanced just ahead of the triggerguard. So I switched pellets to RWS Superdome. They didn’t want to group, either, so I slid my off hand forward, from just in front of the triggerguard to the rear of the cocking slot. That tightened things up immediately, and I started shooting the first 10-shot group.

RWS Superdomes

This first group was doing okay until the last shot that landed very low. That opened the group up to 1.783-inches. Actually there were three shots that went somewhat wide of the main group. Seven landed in 0.472-inches. That suggested the rifle wants to shoot, but something wasn’t quite right yet.

Seven RWS Superdomes went into 0.472-inches at 10 meters. Unfortunately the other 3 pellets opened the group to 1.783-inches

Crosman Premiers again

I tried Crosman Premiers with the new artillery hold, but again there was no luck. When three pellets land in 2 inches, it was time to move on. The Superdome’s performance, however, gave me hope.


Given that the Throttle is reasonably powered and not over-powered, I thought JSB Exact RS pellets might be good. And they were — sort of. Ten of them gave me a group that was
1.783-inches between centers, which sounds terrible, but the group is also only 0.248-inches wide. Thats different than the first group, but it is also a tantalizing clue that this Throttle is capable of shooting better than it is at present.

What a group! 1.783-inches tall and 0.248-inches wide. Clearly something is up and I haven’t got a clue what it might be.

Some other pellets

I then tried three other pellets that did not do well at all. First was an RWS Meisterkugeln that I hoped might surprise me. It shot a 2-inch group with three pellets, so I quit trying.

Next I tried a JSB Exact Jumbo 15.89-grain dome. I figured if the RS pellet worked, the heavier pellet might do better. But that was wrong, too. They were all over the place.

The last pellet I tried that didn’t work was the heavier 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. They were also all over the place.

What next?

Well, I changed the artillery hold and got an improvement, would the same be true of another pellet? What is the whackiest pellet I could think of to try? In recent months I have tried RWS Superpoints when all else has failed and they have surprised me. So I gave them a chance in the Throttle…

RWS Superpoints

…and they turned in the best group of this test! Ten Superpoints went into 0.987-inches at 10 meters. Okay, so that isn’t tight. It’s still the best group of this test and there are no strange anomalies.

Ten RWS Superpoints made this 0.987-inch group at 10 meters. Okay — it isn’t that tight, but it’s the best group of this test.

What’s the verdict?

The verdict is, we don’t have one — yet. This Throttle has so much going for it that I don’t want to leave it at this point. I have learned a lot about it, but you can see that there are still things to be learned.

My plan is to back up to 25 yards and try again. At that distance the groups will be much larger, so I’m hoping I can make some sense of this test and apply it. If not, that’s as far as I will go.

I do like the Throttle, especially the LockDown scope rail and the StopShox anti-vibration device. I like the easy cocking, which for a gas spring comes as a surprise.

I don’t like the very hollow-sounding and flexible Throttle stock. However this rifle comes in at such a fantastic low price point that I think it deserves the extra attention.

Do pressure vessels become unsafe over time?

Út, 03/14/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Do pressure vessels become unsafe over time?
  • Operating pressure
  • Water leading to rust
  • Oxygen!
  • Danger through work-hardening
  • Last word

Today we have a safety issue to examine. Here is the question I got last week that spawned this report.

“Wasn’t sure how to reach you so using this venue. Was wondering about safety issue on pcps with regard to repeated pressurization over the years.Most pcps are newer and certainly built with margin of safety, but is it possible as these age and perhaps are handed down that they (the pressure vessel) can become unsafe? Read somewhere repeated pressurization can lead to eventual metal fatigue (in relation to high pressure vessels of non air rifle type). Thinking of future owners down the road. Thanks for all you do for all us airgun fans, read blog everyday.”

This was such a good question that I felt it needed an entire report for an answer. I know that precharged pneumatics (PCP) are starting to catch on, and a lot of shooters are getting into them, bringing lots of fundamental questions. Let’s start with the one this anonymous reader has asked.

Do pressure vessels become unsafe over time?

The short answer is, yes, they always do. The longer the time, the greater the risk. But there are other factors that play into this. Let’s examine them.

Operating pressure

There are pneumatics that are hundreds of years old whose pressure vessels are still functional — although I would NEVER advise using them! The reason they have lasted so long is the low pressure at which they operate. Until the 20th century, 800 psi was considered an extremely high air pressure that most PCPs never achieved. Many of the older guns operate on just over 600 psi. I know that from their terminal velocities, as evidenced by splatology forensic examination, and also by the detailed testing Dennis Quackenbush and I did on the hand pumps of antiquity. I know that some of these old reports were boring to read, but on a day like today they are the only solid evidence I can point to, to say what is and what was with certainty.

Today’s PCPs operate at much higher pressures. A few operate on 4,500 psi, while the majority use 3,000 psi. And now a few use 2,000 psi. Manufacturers build or use pressure vessels that are rated for the pressures at which their guns operate, and they build in huge safety margins. But sometimes the boutique makers will skimp in this safety area.

You risk more when buying from a boutique maker — especially one with only a year of two of sales to his credit. Many of them are building airguns that are just as safe as the guns of the larger manufacturers, but I have met some who think nothing of gambling with your life. The most dangerous I ever saw was a Farco air shotgun that was running on 3000 psi air! I wouldn’t even stand close to that one!

Water leading to rust

Water in a pressure vessel is an overrated danger — though it is still a danger. Dennis Quackenbush and I intentionally introduced water into a rifle’s reservoir and then shot it several times to see what happens. We weighed the water going into the gun and again, after a number of shots.

Dennis poured 22.1 grains of water into the reservoir of his Light Sporter rifle and then assembled the reservoir and filled it to 3,000 psi with an Axsor hand pump. We dry-fired the rifle 16 times, which completely exhausted it of air. This was done with the muzzle held below the rest of the gun, which put the exhaust port higher than the rest of the reservoir. After shooting we disassembled the reservoir and found 10.4 grains of water remaining. So, about half the water was exhausted in 16 shots.

We then poured another 22.1 grains of water into the reservoir, assembled it and filled it to 3000 psi once more. This time when we dry-fired the rifle we held the muzzle straight up and once again shot until the reservoir was empty of air. In this test the exhaust valve was at the lowest point on the reservoir. After this test there were just 4.3 grains of water remaining. This simple test shows that PCPs tend to blow water out of their reservoirs as they shoot. But they don’t get completely dry.

I disassembled the air reservoir of a Career 707 Tanker Carbine once and did find a few water droplets inside. The owner had been filling the rifle from a hand pump pretty much exclusively. There was no rust in sight because the inside of the tank was oily with what I assume was silicone oil, but that’s not to say rust could not form this way. I am saying that there is some risk of rust inside an air reservoir from water, but the risk is lower than is commonly discussed on the chat forums.

The fear that water vapor will rust out a pressure tube is not as great as many shooters fear. However — there is some risk.


The greatest risk I know of to PCP operations is the use of the wrong gas — with oxygen heading the list. The use of oxygen in a PCP is nearly a guarantee of disaster. Medical workers see oxygen tanks and reason that air is mostly made of oxygen. Why not use it? They fail to acknowledge the risk that a pure oxygen environment creates, even though their training teaches them otherwise.

These aluminum parts were incinerated by an oxygen fire. It self-ignited while the shooter was shooting the airgun.

Danger through work-hardening

This is the question the reader really asked. I addressed it partly in the beginning of the report, but now I will address it fully. As a pressure vessel is filled and then discharged, the material of the vessel expands and contracts. That causes the material to work-harden over time. Eventually the vessel will become so brittle that it can fail under pressure. This is why air tanks of a certain size (2.0 inches in diameter and greater in the U.S.) are required to be pressure-tested periodically. They are tested to see if they are still flexible — i.e. not work-hardened too far.

But what about airguns? Most airgun reservoirs are smaller than the 2-inch minimum size required for pressure testing, so they don’t get tested. Some companies, such as Feinwerkbau, say their removable air cylinders must be replaced after a certain time, like 20 years. The date of the initial pressure test is stamped into the body of the tank, and that starts the clock.

But the majority of PCPs do not follow any testing regimen. And that is what the reader is asking about. Is there a point at which those guns will become unsafe? Without a doubt there is such a point. It will be different for each gun and will depend on the construction of the gun, as well as the use it has been put to. Failure is inevitable over time, but the exact amount of time is impossible to determine.

Last word

Okay, now you know the story. But let’s be safe about this. NEVER test a pressure vessel with air! That creates a bomb that can injure or kill if it ruptures. Pressure testing is always done with non-compressible water, so if the vessel ruptures, all it does is spray water.

Daisy’s 179 BB pistol: Part 2

Po, 03/13/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy 179 was the first Spittin’ Image BB gun Daisy made.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Metal frame
  • Love-hate
  • Sights
  • Trigger
  • It is a catapult!
  • Cocking effort
  • Velocity
  • Quiet!
  • Do-over
  • Reliable feeding
  • Accuracy
  • A real lesson!
Metal frame

We are back looking at my Daisy 179 again, and the first important thing to know is I got it wrong when I originally described the frame or body of the gun as being molded in plastic. It definitely is metal. It would have to be, to be held together by screws the way that it is. Sorry for the confusion!


We heard from some owners who love the gun and from others who hate it. I guess this is an airgun that you need to understand before getting one. It’s not what it looks like — which is a single action revolver. It’s single action all right, but very far from being a revolver. It is a 12-shot repeater, but the spring that operates the hammer is so strong that it is impossible to thumb rapidly with one hand, or to fan. It’s a very deliberate gun.


One of the thing I promised last time was a look at the sights. The front sight is a rounded blade that’s similar to the Colt Single Action front sight blade. The rear sight is supposed to be a groove in the top of the frame with a squared-off notch in the back. The hammer prevents me from seeing that notch, and therefore from using a conventional sight picture. If the hammer stayed all the way back when the gun was cocked, the rear sight notch would be visible, but where it rotates forward after cocking, which puts it above the rear sight notch. Daisy should have considered putting a rear sight notch in the hammer, likethe one on the 1860 Colt Army. And these sights are not adjustable in any way.

That shallow notch (arrow) is the rear sight! It’s not much different than the rear sight notch on a Colt Single Action firearm!


The trigger is either a single stage or it’s the strangest two-stage trigger you have ever seen. As you slowly squeeze you feel it move through an arc and then hesitate. The hammer moves backward slightly as this happens Where it hesitates, the effort becomes noticeably harder, but the trigger doesn’t stop moving unless you consciously stop pulling it. If I can get used to this, it help me in the accuracy test, which I’m planning to do from 10 feet.

The trigger pull breaks at 5 lbs. 1 oz. That sounds heavy, but it doesn’t feel that heavy to me.

It is a catapult!

I was also wrong about how the gun works. It isn’t a kinetic gun at all, but a normal catapult that has a recognizable “flinger.” Look at this photo of the gun with the side removed and you can see the inner mechanism. The flinger pushes the BB into the barrel, rather than the “croquet-ball-whacking” explanation I wrote in Part 1. Sorry about that, but I’m learning this stuff as I go.

A look inside the 179 reveals that it is a true catapult gun. See the flinger arm that pushes the BB (arrow).

Cocking effort

The hammer of the 179 takes 17 pounds of effort to cock! That is a lot — particularly when you try to do it with one thumb. I can do it, but it isn’t pleasant. It’s easier for me to hold the gun in both hands to cock it.

I tested the cocking effort on my bathroom scale — the same scale on which I test most spring rifles. Believe me, the hammer slipped off the scale’s rubber pad several times before I got the hang of dragging it across while cocking it. I was surprised to see the force go so high, but now maybe you understand what I was saying about how hard this gun is to cock.


And what do you get for all that effort? I shot Daisy Premium Grade steel BBs for this test, and several things happened. First, there were several failures to feed. The BB gets pushed up in front of the flinger rod by a black segmented rubber spring on the end of the follower. I took a picture of that for you because it is very strange-looking. To get this picture I had to hold the spring-loaded follower out of the way with my finger, because the notch in the gun does not hold it reliably.

This rubber spring is on the end of the follower. Yes it is also a spring, but it is not the magazine’s mainspring. It’s just one of two springs that push the BB into position. It’s very weak, to allow just one BB to get in front of the flinger without putting pressure on it that might jam the gun.

Here you can see the rubber spring on the end of the follower. It isn’t pulled back quite far enough for a BB to enter the loading hole (arrow).

There is a viewing port in the top strap of the frame, where the rear sight groove is. It allows you to see if a BB has been loaded when the hammer was cocked. Apparently it’s because there often isn’t a BB ready to go.

The viewing port in the center of the rear sight notch channel allows you to see if a BB has been loaded.

Daisy BBs averaged 157 f.p.s. over 8 shots. Why 8? Because I shot the gun 20 times, just to get that many. If you count the number of times I fired and nothing came out, it was closer to 40. And my  BBs were bouncing off the card stock in front of my quiet pellet trap that keeps the duct seal inside. That was very distracting.

The velocity ranged from a low of 149 f.p.s. to a high of 166 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 17 f.p.s., which is very large for a catapult gun. Usually I get a variance of 3 or 4 f.p.s. from this kind of powerplant. Incidentally, Daisy advertises a velocity of 140 f.p.s., right on the box, so this one is on the hot side.


The 179 makes very little noise when it fires. You hear the hammer striking the frame and the BB hitting the paper and that’s about it. If the gun is accurate, it would be a wonderful airgun for a small living space. But I am concerned about those bouncebacks.

I couldn’t use a normal cardboard backstop cover over the BB trap, and that’s where I usually tape my targets. At the low velocity of the 179, BBs would just bounce back. So I had to come up with a different setup for accuracy. I thought I would just hang a paper target with no backing, whatsoever! But then my eyes settled on the Winchester Target Cube, and, although it has suffered the impacts of thousands of rounds, it was still the perfect solution for this pistol. I just taped the target to one of the faces and started shooting.


I test so many airguns that I’m usually on top of things when it gets to the accuracy test, but not this time. The first shots were a disaster from an accuracy viewpoint. I shot from just 10 feet and tested my hand on the UTG Monopod, but even then I managed to miss the backstop once!

The problem is, the 179 shoots very low! Well, having shot Colt Single Actions out to 300 yards, I know how to deal with that. Simply raise the muzzle until you see the base of the front blade at the top of the rear notch, then put the target on the tip of the blade and you’re good to go — at least from 10 feet! When you raise the muzzle this way you can also see the rear sight notch, which is an added plus. But that’s not all I learned.

Reliable feeding

I had several blank shots in the first batch, and one double feed. And that’s when I learned the other important lesson. When cocking the 179, do it deliberately, making sure the hammer is drawn all the way back. Only then will the feed hole in the magazine open on the inside of the gun and feed one BB in front of the flinger. After I learned that lesson there were no more failures to feed. I also must mention that the pistol was extremely quiet to shoot.


So the first magazine of BBs was used for a learning session. At the end of the first run I felt confident I could shoot the 179 as well as I ever will be able to, so the next magazine was for the record. I loaded 13 more BBs, but this time only 10 were needed.

Ten BBs from my 179 at 10 feet went into a group that measures 2.61-inches between centers. That’s hardly a good group for shooting from 10 feet. But I think it is representative of what a 179 pistol can do. I am delighted that I learned this pistols’s secrets before I finished this report!

BBs everywhere. Ten Daisy BBs landed in 2.61-inches at 10 feet. Three of them made it into the black. I had to cut all the BB holes with a razor knife to get them to show, because the BBs just tore small slits in the paper.

A real lesson!

Testing the 179 has been a real eye-opener for me. I learned so much about the gun and how it works. While I’m still no expert, I now feel I understand this BB pistol for the first time in my life. For that reason, alone, this report has been valuable for me.

Daisy’s 179 BB pistol: Part 1

Pá, 03/10/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The Spittin’ Image
  • What is it?
  • Catapult gun
  • A kinetic gun?
  • Very low power
  • Cowboys are cool
  • Four variations
  • The Holy Grail
  • The pistol
  • That’s all for today
The Spittin’ Image

In 1960, Daisy Manufacturing Company embarked on a marketing campaign that was to blossom into one of the largest segments of the airgun market. They brought out their model 179 BB pistol that was copied after the Colt Single Action Army revolver. A few years later they brought out their first 1894 that was highly successful, and a half-century after that not many people remember the first Spittin’ Image BB gun.

Daisy’s 179 BB pistol came out in 1960 — the first of the Spittin’ Image guns.

Today the lookalike airgun market is huge. It’s expanding all the time, with more and more realistic models coming out every day. You can argue that the 179 was not even the first such airgun Daisy made. many folks think their Targetmaster BB pistol copies the Colt Woodsman Match Target and the Number 25 slide action BB gun was patterned after the Winchester model 12 shotgun. But in 1960 the term Spittin’ Image was first used to describe this pistol as an intentional lookalike.

What is it?

The 179 is important for another reason. It operates differently that any other BB gun, as far as I can determine. When I first reported on this airgun in 2007, I called it a catapult gun, but I’ve thought about that more and no longer believe that term describes it accurately. A catapult launches something with the energy of a spring.

Catapult gun

There are many catapult-style airguns. The Johnson Indoor Target Gun is one example. It uses elestic bands to launch a BB at low speeds, but it is remarkably accurate at close range. Another series of catapult guns are the Sharpshooter pistols that owe their lineage to the Bulls Eye pistol that was first made in 1932. These pistols all use number 6 birdshot and launched by rubber bands. And who can forget the powerful Hodges catapult gun that was actually a big bore (though it has no barrel and therefore no real bore)! Yes, indeed, there are many catapult guns.

Johnson Indoor Target gun was another popular catapult gun.

But the Daisy 179 doesn’t work like the others. Instead of a launcher that accelerates the projectile to terminal velocity by means of an elastic band, a BB in the 179 gets whacked by the hammer in the same way you send your opponent’s croquet ball off course — by whacking your own ball that’s in contact with your opponent’s ball. You step on your ball to keep it in place, and the kinetic energy of the mallet blow is transmitted through your ball to your opponent’s ball.

A kinetic gun?

So, what do we call this? Is it a variation of a catapult, or does it rate a different term of its own? It it a kinetic gun? I don’t know. What I do know is there aren’t many others like it. I can’t think of any, but I don’t know everything, either.

Very low power

Catapult guns all share a common trait — low velocity. The book, The Practical Guide to Man-Powered Bullets, by Richard Middleton, is an excellent study on the subject. In it I learned that going above about 225 f.p.s. with a catapult is difficult, if not impossible. The author calculates the maximum possible velocity of a catapult powered by elastic bands to be 270 f.p.s., but in his tests that speed was never reached. As an interesting sidenote, Middleton mentions what I have called “splatology” briefly in his book and he even refers to, The Crossbow, Sir Ralph Payne Gallwey’s book that mentions it from back in the 19th century.
Now I will tell you that the kinetic powerplant of the 179 is even less efficient than the true catapult. I will save the velocity test for Part 2, but it’s going to be very slow. One reader commented when I first wrote about the 179 that I had shown him something even slower than a Marksman 1010 — an airgun he thought was the slowest.

Cowboys are cool

When the 179 came out the most popular shows on television were about cowboys. It may be difficult to imagine today, but that was a time when every kid in this country wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. Actually, most of us didn’t grow up, we just got older and larger. But we all wanted to be cowboys.

Anything cowboy was going to sell. And the 179 was the only game in town, if you wanted something to come out of the gun. Oh, you could launch Shootin’ Shells with Greenie Stick-‘Em Caps in a Fanner 50 toy gun, but the 179 was a real BB gun, and therefore much more desirable.

Four variations

The 179 exists in four variations, with two of them being primary. The first variation was produced from 1960 until 1981 and is characterized by having no safety. The gun was dropped in ’81 but demand forced it back into production in 1992. This time it had a crossbolt safety that differentiates the second variation from the first. The second production run ended in 1996 and the number of guns made was much lower than what was made in the first run, so this one will be harder to find. But the story doesn’t end there. In 2004 Daisy found a supply of parts in their warehouse that had been returned from a foreign customer. They had shipped the guns as parts, so the customer could assemble them in their own country, but politics turned the sale around.

From these parts Daisy assembled the final 700 model 179s they ever made. They put them in special vintage-looking boxes with certificates of authenticity signed by former Daisy employee and museum curator, Orin Ribar. They sold them from their museum over the course of the next few years. This variation is identical to the second variation and must be accompanied by the box and certificate. And it doesn’t end there, either.

The last 179 Daisy made was a run of 700 made from parts returned from South Africa. They were sold by the Daisy Museum and must be accompanied by the box and signed certificate of authenticity.

The Holy Grail

Daisy made up a small number of 179s made from solid brass parts. These guns are sometimes called “salesman’s samples” but they were more likely made up as special gifts and presentation guns. They are painted gray and weigh 2.7 lbs., so the difference from the other 179s is apparent. The Blue Book of Airguns says a perfect one is worth $2,000, but that’s just a guess. I would imagine they would go for a lot more than that and they wouldn’t have to be perfect, either. I have never seen one of these, and there aren;’t many airguns I can say that about.

The pistol

Okay, I have given you a lot of history — some of it that’s not even in the Blue Book — but now let’s take a look at the gun itself. The 179 is a 12-shot repeater. The BBs are in-line in a tubular magazine with a spring-loaded follower. The cylinder is just molded into the metal body. It doesn’t move. [Editor’s note: I originally described the body as plastic, and a sharp reader called me on it. Indeed, the frame or body is metal.]

I will now describe the physical characteristics of the gun that I own, which is one of the ones sold by the Daisy Museum. The gun weighs 1 lb. 1.25 oz. It is finished with a shiny black paint. The grips are dark brown plastic molded to look like wood.

Cock the gun by pulling the hammer back until the sear catches. When you release the hammer after cocking it rotates forward a half inch. Pulling the trigger fires the gun. The hammer is pulled forward by a strong spring and it hits the BB that’s sitting in the breech. The force of the impact sends the BB on its way.

The hammer is cocked and the pistol is ready to fire.

Even though the gun is low velocity, the hammer is quite hard to cock. You certainly cannot fire the gun rapidly.The light weight of the gun and the strength of the hammer spring combine to make operation a deliberate act.

That’s all for today

I’m going to stop here. There is a little more introduction to do and I will cover it in Part 2, along with velocity and probably accuracy, as well. I will talk about the trigger, the cocking effort and the sights, such as they are.

Benjamin Wildfire PCP repeater: Part 3

Čt, 03/09/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin Wildfire.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight in
  • Trigger control
  • Sights
  • Falcon pellets
  • Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • Something different
  • Accuracy
  • More to come

Today we start looking at the accuracy of the new Benjamin Wildfire. Knowing what an important air rifle this is, I have made a addition to today’s test. I will tell you all about it when we get there.

The test

I will shoot today from a rest at 10 meters. The targets are 10-meter rifle targets. Since the Wildfire is a PCP I will rest it directly on the sandbag. I will use the open sights that came on the gun. I will shoot 12-shot groups with each pellet, unless you read otherwise. Twelve pellets are what the magazine holds, so why complicate things?

Sight in

I started sighting in with Crosman Premier lite pellets. Shot one hit below the bull, so I slid the rear sight elevator up two steps. Shot two landed just above the bull, so the rear sight went down one step. That left 10 pellets in the magazine, so the first target was 10 shots with Crosman Premier lites at 10 meters.

The group measures 0.573-inches between centers at 10 meters. The first shot hit above the black bull and the following 9 were inside the black. I could see that first pellet hole with my new eye, so we know that is working as it should. When I adjusted the rear sight elevator the second time, I don’t think it actually changed, because the first shot of the 10-shot gropup is in the exact same place as sighter number two.

Ten Crosman Premier lites went into 0.573-inches at 10 meters.

No, that’s not the tightest 10-meter group I ever shot with a PCP and yes, it is darned good. I think the picture speaks for itself.

Trigger control

There has been a lot of talk about the Wildfire/Crosman 1077 trigger. This rifle is a double action only revolver whose trigger stacks (becomes noticeably harder to pull) at the end of its arc, just before the rifle fires. Some may think that is a bad thing, but if you want to shoot accurately, it’s really a good thing. You pull the trigger until it stops and then steady the sight picture and squeeze the shot off. I found the rifle was dead steady and predictable when I controlled the trigger this way. This trigger is an advantage, if you will learn to use it.


Unlike most other fiberoptic sights I’ve tested, the Crosman fiberoptics are very bright — at least the front one is. I saw it throughout the test. But I was also able to see the front post, so my aiming was quite precise.

Falcon pellets

I thought perhaps Air Arms Falcon pellets might be good in this rifle, so they were tested next. This time I shot all 12 pellets at the target. Falcons spread out sideways, giving me a 1.141-inch group at 12 meters. Given how well the Premier lites did, I don’t think this is a pellet for this rifle.

Twelve Air Arms Falcons went into 1.141-inches at 10 meters. Not the best result.

Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets

Next up were 12 Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets. These .177 lead-free pellets almost always do well, and I wondered how they would do in the Wildfire. They gave the second-best group, putting 12 into 0.714-inches at 10 meters.

Twelve Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets made this 0.714-inch group at 10 meters. It’s very vertical, but the aiming was always spot-on.

JSB Exact Heavy

I wondered whether heavier pellets might work, so I tried JSB Exact Heavy pellets next. At 10.34-grains, they qualify as heavy for the Wildfire powerplant. Twelve of them went into an open group that measures 0.942-inches between centers. So this isn’t the one you want.

Twelve JSB Exact Heavy pellets made this 0.942-inch group at 10 meters. It’s pretty scattered, compared to the Premiers and Sig Match pellets.

Something different

Okay, up to this point I have made no mention of filling the rifle. You probably wondered about that, didn’t you? Well, here is what I did. Sight-in and the first two groups (that’s the Premier lites and the Falcons) were fired on a single fill. That was 24 shots. Then I refilled the rifle to its maximum of 2000 psi, which, after the two groups, was hovering around 1200 psi.

The next two groups were also fired on a single fill. Those were the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets and the JSB Exact Heavys. Another 24 shots. Time to refill, but then I did something different.

I filled the rifle to 2000 psi again and fired 12 Crosman Premier lites at the target. The group was larger than the first group of 10 Premiers, but by this time I was getting tired. However, I didn’t remove the target. I photographed it in place, instead.

These are the first 12 Premiers I fired at the 10-meter target. This was photographed in place.

Then I reloaded the magazine with 12 more Premier lites and shot the same target again. The rifle was not refilled with air. I did this to see where the second set of pellets would go. I think you will be surprised. I sure was!

These are the second 12 Premiers I fired at the same 10-meter target. They landed on top of the first 12 pellets. This was also photographed in place. Sorry this shot is blurry. It was hand-held in ambient light and I must have moved.

Notice that the group did not grow much larger. One stray pellet landed below the main group, but the rest of the pellets are in the main group. Compare this target with the first target and you’ll see what I’m talking about. There are 24 shots in this group!

Now, let me show you the same group as I normally present it.

This is the composite group the way it would normally be shown. There are 24 shots in this group.


I think today’s test shows the accuracy potential of the Benjamin Wildfire quite well. It was shot from a rest with open sights at 10 meters with 4 different pellets. In one instance, 24 pellets were shot at the same target. This is the kind of accuracy you can expect from a Wildfire.

The Wildfire is everything I told you it would be. It’s light, fast-handling and quite accurate for what it is. You have to use the right pellets, and I have shown you two that work very well. “Very well?” What does that mean? It means that they go where they are aimed.

The Wildfire is not a precision PCP, so don’t try to compare it to one. It also IS NOT semiautomatic!!! It has a double action only revolver mechanism in which the trigger both advances the circular clip to the next round and also cocks and releases the striker spring. That means it can not have a crisp and light trigger pull. It simply cannot, by design. If Crosman were to revive the Nightstalker and allow the sear to capture the striker every time, THAT would be a semiautomatic rifle. It would be the rifle equivalent of the model 600 pistol.

More to come

Okay — this was the test at 10 meters with open sights. Next I mount either a scope or a red dot and try it again. I’m thinking the 10-meter accuracy will improve a little with a scope, so that’s the way I’m leaning at the present.

After 10 meters, I will back up to 25 yards and try it again from there. That will definitely be with a scope. When I’m finished testing this rifle, you should know the Benjamin Wildfire quite well. Crosman didn’t put a time limit on this loan, so I plan to look at the Wildfire in great detail.

DIY spinner targets

St, 03/08/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This is a guest blog from reader Vana-2, who goes by the name Hank. He tells us how to make spinner targets.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Now over to you, Hank.

DIY Spinner Targets
Hank Vana2

This report covers:

  • Spinners for plinking
  • Construction
  • Form the spinner arm
  • Form the pivot coil
  • Assembly
  • The target base
  • Spinner mounting
  • Cautions
  • Spinner target use
  • Summary

I like to make my own spinner targets.

Spinners for plinking

Plinking small reactive targets at random ranges is my favorite airgun passtime and spinners are my preferred targets. Today I will share how I make them.

I like spinners because they are an all-or-nothing kind of target. Hit them and they spin. Miss and they just sit there, waiting for you to try again. The instant feedback of a hit confirms that the sight picture was correct for that range. The way they move when hit allows you to discern whether you just clipped the spinner or smacked it dead center. Excellent training for hunting!

The bases can be anything.

There are many commercially made spinner targets available on the market but, being a compulsive tinkerer, I prefer to make my own from stuff I have around the house.

The targets I show here are best for air guns up to about 20 foot-pounds, which is about 27 joules. They can be used with more powerful rifles, but the wire arm may need more frequent replacement.


All you need are few basic tools and some hardware — a length of stiff wire and some wood for the base. Construction is simple, and you can easily make a half a dozen spinners in an evening.

To help form the wire, a simple bending jig is made from a piece of spruce 2×4 lumber that has a good solid knot and a 2-inch long, quarter-inch diameter bolt. To make the jig, drill a quarter-inch hole through the knot and install the bolt as shown in the picture below. Immediately beside the protruding bolt, drill an eighth-inch diameter hole about an inch deep. The eighth-inch hole holds the end of the wire while the coils are formed around the bolt.

This 3-inch spinner arm was made to show details of the large target coil and the small pivot coil, their orientation and the jig that’s used to bend them. An actual finished arm is about 10 inches long.

Form the spinner arm

The spinner arm is made from a 16- to 17-inch piece of stiff wire. Coat hanger wire works well, and one hanger will yield enough wire for two spinner arms.

To form the large target coil, bend the last three-quarter-inch of wire into an L shape and insert the short piece into the hole in the jig. Keeping the wire flat against the wood jig, bend it around the bolt (in one continuous motion) to form a 2-1/2-turn spiral (refer to the photo above). Pry the flat coil off of the jig with a screwdriver, cut off the short bit of wire and file the stub flush with the coil.

Form the pivot coil

Form the small pivot coil by making another L on the other end of the wire. This L end is also about three-quarters of an inch long, and is in the same plane as the target coil – in other words, this L should be flat on the table when the large coil is flat on the table. Insert the wire into the jig and form a 1-1/2-turn coil (like a spring) around the bolt. Remove from the jig and cut off the short bit of wire and part of a coil. Flatten and close the coil to create the pivot as shown in the next photo. Check that the target coil is at 90 degrees to the pivot coil and adjust if required.

This shows how the pivot coil is made.


Assemble the spinner target from two fender washers, a lock washer and a machine-screw with a nut to fit it. Clamp the large target coil between the washers and tighten the machine screw nut securely. If required, use a pair of pliers to bend the wire arm so that its axis is aligned with the center of the bolt as shown below.

Note that I am using heavy washers and 1/4-20 hardware for these spinners because they are for my .22 and .25 caliber PCPs. Lighter bolts and nuts can be used for .177 air guns.

Three finished spinner targets show assembly details.

The target base

The target base can be anything that will support the spinner. I’ve attached the spinner arms to fence posts, trees or a just a stake driven into the ground. The base needs to be wide and heavy enough to be stable.

The base shown at the beginning of the blog is made from a 3” thick slice of log and a 2×2 baluster left over from when I built my deck. I prefer a portable base to be able change locations easily.

Spinner mounting

The pivot end of the spinner is attached to the base support using a woodscrew, two washers and a disk of soft foam. The foam serves to space the spinner arm away from the mounting point and provides some tensioning to dampen the arm movement.

The pivot should fit loosely on the screw to allow it to move about freely. If the spinner arm is constrained too much it will be forced to absorb the energy of impact rather than being able to move out of the way.

This is how to mount the pivot to the spinner base.


All the usual safety precautions apply to using these targets… use safety glasses; shoot at a reasonable range and have a good backstop.

These spinners are NOT recommend for steel BBs – the metal target face is perpendicular to the shooter and the probability of the BB rebounding directly back at the shooter is very high.

Spinner target use

I like to deploy a dozen or so of these spinners along the walking trail on my property and moving them to different locations frequently. It’s great practice to stalk them and take the shot through whatever clear lane you can find through the bush. Since the spinners are the size of the kill-zone on most small game you can quickly learn your maximum effective range.


Pop-cans are the traditional plinking targets of airgunners but if you want a greater challenge, I suggest you try these spinners.

Dan Wesson M512 4-inch pellet revolver: Part 3

Út, 03/07/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

New 4-inch Dan Wesson pellet revolver from ASG is very realistic!

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight-in reveals a problem
  • First group of Hobbys
  • Qiang Yuan pellets
  • Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets
  • Crosman Premier lite pellets
  • Evaluation

Today we look at the accuracy of the Dan Wesson 4-inch pellet revolver. As we do it may be helpful for you to keep in mind the fact that I have also tested both the 8-inch Dan Wesson pellet revolver and the 6-inch Dan Wesson pellet revolver, so you have something to compare today’s test to. To see those tests, go to the product listing I linked to and look for the link to the review/article. Let’s get to it.

The test

I shot from 10 meters, resting my hands on a sandbag. I’m shooting just 6 shots at each bull, because that is how many cartridges the gun holds. I sighted-in and also shot the first group with 7-grain RWS Hobby pellets. All shooting was done in the single-action mode (where I manually cock the hammer before each shot). There were no bad shots in this test. Everything you are about to see happened with the sights in perfect alignment.

Sight-in reveals a problem

My first shot from the gun landed very low on the target paper at 10 meters. Obviously I needed to adjust the rear sight up, which is where a problem occurred. When I turned the elevation screw counter-clockwise, it came up but the rear sight leaf remained down. There was no spring under the leaf.

What I did then was adjust the rear sight screw as high as it would go without coming out of the gun, then I shimmed beneath the rear sight leaf with a small piece of card stock that was folded over many times. I then screwed the adjustment screw back down to put some tension on the card stock, so the rear sight leaf wouldn’t move.

I’m sure there is supposed to be a spring under the rear sight leaf, but the test gun just doesn’t have one. My fix with the card stock is a good trick for you to learn, so here is what it looks like.

I shimmed under the rear sight leaf with some folded card stock (arrow) to compensate for a missing spring.

Shot number 2 landed almost as high above the bullseye as the first shot was low, so I pulled the shim out and removed several layers. Then I inserted it again and screwed the screw down until it was tight again. The third shot landed about an inch above the bull and slightly to the right, so I removed one more fold of the shim stock and tightened the adjustment screw back down. The next shot was in the black, just above the center of the bull. By this time I had fired 4 shots, leaving two loaded cartridges in the cylinder. I put pellets into 3 of the empty cartridges and loaded them into the cylinder. I now shot the remaining 5 rounds from the gun and then checked the target. There were no more sight adjustments in the test, and I was counting the first shot after the final adjustment as the first shot of this group.

First group of Hobbys

Okay, now we can talk about the first group. There are 6 shots in this group, but I want to show you the entire target first, so you can see where all the pellets landed during the sight-in. As I told you, the first shot was low, shot 2 was high and shot 3 was almost where I wanted it. Shot 4 landed in the back part of the bull, touching the red center, so I decided to consider it as the first shot of the group. Unfortunately one of the subsequent 5 shots landed close to the third sight-in shot, so I had to indicate that last sight-in shot on the target.

Here is the entire sight-in target. Shot 1 is low. Shot 2 is high and shot 3 is nearly there.

The 6-shot group of Hobbys measures 1.422-inches between centers. One of the shots strayed out very close to the final sight-in shot, so I indicated on the target which on was the sighter.

Six RWS Hobby pellets went into 1.422-inches at 10 meters.

Qiang Yuan pellets

Next up were the Qiang Yuan Training pellets that I thought might be the best in this revolver. Boy, was I wrong! Six of them went into 2.739-inches at 10 meters, making the worst group of the test. And, boy is my new right eye (the one that had the cataract removed) sharp! I actually saw that pellet that is way to the right in flight, and it looked like a major-league curveball! Looking at how the paper tears, I think this pellet is unstable in this Dan Wesson, and is yawing badly, so I don’t recommend it.

Qiang Yuan Training pellets were not good. You can tell by their holes they are yawing in flight. Six went into 2.739-inches at 10 meters.

Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets

Next I tried some Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets. I probably should have shot some of these in the velocity test. They would no doubt push the velocity up over 400 f.p.s. In past tests I have found this pellet to often be superior. It’s the only lead-free pellet I have ever tested that is accurate, and sometimes the accuracy is stunning — as it almost is today. This was the second most accurate pellet of the test, with indications that it wants to be the best. Six went into 1.708-inches, with 5 of them going into 0.925-inches at 10 meters.

Six Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets made a 1.708-inch group, with 5 going into just 0.925-inches at 10 meters.

Crosman Premier lite pellets

The final pellet I tested was the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain dome. Six of them made a group that measures 2.041-inches between centers. This group is well-centered on the target and would be good to use on soda cans and the like, as long as they are close.

Six Crosman Premier lites went into 2.041-inches at 10 meters. This is okay for closer targets.


The Dan Wesson 4-inch pellet revolver has a lot going for it. The looks are spot-on and the gun functions just as it should. The realism is remarkable. Accuracy is okay, but not exceptional. The cartridges are easy to load and they come out of the cylinder with no problem.

I didn’t test the speedloader this time, but I’ve seen enough Dan Wesson speedloaders to know they work flawlessly.

Is this the pellet revolver for you? It could be, though if you need better accuracy, you might want to consider the 6 or 8-inch guns.

Odds and ends

Po, 03/06/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Blue Book of Airguns
  • Some recent acquisitions
  • Findlay airgun show
  • Texas airgun show
  • Pyramyd Air Cup
  • Student Air Rifle (SAR) program

Today I thought I would clean up some things and tell you about some exciting things that have been happening.

Blue Book of Airguns

First I’ll tell you about the new Blue Book of Airguns. It’s the 12th edition and contains 736 pages. No, it doesn’t have all the airguns in the world, and it never will. No publication will ever be able to do that. But this is the most comprehensive book about airguns that exists, and if you want to play in the airgun world, you really need one.

Many of you ask me how I know so much about airguns. The Blue Book is one of the reasons. Without it I would not be the Godfather of Airguns. Perhaps the favorite cousin, but definitely not the Godfather.

Some recent acquisitions

I have some standing searches on the Gun Broker auction website, and a couple weeks ago they came in big! Someone had bought a large airgun collection that included some Air Arms spring rifles (from before the TX 200), an FWB 124, a BSF S70 and several other classics. Most of these were still in the box and the auction listings claimed they were unfired. Since they were airguns I have no idea how anyone could prove such a claim, but they looked like new.

Well, as airguns do on Gun Broker, people were bidding ridiculously low prices for each of them, so I put as much as I was willing to spend on each one and was in line to purchase 6 new/old airguns!

But I was outbid on every one of them. And, when I saw the final prices, I’m glad, because I would never have paid so much for any of them. The FWB 124 went for close to $600, as I recall. Well, I had a bid on a BSF S70 that was “unfired in the box,” and I was also outbid on that one. That one bothered me, because I have wanted to test an S70 that was as close to factory condition as possible. I did write a 3-part report on the BSF S70, way back in 2011. But that rifle was a special one that I felt someone had fired with the barrel open, because the barrel was bent upward so much that I could not get it to hit the aim point at 10 meters. So I used that same rifle in a second 5-part report on Bending airgun barrels, in 2012.

Now that rifle is a fine one, but it shoots a little too fast — .177 Hobbys averaging 866 f.p.s., which is right on the edge of credibility for a 1970s spring rifle. According to Robert Law in his Air Rifle Headquarters catalog, so S70s did shoot that fast, but it has been my experience never to have seen one before this one. Was this one ever tuned? I don’t know, so I wanted to try another one that was like new to compare. But like I said, that first one on Gun Broker got away from me.

But, in a stroke of good fortune, another BSF S70 in excellent condition came up for sale just days after I lost the first one. That one I won, for less than I was willing to pay for the first one! Now, I do have a second rifle to test. And this one has the original rear sight, instead of the peep sight that’s on my other rifle. The point is — there are still good airguns out there, if you will just look for them.

I’m writing this report on Friday of last week. I tell you that because there is a second airgun I hope to snag on Saturday. It’s a Webley Premier. Not the Premier Mark II model that has the cast aluminum frame we also see in the current Tempest pistol. This Premier is the last of the all-steel Webley pistols. Think of it as a very recent Webley Senior. If you don’t know the difference, look it up in your Blue Book.

As I write this, I am watching the website. No one has bid on the pistol yet, because the starting bid is $250, plus $20 shipping. Even though this pistol is like new in the box, that’s all the money it’s worth. However, if I bid too soon some other guy who is casually watching it will get his hackles up and outbid me. You know how that goes? But if I wait until just before the end of the auction to bid, he will either miss my bid or he will be thrown into a fog of indecision long enough for me to win the airgun. Either way, I will have another tale to tell you in a future report.

My point is — there are still good deals to be found in airguns. And, yes, I know that $270 is too much for many of you to spend. But I spent just $75 on the .22 caliber El Gamo 68-XP breakbarrel I’m now reporting on. And the El Gamo 300 that I reported several years ago was only $100. I turned down a Sheridan Silver Streak for $65 a month ago, because the guy also wanted to sell me a box of old cheap Daisys. He wanted to get rid of them all at the same time, but when I told him I couldn’t get even $5 for most of his old Daisys (they were plastic-stocked guns from the 1980s) at an airgun show, he was flabbergasted. He thought each one would be worth $20 or so. I have stood behind the table at dozens of airgun shows and watched people pass on airguns at prices many people think are ridiculously low. I know what sells and what doesn’t

Findlay airgun show

That leads me into my next topic — the 2017 Flag City Toys That Shoot airgun show in Findlay, Ohio. I will have tables there on Saturday, April 8, and I’m planning on bringing many of the nice vintage airguns you have read about in recent times. They will be for sale, and I will use the money to buy more vintage airguns to write about. I usually don’t have super-nice vintage airguns to sell, but this time I do. So, if you are looking for something upscale, please come to the show. Actually, I believe there will be other dealers there who would probably say the same things about themselves, if they could. (insert smiling emoji here for those who don’t get the dry humor)

Texas airgun show

Can’t make Findlay this year? Then perhaps the 2017 Texas airgun show on Saturday, August 26, is more convenient. I’ll have a couple tables there, too. The guns that don’t sell at Findlay will be available there.

Pyramyd Air Cup

Let us not forget the 2017 Pyramyd Air Cup. It’s August 25-27 this year and it will be bigger and better than ever. Ask anyone who has attended and they’ll tell you this is a shooting show that’s not to be missed.

Student Air Rifle (SAR) program

Umarex USA is making the Embark rifle for the Student Air Rifle (SAR) program.The program is designed to facilitate an introduction to the lifetime pursuit of target shooting to school-aged youth in grades 4 through 12. The purpose is to grow the shooting sports in the most important segment — young people. The goal is to have this program as part of a regular school curriculum. And, why not? They currently have gym and computer science, neither of which is a scholastic subject. I will have more to tell you about this program in a complete blog.

The rifle used in SAR is the Umarex Embark. It’s a breakbarrel rifle with a stock that’s ergonomically shaped for offhand shooting, because SAR is 100 percent standing! It’s a youth-sized air rifle that I wish was available from Pyramyd Air, and maybe it will be. I plan to test the Embark thoroughly for you.

Interested? You should be! This is a fresh new marksmanship program that I hope to see grow in the coming years.

Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan: Part 2

Pá, 03/03/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

A history of airguns

This is the completion of our guest blog on the Apache multi-pump air rifle. Today Benji-don shares his experiences with the performance of the rifle, after it was made operable.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Over to you, Benji-don.

Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan: Part 2

by Benji-don
Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan multi-pump pneumatic air rifle.


Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan multi-pump pneumatic air rifle.

This report covers:

  • Trigger pull
  • Pumping
  • Loudness
  • Test for velocity and energy
  • Number 4 buckshot velocity
  • Daisy BBs velocity
  • Accuracy tests
  • Accuracy with BBs
  • Buckshot
  • Accuracy with BBs
  • Measuring #4 buckshot
  • Accuracy with airsoft BBs
  • Accuracy with .25 caliber pellets
  • Conclusions
  • From B.B.
Trigger Pull

I measured the trigger pull with a fish-weighing spring scale. It was 1 lb. 1 oz. It is one-stage with a long and creepy release. As much as I have shot the Apache, I still do not know when it will fire. That really requires holding on the target while squeezing the trigger.


Pumping the Apache air rifle is very similar to pumping a Benjamin 392. It starts off very easy and requires more effort as the number of pumps increase. The mechanism is very similar to those of the older Sheridan, Crosman and Benjamin multi-pumps. I measured the pumping force needed for the tenth pump at about 35 pounds. It seems to me to produce more muzzle energy for the pumping effort than other multi-pumps.


I would rate the Apache rifle with 10 pumps at a loudness of 4-Medium-High with #4 buckshot and 3-Medium with steel BBs. As with all multi-pumps, fewer pumps will quiet it down significantly.

Test for velocity and energy

I started the velocity testing at four pumps. Pumps 1 through 3 did not generate much pressure and gave erratic results. I think one of the valves [inlet and exhaust. Ed.] needs at least four pumps to seal.

I tested both #4 buckshot and Daisy Premium Grade BBs from 4 to 12 pumps. The seals are old and stiff like me, so I set the gun in front of a heater until it was warm to the touch. That made a big difference in the uniformity of the progression of velocity per pump.

The #4 buckshot weighs 20.4 grains. The BBs are 5.1 grains. When cold the gun gives erratic results until it warms up from pumping, and that is a lot of work.

These tables show the velocity and energy of the buckshot and BBs, per pump.

Number 4 buckshot velocity

Pumps……..velocity…………..energy (ft. lbs)

Daisy BBs velocity

Pumps……..velocity…………..energy (ft. lbs)

The following chart gives a different view of the data.

Accuracy tests

All shooting was from a bench with a rest using open sights. I am not the best shot with open sights, but I can tell you the following groups are the gun, not me. I used 5=shot groups because they won’t get any better with 10 shots, and these are enough to show that it is not even a good plinker. It does pack a punch, though, if you hit what you are aiming at.


The shots with the buckshot were outdoors with the wind at my back at 4 miles per hour. The temperature was 56 degrees. The BBs were shot indoors.

Number 4 buckshot — 5 pumps at 10 yards

The velocity spread was 48 f.p.s. and the average velocity was 373 f.p.s. These five shots went into a group that measured 4.04-inches between centers.

Number 4 buckshot 10 pumps at 10 yards

The spread was 60 f.p.s. and the average velocity was 525 f.p.s. These five shots went into a group that measured 2.18-inches between centers.

Accuracy with BBs

I tried shooting BBs at 10 yards but they were off the paper. So, I went indoors at 3 yards.  Even at 3 yards a Red Ryder will shoot rings around the Apache. I know some of you are wondering what may happen with 3 or 4 pumps, as the BBs, with even 5 pumps, are going pretty fast. Well, the gun is not consistent in velocity with less pumps.  I tried 4 pumps at the beginning and they were no better.  The 10-pump groups are in a very neat string. I think it is just an anomaly as other 10-pump groups showed more of a scatter. These are the targets I set up for this report and I am using them the way they came out.

BBs shot at 3 yards. Left target 5 pumps 1.92-inches. Right target 10 pumps 0.58-inches.

For the BBs with 5 pumps, I kept track of each shot on the target so you could compare the locations with the velocities in the table above. I did not see any correlation.  The string of BBs with 10 pumps did not start at one end and proceed to the other. They somehow ended up in a string.

Measuring #4 buckshot

Buckshot are not made to be particularly uniform. They are made for a shotgun. Normally they are made by cold swaging. They not made under the same controlled conditions that pellets or round balls are made. The #4 buckshot is nominally .24 caliber.

I measured 10 random #4 buckshot. Here are the results. Measurements are in millimeters.
1.   6.10
2.   6.20 (6.11 to 6.24)
3.   6.10
4.   6.11
5.   6.12
6.   6.10
7.   6.14
8.   6.16
9.   6.12
10. 6.12

6.11mm equals 0.240 inches

Buckshot groups at 10 yards. Left target 10 pumps, 2.18-inch group and right target 5 pumps 4.04-inch group.

Buckshot seemed to do okay, for the poor uniformity in their size and shape. If round balls of the optimum diameter could be found the rifle may be adequate for a plinker.

Accuracy with Airsoft BBs

I also tested some airsoft BBs as they are nominally 6mm or 0.24 caliber.  They actually measure more like 5.94 to 5.97mm, less than 6mm.  At 6mm they would be 0.236 inches.  The airsoft BBs were too small and did not provide any improvement in accuracy.  I made a threaded insert for the muzzle end of the barrel so it would have a flat surface and a diameter that would allow me to use a patch with the airsoft BBs. Using the same idea as a muzzle loaded rifle with round balls. I think the barrel end I made left a gap that caused the patch to get caught and not leave the barrel symmetrically. The airsoft BBs did not beat out the buckshot at 10 meters. They did do better than the BB gun steel BBs.

Accuracy with .25 caliber pellets

I did not originally plan to test pellets because they did not fit in the circular loading port on top of the breech. Both #4 buckshot and BBs are just dropped in with the bolt open, making loading as easy as it gets for a single shot. For the pellets I considered opening the loading port with a file or Dremel tool, but did not want to alter the gun in that way, especially since I did not know if they would even work.

I decided to remove the bolt and see if the .25 caliber pellets would fit. They fit with a little help tapping on the end of the bolt with a wooden mallet I use for my black powder muzzleloaders. It took less effort than I expected. With the bolt back in and the handle back on the bolt I was all set to test fire, when I looked at the bolt pointed at my face! I decided to put the screw cap back over the butt end of the bolt. The first shot sounded good so I decided to check the accuracy.

I did not expect much and did not have a target handy. I set up my pellet trap with a sheet of paper and a peel-and-stick bullseye at 10 yards. Wow! The first shot hit the edge of the bullseye at 10 o’clock. I shot 5 shots with 10 pumps each and was surprised to see a respectable group.


Pellets worked, too. This 5-shot group with .25 cal. Beeman Kodiak Tapered Dome pellets measures 0.49 inches.

The Beeman Kodiak pellets are 31.02 grains. They look the same as H&N Baracuda .25 Cal. round nose pellets that weigh 31.02 Grains. I shot one pellet over the chronograph giving 525.2 fps and 19 foot-pounds of energy. This was a major improvement in all respects over the #4 buckshot.

I gathered three of the pellets from my pellet trap. They were all smashed on one side of the dome. I figured it must be from the trap based on the accuracy but just to be sure, I pushed a pellet through from the breech and checked it out.

The three pellets on the top and the #4 buckshot on the bottom left are from the pellet trap. The single pellet in the middle bottom is straight from the tin.  The pellet on the bottom right was pushed through the barrel with a cleaning rod.


The Apache – Fire-Ball – Texan is a solid gun that developed a fair amount of power for a multi-pump from 1948. The gun has a few features that I like such as the half-cock safety. The cone in the pump seal is also a good idea, it comes close to that of a flat top pump head in reducing the air remaining in the pump tube on the compression stroke. If converted to shoot pellets this rifle would be a good plinker.

I do not know how many of these rifles are still around, they show up for sale once in a while. I would not recommend one for a shooter. For me the enjoyment was seeing how it worked and getting it to shoot again. I will pass it back to my son.

From B.B.

First, thanks to Benji-don for an excellent report. He showed us the inside of an air rifle that few even knew existed.

He slugged the bore of his rifle and found the diameter to be 0.249-0.250-inches. He tells me he’s read conflicting information about the caliber of the Apaches being .22, .24 and .25. My guess is some of that is people guessing at the caliber without knowing, biut there might be several different calibers out there, as well. If anyone knows the answer, please enlighten us.

Finally, I promised to show you an Apache pistol. This one is in very nice condition, but the box you see it in is not original.

This nice Apache pistol is in the collection of a lucky airgun collector.

AirForce International Orion PCP air rifle: Part 1

Čt, 03/02/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Orion PCP repeater from AirForce International.

This report covers:

  • Some facts
  • The rifle
  • Accuracy
  • Portability
  • Filling
  • Trigger
  • Power adjustability
  • Summary

Okay! Today we start looking at a precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle that I bet not too many of you know about — the AirForce International Orion. First of all — AirForce International? Are they the same as AirForce Airguns? If so, why the International?

Some facts

AirForce International is the division of AirForce Airguns that imports airguns from abroad. They select the guns they feel have the level of quality their company demands, but with features their domestically-made airguns may not offer. The Orion is a 13-shot repeater that comes in a classic wood stock.

I have known about the Orion for several years. You know how some companies tell you that they have worked with the manufacturer to iron out all the details of a product until it was what they wanted to offer their customers? Well, I have witnessed that happening with the Orion. When the project started the rifle had an iffy trigger and was set to retail at a higher price. I watched as the details were ironed out, one by one, until what you are about to see was born.

Let’s face it — anyone bringing out a new PCP in the U.S. today has one rifle to overcome — the Benjamin Marauder. That’s no secret! All airgun companies know it, and, if they want to sell to the U.S. market, they have to keep that fact at the forefront of everything they do. AirForce is very aware of the market, and this Orion is a rifle they believe will sell. I don’t compare airguns very often, and I’m not going to start today, but as this report unfolds, you know what is driving my look at this new air rifle.

The rifle

The Orion is a PCP that is offered in .177, .22 and .25 calibers. I am looking at a .22, because it was the caliber I most wanted to test for you. The max velocity in this caliber is said to be 800 f.p.s., but of course I will test that in detail. Accuracy is said to be quite good, and you know I’m going to test that. In fact, because of what I said at the beginning of the report, I have to test the Orion out to at least 50 yards.

The rifle is made by Cometa of Spain, whose name is on the air gauge in the stock. Cometa also makes the  AirForce International 94 spring-piston air rifle. AirForce is pleased with the quality of these Cometa products, which is why they invested the effort to sculpt the Orion into the rifle I am now introducing you to.


The 18.5-inch barrel is hammer-forged, which is the easiest way to get superlative accuracy from a rifled barrel. I can’t wait to see that! The barrel is fully shrouded At the power level, it should be very quiet. I plan to report on that for you.

The stock is an attractive wood that’s checkered at the pistol grip and on both sides of the forearm. The cheekpiece adjusts for height, which is very handy, since the rifle has to have some kind of optical sight mounted. I’m thinking I will install a powerful scope, based on the performance I expect from the rifle.

The stock has one additional feature many will like. It is slim! The forearm cross section is narrow and the pistol grip is very comfortable in my hand. I mention this because I know stock dimensions are very important to a lot of shooters. I really like your this one holds.


The overall length of the rifle is 41 inches, which makes it comfortably short for hunters, even though it is a full-sized rifle and not a carbine. The unscoped test rifle tips the scale to 7.75 lbs., but that will vary with the weight of the wood.  That makes the Orion an all-around comfortable airgun for carrying afield, in my opinion. And it comes with sling swivel anchors attached, so you can install a sling with no hassle.


The Orion comes with a male Foster quick-disconnect fitting for filling. It’s located at the front of the air reservoir, and the cap just pops on and off — no need to unscrew it. The pressure gauge is located at the bottom of the forearm, just forward of the triggerguard. The rifle operates on 206 bar/3000 psi pressure, thank goodness, so all the standard filling equipment will work. Until I know what sort of shot count you can expect I can’t really say whether I advise you to use a hand pump to fill this rifle, but with the Foster fitting and 3000 psi limit, it is certainly possible. The specs tell us that the air reservoir has a capacity of 225 cc, so I’m hoping there are at least 30 good shots.


Of all the design elements I think the trigger was the one AirForce concentrated on the most. I know they actually made modifications that they sent back to the factory for evaluation. I tried the trigger at several times during its development and I can tell you that what’s in the gun today is a vast improvement over what it originally was. It has to be, because look what it’s up against! I will give you a complete report on the pull in Part 2.

The trigger adjusts for what the owner’s manual calls travel, and what I would refine to call the length of the first stage. Stage 2 and the letoff weight are fixed, but light enough that I don’t think anyone will complain. Oh. that’s not true. Some people would complain if they struck oil in their back yard, “The derricks are so unsightly!”

The safety is a bar in front of the trigger. It is 100 percent manual, so hallelujah! Because it runs across the trigger blade and sticks out on either side it is ambidextrous.

Power adjustability

Yes. the power can be adjusted via an Allen screw located at the rear base of the receiver. Turn clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease. I will test it for you in Part 2, but by just looking at it I can tell you it’s not something you are going to do all the time. It’s there to optimize accuracy, pellet by pellet.


The Orion is a 13-shot .22-caliber air rifle that’s positioned in the lower end of the sporting market. It’s quiet, has a good trigger, and hopefully great accuracy. Settle in and we shall all see together.

Am I alone…?

St, 03/01/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The questions
  • Some answers
  • The risk
  • The good news
  • Sheridan Blue Streak
  • The point

I received this comment to an older blog yesterday.

The questions

“Am I alone in wanting a Single-Stroke Pneumatic with more authority than a 10 meter or Canada-friendly option [power/velocity]? The gun I want the most would be:

1. A side lever or forearm lever single stroke pneumatic, to eliminate the need for the artillery hold and the kick of a springer and the barrel alignment issues of a break barrel.

2. Powerful enough to hunt small game humanely. Since the current 10 meter offerings seem to top out at under 5 ft./lbs. I would probably buy anything over 2/3 the muzzle energy and of comparable quality and price to the Diana 350 Magnum or Gamo Whisper Fusion 1300 springers I currently own.

3. A multi pump pneumatic built for a stronger person might be viable. But, I hate pumping a gun 10 times for 6-7 fpe. How about something that gets 15 fpe with 3 or 4 pumps?

I wonder if the reason no one makes my gun is the potential of it dieseling and possibly even breaking the operator’s arm or jaw during charging. Would a gun with an axial slide forearm pump overcome this concern if it exists?

Do you have any insight to the availability of a manual stroke pneumatic that outperforms 10 meter and 12g CO2 guns in the field? But, Not one that takes 7-10 strokes to do it?”

Some answers

Wow. That’s a lot of questions. I will try to address most of them in today’s report. Let’s start with the first one.

1. A sidelever or forearm lever single stroke pneumatic with decent power. Let’s say that is at least 12 to 15 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

This has been done — several times. But the physics involved have always dictated that the design of the gun had to compress a lot more air than most single strokes do — a lot more! The Parker-Hale Dragon was one such gun that I reported on in July of 2008. It was a 12 foot-pound single-stroke pneumatic air rifle that required a 135-degree stroke of the pump lever to charge the gun. Several steps were needed to prepared the action to receive the charge, with the result that the gun operated like a science experiment, rather than an air rifle you could use.

A You Tube video from December of 2016 shows a new release of a single stroke that develops up to almost 20 foot-pounds of energy in .22 caliber. It seems to use a variant of the butterfly pump system that was first shown on the Benjamin 392 pump-assist rifle. I tested that one for you in December, 2016. You may recall that I showed you a video of me pumping that rifle. It’s at the end of a different report, so scroll down to watch it.

So, apparently what you want is possible and it looks like someone is doing something about it. Will you be willing to pay for it when it gets here?

3. Multi-pumps can be more powerful with fewer pump strokes, too. I owned one back in the 1990s. It was a Daystate Sportsman Mark II that generated almost 25 foot-pounds with 5 pump strokes of a sidelever. It was very accurate. The pump strokes took 55 to 77 pounds of effort. That might be reduced by a clever linkage that uses a sliding fulcrum in the same fashion as the pump assist Benjamin, but still, the cost of the rifle was around $1,000 in today’s money — maybe more. Are you willing to pay? Apparently not many people were, fbecause that rifle never really succeeded in the market. The current FX Independence that retails for $1,700 is another high-tech multi-pump that sells to a few key buyers, but it’s hardly a mainstay.

But let’s look at this more closely. Just because all the guns like this to date have cost a lot of money does not mean they have to. Any company that can produce a Benjamin Marauder that retails for $500 can certainly make one of these for close to the same price. There must be some other reason airgun makers aren’t making them.

They aren’t making them because they don’t sell! That’s the reason. Whenever I hear someone say, “Everybody wants…” I think to myself, there is a person who doesn’t know the market very well. The airgun market is very fickle. If you build one certain gun, people will stand around with their hands in their pockets and say, “If only they would just ….., I would buy one today!” Well, the truth is, they won’t buy one today and so they don’t, and that is what limits the airgun market. Whatever you build, they will want something different.

Everybody may want something, but only a few are willing to buy it when it becomes available. Right now there is an ongoing discussion on this blog among several readers that Crosman should invest the time, money and effort to turn the Benjamin Marauder into a multi-pump pneumatic. Could they do it? Yes — without question. Would it sell? That’s the question nobody can answer. The people who want it say it will sell, but they are risking nothing to say that. Crosman, on the other hand, has to risk the time and cost to develop the gun, plus be willing to not develop other products that might sell well (because they are tying up their resources on this project).

The risk

Here is the dilemma. If company G is making a lot of money selling the same airguns under different names on the basis of advertising and high velocity claims, why would company C want to invent something that has never been seen before? Both companies make the majority of their sales and revenue in discount store sales. Making guns “everybody wants” is a dangerous and risky sideline for them. However, every once in awhile one of those risky projects is undertaken and is a home run. It allows them to enter a piece of the market they may not have been in before, or it expands their share of a segment they are already in.

The downside of home runs are the companies that no longer exist. Many of them were just generally mismanaged, but some of them made airguns that “everybody” wanted.

The good news

Everything I’ve said to this point sounds like a lecture about not wanting more than already exists. But that’s not the end of the discussion. These circumstances have set up the potential for someone to succeed in a major way. That You Tube video shows what it looks like when someone takes a chance. Let’s look at one more.

Sheridan Blue Streak

In 1947 the Sheridan Pneumatic was born. It was later called the Model A and today we call it the Supergrade, but in 1947 it was just the Sheridan Pneumatic. It retailed for $56.50, which doesn’t seem so bad today, but at the time the popular Winchester model 61 slide action .22 rifle was Selling for just $44.50. A single shot air rifle was priced $12 more than a very popular slide action .22! That’s more than 25 percent higher.

This ad is from the 1948 Shooter’s Bible. It’s the first ad for the Supergrade. Notice the price.

A Winchester model 61 is selling in the same catalog for $12 less than the Sheridan!

When Sheridan revised the Model A (within a very short timeframe), in an attempt to lower the cost, they did so through sharpening their manufacturing processes and shaving some of the materials. The model B Sporter retailed for $35, but it still wasn’t enough. Sales were even worse!

Then, in a stroke of what was later shown to be genius, Sheridan looked at the entire design and made huge changes. The costly bronze barrel and pump tube were changed to cheaper red brass, and the complex double ball valve was exchanged for a more conventional pneumatic valve design. Power remained the same, accuracy stayed the same and the wood parts were still made of walnut, but the retail price of the new rifle was cut to $19.95. The model C Sheridan Blue Streak was a better design that gave up nothing except style and preserved the Sheridan company for another 60+ years.

The point

The point of today’s report is this — it is possible for better airguns to be made. There are plenty of areas for vast improvements. But each of them involves taking a risk. Sometimes a company will take that risk and, if they know their market well, it can pay off. But the downside of risk can be ruin, and no company wants that.

Diana 240 Classic:Part 3

Út, 02/28/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 240 Classic.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Which pellets?
  • The test
  • First 5 shots
  • Second 5 shots
  • Artillery hold wins
  • Tune in a Tube
  • 10 JSB RS pellets
  • 10 RWS Hobbys
  • 10 Crosman Premier lites
  • Pellet skirt damage
  • Evaluation thus far

I love my job! Today, the kid gets to play with a youth air rifle that’s easy to cock, has a nice trigger and, according to the velocity figures we saw in Part 2 of this report, plus the pedigree of the maker (Diana), should turn out to be very accurate. It’s as if I was employed by Santa Claus to test all the new airguns before he carts them off to their new owners all over the world. And, every two hours I get a break for hot chocolate! I love my job!

My job today is to begin to discover how accurate the Diana 240 Classic air rifle is. Like always, I will start at 10 meters and shoot with open sights.

Which pellets?

Reader Titus Groan suggested that I try JSB Exact RS pellets, and they were already on my list. Given the power of this rifle is lower, the lighter RS should do quite well.

Another light pellets that’s accurate in many airguns is the ever-populoar RWS Hobby. I have to try them — maybe even at 25 yards. Reader Esaz-92 likes them in his 240.

Finally, I think I will try the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain dome. That pellet has done quite well in other tests, and while it isn’t exactly a budget pellet, it is cheaper than a lot of premium domes. So, if it’s a winner, we will have a chicken dinner!

The test

The first test is off a sandbag rest at 10 meters, using open sights. I will try both the artillery hold and the rifle rested directly on the bag, to see which is best. I will start with JSB RS pellets for no particular reason beyond they were the only pellet specifically recommended by a 240 owner.

The 240 Classic sights are fiberoptic and I had the room lights on directly above the rifle, but when the target was lit by a 500-watt light source, the sights appeared black to me. That’s a good thing, of course, because it allows me to be more precise when aiming.

First 5 shots

The first 5 shots were using the artillery hold. They landed to the right of the center of the bull when I used a 6 o’clock hold. Five JSB RS pellets went into a vertical group that measures 0.515-inches between centers. Not great, but also not bad.

The first 5 JSB Exact RS pellets, shot with the artillery hold, made this vertical group at 10 meters. It measures 0.515-inches between centers.

After this group I adjusted the rear sight to the left. The sight has a set of index marks that showed it was adjusted to the right when it came from the box, so I centered it.

Second 5 shots

The second 5 shots were taken with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag. The impact of the pellets is nearly perfect. but the group is more open, if slightly smaller at 0.486-inches between centers.

The second 5 JSB Exact RS pellets, shot with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag, made this somewhat rounder group at 10 meters. It measures 0.486-inches between centers.

Artillery hold wins

I know the second group that was shot with the rifle rested directly on the bag is rounder and also slightly smaller, but I felt it was also more open than the first group. So I decided to shoot the entire test using the artillery hold. And the first group was astounding!

Tune in a Tube

Now that the little rifle was sighted-in, I decided to do something about the tiny buzz in the powerplant. So, the barreled action came out of the stock and I gave the dry mainspring a good shot of Tune in a Tube. When it was out of the stock I noticed that the piston was well-greased, but the mainspring was dry, so this will be a good before and after comparison.

The rear of the piston, seen on the left, was well-greased, but the mainspring was dry.

10 JSB RS pellets

Now the rifle was sighted in and also well lubricated. It should have been a delight to shoot. And, it was! I fell in love with this little rifle, now that all the vibration was gone. Maybe that is how I came to put 10 JSB Exact RS pellets into a group that measures just 0.428-inches between centers. That is SMALLER than either of the 5-shot groups I just finished shooting with the same pellet under the same conditions! Statistics say this is a very rare occurrence — when 10 shots go tighter than 5 shots, but it happened this time. I think this may be the first time I have ever documented this.

Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.428-inches at 10 meters. This is great!

10 RWS Hobbys

With this group under my belt I was ready to take on the world. Next up were RWS Hobbys, and I expected great things from them. Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver. Ten made a somewhat vertical group that measures 0.745-inches between centers. Well, reader Ersaz-92 did say his 240 is picky about the pellets it likes.

Ten RWS Hobbys went into 0.745-inches at 10 meters. Not so good.

10 Crosman Premier lites

The last pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. I thought they might surprise me, but 10 made a group that measures 0.753-inches between centers. That’s slightly larger than the Hobby group, and also the biggest group of the day.

Ten Crosman Premier lites made this 0.753-inch group at 10 meters. Biggest group of the day.

Pellet skirt damage

Most Diana breakbarrels rifles have slanted breeches that often damage the skirts of pellets when the barrel closes after loading. Reader Yogi had mentioned that. This 240 Classic certainly has a slanted breech. I didn’t notice any problem with feeding either the JSB Exact RS pellets or the Crosman Premiers, because they were small enough to enter the breech deeply. But the RWS Hobbys were larger and wouldn’t go all the way into the breech. A bit of their pellet skirt stuck out on the bottom of the breech block and did get bent when the barrel was closed. How much that affected accuracy is difficult to say, but it certainly didn’t help. The next time I test this rifle I might try deep-seating Hobbys.

Here you can see the bit of pellet skirt that was bent up when the barrel was closed.

Evaluation thus far

I think the Diana 240 Classic is a world-beater. I don’t know of another breakbarrel rifle that’s as nice at anywhere near the price. And I’m not done testing it yet.

I plan to test this rifle at 25 yards with open sights, and then again with a scope. I’m getting kind of attached to this little sweetie! I already know the bottom line. If you like breakbarrel spring guns that are fun to shoot — get one of these!

Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan: Part 1

Po, 02/27/2017 - 02:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Here is a unique guest blog. Remember that readers are always welcome to write a report for this blog.

Today’s report is the first part of a guest blog from reader Benji-don. He shares his experiences with an Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan multi-pump pneumatic air rifle that his son brought to him to fix.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Over to you, Benji-don.

Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan: Part 1
by Benji-don

Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan multi-pump pneumatic air rifle.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Description
  • Where it came from
  • Is it worth fixing?
  • Where to start?
  • Time to put it back together
  • Missing parts
  • Exploded View
  • Parts List
  • How it works
  • Summary
  • Editor’s note

The Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan I have is an early single shot version. Apache airguns were only made in 1948 and 1949 in Southern California. Overall length is 36.5-inches and the barrel is 20.5-inches. The best I can measure, the twist in the rifling is one turn in 16- to one turn in 18-inches, or maybe a little more. The rifling is so shallow I can not get it to grip a tight patch on a cleaning rod. Since it was made to shoot round balls, it could be slower than one turn in sixteen inches.

The stock wood looks like walnut to me. My rifle weighs 5 lbs. 15 oz. It is a multi-pump .24-caliber air rifle that also has a smoothbore barrel insert to shoot BBs. It is all-metal and wood except for the seals and the plastic butt plate. The barrel insert is also steel and screws into the muzzle end of the barrel. The breech and barrel band are made of pot metal. The Blue Book of Airguns has a more thorough description of the company and their history.

Where it came from

My son Andy picked this air rifle out of the garbage at his friend’s house. I think it belonged to his friend’s grandfather.

Andy brings things over for me to fix up every once in a while. He brought over an old 1928 Caterpillar Twenty tractor about a year ago, I told him, “No!” on that one. It’s still in the driveway though. I have three old tractors I am still using that need repairs. [Editor: We need to find out how I can get that Caterpillar 20 from you. It’s a very historic and valuable California tractor!]

Is it worth fixing?

This air rifle looked like it came out of the garbage. The front sight blade was broken. The back notch sight was missing. The breech bolt handle was broken. The hammer cocking rod and knob were missing. There was house paint splatter all over the gun and there were vise jaw marks on the receiver and the barrel band/pump pivot bracket. And there was no back-pressure when pumping. The gun did not look like anything worth fixing, and it was ugly. There was a wood stock and forearm though.

There were no identifying marks on the gun anywhere. Initially I thought it was a Crosman 100-series pellet rifle. Then I made the mistake of looking in the Blue Book of Air Guns and discovered that it was really a .24 caliber Apache-Fire-Ball-Texan single shot, and it had a barrel insert to shoot BBs. I became curious and decided to take it apart to see how it worked. Soon the situation came down to either the gun or me. I was not going to stop until I found out what was inside.

Where to start?

I removed the front pump pivot pin along with the front barrel band/pump pivot bracket. The pump assembly came right out. I was surprised to see a brass cone inside the pump cup seal. Maybe I would get lucky, I could tighten up the cone against the pump cup until it expanded the seal into the compression tube. That was a good design feature. After removing and cleaning the pump assembly I soaked the pump cup in automotive transmission sealer. By trial and error the brass cone could be tightened against the cup until there was a good seal. I put a few drops of Pellgun oil in the compression tube and put the pump back together. With every pump there was air coming out of the barrel. I let it soak overnight with some more oil. The next day was no better. Now I had to decide if it was worth spending more time on the Apache.

I worked on taking the hammer spring retainer off for a couple of hours. King Kong had installed with a pipe wrench! I could see the jaw marks. I put the breech block in my vise (with padded jaws), and resorted to using a pipe wrench myself, because a strap wrench did not provide sufficient grip. It worked, and now there are some more marks.

To get the exhaust valve body lock nut off I had to build a tool to fit over the valve stem guide. An old 5/8” socket fit over the valve stem guide. I ground down each side on the open end — leaving two blades, one on on each side, to engage the lock nut. Once the lock nut was off I could not see any way to get the valve out. Then I found a setscrew holding the valve body that is accessed through a hole in the bottom of the breech block.

I decided to look on the web, to see if there were any parts diagrams. There were none I could find. I did find a picture on JG Airguns by John Groenewold, of a disassembled Apache pistol that helped some. I also read that the exhaust valve body had to be pushed out using a dowel through the check valve port. It is not threaded like the Benjamin/Crosman valves, so it can easily be pulled out. There were some hints online that the compression chamber and valves could be driven out the breech with a dowel in the compression tube. I am pretty sure the compression chamber in my Apache rifle is soldered in place.

After a couple of days soaking the valve in penetrating oil there was still no movement. It was time to get tough again. I put a 3/16 dowel against the check valve stem and gave it a good whack with a hammer, it did not move. Next I gave it a good blast with a propane torch and still could not move it with a gentle push. Ok — grab the hammer again. Parts went flying in all directions! It is scary looking for parts in a workshop full of junk when you don’t know what parts you are looking for. I found a spring, exhaust valve, check valve and the valve body.

Well, now it was getting interesting. There were a couple of #8 birdshot inside the valve body. Earlier I had found a .177 pellet stuck in the exhaust port. I cleaned up all the dirt and gunk, and then soaked the exhaust valve in transmission leak stop. When I put it all back together it still leaked out the barrel and who knows where else.

Time to put it back together

The check valve was a brass disc with a small rod that fit through the intake hole in the compression chamber. There was no seal material on the check valve. The compression chamber is also brass, so how was this supposed to work? I had a seal from the paintball shop that would fit over the rod on the check valve but the surface of the compression chamber was pitted and looked corroded.

I cut off a piece of ½ inch dowel and screwed a piece of all-thread into one end to attach a drill. Once on the drill, I sanded down the dowel until it just fit inside the compression chamber. I glued emery cloth on the other end of the dowel and tried to polish the check valve seat of the compression chamber. It turned out that the check valve seal was stuck to the compression chamber. I tore it out with the modified socket I used to loosen the valve body lock nut. I was then able to polish the check valve seat with the emery paper on the end of the dowel. After reassembly the valve was still leaking.

I forgot to remove the set screw on disassembly and ruined the check valve trying to get the valve body off with a dowel and hammer. Not the first time I have screwed up! Now I needed a new check valve. I cut the stem off a Benjamin 342 exhaust valve and chamfered the hole in the compression chamber to fit the new valve stem shoulder. Next I put the exhaust valve in a drill press and polished the seal with 800 grit sand paper. Then did the same for the valve body exhaust valve seat face. After tinkering with the valve parts quite a few times I was finally able to get it to seal and not leak. I pumped it up and let it leak off quite a few times before I was able to get it hold air. Now I leave four pumps in it and it seems to be ok.

Below is a picture of the dowel with emery cloth on the end to polish the inlet/check valve seat, and the socket I cut to fit the valve lock nut.

Dowel with emery cloth on the end to polish intake valve seat and shaped socket for valve body lock nut.

Missing parts

I replaced the broken bolt handle with a machine screw. The front sight is a piece of common steel washer material trimmed and JB-Welded to the pot metal barrel band. A rear sight from a Benjamin Model 342 fit the machine screw locations from the original sight. I used a plastic knob from the hardware store and a bolt that fit the threads in the hammer. I cut the bolt to what was a useable length and cut threads on the other end to fit the knob.

Exploded view

Below is an exploded view picture (actually three overlapping images) with the old and some new parts.

I cut the parts picture into three images that overlap, so you can see the parts better — Ed.

Parts List

1. Insert barrel .175 cal.
2. Barrel rifled .24 cal.
3. Barrel band, compression tube plug, front sight
4. Compression tube
5. Pump pivot pin
6. Pump lever
7. Pump lever handle – fore stock
8. Pump lever link
9. Plunger guide and felt washer
10. Pump rod
11. Pump head and pump cup
12. Inlet valve and seal – original
12a. Inlet valve from Crosman 342 exhaust valve (stem trimmed)
13. Valve spring
14. exhaust valve
15. Valve body
16. Valve body lock nut
17. Valve body gasket between valve body and lock nut
18. Valve body gasket between valve body and compression chamber
(old top new o-ring bottom)
19. Trigger assembly
20. Trigger assembly screws
21. Stock stud and cap nut (screws into trigger assembly)
22. Stock
23. Valve body set screw (also alignment pin)
24. Breech block
25. Hammer
26. Hammer spring
27. Hammer sleeve
28. Hammer cocking stud and knob
29. Breech bolt and handle
30. Breech bolt sleeve
31. Barrel set screw (also alignment pin)
32. Barrel set screw
33. Rear sight (from Benjamin 342) and screws
34. Bolt lock cam and screws

* Compression chamber not shown

How it works

Before we get to the testing, let me tell you about some of the features of the Apache Fireball Texan. It does not have a safety but does not need one. The way the trigger and hammer interact is very clever. The gun has a half cock that allows the exhaust valve to seat so the gun can be pumped up. Half cock also locks the trigger under a lip inside the hammer. If the gun is bumped, the hammer knob is hit, or the trigger is pulled the gun will not fire when on half cock.

The bolt does not cock the hammer. The hammer is cocked using the knob attached to the hammer with a stud/bolt. To load the gun the bolt must be used. The knob is used to cock the hammer. Not a very efficient process. [Ed. That was a common way for single-shot air rifles to work at that time.]

The hammer, stud, and knob assembly make for a heavy mass striking the exhaust valve stem. Although heavy, it does not seem to give much kick when shooting the gun.

This shows the trigger sear locked in the hammer when on half cock.


After almost a year of off and on work, the Apache – Fire-Ball – Texan air rifle no longer looks as ugly to me. I guess all this time has given me a little bit of affection for the gal. Maybe not enough to hang in the living room but it does start a conversation when I bring it out.

In the next report I will do some velocity and accuracy tests.

Editor’s comment

This was a fascinating look at the insides of an air rifle few have ever seen. I’ve seen them at airgun shows, but this is my first time to look inside. Thank you, Benji-don.