by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- A new toy
- Fatal flaw
- Single action
- The BB gun
- Manual needs some work
- Schofield is a rare firearm!
Oh, boy! Here we go again with another lookalike BB revolver. This Schofield BB gun is from the past. It’s a replica of S&W’s Schofield revolver. The Schofield was created from a Smith & Wesson New Model Number 3 revolver (often also called the American, to differentiate it from the Russian model) by Major George W. Schofield of the 10th cavalry. The major modification involved moving the barrel latch of this top-break revolver from the barrel to the frame of the gun, allowing the barrel to be broken open with one hand. Cavalry troops have to control horses, along with all their other duties as soldiers, so they want everything they use — guns, sabers, etc. — to work one-handed.Fatal flaw
Unfortunately, both Schofield and S&W made a fatal error when they designed the gun. They made it for a new cartridge called the .45 S&W (also called the .45 Schofield) that was just a little shorter than the ,45 Colt then in service. I’m sure they thought the military would see the advantages of the Schofield and switch to the better gun, making the ammo incompatibility a non-issue, but that was unfortunate. The Army was already purchasing Colt Single action revolvers at the time and the Schofield was viewed as something new and different. If there is anything that does not appeal to the Army, it’s something new and different!
The Schofield was tried by the military in limited quantities (just over 8.000) and also purchased by private individuals. A total of around 9,000 revolvers were built. I have learned in research that the Schofield was used by many western gunfighters who saw it as an improvement over the Colt single action. The big advantage is the extraction and ejection of all 6 cartridges when the action is broken open. That makes this revolver much faster to reload than a Colt.
On the negative side, the Schofield is the weaker design because of the frame being open at the top (for breaking open). If you were inclined to use your revolver as a hammer, as some cowboys did, then the weakness became an issue. And over time the guns did wear at the hinge joint, becoming looser. But it was not a big problem if the guns were treated with normal care, and you shouldn’t worry about it, either.Single action
Like the Colt, the Schofield is single action only. The hammer must be manually cocked to advance the cylinder to the next cartridge and ready the gun to fire. I find the grip not shaped as well as the Colt grip for one-hand single action shooting with speed. It is almost as easy, just not quite the same. But the Schofield is a vast improvement over the S&W Russian grip that spawned the New Model Number 3 revolver. That gun has a hump to help control recoil and a grip that’s more vertical and better suited to target shooting.Safety
Like many of the lookalike airgun revolvers that are coming out today, this one has a safety. It locks the hammer, which disables the action. Pushing it forward puts the gun on safe and the hammer can’t be withdrawn. It only works when the hammer is down, so it’s impossible to put the gun on safe when it’s cocked. You can lower the hammer by pulling the trigger and riding the hammer down slowly, though.
The cartridge the revolver uses, as mentioned earlier, was a .45 caliber rimmed cartridge called both the .45 S&W and the .45 Schofield. The case was 1.1-inches long, compared to the .45 Colt (often erroneously called the .45 Long Colt) case that’s 1.285 inches in length. The Colt case measures 0.480-inches in diameter, while the .45 S&W case measures 0.477-inches, so the S&W cartridge will fit and work in the Colt revolver, but not the reverse. The gun I’m looking at today is a BB gun, which is caliber 0.173-inches, and the 6 cartridges are each roughly the size of a .357 Magnum cartridge.The BB gun
The Schofield BB gun is all-metal, but not ferrous. Only the screws and pins attract a magnet. Being made of metal and with a long 7-inch barrel makes the revolver slightly muzzle-heavy, though not as much as you would imagine. Still, when you try to shoot it with one hand, the muzzle wants to drop as the grip slips in your hand.
The grips are plastic, but look like aged walnut. The left panel comes off to reveal where the CO2 cartridge lives. The tensioning screw is hidden in the bottom of the grip frame and the wrench for it is part of the left grip panel.
The velocity is advertised at 410 f.p.s. on the blister pack container (ugh!), but Pyramyd Air’s description says the gun shoots up to 430 f.p.s.
The metal parts are finished with what looks like a charcoal phosphate finish. This finish is known as Parkerizing — though I am sure this gun is not actually Parkerized. Everything is a matte charcoal except for the grips that are a medium dark walnut.Manual needs some work
The importer is Bear River Holdings, in Texas. They buy the pistol from Taiwan, and it is recognizable as an airsoft conversion to steel BBs. One word to the importer — THE MANUAL NEEDS WORK!!! On page two there are graphics showing people shooting at themselves and at other people and animals. If you read the captions, you understand that they are telling you NOT to do this, but the international red stripe (for NO) should be across every graphic showing improper behavior. FIX IT!
The BB loading procedure has graphics that are too small to show proper detail. There is room on the back page to expand these graphics. Remember, your guns will be purchased by parents who know nothing about how BB guns work. You have to make the important steps clear.
As long as you are inside the manual, edit it to read like it was written by someone who knows English. Nouns are not capitalized for emphasis in this country! I get tired of people telling me anyone can write, then turning out a substandard product. It was the safety issue that set me off, though. Okay — the rant is over.Cartridges
The BBs are loaded into the front of each cartridge. So it’s one at a time, though you can speed it up by pouring a layer of BBs in an empty pellet tin and pushing each cartridge down into them. The single review up on the Pyramyd Air website at the time I’m writing this says the Webley Mark VI cartridges will also fit, so a supply of extras is already available. My thanks to someone named Michael for an excellent review of the gun!Sights
The Schofield’s sights are as poor as those found on the older Colt Single Actions. A wide front post fits into a rear vee that’s entirely too narrow. And the rear notch is cut into the barrel latch. There is no possibility for adjustment.Schofield is a rare firearm!
You know — these lookalike airguns are getting serious when they offer us a Schofield. It was never a mainstream firearm. Even when I was a kid in the 1960s, Schofields went for a lot of money. The fact that there is now one in BB-gun trim tells me the doors are opening wide for lookalikes.
Remington 1875 single action
There is something about an old revolver that gets me excited, and the Schofield is the embodiment of an old revolver. I think this one is going to please a lot more than just BB-pistol shooters.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
My Sheridan Blue Streak was purchased new in 1978.
This report covers:
- Not a shooter
- You’ve got mice!
- The problem grows
- The rifle
- Thumb safety
- Rocker safety
- Why so different?
- Twenty caliber
- Goodbye, Edie
Some readers asked me to do a memorial blog to my late wife, Edith. Today marks one year since she passed away, but this blog is still infused with her influence. So I thought I would tell you about her favorite airgun — the Sheridan Blue Streak.Not a shooter
Edith was never a shooter. Even when she shot with me to get her Concealed Carry License, she wasn’t as interested in the shooting aspect as she was in self defense. But she had a soft spot in her heart for the Blue Streak and I’d like to tell you why.You’ve got mice!
When we moved into our house in Maryland, the last thing the old owners told us was we had mice. There were woods all around us and game was plentiful. We figured with 9 housecats, there wouldn’t be any problem with mice, but we were wrong. Several cats were excellent mousers and caught a lot of them in the beginning, but they didn’t kill them right away. They would play with them, often breaking their legs and watching them squirm around on the floor. Edith had a soft spot for animals and could not abide that, so she asked me to teach her to shoot the Blue Streak, so she could finish them. This was almost a decade before The Airgun Letter was even a glimmer on the horizon.
I taught her how to operate the rifle, how to pump it and load it. More importantly, I taught her firearm safety and gun handling etiquette. You might say what I taught her was a lot like what Jack Cooper is teaching Jill. She especially liked the fact that with a multi-pump you can control the velocity by varying the number of pumps — from 3 to 8 with the Blue Streak. Field mice are small and she didn’t want to splatter them around the house.The problem grows
Within a year the mouse population in our house approached zero. Problem solved — or so I thought. Edith was also a bird lover and she placed a pan of bird seed on the front porch to attract songbirds. One day she notice a bird had disappeared rather suddenly and she hadn’t noticed it flying away. There were also a couple feathers lying by the bird seed. So she watched. Soon another bird landed and was busy eating the seed when it was jumped by a large rat that came up from under the porch! Edith had inadvertently set the table for a family of rats!
Out came the Sheridan, which had a yellow twist tie around the triggerguard, to remind her to use the pellets in the yellow plastic box. Edith set out more bird seed, then took up a hiding position outdoors about 20 feet away. Another bird landed and attracted the big rat, but this time she popped him as he climbed up the porch wall. She called me at work, which was no small feat, because I was in a building that required a very high classification to enter. We didn’t get phone calls unless there was an emergency.
She had never called me there before and I was worried that something bad had happened, but she just wanted to tell me about bagging the rat. Over the next month Edith killed all the adults in the colony and 5 babies who were out on our front steps, sunning themselves. In all I think she killed 19 rats — the furthest being the final one that she dropped offhand at about 20 yards. I thought we were going to have to mount that one on the wall, she was so proud!The rifle
Let’s now take a look at Edith’s favorite air rifle. The Sheridan Blue Streak first came to market in 1949 — as a less-expensive model when their Model A that we call the Supergrade today, failed to sell. The Model A sold for $56.50 in 1948, while the new Blue Streak was only $19.95 when it first came out.Thumb safety
One quirky feature that kept sales low for year was the thumb safety. Atop the comb is a spring-loaded button that must be depressed to fire the rifle. While it apparently fits some shooters well, many complain that it isn’t easy to hold down. It’s just too far forward for most thumbs to reach comfortably. It is very common to find something jammed in the thumb button slot, holding it down permanently. This safety was so troublesome that sales of the rifle exploded when the designers changed to a rocker arm design in 1963.
The thumb safety had to be pressed down to fire the rifle. In theory it worked, but the safety button was poorly placed.
The rocker safety has a button on each side of the receiver. Press down the F button on the left side to fire and the S button on the right for safe. The beauty of this safety is once a button is pressed, the rifle remains in that state. Nothing further needs to be done. This model became the all-time classic Blue Streak, lasting from 1963 until the decade of the ’90s
Why so different?
Rocker safety works much better. Push down on the button you want and it remains there.
Why was the safety found on the Blue Streak different than the one found on the Benjamin 340-series rifles that became the 397 and 392 in later years? Simple — Sheridan was a separate company from the Benjamin Air Rifle Company at that time. Benjamin hadn’t bought them yet. Crosman did not own either company until around the 1990s, and for several years after they acquired the companies they kept each brand separate.Twenty caliber
When Sheridan came out with their first rifle in 1947/48 they did so in .20 caliber. That was not a popular airgun caliber before they started using it, but Quackenbush had made a large number of 20-1/2 caliber guns, and Crosman had also made a few. The company line was they couldn’t find pellets that suited their airgun, which in the 1940s timeframe is very believable. They picked a proprietary caliber to control what was fed into their guns. But there is also the belief that they had the corner on the .20 caliber market. It didn’t do them any favors, though, because .20 caliber pellets were not widely distributed like .22 and .177 calibers.
Sheridan stayed with .20 caliber for the Blue and Silver Streak throughout the entire production run and through three different corporate owners. Only the Model A was ever made in .22 caliber, and those few were just testbed guns.
Naturally Sheridan said their pellets were best, and in 1947, they were. Not only were they more accurate, they also obtained a much higher ballistic coefficient by not using the full diabolo design. So they retained velocity farther and penetrated better. Today, however, the original Sheridan cylindrical pellet has been surpassed by modern diabolos that are more uniform. If anyone still shoots the older Sheridan pellets, they give up a lot of accuracy to pellets like the JSB Exact.Multi-pump
The Blue Streak and its nickel-plated sibling, the Silver Streak, were multi-pump pneumatics. They operated on between 3 and 8 strokes of the movable forearm. I have tested them at a greater number of strokes and confirmed that the power diminishes, however older guns sometimes gain a little with a ninth stroke. A rifle that’s operating at spec, though, tops out at 8 strokes. At that level you get a medium-weight .20 pellet traveling in the mid- to upper-600 f.p.s. range. Each rifle will be different. My 1978 rifle is old and tired and now goes about 635 f.p.s. with the Crosman Premiers that are no longer available in .20 caliber. I say they’re not available, but 14.3-grain Benjamin diabolos are Crosman Premiers in everything but name.
The Blue and Silver Streaks are small, lightweight air rifles that pack more power than their size indicates. Only PCPs have greater power in packages of similar size. The overall length is just over 36.5 inches and the weight of my rifle is an ounce and a fraction less than 5 lbs. Yet the pull is a decent 13.25-inches and the barrel is 19-3/8-inches long. That’s adult dimensions in a pint-sized package. I think size and weight were some of the reasons Edith liked the rifle.
Pump effort starts low and builds into the final couple strokes that are in the 35-lb. region. Beeman used to add up the effort for each of 8 pump strokes to demonstrate how much work shooters had to do. That’s like counting the times your bicycle pedals go around for a one-mile trip. In my mind, the figure is without merit. You either will or will not like to pump the gun for each shot — it’s not something that, when measured or put on a spreadsheet, has any real meaning.
I like pumping because it slows everything down. It’s relaxing — like shooting a flintlock rifle. But if you like an AR, a multi-pump may not be for you.Accuracy
I will test the Blue Streak in the usual fashion for you, so accuracy will get defined. But I’ll say right now that a Blue Streak is not as accurate as what can be obtained from some of the better spring rifles. I’m referring to rifles like the RWS 34.Trigger
The rocker safety Blue and Silver Streaks have triggers that were designed before the lawyers were allowed to voice an opinion. They aren’t light, but they are nice for what they are — simple trigger mechanisms. And they can be made nicer with simple fixes like removing the slop in all the parts.Sights
Besides the thumb safety, the rear sight is the second-quirkiest thing about the Blue Streak. It does adjust in both directions, but the vertical is just a simple screw and the horizontal is a weird arrangement of a push-pull set of opposed screws.
The rear adjusts sideways by loosening one screw and tightening the other (arrows).
That’s the start of my report on the Sheridan Blue Streak and also my memorial to Edith. Some of you readers may remember all the help she gave you when you first got started reading this blog. We will miss that, because I certainly can’t do it. I need as much help as any of you.
She’s gone, but the things she touched are better for it. I know I am!
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Webley Mark II Service air rifle.
This report covers:
- Eley Wasps
- JSB Exact RS
- RWS Hobby
Today we see how successful my redneck breech seal fix was. I’m hoping for success, but even if it comes I won’t leave the gun this way. I will size the new seal and install it, or I will accept reader Komitadjie’s kind offer to make me a new seal of the correct size. Either way I will fix the rifle properly. This is just a chance to demonstrate a field fix that can be used in a pinch.Eley Wasps
Let’s get right to it. First up were the 5.6mm Eley Wasps. Ten of them averaged 371 f.p.s. That is an increase from 308 f.p.s. in Part 2, so the redneck breech seal appears to work.
The spread went from a low of 355 to a high of 395 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 40 f.p.s. which is pretty broad. Based on that I think that, while the rifle may be doing better, it is perhaps not as good as it should be. Before we make up our minds, though, let’s see what some other pellets do.JSB Exact RS
JSB Exact RS pellets averaged 325 f.p.s. in the first test. Their spread was 24 f.p.s., from 315 to 329 f.p.s. Today 10 of them averaged 373 f.p.s., but there was one anomalous shot that only went 199 f.p.s. The other 9 pellets averaged 392 f.p.s. with a 18 f.p.s. spread that ranged from 382 to 400 f.p.s. That anomaly bothers me, because even at 10 meters I think that one pellet would not go where the others go. The redneck seal may be experiencing an intermittent problem. So, there is more to consider today.RWS Hobby
RWS Hobbys were the last pellets I tested. I didn’t test them before, but today they averaged 434 f.p.s. with a tight 13 f.p.s. spread from 427 to 440 f.p.s. That is very uniform performance. I think Hobbys may be a good pellet for this rifle.Observations
First, there is now no detectable air loss at the breech upon firing like there was before. So the field fix seal I’m using at least works that well. You can put this fix into your airgunner’s tool chest for the future.
Next, I had forgotten how nice this rifle’s trigger pull is! This will be enjoyable to shoot, which I plan to do next.
Then there is the powerplant. I have no idea what it looks like inside, but when I ordered the breech seals I also ordered a piston ring. So I plan to open her up and take a look inside, after shooting for accuracy.
The Webley Mark II Service piston ring looks like any piston ring. The powerplant in my rifle may need a new one!
It occurs to me that closing the breech tightly against the seal is what flattens it. So I now store the rifle with the breech bolt rotated open, so there is no pressure on the seal.
I also discovered how the bolt works. I thought that the part that catches the rear of the barrel was somehow cut on an incline, and cammed the barrel back tight against the breech seal. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, the bolt is threaded and when you close it, the threads draw it back against the breech, bringing the captive barrel with it.
Finally, I must observe that the Mark II Service powerplant is really a large pistol powerplant instead of a rifle powerplant. The piston is small and its movement is short. That means the swept volume of the rifle is very low. So, it will never be a magnum. I had no idea of what to expect before this test, but we may already be at the rifle’s peak performance.
We shall see.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- B.B. is on board
- Benjamin Marauder
- Weight and fit
- Number of shots
- Where is the pump tube?
- Keep those power adjustments?
- No, to a parts kit
- Don’t even THINK it!
- So what?
- Crosman knows, too
I am not writing an historical report today, because something has crept into our discussions that needs to be addressed. I will make up for this by publishing an extra historical report next Tuesday, along with the Monday and Friday reports.
This will be a good report for airgun companies to read, because it comes straight from the grassroots users of your airguns. They are asking for a specific multi-pump pneumatic.B.B. is on board
This discussion has been going on for many months — maybe even longer than a year. American airgunners say they would like a high-quality multi-pump pneumatic, and today we are going to look at all that might mean. I’ve just watched this from the sidelines until now, but I do have things to contribute, so today I’m going to start the dialog in ernest.Benjamin Marauder
The rifle many have suggested using as a starting point is the Benjamin Marauder. But let’s examine that closer. I don’t think people really want the Marauder to be turned into a multi-pump — they just aren’t able to express what they really want, and the Marauder is a quality PCP with a lot of great features. So they cling to it. Let me attempt to define the ultimate multi-pump more clearly.Weight and fit
The Marauder is large and heavy. Multi-pumps are supposed to be svelte. I once owned a Daystate Sportsman Mark II that was a multi-pump built to PCP standards — exactly what people have been asking for. That rifle was too large and much too heavy, at 11 lbs. when scoped. Let’s be honest, most shooters will mount a scope, so build the gun with that in mind.
The Marauder has a good scope base on the receiver, but the total rifle weighs too much. And the pump mechanism will add more weight. I would like to see our end rifle weigh no more than 8 lbs. when a good scope is mounted. That’s a good lightweight scope — not the Hubble Space Telescope! And I would like the stock to be slim and feel comfortable when carried. The first-generation Marauder is stocked with a rough-hewn fence post. The latest version of the rifle with the synthetic stock is much closer to what we want — maybe even exactly what we want.Trigger
The Marauder trigger is where it needs to be already. Unless someone can build all the same features, adjustments and performance into a lighter unit — leave the trigger alone! It’s one reason people are talking about using the Marauder as the starting point.Number of shots
This question comes from Dennis Quackenbush. How many shots do you expect to get from the new rifle? One? Several? How many?
Before you answer that, consider this — multi pumps that get multiple shots are quirky. They don’t always work the way you think they do — or should. They ARE NOT like PCPs with a pump attached! No, they’re not. It may be fun to think about them that way, but the reality is they get one or perhaps two good shots, and then the power starts falling. Shot number three might go through the same hole as the first and second shots at 25 yards, but miss them by half an inch at 50. And all subsequent shots will fall off. The advertisments tell you that you can get several good shots on a fill, or you can top off with a couple of pumps after each shot. Believe me, if you want accuracy you will be topping off.
Personally, I want a single-shot multi pump. They are the simplest to design and build, which makes them the most reliable. But that’s just me. I go for accuracy and repeatability over everything else.Repeater?
I say no. This is a multi-pump. You have to stop and pump the gun for every shot. A repeating capability is lost on a gun like that.Quiet?
Yes, yes and yes! That’s a feature nearly everyone wants. And if we use the Marauder as the base gun starting point, it’s already there.Power
I know — you want the mostest power possible, right? Well, that ain’t happening! The Daystate Sportsman Mark II delivered 25 foot-pounds in .22 caliber on just 5 pumps. Ah, but the last two of those pumps took 77 pounds of effort — more than 50 percent of adult males are willing or even able to apply. And that was for each shot!
Pump number 3 with that rifle took 56 lbs. of effort and brought the power up to about 17-18 foot-pounds, depending on the pellet. So that was where I stopped 90 percent of the time. I don’t like the 56 lbs. of effort, but the 17-18 foot-pounds of power might be nice. Maybe 8-10 pump strokes to get there.
You can argue that it’s possible to make a rifle that takes more pumps to reach its maximum potential. But there is always a tradeoff between power and shot count and the number of pumps it takes to reach the maximum fill. Plus you must consider the effort each pump stroke will take. Yes, exotic linkages with changing fulcrums will reduce the effort, but before we design them we first have to know what we are trying to achieve from the gun.Where is the pump tube?
I suppose you want to keep the rifle as a single-tube airgun — right? Because the pump tube has to go somewhere. If it goes inside the same tube that is now serving as the reservoir, then the size of the remaining reservoir space will be significantly reduced. Think about that when you specify the power and the shot count you hope to see.
Do you want a double-tube gun like some of the Korean PCPs? Or should it be just a single tube with both the pump mechanism and the reservoir built into the same tube?Sights
Don’t hamstring the rifle off the bat. Make it possible to mount good optional sights that are non-optical. At least don’t make it next to impossible. Even go to the effort of mounting sights during the development phase. That will tell you if they work.Keep those power adjustments?
The Marauder is superior to other PCPs in its ability to be adjusted by the user. You can change the power of the striker spring within limits and also change the airflow through the transfer port. In a precharged gun those adjustments are significant benefits.
No doubt they will also work for a multi-pump, though not as currently designed. The transfer port flow regulator can probably stay the same, but the striker spring may need to be changed to suit the new lower pressure level of the gun. Is it useful to be able to adjust that? The main purpose of that adjustment was to gain shots when the rifle was tuned, and also to adjust the rifle to the available air pressure of the fill. With a multi-pump the fill pressure is controlled by the number of pump strokes, so once again I ask, is this a feature we need to retain?No, to a parts kit
Reader GunFun 1 postulated that Dennis might even make just the parts required to modify a Marauder into this new multi-pump. That way, owners could modify their own rifles. Dennis’ reaction was, “And who covers the liability?” You may not be aware of this, but when you make a kit for owner to install, if they injure themselves while building it or while using if after the modification, you are responsible.Don’t even THINK it!
No one had better even mention the possibility of putting a fitting on this air rifle so we can shortcut around the need for pumping and fill the rifle from a scuba tank! Don’t laugh. That sort of thing happens all the time in committees run by groupthink. Someone wakes up in the final 15 minutes of a 2-hour design meeting and adds their one comment that the rifle should also be a PCP. That person should be barred from all future meetings. We are building a multi-pump air rifle — not some fantasy piece from the Batcave!So what?
I wrote this report to get your comments. Dennis Quackenbush is intrigued by this idea and, although he hasn’t committed to it yet, he is thinking about it. He will read your comments and see if he thinks doing something like this is worthwhile. He already knows it’s possible.Crosman knows, too
Crosman also reads this blog, as they do all places on the internet that talk about their products. They know very well that knowing what the customer wants is a powerful marketing tool.
On the other hand, they can’t just charge off and create everything that’s dreamed up by a group of enthusiastic airgunners — no matter how many of them promise to buy one. As reader 45Bravo pointed out, they have to look at the big picture. Is it worth their time and money developing an airgun that only dedicated airgunners will want? They have a finite amount of engineering time available and a finite budget for development.
The Benjamin Discovery was an out-of-the-park home run for them, as was the Marauder. But the Benjamin Rogue was not so good. And that was followed by the Bulldog that hasn’t set the world on fire yet.
Still, they took a chance building the Maximus, and I think it will be another homer for them. So, if they see how this can go they may be better able to make a decision to proceed. The few dozen or even hundred rifles that Dennis might make will be inconsequential if this project turns out well.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today I will be taking over. I’m going to show you how to hold a 1911 pistol one-handed for the best accuracy. This was requested by reader levans, but several of you own 1911s, so this should be of interest to many.
This report covers:
- Learned from a champion
- Distinguished Pistol Shot badge
- Elmer Keith knew something
- It’s all in the hold and the trigger action
- The thumb controls the recoil
- Lock the elbow
- Cantilever the shooting arm
- Other pistols?
Readers who have been with us for years know this story, but for the benefit of the newer readers, here is how I learned this technique. I was running a pistol range for my cavalry squadron in the Army and the squadron commander, LTC Bonsall, arrived on range in his jeep. I had never seen a lieutenant colonel at a small arms range before. I’m sure they went, just never when I was running the range. The colonel introduced himself, because I hadn’t met him yet — he was that new. Then, he asked to qualify. Well, sure, he could qualify. It was his range, after all!
I directed him to a table upon which we had about 50 pistols waiting for the next shooters. You’re supposed to qualify with your own weapon, but I had several hundred men to cycle through and to keep the range moving we had 50 pistols that the entire squadron used. That way there weren’t a lot of malfunctions. After weeding out the bad magazines in the first few relays, we had the range running smoothly. It was also much easier to clean only 50 pistols instead of 400.
Colonel Bonsall selected a weapon and took his place on the line with another 24 shooters. The shooting commenced and that’s when I lost track of him until my chief NCO came up and discretely asked me if I had noticed the colonel’s target. We were shooting at man-sized silhouettes at 25 yards. Each man got a fresh target when his relay began and the course of fire was 50 shots at the silhouette.
We called it qualification but it was really more like annual refresher training. Most of the silhouettes looked as though they had been peppered by a shotgun firing huge balls. But the colonel’s target had a small hole right where the heart should be. He had fired about 30 rounds through a one-inch hole when I caught up with him, and the rest of his shots didn’t stray far from it.Distinguished Pistol Shot badge
The upshot of that day at the range was that our new commander wore the Army Distinguished Pistol Shot badge, a qualification badge so rare that not only had I never seen one, I had never even heard of it! And I was a gun buff serving in the Army! As of 2008, there were 1,709 Distinguished Pistol Shot badges awarded to Army personnel since its inception in 1903, making the badge rarer than the Army Medal of Honor that has been awarded over 2,000 times, though admittedly over a 40+ year longer span of time.
This Army Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge is so rare that I hadn’t heard of it before meeting LTC Bonsall.
After we cleared the colonel off the range, I examined the pistol the he’d used for his demonstration. It was a typical loose-as-a-goose arms room M1911A1 with green phosphate finish and brown plastic grips. It had probably been made around or just before World War II, and the only special care we gave it was to bring it to the range in the bed of a 2-1/2-ton truck inside a wooden footlocker with 49 others just like it. When it wasn’t being shot, it laid on a table in the hot sun while dust blew over it and through it all day long. By the time the colonel got his hands on it, it had probably already been fired several hundred times without cleaning or lubrication. The parts inside were just good enough to avoid condemnation during a major inspection.Elmer Keith knew something
That was the day when Elmer Keith’s last printed lie turned out to be true — you really CAN hit a man at 100 yards with a 1911 pistol. Repeatedly! But you have to know what you’re doing. Anyway, the colonel got my attention. Being a kindred gun buff, he taught me how to shoot the pistol. Now, I’ll tell you what I learned from him.It’s all in the hold and the trigger action
How you hold the 1911 or the 1911A1 determines how tight it will shoot. Yes, the gun can be gunsmithed to shoot even tighter, but even a tired old clunker will surprise you if it’s held right.
Always grip the pistol the same way every time you hold it. Hold the palm of your shooting hand flat with the thumb extended and place the pistol into the web of your hand. The three fingers that aren’t the trigger finger should be wrapped around the grips, and the thumb comes in on the other side of the grip.
Now — and this is the key — squeeze the pistol straight back into the web of your hand with the middle finger, which is the longest of the three fingers wrapped around the grip, and also highest on the grip. The other two fingers apply absolutely no pressure to the gun. They’re just along for the ride. The thumb also puts no pressure on the gun, although I will tell you something else about it in a moment. Only that middle finger is squeezing straight back. Let me show you what that looks like with an illustration I drew for the Beeman P1 pistol that has the same grip as a 1911.
The thumb controls the recoil
This graphic is copied directly from the January 1996 edition of “The Airgun Letter.” It illustrates the correct hold.
That thumb can ride against the grip, but if you rest it atop the manual safety switch, it will cut the muzzle flip from recoil by half. Some worry that their thumbs will be hurt by the moving slide, but I have never seen that happen. When the pistol comes back in recoil, the thumb doesn’t allow it to rise as much as it wants to. This is a trick I learned from reading the late Jeff Cooper.
This is possible with a stock Colt pistol, but most 1911s you encounter today have special wider safeties that are made for this. Some are even ambidextrous, for lefties.Lock the elbow
The final trick to Colonel Bonsall’s technique is locking the elbow. When you raise the pistol to take a shot — and you should only shoot one time before lowering the pistol to rest the arm — rotate the arm in the direction of the shooting hand. If you are right-handed, roll the pistol to the right. That moves the elbow under the arm and locks it in place. After the elbow is locked, slowly lower the pistol until the sights are aligned, then take the shot in 5 seconds or less.Cantilever the shooting arm
Also, lean slightly back, bringing the shoulder above the leg. That turns your shoulder into a cantilever support, taking a lot of the pistol’s weight off your arm muscles and making your hold steadier.Other pistols?
Can this technique be used for other pistols, as well? Certainly. This year at the SHOT Show Media Day I shot a tiny group on a Shoot-N-C target at 20 yards that others were just blasting at with their two-handed holds. The guy from Smith & Wesson said I must be a target shooter when he saw what I did. I sure am!
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
MeoPro HD 80 spotting scope from Meopta. Photo provided by Meopta.
This report covers:
- Otho is interested
- Attaching my iPhone to the spotting scope
- Otho needed the Meopta
- Fix the problem
- Stable tripod!
- How well does it work?
This is a continuation of my report on the MeoPro HD 80 spotting scope from Meopta. I have now purchased this scope, so it’s mine to use from now on. Every time I look at it, I see it for the first time. It’s like being at a party and seeing the prettiest girl there and envying the lucky guy who gets to go home with her — then realizing she’s with you!
Last time I told you about using the scope at the range for the first time. I mentioned it was possible to attach a smart phone to the scope so you could view your targets even larger, because the phone has a zoom capability that’s separate from the spotting scope. Today I want to tell you how that went.Otho is interested
One thing that last test did was raise some interest in my shooting buddy, Otho. He’s a troglodyte when it comes to cell phones. Someone tried to give him a smart phone and he claimed it was smarter than him. Like many of us who now get senior discounts, Otho doesn’t like technology that’s made for 20-somethings. But the idea of seeing targets that are far away does appeal to him. Finally — someone came up with a good reason to put a camera into a phone!
I told him I had an old smart phone that is no longer active, and I would gladly donate it to the cause if he could make it work. So, he watched how I attached the phone to the spotting scope.Attaching my iPhone to the spotting scope
Meopta sent an “adaptor” which is a fitted rubber cup that goes over the scope’s 57mm eyepiece. So far, so good, because there are not a lot of smart phone adaptors for scopes with 57mm eyepiece lenses. Make that none! I guess that’s because if your eyepiece is that large, they (the people making cell phone adaptors) probably figure you work for NASA and don’t need their help!
The Meopta adaptor (left) is a rubber cup that fits over the scope’s eyepiece. The paddle attached to it with JB Weld residue from the failed first experiment, is glued to the back of a smart phone case (right) to hold the phone. Not the strongest arrangement — especially when I own a large phone that weighs a lot!
I attached the adaptor to an iPhone case and it seemed to work well. When I zoomed in on my target at 100 yards I couldn’t believe how easy it was to see! I still have problems from my repaired retina, so being able to look at the target with both eyes is a plus. Also, as a writer I want to take pictures of targets through this scope for articles I write. Often it is impossible to walk down to the 200-yard berm to retrieve a target, but with this I can get there from my shooting bench! That’s a big reason to get it.
I took a preliminary photo of the target at 100 yards prior to shooting and, given what happened next, I’m glad I did. The image isn’t as sharp as it could be because I didn’t spend any time getting it. I was just setting things up — or so I thought.
This is the picture I took through the spotting scope. Please forgive the blurriness. I was only seeing if the scope was aligned. I did plan to refine the focus later. For reference, the central square is about one inch across.
This is a 200-yard target that’s twice the size of the 100-yard target shown above. My goal this day was to show a photo of a group shot from 200 yards away, taken through the spotting scope.
After taking that first image I needed to get something, so I slid my chair back and stood up. When I did, my shoulder hit the bottom of the phone and broke the JB Weld bond, dropping the phone onto the cement. Fortunately it was protected by the case and landed case side down! But the test was over for that day. That’s why you can see the JB Weld residue in the first picture.Otho needed the Meopta
Later in the shooting session, Otho found he could not see the bullets holes from his .221 Fireball in the bull at 200 yards, so he asked me to take a look. I counted them, told him where they were and also saw the larger 7.62X39mm holes he had shot from another rifle. I could see the difference in the size of the holes left by each bullet at 200 yards! If that isn’t a ringing endorsement of the MeoPro HD 80, I don’t know what is!
Fix the problem
Otho uses the MeoPro HD80. He can’t see the bullet holes through his spotting scope.
To fix the problem I needed to attach the phone case to the adaptor more securely. The old glue was carefully scraped off both parts, down to bare plastic.
I thought about small screws that would be the most secure way to attach the two, but there are some clearance issues I didn’t want to deal with. Instead I found a Permatex epoxy made especially for plastic. Using a Dremel tool and a dental burr, I made numerous divots in both the back of the adaptor paddle and the back of the phone case — the two places that would be glued together. Then I mixed the epoxy and applied it to both pieces. The phone had to be installed in the casefor this to properly align the camera lens with the small opening in the adaptor. Fortunately the epoxy set up in 5 minutes. Then I allowed it to cure for 24 hours.
The other thing is I have to do to make this work is take any pictures in one go, then remove the phone from the scope. If I had done that, the phone wouldn’t have broken the glue bond the first time.
This is what the camera looks like when it’s properly mounted. The scope is rotated to the side so the camera hangs straight down. That increases the shear strength of the epoxy bond.
I spent real money on the spotting scope, I sure as heck won’t mount it on a ten-dollar tripod! That would be like putting a mass-produced airgun barrel on a 10-meter target rifle!
I used a major tripod made for a large medium format camera. It’s the one I used for my Mamiya RB67 6X7 camera years ago. That’s a camera that’s so large some guys put wheels on them and tow them behind their cars (that’s a joke — for all you non-camera guys). The point is — NO VIBRATION! A perfect scope like this would be ruined if it vibrated when you looked through it — yet I see guys at the range all the time using tripods they got for free when they spent $100 at a camera store. Of course the scopes they have aren’t any better!How well does it work?
That’s a question that’s going to have to wait until next time. The goal is to put several holes close to each other in paper a long way away and take their picture through this spotting scope. All I have to do now is find something to make those holes.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Pump incompatibility
- Maximus barrel
- The test
- Baracuda Match 4.53mm head
- Falcon pellets
- Premier 7.9-grain pellets
- Premier Copper Magnum pellets
- What have we learned?
Today’s test has a lot of surprises. It should be good.
Some reports are more important than others and this one ranks near the top. Dozens of readers are waiting to hear about the accuracy. Today I shoot the rifle indoors at 25 yards.Pump incompatibility
You may remember that I reported that my Air Venturi G6 hand pump is incompatible with the Benjamin Maximus rifle. I used the Benjamin hand pump instead, and it worked fine. I did some checking with both Pyramyd Air and Crosman and learned that both of them were aware of some problems. Pyramyd air has made some changes to their male Foster fill nipples, and Crosman just ordered a G6 pump so they can examine it. I think it’s helpful for all of us to know that these companies are working behind the scenes to make their products as universal as possible. That was the first surprise.Maximus barrel
The second surprise came from Crosman. They told me that they are very proud of the barrel they’re putting on the Maximus. It has some proprietary technology they will not reveal and they claim it makes the barrel very accurate. I guess today’s test will show that, so let’s get started.Sight-in
I mounted a UTG Accushot 3-9X32 scope on BKL 301MB mounts. These mounts are perfect for this rifle because they elevate the scope above the rear sight. Also, the double straps on each of the 2-piece mounts are individual, which means you don’t have to worry about the pattern of tightening the cap screws. There can be no uneven flex, though each cap screw should be tightened to the same tension. On a PCP like the Maximus, the torque needed is very low. The scope I used is older than the one I linked to, but has the same set of features.
I was not concerned today with hitting what I aim at. I’m just looking for some accurate pellets to take to the 50-yard range. So the concern today is group size. Two shots at 12 feet told me the scope would be on paper at 25 yards. A third and fourth shot at 25 yards allowed me to refine the sight picture, and I was ready to start the test.The test
I’m shooting the Maximus rested at 25 yards. I will shoot 15 shots per fill and each group will be 5 shots. I’m just looking to evaluate pellets — not to determine the ultimate accuracy of this rifle — yet! But something happened today that has not happened to me in several years, and should illustrate why today’s test makes a lot of sense.Baracuda Match 4.53mm head
The Baracuda Match with the 4.53mm head was the most accurate pellet at 10 meters, so I sighted-in with them and shot them first. The first group of 5 went into 0.323-inches at 25 yards. That’s a pretty good start! It’s also the smallest group of the day.
I was so impressed with the first group that I shot a second group with the same pellets. These made a 0.395-inch group. That’s larger, but not by much.
Next up were the Falcon pellets that also did well at 10 meters. Get ready for surprise number 3. At 25 yards Falcons blew up! Five of them grouped 0.992-inches between centers! I have seen this before, but it has been a couple of years since I last saw it. A pellet that does well at 10 meters, yet does poorly at greater distances is not common but does happen. This is why we test at distance.
The next pellets I tried were the 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. At 25 yards 5 Premier lite pellets went into 0.353-inches. That was the second best group of the test. This pellet will definitely go to 50 yards!
The last pellet I tried was the 10.6-grain Premier Copper Magnum. Not only am I testing the new Maximus rifle, I’m also testing this pellet for the first time. Crosman advertises it as 20 percent more accurate than the Premier 7.9-grain pellet at 50 yards, which is where we are going next. I will be shooting 10-shot groups at 50 yards, to remove all doubt. What I get from 10 shots is a result with a very high level of confidence.
At 25 yards, 5 Copper Magnums went into 0.405-inches between centers. That’s only slightly bigger than the group made by the Premier lites. Maybe at 50 yards the results will turn around. We will see.
I can’t swear all Maximus rifles will be as accurate as the one I’m testing, but Crosman thought enough of their new barrel to tell me about it. At this point in the testing I am declaring this rifle to be a best buy. Even if it can’t shoot well at 50 yards, it would still be a best buy. For the money you can’t buy another reliable precharged air rifle that’s this accurate. And the Maximus has a classic stock that feels great in the hands.
We have also learned that 10 meters is not the best distance at which to test accuracy. I haven’t seen an outcome as dramatic as the Falcon pellets for a long time, but it illustrates why we test at longer distances.
Finally, I want to impress all you readers who are sitting on the PCP fence that I’m shooting with a maximum fill of 2000 psi. That is so low that using a hand pump is a cinch for most adults.
And finally, I am shooting this well with an eye that had a detached retina that was surgically reattached. The reticle lines still look squiggly to me. I’m a 68 years old and have astigmatism, cataracts and a repaired retina. Imagine what someone with younger eyes might do! If you are waiting to pull the trigger on PCPs, I think the Maximus might be perfect for you.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Webley Mark II Service air rifle.
This report covers:
- The problem
- Trim the seal
- Shim the old seal
- Hole punch
- Refit the old seal and shim
- Does it work?
It’s been a while since we looked at the Mark II Service air rifle, asnd I thought it was time to take another look. You will recall in Part 2 I tested the velocity and found the rifle was shooting very slow. There was also a large puff of air at the breech that told me the breech seal needed to be replaced. I ordered one from the UK that took 3 weeks to arrive. When it got here I discovered it had to be sized to fit the breech. That has been shoving the report to the back burner, week after week, until I decided to do something about it.The problem
Let me show you what I’m up against.
The old breech seal (left) is both smaller and thinner than the new one.
The breech seal goes into the space in the breech (arrow).
To gain access to the breech I removed the barrel. Thank goodness that is easy to do. Now there is a straight, clear line to the breech.Trim the seal
The new seal needs to be trimmed to fit into the breech. There are several ways to resize fiber seals. You can trim them with a razor knife, which I did Friday, or you can chuck them in a drill and turn them against a file. That would be the better way, because it is more precise.
I trimmed the edge of the new seal with a razor knife. It still does not fit.
So I spent a couple hours this past Friday and Saturday working on the seal. I didn’t get it small enough to fit, but then it dawned on me that this was the perfect opportunity to show you a field fix that’s based on redneck engineering. Instead of rushing the seal trimming, I could repair the old seal and probably restore the rifle’s power another way. If that is successful, I can take my time and trim the new seal properly.Shim the old seal
The trick is to shim the old seal. It really doesn’t matter what sort of shim material I use because this shim will only be temporary. I used a paper business card. I held the card under the old seal and trimmed around the edges with a small scissors. But there is still the hole to make in the center of the shim.
The shim is trimmed to fit and the center hole has been punched out. It’s ready to go.
I used a small hole punch to make the shim’s center hole. The one I used is close enough to the size of the transfer port pipe in the breech that the shim fit over it snuggly. Then the old breech seal fit over the pipe and stood proud of the breech — the way a new seal will.Refit the old seal and shim
Now it was time to see if my redneck fix worked. The shim went into the breech first and fit well, then the old seal was pressed down over the transfer port pipe. It fit perfectly.
Does it work?
The shimmed breech seal is installed. It stands proud of the breech and should seal better.
There’s just one way to know is the shimmed breech seal works — by shooting the gun. I will save that test for next time.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- My gun
- Today’s test
- BB gun powerplant
- Secrets of the BB gun powerplant
- Daisy BBs
- Hornady Black Diamond BBs
- H&N Smart Shot BBs
- So far
As I told you in Part 1, I’m reviewing the Daisy Red Ryder because it’s a classic BB gun, and also because I have a scope mount to test when this basic review is over. Today we look at the velocity.My gun
My gun is either a variant 5 or 6, but I can find nothing in the Blue Book that distinguishes between those two variants. My gun has a wood buttstock with the Red Ryder brand on the left side, and a plastic forearm. The rear sight is fixed. The cocking lever is curved aluminum and painted black. The rest of the gun is blued steel. Variant 5 has all those features and was made in 1947 to 1952. Variant 6 has the same features and was made in 1952. In 1953 Daisy started painting the metal and sometime around then they also started to make the buttstocks of plastic — which is variant 7.Today’s test
I will test my Red Ryder’s velocity today in the standard fashion. I will oil the plunger and test the gun with several different BBs. Since my gun is not new, this will be a test of a gun that is older than 60 years! I think that’s fitting, since this is an historical blog.BB gun powerplant
I described a BB gun powerplant in the report titled, How the BB gun powerplant works. Basically, the hollow air tube on the end of the plunger pushes the BB off its seat at the breech of the shot tube. That gets it moving down the barrel about 50-80 f.p.s. When the plunger reaches the end of its travel, the air compressed in front of it is forced through small holes in the base of the air tube. When that compressed air hits the now-moving BB, it boosts the velocity up to its maximum.Secrets of the BB gun powerplant
There are very few secrets of a BB gun powerplant. Polishing the inside of the compression chamber and polishing the inside of the air tube have little or no effect, because the air pressure and the air flow volume are so low. Lubrication is also of little effect — beyond the essential lubrication of the plunger seal (the piston seal). If you have a modern gun, it has a synthetic plunger seal. If it’s an oldie like mine, the seal is leather. No worries, though, because they all take household oil. I use Crosman Pellgunoil, simply because it is handy, but it is formulated from 20-weight non-detergent motor oil, so that works too. The type of oil isn’t as important (as long as it is petroleum-based) as having the plunger (piston) seal lubricated. That is how the gun seals and compresses the air.
I removed the shot tube and oiled the gun with 10 drops of oil down the muzzle. My gun doesn’t have an oil hole on the outside like the more modern ones do. After installing the shot tube once again I dry-fired the gun twice to spread the oil on the plunger and then I was ready to shoot.Daisy BBs
First to be tested were Daisy Premium Grade BBs. They had to be, for the continuity of the report. Ten Daisy Premium Grade BBs average 280 f.p.s. from my old Red Ryder. The low was 271 f.p.s. and the high was 287 f.p.s., so the spread was 16 f.p.s. That’s not bad for a 60+year old BB gun!Cocking
As I cocked the gun for each shot I was reminded of what it was like to cock an older BB gun. The lever only comes down halfway and the cocking effort is pretty stiff. I remember that as a kid these guns seemed very hard to cock. Well, they still are. Daisy changed the mechanism sometime later and used the whole lever stroke to cock the gun, which reduced the effort by about half. I have been shooting modern BB guns for so long that I forgot there was ever another way.Hornady Black Diamond BBs
Next up were Hornady Black Diamond BBs. These new BBs have performed well in many BB guns this year and I was excited to see how they would do in a vintage BB gun. Well — they did phenomenal! Ten BBs averaged 284 f.p.s. with a spread of just 5 f.p.s. — from 280 to 285 f.p.s. I can’t wait to see how they do on paper!Feeding
I want to remark about feeding now. My Red Ryder fed every BB perfectly. I never had a blank shot. I was loading just 10 BB into the gun at a time and they all fired perfectly. I remember as a kid getting blank shots all the time, but of course the BBs weren’t as uniform back then and I didn’t keep my guns lubricated, either!
I mention feeding because that was the basis of the lawsuit between Daisy and the Consumer Products Safety Council. The CPSC claimed gravity feeding isn’t rteliable, until I showed their lawyer how many military guns use it. After that the lawsuit went away. What was behind all that was a kid who shot another kid with a BB gun, causing grave injury, because he, “…didn’t think the gun was loaded.” That means he claims that he shook it and didn’t hear a sound.
With both these and the Daisy BBs going nearly the same speed, I figured they represented premium steel BBs pretty well. It was time to test lead! The Red Ryder of the past used no magnets, so feeding lead BBs is no problem.H&N Smart Shot BBs
I loaded 10 H&N Smart Shot lead BBs into the gun and went back to the chronograph. These BBs are significantly heavier, so we expect a velocity drop and we got it. They averaged 227 f.p.s. for the 10. But here is the deal. They varied only 3 f.p.s. from the low of 226 to the high of 228 f.p.s. That is incredible! I can’t wait to see how these BBs do on the target in the next test.So far
So far we have learned about a Red Ryder from the 1940s that still works well today. The velocity is probably off what a new gun will do by 20-30 f.p.s., and maybe even a little more. But it’s stable and enough to get the job done.
We have learned that this old BB gun is hard to cock, as all old BBs guns were. The change in the cocking mechanism was a major improvement.
I hope that we have also learned that older BB guns like this one are not candidates for power modifications. You can get them back to spec with new seals and mainsprings, but that’s about as far as you can go. No doubt it is somehow possible to go farther than that, but you will be inventing the solution all the way. BB guns just are not good candidates for power upgrades.
By Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Computer crash
- More power
- Is all the power still there?
- Breech seals
- Transfer ports
- Air transfer port test
- I could go on!
- Today’s point
My main computer died suddenly Monday morning, so I had to scramble to get a new one and have the old data transferred. I’m working on Edith’s computer that has the same software but is set up differently in the user interfaces. So things have been a struggle this week. One big problem is transferring photos and videos from cameras. I can do it, but it takes 4 times as long.More power
I was hoping to do the Teach me to shoot report on holding a 1911 pistol today, but the computer issue made that impossible. So I’m going to address a topic that seems to be coming up a lot these days — getting more power from an airgun. You know, comedian Tim Allen built his career around the premise that men always want more power from everything. And he took that to the extremes — showing just how ridiculous it can become. Like an episode on his television show, Tool Time, where he got into racing garden tractors with V8 engines installed. Like the Boss Hoss motorcycle, they are something to see, but you wouldn’t want to ride one very far!
And I received a request for how to increase power in a Daisy Red Ryder yesterday. The Red Ryder has a BB gun mechanism — not a regular spring-piston powerplant, and as such is not conducive to power increases.Is all the power still there?
Oddly, I had a dream the night before writing this report. I was in England with my Beeman R1 rifle and the authorities were about to check its power. But I had secretly removed the breech seal and that turned a 19 foot-pound gun into one that only has 5 foot-pounds. Maybe I thought of this because my Webley Mark II Service breech seal leaks badly and needs replacing. In my dream it worked, but would it work in real life? Is a breech seal really that important?Breech seals
Yes, breech seals are very important to the power of most airguns, but I don’t know that missing one would chop the power by that much (19 foot-pounds to 5 foot-pounds). Don’t even think it would cut it in half!
This HW 35 breech seal (arrow) is old and worn flat. It is losing air and velocity.
A new breech seal added an average of 26 f.p.s. to the rifle, plus tightened the spread.
There is something similar that I do know, however, because it actually happened to me. When my new Whiscombe rifle arrived I was excited to see how powerful it was, so, like every airgunner I know, I shot it across a chronograph. With the .22 caliber barrel installed I was getting under 6 foot-pounds! I was devastated! How could this be? I had paid a bundle of money to get the mostest-powerfulest spring airgun on the planet. Did they send me one made for the UK market that was permanently hamstrung for their power laws?
I called Rodney Boyce, the U.S.-based agent through whom I purchased the rifle. He laughed when I told him what I’d found. He told me that whenever Whiscombe shipped a rifle out of the UK, even though it was an FAC (Firearm Certificate) power rifle, the Home Office wanted it to leave the country restricted in power. So he installed an air transfer port limiter, which was an Allen screw with a hole in the center. He had included a package of them with my rifle so I could experiment with different power levels. All I had to do was remove the limiter with the wrench he provided and the rifle would return to full power.
The air transfer port in this Whiscombe JW75 has a limiter installed. An Allen wrench removes it.
Whiscombe sent a range of air transfer port limiters, plus a couple screws that I could drill out myself.
When I removed the limiter, the rifle jumped from under 6 foot-pounds to over 26 foot-pounds in .22 caliber, using the same pellets. In .25 caliber it got over 32 foot-pounds. So air transfer ports do make a huge difference in power. But you can’t just open them up as large as you want!Air transfer port test
Tim the Toolman Taylor (More Power!) would have drilled out the air transfer port until the piston popped out. His approach was always to make it bigger, stronger and more powerful. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work.
When I wrote the Beeman R1 book, I did a test of air transfer ports that was included in the custom tune chapter. Dennis Quackenbush made me a special R1 spring tube with interchangeable transfer ports and I tested them to find out what worked. My test wasn’t exhaustive, but it did prove that the transfer port size 0.125-inches that is already in the R1 is the optimum size for both .22 and .177 calibers.
This R1 transfer port can be changed quickly. Made by Dennis Quackenbush.
I could go on!
Dennis also made these transfer port inserts for my experiment.
And that’s not all. I remember the rifle that wanted to take the R1 design supersonic in .22 caliber. It weighed 11 lbs and cocked with over 50 lbs. of effort, yet was no more powerrul than an R1. Read about it here.Today’s point
While it is possible to get more power from some airguns, it isn’t straightforward. It turns out that the people who design the guns have already gotten most of the power that’s available. But sometimes there are guns that will benefit from a tune or even a modification. An R1 is the perfect example of that.
On the flip side, though, there are plenty of airguns that are good just the way they are. You need to recognize that before you start chopping off barrels and drilling out transfer ports. Sometimes it’s possible to get more power from an airgun by using a few almost never-miss tricks — but the question always is the same — do you really want to?
A high-school buddy of mine bought a clapped-out MG TD, but since we lived in California, it was not rusted out. He put a small-block V8 engine into tit, transforming an odd, underpowered sports car into a vibrating, overpowered jalopy that overheated on cool days. But he got more horsepower — yes he did. A car like that is nice for a car show where people can dream about it, but not in real life. And neither is a mega-magnum spring rifle that takes a Hercules to cock! Save stuff like that for your daydreams, but shoot real airguns!
By Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Firing behavior
- Trigger adjustment
- Cocking effort
- RWS Hobbys
- RWS HyperMAX
- Evaluation so far
Today’s test of the Beeman Double Barrel air rifle turned out strange. It was half surprise and half the disaster I thought it might be. But I did get some interesting data that I will try to interpret for you. Let’s get started. Today is velocity day, plus I’ll look at a couple other things. Let’s go right to the shooting.Surprise
The first pellet I tested was a Crosman Premier Lite — the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier dome. Since the rifle is advertised to get 700 f.p.s with lightweight alloy pellets (it’s written on the box!) I expected a lot less from this lead pellet. But the first shot went through the chronograph at 723 f.p.s. Was it a fluke?
Apparently not, because the average for 10 shots — that’s 20 pellets, because each time the trigger is pulled two pellets leave this gun — was 713 f.p.s. The high was 723 that happened on both the first and last shots, and the low of 697 f.p.s. came on shot number 7.Firing behavior
Shooting this rifle was no different than shooting any other breakbarrel springer — at least through the first string. The rifle is calm when it fires. There is a jolt with the shot, but no lingering vibration. It’s a very pleasant spring gun. But I did note that the trigger pull was very long through stage 2, so I looked at the adjustments, to see what could be done.Trigger adjustment
There are no directions about how to adjust the trigger in the owner’s manual that uses an old Beeman drawing of an FWB 124 to illustrate what an air rifle looks like. So I was on my own. I found a large screw behind the trigger, with a hole through the triggerguard above the screw — sort of inviting adjustment. In front of the trigger is a much smaller screw that actually passes through the trigger blade. There is no hole to access this screw, plus the slotted screw itself is quite small. You will need a clockmaker’s screwdriver to turn it. I decided to adjust the large screw, only.
That screw adjusts the length of the first stage travel. All the way in gives the most travel before engagement and all the way out decreases travel to almost nothing. I settled for all the way in, but stage 2 is still long and creepy The trigger breaks with 6 lbs. 5 oz. pressure that sometimes increases to 6 lbs. 9 oz.Cocking effort
The rifle cocks with 32 lbs. of effort, right up to the end of the stroke. Then it spikes to 34 lbs. as the sear engages. Cocking is smooth and quiet. Now, let’s get back to testing the venocity.RWS Hobbys
Next, I tested some RWS Hobbys. This is where the problems started. I noted that these pellets fit the breech of both barrels tightly, but that wasn’t the problem. The first shot was recorded at 790 f.p.s., which was about what I expected after testing the Premiers, but the second shot went out at 506 f.p.s. That stopped me for a moment, but I was not surprised by it. I had thought that if the two pellets left the muzzle at different times and the start screen saw the first one but the stop screen waited until it saw the end of the second one, the lag in time might be recorded as a slower velocity.
Shot number 3 was recorded as 503 f.p.s. and shot number 4 registered 801 f.p.s. I think what happened is two shots were recorded at their actual velocity — 790 and 801 f.p.s. and two were mistakes — 506 and 503 f.p.s. Notice how close each pair of velocities is!
I did shoot some more with Hobbys and the results were either high or low. I’m going to say the velocity with Hobbys is in the 790-800 f.p.s. range. Yes, I could put a board in front of one of the muzzles to stop one pellet and get the other one across the chronograph, but I’m not going to do that. It’s too much trouble and somewhat dangerous to boot.RWS HyperMAX
For the next and final pellet I thought I would test an alloy pellet. I selected RWS HyperMAX pellets. They fit the breeches loosely, and gave the most confusing results of all.
The first three shots registered 614, 651 and 642 f.p.s., respectively. Just when I thought this was all I would see, shot 4 went out at 1108 f.p.s.! Shot 5 was 916 and shot 6 was 795 f.p.s. With results like these I stopped recording the velocities and ended the test. It seems to me that the rifle does indeed shoot much faster than it says on the box, but getting an accurate measure will take a lot of work. If there was a reward for that work — a point to it — it might be worth the effort, but this air rifle still shoots two pellets every time the trigger is pulled.
The Double Barrel rifle is large, heavy and takes some effort to cock. The firing cycle is powerful and smooth. The trigger is heavy and creepy.
Next time I will be shooting the rifle at a target, and I have to admit I am somewhat concerned. The first shots will be fired from very close to the backstop to keep them in the trap. If that works, then I will probably test the rifle with open sights at 10 meters and decide from those results if further testing is warranted.
This is a strange airgun, but it’s also interesting to watch it perform.
By Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- First the pump
- Left eye today
- Premier 7.9-grain pellets
- Crosman Premier Copper Magnum
- JSB Exact Heavy
- H&N Baracuda Match 4.53mm heads
- Air Arms Falcon
- Trigger pull
- What’s next?
Today I start looking at the accuracy of the Benjamin Maximus. I have decided to run this test differently than my normal tests. Today I will shoot 5-shot groups at 10 meters off a rest. I will use the open sights that come on the rifle. I want to test those sights anyway, and this gives me a chance to do that. plus I start getting familiar with this rifle.
I also used the Benjamin Hand Pump to fill the rifle today, so I will report on that. I still cannot get the female quick disconnect Foster fitting on the Air Venturi G6 pump to fit the male fill nipple on this rifle, but the Benjamin pump fitting worked fine.First the pump
I filled the rifle very quickly and the effort was minimal. After firing 20 shots I noted that the rifle’s pressure had dropped to about 1000 psi. As I filled it again with the hand pump I could hear a click when the reservoir valve opened. That allowed me to make a very accurate count of the pump strokes needed to bring the pressure back up to 2000 psi. It took just 30 strokes to do that. Since I am getting 20 good shots per fill, the Maximus takes 1-1/2 pump strokes per shot. That’s exactly what a Benjamin Discovery takes, so no surprises there. If you are getting into precharged guns for the first time and decide on either the Maximus or the Discovery — get a pump!Left eye today
I noticed that the open sights were not clear for me with my right eye that had the detached retina, so today I switched sides and shot from the left. The sight picture was crystal clear and the way I had the target lit, the front sight appeared as a sharp black rectangle in the rear notch.
Unfortunately, the Maximus rear sight does not adjust up high enough to hit the bullseye at 10 meters when a 6-o’clock hold is used. Being fiberoptic, this sight is made to align the green dot of the front sight between the two red dots of the rear sight, and to center the green dot on the target. Then the elevation would be fine, but that lacks precision for what I’m doing today. So my groups all landed low on the paper.Premier 7.9-grain pellets
First I thought I would try the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. It’s accurate in the Discovery and I thought it would be good in the Maximus, as well. Five Premier lites went into 0.316-inches at 10 meters. That’s not bad, but I hoped to do better. You spring gun guys can just eat your hearts out, though.
Next, I tried the Crosman Premier Copper Magnum pellets Crosman sent with the rifle. The card that comes with the tin says they are 20 percent more accurate at 50 yards than the 7.9-grain Premiers. At 10 meters I was able to put 5 into 0.371-inches. So they aren’t quite as tight as the 7.9-grainers this time, but this was with open sights. I will wait until I get to the 50-yard range to really test these two!
Next up were JSB Exact Heavy domes. Five went into 0.353-inches at 10 meters.
I thought I was seeing a pattern at this point. All groups were just over three-tenths of an inch. Was this as good as I could shoot with my left eye? Was I handicapping the Maximus by shooting with my left eye? The groups were good — just not hood enough to make me smile. Then, it happened.H&N Baracuda Match 4.53mm heads
Next up were H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.53mm heads. Would they be better? I linked to the pellets with 4.52mm heads because Pyramyd Air seems to be out of the 4.53mm heads at this time.
Five pellets went into a very round group that measures 0.234-inches between centers. Finally! This group proves that the Maximus can shoot and also that I can shoot left-handed. I can’t wait to try this pellet at 50 yards!
And, it just gets better! Five Air Arms Falcon pellets made a group measuring 0.215-inches between centers at 10 meters. That is the smallest group of the session, from the lightest pellet I tested.
I discovered today that, though the trigger pull is heavy, it’s very crisp and caused no problems with accuracy — obviously! I wish the sights were not fiberoptic, but they are what they are.
I also discovered that I can shoot left-handed. No apologies are required today, which is a good thing.What’s next?
Can the Maximus shoot? I guess so! My next test will be at 25 yards with a scope.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Webley Senior straight grip air pistol.
This report covers:
- The test
- Wasps are first
- Seating the pellets
- RWS Hobby
- H&N Field Target Trophy Green
- Overall evaluation
Today we learn the accuracy of the Webley straight grip air pistol — at least with the pellets I have selected. And, in a surprising turn of events, I discovered something new (I think) about my pistol. If I knew it before I had forgotten it.The test
If ever there was an air pistol that is not suited to shooting targets, the straight grip Senior is it! This is a plinking pistol, through and through. But I have to show you something, and looking at the dents on a can is pretty boring. So I set up to shoot 10 meters off a rest. I rested my hands on the bag and held the pistol in them, so it wasn’t directly contacting the sandbag. Still, I think it could do better by just being held. But that would take a better shooter than me.Wasps are first
Eley Wasps had to be the first pellet I tested. I have reserved the entire lot of them for shooting in guns like this one. The first two pellets hit the target low and to the left of center, so I adjusted the rear sight up and to the right. It was a simple matter of loosening the single screw that holds the sight assembly and sliding the whole unit in the right direction. From its appearance you would think this method of adjustment was imprecise, but the sight actually moved very well. I was surprised there was so much control.
Though it looks crude, the rear sight actually moves smoothly and precisely.
Following the sight adjustment the first pellet hit the bull in the 9-ring at 5 o’clock. I thought that was good enough, so I shot 9 more pellets without checking again. In the end I had an open group that measures 2.654-inches between centers. It’s more vertical than horizontal, and I might normally blame my eyes, but as I was loading I noticed something. The pellets were going into the breech to different depths.
Seating the pellets
Ten Eley Wasps went into 2.654-inches at 10 meters.
As I watched each pellet fall into the breech, it either needed to be pressed in all the way by a finger or it fell into the barrel a short distance, I knew this inconsistency could be causing at least some of the inaccuracy. A second group with all the pellets seated to the same depth was necessary.
I have misplaced my Air Venturi Pellet Seater, so I used a ballpoint pen. It pressed each Wasp into the breech about 1/8-inch. Most went in with a pop that could be felt. The first shot was an 8 at 5 o’clock, so I felt I was good to go. This time 10 rounds went into 1.659-inches between centers. You don’t need the measurements, though, to see the difference breech-seating made. It’s obvious at a glance. So, all shooting for the rest of the test was done with seated pellets.
Ten Eley Wasps went into 1.659-inches at 10 meters. Now, we’re cookin’!
This is the kind of accuracy I was hoping for. Apparently my Senior wants the pellets to be seated to the same depth in the breech. This is the surprise I mentioned at the beginning. Could it do even better, I wondered?RWS Hobby
Next up were RWS Hobby pellets. Hobbys have wider skirts than many other pellets, and, with the larger bore of the Webley, the size of the skirt really does matter. Hobbys also popped into the breech with a noticeable feel when they were seated. They are smaller than Wasps, but not by much.
Ten Hobbys went into a group that measures 2.427-inches between centers. That’s not exactly a good group — especially in light of what we have seen the Wasps do. But see how much higher the pellets landed! The highest Wasp is lower than the lowest Hobby.
H&N Field Target Trophy Green
At 10 meters 10 RWS Hobby pellets made this group that measures 2.427-inches.
The last pellet I tried was the .22 caliber H&N Field Target Trophy Green. This is listed as a 5.56mm pellet, but the tin I had contained 5.50mm pellets that were obviously smaller. They fit the bore loosely and made a 10-shot group that measures 3.758-inches between centers. It was the largest group of the test.
At 10 meters 10 H&N Field Target Trophy Green pellets went into 3.758-inches.
The test turned out like I expected. This old pistol is still going strong after 80-some years, but it was never a target gun and time hasn’t changed that.
It turned out that the breech-seated Wasps were the most accurate pellet tested. But we’re not done yet.
I promised to show you the inside of this airgun and that will come next. It will be my opportunity to peek at the work I did so many years ago and perhaps to touch things up a bit. Stay tuned.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- How many Red Ryders?
- Number 111 Model 40
- Model 94 carbine
- Model 1938
- The Red Ryder explodes!
Today we start looking at an American airgun icon — the Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. With the recent change in ownership of Daisy Outdoor Products, this look is most fitting.
I will test the gun for you in the traditional way, and then I have a surprise. Someone has developed a scope mount for the Daisy that will fit all the older models, as well as the new one. I know the website says scopes cannot be mounted to the current Red Ryder, but we will see if they can. And no doubt some other things will pop up along the way. Sit back and relax — this should be an interesting journey for all of us.How many Red Ryders?
Let be start with the fact that there have been many different BB guns that were called the Red Ryder. The gun we see today is not the one Daisy began selling is 1939. According to the latest edition of the Blue Book of Airguns, there are 8 variations of just that first version, which was the Number 111 Model 40.
Daisy model numbering is quite complex and confusing on its own, and when you talk about a popular gun like the Red Ryder, the complexity multiplies! Are you a guy who discriminates between the several versions of Christmas Story Red Ryders? Daisy collectors do. Or are you the sort of guy who thinks a Red Ryder is the gun you had as a kid? I have owned several different models of the gun myself, but I’m by no means a collector. Just know that there are some very different BB guns that have carried the Red Ryder name.Number 111 Model 40
The first version was the Number 111 Model 40 — first introduced in 1939 and sidelined by World War II, but resumed shortly thereafter. This is the one that has at least 8 variations, and probably more if you are an advanced collector who differentiates smaller differences than the books cover.
Actually I lied. There are 9 major variations, because the Number 311 is the same gun in a boxed set with a scope, bell target, cork tube with corks (yes, several Daisy BB guns also shot corks with the right shot tube), all in a large cardboard box. I have owned this variation, and it’s a small collection by itself. The gun inside the box was one of the 8 variations mentioned earlier, though. There is no Red Ryder that is marked as a Number 311 — at least not to my knowledge.
The first Red Ryder had all wooden furniture with highly polished blued steel parts and copper-plated bands that looked gorgeous to little boys. When Daisy made the Christmas Story guns for the movie, Daisy’s Orin Ribar painted the bands to simulate the originals. As far as I know, there were a total of 6 left-handed BB guns (actor Peter Billingham is left-handed) made for the movie, and any one of them is a prized collectible today. Trivia fact — all 6 movie guns have the compass on the opposite side of the stock!Model 94 carbine
This first major version lasted into the 1950s, when Daisy began using plastic stocks and painted finishes on the metal parts. It was replaced by the Model 94 carbine that few people outside the collectors know about. I know about it because I once owned one that was like new in the box. I bought it at a flea market and had it for many years. I sold it at an airgun show because, quite frankly, it was too nice a collectible for someone like me to own!
The 94 was an attractive airgun that went from 1955 to 1962. During this time Daisy perfected both the painting process and the making of plastic stocks. As long as you didn’t subject the guns to great heat — by storing them in a hot attic — the stocks never warped and the paint didn’t flake off. My gun was in 100 percent condition, with a box that was very good, if not quite perfect.
This model had a thin leather sheath over the butt, as well as a genuine leather thong looped through the saddle ring on the left side of the receiver. The rear sight was a selectable notch and peep that flipped to the shooter’s preference. Except for the plastic parts, this is a gun that Ralphie Parker (from A Christmas Story) would have been proud to own.Model 1938
In 1972 Daisy brought out the Model 1938 in homage to the original No. 111 Model 40. Original examples of this model in good condition are very hard to find today, but there are a ton of restored ones. Some of the restorations are as fine as Daisy made them originally and this is an area of extreme collector discussion — by which I mean that not everyone agrees. Many want the real deal — untouched by human hands. But, as there aren’t enough of those to go around, the other camp says they are delighted to own a fine restoration.
It is important to note that the Model 1938 still has the Lightning Loader — that small tube under the larger tube that most people call the barrel — where the BBs are loaded (“Careful, son. They go everywhere!”). When the 1938B came along, BBs were loaded though a window cut right into the barrel, and the tube beneath the barrel became strictly cosmetic.
The 1970s was a time when gun makers went wild with product differentiation. They discovered they could make a basic product, then cover it with different finishes and stock materials, and sometimes engrave different names on the side to appeal to large and varied audiences. For example, if you live in Alaska you might not care about a California Centennial model, but a Klondike model might pique your interest. Winchester used their model 94 lever action for this and Daisy used the Model 1938B. The number of commemoratives and guns that celebrate organizations like Ducks Unlimited (having nothing to do with BB guns, but still related to the shooting sports) is epic! There is over a page and a half of just the sub-variations of the Daisy Model 1938B Red Ryder in the Blue Book.
This is essentially the Red Ryder model you get today. Daisy has dropped the B designator, but retained the new method of loading, so I guess we need to differentiate between today’s Model 1938 and the one with the Lightning Loader that was made from 1972 to 1978. It’s the sort of thing that can get you into heated discussions. “I just bought a cool Mustang!”
“Is it a real Mustang, or is it the modern one?”
“What do you mean? Of course it’s a real Mustang. It says so all over the car!”
If that doesn’t start a food fight this weekend, I don’t know how to stir the pot.
Lots more to come.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- 2000 psi fill
- First test — Premier 7.9
- Test 2 — Premier 10.6 Copper Magnum
- Test 3 — H&N Sniper Magnum
- Test 4 — RWS Hobby
- Trigger pull
- Overall evaluation
Today we look at the velocity of the new Benjamin Maximus PCP. I know I’m excited!2000 psi fill
Like the Benjamin Discovery, the Maximus is filled to only 2000 psi, which means is it easier on air in all ways. It’s easier to fill with a hand pump, it takes less air from a scuba tank or other high-pressure air vessel and it allows you to continue to get full fills when your tank is below 3000 psi. Yet it gets the same velocity as other precharged airguns that are filled to 3000 psi and higher. It just makes everything easier for the shooter.First test — Premier 7.9
First I filled the rifle and tested it for both velocity and shot count. I tested the Benjamin Discovery in January of 2008, and the .177 prototype peaked at 953 f.p.s. with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. That was the same pellet I used to start this test.
The first 10 shots averaged 950 f.p.s. They ranged from a low of 935 f.p.s. to a high of 972 f.p.s. So this Maximus is testing out the same as the Discovery, all those years ago. The spread for this first string of 10 shots is 37 f.p.s. That’s a little high, but right in line with all the Discoverys I’ve tested. At the average velocity this pellet generated 15.84 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Here is a look at the shot string.
As you can see, the velocity starts dropping after the fifth shot. That tells me the next string will be slower, on average
The second 10 pellets on the same fill averaged 904 f.p.s. The spread went from a high of 935 f.p.s. and dropped straight down to a low of 872 f.p.s. This spread is 63 f.p.s. — almost double the first string. Clearly the rifle is running out of breath at the end of 20 shots. But we have learned not to judge anything until we see some results on paper. Here is string number 2.
After 20 shots the reservoir pressure had dropped to almost exactly 1000 psi.
I’m going to say the shot count is about 20, unless I learn different in the accuracy test. And I will do more than one of those. The first one will be at 10 meters with open sights to help pick the best pellets. Then I’ll mount a scope and back up to 25 yards. And finally I’ll move out to 50 yards.
All the time I am testing this rifle, we must bear in mind that it was built to a price. We are looking for accuracy that’s okay — not world class!
From this point on, all results will be on a fresh fill to 2000 psi.Test 2 Premier 10.6 Copper Magnum
This test is with the new 10.6-grain Crosman Premier Copper Magnum pellet. Crosman says on the card that comes with the pellet that these are 20 percent more accurate ay 50 yards than the standard 7.9-grain Crosman pellet. I will be testing that for you, also.
This pellet averaged 882 f.p.s. for 10 shots. The low was 868 f.p.s. and the high was 890 f.p.s., so 22 f.p.s. for the string. At the average velocity this pellet generated 18.31 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Let’s look at that string.
This test will demonstrate the power of this rifle. Pneumatics and CO2 guns generate the most power with the heaviest pellets — just the reverse of what spring guns do. H&N Sniper Magnums average 757 f.p.s. for 19.09 foot-pounds of energy. The spread went from a low of 743 f.p.s. to a high of 766 f.p.s., a 23 f.p.s spread. The curve was much different, though. Looking at it, I would have to say this rifle likes this pellet.
The final pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby. It is a lead pellet and pretty accurate at distances of 25 yards and less. Of course I could have tested some ultra-light alloy pellets, too, but Hobbys are far more likely to be used in the Maximus.
Hobbys averaged 1023 f.p.s., which is above Crosman’s claim of 1,000 f.p.s. for the Maximus. They ranged from a low of 1016 f.p.s. to a high of 1038 f.p.s, so a spread of 22 f.p.s. At the average velocity, Hobbys generated 16.27 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. They were also pretty consistent.
I must remark on the cocking. The Maximus action resembles a 2260 action, because that was what the Discovery sprang from. But cocking these PCPs is much different than cocking a CO2 rifle. The striker spring is much heavier, and you have to get used to it. I had forgotten that in the years since I shot a stock Discovery, but the Maximus broiught it all back.Trigger pull
The Maximus trigger is not adjustable. It is 2-stage and breaks right at 6 pounds with a fair amount of creep. I know there are things that can be done to reduce this, and if I owned the rifle I would do some of them.Overall evaluation
Remembering what the Maximus is, I feel the test is progressing well and the rifle is showing its stuff. I can’t wait to see how it does in the accuracy tests!
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Gamo acquires Daisy
- Beeman Double Barrel air rifle
- Double barrel?
- Initial impressions
- The rifle
- Metal finish and plastic
- The manual
- The trigger
- Upcoming tests and challenges
- Impression so far
First the news. Yesterday, July 5th, Gamo Outdoor SL announced the acquisition of Daisy Outdoor Products. “This is the beginning of a new chapter in Daisy’s history”, said Joe Murfin, Vice President of Public Relations. Indeed, it is. It will be interesting to watch this new association as it grows into a new entity.
Now, let’s look at an air rifle that’s unusual.Beeman Double Barrel air rifle
Today I begin my review of the Beeman Double Barrel air rifle. Let me start by mentioning that’s not its real name. The Chinese owners of the Beeman company actually named this unique air rifle the Dual by Beeman. However, in light of the fact that there have been several rifles called the Beeman Dual Caliber air rifle over the past several years, the stage was set for mass confusion.Double barrel?
Those other rifles all feature interchangeable barrels that the owners can swap at their pleasure. But they all hold just one barrel at a time. In that respect they are very conventional. The Double Barrel rifle has two barrels that are permanently mounted to the rifle. When this breakbarrel spring-piston rifle is cocked, both barrels pivot downward, being held rigid at their breech by the base block and at the front by a dual barrel band. Pyramyd Air wisely calls this a double barrel rifle, which it is. That avoids the confusion with the dual caliber air rifles that are now known so well. I will therefore continue to use Pyramyd Air’s title for this airgun.
My advice to the manufacturers is to pay attention to what Pyramyd Air has done. They have to sell your rifles and they know they will have problems if customers are confused.Description
The Double Barrel is a spring-piston breakbarrel. It has a single piston. Both barrels fire every time the trigger is pulled. There is no switching between the barrels — both fire every time! And the gun I am testing is in .177 caliber — meaning both barrels are that caliber. I have seen a version of this airgun at the SHOT Show that had a .22 barrel and a .177 barrel, but that version is not listed at Pyramyd Air. Given the different velocities of those two calibers that would result in different trajectories, I think that would be very unusual. Not that the one we are looking at today isn’t a bit outside the box! And speaking of the box, let’s begin there.Initial impressions
My first impression was the box. It’s very well done and explains the gun inside to some extent. For starters it gives the name of the airgun. But following close afterward is the velocity. The box tells you right up front that this rifle achieves up to 700 f.p.s. with alloy pellets. Where other airguns just give a number at best, this box tells you the pellets to use! That is impressive.
Then the box is opened and I see an air rifle presented in the best possible way! A styrofoam insert holds everything in tight suspension, waiting for the new owner’s first grasp. This box is a study in how to present an airgun.
I pulled the rifle from its tight resting place and learned that is is heavy and stout. Mine weighs 9 pounds, even. The stock dimensions are wide and fill the hand. This is a large air rifle. Overall length is 44-3/4-inches, with a long 14-15/16-inch length of pull (length from the trigger to the end of the butt pad).Barrels
The barrels are 18-3/16-inches long. And no — they most definitely are not “soda straw” barrels! They are thinner than their outside diameter suggests, with the outside being what I think are aluminum sheaths (because they don’t attract a magnet — though the steel barrels inside do). The view of the breech is a sight to behold!
The stock is made from what the box says is European hardwood. I looked at every square millimeter of it with a tactical flashlight and found no wood filler. What a difference from Chinese stocks that were made a few years ago! The wood is smooth and reasonably well-finished, though the profiles look melted or softly rounded on most edges.
The wood finish is a muddy brown finish that is coming off on the few sharp edges around the top, where the barreled action is inlet. It appear that it may wear off, though nothing has happened in the brief tome I have handled it so far. On the whole I have to say it is a good stock — just not heirloom quality. For the price of the rifle, it is among the best stocks I’ve seen.Metal finish and plastic
The metal is finished matte black all over. The lettering is laser engraved, which turns the black to silver, making a nice contrast.
There are a couple plastic parts on the rifle, like the triggerguard and the barrel bands. They are unobtrusive and I don’t think most shooters will take offense.Sights
Well — if the rifle can be considered curious, the rear sight is a downright oddity! The best description I can give is to call it a crossbow sight. It isn’t, of course. In fact it’s like no other rear sight I have ever seen. It’s a conventional notch sight with green (I am guessing) fiberoptic dots on either side of the notch. The front sight is a red fiberoptic bead that shooters with normal color vision may find easy to see.
I have mounted the sight on the rifle and I see a problem — not just for me but for everybody. The rear notch is far too large for the front bead, because it is too close to the sighting eye. I have tried it with both eyes, but there is no precision. I will have more to say about it after I shoot the rifle for accuracy, but right now the front bead gets lost in the huge space afforded by the rear sight. I have positioned it as far forward as possible on the dovetails and it’s still too large.
A pair of 11mm dovetails is cut directly into the spring tube. So a scope can be mounted. And there is a scope stop already attached at the rear of the tube, though it can be removed if you like. For some reason I am thinking that a good dot sight might be the best for this rifle.The manual
The owner’s manual has zero information about this air rifle. It comes with a single addendum sheet that is the only place I see the rifle mentioned specifically. That sheet exists to explain the rear sight , plus the fact that 2 pellets must be fired every time. The manual is a loose collection of safety items, advertising literature and watered-down shooting guidelines. I bet it made it through the corporate legal approval process just fine, but an owner’s manual it isn’t.The trigger
The trigger is 2-stage and adjustable — though how I will have to discover. The safety is automatic and the lever inside the triggerguard comes back toward the trigger when the rifle is cocked. It is light and easy to take off with the trigger finger.Upcoming tests and challenges
Think accuracy is my problem? It will be, but what about chronographing? What will the chronograph think when it sees not one but two pellets zooming past the skyscreens. I won’t worry about that until I get there, but it’s coming.
Oh, and all you half-mad readers will undoubtedly dream up weird experiments for me to try — like putting a heavy pellet in the top barrel and a lightweight in the bottom and seeing at what distance they converge — if ever. This rifle could become a spark inside a flour mill!Impression so far
I see something in this strange rifle that I don’t see in most Chinese airguns. I see innovation. Is it good? Who knows? That’s why I’m evaluating it for you. But at least they didn’t copy anybody. This one is totally theirs.
In a million years this is not a product I would ever have thought of, but now I get to experience someone else’s creativity. For the past 2 years I have made jokes about this rifle. The joking time is over and the testing time has begun.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- H&N Baracuda Match with 4.50mm heads
- Max power
- Air use?
- H&N Sniper Magnum
- Crosman Premier 10.5 grains
- Baracuda Match again
- Overall evaluation
Today we look at the accuracy of the Hatsan Gladius long at 50 yards. I’m taking some time with this rifle for a couple important reasons. First — I think it deserves the extra attention because of the features it offers. And second — because the Gladius is so similar to other Hatsan PCP platforms, readers can use the report for many different models.
The day was perfect. No breeze to disturb the flight of the .177 caliber pellets. I loaded the rifle with 10 H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.50mm heads and started the test. I left the power setting on 3, where it was at the end of the 25-yard test. I wanted to see how much difference there would be at 50 yards, and I was surprised.
The center of the 1.148-inch group is in line with where it was at 25 yards and less than one inch lower. I expected it to drop by 2 inches or more. Apparently power setting 3 is a good spot on this Gladius.
I left the scope where it was and turned the power up to 6, which is as high as it will go. That sends this pellet out of the muzzle at 1138 f.p.s. That is supersonic, but as we learned in the 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test , velocity does not affect pellet accuracy negatively. We also learned in our velocity test that the Gladius moves immediately to a new velocity setting, so there is no need to fire a warmup shot.
Nine Baracudas at this power grouped in 1.063-inches at 50 yards. It’s the smallest group of the session but it’s not enough different from the group on power setting 3 to be significant. The point of impact was higher and to the left. Though the group appears at the bottom of a bullseye, I was aiming at the bull beneath where the pellets hit. The first pellet actually went above the target paper and was lost, which is why I used the bull below as the aim point, and also why this is a 9-shot group and not 10.
Following this target I adjusted the scope 2 clicks to the left. I left the elevation where it was.Air use?
At this point 20 shots had been fired on a fill — 10 at power setting 3 and 10 at power 6. I now shot one additional target with Baracuda Match pellets on power setting 4, to see how the gun performed on the third group of 10 shots after a fill.
Since power 3 and 4 are so close, I decided to aim directly at a bull and see where the pellets went. They did go higher on the bull, but this group is strung out vertically just a little. It’s 10 shots in 1.452-inches between centers. You could still hit game at 50 yards on this setting, but afterward it’s probably time to refill.
H&N Sniper Magnum
On power setting 4 ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.50mm heads went into 1.452-inches at 50 yards. This group is higher than the one on power setting 3. The pellets are beginning to string vertically.
Now I switched to the H&N Sniper Magnum pellets and cranked the power up to 6. This pellet weighs 15 grains, which is very heavy for a .177. They were ambiguous at 25 yards, and I wanted to see what they would do at 50. As heavy as they are, this would be an ideal hunting pellet for the Gladius if it is accurate.
Ten Sniper Magnums went into 1.696-inches at 50 yards. They impacted both high and to the left of the aim point. I might try them one more time, but if this is the best they can do they are not well-suited to the Gladius, in my opinion. This was the worst group of the test. Maybe I will try them on a lower power setting next time.
Somebody suggested I try Crosman Premier 10.5 grain pellets, so they were next. The scope was not adjusted from where it had been for the Sniper Magnums. The power was set at 5 — the first and only time in this test at that setting. Ten Premier pellets landed in a 1.56-inch group that was just slightly lower and more to the right than the Sniper Magnums. While this isn’t bad, in light of what the Baracuda Match pellets can do, it isn’t in the running.
I had now fired 50 shots and was starting to tire, but I wanted to return to the initial power setting of 3 and see if the results with Baracuda Match pellets were the same. This time I put 10 into 1.31-inches. That is larger than the first group, but not by much. The Gladiuis seems very consistent with all pellets.
One of our readers said he felt his Gladius had a trigger that was slightly heavier and creepier than a Benjamin Marauder trigger, even when adjusted as nice as it can be. I would have to agree with that. So far I have seen accuracy that is very good, but not quite as good as a Marauder. But I didn’t try the 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy yet, so there is more to test.
Out on the range I was very pleased by how quiet the rifle is. Even on the highest setting, it’s quiet.
I do like the ergonomics of the rifle. Everything is right where I want it to be. That seems strange to say about a bullpup design, but this rifle is really well laid-out.
I’m also pleased with the number of powerful shots that can be gotten from a fill. If there is a separation between the Gladius and the Marauder other than the triggers and the price, it is the power and management of air.
I see at least one more test for this rifle before we are finished.
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Happy birthday, USA!
- Terms are important
- What is a rifle?
- Target rifle?
- One-pump rifle
- Match trigger
- Thumbhole stock
- Dovetail scope base
- BB gun
Today is July 4th, the day the U.S. A. celebrates its independence. I hope readers overseas will forgive my shorter report.Terms are important
It may be short but this subject is important. Using the correct terms for airguns and firearms ensures good communication of ideas between people, while sloppy terminology promotes mistakes. You can check me out on most of this by looking at the auction website, Gun Broker.What is a rifle?
A rifle is a long gun that has a rifled barrel, but to many people all long guns are rifles. They either think it doesn’t mattert or they actually don’t know there is a difference between a rifle and a gun. When this gets them in trouble is when they list a “rifle” for sale that actually has no rifling. I see this a lot on Gun Broker in the muzzle loading section. People don’t discriminate between true rifles and smoothbore guns that are most appropriately called fowlers — which are precursors to shotguns.
When it gets REALLY confusing is when the item in question is actually a smooth rifle — a smoothbore gun made with rifle sights and (usually) double set triggers. Smooth rifles are a very specialized class of smoothbore gun that have accuracy competitions within their narrow class of firearm! Now, tell me all long guns are rifles!Flintlock?
While researching the Teach me to shoot blog series, I ran into many percussion guns listed as flintlocks. Some of them had started out as flintlocks and been converted to percussion, but a fair number of them had always been percussion guns (guns that use an explosive percussion cap to ignite the charge of black powder, rather than a flint rock striking a piece of hardened steel). Several of these dealers admitted they were just antique dealers and were selling these guns are decorations, only, but I bet they would have a fit if I described a pressed-glass goblet as cut crystal! Or, if I put a crystal price on the pressed glass, they way they put a flintlock price on the percussion gun. You see, when you are loose with words, it’s easy to deceive.Target rifle?
Manufactures are as guilty of this misuse as private individuals. Slapping the title Target Rifle on a product doesn’t make it more accurate. Nor do adjustable sights. These makers don’t care about accuracy. They are hoping novice shooters will be drawn to the title and buy the AR-15, thinking is must be accurate. The heavy barrel it sports doesn’t make it more accurate, either, unless certain things have been done — things that will cost the buyer hundreds more dollars, if they ever hope to compete with the gun. This is open deception at work!One-pump rifle
Think that refers to a Daisy 853? Think again. Some non-shooting person in the marketing department used that term to describe the breakbarrel rifle they were trying to promote. Ain’t no pumping involved with this one! It may sound harmless to the marketing people, but a lot of customers will start wondering what this thing really is. Is it a pneumatic or a springer? It makes a difference.Match trigger
What? You mean a kitchen match? Because that’s what it feels like to pull your 5-pound creepy trigger — like breaking a wooden matchstick!Thumbhole stock
Okay, I see the big hole in your buttstock. Is that what you are calling a thumbhole stock? Because it isn’t. A thumbhole stock fits the hand like a glove. There is a small hole for JUST the thumb to fit through, and it is angled and contoured to feel just right — not something that looks like several boards were nailed together to meet the legislative requirements of countries where an import points system drives the design of airguns!Semiautomatic
The term semiautomatic refers to how the hammer or striker is cocked. If it is cocked by the action of the gun when it fires, it is semiautomatic — and fully automatic means it both cocks and continues to fire as long as the trigger remains depressed.
When the action of the trigger advances a cylinder loaded with pellets, so that the next pellet aligns with the barrel, it is a revolver. It doesn’t matter that it looks like a semiautomatic pistol on the outside. The trigger pull will be long and hard because of all the work it has to do (turn the cylinder and cock the striker or hammer).Dovetail scope base
That’s fine, but it’s incomplete. Is it 11 dovetail or is it Picatinney? “Come on, B.B., everyone know that dovetail refers to 11mm grooves!” Yes, I am sorry to say, they probably do. I have lost that battle. But what about …BB gun
When I was a kid, everybody knew what a BB gun was. It shot a steel sphere called a BB, whose history was traced back to actual BB-sized lead birdshot. In 2016, though, the Asian makers of airsoft guns have been calling their 6 mm spherical plastic ammunition “BB Bullets” just long enough to confuse everyone. So when mom shops for a BB gun at the discount store for his son, she buys a Red Ryder and a bottle of 0.20-gram airsoft ammo. For those who don’t see the disconnect (thanks to the mis-labeling of airsoft ammo) those two are not compatible. Don’t expect the 22-year-old salesperson to help you. She’s just as confused as you are! In fact, unless this is brought to their attention, neither party will be aware this is even a problem.Summary
It’s getting worse. Every year I see more and more mistakes being made because of misused terms, sloppy use of words and product disinformation. It is to the point that to explain the problem I often have to give a short class on what the terms really mean (and even why they mean that, for some people). Like what is the difference between a single-stage trigger and a single-action trigger?
This week I will start my review of the new Beeman Dual air rifle that Pyramyd Air has had to rename the Beeman Double Barrel air rifle, to keep from confusing its customers. This product says it is a Beeman Dual right on the box, but Pyramyd Air dares not use that name or they will confuse their customers who will think it is one of the Beeman Dual Caliber air rifles that come with dual caliber interchangeable barrels!
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Airguns are easy to use
- Airguns are quiet
- Airguns cock easily
- Airguns are accurate
- Airguns have good sights
- What about plastic?
- What have I missed?
- Why is this in the history section?
I celebrate my victories quietly. One of them has been to expose the elements of classic airgun design, so people who need to know can understand what it takes to make something timeless and enduring. We all know that the airgun manufacturers are silent readers of this blog and its comments. Today I am dedicating this report to them — a compilation of design aspects that will ensure a classic airgun. I’ll tell you why at the end of the report.Airguns are easy to use
Yes, there are people who only shoot airguns. Before I wrote this blog I had no idea there were so many of them, but there are. They are a sizable element of the shooting population and designers need to be aware of them. But their numbers are overwhelmed by the number of firearms shooters who also shoot airguns from time to time. And why do they do it? Because airguns are easy to shoot. I can pick up a Diana 27 and snap off 5 shots at targets of opportunity before you can pack your AR-15 with bipod and sniper scope into that oversized black tactical bag! And we both know the rifle isn’t all you need to go to the range. You load the car with stuff, while I carry my 6-pound breakbarrel in one hand, and a tin of pellets in my pocket.Airguns are quiet
You say you like the feeling of recoil and the blast when you shoot? Then why do you shoot off a Caldwell Lead Sled and wear hearing protection at the range? My Air Venturi Bronco is quiet enough to shoot in an apartment with thin walls and never disturb the neighbors.Airguns cock easily
Here the road divides, and as Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road — take it!” Some airguns are easy to cock, while others require the strength of Hercules. Classic airguns are easy. The hard ones are the guns destined for that end-of-year clearance sale.Airguns are accurate
Everyone knows accuracy is subjective. So I will cut through the discussion and give you a guideline. If your airgun sells for under $200, it ought to put 10 pellets in one inch at 25 yards. If it costs over $1,000 is should put 10 pellets into 0.6-inches at 50 yards. Better is always okay. Worse than that gets bad real quick. You figure out the rest for yourself. [Well, let’s see — he didn’t address guns costing over $200 and under $1,000. Our new .25 caliber sporter will put 10 into 1.5 inches at 25 yards. At least that’s the best we’ve seen so far. Yeah, but it’s got a dipped camo thumbhole stock and comes with a bipod. It sells for $399.95, but those cool features ought to be worth the difference.]
Classic airguns are accurate. Period.Airguns have good sights
Here is the definition of a good sight — one you can see and one that stays in place rigidly unless adjusted. The front sight shape compliments the rear sight notch.
Fiberoptic sights are good for one thing — pointing the gun at a close target when the light is good. They are not precise. But, if the target is 25 yards away, good is good enough. If it is 50 yards or farther, you need precision, and fiberoptics are not that precise.
Classic sights are also very cool when examined closely. RWS rear sights have multiple notches, Weihrauchs used to come with front globe inserts.
What is not cool is a sight that cannot be adjusted for the impact of the pellet. That is so not cool that it wipes out all the other good things the gun may have.What about plastic?
Oh — plastic. The Fudge-word of airguns! Can plastic and classic ever co-exist? I think they can.
The Beeman P3 and Beeman P17 are both plastic airguns. And both are classics in my opinion. Daisy’s 717 has some plastic parts and it, too, is a classic. And guns from their 853 family are virtual styrene mines! Yet all are classics. My readers can flesh out this list for you.Triggers
Okay, all you corporate lawyers — take a coffee break. I know they teach at law school that products must be designed with the lowest common denominator in mind, and the education system (helped immensely by social media) is rapidly slipping toward the single-cell entity, but where is the illogical conclusion on this slippery slope? Coffeemakers that don’t heat the coffee are safe, and safer still are coffeemakers that don’t even plug in! Knives without blades are very safe — and I understand there are several British cutlery houses looking into that possibility. I’ll let our UK readers explain that one.
Guns are made to shoot, and triggers are a major part of that. Sure, you can make a car that parks itself so your 16-year-old son doesn’t have to learn how to parallel park (poor baby!), but I don’t think anyone wants a gun that fires all by itself. Most of the anti-gun crowd probably already thinks they do — let’s not go there.
A trigger is the link between the shooter and the gun. The problem is, many shooters are not as skilled as they think they are and they adjust their triggers too light. Worse, they modify their triggers in non-approved ways, making them unsafe. How many shooters know their trigger parts are often case-hardened? How many know the depth of the case-hardened shell on a trigger part? How many believe that “stoning” means attacking each part with a rotary tool like a Dremel?
Triggers have too many variables for most manufactures. But there are solutions.
1. Make a trigger whose design is so revolutionary that it defies the kitchen-table tinkerer. I give you the Diana ball-bearing trigger.
2. Seal the trigger inside a tamper-proof box. Put the adjustments on the outside.
3. Make triggers that work! Then have the guts to fight the lawsuits from all the bleeding hearts who, “Didn’t think little Johnny was doing anything wrong when he opened the trigger box with a hammer chisel and polished every part inside to a mirror shine on a buffing wheel.”
The fact is, lawsuits cost money even when you win. I understand why airgun companies want to avoid them. But good triggers are possible. As proof I give you the Air Venturi Bronco and the HW 30S. Think about the trigger you put into that next airgun — your customers certainly will.
Okay, lawyers, coffee break is over. Back on your heads!What have I missed?
Let’s see; how about steel parts polished to a deep luster and perfectly blued? Real walnut stocks with high figure and classic shapes? Classic shapes? Yes, it is time to fire the guys in the wood shop whose last jobs were at a company that made electric guitars. There are shapes for stocks that shooters know and expect to see. Get a gun book and look them up. And, does anyone still remember how to checker?
Yes, fine materials and dazzling finishes will always catch the eye, but they aren’t a solution for poor design. What I’m saying is you can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t change the species.Why is this in the history section?
Okay — what does any of this have to do with airgun history? Quick, tell me what a Daisy 404 is. Time’s up.
A Daisy 404 is a widebody BB gun turned into a pellet rifle. Never heard of it? Few people have. It wasn’t a classic — it was porcine (look it up).
I could continue to review other failed airgun designs, but I won’t. The thing is — and this is the whole point of today’s report — there are attributes of design that, if executed properly, will result in airguns that stand the test of time. They will be airguns people remember. Guns like the Crosman 600 and the Hy Score 801 made by Pieper are celebrated today — many years after they ceased production. Will the Bronco and the HW30S be celebrated decades from now?
Crosman’s 600 is more popular today than it was when it was still in production.
Hy Score 801 made by Belgian maker Pieper is a classic breakbarrel rifle.
Time will tell. But let me put it another way. When the CEO of Crosman asked me if I thought they could sell 1,000 Benjamin Discoverys in the first year, I told him I thought they could sell 2,000. I was bluffing, because nothing like it had ever been tried.
They had 4,000 walnut stocks on hand from a cancelled project, and they put them on the first Discoverys that were made. They ran out of those stocks in less than a year!
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today Jack will start teaching Jamell, how to shoot a muzzle loading rifle.
Our guest writer is reader, Jack Cooper. Take it away, Jack.
Teach me to shoot
by Jack Cooper
This report covers:
- The mountain men
- Black powder
- Characteristics of black powder
- Safety first
- Possibles bag
- Charging the rifle — step one
- Charging the rifle — step two
- Black powder grain sizes
- Loading the ball
- Ramming the ball home
- Cap the rifle
- Clean the bore
Things have certainly taken a turn since I started teaching Jill to shoot. Now I’m teaching her friend, Jamell, how to shoot a muzzleloading rifle, to prepare her for the custom rifle she is having built. At least I thought it was going to be a rifle. Let me stop for a moment and bring you all up to speed on what it is that Jamell wants to do.
I didn’t have time to take pictures while I was teaching Jamell, so I asked B.B. if he would insert some photos for you of the things I am describing. Thanks, B.B.
As you know, Jamell is a sculptor. Among the subjects she sculpts, animals are very prominent. Several years ago she began researching wild animals to learn more about how they look in their natural state. She discovered that sportsmen know more about animals in the wild that anyone — because they spend more time observing them. So Jamell started reading modern hunting magazines, as well as books from the classic period of hunting — by authors like Bell, Donaldson, Keith, Whelen and so on.The mountain men
One thing lead to another and before long Jamell became seriously interested in the lives of the North American fur trappers of the mid-nineteenth century. We call them mountain men. What she wants to do is experience as much of what they experienced, and a flintlock was part of that. But upon further research and talking to the gun maker, she found out that what she wants is not a flintlock rifle. Very few early mountain men owned rifles. They needed a weapon they could hunt everything from birds to bears with, as well as defend themselves — and that’s not a rifle. It’s really a smoothbore gun that can shoot shot for birds, buck and ball (a large-bore-sized lead ball with several large buckshot on top of it) for deer and antelope and a ball alone for elk and bear. It’s an all-purpose gun that really has no equivalent today. That is what she decided to have built,and today I’m going to start her out with black powder and loading a gun through the muzzle.Black powder
First we talked about black powder. It was just called gunpowder for the first 600 years of firearms history, and it was not always the same thing. Over the centuries men learned how to make powder better, which means more powerful, cleaner burning, and more specialized to match the type of gun in which is is being used. It wasn’t always black, either. There was beige powder that substituted other chemicals for the charcoal that gives black powder its characteristic color. But what we know today as black powder was by far the most common type of powder used over the centuries, and it is definitely the powder used by the mountain men.Characteristics of black powder
Modern smokeless gunpowder is not explosive. It only burns very fast when it is contained tight enough to allow the pressure to build. Black powder, by comparison, is actually an explosive. It has a burn rate of 11,000 f.p.s. under the right circumstances, which you can compare to TNT that burns at 24,000 f.p.s. We characterize black powder as a low to medium explosive, where TNT burns fo fast it is a high explosive.
I demonstrated this for Jamell by burning both smokeless powder and black powder outdoors. The smokeless powder burned very hot but relatively slow. When the fire got to the black powder, though, it went up in an instant with a pop! Jamell said she has seen old western movies where a trail of powder was lit to burn up to the powder keg, and it went slow. I told her that was Hollywood at work and never to try it herself.
[EDITOR’S Note: When I was in my teens a friend said the same thing to me. He poured a tablespoon-sized pile of black powder on the sidewalk and proceeded to try to light it with a lighter. I backed up 20 feet while warning him to stop, but he succeeded in lighting the pile. He lost the tip of his right thumb in the small explosion that didn’t make much noise, but removed the flesh from the tip of his thumb in an instant. DO NOT EXPERIMENT WITH BLACK POWDER!
When she saw how black powder burns Jamell was impressed. I told her that everything she did when handling it had to be done with safety in mind. She could use nothing that sparked, for even static electricity can set it off. People who used it all the time knew this as well as we know how dangerous gasoline is today. And still there are “accidents.”
Now it was time to learn how to load a muzzleloader. I have a Tennessee Po Boy percussion rifle. It’s not a flintlock, but many of the steps are the same, so we can start with it. When Jamell gets her flintlock we can transition to it, and she will already know a lot.Safety first
The first thing to learn about loading a muzzleloader is safety. You are loading the gun at the end the bullet comes out. if anything goes wrong during loading, you will be at the worst possible place! So rule one is never stand in front of the muzzle. Only put things in front of the muzzle that you don’t mind losing! That sounds like a joke, but it’s serious. Load a muzzle loader from the side — never from in front of the muzzle.Possibles bag
What I do is rest the butt of the gun on top of my foot (boots are good things to wear when doing this) and hold the gun with my left hand. If I need both hands at any time, neither one of them is in front of the muzzle. And never allow the muzzle to point at your body! This all sounds scary and dangerous when you read it, but in actual practice, it is very easy to do. You will notice that people who shoot muzzle loading guns usually wear a small purse-like pouch. That is called a “possibles” bag that holds all their reloading supplies. Many people wear a powder horn on a long thong, and if they shoot a flintlock they have two horns — a big one for the main powder charge and a small one for the priming powder. My Po Boy is a cap lock, so I have a percussion cap loader in my possibles bag.
At the range I laid all of these things out on a shooting bench so Jamell could see them. But once she starts shooting, almost everything goes into the possibles bag. You don’t need to work this way when you have a convenient table but it’s good practice to learn to load from the bag because in the field it’s all you have.Charging the rifle — step one
The first step with a caplock is to fire a percussion cap without a charge of powder. This blows away any obstructions, so there is a clear path for the fire from the cap to get to the powder. We cleaned the gun thoroughly after the last use and then oiled it lightly to prevent rust. This first step makes sure the pathway is clear for the fire from the percussion cap. This also gave me the chance to tell Jamell that percussion caps are also dangerous and they ignite when crushed.Charging the rifle — step two
Next we measure some powder and pour it down the barrel. My Po Boy is small enough that I insert a small funnel in the muzzle to pour the powder into. Black powder is measured by volume — not by weight. This is especially important for muzzle loaders because it frees you from the need to use a conventional powder measure. That saves a lot of time. In the 19th century mountain men had the tips of antlers they hollowed out to contain the powder charge. I use an adjustable brass (non-sparking!) powder measure for my Po Boy, but Jamell will want to buy or make a traditional measure for her gun.
The rule of thumb in the old days was to place a ball in the palm of your hand and then cover it with powder. This is very ambiguous because it depends on how large your hands are and how much you cup them when pouring the powder. I advised Jamell to ask the maker what charge of powder she should use with her gun. he will know better than anyone. Then make a measure to throw that charge.Black powder grain sizes
Black powder comes in different sizes of grains. The most common sizes are FFFFG (4F), FFFG (3F), FFG (2F) and FG (1F). The more Fs the smaller the gains, and the faster the powder burns.
There are other things to consider, like the black powder substitutes that have pistol powders and rifle powders, but I advised Jamell to use black powder only with her flintlock. Black powder also varies in quality from the cheap brands to the premium brands. It sounds a lot like airgun pellets, doesn’t it? Starting in the early 19th century England made the finest black powder and people paid a premium for it when they could get it. Today the Swiss are making some of the finest black powder, and that is what I use in my Po Boy. It costs about double what the cheap brands cost, but I don’t shoot enough to make that a consideration.
My Po Boy is .45 caliber and I load it with FFG Swiss powder. I showed her how to “throw a charge” of powder into the measure and then run a knife blade across the top of the measure — called “striking the charge.” Then dump the powder into the muzzle/funnel.
Pour the black powder into a measure like this. This is FFG powder.
Loading the ball
A funnel in the muzzle makes it easier to pour in the powder.
The next step will differ with each type of gun being loaded. I shoot a patched ball, so what we do is lay a patch on the muzzle then place a ball on top of the patch. The ball is a few thousandths of an inch smaller than the bore of the rifle, and the patch takes up the difference. My patches are about 0.015-inches thick and my ball is sized 0.010-inches smaller than the bore. The patch material fills in the grooves and even compresses a little, making a tight fit to seal the bore.
This patch fits the ball well and does not have to be trimmed. The gun is B.B.’s Nelson Lewis double barreled combination gun.
This patch is oversized and needs to be trimmed with a patch knife.
The patch material is very important. You are concerned with the type of material (I use pillow ticking), what is made of (cotton), the thickness of the material, and in my case, the patches are pre-cut to size to need no trimming. They are also pre-oiled. Each muzzleloading shooter will have one particular type of patch for each rifle he shoots.
The patch is the invention that made the “Kentucky” rifle so accurate. The patch takes the rifling, leaving the ball spherical. When the rifle fires the patch spins with the ball tight in its grip. After leaving the muzzle the patch falls away from the ball, and the ball spins all the way to the target. Guns that use patched balls can be loaded in less than one minute with practice, cutting the time to load (over rifles that use a non-patched lead ball) in half or better. And they are more accurate — able to hit a man-sized target at up to 200 yards, where earlier rifles could not.
Kentucky rifle were also made in much smaller calibers (typically .40 to .50 for deer-sized game), where European rifles were much larger (.60 to .70 and greater caliber). They used less lead, less powder, shot faster and straighter, plus they loaded faster and shot cleaner. They were the state of the art for their time (starting around 1730).
I use patches that are precisely cut and greased (actually oiled), but the more traditional way is to use a piece of fabric that you cut off at the muzzle after the ball is loaded flush. You carry a small sharp knife for this called a patch knife. You can wet the fabric with saliva or you can use grease or oil. Believe it or not, saliva is the preferred lubricant for target shooters. A dry patch can be used, but your gun will get too dirty to load after a few shots. The way I load and manage the rifle, you can shoot 60 times and still load as easily as on the first shot.
Press the ball flush with the muzzle then cut the patch off. Then use a short starter to push the ball into the bore. The short starter pushes the ball in about an inch on the first try, then it rams the ball in about 6 inches on the second try. The reason for doing this becomes apparent when you use the long ramrod.
Ramming the ball home
The second part of the short starter is a short ramrod to push the ball 6 inches into the bore.
All muzzle loaders come with a ramrod, but don’t use the wooden ones unless you want to break them. They do break, so I use a fiberglass rod that will almost never break. Keep the wood rod for its looks and use the fiberglass rod for loading.
Before you loaded the rifle, you dropped the ramrod down the muzzle and marked where it was flush with the muzzle when it rested on the breech plug. Now, when you load the rifle, ram the ball down until it stops. This is something that you learn to do with each rifle, because they all feel different. That mark on the ramrod tells you the ball is firmly resting on the powder. If it is not — if there is an air gap of any size, the gun will be damaged!
Remember what I said about black powder being a low explosive? When the burning gasses hit the ball, they do so with great force. If the ball is tight against the powder, there is no problem. If there is a gap of two inches, the resulting sudden increase in pressure will swell the barrel where the ball is — ruining it. These swells are called walnuts and whenever you buy a black powder gun you should run your fingers along the entire length of the barrel, feeling for them.
So when you ram a patched ball you do so until the ball is clearly down tight against the powder charge. Always try to ram the ball in one stroke and always with the same force. That improves accuracy. Think of it as seating the pellet the same every time. After you ram the ball home remove the ramrod. I can’t tell you how many shooters forget to do this at least one time, but most veteran black powder shooters have done it.Cap the rifle
Now you can place a percussion cap on the nipple. The hammer is at half-cock when you do this for safety reasons, although it isn’t entirely safe. Keep that muzzle pointed in a safe direction because your gun can always go off half-cocked.
Now pull the hammer back to full cock, align your sights, set the trigger (on a rifle that has a set trigger) and fire. Jamell shot the rifle offhand at a target at 25 yards and as she lowered the rifle she remarked on how much there was to this. I told he she was not done yet.Clean the bore
Now we put the hammer on half-cock and blow through the nipple. Your breath has moisture that softens the powder residue in the bore. Black powder converts about 55 percent of its mass into either dirt in the bore or blue smoke. After blowing through the nipple, I set the rifle in a rest and run a wet patch all the way down the bore. This extinguishes any burning particles, making the rifle safe to load again, plus it wets the residue in the bore even more. Then I run two dry patches down the bore and the rifle is good to go for another shot.
Cleaning the bore after every shot. Though I am in front of the muzzle, I’d standing to the side of the bore for safety.
Not everyone does all this, and if I’m hunting I don’t do it, either. I still blow through the nipple and run a dry patch down the bore. That gives me maybe 10-12 shots before the rifle can no longer be loaded without cleaning.Finishing
Jamell loaded and fired the gun 5 more times. When she finished we got the target and her 6-shot group at 25 yards could be covered by the palm of my hand. That’s pretty good for the first time. All the instruction plus the shooting took us 2 hours at the range. There was one more important step. We returned to her studio where she poured boiling water down the bore of the rifle with a funnel. The hammer was cocked, so the water came out the nipple, too. We stood the rifle barrel (it easily comes out of the lock and stock) in a plastic tub to catch the water.
She did that three times and wiped the bore dry with patches each time. Then she ran a patch soaked with Ballistol up and down the bore several times and spritzed some Ballistol into the nipple, too. Then I blew through the nipple to dry it. I wiped the barrel with Ballistol and assembled it to the lock and the stock and we were done.
Jamell told me this one day with the Po Boy rifle put all of her reading about how the mountain men operated into perspective. If they wanted to clean their guns with boiling water they first had to heat the water in a coffeepot resting in the fire. And they probably used bear grease rather than Ballistol. They had to cast each one of those lead balls they shot, so there wasn’t any target practice when they were a thousand miles from the nearest trading post. But I told her they carried their gunpowder in lead cans that were both non-sparking and also could be melted down when empty. They had to find clever ways to live so far from civilization and they did.