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Umarex Embark breakbarrel spring rifle: Part 2

St, 05/24/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Umarex Embark air rifle.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • New development
  • RWS Hobby
  • Journey pellets
  • One more pellet test
  • Firing behavior
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far
New development

Last time I told you that the Embark air rifle was not available from Pyramyd Air. Well, that has changed. As of this week you can buy the Embark from Pyramyd Air. They list it as a youth rifle, which it certainly is, but I have a feeling a lot of adults are going to want one after we test it.

After I published the first report I was contacted by Jake Hindman, the president of the Student Air Rifle Program (SAR) and we had a nice conversation about his program. Some of what I will share with you today is a result of our talk.

We also discovered that one of our readers, Robert from Arcade, has a son in the SAR, and he gave us his views on how the program is benefitting that school. As he said, with SAR schools can have a safe marksmanship program in their existing facilities and the cost is not prohibitive. That’s exactly what SAR is designed to do!

Today we will look at the velocity of the Embark. This will be a strange test because I have never before tested an air rifle that was specifically intended to shoot lead-free pellets. To overcome resistance to the program, SAR mandated that a lead-free pellet be used and they worked with Predator International to create such a pellet. They named the pellet Journey, and at this time, JSB who makes them, can only provide enough for the program. Eventually they will be available commercially, but lead-free pellets are a challenge to make. For the time being they will only be available to schools and shooters in the SAR program.

The Embark is based on the Ruger Explorer that has a muzzle velocity of 495 f.p.s. That allows it to comply with Canadian law that requires unregulated air rifles to have a velocity of less than 500 f.p.s. Knowing we are about to test the Embark with lead-free pellets that are lighter than lead, we understand the velocity will increase, but so do the Canadians, so their law also provides for a muzzle energy threshold of 4.2 foot-pounds (5.7 joules). To be considered a high-power airgun and fall under the provisions of their Firearms Act, both thresholds must be exceeded. So special situations like this are accommodated.

RWS Hobby

The first pellet I will test is the RWS Hobby. At 7 grains, this lead pellet is one of the fastest pellets available in general use today. This is the type of pellet that would have been used to test the Ruger Explorer.

Ten Hobbys averaged 498 f.p.s. The spread went from 491 to 515 f.p.s. and at the average muzzle velocity the Hobby generates 3.86 foot-pounds (5.23 joules) at the muzzle. So the Embark is well under the Canadian threshold with this pellet.

The Hobbys fit the breech tight as they often do. That might make it an accurate pellet in this rifle, because it will grab the rifling well.

Journey pellets

Jake Hindman was kind enough to send me a tin of Journey pellets to test. Since this is the only pellet that may be used in competition, it is important that I test it in the Embark.

Journey pellets are supposed to weigh 5.5 grains, according to the label on the tin. I weighed several and found the weight spread between 5.4 and 5.7 grains, with 5.5 and 5.6 being the most common.

SAR Journey pellet tin.

Journey pellets.

Ten Journey pellets averaged 540 f.p.s. with a spread from 520 to 555 f.p.s. — so, a 35 f.p.s. spread. At the average velocity Journey pellets generate 3.56 foot-pounds (4.83 joules) at the muzzle. Because of that, Canadian law would not classify the Embark as a high-powered air rifle.

Journey pellets fit the breech very loosely. They fall into the rifling about 1/32-inch. Both the head and the skirt are undersized for the Embark bore. What effect that has on accuracy at 10 meters remains to be seen.

One more pellet test

Since shooters who are not in the SAR program cannot purchase Journey pellets yet, I wanted to test the Embark with another lead-free pellet that is available. The Sig Ballistic Alloy Match pellet is a proven lead-free target pellet, based on many of my tests with 10-meter target rifles.

This pellet fit the Embark bore very well. Both the head and skirt appear ideal for this barrel. This pellet cannot be used in official SAR competition. But for practice and for those who buy the rifle but are not in the program and want a lead-free pellet option, it may be viable. We will see.

Ten 5.25-grain Sig match pellets averaged 582 f.p.s. The spread went from 573 to 600 f.p.s., so a range of 27 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generates 3.95 foot-pounds (5.36 joules) so it is also under the dual thresholds of Canadian law.

Firing behavior

The Embark fires with a little buzz that isn’t disturbing. A shot of Tune in a Tube grease would certainly smooth it out.

Cocking Effort

The Embark I am testing cocks with 14 lbs. of effort. That makes it one of the easiest-cocking spring-piston air rifles I have ever tested. I believe a Walther LGV (the vintage target rifle — not the sporting rifle that’s currently sold) cocked with 11 lbs., and that was the lightest.

Trigger pull

The Embark trigger is non-adjustable. It’s two-stage and breaks at between 3 lbs. 7 oz and 3 lbs. 9 oz. There is quite a bit of creep in the second stage, but it’s light enough not to be a problem.

Evaluation so far

The Embark is turning out to perform exactly as I imagined is would. If it works as well as the Ruger Explorer I tested in 2009, this will be a fun test.

Blowguns — the first airguns

Út, 05/23/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This is a guest blog from reader Hiveseeker. Today he reflects on the very first airguns — blowguns

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

Blowguns — the first airguns
by Hiveseeker

This report covers:

  • Airgun history
  • Blowgun calibers
  • Blowgun length
  • Popular .40 and .50 caliber darts
  • Popular .625 caliber darts
  • A word about blowgun hunting
  • Blowgun accessories
  • Make a blowgun target
  • How to blow that blowgun
  • Aiming a blowgun
  • For further study

Modern-day blowguns come in .40, .50, and .625 caliber. Note the accessory dart quivers.

Airgun history

Here at the Airgun Academy blog B.B. has done a great job of sharing his passion and knowledge of airgun history, deepening our appreciation for our favorite sport. Today we’ll be traveling even further into the past as we delve back to the earliest roots of airgun history — the blowgun! B.B. took us there in 2007 when he wrote about The blowgun Where it all began, and observed that “As airgun collectors become more interested in their hobby, they eventually start acquiring blowguns.”

Blowguns have continued to grow in both popularity and technology since then, and, as an airgunner and a blowgun enthusiast myself, I felt that an update would be interesting. Lest you doubt the relevance of this topic, I point you to the authoritative pages of the Pyramyd Air catalog:

The Pyramyd Air 2013 catalog informs us that the very first airgun used lung power! The blowgun is considered to be at least 6,000 years old but some reckon it to be even older.

The blowgun is thought to have been invented at least 6,000 years ago. The blowgun is such an ancient weapon that there are few early records. However, the evidence suggests that the blowgun was invented more or less simultaneously in South America and Malaysia. From Malaysia it spread to Indonesia, the Philippines and eventually Japan, where blowguns were reportedly used by ninjas! I was also extremely surprised to learn that the blowgun was used by the Cherokee and Iroquois Native Americans, right here in the United States.

Fast-forward to modern times. In the 1960s the Jivaro blowgun company was popular, but disappeared within a couple decades. Then in the 1990s a number of different blowgun companies emerged on the scene, and today we have a wide selection of quality blowguns and darts available.

Blowgun calibers

Historical native blowguns were nearly all about .50 caliber. Today, the .40 caliber blowgun is the most popular size, but .50 and .625 caliber blowguns are also available. Popular brands of .40 caliber blowguns include Terminator, Bunker Buster, and several Avenger lines including the Avenger Warrior and Avenger Ninja.

The .50 caliber blowguns are fewer in number, with popular brands including the Commando, Extreme Ultra Pro, and Extreme Precision CT. The Extreme Precision CT (Close Tolerance) blowgun has a slightly narrower barrel that hugs the .50 caliber dart more snugly and is considered by many shooters to provide superior accuracy.

Cold Steel is the sole manufacturer of the .625 caliber big bore blowguns. These blowguns are in a class all their own. They are my favorite to shoot but they require good lung capacity.

Blowgun length

Native blowguns were often 8 feet long! Modern blowguns come in lengths from 2 to 5 feet. Short blowguns 3 feet or less are cheaper and much easier to find. However, I prefer longer blowguns 4 to 5 feet in length when available. Just as a longer barrel can give you faster velocity in a CO2 gun, a longer blowgun can give you faster dart velocity and a flatter trajectory.

The more time the dart accelerates in the barrel, the faster it goes until it exits the muzzle. The exception to this rule is the .625 big bore blowgun, which requires a lot of air to blow correctly. If you run out of breath before the dart leaves the barrel, dart velocity drops rapidly. For the .625 blowguns I recommend that female, youth, or small-framed shooters choose the 4 foot models over the 5 foot models; a shorter blowgun may be better in this case.

Popular .40 and .50 caliber darts

The earliest blowgun projectiles were small round stones or clay pellets. Sharpened wooden darts were invented later. For the modern-day blowgunner there is a bewildering array of darts available, but we’ll sort out some of the most popular and most practical. We’ll examine the .40 and .50 caliber darts together because they are so similar. In fact, the shafts of these darts are usually identical, with the only difference between them being whether a .40 caliber tail cone or a .50 caliber tail cone is affixed to the end of the dart. There are a wide variety of .40 and .50 caliber darts available, but these are the most common and popular.

— Stun dart: (.40 caliber only; the rest are available in both .40 and .50) This fun plinking dart is all-plastic. It’s not really big or heavy enough to stun anything, but is fun for plinking at toy soldiers or aluminum cans. It’s not a good target dart, though, because it won’t stick into the target.

— Super stun dart: Similar to the Stun dart above, but with a metal-tipped head that provides more mass and impact.

— Target dart: This is the standard blowgun dart and the most popular, and nearly all blowguns will come with a selection of these. The Target dart is very accurate and is the kind most used in blowgun competition shooting.

— Spear dart: This dart is longer than the target dart and has a flared spear point. Functionally it is nearly identical to the Target dart, but will wear out your target backing a bit faster due to the spear point.

— Broadhead dart: Despite what the name suggests this is really not a hunting dart. It has a plastic broadhead that is not suitable for target shooting because of the damage it causes to the target backing, though it does not do enough damage for humane hunting either.

The most popular .40 and .50 caliber darts include (left to right) the Stun, Super stun, Target, Spear, and Broadhead darts.

Popular .625 caliber darts

I mentioned that the .625-caliber blowguns are in a class all their own, and so are the unique .625 darts. All the big bore blowguns come with a nice dart selection. Note that, even though some of these names are similar to the names of the .40 and .50 caliber darts above, the .625 darts are very different — so try to keep them straight!

— Stun dart: This is one of the most fun blowgun darts of all! It won’t stick in a target, but is fun for plinking at aluminum cans or stuffed toy animals. It will also work small-caliber firearm spinner targets. This dart is actually heavy enough to stun or kill small targets like house sparrows or starlings.

— Bamboo dart: This is the bantamweight of the .625 darts and the one I recommend for women or youth shooters because it is so light and easy to blow. It works only as a casual target dart because the shafts on many of these are not very straight and its light weight makes it easily diverted by wind, though it sticks into a target readily enough. These are also fun for popping balloons or shooting aluminum cans.

— Mini broad head dart: This is the standard .625 dart and a great all-around performer. It is an accurate target dart as well as a plinker that will also do a number on aluminum cans, balloons, and stuffed animals. However, despite the name, the flared broadhead is not wide enough to make this a humane hunting dart.

— Razor tip broadhead dart: This is the only commercially available dart besides the .625 Stun dart that I consider to be a legitimate hunting dart, and, of the two, the Razor tip broadhead is definitely superior. The broadhead is wide enough to do significant tissue damage in small game up to squirrel or rabbit sizes. This dart has very little other use, and will rapidly tear up a target.

The .625 caliber darts are fewer but unique and include (left to right) the Stun, Bamboo, Mini broadhead, and Razor tip broadhead darts.

A word about blowgun hunting

I have already mentioned hunting more than I want to only because many of the dart names specifically imply it, and because this topic ALWAYS seems to come up when blowguns are discussed. Let me state categorically that a modern airgun is the superior hunting choice. Only those who have acquired a great deal of skill and experience in shooting a blowgun should even consider hunting with one. Limited accuracy and power confine blowgun hunting to a range of about 10 yards. If you wish to pursue this topic you should check your state regulations regarding the legality of hunting with a blowgun first, and then join one of the blowgun forums listed below for some experienced advice. Also, be aware that blowguns are outright illegal in California, Massachusetts, New York City, and Canada.

Blowgun accessories

Most blowguns will include quivers that mount on the barrel for carrying darts. Other accessories (which may or may not come with the blowgun) include foam barrel grips, vertical pistol grips, slings, crosshair sights, laser sights, and red dot sights. While some sight types (like red dot sights) are really designed for use on pistols and rifles and don’t function well on blowguns, I have found laser sights to be very effective.

A wide variety of blowgun accessories like foam grips, quivers, sights, and slings are available.

Make a blowgun target

I have not found a good commercially available blowgun target. Dartboards or plywood are too hard to remove darts from. Archery targets or various foam sheet products can work but have to be just the right density to stop the dart from burying itself all the way up to the dart cone, but still be easy to remove the dart. You can make a cheap and effective target by filling a flat box such as a large pizza box with at least 8 layers of cardboard. This is enough to stop the dart, but is also not too hard to remove the dart. Target darts work best with this type of target backing, with the Spear dart, Bamboo dart, and Mini broadhead also working well.

How to blow that blowgun

Nearly all blowguns come with an anti-inhale mouthpiece, but just like a gun safety you should depend more on good safety practices than on a mechanical device to keep you safe. Never inhale through a blowgun! To reduce the possibility of inhaling a dart you should inhale away from the mouthpiece before shooting. Of course, all your basic gun safety rules apply to blowguns as well.

Blowguns are simple and fun to use but they are not toys! To shoot, many blowgunners just puff or blow into the mouthpiece, but you can get significantly faster dart velocity and a flatter trajectory by saying “Tuh!” forcefully into the mouthpiece as you blow. This technique is called tonguing and pre-compresses the air in your mouth to release it in a focused burst. This method will also help you to achieve more consistent velocity from shot to shot and therefore better accuracy.

Aiming a blowgun

The most different thing about aiming a blowgun is that you do it with both eyes open. This creates a double image of the blowgun barrel, which provides a very helpful aiming point to center the target between. Then, all you need to do is hold steady and adjust for elevation until your darts are hitting the bull’s-eye!

Aim a blowgun with both eyes open. You will see a double image of the blowgun barrel, between which you center the target.

For further study

I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of what blowguns — the first airguns! — have become in modern times. There is a lot more to the sport than what we’ve covered here; a Blowgun Basics video provides further information. You can also learn more by joining one of the popular blowgun forums, the Lefora Blowgun Forum or The Blowgun Forum. Blowgun competition shooting has become increasingly popular in the United States as well as Japan, France, and Germany. For rules check the United States Blowgun Association. Have fun, and remember — shoot responsibly!

Beeman R8: Part 7

Po, 05/22/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Beeman R8 looks like a baby R1.

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

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • New mainspring
  • The compression chamber honing
  • The Rail Lock Compressor
  • Cleaning
  • Piston seal
  • Installed the new seal and mainspring
  • Back in the stock
  • Cocking effort
  • RWS Hobbys
  • RWS Superdomes
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Firing behavior
  • Conclusions so far

The new mainspring and piston seal Pyramyd Air sent for my R8 arrived and I installed them last Thursday. This will document how that installation went and look at the velocity results, plus the powerplant smoothness.

New mainspring

The new mainspring is made from better wire than the stock Weihrauch spring. Gene Salvino has reports of guns with up to 9,000 shots with this spring that have lost little velocity, if any, since installation.

I knew there would be a lot of interest in this mainspring, so I examined it carefully and also photographed it next to the existing spring. The new spring wire is silver colored, where the Weihrauch spring wire is a darker color. The new spring appears to be about one inch longer than the original, but I don’t think it has been scragged.

Scragging means leaving the spring fully compressed for a length of time (4-8 hours) to shorten it to its operational length. This will happen while it is inside the gun, so except for the fact that it is longer and needs to be compressed more to install, there is no problem. However, I did show you years ago how to scrag a mainspring if you need to.

New spring on top. Both springs are the same size, except for the length of the new spring.

Both springs have 30.25 coils of wire that is 0.120-inches in diameter. And both are ground flat on both ends. So they have the same compressed length. The new spring will eventually become shorter just from being under compression inside the rifle. I examined the new spring under 10X magnification and it appears to have been shot-blasted by very fine media. The Weihrauch spring under the same magnification appears smooth.

The compression chamber honing

This was a difficult picture to take, but I was able to get a photo of the start of the compression chamber. You can see the honing that runs around the inside of the chamber, perpendicular to the axis of the piston’s travel.

The arrow points to the start of the compression chamber. The crosshatch honing from the factory transitions to circular honing in the chamber where the arrow points.

Lighting that photo was extremely difficult, but you do get to see at least a small part of the circular honing I have talked about. That pattern is not correct, and we will see what effect it has on velocity, if any.

The Rail Lock Compressor

With the longer new mainspring I had to adjust the Air Venturi Rail Lock Mainspring Compressor out an extra inch, and it barely fit. Also, it had to push the mainspring in that extra distance to get the end cap to meet the threads in the spring tube. It was harder to do, plus the white Nylon tip did walk around the end cap as I compressed the spring.

When the end cap was finally up to the threads I thought it would be difficult to get the threads started, and in truth it was harder than before. But I used a rubber hammer to move the end cap slightly until the threads seemed aligned and they did start. It took me maybe five minutes of fiddling to get the threads started this time, but I think the same would be true for any mainspring compressor. Maybe if the white tip at the end of the threaded rod turned freely it would have gone easier, but that would be my only observation.


I spent a lot of time cleaning all the grease from the action. When I was finished surfaces were dry and ready for the new parts. I probably spent a half hour just cleaning the gun.

When I removed the old piston seal there was old grease underneath. I dried the end of the piston and thoroughly cleaned the inside of its body with paper towels and cotton swabs.

I cleaned the inside of the spring tube and compression chamber again with paper towels on the end of a long dowel. This area was already pretty clean, except some of the grease I had applied in my previous tune had gotten onto the surfaces. When I was finished, the inside of the tube was dry.

Piston seal

The old piston seal was very soft and pliable. There is a small imperfection at one spot on the outer edge that the new seal doesn’t have, but I don’t think it caused any problems.

Installed the new seal and mainspring

I know I said I was just going to install the new seal and see how the rifle performed first, but after seeing how the new mainspring compared to the old one, I couldn’t resist installing it. I greased the new seal and back end of the piston with white lithium grease. I also greased the new mainspring and the old spring guide with the same grease. I kept the amount of grease low, but all metal surfaces were coated. Lithium grease is thin, so I expect no velocity loss from what was done.

I checked the fit of the new mainspring on the spring guide. One end of the spring was tight on the guide, so that was the end I used. The new mainspring fits the inside of the piston ever-so-slightly tighter than the factory spring, which should help reduce vibration.

Back in the stock

The entire job took 2 hours, which included time to take pictures and to clean the parts. Then I put the barreled action back in the stock. Now it was time to test.

Cocking effort

With the new spring the rifle now cocks with 30 lbs. of effort. It certainly feels heavier to cock than before, which was measured at 25 lbs.

RWS Hobbys

Okay, here we go with the velocity test. First up are RWS Hobbys, which are light and should be fast. The R8 was rated at 735 f.p.s. when it was new.

Before tuning…….First tune………Second tune……..Today


The velocity with Hobbys averaged 741 f.p.s. The spread went from a low of 732 to a high of 750 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generated 8.54 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. This R8 has obviously returned to factory performance with the installation of the new Beeman mainspring and piston seal.

RWS Superdomes

At 8.3 grains, the RWS Superdome pellet is on the heavy side for the R8. Let’s see how it did.

Before tuning…….First tune………Second tune……..Today


Superdomes averaged 680 f.p.s. in the R8. The low was 671 and the high was 689 f.p.s., for a spread of 18 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generated 8.52 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

JSB Exact RS

The last pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain JSB Exact RS. This should be idea for the R8’s power.

Before tuning…….First tune………Second tune……..Today


RS pellets averaged 666 f.p.s. They ranged from a low of 654 to a high of 685 f.p.s. At the average velocity they produced 7.22 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Firing behavior

The R8 shoots smoothly. A tiny but noticeable bit of vibration has crept into each shot. It is not bothersome and I actually have to feel for it to know it’s there. I can tell the rifle isn’t as smooth as before, but it’s 100/200 f.p.s. faster which I will take.

I think as this tune settles in the cocking effort will lighten just a bit. I doubt the slight vibration will ever go away. I could give it a shot of Tune in a Tube, but it isn’t unpleasant enough to warrant that, in my opinion.

Conclusions so far

My concerns about the compression chamber honing appear to have been groundless. That’s very comforting, because it means I can stop chasing that gremlin.

I could go farther and give this rifle a top grade tune with piston button bearings, a custom fitted spring guide and a piston liner to remove all vibration, but that doesn’t seem suited to the R8. Instead I will keep it as it now is and shoot it whenever I want a nice lightweight accurate pellet rifle.

I’ll probably do one more accuracy test — just so I can shoot the rifle again. Maybe I’ll back up to 25 yards, but I think I’ll still use the iron sights.

The Beeman C1 – Part 2 The rifle that created the artillery hold!

Pá, 05/19/2017 - 01:01

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
A history of airguns

This is an oldie from 2009 that I recycled because I was out of town, attending to my sister last week. Today we look at Part 2.

Despite the size of this photo, the C1 is a small rifle. The western look was unique in its day. The scope is a 2-7X32 BSA.

Part 1

If you remember, the C1 is one of the first adult air rifles I ever owned. I got my .177 C1 from Beeman and had the opportunity to break it in and shoot it until it smoothed out to become a great little shooter.

Today I’m testing the .22 version I acquired in a big trade with my buddy Mac, following the Little Rock show this year. I didn’t own a chronograph when I had the first rifle, so this test will be as revealing to me as it is to you. Kind of like finding out whether the girl next door was really as chaste as you envisioned when you were a kid, or whether she dated the fleet.


Before we get to velocities, I’d like to make a couple of observations. First, I had forgotten that the C1 has the mother of all single-stage triggers. If you look up single-stage in the dictionary, there will be a picture of a C1 beside it. It’s long and engages right at the start of the pull. No false first stages here!

The trigger on my test rifle is well broken-in and releases at 4 pounds, 4 ounces. I can’t call it crisp because you can feel the trigger moving as you pull, but it is very pleasant. While the later C1s have a manual safety on the right side of the gun, this one doesn’t even have that. Cock it and it’s ready to go.

Next, the C1 is a carbine. Though the gun isn’t difficult to cock, that short barrel will have your arm aching after a couple dozen shots. It’s certainly no Diana 27!

Also, the breech is butter-smooth. Though it has a chisel detent to hold the barrel shut, it feels and operates like a ball bearing detent, which is to say very nice.

Finally the firing behavior is dead-calm and quick. The gun moves in recoil, but there is no vibration to speak of.

The .177 C1 was represented to have 830 f.p.s. velocity, which probably meant 750 f.p.s. for sure, so the .22 should be in the low 600s. Let’s see where this one is.

RWS Superdomes

The 14.5-grain RWS Superdome averaged 503 f.p.s. It ranged from a low of 487 to a high of 510, for a spread of 23 f.p.s. They seemed to fit the rifle well, but the energy they delivered works out to just 8.15 foot-pounds.

Crosman Premiers

Surprisingly, Crosman Premiers that weigh only 14.3 grains averaged just 494 f.p.s. That’s less than the heavier Superdomes. The range was from 482 to 503 f.p.s. Muzzle energy for the average velocity is 7.75 foot-pounds. They also fit the breech variably, with some going in a quarter-inch and others sitting flush with the breech. The deep-seated ones were invariably the fastest.


Some Premiers fell deep into the barrel…


…while others had to be pressed flush with the breech.

RWS Hobbys

At less than 12 grains, RWS Hobby Pellets are the lightest I tested. Being pure lead, they also went the fastest. The average was 527 f.p.s. and the range was from 522 to 536, for a tight 14 foot-second difference. The average velocity produced an energy of 7.34 foot-pounds. All pellets fit the breech uniformly.

Eley Wasps

Just for fun I tried some fat Eley Wasps. At 5.56mm I didn’t expect much velocity from them and I was right. They averaged 437 f.p.s. with a spread from 425 to 450 f.p.s. The average velocity produced 6.15 foot-pounds from this 14.5-grain pellet.


Based on these numbers I’d say this rifle is a little tired. It probably needs seals and a new mainspring. I looked through the cocking slot and saw that the grease seemed to be from the factory, so this gun has just been shot a lot. No complaint there, because that’s what it’s built for!

Umarex Embark breakbarrel spring rifle: Part 1

Čt, 05/18/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Umarex Embark.

This report covers:

  • Student Air Rifle Program
  • Umarex Embark
  • Description
  • Trigger
  • Safety
  • Where is it made?
  • What’s it like to shoot?
  • Accuracy
  • Summary
Student Air Rifle Program

This report is about more than an air rifle. It’s about an entire shooting program called the Student Air Rifle Program, or SAR. SAR was developed in 2013 by the Missouri Youth Sport Shooting Alliance (MYSSA) as a standardized way to facilitate an introduction to school-aged youths, the lifetime sport of target shooting. Think of this as similar to the NRA Marksmanship program that reaches over one million kids each year, except SAR has trimmed the cost and operates under less formal rules. SAR sees itself as a feeder to the more formal program, which culminates in the Olympics.

The most radical aspect of SAR is it is held in both public and private schools. It has a curriculum, standardized equipment, safety protocols and range commands! The shooting programs that once existed in this country under the auspices of the NRA and JR ROTC have been brought back into schools. This is a success whose impact is potentially enormous!

SAR was developed along the lines of the highly successful National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) that started in 2002 and now is found in over 14,000 schools in 47 states and 4 countries, involving 2.2 million students each year! SAR dovetails with NASP as a next logical step.

Umarex Embark

I will try to weave the SAR into the remainder of this discussion, but this report is focused on the rifle they use — the Umarex Embark. This rifle is now available from Pyramyd Air. Umarex was initially only selling them directly to keep the price as low as possible, to support the SAR program at a family-affordable rate, but Pyramyd Air now sells the rifle directly.


The Embark is a breakbarrel single shot spring piston rifle with a muzzle velocity of (an advertised) 510 f.p.s. It weighs just over 5 lbs. and is 40 inches long. It is designed for children in grades 4 through 12 grades and the cocking effort of just 17 lbs. means it can be manipulated by all of them without outside assistance.

The low velocity means schools can use a ballistic curtain for a backstop instead of more costly pellet traps. SAR uses only lead-free pellets, so there is no concern for lead dust or particles. That eliminates the need for costly air filtering and lead handling concerns. At the low velocity of the Embark those things are not an issue anyway, but public knowledge of lead and pellets is so misdirected that the use of lead-free pellets was a wise choice. Cleanup is done with brooms and dustpans!

This is a youth rifle. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to the Ruger Explorer on which it is based. But there are important differences. In 2015 the program used the Explorer to test the viability of the equipment for SAR and many recommendations were received for improvements — particularly the sights. The students wanted the fiberoptic front sight to be replaced because it wasn’t precise enough. They also wanted a better rear sight that was easier and more precise to adjust.

The front sight is a plain black post that’s suitable for target use. The hood reduces reflections and protects hands when cocking.

The Embark has a hooded front post that is plain and squared at the top. The rear sight is also upgraded from the Explorer’s rear sight. The sight is adjustable in both directions with click detents that can be felt and, in the case of the windage knob, heard.

The Embark rear sight is upgraded from the Explorer sight. It has click detents and is clearly marked — things the Explorer sight lacks.

The shape of the stock appears to be the farthest thing from a target rifle stock, but when shouldered it starts making sense. The pull is bang-on 12 inches and the stock line is straight. It doesn’t drop as it goes back to the shoulder. That supports an offhand hold the best of all.

The pistol grip is vertical, as a target grip should be. The comb doesn’t adjust, but the straight stock puts it up where most shooters will want it. The offhand shooting position is one where the head is very erect, and it is no strain to place the cheek on this comb.

The butt pad is curved rubber. It’s soft enough to grip the shoulder but there is no adjustment, again to keep the costs down.

You will note the section of the forearm that drops down. On the Embark that provides the perfect place for your off hand, with the elbow supported on the hip or chest. It brings the sight line of the rifle up in line with the eyes.

The color of the stock was chosen so the Embark would stand out from other air rifles. In pictures of SAR competitions, every shooter has the same type of rifle. This was done to make the program affordable, to level the playing field and to keep it from becoming an equipment race.


The trigger is two stage. Stage two is long and creepy and there is no adjustment, as might be expected in a rifle that retails for under one hundred dollars.


The Embark has an automatic safety that protrudes from the rear of the end cap every time the rifle is cocked. It can also be applied manually at any time.

The safety comes on automatically every time the Embark is cocked.

Fully 16 percent of the kids who participated in the SAR pilot program had never shot anything before. The last thing this program needs is unsafe equipment in the hands of children unfamiliar with gun safety, so an anti-beartrap mechanism is also incorporated into the action — making it impossible for a barrel to slam shut on small fingers during loading. I think that is wonderful, but I hope the children are also taught to never let go of the barrel while they load.

Where is it made?

The Embark is made in China, similar to the Ruger Explorer. It is very advanced for a Chinese airgun — even for a higher-end Chinese sporting rifle. The finish is plain and matte, which is what you want to see on a target gun

What’s it like to shoot?

There is so much I want to tell you about this air rifle, but I’m holding back until we get to the proper section. For example, I report both the cocking effort and the trigger pull in Part 2, when velocity is tested. But I will tell you this is a youth spring rifle and that means it’s easy to cock and the recoil is low. The powerplant is generally quiet, but I think some things remain to be done. There is a trace of buzziness that could be eliminated entirely with Tune in an Tube, and I plan to not only do that, but to chronograph its affect on velocity, if any.


This is a target rifle for offhand shooting at 10 meters. The course is 30 shots, so a score of 300 is possible. I plan to test the rifle at 10 meters and see what kind of accuracy can be expected, but in a first match a top score of 268 was achieved. Shooting offhand with lead-free pellets, that’s very credible.


As you know, I like youth air rifles a lot. So I’m excited to conduct this test for you. I can’t wait to get going.

Kral Puncher Pro B W PCP rifle: Part 3

St, 05/17/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Kral Puncher Pro PCP. The test rifle’s walnut stock is not as blonde as this one.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Mounted a scope
  • Accuracy
  • JSB Exact Jumbo
  • Trigger pull
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Nice pistol grip
  • RWS Superdomes
  • Evaluation so far

Today we start looking at the accuracy of the Kral Puncher Pro PCP air rifle. I have several of these Kral PCPs to test, so I’m spending time with this first one to learn the brand. Things like the unusual way the magazine is inserted into the receiver and how the power adjustment works need to be learned before I can feel comfortable testing these air rifles.

As a reminder, these Kral PCPs offer features found in more expensive airguns at an attractive price. The test rifle also has a very nice stock made of walnut. In Part 2 we discovered that the power adjuster, while not offering distinct stops for adjustment, does put the rifle at a stable place each and every time. And we learned that this Puncher Pro is very stingy with air — getting as many as 80 shots per fill, depending on where the power is set.

Mounted a scope

Since today starts accuracy testing, I first mounted a scope on the test rifle. I selected the UTG 8-32X56 SWAT Mil Dot scope that was used in the accuracy test for the Air Arms Galahad. This scope comes with its own two-piece Weaver base rings, so I just switched them from the Galahad to the Puncher Pro. If the Kral scope base was straight Picatinney I would have been able to just move the mounts with the scope attached, but the Kral scope base is a Weaver whose cross slots are not cut at regular intervals. The Kral base also accepts 11mm airgun scope rings. One of the two UTG scope mounts had to be moved to get it to fit. The switch took 20 minutes in all, and when I tested the sight-in at 12 feet it was where it needed to be. That saved me a lot of set-up time.

It might seem wrong when testing a budget PCP to select a scope whose price is 60 percent of the rifle, but if the Kral is as accurate as I believe, I want the best scope I can put on it. I can run this UTG scope at 32 power all day long, which means I will be able to split hairs at 50 yards.


Okay, let’s look at accuracy. This test was conducted indoors at 25 yards off a rest. Since the rifle was close after mounting the scope I fired a few more shots and got the scope dialed in for the first pellet. I did not adjust it after that.

The power was set just above midway, so the velocities from Part 2 apply here. I must comment that this rifle is very quiet at this power setting.

JSB Exact Jumbo

The first pellet I tested was the JSB Exact Jumbo. The Kral Puncher Pro put 10 of them into a group that measures 0.492-inches between centers. That’s very good but not outstanding for 25 yards. Looking at it, though, is quite round and pleasing.

Ten JSB Exact Jumbo pellets went into 0.492-inches at 25 yards. The scope was sighted for this pellet.

Trigger pull

Now I can comment more accurately on the Kral’s trigger. While it is 2-stage, there is some creep in the second stage. I think it is on the heavy side, as well. It was entirely under control during the test — just not as crisp as I would prefer.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

The next pellet I tried was the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. I thought it might out-perform the lighter Exact pellet, but it didn’t. Ten went into 0.728-inches at 25 yards. Again, that’s not bad, but not as tight as I would have hoped.

Ten JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets went into 0.728-inches at 25 yards. Notice they landed lower on the target because they are heavier and move slower.

Nice pistol grip

It was at this point in the test that I discovered something very subtle about the Puncher Pro stock. The pistol grip is sculpted to allow your thumb to stick straight up or wrapped around the grip. But there is also a second position to the left of straight up that’s sculpted into the stock. I liked that position best of all. It’s a small but useful feature.

The pistol grip has two vertical positions for the thumb, besides wraparound.

RWS Superdomes

The last pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome. I wanted to try Crosman Premiers, but they jammed in the magazine too much in Part 2, and I had no confidence they would feed correctly. Ten Superdomes made a 0.615-inch group at 25 yards that was better than the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavies but not as good as the 15.89-grain Jumbos. They earned a spot in the 50 yard test with that performance.

Ten RWS Superdomes went into 0.615-inches at 25 yards. That’s not bad!

Evaluation so far

I find the Kral intriguing. It manages air very well, but I’m not yet entirely comfortable with inserting the magazine into the action. The trigger is on the heavy side for a PCP, but the accuracy seems quite promising. And the stock fits me very well.

For those on a tight budget, I think this rifle is one to consider. Let’s see what it can do at 50 yards and we will know even more.

Ballistic coefficient: What is it? Part 2

Út, 05/16/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Last week I republished Part 1 of this discussion about ballistic coefficients because I was out of town helping my sister. I’m back in the office, but Part 2 of this report is necessary to close the loop. So here we go.

This report covers:
• Review
• Today’s discussion
• Round balls
• Conical bullets
• Smokeless powder
• A big point
• Shape
• Round balls — again
• The bottom line

I’ve taken 11 months to return to this subject of ballistic coefficients (BC). That was in spite of some tremendous interest in Part 1 of this report last May.

I’m purposely avoiding all discussion of mathematics, which is difficult, since ballistics is a discipline that heavily employs mathematics. But I’m not qualified to write about the math; and, more importantly, I know that 99 percent of my readers would be turned off if I were to write the report that way.


Last time we learned that the BC of a pellet:
• Is an extremely small decimal fraction compared to the BC of a conical bullet.
• Varies with the velocity of the pellet.
• Varies with the shape (form) of the pellet.

We also learned that the stated BC of a pellet can be forced to vary by the distance from the muzzle at which the measurements are taken.

We understand that diabolo pellets are designed to slow down rapidly in flight, and that the BC is a measure of the velocity retained in flight. So, a pellet’s BC rapidly changes over a short distance.

We learned that a pellet’s BC varies between 0.010 and 0.045. We also learned that pellets that have a relatively high BC (the larger numbers) will take longer to slow down than pellets that have a relatively low BC. Even though all diabolo (wasp-waisted with a hollow tail) pellets slow down rapidly, the higher BC numbers are given to the pellets that slow down the least in relation to all diabolo pellets.

Today’s discussion

Today, we’ll look at the impact that shape (form) has on the BC. We’ll also look at the impact velocity has on the BC. Let’s begin with that.

Round balls

When firearms were first invented (we now believe that was in the 1300s), the earliest formal shape for missiles was either a shaft (arrow or dart) or a ball. The earliest ball-like projectiles were probably just stones, but that soon gave way to uniform lead projectiles that were easy to cast. Cannon balls were still chiseled from tough rock for many years before they, too, were cast from iron into spheres.

The round ball became more than just a projectile of choice. It became synonymous with the title — bullet. From some time in the 1400s to around 1840, the word bullet meant a round ball. Round balls are easy to enter into formulas and ballistics tables because the form is always the same. The weight varies with the caliber, but not the form (shape). Because of this, the early science of ballistics was built around a spherical bullet, and everything was fine.

Conical bullets

Conical bullets (oddly referred to as conical balls in their early days) changed everything. Ballistics had to expand to adapt to these new projectiles. Several ballisticians worked out new formulas to account for the different new forms, but by now the forms were changing faster than the science could keep up.

Smokeless powder

Then, smokeless gunpowder came on the scene and things changed again. Velocities with black powder (which, up to that time was just called gunpowder) topped out somewhere around 1,600 f.p.s. Within 20 years, smokeless power doubled that speed; and in another decade, it added another thousand f.p.s. Suddenly, bullet makers had to be concerned with shapes that flew at ultrasonic velocity. This was decades before anything else approached that speed, so things like wind tunnels weren’t even available for modeling.

It may seem like I’m getting far from the topic, but here’s why I am telling you this. In 1870, the Rev. Francis A. Bashforth — the inventor of the first (?) electronic chronograph — discovered that drag increases with the square of the velocity at speeds between 430 f.p.s and 830 f.p.s. — but with the cube of velocity at speeds between 830 f.p.s. and 1,000 f.p.s.! That higher range is the trans-sonic region that we tell airgunners to be wary of. We used to think it caused inaccuracy, but I disproved that in 2011 in an 11-part blog series titled Velocity versus accuracy. But what it definitely does do is increase the rate at which projectiles slow down.

I could easily get into a discussion of the ideal shape for supersonic projectiles, and there are many airgunners who would like that. “Just design a solid pellet that has a boattail, and all your problems are solved,” they say. Yes, all problems are solved, save one — accuracy. No airgun I know of is capable of accurately shooting those solid pellets (that I’ll now call bullets) at supersonic speeds. In fact, very few airguns can get them up to supersonic speeds at all! So, the discussion is over before it begins.

A big point

If something can’t be done, it makes very little sense complaining about what “they” should do. The blog readers know that I’m not a negative person. I’m willing to try anything that has a chance of success. But physics is physics! I’ve learned in all my experiments and reading that airguns have practical velocity limits. We may not be at the limit today, but we’re very close. Because, to push a pellet any faster than about 1,500 f.p.s. (1,486 f.p.s. is the fastest pellet I’ve ever observed), requires us to do things with compressed air that it just doesn’t want to do. The speed of sound governs how fast air can flow. Pellets can be pushed faster than the speed of sound; but to go much beyond 1,500 f.p.s., we’re going to have to use a different compressed gas.
So, pellets that top 1,000 f.p.s. are slowing down at least at the cube of their velocity. That’s what Bashforth tells us. Take another look at the chart I showed you in Part 1:

The ballistic coefficient of a single pellet can change this much with velocity changes.

The chart isn’t real, which means it wasn’t generated by actual test data, but the relationship of the BC decline at the trans-sonic region is representative. Lighter pellets fall off their BC at lower velocities, so take the entire curve and move it to the left. The same thing happens — just at lower velocities. Heavier pellets fall off at higher velocities, too. But all of them fall off in the same way.


Enough talk about velocity; now let’s look at what the shape (form) of a pellet does to the BC. Just as certain shapes work well at supersonic speeds, there are also good shapes for subsonic speeds, where most pellets live. A domed nose with a solid cylindrical body is very good at subsonic speeds. And the more it weighs, the higher the BC will be.

The shape or form of the pellet has a lot to do with the ballistic coefficient.

The wadcutter, by contrast, is the worst shape — or at least it’s down there with the worst of them. Some people feel that hollowpoint pellets are even worse because their hollow points act like air brakes. Others believe the hollows fill with air under pressure, and the pellets then act like wadcutters.

The pointed pellet is not as aerodynamic as its shape seems. While it looks sleeker than a dome, it doesn’t turn out to work that way at subsonic pellet velocities. A point is great for supersonic speed, but it does very little below the speed of sound. Pointed pellets do penetrate deeper in solid media; but in the air, they aren’t that different from domes.

Round balls — again

Round balls — remember them? As it turns out, a round ball is sleeker at subsonic velocities than any diabolo pellet. Only when the pellet weighs considerably more than a ball of the same caliber (and may be too heavy to shoot effectively) will it have a superior BC. Round ball BCs hover around the 0.07 mark. That’s about double what the best diabolo pellet offers and several times what the average diabolo has.

So, why not just shoot round balls? Simple answer — accuracy. Round balls don’t have any accuracy at longer distances. The high drag of the diabolo pellet — the very thing that destroys their BC — is also what helps them be so accurate.

The bottom line

Yes, the BC of a pellet is important, but only after you know that it’s accurate. If you can’t hit what you’re shooting at, the retained velocity of your pellet means nothing.

So, search for accuracy first and a high BC second. Or, in some cases, such as long-distance hunting, look among the pellets with high BC numbers for the one that’s the most accurate. Don’t just shop for the highest BC unless you also understand the relationship of your gun to that number (re-read Part 1 to understand).

Is that all there is? Of course not. We could go on and talk in more detail about form, but I think the basics have been covered.

I know that many of you use the Chairgun program and find it very useful. One of the things Chairgun requires is the input of the BC of the pellet in question. Sometimes, you only discover how close that BC is after shooting your gun and matching the results to the Chairgun predictions.

I don’t know if I’ve helped you understand ballistic coefficients or if I’ve just confused you more. If you remember the basic things I’ve outlined in this report, it’ll stand you in good stead in your future shooting.

Beeman R8: Part 6

Po, 05/15/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Beeman R8 looks like a baby R1.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Don’t over-lubricate
  • Rail Lock mainspring compressor
  • Degreasing
  • Lube the piston seal
  • Clean the mainspring
  • Finish the assembly
  • What is it like now?
  • Velocity test
  • Discussion

Last Friday’s report set us up for today. I was discussing “tuning” airguns before knowing how they performed. I didn’t do that with this rifle, but that discussion loosened up a lot of minds, and I got many suggestions of what to do with the R8. I wanted to disassemble it and remove most of the “special” grease I had applied, and then Gene Salvino of the Pyramyd Air tech department and I had a long conversation about what was happening with that rifle.

Don’t over-lubricate

Gene said it is very possible to put too much of that grease into a lower-powered spring gun. He said if you do that you’ll get exactly the result I got with the R8 — a reduction of several hundred feet per second in the velocity.

He didn’t say this, but here is what I am guessing happens with this grease. At room temperature and when it is just sitting out loose it is tacky, but no more so than many other greases. But put it under the pressure of an airgun piston moving fast and the grease stiffens up. Other tacky greases don’t change under pressure, but this grease is a special blend and that is why it is so good at what it does — which is reduce vibration in a spring gun. That’s just my guess — not a known fact. But it explains why the gun behaved like it did when I used too much.

I won’t document the teardown a second time, because it’s there in Part 5. But I will note some things that were different this time.

Rail Lock mainspring compressor

I like the Air Venturi Rail Lock Mainspring Compressor a lot! It is so small and allows so much access to the spring tube of the gun where work needs to be done. This time I installed it and had the rifle apart in minutes. Let me just tell you about the threads on the end cap to illustrate how easy it is to use. I expected to be able to feel when the spring tube threads released the end cap, because it was still under a lot of tension from the mainspring, but I could not feel the release. That tells me the compressor is under complete control at all times.

The Rail Lock compressor installs quickly and easily on this Weihrauch spring tube.

This time I tightened the screws in the rear of the compressor and noted that the white Nylon tip did not walk around the end cap as it came out from the gun. There was some walking when the end cap went back in, until the threads were engaged, but it was simple and easy to control. At no time did I lose control of what was happening.

Thus far I have only tested the Rail Lock compressor on a Weihrauch rifle that has a threaded end cap. There are many more types of spring guns to disassemble, so the compressor report is just getting started.


Once the rifle was apart I began degreasing everything. I cleaned the inside of the spring tube with a long dowel that had some paper towel on the end, held by a rubber band. This towel was saturated with isopropyl alcohol. There wasn’t much grease inside the tube, but it took a LOT of scrubbing to remove! This grease is sticky!

After cleaning the inside of the tube I dried it with another bit of paper towel. This job took the longest of all, because that grease was holding onto the honing scratches inside the tube.

Following that I cleaned the piston — inside and out. That was a simple wiping job. I also want to show you the piston seal, because several of you asked about it last time.

According to Gene Salvino, this much of their special grease on the piston and mainspring will really slow down the action of a weaker spring gun if the piston seal is too tight. If it’s not too tight a little of their grease works well, but I didn’t know whether it was too tight or not, so I assumed it was. I removed all the grease from the piston, inside and out, and about half from the spring.

This is a parachute piston seal. When the seal goes forward and compresses air, air gets in the groove and presses the sides of the seal against the compression tube wall.

Please don’t examine the picture of the piston seal above and think you see imperfections. I examined it thoroughly, both last time and this time, and it is in perfect condition. I’ve seen enough bad piston seals to spot one.

Oh, I did clean out the groove in the seal after that picture was taken. It took a stout paper clip and lots of paper towel.

Lube the piston seal

Okay, Gene’s next tip for me was to lightly lubricate the piston seal with 85W-140 gear oil. Don’t use anything else! The synthetic gear oil is too runny for this job. It doesn’t take much! I used just 2 drops. This is a special treatment that’s only for those piston seals that are too tight.

Use two drops of this gear oil on the clean piston seal.

It took 20 seconds for one drop of this gear oil to run like this. It is viscous!

I spread the 2 drops evenly around the piston seal that is larger than the piston body behind it. The seal touches the wall of the compression chamber; the piston body never does.

I also used a second 2 drops of gear oil around the enlarged rear skirt of the piston. The spring guide is supposed to keep the piston body from ever touching the inner walls of the spring tube, but a little oil back there doesn’t hurt.

Clean the mainspring

The mainspring was already coated with the special grease. All I did was remove about half of it, or maybe a little more.

I wiped about half the grease off the mainspring.

This is what the cleaner spring looked like when it was back inside the gun.

Finish the assembly

The remainder of the assembly went well, except for one thing. As I was grabbing the end cap to turn it in the threads I rubbed my index finger against the side of the trigger slot and sliced it open. Oh, well. They say the job’s not done until you leave some DNA inside!

What is it like now?

With a lot (3/4?) of the grease gone from the rifle I wondered what it would shoot like. Would there be some spring buzz? Nope! It is just as smooth and quiet as before. So Gene got that part right, at least.

Velocity test

Now let’s see where the velocity is.


I didn’t finish the test. Obviously the rifle did not change significantly. Man, was I disappointed! I felt certain I’d have dramatic results to show you today. I even replaced the breech seal, though in truth the seal that was in the rifle looked fine.

The breech seal that was in the rifle is standing proud of the breech. It appears to be good.

The seal that was in the rifle is on the left. You can see a little flaring at the top, but it looks pretty good next to the new seal on the right.

This is the groove the breech seal sits in. As you can see, the depth is not suitable for a o-ring.


After the “test” I called Gene Salvino and had a long talk. We came to the conclusion that either the piston seal that I think is okay really isn’t or the mainspring is tired, or both. I have tuned a couple hundred spring guns in my life. Gene does that many every year. He is much better acquainted with the details of the work I am doing.

He is sending me a new seal and spring. I will install the new seal first, followed by the new spring, if necessary. That way we will know which one was the culprit.

I can think of one other possibility. The honing I see in the compression chamber does not seem to be done correctly. The scratches run perpendicular to the movement of the piston, where they should be a series of crosshatch scratches that run on an angle approximately 45 degrees to the piston’s axis. It is possible that the bore of the compression chamber was enlarged by aggressive honing and doesn’t allow the piston to compress all the air that’s inside. I hope that’s not the case.

This series started as a look at an historic airgun, but has turned into an advanced tutorial on tuning a spring-piston air rifle. I don’t enjoy reporting negative results, but things like this do happen and you need to know that if you ever plan to tune airguns.

FWB 124 air rifle: Part 2

Pá, 05/12/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This FWB 124 Deluxe is not the exact gun I’m writing about, but it is the same model.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • A question
  • Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets
  • Tuned
  • RWS Hobby
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Trigger pull
  • Cocking effort
  • Other indicators
  • What does this mean?
A question

I’ll start today’s report with a question. If you buy a used airgun — something vintage like the FWB 124 I’m writing about today — who is to say it wasn’t tuned by somebody before you got it? In other words, should you tear into a vintage airgun before you test it to know where it is, in terms of performance?

I think I know what your answers will be when I ask the question that way. But have any of you ever jumped into a project like this with both feet, before you knew what was going on? Maybe you haven’t. I wish I could say the same. I have been impulsive in the past, and it’s not a trait I am proud of. But, rather than confess my personal sins to you, let me tell you what I have seen during my airgun writing career.

I have seen people buy a vintage airgun and have it shipped directly to an airgunsmith before they ever fired one shot out of it! In fact, one such gun was actually an FWB 124. The guy bought it at an airgun show and handed it to an airgunsmith who had a table there without firing one shot through that gun. I understand the convenience of not having to ship the gun one way, but what was he overlooking? Did the gun already have a drop-dead gorgeous tune that was being disregarded (and soon to be changed)?

I know of another case where a buyer bought a new breakbarrel and had the retailer drop-ship it to a tuner who he also told to remove six inches of barrel and re-crown the muzzle. That one had a funny follow-on. When the owner finally got the shortened airgun he complained that it took over 70 pounds of force to cock it. He then listed it on a sale website! So — maybe a dozen shots at most were fired through a completely remodeled (and wrecked) brand-new airgun!

I don’t want to do that with this rifle. Today’s test is therefore structured to tell me what, if anything, needs to be done to this airgun. If I discover it’s running sweetly, I’ll leave it alone. Let’s get started

Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets

First up are Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets — the so-called Premier “Lites.” In a 124 I tuned these averaged 744 f.p.s.. I have no data on what this pellet will do in a new 124 because when I owned mine new 124 the Premiers were still 15+ years in the future.

In the test rifle Premier lites averaged 727 f.p.s. That’s a little slower than the tuned gun. Where it is compared to a new rifle I can’t say, but I think it’s pretty close.

The spread ranged from a low of 716 to a high of 737 f.p.s. That’s 21 f.p.s. difference. At the average velocity this pellet generates 9.27 foot-pounds. I would have expected 10.5 foot pounds or higher, so it’s a little off.


Without question I know this rifle has been tuned. The first shot in this test told mne that, because a factory 124 buzzes a lot. This one is quiet. Looking through the cocking slot with a flashlight I can see grease on the mainspring and what looks like moly on the rear of the piston. Also, the trigger is breaking much lighter than a stock 124 trigger. I’ll say more about that in a bit.

RWS Hobby

In its day the 124 would have been tested with something light like the RWS Hobby pellet. Hobbys averaged 757 f.p.s. in the test gun. In a new 124 I would expect them to average close to 800 f.p.s.

The spread was from 735 to 773 f.p.s. — a total of 38 f.p.s. At the avewrage velocity the Hobby generates 8.91 foot-pounds. I would have expected slightly over 11.

JSB Exact RS

The final pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS. This pellet did not exist in the time the 124 was new, which is a shame because it seems so well-suited to it. These averaged 798 f.p.s. with a tight spread from 791 to 804 f.p.s. That’s just 13 f.p.s.

At the average velocity the RS pellet generates 10.37 foot-pounds. I imagine a stock 124 would get over 11 foot pounds.

Trigger pull

The 124 trigger is not a complex mechanism. It is not that adjustable and cannot be tuned too low without safety issues. My Queen Bee trigger released at one pounds, which is the best I’ve ever seen in about 25 124s. This trigger breaks at 1 lb 8 oz and is set to a single-stage pull. I find it useable but not as precise as some others like Rekords.

The safety operated perfectly duribng the test anbd this is often an issue with 124 triggers that have been “tuned.” Whoever did the work on this rifle knew what they were doing.

Cocking effort

A staock 124 cocked with 23-26 pounds of effort. Once broken in that might drop to just 20 pounds. The test rifle cocks with 18 pounds of effort, which means it has been correctly lubricated, plus the mainspring might be getting a little tired.

Other indicators

I am nearly certain the piston seal has been replaced. No original would have lasted so long. They will rot just sitting on a shelf!

The breech seal, which is a o-ring, appears new. I wouldn’t replace it.

The barrel pivot pin is slightly loose. Once the rifle is cocked the barrel will not remain in place at any angle.

What does this mean?

This rifle is in fine shape, but it is a little tired. It could stand a tune, though one is not required. And that answers the question I posed at the beginning. I don’t know what I will do yet, but my plan it to proceed to the accuracy test next.

Air Venturi Power Booster 4500 psi unit: Part 1

Čt, 05/11/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Air Venturi Power Booster.

This report covers:

  • Higher price
  • Video
  • Early talk
  • What it is
  • Need a shop compressor
  • Can a gun be filled from empty?
  • No electricity
  • The parts
  • Can it fill a tank?
  • Specs
  • Summary

Today we start looking at the new Air Venturi Power Booster 4500 psi unit. I reported seeing a pre-production model of this at the 2017 SHOT Show. That one didn’t have the outer skin on, so this one looks more finished.

Higher price

The anticipated retail price has risen over time. Pyramyd Air looked at the prototypes and made improvements that made operation easier, but did add to the bottom line. It is what it is, so let’s take a look at that right now.


The best way to see how this unit works is to watch the excellent 6-minute video on the Pyramyd Air website . You have to scroll down the page for this video. I can’t show you the kind of detail that is in that video, so if possible I suggest you watch it before reading the rest of this report.

Early talk

There has been a lot of discussion about the Power Booster on this blog over the past few days. The thread of that discussion has not been clear, and the conversation has gone something like this.

“Pyramyd Air has a new compressor.”

“It’s not a compressor; it’s a booster unit like the Shoebox.”

“I like the Shoebox, but it costs too much!”

“You have to buy another compressor to feed into this compressor! That’s another thousand bucks!”

“Speaking of feeding, I’m having lunch.”

“Me too! I’m also having dessert.”

“I like ice cream!”

Okay, there is a lot of excitement and some confusion about this new unit. Let’s start the report by saying what this is and who it’s for.

What it is

This new unit is not a stand-alone air compressor. Air Venturi just brought out their new stand-alone 4500 psi air compressor a few months ago, and we are already looking at that. This is a power booster, which means it takes air that has already been compressed by a common shop air compressor (60 to 90 psi output capable of delivering 5 standard cubic feet per minute {sfcm} of compressed air) and boosting it up to 4500 psi. Booster pumps are not new. They have been around for decades, used in other industries like aviation, to pressurize landing gear struts up to 5,000 psi. Now they are available for airguns, with the Shoebox being the best-known of all.

Need a shop compressor

Here is something that has not been discussed very well. People are getting confused because with the Power Booster you also need to have a shop compressor to feed air into it. If you don’t own a shop compressor already, maybe the Power Booster is not for you. Maybe you need a stand-alone compressor like the one we are now testing from Air Venturi. But many airgun owners do own shop compressors. For them, the Power Booster may well be the best way to go. If you watch the video I’ve linked above you will see a Sumatra filled in under 4 minutes — not from empty, but from where the air pressure was when someone stopped shooting it.

Nobody fills a PCP from empty unless it’s either a new gun or one that has been repaired. We shoot PCPs until they need to be filled again, so there is usually a lot of compressed air in the gun when the fill begins. The time it takes to fill a gun is from where the pressure is when the fill starts until the fill is complete — not from empty.

Can a gun be filled from empty?

Yes, the Power Booster will fill a gun from empty to full. It just takes longer. Some guns may need to be cocked to be filled from empty — the same as if you were using a hand pump.

No electricity

The Power Booster does not run on electricity. All it needs is an input of compressed air at 60 to 90 psi. Please watch the video.

The parts

Let’s look at the external parts of the Power Booster.

These are the external parts of the Power Booster.

Can it fill a tank?

This is another big question people have about power boosters. Not just this booster, but all boosters. They have been asking this about the Shoebox compressor for years. Yes, it can fill a tank. But allow me to illustrate with an analogy. Elsewhere in the world, some farmers do not own a car. They hitch their self-propelled cultivators to carts, to take whatever they need wherever they need to go. Using a booster compressor to fill a large carbon fiber air tank is like driving your family on a wagon pulled by a Gravely cultivator. You can do it and it does work, but it will take time to get where you want to go.

Yes, it will get you there, but is it practical?


The pressure at which the Power Booster shuts off is adjustable from 2000 psi to 4,500 psi. Yes, it does go to 4,500 psi, but only a few airguns get filled that high. The Power Booster comes pre-set to stop at 3,000 psi. If you want to change that, a Allen wrench is provided. The settings marked on the booster are approximate and should be refined by the owner when the booster is used. Then make a mark with an indelible felt-tipped pen to remember the exact setting.

The unit weighs 23 lbs., which is light enough to move easily. Handles are provided for this.

The input end accepts a standard pneumatic quick-disconnect fitting and the output hose ends with a female Foster quick-disconnect fitting. So you need to match the connections on what you are filling to the female Foster. Pyramyd Air has plenty of adaptors for just that.


This is just our first look. I bought a shop air compressor so I could test this unit for you. I plan to do just that over the next weeks and months.

Colt Peacemaker BB pistol: Part 3

St, 05/10/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The new Colt Peacemaker is also available with ivory grips.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Backwards!
  • Fresh CO2
  • Air Venturi Steel BBs
  • The test
  • H&N Smart Shot lead BBs
  • Plastic BBs
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Discussion
  • Shot count
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today we look at the Colt Peacemaker BB revolver with the 7.5-inch barrel. This test is the one I’m doing backwards. You will recall that I did Part 2 as an accuracy test, so today we look at velocity. That’s out of order but I think it won’t matter that much. Let’s get started.

Fresh CO2

Part of the velocity test is determining the shot count, so I removed the 12-gram CO2 cartridge and installed a new one. I knew the moment the cartridge was pierced because I heard it, so the test began with the first shot.

Air Venturi Steel BBs

First up were Air Venturi Steel BBs. Six of them averaged 413 f.p.s. The spread went from 407 to 421 f.p.s., so that’s just 14 f.p.s. After this first cylinder, however, all shots were slower. This was probably caused by part of the liquid CO2 coming through the valve and evaporating in the barrel.

The test

I allowed the gun to recover temperature for at least 10 seconds between shots. If you don’t do that, most CO2 guns get slower with each shot, because they are getting colder.

H&N Smart Shot lead BBs

Next to be tried were H&N Smart Shot BBs. They averaged 343 f.p.s. with a low of 315 and a high of 366 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 51 f.p.s. On this cylinder every shot went slower, even though I rested between shots.

Plastic BBs

Okay, here is what you have been waiting for. The next BBs I tested were those plastic BBs that came with the ASG X9 Classic BB pistol I reviewed a few weeks ago. They weigh 1.2 grains, but they jammed in the X9 Classic. I thought this pistol could handle them better because of how it works (it’s a revolver and it’s firing from a cartridge). I have no idea where to buy more of these. They did okay in the accuracy test, which surprised me. Now let’s see how fast they went.

Six plastic BBs averaged 650 f.p.s. Yes — that’s very fast! The spread for 6 shots went from a low of 628 to a high of 669, so 41 f.p.s. The velocity dropped with each shot.

JSB Exact RS pellets

Remember I tested this revolver with JSB Exact RS pellets, too. They averaged 381 f.p.s. The spread went from 375 to 387 f.p.s., which is just 13 f.p.s. And this time the velocity did not drop with each shot. It dropped with the first three shots and increased with the second three. The final shot was 387 f.p.s. — the fastest shot with this pellet.


The gun handles BBs well, but the velocity does drop as you shoot. It shouldn’t affect accuracy at close ranges, which is all this gun was meant to shoot. Now it’s time to find out how many total shots are in a typical CO2 cartridge.

Shot count

By this time in the test there were 39 shots on the cartridge. Some did not register through the chronograph. Shot number 40 was an Air Venturi Steel BB that went out at 392 f.p.s. Remember, the average I got before was 413 f.p.s. Here’s a list of velocities with the same BB after that.

100……….. 331
110……….. 279
120……….. 237

When the velocity starts to drop like you see around shot 80, it means all the liquid CO2 has evaporated to gas and that is what’s powering the gun. From that point on, the velocity can only decrease. You can still shoot safely and still be accurate, but at some point you will notice the BBs are dropping more and the discharge will be quieter.

I went farther in this test to show you what happens. I could tell by around shot 110 that the gun was slowing down from the discharge sound. I stopped at shot 120 because I didn’t want a BB stuck in the barrel. But any way you look at it, this revolver gets a lot of shots at reasonable velocity.

Trigger pull

The trigger is single action only, of course. That almost always means that is is single-stage, as well. The hammer must be cocked manually each time you shoot, both to ready the gun to fire and to advance the cylinder to a new chamber.

The trigger breaks cleanly at between 3 lbs. 1 oz. and 3 lbs. 3 oz. That’s better than a stock Colt SAA revolver will do!


This revolver is very nice for many reasons. First, I like the 7.5-inch better for its balance best of all the SAAs. The 4-3/4 is the fastest, but this one is the easiest to handle.

Next, I like the imitation ivory grips. They are smooth and well-fitted to the gun, plus they are on very tight.

I also like that the 1860 Colt Army grip frame was used instead of the SAA grip frame. That gives you larger grips and makes the gun easier to handle. Of course it is needed to hold the 12-gram CO2 cartridge.

The cartridges go in and out of the cylinder easily, plus they are very easy to load with BBs. I would rather load BBs in the bottom of the cartridge than in the nose. It seems more natural.

If you like single action airguns, this is definitely one to consider.

Ballistic coefficient: What is it? Part 1

Út, 05/09/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I’m still out of state, caring for my sister who had several operations last week. This report is a 2-parter that generated a lot of interest in 2014 and 2015.

This report addresses:

• Definition of ballistic coefficient (BC).
• How are BCs determined?
• Bullets and pellets have an additional factor.
• BCs are not constants.
• BC is an expression of how much velocity is lost in flight.
• How to cheat the BC numbers.

If ever there was an elephant in a room full of airgunners — this is it! Ballistic coefficient. It seems like everybody talks about it, but what does it mean?

Ballistic coefficient (BC) is the measure of a ballistic projectile’s ability to overcome air resistance in flight. It’s stated as a decimal fraction smaller than one. When diabolo pellets are discussed, the BCs are very low numbers in the 0.010 to 0.045 range because diabolos are purposely designed to slow down in the air. Their wasp waists, flared skirts and hollow tails all contribute to very high drag that rapidly slows them down — much like a badminton birdie. Lead bullets, in contrast, have BCs between 0.150 and 0.450.

The long lead bullet on the right has a higher BC than the short fat bullet on the left. When they’re both fired at the same speed, the bullet on the right will not slow down as fast as the bullet on the left.

How is it determined?
To physicists, BC is a function of mass, diameter and drag coefficient. This set of parameters seems simple until you examine it closer. A round ball made of pure lead should always weigh the same, as long as the diameter is the same. But a diabolo pellet is conical in shape and can be much longer than the diameter of a round ball of the same caliber. Depending on how the pellet is designed (i.e., how hollow or solid it is), it can also be much heavier because it contains more lead than the ball.

Bullets and pellets have an additional factor
For pellets and bullets, there’s an additional factor to consider — shape. For that reason, there’s a separate definition for the ballistic coefficient of bullets that takes into account the sectional density dictated by the form or shape of the projectile.

I’m purposely avoiding any discussion of BC that includes formulas. Stated simply, a pellet or bullet with a high BC (a large number) will continue to fly much longer than a pellet or bullet with a low BC: A high BC means the pellet will fly farther!

BCs are not constants
Okay, you say, that’s exactly what I want! Give me only those pellets that have high BC numbers.

Not so fast! However, as the velocity of a projectile changes, so does the projectile’s BC. BCs are not constants. There’s no such thing as a pellet with a BC of 0.035. But there are plenty of pellets that will achieve a BC of 0.035 at a certain velocity. When a BC is given, it means something only if the velocity at which that BC was obtained is given with it.

This could get confusing, couldn’t it? Yes, it can be confusing if you try to force numbers onto pellets when they don’t apply. But when you understand that the BC of a pellet is actually a sliding scale, you begin to understand the ballistics of airguns.

The ballistic coefficient of a single pellet can change this much with velocity changes.

Who cares?
So what? Who cares about all this sliding scale stuff? You do, and I’ll tell you why. Let’s say there’s a pellet with a BC of 0.042. Wow! That’s a very high number for a diabolo pellet! I’m gonna get me some of them!

Hold on, pardner. What if I told you that pellet was the JSB Exact King in .25 caliber, and that it has that BC only when it’s moving at 1,250 f.p.s.?

BUMMER! You don’t own an air rifle that will propel a .25-caliber JSB exact King up to 1,250 f.p.s. In fact, almost no one does. Therefore, the fact that the pellet has that high a BC at that particular velocity does nobody any good.

If you think about this for a moment, it’ll dawn on you that a particular BC relates to the airgun being used, almost as much as it does to the pellet. Your rifle may only be able to launch the .25-caliber JSB Exact King out the muzzle at 760 f.p.s. At that speed, the BC of the pellet might be 0.033 (these are not the actual numbers, but they’re very close). By the time the pellet has gone 25 yards from the rifle, its velocity has dropped to 635 f.p.s. and the BC is down to 0.030.

BC is an expression of how much velocity a pellet loses in flight
We know that pellets slow down rapidly after leaving the muzzle. Pellets with higher BCs retain their velocities longer than pellets with lower BCs. A pellet with a BC of 0.040 at 900 f.p.s is going to go farther than a pellet with a BC of 0.020 at 900 f.p.s. Both pellets will change their BCs in flight, but the pellet that has the higher BC will never drop below the pellet with the lower BC at the same distance.

Range equals velocity — how to cheat!
I think most shooters know that the velocity of a pellet starts to decrease the moment it leaves the muzzle of the gun. And the BC is a measure of how much velocity a pellet loses in flight. If I want to get higher BCs, I can get them by measuring velocity closer to the muzzle, where the velocity loss will be less than when the pellet has traveled farther. For example, if I were to measure the BC of a pellet by comparing its muzzle velocity to the velocity at 10 meters, the BC would be higher than if I were to compare the muzzle velocity of the same pellet to its velocity at 25 meters.

I can cheat the numbers by measuring velocity loss at a very close range. The pellet that gives me a BC of 0.033 at 25 meters might give me a BC of 0.040 if I measure the velocity loss at just 10 meters. Standards are needed to make sense of these numbers.

Sometimes, people don’t WANT to make sense! Sometimes, people just want to report a high number because the folks reading the numbers think they mean something good.

In that respect, the discussion of BC among those who don’t really understand what it means is not unlike the discussion of muzzle velocity among new airgunners. Some airgun manufacturers proudly advertise their air rifles can achieve 1,300-1,600 f.p.s. People who are new to airgunning think that’s a good thing. We know it isn’t. We know that to achieve such high velocities requires the use of trick pellets no one would ever use in the field because they’re hopelessly inaccurate.

Next time
There’s a whole lot more to this topic. For example, as the velocity of diabolo pellets rises up into the transsonic region, the BC often starts dropping, again. At supersonic speeds, the pellets are very negatively affected.

We’ll also look at the pellet’s shape, for shape is what makes the BC of bullets and pellets different from other BC numbers. Technically, it’s called “form,” but the term shape is clear enough for everyone to understand.

The Beeman C1 – Part 1 The rifle that created the artillery hold!

Po, 05/08/2017 - 01:01

by B.B. Pelletier

This is an oldie from 2009 that I’m recycling because I’m still out of town with my family emergency. As you will soon learn, the Beeman C1 is the rifle that gave me the idea for the artillery hold.


A history of airguns

Despite the size of this photo, the C1 is a small rifle. The western look was unique in its day. The scope is a 2-7×32 BSA.I have places in my heart reserved for certain air rifles. The FWB 124 has a spot, as does the Beeman R1. And there’s another place that’s reserved for the Beeman C1. It’s no longer made. In fact, the company that once made it–Webley–has also disappeared from the world stage. But the C1s that are in the world are wonderful air rifles that deserve a look from us.

My first C1 was a compromise gun–something I know many of you readers can relate to. I really wanted an R1, but at the time we didn’t have the money to stretch that far, so I bought the C1 as the best compromise. The difference was $189 and $249, as close as I can recall. That little bit made the decision for me.

At least this was a Beeman rifle, even if it wasn’t one made by Weihrauch. Little did I know then how much that C1 carbine was going to influence my future as an airgun writer.

The rifle is a tad over 38 inches long, and the barrel accounts for 14 inches of that. The rifle weighs 6.3 lbs.

My C1 was a .177, while the one I’m reviewing for you now is a .22. I can remember being very impressed when I saw the gun for the first time. Beeman really knew how to present an air rifle in their reinforced cardboard boxes. The rated velocity was 830 f.p.s. for a broken-in gun in .177. Beeman also listed a .22 caliber version, but I never heard much about it back when it was still being made, so this test will be very revealing.

My C1 had a manual safety on the right side of the rifle, located at the rear of the spring tube. The .22 rifle I’m testing for you has no safety, so it has to be an earlier rifle. The rifle was made from 1981 to 1996 according to the Blue Book of Airguns. And here’s a curious note–although the Blue Book says importation began after serial number 800,000, the serial number on my rifle is 771,894. And my new rifle is clearly marked with Beeman’s San Rafael address.

When it was new, my first C1 was quite stiff and hard to cock. The trigger was also very stiff. To say I was disappointed by the shooting performance was an understatement! After hearing all the good things about precision adult air rifles and having already owned an FWB 124, this C1 was a boat anchor in comparison. But it was all I had, so I stuck with it.

After about 2,000 rounds had passed through the rifle, I began noticing that the cocking had smoothed out. At first I thought it was my imagination, but then I started noticing that the firing behavior was smoother, as well. After 3,000 rounds the trigger started getting very light and, if not exactly crisp, at least predictable.

About that time I disassembled the rifle to see what I could do to improve it. What I was thinking, I’ll never know, because I hadn’t a clue how to tune a spring gun. The Beeman R1 book was still five years in the future. Black tar hadn’t been discovered by airgunners yet. It existed, but it was not known to the airgun community, so we used Beeman’s Mainspring Dampening Compound instead. It did pretty much the same thing, though it wasn’t as viscous, and you had to use a lot more of it.

Fortunately, I also didn’t own a chronograph yet, either, so I had no idea how fast my rifle was shooting. I trusted the Beeman catalog implicitly.

Use a mainspring compressor!
While either disassembling or assembling my C1 a curious thing happened and I got the first photo to go into the R1 book. The heavy solid steel end cap got away from me, sailed across the room and broke a desk drawer divider in two! Had my arm been there instead, I’m thinking it might have been broken–bruised for certain. I instantly understood the need for a mainspring compressor!

The C1 end cap hit this desk divider to the right of the crack (see the dent in the wood) and busted it in two.The other curious thing about my C1 was that it taught me how to shoot a spring-piston air rifle. The wisdom of that day said to hold a spring rifle firmly. I was doing that and those beautiful groups my rifle was supposed to be capable of were eluding me. On my 10-meter basement range I could group five good pellets into about one-third inch when everything went well.

The birth of the artillery hold
One day, I decided to see just how inaccurate the rifle would be if I didn’t restrain it at all. So, I laid the forearm across my open palm and caressed the wrist only enough to pull the trigger. The butt simply touched my shoulder without bearing on it. And the next group I shot measured 0.13″! That day was the birth of the artillery hold, though it wasn’t until The Airgun Letter that I gave it a name, because I wanted to be able to discuss it in my articles without having to describe the procedure every time. People had been holding firearms that way for decades, but this was a change for airgunners.

I was so shocked by this revelation that I wrote my first airgun article about this phenomenon and sent it to Robert Beeman to put in his next catalog. When I didn’t hear back from him I was disappointed, but I kept on refining that hold, because my rifle shot so well.


The rear sight on this new C1 is a Williams adjustable. It’s not original to the rifle but is an upgrade.My C1 is sold
Several years later, Edith and I were doing much better and she gave me not one but two air rifles for Christmas–a new R1 and a used HW 77 carbine. Those rifles took over my attention and within a few more years the C1 was gone. At the time I said things like, “Who needs three perfect airguns?” and “I can always buy another one if I really want it.”

The C1 slipped quietly out of production soon after Robert Beeman sold the company in 1994 and was replaced for a short time by the Beeman Bearcub–the last model to carry any genes from the gun that had been the C1. The western stock went away as well, and the Bearcub was 100 f.p.s. faster than the C1 had been.

Why I missed the C1
For several years after selling the C1, I was fine, but then I started missing it. I missed the ease of use and the compact size, but most of all I missed the splendid accuracy that issued forth from that little breakbarrel. I also missed being able to hold it up to show people what a nice airgun was supposed to look like.

And a strange thing happened. As much as I had told myself I could always buy another one, they weren’t showing up at the airgun shows. I see about as many C1s for sale as I see Sheridan Supergrades, and that’s not many. So, when I saw the current one on Dave Franz’s table at Little Rock this year, I was excited. It took a big trade to bring the rifle into my gun room, but it was worth it. Now I have a vintage airgun to test that I have absolutely no experience with–a .22 caliber C1. I’m sure we’ll all have a fine time learning about this one.

FWB 124 air rifle: Part 1

Pá, 05/05/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This FWB 124 Deluxe is not the exact gun I’m writing about, but it is the same model.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The motivation
  • What did I get?
  • Now what?
  • Why???
  • The lesson
  • History
  • Long stroke piston
  • Summary

I had planned to tear into the Beeman R8 again today, to see whether removing most of the special new grease I put in when I lubed it would improve the velocity, but I’m not at home so I can’t do that. My other plan for today was to begin telling you about another new/old airgun I found at the 2017 Findlay airgun show. That I can do, so here we go. Let’s look at an FWB 124.

The motivation

Before I begin describing the gun I want to tell you why I’m writing about yet another FWB 124. I have already written about so many of them! The last report was titled A shrine built for a Feinwerkbau 124 and ended in February of 2011. It was a 15-part report that probably turned many readers off because it went on too long. I vowed never to write about the 124 again, but that was before this year’s Findlay show.

As you recall, Pyramyd Air brought a lot of vintage airguns to the show that they acquired when they purchased a local dealer’s inventory. One of the rifles they had on the table was this 124 Deluxe that I told Tyler Patner I thought would be the first to go. I had already snatched the Beeman R8, and this 124 was an equally desirable airgun. I purposely did not buy it, wanting to give somebody else the opportunity. Well, the rifle sat on the table for three-quarters of the show, and the price was reduced several times. I even told people about it and sent them over to see it!

When I went by the Pyramyd Air tables in the early afternoon and discovered that it still was there, despite a reduced price of $250, I just bought it. I didn’t want it or need it, but when the stars align, you just make your move. My friend Mac taught me that.

What did I get?

As I mentioned, this is a 124 Deluxe, which is the rifle with sling swivels, a cheek piece and a checkered pistol grip. Other than that, there is not one iota difference between the Deluxe and Sport versions of the rifle. This rifle is an early one with a serial number below 14,000. I have owned them with numbers in the 40,000s, so this one is early. It has the black plastic trigger blade rather than the silver blade that Feinwerkbau put on later models. Personally I like the black one better and neither one affects the pull a bit, because the trigger operates through a leverage system.

I would estimate the condition is about 90 percent, but without the rifle in hand to examine that is as close as I will go. It has both the front and rear open sights, which is not that common these days. Once people start putting on scopes, the sights get lost and 124 sights are running at a premium today.

The front sling swivel was removed by some Bubba in the past. 124 swivels are for European 3/4-inch slings and Americans often replace them with one-inch straps for reasons I cannot fathom. You can’t use a hasty sling on a breakbarrel rifle, so I fail to see any advantage to a heavier strap. But the deed was done and probably cannot be reversed because of the way the front swivel attaches to the gun (it’s riveted on). They did install a quick-detachable sling swivel anchor to the barrel, which is the last place I want it. I don’t use slings anyway, so I will either remove it or just leave it alone.

Now what?

Now we test the rifle. It came out of the same shop as the R8 so there’s a chance the same grease monkey got inside and did his magic. I shot it during the filming of American Airgunner a few weeks ago, but that is all I’ve done with it. It’s at home right now while I am on the road, so we will all have to wonder a while longer.

If the rifle is stock we know that the piston seal needs replacing. FWB 124 piston seals were made from a synthetic material that always degrades over time, so there is no chance it still works today. If it was replaced (and it probably was because it does shoot), the rifle may still shoot well. The good news is that Pyramyd Air is the official Beeman dealer for all their high-end airguns and they have invested the money to recreate the 124’s piston seal in a modern synthetic material. They also stock the 124 breech seal and the super-long 124 mainspring. Those are the three items that are needed most for an overhaul. So we are living at a time when this rifle can still be rebuilt to factory specs.


The question I ask myself is why did this rifle not sell at Findlay? Since I bought it, offers for the rifle have been streaming in to me, so I know people want them. And this one was priced so much lower than what they typically sell for. Were people worried about the condition? These air rifles are so rebuildable that you almost can’t stop one. I once had just an action in the stock that I sold to a man who owned just the barrel!

The lesson

My plan for this one is to once again test it and then rebuild it. You will see how easy it can be to put one back on the road, though we don’t even know if this one needs that yet. And after I finish I guess I will hold onto this one. I’ve owned about 15 of these over my lifetime — everything from the one in the box with all the parts (see the link above) to a beater I bought for $35 and rebuilt into a fine air rifle. I always think I don’t need one and get rid of the one I have, then something comes up and I wish I had one again.


I’m putting the history last today, because the story of the acquisition was the most important part. I bought the rifle — not because I wanted it, but because at the low price it was selling for it needed to be bought!

The FWB 124 was an outgrowth of an earlier FWB model — the 121. Feinwerkbau made target rifles and pistols, and the 121 was their first foray into the world of sporing air rifles. This is a company whose barrels are renowned the world over. We talk a lot about Lothar Walther barrels but people only buy them because they can’t get FWB barrels. So the 121/124 had no chance of being anything but accurate.

Long stroke piston

But FWB did something exceedingly clever with this rifle. They gave it a long piston stroke. That did two things. First, it gave the rifle a forward recoil that is so pronounced that the 124 is the poster child of forward recoiling air rifles! Second, the additional swept volume of the piston generated far more power than had ever been seen. The result was an easy-cocking breakbarrel with a muzzle velocity over 800 f.p.s. at a time when 800 f.p.s. was the top threshold for air rifles. The 124 started the horsepower races we are still seeing today.

Robert Beeman was very impressed by the 124 and he touted it highly in his colorful catalogs. He made many of us want one, and I bought my first one after returning from a 4-year tour in Germany. A couple years later the Beeman R1 came out and I was no longer king of the hill. That turned me into a dedicated airgunner (translate that as a crazy person) and I eventually wrote a book about the rifle that changed my life.

I wrote the Beeman R1 book as a partial homage to it’s displacement of the FWB 124.


The FWB 124 is a classic air rifle. Like others in this class, it introduced some important things to the world of airguns. It its case it was the long stroke piston and breaking the 800 f.p.s. “barrier.”

Hopefully this will be the last 124 I ever tune, and I plan to do it up right. I’ve seen everything from the $35 junker I resusatated to the “Queen Bee” rifle I once owned that is now some collector’s treasure. My plan is to make this one the best of all.

ASG X9 Classic BB pistol: Part 3

Čt, 05/04/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

ASG X9 Classic.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The test
  • ASG Blaster BBs
  • The eye is sharp
  • Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • Recoil
  • H&N Smart Shot lead BBs
  • Evaluation

I had to go out of town suddenly today for a family emergency and I don’t know when I’ll return. I will do the best I can with the blog. Fortunately I shot and took pictures for today’s report before this happened.

Today we look at the accuracy of the ASG X9 Classic BB pistol. Let’s get to it.

The test

I shot from 5 meters using the UTG Monopod to rest my shooting hand. Because this pistol uses a lot of gas, a fresh CO2 cartridge was installed at the start of the test.

ASG Blaster BBs

First up were ASG Blaster BBs. I learned how to load the magazine in this part of the review and it went a lot easier than in Part 2. Put the BBs in the channel of the magazine with the follower pulled all the way down. Then tip the mag slightly back and they roll down to the hole, where they drop into the mag. Loading is much faster and easier that way.

Ten Blaster BBs went into a 2.189-inch group at 5 meters. The group is open and generally round. I don’t think Blaster BBs are right for this pistol.

Ten ASG Blaster BBs made this 2.189-inch group at 5 meters.

The eye is sharp

Incidentally, if you are wondering, my right eye (sighting eye) is razor-sharp. I am seeing the front sight perfectly. The bull is a little fuzzy, but that is exactly how it should be with a handgun held properly.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs

The next BB I tried was the Hornady Black Diamond BB. I didn’t watch the group as I shot — just kept sighting and shooting. When it was over there were 10 shots in 1.287-inches. That was the best group of the test. Notice that the BBs went close to the point of aim, which was 6 o’clock on the bull.

Ten Hornady Black Diamond BBs went into 1.287-inches at 5 meters. The best group of the test.


I mentioned in Part 2 that the blowback of this pistol is very realistic. Well, that came through very clearly in this accuracy test. I think the X9 Classic makes a very good trainer for a Beretta 92FS/M9.

H&N Smart Shot

The final BB I tested was the H&N Smart Shot lead BB. These are larger and sometimes do very well in BB pistols. In the X9 Classic 10 of them went into 2.298-inches at 5 meters. That was the largest group of this test. Clearly the Smart Shot BB is not for the X9 Classic.

At 5 meters the X9 pistol put 10 H&N Smart Shot lead BBs into a group measuring 2.298-inches between centers.


The ASG X9 Classic is a very realistic BB pistol that copies the M9 military pistol closely. The realism is good and the blowback is among the heaviest I have ever tested.

Accuracy is adequate, if not stunning. But I think at the distance this pistol will be used it’s all that’s required. Consider using Hornady Black Diamond BBs unless you find something better.

The use of gas is high, but that goes with the heavy recoil I think. I don’t like that the magazine floorplate must be removed each time a new CO2 cartridge is pierced. But that is a small inconvenience in a very realistic action BB pistol.

Shimming a Diana breech seal

St, 05/03/2017 - 01:01

Introduction by B.B. Pelletier

Thanks for all the kind wishes on my eye surgery. It went very well and my exam the next day (yesterday) showed the potential for 20/20 in that eye.

Once again I am running a “Best of BB” because I still could not see the computer screen well enough to write a new report. I saw the doctor yesterday and got the patch off my eye, so hopefully this will be the last time I have to do this.

With all the interest in tuning spring guns I thought you might like to see what effect a new breech seal has on performance. I plan on giving the Beeman R8 a new seal after I get its velocity up higher than it is now. Let’s look at this old report on what a fresh breech seal can do.

I’m also toying with tearing the R8 apart right away and removing most of the new grease, so see if just a little on the mainspring will give what we want. I am really curious about this rifle!

Guest blogger
Here’s another guest blogger. Vince Brandolini shows us how he shims a Diana breech seal to gain more energy. Vince has instructed several readers on this blog how to do this and they report similar velocity gains.

If you have an airgun story to tell, maybe you can tell it here. I’m looking for some budding bloggers who would like to help me write this blog. If you would like to write a post for this blog, please email me at blogger@pyramydair.com.

Bloggers must be proficient in the simple html that Blogger software uses, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them) and they must use proper English. We will edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Okay, Vince – take it away!

Shimming the Diana breech seal

By Vince Brandolini

I had gotten my first Diana rifle about 15 months ago – a wood-stocked RWS 34. I found it to be a bit of a disappointment in several respects and ended up selling it after a few months. One reason was the velocity; it generated under 14 ft-lbs at the muzzle. That’s no big deal, but the rifle certainly took more effort to cock than, say, my Gamo Shadow or Crosman Quest, either of which would handily out-power it.

Giving the 34 one more chance
Still, I did sort of miss the rifle. After hearing a lot of good things about the Panther variant of the ’34 (including BB’s review), I decided to take a crack at one. The example I got was a factory-refurbished model, and, frankly, all the reviews were right on the money. It was a much nicer gun to shoot overall, although the velocity was still low.

It didn’t worry me too much until I compiled a list of the mechanical specs of all my springers – including the potential energy stored in the powerplant when the gun is cocked. I then bounced that number against actual muzzle energy and found that all my guns came out at over 30% efficient – except for the Panther which came in at less than 28%. That didn’t sound right to me.

Huge increases in efficiency & velocity!
My suspicions were confirmed when I obtained a .22 caliber Panther a short time later, and it was lobbing Crosman Wadcutters under 600 fps (under 25% efficient). After some investigation, I found that shimming the breech seal resulted in a velocity over 700 fps. That made me wonder about my .177 Panther. So, I shimmed THAT breech seal and the velocity (10-shot average, 7.9 Crosman Premiers) went from 868 to 938 fps – a 17% increase in power and a new efficiency of 32.5%. Incidentally, the efficiency of the .22 is now close to 37%.

Dianas aren’t the only guns that could use a shimmed breech seal
When I found a similar problem with my very recently acquired Ruger Air Hawk (which is a BAM-built semi-clone of the ’34), I began to wonder if this might be a common issue.

How it looks on the inside
Below is what the typical Diana-type breech and seal look like (the pictures are from the near-identical Ruger Air Hawk).


The breech reveals a simple o-ring pressed into a groove around the barrel opening. If you remove the o-ring, you may or may not find a factory shim under the ring. Both my Panthers had shims, while the Air Hawk did not. 


When you remove the o-ring, you may find a factory shim under the ring. Both my Panthers had shims, while the Air Hawk did not. 


This is a side shot of the Air Hawk breech. There’s little protrusion from the breech face. That can lead to velocity loss!

Making & installing the shim is just about a no-brainer
This isn’t an expensive or time-consuming process and no mechanical knowledge is required, yet I found it was one of the quickest ways to immediately get a velocity increase. Let’s get to it!

The seal groove on the Ruger Air Hawk has a .540″ outside diameter and a .340″ inside diameter (measurements are approximate).

The tools…


I was able to make usable shims with 3/8″ and 1/2″ hole punches. I had a cheap one with interchangeable heads.

The shim can be made out of a variety of materials. Diana uses steel, while Crosman (with a similar setup) uses a thick paper. I settled on plastic from a coffee can lid, which yields a pliable shim about .015″ thick, and aluminum from a soda can, which is about .005″ thick.

Making the shim is a simple 2-step process…


First, I used the larger punch to make the outside diameter. 


Second, I used the smaller punch to make the inside diameter.

The same procedure is used regardless of the material. If you use aluminum, the punching process will probably distort the ring, so make sure you hammer it flat before installing it.


The tricky part is that second punch. If the tool isn’t centered properly you get an uneven shim that looks something like this. If it isn’t too lopsided, the shim can probably still be used (as is the case with this one), but it’s best to have the second punch centered as much as possible.

What if you need to replace an o-ring?
If you discovered that your gun’s o-ring is torn, gouged, ripped or in some way damaged because that’s how it came in the gun or because you did something when removing from your gun, you can buy a replacement. I checked into Umarex’s replacement breech seals, and found that they charge $4-5 for one. If you need only one, that might be the way you want to go. On the other hand, I was able to buy a bag of 100 McMaster-Carr o-rings for just $3.


Clockwise from upper left: yellow plastic shim made from a coffee can lid, aluminum shim made from a soda can, McMaster-Carr o-ring, Umarex breech seal.

Installing the shim


Once the shim is punched out, it fits easily into the breech groove… 


…and the seal protrudes far more prominently.

A few minutes of work increases velocity


In this case, I used a single coffee-can shim (.015″) to increase velocity from 852 to 871.

Yes, it’s still slower than my Panther, but the Air Hawk isn’t a perfect clone. The powerplant has a shorter stroke (by about 15mm) and a slightly softer spring. Out of the three guns I shimmed, this one improved the least. But, the improvement is unmistakable (it was observed over a series of several shots), and it brought the powerplant efficiency up to a reasonable 32%.

Later, I found a fiber washer from McMaster that seems to work well as a breech seal shim. It’s part #90089A330 and sells for $10 for a bag of 100. It’s about .016″ thick, so it won’t do if you’re trying to shim a very small amount.

This naturally leads to the the question – how do you know if your rifle needs it, and how much should you shim? There’s no set rule. My Diana 350 didn’t need any shims, and frankly I don’t know of any way of telling beyond trial and error. There’s a “wax paper test” for a leaking breech seal: load the gun and put a strip of wax paper between the breech and the compression tube as you close the action. Fire the gun. If the seal leaks, it’s supposed to tear the paper. Perhaps this works in some cases, but it didn’t work for me.

That’s about it. I suspect that my first 34 (the one I sold) suffered from this problem. Plus, Hank wrote that his .22 Panther gun picked up 100 fps.

Pellet velocity versus accuracy test: Part 11

Út, 05/02/2017 - 01:01

by B.B. Pelletier

I’m posting a Best of BB today because I had cataract surgery yesterday and I couldn’t see the computer screen to write. I selected this article from December 30, 2011 because it’s the last of 11 experiments I( did on spring gun accuracy and pellet velocity. We seem to be interested in tuning spring guns, and this is a good one to read. Remember — there are a total of 11 parts. So enjoy!

I see it seems to indicate there will be another part to come at the end of this report, but I never wrote it. This is the last in the series.

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

Happy New Year from Tom & Edith!

One nice thing about watching a TV program is that it only takes an hour or less to view. You have no sense of the man-weeks of work that go into a short production on screen. Sometimes, the same thing happens in the world of airgun blogs.

I won’t say I’ve been dreading today’s report; but from past experience adjusting the HOTS on the Whiscombe rifle, I knew it might take longer than anyone could imagine to get a good result. It’s easy to say, “Adjust the HOTS for optimum performance with a certain pellet.” Actually doing it is where you discover if it’ll be easy or hard. The report I have for you today was very hard.

I allotted several hours to the actual testing and adjusting that would have to be done. And with my past experience with the Whiscombe, I knew shortcuts the average shooter wouldn’t think of. Let me lay the groundwork so you understand what’s happening in this process

The Whiscombe harmonic optimized tuning system (HOTS) consists of a weight that can be adjusted in or out along the axis of the bore. A jacket around the barrel is threaded to receive this weight. The threads on the weight are very fine, and one turn of the weight moves it a millimeter in either direction. One complete turn of the weight constitutes 1mm movement of the weight.

Besides the weight, there are two other metal parts. One is a short collar that locks the weight in position after it’s been adjusted, and the other is a much longer cover that encloses the entire HOTS from sight. This longer cap doesn’t need to be removed from the weight to make adjustments, just provide access room for the special wrench that moves the weight.

Here you see the HOTS mechanism. The threaded weight is turned in or out of the barrel jacket by the wrench. Once the weight is where you want it, lock it down with the knurled collar on the barrel jacket. Then, install the long cap, and the job is done.

Where to start?
The problem is always the same: Where do you start adjusting the weight? The simplest way is to start right where you are — with the HOTS in the last position it was set. Shoot a group at that setting and go from there. I had that data, of course, from the earlier part of this test, so that’s where I began. Because the last transfer port is still installed in the rifle, the Beeman Devastator pellet still develops about 772 f.p.s.

When I shot a group at this velocity in the earlier test, 10 shots went into a group measuring 1.073 inches between centers. I was looking for a group somewhere near that size this time, too. It might be a little smaller or larger; but if it was a quarter-inch group, there was a problem with the results of the last test. The same care was taken with each shot; to do any less would have skewed the results or made them unreliable at the very least.

The first group shot in this test, shot with the same HOTS setting, measured 0.953 inches between centers. That’s 0.12 inches smaller than the group from the last test. I would call that in the same ballpark and therefore a confirmation that the last test was sound.

Ten Beeman Devastators at 25 yards went into this 0.953-inch group with the original HOTS setting. It’s close to what the gun did in the last test on the same setting.

Adjusting the HOTS
Whiscombe says that there will be several sweet spots throughout a one-inch movement of the weight, which is approximately 25 full turns. He also says that one spot will be better than the others, and that’s the one to look for. He just doesn’t tell you how to find it, other than by adjusting the weight one turn at a time. But my experience told me that the sweet spot was probably not where the weight was at this time, so I turned it in (toward the receiver of the gun) four full turns and shot a second group. This is where my experience with the Whiscombe was supposed to pay off.

I wasn’t going to waste my time shooting 10 shots if the first 5 were spread out. Why bother? I wanted a tight group, and if inside 3-4 shots — or even 2, on one occasion — there was already a large separation, it was no use going further. I turned the weight in 4 full turns and shot another group. This group teased me with the first 5 shots in less than a quarter-inch, but the final 5 expanded that to 0.977 inches. Can’t be certain because of measurement errors, but no improvement at all.

At 0.977 inches, this group is slightly larger than the original setting. Obviously, the HOTS isn’t adjusted at this spot.

Next, I tried the weight 5 turns in from the start point. The group was worse. I backed out to 3 turns in and got about the same size group as with 4 turns in.

At this point, I experimented with some subtle adjustments on a half and then a quarter turn. At 3.5 turns in, I got a group that was slightly smaller than the one at 4 turns, but it had one called flyer. I tried another quarter turn in and got 4 shots in a group measuring 0.998 inches between centers. Obviously, I wasn’t going the right way.

No sense finishing this group. Four shots are already grouping 0.998 inches.

Okay, this wasn’t working. I adjusted the weight out in the other direction 9 full turns past the initial setting and shot another group of 10. This time there was some success, as the group measured 0.794 inches between centers. I wanted to call that the end of the test; but looking at the group, I knew it wasn’t enough of a difference to impress anyone. Even though it does show improvement over the baseline group, I would like to show a larger change since one of the Devastator groups in the earlier tests measured 0.616 inches. This group was too much larger than that. The gun should be able to do better if harmonics and not velocity was the main driving force behind accuracy.

This group is better than the baseline group, but it’s not as good as some groups that were fired in the big test. It measures 0.794 inches between centers.

By this time, I’d fired 49 shots in about 90 minutes. The test work had lasted much longer than expected, and I had to quit for the day.

A happy accident
The next morning, I was back at the bench and trying to complete the work. I figured I would adjust the weight out from the initial setting by a certain amount but as I tried to do that a happy accident happened. The front cover got stuck together with the weight; and by the time I noticed it, I’d already adjusted it 15-20 turns. Except, I had no way of knowing how many turns it was. I had to start all over, and this time from a random place that bore no known relation to the initial start point. Not that it mattered, except I didn’t want to waste all of the work from the day before.

I adjusted the weight at a point that looked to be well away from the initial setting. Then, I shot a group as a baseline. Or I should say I began to shoot a group. After 3 shots, I had a spread of 1.153 inches between centers — the largest spread of the entire test to this point. No sense finishing that one!

Past experience has shown that the sweet spots are often a couple turns in either direction. I guessed and turned the weight back in three turns from the starting point. And that was when it happened. The clouds rolled back, the angles sang and the rifle grouped like I knew it could. Ten shots went into 0.523 inches. That’s not only the best group of this little experiment with the HOTS, it also beats every group fired with the rifle during the main test conducted earlier.

This group of 10 was shot on the second day, with 3 turns in from the start point. It measures 0.523 inches and proves that the Beeman Devastator can shoot accurately at 772 f.p.s.

The results
With this kind of data in hand, I can say with some confidence that harmonics and not velocity is the main driver in how accurate a spring gun can be. I say this because the worst group shot during the velocity test was adjusted harmonically into the best group of the test with this pellet. There’s no chance in this group — it’s clearly much better than it was in the beginning.

Could the rifle shoot this pellet even better? Maybe. But it isn’t necessary to prove the point we were trying to prove.

Next, I want to adjust the rifle for Beeman Kodiaks at a higher velocity and test pellets straight from the tin against pellets that are sorted by weight. Today’s report should give everyone the confidence that, if a difference in accuracy is noted, it will be because of the pellets and not the gun.

Beeman R8: Part 5

Po, 05/01/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Beeman R8 looks like a baby R1.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Clean and inspect
  • Little wear
  • Install the Rail Lock mainspring compressor
  • Now what?
  • Tip
  • When to take off the compressor
  • Finish threading the end cap
  • The trigger
  • It’s been modified!
  • Installing the trigger
  • Trigger tip
  • How does it feel?
  • RWS Hobbys
  • RWS Superdomes
  • JSB Exact RS
  • What happened?

Today I finish inspecting and cleaning the Beeman R8. I will then assemble it, lubricate it and test it with the same pellets I used before, so we can compare.

Clean and inspect

As I cleaned all the grease off the parts I inspected each of them. The piston and spring guide have not been altered. The mainspring is straight (test it by rolling on a flat surface) and fits the piston and spring guide reasonably well. There is some tolerance between the spring and both those parts, and if I were doing a top grade tune I would make a new spring guide, plus I would either shim the inside of the piston or find a mainspring that fits it closer. I’m not doing that today.

The spring tube was not swimming in grease like I thought. I wrapped a piece of paper towel around the end of a 3/8-inch dowel I use to clean spring tubes and I wiped out the inside of the tube — all the way to the end of the compression chamber. This allowed me to see the honing pattern that I mentioned last Friday.

There is no evidence of deburring on the spring tube — no file marks or shiny spots left by a stone. I think the rifle is exactly as it came from the manufacturer

Little wear

The base block has a lot of bluing remaining on both sides where the thin washers fit between it and the action fork legs. Usually there is a lot of finish wear at this spot. Also the pivot pin has all its bluing remaining, even though I could see no evidence of moly grease anywhere. I decided to grease these parts with the same grease I’m using on the mainspring — just to see how good it is.

It was challenging to fit the base block back into the action forks and to get the two thin washers to align with the pivot bolt hole. I bet I fiddled with that task for 30 minutes! In the past I’ve assembled several Beeman R1s and a couple HW35s with these same parts and they all went together much easier. The tolerances in this rifle are close to zero!That’s good from a performance standpoint, but bad for the mechanic. Part of that is due to the cocking linkage passing through that bridge on the underside of the spring tube I showed you last Friday, but the dimensions are also tight.

When the barrel goes on, the cocking linkage that’s connected to the base block must be linked to the piston. So now the piston is back in the gun. I did lubricate the outside of the piston and the piston rod with the same grease I’m using for everything else, but I used it sparingly.

With the barrel on and the piston installed it was time to lubricate and install the mainspring. I tried to use half as much grease as I had removed from the rifle, because this stuff is tackier. Hopefully we will see a little more velocity with no additional vibration as a result of this work. That’s the goal.

The special Air Venturi grease was applied sparingly.

Install the Rail Lock mainspring compressor

Now it was time to install the Air Venturi Rail Lock Mainspring Compressor. I positioned the end cap against the bottom of the spring guide and slid the compressor’s threaded rod in until the end cap was under a little spring tension. Now I had to turn the spring compressor in over an inch to engage the end cap threads.

As the threaded screw is turned, the end cap walks around because the Nylon plug at the end of the threaded rod doesn’t turn. It’s not a problem to control, just keep an eye on it. When the cap finally gets up to the spring tube is when you have to align the threads. I found it easy to rap on the end cap several times to get it to move where I wanted.

The end cap is up to the spring tube threads, but it’s not aligned yet. A couple sharp raps will bump it into position.

Now what?

This is one of the major hurdles with using this compressor. The end cap is under a lot of pressure from the spring. The threads must be precisely aligned so the cap won’t cross-thread. Here is how I did it. I tightened the threaded rod of the compressor, all the while turning the end cap. Suddenly I heard a small click and I knew the threads were aligned. It probably took 30-45 seconds of fiddling around to get it lined up.


To turn the end cap in the beginning takes real effort because it is under so much pressure from the mainspring. I used the rounded end of the Crescent wrench to start it and get it turned in about two threads. The mainspring compressor got in the way as I did this and I had to muscle the end cap past that, but this tip makes initial threading easier.

When to take off the compressor

As you turn the end cap you are also tightening the threaded rod of the compressor. Turn cap/tighten the threaded rod. Eventually (after 2 threads are engaged) a point is reached where the compressor isn’t needed. I kept it attached a little while longer for safety. I don’t want that powerful mainspring to strip out a couple threads on the end cap!

At some point, the end cap threads start holding and pulling the cap away from the compressor (arrow). This is how it looks when that happens.

This is where the end cap was when it pulled away from the mainspring compressor.

Now I removed the compressor. The end cap could be grasped all around for a better grip to turn.

Finish threading the end cap

The end cap is turned all the way down to the spring tube. If a gun is new, like this R8 seems to be, the cap won’t go all the way down. There will be a slight misalignment in the end cap slot where the trigger goes. The rifle can probably tolerate this misalignment, but I can’t.

The end cap is turned all the way in, but the trigger slot is not perfectly aligned yet.

The end cap needs to be turned a little farther for the slot to align (arrow). The rifle will probably work like this, but I want it to be aligned.

To get that final alignment I used the crescent wrench and just kept backing off and twisting the end cap home until it finally aligned within a couple hundredths of an inch. If you keep at it, you’ll get it to align.

After I fiddled with it a few minutes, I got the end cap to align like this.

The trigger

As you may remember, the Rekord trigger in this rifle was full of tractor grease that had to be removed. I don’t like to use any grease on a Rekord. Moly isn’t that useful, though I’ve used it in the past, because the Rekord doesn’t work like you think. There’s not a lot of friction to overcome, because it works by levers. By just wiping off the grease I left a residual film that lubricates the parts all they need.

It’s been modified!

After I got all the grease off I examined the trigger parts and discovered that this trigger has been modified by someone who knows Rekords. The piston hook has been trimmed down and also beveled and smoothed to release the piston more cleanly. This is hand work, not a factory job. I’ve seen this before, but only on the triggers in HW55 target rifles. Those triggers are hand-worked by the factory like this for a better release, while the sporting Rekords are just assembled. Whoever worked on this trigger knew about the target Rekords, but they left the sporting return spring in the trigger.

The Rekord trigger (shown uncocked) has been modified.

The top of the trigger hook has been removed (left arrow) and the engagement side has been beveled and smoothed (right arrow). This was all done by hand.

Installing the trigger

The last part of assembly involves installing the trigger in the gun. The Rekord is modular, so installation is easy.. First insert the safety bar and spring back in the end cap. Now the trigger is ready to go in. You will have to press in on the safety button to get it out of the way as you align the trigger with the pin holes.

Trigger tip

It helps to cock the trigger before installation. Do this by pressing down on the back of the piston hook until the sear catches it. You don’t have to do this, but it sure helps if you do.

The Rekord trigger is cocked by pressing down on the back of the piston hook.

Now the trigger can be installed in the end cap. It helps to shine a bright light behind the cap to see when the holes in the trigger box and cap are aligned. I install the rear pin first — and the pins are different lengths, so make sure you put the right one in the right hole.

Weihrauch machines these end caps perfectly, so the pins go in with finger pressure, alone. Just move the trigger unit around slightly while pressing in on the pin and it should go all the way through. Once the pins are installed, check the safety to see that it moved both directions and the rifle is ready to go back in the stock.

How does it feel?

The rifle shoots just as smooth as before. After a couple shots, it was time to test velocity.

RWS Hobbys

The average with RWS Hobbys is 402 f.p.s. Before it was 523 f.p.s. The velocity was increasing the more that I shot, but it wasn’t changing that much. The spread went from 365 to 429 f.p.s.

RWS Superdomes

With RWS Superdomes the average was 425 f.p.s. Before it was 503 f.p.s. The spread went from 417 to 430 f.p.s.

JSB Exact RS

JSB Exact RS pellets averaged 582 f.p.s. The previous average was 645 f.p.s. The spread was from 573 to 591 f.p.s.

What happened?

Obviously my straight lube tune didn’t work. I believe the grease I used is so tacky that it slowed the gun down too much. I used too much grease. I will ponder this awhile before deciding the next direction to take with this Beeman R8.

Beeman R8: Part 4

Pá, 04/28/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Beeman R8 looks like a baby R1.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Disassembly begins
  • Remove trigger
  • Unscrew end cap
  • Some words about the Rail Lock compressor
  • Grease everywhere!
  • Remove piston
  • Cleanup
  • Best grease
  • Next
  • Summary
Disassembly begins

Today I take the Beeman R8 apart and we see what’s inside. First the barreled action comes out of the stock. When it does I can show you the articulated cocking link and the part that keeps that link under control.

Here is the cocking link. It passes through that bridge that keeps it aligned, and the spring on the right keeps the long link away from the stock. It quiets the linkage.

Remove trigger

With the action free, the trigger is removed from the end cap by pushing out two pins that hold it. The safety and safety spring will also come free.

Remove the two pins (arrows) and the Rekord trigger drops out.

Unscrew end cap

Once the trigger is out, the end cap is unscrewed. Getting it started on newer guns that haven’t been apart many times can be difficult. My trick is to insert the end of a large crescent wrench in the trigger slot and rap it from the side to get the cap started turning. It acts like a large screwdriver. The rounded edges of the wrench protect the sharp edges of the end cap.

Just rap that crescent wrench downward to start the end cap turning.

Unscrew the end cap until only a few threads hold it to the spring tube. Err on the side of too many threads the first few times you do this.

The end cap is almost unscrewed. Time to install the mainspring compressor.

Now it’s time to install the Air Venturi Rail Lock spring compressor. It clamps to the 11mm rail on top of the spring tube. That rail is also on the end cap, but since the cap must turn and also come free of the gun, you can’t clamp to it.

The Rail Lock spring compressor is installed and is pressing against the R8’s end cap.

Some words about the Rail Lock compressor

Several readers asked about the screws on the tail of the compressor. They are the two screw on the left, in the picture above. The larger screw on the bottom works with the large screw on the right to make certain the Rail Lock jaws are parallel with the scope grooves on the spring tube. The compressor is two parallel half sections and these two screw keep those sections parallel for maximum contact when clamped to the gun.

A couple readers wondered how well this compressor grabs the rifle. The clamping section seems very short. Well, it clamps very tight! I looked at it with that in mind this time and can tell you that compressor is not going anywhere when it’s tightened!

The smaller screw above the large screw on the left tightens the round object above that holds the threaded rod. Once the white tip of the threaded rod is tight against the end cap, tighten this screw to keep the rod straight against the end cap.

Remove the end cap

Now loosen the threaded rod on the compressor a smidgeon (a half-turn is good) and then unscrew the end cap as much as you can. Keep doing this (threaded rod/end cap) until the end cap is free. Then unscrew the threaded rod until all the mainspring tension is off the end cap.

The mainspring is completely relaxed. The end cap can just be removed at this point. Then the compressor comes off the gun and the disassembly continues.

Grease everywhere!

As we saw before, there was grease everywhere in this rifle! The grease is tacky brown petroleum-based grease that’s not as thick as black tar. It obviously does work well, but I am going to tell you about a much better gease for this application.

Mainspring has a heavy coat of grease.

Remove piston

The spring guide is stock, so I know the tune was nothing special. Next I removed the pivot bolt and nut and separated the barrel from the spring tube. Now the cocking link comes out of the spring tube and the piston can be removed.

The swelled end of the cocking link is pulled out of the spring tube, once the barrel is separated from the spring tube. That flat spring that quiets the cocking link is seen at the left.

The piston is coated with the same tacky grease, inside and out. The piston seal is the original Weihrauch white seal that’s now turned yellow from exposure to the grease. So, this was a lube tune with the one goal of calming the action. Velocity did not matter to the person who did this.

The piston seal is stock.

What looks like moly in these photos may be some moly powder that was mixed with the grease. But it didn’t stain my hands right to be moly. Therefore, the majority of what you are seeing is just dirty grease.


Now it was time to clean the parts. Removing the grease from the spring tube I saw that the compression cylinder was lightly honed. I have read where people advise polishing the compression chamber to a mirror finish, but that is not recommended. Just like the piston sleeves in your car’s engine, the metal walls of the compression chamber need some roughness to hold the grease and oil on the walls for better compression. This one was done right.

Best grease

I will address what I did to refresh the rifle in the next part. But let me tell you about the grease I used. It’s a grease Pyramyd Air uses in their tech department for all their tunes. Gene Salvino from the Pyramyd Air tech department told me about it years ago and I discovered that it’s great stuff. I just talked to Pyramyd Air and they plan to package this stuff for sale, so everybody will be able to use it.


In the next report I will describe the remainder of the things I looked at and did. It’s mostly cleaning and inspection. I will lubricate and assemble and then test the results for velocity.

We are not finished with the R8 by a long shot. But after the next report I will give you a break and look at somethinbg else while I continue to work on the R8.

Colt Peacemaker BB pistol: Part 2

Čt, 04/27/2017 - 01:01

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The new Colt Peacemaker is also available with ivory grips.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Loading the gun
  • The test
  • Air Venturi Steel BBs
  • H&N Smart Shot lead BBs
  • Plastic BBs
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Why accuracy before velocity?
  • Evaluation so far

It’s been a month since we first looked at the Colt Peacemaker BB revolver with the 7.5-inch barrel. In that time I thought about how I should test it for you. I think today’s test will be different and even exciting, because I am doing accuracy before velocity. I’ll tell you why as we go.

Loading the gun

We know this revolver accepts a 12-gram CO2 cartridge in the oversized grip. The grip is that of a Colt 1860 Army cap and ball revolver instead of a Single Action Army cartridge revolver, and is about one half-inch longer. It looks right on the gun, though, and feels fine. The wrench for the CO2 piercing pin is permanently attached in the left grip panel so it’s always at hand and installing the first cartridge went quick and easy.

The BBs are loaded into the rear of the 6 cartridges that are then inserted into the cylinder. Since this is a single action revolver the cylinder does not swing out to the side. It stays in place and must be loaded one cartridge at a time through the loading gate on the right side of the receiver. The BBs went in easily into the plastic chambers at the base of each cartridge.

The test

I shot off a UTG Monopod rest at 5 meters. I was seated and the barrel was rested on the monopod. The sights on this gun are silver from the nickel plating. As such, they are a little hard to see — especially the front sight blade. But I squinted and sharpened the image as best I could. I used a 6 o’clock hold, and, just to let you know — I’m back to being anal about shooting again.

Air Venturi Steel BBs

First up were Air Venturi Steel BBs. Since there were many other things to test, I let them represent all steel BBs in this test. Six of them went into a 1.514-inch group at 5 meters. The group was centered on the bull and also centered on the aim point. I think soda cans at 25 feet will have no chance!

Six Air Venturi Steel BBs went into 1.514-inches at 5 meters.

H&N Smart Shot lead BBs

I tried H&N Smart Shot lead BBs next, because I knew you readers would want to know about them. They didn’t do as well as I hoped. Six went into a group that measures 2.506-inches between centers at 5 meters. It’s the largest group of the test. They did hit the target with authority, but I don’t think they are worth considering for this BB pistol.

Six H&N Smart Shot lead BBs went into 2.506-inches at 5 meters.

Plastic BBs

Remember these? They came packaged with the ASG X9 Classic BB pistol. They didn’t work at all in that gun, but given how this revolver feeds BBs from the cartridges, I thought I’d give them a try. When I fired the first shot I didn’t hear it hit the target, so I walked down to see where it went. To my complete surprise, it was in the black 9-ring, at 2:30!

Six plastic BBs went into 1.416 inches, which was the second-SMALLEST group of this test, and the smallest group of  BBs! I thought these would be lucky to even hit the target at 5 meters, but as you can see, the group is well-centered. I only have a limited number of these, so let’s not go overboard with things to test, but I think it might be worth finding a supplier.

Six plastic BBs went into 1.416-inches at 5 meters.

JSB Exact RS

Okay, that’s a lot of testing. But there is always something else, isn’t there? With these SAA BB revolvers the question is — will they shoot pellets, too? So, the last test I conducted was with JSB Exact RS pellets. I chose them because they are lightweight and they are not too large. Also they are pure lead, which should allow their larger diameter to pass through the bore more easily.

Well, they gave me the best group of the test, and the one shot that went to the side seemed to be due to a slight flinch. Look at how tight 5 pf them are! Six are in 1.313-inches and 5 of them are in just 0.483-inches! This is something worth exploring if you own this BB gun!

Six JSB Exact RS pellets went into 1.313-inches at 5 meters, and 5 of them are in 0.483-inches.

Why accuracy before velocity?

Why did I depart from the regular test today? Well, there are two very good reasons. First, I thought if by chance the plastic BBs did group well — which they did — we would want to know how fast they shot in this revolver.

The other reason is very technical. I simply forgot that I hadn’t tested velocity until today’s accuracy test was already complete and the pictures were taken! What the heck. I then made up the first reason that sounds very practical when you think about it.

Evaluation so far

This BB revolver has a lot going for it. It’s accurate, fun to shoot and it’s very tolerant of different ammo. It feels great in the hand, too. If you are a dime-store cowboy I recommend trying one of these out.

I will do velocity next, and I’ll try not to make you wait so long.